Over here at LSXMag, we really love Camaros, and you can bet we were excited as could be when GM invited us to Belle Isle in Detroit for the initial unveiling of the 2016 sixth-generation Camaro. The official reveal event was more than just a chance to simultaneously present the new Camaro to the public and the media; it was also a celebration of the Camaro’s history dating back to 1967. Chevrolet invited 1,000 Camaro club members to attend the event and show off their unique, personalized Camaros, and they even got to take parade laps of the Belle Isle Grand Prix course in their rides as part of the festivities.
The staff from the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School
was in attendance as well, with their instructors taking Camaro owners who attended the event around the Grand Prix course in new Z/28 Camaros – scaring the pants off of them, of course. We really enjoyed seeing the extra sets of Z/28 wheels wrapped in those massive Pirelli Trofeo R tires all stacked up against the fence.
One of the best parts of the event, however, was the Camaro “museum” display tent that showcased historic production, concept, and racecars spanning all five generations of Chevrolet’s muscle car. Although we love the first three generations, we were really focused on generations four and five because those late-model cars are where the LS engine came into play for the Camaro. Take a stroll down memory lane with us as we take a look at some the most iconic fourth and fifth-generation Camaros from GM’s Heritage Collection, and from private collectors.
1993 Camaro Z/28 Indy Pace Car
In 1993, the all-new fourth-generation Camaro was chosen for pace car duty at the Indianapolis 500. This Z/28 Camaro pace car is based off of the production Z/28 Camaro and introduced the Gen II small-block V8 we know as the LT1. The new 5.7-liter V8 was built off of the same design features of the 5.7-liter TPI V8 and featured a trick reverse cooling system and other little changes. The engine produced 275 horsepower, which was the highest rated Camaro V8 since 1971. It might not seem so fast in this day and age, but back then it was quite quick. This particular pace car is one of only three produced for track duty; Chevrolet also produced 645 replicas to sell to the public. They were all distinguished with the “ribbon” graphics that were seen on the original pace cars.
1996 Camaro SS
When the Camaro SS returned in 1996, its hood scoop, taller rear spoiler, and ZR1-style 17-inch wheels were the telltale signs that it meant business. The hood scoop, which helped the car’s 285 horsepower 5.7-liter V8 source more fresh air, also upped the power by 20 ponies. Other optional performance equipment included a cat-back exhaust system, Hurst short-throw shifter, Torsen limited-slip differential, and a “Level II” suspension package that included track-oriented 1LE components. To transform the Z/28 cars to SS models, they were shipped to SLP Engineering in Toms River, New Jersey.
In the inaugural year of the SS’ return there were only 2,269 examples built. The example in the photo above is owned by Carl Lins, and is No. 240 of the production run. His Camaro is one of only 115 Arctic White hardtops, and one of only 73 that came with the 6-speed manual.
1996 Camaro AER/Sunoco Racecar
Remember this sweet gem? In the mid-1990s, the Trans-Am series quickly evolved from a production-based class into a grid of purpose-built racecars. The series consisting of race-prepped “pony cars” competing on road courses and street venues all across North America. This 1996 AER/Sunoco Camaro was owned by Buzz McCall and was piloted by Canadian driver Ron Fellows – the same man who today operates the aforementioned racing school.
In that same year of 1996, Sunoco came aboard the team as a very proud sponsor, gracing the car with the famous blue and yellow livery on a Camaro Trans-Am racer for the first time since the late ’60s when Mark Donohue and Roger Penske dominated the Trans-Am circuit. Fellows won four races in this car that season, and managed to score third place in points. The car was presented by Patrick Ryan.
2002 Camaro Z/28
August 27, 2002 was a dark day for Chevy fans. Chevrolet ceased production of the Camaro on that day, and it was, in fact, its 35th Anniversary year. This Camaro Z/28 convertible was the last car off the line before production ended. The bright Rally Red exterior was really popular that year, and accounted for nearly 25 percent of all Camaros built.
More than half of all of the fourth-generations that came off of the line were equipped with the LS1 engine, and nearly 24 percent of examples like this one were built with the 6-speed manual transmisson. Needless to say, GM is very proud to have this milestone Camaro as part of their Heritage Collection.
Fifth-Gen Camaro Concept Coupe
If you’re a true diehard Camaro enthusiast, you’ll probably remember the first time you saw this car, as it graced the cover of every major automotive print publication when it was revealed at the 2006 North American International Auto Show. This silver pre-production coupe was named Best In Show by Autoweek that year.
The concept coupe showed off design cues clearly inspired by the car’s first generation, and was a completely different design than the fourth-generation Camaro that ended production in 2002. As cool as concept cars look most of the time the cool little details don’t transfer over to the actual production model but the production fifth-generation Camaro remained virtually unchanged from the concept.
Camaro Concept Convertible
The year after Chevrolet introduced the Camaro Concept Coupe at NAIAS, they came back and unveiled the Camaro Concept Convertible. While it showcased the same design cues as the Camaro Concept Coupe, it previewed the Camaro Convertible that would come in the later years. With its classic Hugger Orange exterior color, complete with SS hood and deck stripes, the Camaro Concept Convertible continued to honor the past historic design cues with its houndstooth interior that was popular on the 1969 model.
2010 Camaro SS
Introduced in Spring of 2009 as a 2010 model, the fifth-generation Camaro began to hit dealerships, and we finally began seeing the long-awaited modern muscle car back on the road. The heritage-inspired design cues of the fifth-generation Camaro were immediately accepted with the wide world of automotive enthusiasts, bringing in 61,648 sales in that first, abbreviated calendar year.
In the year of 2011, that number grew to 88,249. The SS models with 6-speed manual transmissions came with the brawny LS3, rated at 426 horsepower, that made its debut in the 2008 model year in the C6 Corvette. This example is the first fifth-generation Camaro to come off the line and possesses the VIN of #001 – another car GM is proud to have in their Heritage Collection.
2012 COPO Camaro
You can’t say Camaro without COPO. Well, you can, but, anyway… this example is the first production model of the factory-built drag cars designed for NHRA Stock and Super Stock competition. Only 69 were built in the year of 2012, and they went fast, both in terms of buyers interested in racing or collecting them, and at the dragstrip.
Each of the COPO Camaro examples was built at a specialized assembly facility using the same “body in white” body structures as the regular production models, but they were outfitted with top-notch racing equipment including a choice of LS racing engines, an NHRA-certified roll cage, racing instrumentation, and a solid rearend in place of the factory independent rear suspension.
Camaro Z/28 Nürburgring Test Car
The 2014 Z/28 Camaro was easily one of the automaker’s most anticipated vehicles to come to market. In a video viewed more than 1.15 million times on YouTube, this engineering prototype example was used to set a 7:37.40 lap time around Germany’s most treacherous track, when it was partially wet.
That was a huge deal for Chevrolet. Aside from some safety equipment and camouflage on the bodywork, the car is outfitted with the same production-spec components as the Z/28 that hit dealerships, including the race-spec spool-type dampers, unique helical-gear limited-slip differential, and the coveted 505 horsepower 7.0-liter LS7 engine with dry-sump oiling.
The Z28.R Camaro racecar is a mean machine, indeed. Being one of the most production-based competitors out on the track, the Z28.R shares aero, axle, and engine components from the regular-production Z/28 Camaro. Aside from the special suspension components and series-mandated equipment needed for endurance racing, the Z28.R is as close to a production-spec racecar you’ll see out on the racetrack. This menacing Z28.R example was presented at the event by Stevenson Motorsports, a team that races in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.
We had a great time at the 2016 Camaro reveal, checking out all of the iconic Camaros that have significant historical value, driving pre-production sixth-generation Camaros, and enjoying the company of a thousand Camaro fans experiencing an unprecedented get-together in celebration of their favorite car.
Overall, even though the weather wasn’t what we expected, Chevrolet still put on a great reveal event for the sixth-generation Camaro and made it feel right at home with all of the key players from previous Camaro generations.