The Camaro is an iconic American car to be sure, but it's not everyone's cup of tea. For some, the Camaro, especially in its more recent iterations, is a bit too much of a brawler. But for faithful adherents to the cult of Camaro, it's the apex of American pony-car greatness. It's no small task to compile a reference book that is both entertaining and useful, but John Gunnell and Jerry Heasley have taken on just such a project. The result is a large, hardbound compendium of all things Camaro entitled, The Story of Camaro.
The authors begin by tracing the origins of the Camaro to the cars that inspired it: Chevrolet's own Corvette and Corvair, as well as Ford's fabulously well-received Mustang. The early part of the book is peppered with unique insights into the corporate culture that spawned the car. It's notOn a Clear Day You Can See GM, but it's still a treat to read the background information in the book's first chapter, even if you're not a Camaro person. The second chapter details the development of the first Camaro and its place in the American automotive landscape of the late 1960s. Again, this is a great read for any car-guy. The photography throughout the book is engaging and very well done.
Further chapters are devoted to covering each generation of Camaro year-by-year. Each model year is described in great detail, down to available options and trim. (The volume also includes an in-depth look at the development of the newest Camaro.) Although this level of detail may make the book a little tedious for the Fiat crowd, the great photos and period advertisements keep it entertaining. Each model year has a few handy info boxes that provide a basic look at mechanical specifications for each trim package. That feature alone makes the book a valuable reference. However, it was an interesting decision to include a box noting Camaro values given that collector car prices are constantly changing. There is also a generous appendix containing a complete inventory of each year's factory options.
For all its data, and there's a lot of it, the book remains an entertaining look at a model that certainly had its high and low points over the past 42 years. The Camaro was born in a boom time and lived to see the oil crisis, a few recessions and the implementation of EPA and DOT regulations that forever transformed the American automotive landscape. Camaro has been reborn and re-imagined a few times over the years but it's always been a benchmark for affordable performance. Today it's a model poised for a comeback at a time when GM desperately needs a hit.
For the die-hard Camaro fan, The Story of Camaro is a must-have. It's great as a coffee table book, but it will really shine when it's time to settle a disagreement over gear-ratios or horsepower figures.--Rory Carroll