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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

 

Detroit Auto Show Day 2


GM/Camaro

I'm glad GM decided to show the Camaro, but let me quote two Union guys, both of whom had Camaros at some point in their misspent youth:

"What is that thing? It doesn't look as good as any of the four classics (we were standing in front of the roped off classics)"

"Why didn't they just take the 69 and put a new engine in it, better brakes and build that? The Challenger that Dodge did is much better. It looks like a modern version of the original. It looks awesome. And it's got that Hemi."

Ok...so, that's a bit harsh. Many liked the Camaro. Most Camaro club enthusiast were begging for the car to be built. Obviously...you can't just copy the old design...can you? While I heard some 'wows' I heard a fair amount of criticism from the journalistic throng as well. I didn't hear that about the Challenger, or for that matter, the new Mustang. My visceral reaction is the same. I preferred an "update" to one of the Camaro classics. The new Camaro seems surreal...but then, I'm not likely to ever buy one, so I defer to...the two union guys who were genuinely disappointed. Further, it is a concept vehicle. Concepts should stretch, even if they go too far; that's why we call them concepts. On the other hand, the Challenger looks like a ready-to-go production car.

What is meant by an update that's faithful to the original? My analogy is how faithful Porsche has been to the 911. Same goes for the basic Jeep. Yes, significant changes...but the silhouette and styling cues are unmistakeable. Why, oh why...do some insist in ruining a good thing for the sake of, "change?" Probably, the desire to leave an "imprint" as a designer or marketing guy. I'd suggest that the only change that is needed is continuous improvement of the mechanicals (engine, transmission, handling, safety, features). If the shape is right...the shape is right.

I hope Chevrolet builds the Camaro again (and Pontiac brings back the Firebird). The heritage requires it. GM needs them to revitalize their engineering and design community. Heck, they need it to revitalize sales! At one point, Chevrolet sold over 200,000 Camaros (peaking in the late 70s and early 80s). The 69 1st generation Camaro sold 243,085 units. The current rumor is a 2009 model year launch...Dodge and Ford will probably be ready for their next gen of their respective muscle updates when Chevrolet launches. As someone once said build it and they will come...as long as you're faithful to the originals that put those brands on the map. We'll know the General is alive and well when we see that happen.

Just for grins...a photo of the very rare 69 COPO Camaro (courtesy of Camaro Highway). COPO stood for Central Office Production Order and was a means to cleverly circumvent Chevrolet's attempt to limit performance, enabling a few cars to be built with the 427 engine that cranked out 435 or 425 hp.

Hard to argue with 200,000 sales that evoke fond memories.

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