Fifty years ago this week, the first Chevrolet Camaro prototype was built.
To celebrate the iconic sports car’s birth, the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) unearthed nine interesting facts about the Chevrolet Camaro. The HVA is dedicated to preserving and sharing America’s automotive heritage and in 2014, the association established the National Historic Vehicle Register. It is supported by over 400,000 individual historic vehicle owners, key stakeholders and corporations such as Shell, Hagerty, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, as well as individual benefactors.
9. The Camaro was Born in Cincinnati
You might have good reason to believe that the Chevrolet Camaro was born in Detroit, but it wasn’t. Instead, the first pilot prototype was assembled on May 21, 1966 at the General Motors Assembly Plant in Norwood, Ohio, a few miles from Cincinnati. It was there that the American automaker produced a large share of the subsequent production Camaros and used the construction of 49 pilot prototypes to develop the assembly line and equipment needed for mass production.
8. The Camaro was a Top Secret Project
Unlike the Mustang, which Ford teased the public with show cars and concepts leading up to its debut, the Chevrolet Camaro was a well-kept secret. GM revealed nothing about the Chevrolet Camaro until the name was announced in June 1966, prior to its formal launch in Detroit a couple of months later in August. Within a month, the Chevrolet Camaro began arriving at dealerships.
7. It was Almost Called the Panther
GM considered numerous names including GeMini, Commander and Wildcat before settling on Panther. Just how close was Chevrolet to using the Panther nameplate? The company invested over $100,000 in Panther badges before it decided to go with the Camaro name just a few weeks before the car’s debut. Somewhere out there, those Panther badges are collectors’ items.
6. Camaro vs. Mustang Rivalry Started Right Away
The Mustang vs. Camaro battle is widely considered Detroit’s greatest rivalry and it began almost instantly. The Ford Mustang proved that GM’s Corvair didn’t have the right recipe, causing Chevrolet to rush development of the Camaro. The car became a reality in just three years, taking pages out of Ford’s playbook to create a true competitor. Although Ford sold half-a-million Mustangs in 1965, the Camaro was no slouch, moving over 400,000 units in its first two years.
5. It Began a Golden Tradition
The first-ever Chevrolet Camaro prototype had a gold exterior and interior color scheme and it’s a tradition the company has kept for the Camaro over the years. Amazingly, that gold prototype Camaro, No. 100001, still exists.
4. Arguably the Most Important GM Model in 50 Years
Many would agree that the Chevrolet Camaro is GM’s most important model in 50 years. Yes, the Chevrolet Corvette certainly plays a major role for the brand, but the Camaro not only gave Chevrolet a positive boost in sales and profits, it helped the muscle car market get off the ground. Since then, GM has become a powerhouse in the muscle car industry and has no intentions of stopping.
3. The First Camaro Will Enter the HVA’s National Historic Vehicle Register
That first Chevrolet Camaro prototype is entering HVA’s National Historic Vehicle Register and is currently being exhaustively measured and documented using the guidelines set by the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Heritage Documentation and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER). Once completed, the material will permanently reside in the Library of Congress, joining other iconic cars like the Shelby Cobra Daytona prototype, the first Meyers Manx dune buggy and one of the last surviving Futurliners.
2. It’s the Third Most Popular Collector Car
There are more than one-million collector cars insured in the U.S. and, according to Hagerty, the Chevrolet Camaro is the third most popular. What beats it? The Ford Mustang is second while the Chevrolet Corvette takes top honors.
1. First Chevrolet Camaro is Heading to Detroit in August
If you want to get up close and personal with history, the first-ever Chevrolet Camaro will be on display at a special HVA exhibition in Detroit. The event celebrates the sports car’s 50th Anniversary launch and will coincide with the annual Woodward Dream Cruise week from August 13 to 20. You can catch the Camaro on public display in the HVA’s glass cube that recently presented President Reagan’s Willys Jeep on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
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