An appreciation of the second-generation Camaro
The design of the first-generation Camaro was such a runaway success that it's hard to believe that it was something of a rush job. The '67 Camaro was the introduction of the F-body, which, on paper, seemed like a less-than-ideal body structure. Instead of being a complete chassis, the frame was something of a Frankenstein, utilizing a unibody structure held together by an A-pillar that connected an independent front end with a separate tail.
However, the thing worked, ultimately underpinning the legendary "hugger" that helped shape the hot rod landscape. The thing was lightweight, handled better than almost any other car in its segment and ultimately became one of the icons of the American auto industry.
After three and a half model years, Chevy did the right thing and retired the original design before the Camaro name became a shot in the pan. This time, GM put money into making sure their successful venture into the pony car race kept the momentum going.
From the get-go, the brains behind the original Camaro were working on a follow up that would keep the name competitive, and they delivered.
I've never found the second-generation Camaro to be as beautiful as the original. It definitely has more of a sense of humor, with its gawking headlights that frame its practically square grill – the car equivalent to a toothy grin. But there is something graceful about the design that turns the volume down on this cars over-eager front fascia.
Absent in the second generation were the graceful lines that made the original a knock-out. The hips on the first camaro were enviable – no car had those curves and fender flairs over their rear tires that emphasized what a road hugger this machine really was. Not even the Mustang, the car that set the stage for the entire muscle-car craze, had such a voluptuous tail end without looking fat.
The second-generation Camaro had almost nothing in common with the first Camaro in this respect. Instead of being equal parts front and back, the 1970 Camaro was all face. Like the Mach III Mustang, which defined cool, the Camaro that year was a fastback. Gone were the curves and in their place were low-slung features that anchored the car to the pavement.
The F-body chassis itself remained relatively unchanged for 1970 despite the complete overhaul of the cars outward appearance. It remained a unibody structure connected by an A-pillar, but benefited from significant enhancements to both performance and comfort. Base models offered added sound-proofing, ride isolation and road-holding. Best of all, this model year was the first one where the Camaro was given a rear stabilizer bar, which only enhanced the car's rear-wheel-drive performance.
This new Camaro did share with its predecessors was many of the same performance packages and engine options. Along with the monster big-block V8s that were sold from '67-'69, the company even floated the idea of offering two 454 cu in 7.4 L engines, which were listed on early specification sheets and in some sales brochures, but the big blocks never made it into production.
In 1974, the Camaro lost much of its grace – not unlike many other performance cars of the era – when it was given a cheaper looking redesign that was capped off with cheaper engines all around. As part of the Arab Oil Embargo, many of the Camaro's direct competitiors left the market, as Chrysler discontinued the Challenger and Barracuda later that year and the Mustang was downgraded to a subcompact. This made 1974 one of the best years for the Camaro in terms of sales despite it being the least satisfying hugger to date.
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