Do you know these 5 Camaro secrets?

1969 Camaro SS Cameron Neveu

This list originally appeared on Hagerty Media in 2013. Just yesterday, on March 21, 2023, Chevrolet revealed that the sixth-gen Camaro would cease production as of the 2024 model year. In recognition of the car’s place in history, and in our hearts, we’re republishing that 2013 article. It’s updated only for accuracy. —Ed. 

One of America’s favorite pony cars, the Camaro has an interesting past, with more than a few buried facts and secrets hiding just below the radar. Here are five of our favorites:

The Camaro was almost called the Panther

It took a while for Chevrolet to come up with a final name for the Camaro. For quite some time it was referred to internally as the Chevrolet Panther. In end, Chevy’s preference for names beginning with a “C” won out, and the Panther name died as part of an elaborate PR campaign.

The Camaro was actually a Canadian import

Like William Shatner and Michael J. Fox, the seemingly all-American Camaro was actually a stealth Canadian. From 1993–2002, the Camaro and its twin, the Pontiac Firebird, were built in St. Thérèse, Quebec, a Montreal suburb.

Scottsdale Chevrolet Camaro detail
Sabrina Hyde

“Camaro” means nothing

The name was actually a contrived moniker, much like “Altima” or “Camry.” Although some claim that it is French slang for “friend,” neither the GM product people (nor most French-speakers, for that matter) are aware of this.

“Outpaced” the Mustang

Although the Camaro came two and a half years after the Mustang and was often outsold by the Mustang, it has a healthy lead in the Indianapolis 500. The Camaro has been the official pace car at Indy nine times as of 2023, versus just three for the Mustang. The Corvette outstrips both, with 21 appearances (counting this year’s).

1969 Camaro SS interior steering wheel
Andy Wakeman

Modern V-6s put old V-8s to shame

Amazing as it may seem, 2023’s base six-cylinder engine, at 335 hp, puts out more ponies than the most powerful small-block V-8 in the original car (295 hp). In fact, it probably makes nearly as much power as the fiercest big block V-8 of 1967, the 396 cubic inch, 375 hp. In modern “net horsepower” (measured with mufflers and accessories hooked up), the new six and the old big-block V-8 are probably just about even.

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Years ago, Hagerty’s employees completed an amazing, full restoration of a 1969 Camaro SS. For an inside look at the restoration process be sure to watch the video below on the Comeback Camaro.

It features a baby-faced Davin Reckow, who you may now recognize from our fantastic Redline Rebuild and Will It Run? series.

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Comments

    Shhhh! None of those were really secrets.

    How about some really juicy ones like telling about the traction sprayer option in 69.

    Years ago I campaigned a ’69 SS L89 car in B Stock Automatic in NHRA’s Division 6. Could almost pull the fronts off the ground. Loved that car and at the time, I read somewhere that the ’69 Camaro was the single most heavily optioned car that GM made.

    There’s a “secret” hinted at in this story that’s worthy of further investigation, IMO: when did this alleged propensity for car names beginning with “C” supposedly happen? Obviously sometime after IMPALA, BEL AIR, MONTE CARLO, BERETTA, BISCAYNE, NOMAD, TOWNSMAN, KINGSWOOD, EL CAMINO, BROOKWOOD, MALIBU, LUMINA, MONZA, and well before EQUINOX, BOLT, and SPARK came about… 😁

    The proper name for the vehicles were Chevrolet (the full size), Corvair, Corvette, Chevy2, Chevelle, trucks were c-10, c-20, c-30, c50 the names you refer to are generally trim levels “Malibu” for example was a Chevelle Malibu. Monte Carlo was the first car line to break from the “C” tradition. The ElCamino was an early car/truck that also broke the tradition. Bel Air, Biscayne were trim levels of the full size Chevrolet as were Townsman and Kingswood trim levels of full size Station Wagons.

    I drove an unusual Chevrolet for almost 5 years. Corvair was rear engined and ran like a bat out of hell! Its corning ability rivaled that of my S-2000. i have another Chevrolet that begins with the letter “C,” that being C-7 Corvette. Seems there are plenty of Chevies named with “C.” Somes better than others!

    It was still going on through most of the 60’s. The names you mention are models of the cars beginning with “C” with the exception of the Monte.

    For ’69 the Chevy II name was dropped so I guess that was the first non “C” name. Monte Carlo came along the next year, and the Vega the year after.

    The modern V6 might develop as much horsepower as a 1967 396, but will it stir the soul with the same sound as a Rat motor inhaling a gazillion cubic feet of air? Will a 2023 V6 car get as many second looks as a first-gen F-body wearing “396 TURBOJET” emblems? Some things are just immeasurable.

    And I was lucky enough to get hold of a very low mileage ’71 Z28 350 from a wreck that went into my ’66 Chevelle. Lots of RPM and sounds with the solid lifters……. Saginaw 4 speed did not agree with that engine

    HA…someone beat me to the response.

    Plus the stated HP ratings were usually UNDERRATED.

    I don’t think the new six scared the CRAP out of passengers trying the grab the $20 bill off the dash during HARD acceleration challenge. I still remember seeing the phone poles passing swiftly by in the windshield as I held onto my seat! Oh…and that COWL INDUCTION DOOR popping open also was a REAL TELL that things were getting crazy…LOL

    I currently own a 69 camaro ss350, a 70 ss454 chevelle, and a 2013 camaro zl1. The 2013 camaro will beat them all and get twice the gas mileage doing it. A couple of years ago i was getting onto the highway with the 69 camaro and my wife was behind me in her 2016 honda pilot. I floored the camaro to merge and my wife easily got into the middle lane and drove by me in her pilot while i was accelerating. The old cars are fun and sound great, they are not fast

    I will gladly quarter mile race for pink slips with a 1967 camaro big block against a new 6 330 hp. How nieve and foolish to compare the two. Lost my respect for your writing!

    Hey, that would be pretty cool.
    C’mon, Hagerty. Step up to this one. A heads up, best of three, good old American match race.
    Show us all which Camaro is king at the drag strip!

    Which car do you think would win? You do not specify.

    A Motor Trend 2015 test of a 2016 with the 335HP V6, showed 5.3 second 0-60, and a 13.8 quarter.

    A 1968 Car & Driver comparison test of 1968’s showed a 15-flat quarter with the 396 (presumably the 325 HP version), but they felt the engine may have been not quite right. Regardless, getting traction off the line was tough.

    Motor Trend similarly tested 6 1968’s, and the 396/325 Camaro ran 15.6 sec.@92 MPH, and a 7.8 0-60. both probably on the slow side, in my estimation. A “compilation” source said that a 14.5-second quarter was representative, for whatever that is worth.

    My conclusion is that, with slicks and other minor prep, the Camaro might come close to the V6 – or maybe not. Conditions would need to be perfect for the 396 to triumph, it appears. No question which would sound better, though, even considering that great V6 snarl under heavy throttle – the 396 would come out on top there!

    Thank you for the dose of reality amidst all the chest-thumping Boomering going on here. Yes, the old BBs have a unique sound track. No denying that. Fine. How much you wanna pay to own it? That untaxed windfall equity on the house you bought before 1980 will come in handy, esp. for chequebook mechanics.

    Then there’s the fact that every classic (pre-1974) factory-spec muscle car ever built is pretty much useless in corners, hobbled for top end, and would lose even a 5-km autobahn sprint not just to a new V6 Camaro, but to a base 1997 Boxster, or the hp-and-weight-equivalent ‘02 Saab 9-3 SE I once bought off a dirt lot as a winter beater, and used to carry things like 160-litre hot water tanks, deck lumber, and easy chairs, or to drive our horrible two-lane highways over the Rocky Mountains in winter.

    https://www.automobile-catalog.com/performance/1968/445700/chevrolet_camaro_ss-396_sport_coupe_350-hp_3-speed_spec_.html#gsc.tab=0

    (Top speed: 139 mph)

    vs.

    https://www.kenrockwell.com/saab/2002-9-3.htm

    (Top speed: 143 mph — 230 km/h for us in the other 90% of the world — and that is limited only by the stock boost pressure setting, with 151 mph easily achieved by that one tweak)

    Fortunately, I was in the drivers seat of both. I owned 1969 SS/RS 350 factory 300 horsepower muncie 4 speed, installed headers and some modifications by a professional race mechanics team. I ran mostly 14.4 to 14.9 depending on track surface which was considered a pretty good time back in the day for a daily driver. I did well street racing and won more than I lost. I sold new 3.6 & 6.2 Camaros from 2010 to 2014 after I retired from G.M for a chevy dealership and sold practically every Camaro that I demonstrated by taking off from 0 to 100 on a country road. After being a “track rat” for years I confess the 3.6 would outrun my bad ass pace car and 6.2 is crazy fast and would probably beat 80% or better of 60s and 70s muscle cars. Sorry guys I feel the same pain. LOL

    James–That would be “Interesting” Both cars Factory specs– I’d love to see how the two compare–

    I tend to think “stock to stock” the new Camaro will win, especially against the 325HP 396 with it’s skinny bias ply tires.

    As much as we all reminisce about the old cars and how “fast they were”, many stock modern day 4 door sedans and SUV’s will blow the doors off of 95% of the stock 60’s muscle cars.

    yeah….

    I’m sure these comparisons will happen in the near future….about mobile phone performance too.

    Yup, some people don’t realize our beloved V8 muscle cars from the 70,s would get beat in the quarter mile by modern V6 minivans and 4 cyl economy cars. Technology marches on.

    If you are serious in saying “wrong”, then you may want to read some actual instrumented tests of modern vehicles, then compare to period tests of the old iron – especially the “normal” setups of the era, such as the 383 Road Runner or 396 Malibus (not the much more rare Hemis, 427 Yenkos, or 427 Fords. To us fans of old cars, it may be disappointing, but such is life.

    @Tim D. how dare you speak these truths in these hallowed grounds. lol. die hard 1st gen guy here. 1blown BBC, one modern cam’d LS6 and one built SB400. it yes. modern smaller cars are quick these days. actually have a 2013 LFX V6 in a 72 C10. it drives amazing, quick, and can even handle occasional towing duties.

    Seems like everyone is vacillating about modern H.P. vs that of days gone by. One thing we can all agree on is early Cameros of past were a thing of beauty. Today, not so much.

    Rick, I TOTALLY disagree, I owned a ’68 back in the day. Today I own a black 2010 SS Camaro 427 (LS7) 6-spd. and I think it is the most beautiful car on the road! Of course I may be slightly bias.

    The power numbers are misleading, as the newer Camaro is much heavier. Power to weight ratio is important. Of course the newer Camaro had much better transmissions, only 2 or 3 gears, or if you had a 4 speed you were better off but still had no overdrive, didn’t cut it even back then, so there is that to consider, but I would think a properly setup 1st gen with a 396 would do better than “on par” with a 3800 lb NA V6 modern version.

    Let’s talk about torque output, the most important number for acceleration and real world performance.
    How does the V-6 stack up against the L-78 big block there?

    Ah, the memories! I had a 1969 Camaro in 1971. It was metallic blue with a black vinyl roof (not the halo version, which I hated). It was a regular model with a 327 and a deluxe interior. I traded it in for a ’68 Corvette roadster in 1972. I wish I still had it (and the Corvette)!

    It is sad to see it go but it has not been a car for me. Specifically the last two generations are just not for me daily driver liveable. If I wanted a track car I would totally get a ZL1 1LE. It appears the only V8 performance is going to be a Corvette, but for how long?

    About the same time as Camaro, Corvette, Corvair, Caprice, Chevelle, Cavalier, Celebrity, Chevette, Chevy II, Cheyenne, Citation, Cobalt, Corsa, Corsica and Cruze. And I’m sure many more from overseas.

    For us 1st Gen owners, this article is so good. Thanks for making my day.
    My first car was a 68 Camaro. In my garage now is a 69 Camaro.
    So yeah I like this article.

    Some of the old horsepower numbers did not reflect reality. Yes, new cars can be fast. But for quarter mile, put some modern rubber on a Z/28 with a good tune, and the available gears, and that 290 horse motor will give you a run.

    A friend of mine bought a Z/28 in 1969.
    The sound of that 302/290 HP was incredible, it was music !
    I’m sure that the chambered exhaust system instead of mufflers was part of the sound.
    When I’m watching auctions & a lejit ’69 crosses the block that is not brought up……?
    Do any of my fellow car junkies out there have the answer ? Thanks

    I remember the chambered exhaust. A friend of mine was a Chevy parts guy and had a new Z. He must’ve spent every dime he earned on trick factory parts, his car was so great, and it included the chambered exhaust. With that off-road cam, two fours and headers through the exhaust was insane.

    My restored 69 Z has it; nothing sweeter to your ear than the sound of a 302 with a mild cam, solid lifters and the rumble of the chambered exhaust! I am reliving my youth when out on the road!

    Corolla is not a contrived moniker. Its definition: the part of a flower that consists of the separate or fused petals and constitutes the inner whorl of the perianth. (Merriam-Webster)

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