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While I had plenty of muscle cars in my day, this was my first Camaro.
First Generation (1967-1970).
Just as the first Mustang was based on Ford's compact Falcon, so the first 1967 Camaro was based on Chevy's compact Nova. However, it was based on the upcoming redesigned '68 Nova and therefore more robust than a comparable '67 Nova.
The basic engineering of the Camaro was a unibody structure from the windshield and firewall back, with a separate steel rail subframe for everything up front. Double A-arms made up the independent front suspension while the solid rear axle was suspended by semi-elliptical leaf springs. As was typical of standard-equipped vehicles at the time, braking was by four drums, the steering was slow and manual, and Chevy's rugged 230-cubic-inch straight six poked out an optimistically rated 140 horsepower while twisting a three-speed manual transmission.
The base $2,466 '67 Camaro sport coupe was lean and aggressive, as was the convertible. Adding substance to that appearance was done either by picking or combining individual options or trim packages called RS and SS.
Buyers could opt for a larger 250-inch version of the six making 155 horsepower, a 210-horsepower 327-cubic-inch small-block V8 fed by a two-barrel carb, that same V8 with a four-barrel carb and a higher compression ratio was rated at 275 horsepower, or two versions of the 396-cubic-inch big-block V8 making either 325 or 375 horsepower. Those engines could be lashed to a series of wide- or short-ratio three- or four-speed manual transmissions, or one of two automatics: the slushy two-speed Powerglide or outstanding three-speed Turbobydramatic.
The Rally Sport (RS) appearance package brought deluxe interior trim and hidden headlights with it, and the high-performance Super Sport (SS) package had its own distinct decoration (including a domed hood with simulated vents, "bumble bee" stripes encircling the nose and the iconic SS badges), a heavy-duty suspension and larger D70-series tires on 14-inch wheels. Beyond that, the SS-350 model also offered a new 350-cubic-inch small-block V8 rated at 295 horsepower - Chevy's first 350. The Rally Sport and Super Sport packages could also be ordered together to form the most lavishly equipped Camaro of them all, the RS/SS. And it was an RS/SS convertible powered by a 396 that Chevy provided as pace car for the 1967 Indianapolis 500.
Almost outside the regular Camaro line was the race-oriented Z/28. Introduced in December 1966, the Z/28 was powered by a special high-compression "DZ" 302-cubic-inch V8 whose displacement was achieved by matching the short-stroke crank of the 283-cubic-inch version with the big-bore block of the 327. Rated at 290 horsepower and built to rev, the radical powerplant was matched to a more aggressive suspension.
How did the first Camaro perform?
Car Life magazine's test of an SS-350 had it completing the quarter-mile in 15.8 seconds at 89 mph while Motor Trend reported that its SS-350 did the same trick in 15.4 seconds at 90 mph.
Thanks to "Astro Ventilation," General Motors eliminated the side vent wing windows on the 1968 Camaro and also added federally mandated side marker lights and a revised base grille). Mechanically, the most significant change was the adoption of staggered rear shocks (one in front of the rear axle, one behind) to counteract wheel hop under hard acceleration.
While the 1969 Camaro's structure and mechanical elements were virtually unchanged from the '68 model, new fenders, door skins, rear quarter-panels, grille and taillights gave the car a wider, lower appearance. A redesigned dash and more comfortable seats made it more livable, too. But it was the staggering array of available performance equipment that marks 1969 as the greatest model year for Camaros.
On the yawn side, a new low-performance 200-horsepower 307-cubic-inch small-block (a 327 crank in a 283 block) supplemented the low-performance 327 and a new 255-horsepower 350 replaced the better-performing 327. On the yeow side, Chevy produced its second Camaro Indianapolis 500 pace car and offered replicas of the white RS/SS convertible with orange stripes and orange houndstooth upholstery to the public (the actual pace car was powered by a 396, but most of the replicas had 350s). In addition, two radical Camaros were produced in extremely limited numbers under special Central Office Production Orders (COPO) 9560 and 9561.
The COPO 9561 was a basic Camaro sport coupe stuffed with 427 cubic inches of all-iron big-block making 425 horsepower. Most of the 1,015 COPO 9561s were delivered to Pennsylvania's Yenko Chevrolet for conversion into that dealership's signature Camaro. Even rarer was the COPO 9560 featuring the legendary all-aluminum ZL-1 427 also rated at 425 horsepower. Only 69 of the ZL-1s were built, and because of their rarity, tremendous output and relatively low weight, they are today considered the quickest and most valuable Camaros ever built.
Sales of the 1969 models extended into the winter of 1969 and early 1970; some of these lingering '69s may have been titled as 1970 models, leading to some confusion.
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