By the time I was born in December of 1969 my father Joe Oldham had already owned a Camaro. It was a black 1969 Baldwin-Motion SS 427—one of the coolest Camaros of all time. He took delivery in early December of 1968 and street raced it around New York City until some lowlifes stole it six months later. It was never recovered.
Everyone has a Camaro story. Chevy’s answer to the Ford Mustang was finally introduced in 1967 and it was an immediate sensation with 220,906 sold the first year. Over the last five decades, Chevy has created six-generations of its “pony car” and Americans have bought several million more Camaros, making it a genuine subculture all its own. Here are 25 Camaro facts every enthusiast should know.
25. First Camaro with cowl induction: Chevy introduced the cowl-induction hood on the 1969 Camaro. Although many assume the “super scoop” as it was called in Chevrolet’s advertising was standard on the Z/28, it was not. It was option code RPO ZL2 and it cost $79 extra on the Z/28 and SS models. The only Camaro to get the hood as standard equipment were the COPO 427 cars and Indy 500 Pace Car replicas. Only 10,026 Camaros were equipped with the hood from the factory.
24. First Camaro with aluminum heads: Chevy first offered option RPO L89 on the 1968 Camaro Super Sport. It was expensive at $868.95 and added aluminum cylinder heads to the top dog L78 375-hp 396, which itself was a $470 option. The heads did not add horsepower, but shaved about 75 pounds from the engine. Only 272 L89 Camaros were built in 1968 and 311 in 1969.
23. First Camaro with four-wheel disc brakes: To homologate rear disc brakes for Trans Am racing, Chevy added the option in 1969. RPO JL8 was available on SS and Z/28 Camaros, but it was expensive at $500.30 and was ordered on only 206 cars. The package used a four-piston front caliper similar to the Corvette’s. The dealer installed dual quad cross ram induction system for the Z28 was not part of the JL8 option.
22. First Camaro with an all-aluminum engine: Today every new V-8 Camaro has an all-aluminum engine, but in 1969 that was exotic stuff. Central Office Production Order (COPO) 9560 cost $4160, nearly doubling the price of a Camaro, but it got you the all-aluminum ZL1 427 big-block, underrated at 430 hp. Only 69 were built.
21. First Camaro with over 400 hp: 1969 was the first year the Camaro was available with over 400 hp. Buyers looking for more than the Regular Production Order L78 375-hp 396 could go for the 430-hp ZL1-powered COPO 9560 or the less expensive COPO 9561 with the 425-hp L72 427, which had an iron block and cylinder heads. Both would be the last Camaros with over 400 hp until the 426-hp LS3-powered 2010 model.
20. First Camaro with independent rear suspension: Although the Corvette got an independent rear suspension in 1963, the first four generations of Camaros used a solid axle rear suspension. The fifth-generation of the car, which debuted in 2010, was the first to get an IRS, a design the car continues to use today.
19. First Camaro built outside the USA: For its first three-generations, all Camaros were built in Norwood, Ohio and Van Nuys, California. Assembly of the fourth-generation, which debuted in 1993, and the fifth-generation, took place in Quebec, Canada. Today the sixth-generation is built in Michigan.
18. Last Camaro with a big-block engine: Chevy yanked the big-block engine from the Camaro after the 1972 model year. Its last gasp was the LS3 with 8.5:1 compression and 240 hp. Although the engine was really 402 cubic inches, Chevy still called it a 396 and it cost an extra $96. It was available on the SS model, which came standard with a 350 small-block, but it was not offered in California. Of the 6,562 SS Camaros built that year, only 970 got the big-block.
17. First Camaro with a hatchback: All-new for 1982, the third-generation Camaro debuted to fight the new Fox-body Mustang, and like the Mustang, which debuted in 1979, it was a hatchback. This body configuration lasted through the fourth-generation, which was discontinued in 2002. Chevy returned the car to a traditional trunk in 2010 with the fifth-gen.
16. First Camaro with an airbag: Chevy added a driver’s side airbag to the Camaro in 1990, which required a new steering wheel and steering column. GM also redesigned the gauge cluster that year. Airbags were much larger and bulker back then requiring a steering wheel with a large hub and horn buttons moved to the side.
15. First Camaro Z28 with air conditioning: From 1967-1972 you could not get air conditioning on a Z28, or any other Camaro with a solid-lifter engine. But in 1973 Chevy detuned the Z28’s 350 from 255 hp to 245 hp and swapped its cam for a hydraulic unit. Air conditioning was offered for the first time.
14. First Camaro Indy 500 Pace Car: Although the Corvette didn’t pace the Indy 500 until 1978, the Camaro led the field in its first year of production, 1967. The four actual pace cars were white with blue trim and interiors. Chevy also built 100 replicas, which were used by officials and dignitaries during the race weekend. They were then sold to the public. The Camaro paced Indy again in 1969. Those cars were white with orange interior and stripes. 3675 replicas were sold.
13. First Camaro with T-Tops: T-Tops became standard on the Corvette coupe in 1968 and Pontiac began offering the removable roof panels as an option on the Trans Am in 1976, but T-Tops weren’t available on the Camaro until 1978. T-Tops was option code RPO CC1, and cost $625. Chevy built 9875 Camaros in 1978 with the option.
12. First Camaro with alloy wheels: 1978 was also the first year alloy wheels were offered, becoming part of the Z28 package. The five-spokes were 15x7 and wore GR70-15 white letter tires. This was one year after Pontiac introduced alloy wheels on its Trans Am.
11. First Camaro with 15-inch wheels: In 1967 every Camaro got 14-inch wheels except for cars equipped with RPO Z/28, which included 15-inch wheels and tires. This continued in 1968 and 1969 and well into the 1980s. Today many owner upgrade their first and second generation Camaros with 15-inch Rally Wheels from a Z/28 or a Corvette.
10. First Camaro with 16-inch wheels: In 1985 Chevy introduced the IROC Sport Equipment Package, RPO B4Z, which was named for the Camaros use in the International Race of Champions. The package included 16-inch alloy wheels and Goodyear Gatorbacks sized 245/50VR16.
9. First Camaro with 17-inch wheels: It took Chevy 11 years to upgrade the size of the Camaros largest wheels from 16 to 17 inches. In 1996 option RPO R7T known as the SS Package was available through dealers for $3999. It added the 305-hp LT1, a functional hood scoop, revised suspension and 17x9-inch Corvette ZR-1 style five-spoke alloy wheels wrapped in 275/40ZR17 tires. Only 2257 were built.
8. First Camaro with an LS V-8: In 1998, Chevy replaced the Camaro’s LT1 Gen II small-block for the Gen III LS. The all-aluminum LS1 was rated at 305 hp and was available with a six-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. Chevy first used the LS in the fifth-generation Corvette, which debuted in 1997.
7. First Camaro with a five-speed manual transmission: Finally in 1983 Chevy replaced it with an optional five-speed, which was a $125 option (RPO MM5) on the Sport Coupe and standard on the Berlinetta and Z28. That same year Chevy made a new four-speed automatic with overdrive (RPO MX0) available on all models and its was the only automatic available on the Z28. 32,162 got the five-speed and 68,844 got the four-speed.
6. First Camaro with a factory supercharger: In 2012 the Camaro got its first factory supercharger. The LSA engine was shared with the Cadillac CTS-V and was rated 580 hp and 556 lb-ft of torque in the Camaro, making it the most powerful Camaro ever up to that point. Chevy called it the Camaro ZL1, a name unearthed from 1969. Base price was $56,795 and it could run the quarter mile in the low 12s
5. First Camaro ILE: Chevy built the first four ILE Camaros in 1988 according to the Camaro White Book, however, the book also states that anecdotal evidence suggests that four were shipped to Canada, so the total production may be eight cars. ILE was a special road racing package for homologation with shorter rear gears, four-wheel disc brakes and dual catalytic converters. It was only available on the IROC-Z. In 1989 Chevy built 111. If air conditioning was not ordered the package also added an aluminum driveshaft, specific shocks, different bump stops, larger Corvette front brakes and fuel tank baffles. Similar ILE packages have continued to be offered on all subsequent generations of Camaro.
4. First Camaro with four-cylinders: Recently Chevy added a turbocharged four-cylinder to the Camaro’s list of available engines, but it’s not the first four-banger Camaro. That was the 1982 Sport Coupe, which came standard with a 151 cubic-inch four with 90 hp. Of the 189,747 Camaros sold that year 21,802 got the four.
3. First Camaro with fuel injection: In 1982 the third generation of the Camaro debuted with two 305 cubic-inch V-8s. The Z28 came standard with a carbureted 145-hp version of the 5.0-liter, while 6360 buyers upgraded to the 165 hp version that featured Cross-Fire Injection, a dual throttle body fuel injection system that had debuted on the 1981 Corvette. That year Motor Trend tested one with an automatic transmission, it hit 60 mph in 9.4 seconds and covered the quarter mile in 17.1 seconds at 80 mph.
2. First Camaro with a black rear panel: All big-block SS 396 Camaros built from 1967-1972 got matte black rear taillight panels, with the exception of cars painted Tuxedo Black. The rear panels of the 427-powered COPO cars in 1969 were body color, as were the rear panels of Z/28 and SS 350 models.
1. Only Early Camaros with Z/28 stripes: These days you see a lot of first generation Camaros with SS badges and two wide Z/28 stripes running atop their hood and decklid. It’s a cool combination, but it’s a bit of restoration freehand. From 1967-1973 only Z/28s got those stripes, with the exception being the white and orange 1969 Indy 500 Pace Car replicas, which wore SS badges but got the Z/28 graphics. Although 1970-1972 Chevelle SS models wore similar stripes as the Camaro Z/28, from 1967-1969 Camaro SS models had their own stripe packages and the 1970-1972 SS Camaros did not wear stripes.