The importance of a convertible should never be underestimated, especially when it comes to the Camaro. Convertible Camaros have been around as long as the nameplate itself. It’s been said that the rarest Camaro of all is a convertible that was built specifically in 1968 for Chevrolet General Manager Pete Estes. What makes that convertible so rare is that it was the only first gen Z/28 convertible ever built. The convertible Z/28 was built by the the special projects division of GM because they needed approval to build the Z/28 model for the general public, which would make it eligible for SCCA racing.
In order to get the approval, the plan would have to go through General Manager Pete Estes, who was a total convertible freak and wouldn’t drive anything else.They could give him a regular Z/28 coupe but it would probably just sit in the company garage. They decided the only solution was to build a convertible Z/28 and give that to Estes. The result – Estes drove the car, loved it, and the world got the Z/28.
Sadly, convertible Camaros were missing from the lineup from 1970 through 1987, when the drop top was finally reintroduced to the breed. From that point on, the convertible has been a staple with Camaro fans, which led to the momentous occasion on June 24th, 2015, when GM unveiled the 2016 Camaro in its topless form. This is not your average, run-of-the-mill convertible either. Much like the one-off Z/28 convertible built for Pete Estes, the 2016 Camaro convertible is revolutionary and a game-changer.
The convertible top on the new Camaro is fully automatic, with latches that automatically release and secure the top to the body. Unlike other convertible tops, the new Camaro’s top is capable of opening or closing at speeds up to 30 miles per hour (Yep, you heard correctly, the top can be retracted or closed at city driving speeds in forward motion without being ripped from the car’s body), in what the company is calling a “non-stop” drop top.
Operation of the top can be done remotely with controls on the key fob, which means you don’t have to sit in a hot car waiting for the top to come down. After the top is lowered and stowed away – all automatically – a hard tonneau cover deploys automatically, providing a beautiful finished appearance to everyone that can now see inside the car.
Almost all convertibles ever made throughout history have dealt with structural problems due to lack of support from a hard top. Many have experienced oscillations and ride problems at highway speeds which required manufacturers to engineer convertible body cars with heavier and stiffer chassis to handle the stresses. Chassis dampers have often been a solution to the oscillation problem. According to the engineers at GM, this newly designed Camaro convertible chassis was engineered to eliminate that problem. “From the beginning, the Camaro’s architecture was developed to incorporate a convertible with uncompromised driving dynamics,” said Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer. “Customers will appreciate what they don’t feel: quivers, cowl shake or an under-damped chassis typically found in a four-seat convertible.”
To get a better idea of what Chevrolet has done with this new design, you can get the full 360 view effect on your smart phone at “Open Sky” which allows the viewer to explore a 360-degree view as you ride along with the 2016 Camaro Convertible on its inaugural drive. Make sure to watch on a compatible smartphone in the YouTube App, and drive the 360 camera by rotating your phone in any direction you choose.