How Would You Choose The Best Chevrolet Camaro?

A friend and I were talking about the crazy ups and downs of the current car market. We were asking each other which car we would seriously consider if we were to walk longingly onto a dealer’s lot. Ever since my two boys earned their driver’s licenses, the need for a back set of doors has become non-existent, so my decision could be based more on want and less on need. Needless to say, Camaro came to the forefront, but that’s where things got a little more complicated.

Choosing the best Camaro

Picking the best from over 50 years of fun and advancements can be a daunting task!

While I don’t need to be the fastest or the baddest on the street or strip, I can appreciate the sound of a cammed engine and I would want something with a little bit of pep. There is something unconditionally cool about racking miles on an early Camaro and I’ve expressed my affection for those Second-Gens for quite some time. They also lend themselves to upgrades that come standard on later variants. But then, why not purchase the newer version and enjoy the total package of technological advancements? As you can see, choosing the best Camaro is like sitting in an airplane with one oxygen mask in your hand, trying to figure out which child you prefer. It’s not an easy choice!

Choosing The Best Camaro In 50+ Years

As this chapter of Camaro’s long legacy comes to a close, we have every model of Camaro production to choose which one we feel is the best. Chevy has announced that it is going to produce the Collector’s Edition package on the 2024 Camaro RS and SS, and a limited number of ZL1-equipped vehicles. Perhaps that last hurrah could be considered the best Camaro ever, but it will most likely be stickers and spoilers in true “Collector’s Edition” fashion. Likely not a strong contender for the best Camaro ever.

Perhaps there is another, future iteration of the Camaro that may leave all others in the dust. Scott Bell, vice president, of Global Chevrolet has said about the ending of Camaro’s sixth generation, “While we are not announcing an immediate successor today, rest assured, this is not the end of Camaro’s story.” But that may likely be an electric version of Chevy’s pony car, and I’m not sure I’m ready to go all in on E-cars just yet. At this point though, any thought of what might make the next-gen Camaro the best would be complete conjecture.

What IS The Best Camaro?

That said, if we were hard-pressed to pick “the best Camaro” from what we know, how would we make that decision? If it were something as simple as picking the rarest Camaro, well then there are a few that rise to the surface immediately. The 1969 ZL1 COPO Camaro, with its lumpy-yet-lightweight 427 engine would be a strong contender for that top spot.

If ultra-rare is your thing, then a '69 ZL1 is just the ticket for your perfect GM pony car. But, forget about ever using it for your daily driving. Of course, you could sell it and buy several daily drivers if you wanted to.

But, if we’re honest, we have to concede that even with all the raw and visceral power emanating from that aluminum big-block, today’s supercharged variants eclipse the performance of those early, first-gen pony cars. They also do more things well, meaning you can have a large stable full of ponies but only need to feed them most judiciously, thanks to their relatively moderate appetite for fuel.

What Do Numbers Say?

If cost were a determining factor, math would easily pick the clear winner, which would lead us right to one of the early, highly-desirable examples built out of unobtanium. If popularity were the meter to use, all we’d have to do is look at production numbers through the years to crown one as the best. But would it be? For example, the second generation was the longest production run and 1979 was the year with the highest Camaro production to date at 282,571 units.

second generation Camaro

The second generation Camaros were produced from 1970 through 1981. Despite company-wide strikes and high insurance rates, the lengthy second generation of Camaro production put close to two million Camaros on the road during those years.

Of those produced that year, 260,658 were V8s while the remaining 21,913 were six-cylinder cars. Are those late, second-gen Camaros the fan favorite for most Camaro enthusiasts? At least we can agree that the V8 was the winner with Camaro buyers!

The Best Camaro Is A Moving Target

Unless we’re talking about an extremely original example, the best Camaro is an ever-evolving thing. Let’s face it, our penchant for wanting more performance forces us to improve upon anything. Camaros are no different.

We're car guys. We make things better - Camaro included.

Even when those high-powered big-block cars were new, enthusiasts were updating them, tuning them, and changing things to make them run better. Heck, some dealerships would stuff parts in the trunk that you could switch with the factory-installed parts once you got home! And, today’s enthusiasts are no different, swapping cams, intakes, throttle bodies, and installing superchargers with perhaps much more fervor than those early pioneers of power ever dreamed.

Camaro horsepower through the years

This graphic shows the rise and fall of horsepower over Camaro production.

Choosing Your Personal Best

When it comes to selecting the best Camaro, perhaps personal taste is the key factor. I mean, would all you guys out there want someone else hand-picking a wife for you? Yeah, I know some countries do that very thing, but some folks also buy cars merely for transportation too. I don’t subscribe to either thought process and I’d bet most of you don’t either.

electric seventh-generation Camaro

Could electric be the next iteration of the Camaro? We’ll have to see.

So, as I sit here, looking at photos and stories about various years and models of Camaros, I’m not sure I’m any closer to choosing the perfect one. Perhaps that’s okay. I mean, unlike a wife, a guy can have more than one without having to ask too many questions, right?

About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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