10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Chevy Camaro

Did you know it was once called The Panther?


As the Chevy prepares to celebrate the Camaro’s 50th birthday, here are 10 facts about the iconic muscle car you probably didn’t know:

1967 Camaro Z/28. Photo: General Motors

1. It was code-named “Panther”

The working name for the original Camaro‘s development program was “Panther.” Although Chevy always intended to give its Mustang competitor a “C” name to conform to its Chevelle, Corvette and Corvair models, the car enthusiast press knew the car as Panther when it was introduced by Chevy g.m. Pete Estes in 1966. He declared attendees charter members of “The Society For The Elimination Of Panthers From The Automotive World.” 

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2. The Camaro has six different body styles
Since its debut a half-century ago, the Camaro has worn six distinctly different body styles. What began as a classically proportioned muscle car evolved toward a clear European influence for the second generation in 1970. That car was the template for every Camaro’s style until 2002, when Chevrolet put its pony car on hiatus. When it returned in 2010, stylists returned to the themes and proportions of the original first-generation car.

1969 Camaro Indianapolis 500 Pace Car. Photo: General Motors

3. It’s an Indy 500 legend 
Camaro has been the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 eight times, half of those coming since Chevrolet locked up exclusive pace car rights for the race in 2002. The very first Camaro paced the field to the start of the 1967 Indy 500, following in the footsteps of its Ford Mustang rival, which paced the 1964 race just a month after that car’s introduction.

2017 Nascar Xfiniti Series Camaro. Photo: General Motors

4. And it’s also got serious NASCAR cred
The Camaro has seen its share of on-track success as a competitor, not just a pace car. In fact, next season the 2017 Camaro will provide the bodywork for Chevrolet’s entries in the NASCAR Xfiniti Series, stock car racing’s second-highest level.

1978 Camaro Z/28. Photo: General Motors

5. Its sales peak was 1979
While the late 1970s and early 1980s “malaise” era cars are considered the Camaro’s nadir, 1979 was the car’s best-selling year ever. Customers snapped up 282,571 Camaros in the twilight of the ’70s, and nearly 85,000 of those were the Z/28 version. 

6. It’s more powerful than ever
The horsepower high-water mark of the Camaro was 580 horsepower for the supercharged 2012-2015 ZL1. However, the relentless nature of engineers ensured that a sixth-gen Camaro would pick up the ZL1’s fallen torch, with a still more powerful edition. The 2017 ZL1 will boast at least 640 horsepower when it specs are finalized. The low-water mark? Unsurprisingly, that came in 1975, when the hottest Camaro topped out at a wheezing 155 horsepower.

1967 Camaro base model. Photo: General Motors

7. The first Camaro cost just $2,572 
That was the base price of the debut Camaro in 1967. A half-century later, that much money won’t quite pay for the Camaro’s RS appearance package with 20-inch wheels ($1,950) and the Technology Package, with the 8-inch touchscreen display ($800). The National Automobile Dealers Association says the average retail value of that ’67 Camaro today is $26,100, which is also enough to buy a brand-new 2017 Camaro with no options ($25,700).

1988 Camaro IROC Z. Photo: General Motors

8. The IROC Z was named after a famous car race
Camaros served as the vehicle for the International Race of Champions, meant to provide a level playing field for drivers from different disciplines to compete on equal terms. It never quite worked out that way, but the series lent its name to that ’80s icon, the IROC Z, which haunted 7-11 parking lots for decades ever after.

1997 Camaro Z/28 converitble Photo: General Motors

9. Many 1970 Camaros were secretly 1969 Camaros
Time stopped for the Camaro in 1970, when, because of production headaches stamping the swoopy Euro-inspired sheetmetal for the all-new second-generation car, production of the planned new 1970 Camaro was delayed four months. During that time, Chevy kept building ’69 Camaros as 1970 models. Later, the real 1970 Camaro finally arrived.

1970 Camaro version 2.0. Photo: General Motors

10. Camaros are even used as Dubai Police Cars

The famously speed-obsessed Dubai Police force used Camaro SS coupes as patrol cars in 2013, so you know this thing was fast.

(Photo: GM)