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Born To Run: The Evolution of The Camaro’s Most Legendary Models

Vukasin Herbez January 26, 2024

You’ve probably heard the news that the revered Chevrolet Camaro is being canceled for the second time in its unique history. It means that there will not be a 2024 Camaro since the assembly lines shut down on December 14, 2023. To say that the news saddens car fans is an understatement. This was and still is one of the best muscle cars ever. It was a true dream car of millions of enthusiasts all over the globe.

Chevrolet claims the lack of sales was the main reason the Camaro is gone, but we doubt it. In a very short period, muscle car lovers have lost two muscle car legends – the Camaro and the Dodge Charger/Challenger. That leaves only the Ford Mustang as the last American-made muscle car on the scene. However, let’s not mourn the sad destiny of the Camaro. Instead, let’s concentrate on the most significant models from its storied history and hope that it will find a way to reincarnate itself for the second time.

1967 Chevrolet Camaro Rs Ss 396 Is Everything Todays Car Is Not 20
Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

1967 Chevrolet Camaro

On September 22, 1967, Chevrolet introduced the Camaro in front of an eager audience. Motoring journalists and the automotive public saw a brand-new, elegant coupe and convertible with a modern design. It also boasted a classic long hood and short deck proportions, a sporty stance, and excellent trim. Chevrolet chose to abandon the third body style like the Mustang or Barracuda. From this standpoint, it was a good decision (via Car and Driver).

1967 Chevrolet Camaro Rs Ss 396 Is Everything Todays Car Is Not 1
Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

The new Camaro came with a selection of straight six and V8 engines, starting from a small 230 six-cylinder up to the mighty 396 V8 with 325 hp. The idea was to offer a broader range and more powerful engines than Ford to attract sport-minded buyers. That’s why Chevrolet offered the three performance versions of the SS, RS, and Z/28 models. The 1967 Camaro could succeed since it was sold in over 220,000 examples and the performance versions were well-received. However, more was needed to catch the Mustang and its lofty 400,000 examples sold in 1967.

Photo Credit: Mecum

1967 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

Although the 1967 Z/28 wasn’t the most powerful Camaro on offer, it was by far the best choice in handling, braking, and overall driving dynamics. If the SS 350 and SS 396 were pure muscle cars with big engines and loads of tire smoke, the Z/28 was the driver’s machine and a road racing model that could handle most challenges (via Hagerty).

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Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Z/28 package included front disc brakes, a close-ratio four-speed manual transmission, revised suspension, and steering. It also had exterior trim details like racing stripes, a vinyl roof, and headlight covers. But the real treat was under the hood. Its power came from a 5.0-liter V8 with 290 hp. This engine proved ideal for the Z/28 and gave the car thrilling performance while retaining a low weight and agile handling. The Mustangs didn’t have such a version, and the Z/28 was unique. The ’67 Z/28 was produced in just 602 examples, making it very rare today. But in 1968 and 1969, Chevy won many Trans Am races with it, beating the Mustang on the tracks.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro Yenko 34
Photo Credit: Mecum

1969 Yenko Camaro 427

The Yenko family started a Chevrolet dealership in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1949. In the late ’50s when Don Yenko began to manage the business, the company slowly turned to the performance car market, first with a series of race-prepared Corvettes. Don raced himself with complete conversion jobs based on various Chevrolet models (via AMMCM).

1969 Chevrolet Camaro Yenko 35
Photo Credit: Mecum

Very soon, with the introduction of the Camaro in 1967, Yenko started converting it to 427 V8 power and selling it as a Yenko Super Car. In addition to more power, wild graphics, and a long list of optional extras, Yenko even offered a factory warranty and heavily promoted his models. That is why Yenko Camaros were the most popular choice if you wanted a custom 427 V8 conversion on your regular SS.

Chevrolet Camaro - Chevrolet Chevelle
Photo Credit: Mecum

1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1

In the late ’60s, Chevrolet was under a racing ban proposed by General Motors. This meant that no official Chevrolet products could race, or Chevrolet, as a manufacturer, couldn’t participate in any racing activity. Of course, nobody stopped Chevrolet from helping racing teams through its backdoor programs in which particular engines and components were developed. In the late ’60s, Can-Am was a famous racing series featuring prototype-class cars with V8 engines. Chevrolet wanted to purpose-build a power plant for this championship, so they produced an all-aluminum 427 big block called the ZL-1 in 1969 (via How Stuff Works).

1969 Chevrolet Copo Camaro Comes In Fathom Green Price Matches Pristine Looks 11
Photo Credit: Mecum

It was a high-revving, 7.0-liter V8 with around 550 horsepower in mild tune. Chevrolet produced about 200 of those engines. While most of them went to Can-Am racing teams, 69 ZL-1s were installed in C.O.P.O Camaros and sold to drag racing teams. The Camaro ZL-1 was the same as the regular 1969 Camaro on the outside, but it was so fast that it was barely street-legal. The official 1969 Chevrolet literature doesn’t mention the ZL-1 option for the Camaro. But if you were a successful drag racer or a dealer, you knew about this expensive option. That’s why only 69 Camaros ZL-1s left the factory.

23. 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Rs Ss L89 2 D3rxas
Photo Credit: Pinterest

1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS 350

In the late ’60s, the horsepower wars were in full swing. So Chevrolet prepared the Camaro for battle with new Z/28 and SS models. The SS 396 was a top-of-the-line muscle model with 325 hp in earlier versions and up to 375 hp in 1969, but the most balanced and almost equally fast was the SS 350 model (via GM).

1969 Chevrolet Camaro Ss
Photo Credit: Pinterest

The SS 350 was popular with all Chevrolet’s “go fast” options and a venerable 350 CID V8 engine producing 300 hp. With racing stripes and graphics package, optional vinyl roof, and lots of extras, the SS 350 was one of the best pony cars. It boasted a lively performance, good handling, and perfect looks. Today, it is one of the most desirable classic Camaros and a sought-after piece of Chevrolet history.

1970 Chevy Camaro 22
Photo Credit: GM

1970 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

The 1970 model year marked the arrival of the new second-generation Camaro, which featured a radical restyle. The modern semi-fastback roof line was the main feature, as were the new platform and the absence of a convertible option. The early ’70s Camaros were proper muscle coupes with power and style to back this claim. Chevrolet retained the SS 350 and SS 396 versions with unchanged power, and some early brochures even mentioned the SS 454 model. But the car was never produced (via Car and Driver).

The Supercharged Chevrolet 1970 Camaro Rs Hits Sema 1
Photo Credit: GM

However, the best all-around car was still the Z/28 version, now featuring 350 LT1 V8 engine and 350 hp ratings. With the revised suspension, braking, and four-speed manual transmission, the Z/28 was a sharp and precise sports car that could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds and handle like a European exotic.

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Photo Credits: Pinterest

1971 Baldwin Motion Camaro

Think again if you think that Yenko was the only classic Camaro tuner. The business had several well-known names, but the most extreme was the Baldwin Motion (via CMC).

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Their 427 conversions for the early ’70s models were the best since Baldwin Motion installed numerous exceptional performance parts and dyno-tuned the cars. They delivered them with a written warranty that the vehicle could achieve 10-second quarter-mile times and produce 500 horsepower. Today, Baldwin Motion Camaros are highly sought-after and valuable pieces of muscle car history.

1977 Chevrolet Camaroz281
Photo Credit: GM

1977 Chevrolet Camaro

Like all muscle cars in the ’70s, the Camaro faced tightening emission and safety regulations and lost power and performance. The early second-generation models looked promising, but just a few years after, the Z/28 was discontinued, and the most potent V8 model had around 165 hp – a pale shadow of its former glory (via Hemmings).

Chevrolet Camaro Z:28 (1977)
Photo Credit: Pinterest

However, the 1977 model is essential for two reasons. First, it marked the return of the Z/28 option after a few years of absence. The ’77 Z/28 had just 185 horsepower but it looked wild with a unique body kit, rugged graphics package, and spoiler. However, the second reason is much more enjoyable. In 1977, Chevrolet Camaro outsold the Ford Mustang for the first time since 1967. The mid-’70s Mustang was a slow and ugly car, while the Camaro looked much better with proper muscle car styling and stance. That is why the Camaro sold over 200,000 examples in that year alone while the Mustang managed to sell 153,000 copies.

1982 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta
Photo Credit: Mecum

1982 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

After 11 years of production of the second generation of GM’s F-body, the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird got a much-needed redesign for the 1982 model year. The new model was much more advanced and aerodynamically designed, with improvements in suspension and handling. The hottest version of the new Camaro was the Z/28, which consisted of a 305 V8 with 165 hp (via Motor Trend).

1982 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 via Car Domain
Photo Credit: BaT

Even though the power was meager compared to the Z/28 from the late ’60s, the ’82 Camaro was a relatively fast car by the standards of the day since it was 500 pounds lighter than the previous generation, and five-speed manual transmission was standard. As soon as the Z/28 hit the streets, clever backstreet hot rodders realized that if you change the intake system and camshaft, you could significantly increase the power and performance of the stock Z/28. This made them attractive to people looking for pure speed.

Chevrolet Camaro Iroc Z T Top 3
Foto Credit: Auto WP

1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC

The third-generation Camaro was a well-received and popular car, but after a while, buyers wanted more performance and power. So Chevrolet delivered in the form of the legendary IROC-Z version. Introduced in 1985, the IROC-Z was kind of a tribute model to the Chevrolet-sponsored International Race of Champions racing series. However, it was more than just an appearance package and a cool name (via Hemmings).

1985 Chevrolet Camaro Iroc Bat Auction 71
Photo Credit: GM

Under the hood was the 350 V8 with 225 hp in the early years and 245 hp in later versions. The buyers could opt for manual or automatic, and the suspension was tuned, as well as steering. Chevrolet even offered a cool-looking convertible, which was the first Camaro rag top in 18 years. The IROC-Z proved a trendy and influential muscle car, finally giving buyers some performance.

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Photo Credit: Mecum

1988 to 1992 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE

Only a few people know about the 1LE third-gen Camaro produced from 1988 to 1992. The 1LE was a rare option based on the IROC-Z model of the same vintage. The 1LE looked like any other Camaro from the outside but the drivetrain options revealed something special (via Hemmings).

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Photo Credit: Mecum

The 1LE had a unique, shorter differential, which provided better acceleration, bigger brakes, revised suspension, and a lack of options like air conditioning. A true enthusiast’s choice was a lighter, faster, and more agile Camaro. However, only a few customers knew about this package since Chevrolet didn’t promote it. In the end, only around a few thousand examples were made.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

1991 Chevrolet Camaro B4C

Even though California Highway Patrol used the Camaro before the Mustang S.S.P. model appeared, Chevrolet didn’t release the full “cop spec” model until 1991. B4C (factory code) was a particular Camaro designed for law enforcement work and high-speed pursuits (via Code 3 Garage).

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

The B4C was a Z/28 Camaro with a 350 V8 engine and five-speed manual transmission. However, a lot of exterior details were removed, and the car looked as stock as possible. The suspension and brakes were beefed up, and several heavy-duty parts were added. The Chevrolet offered Camaro B4C until 1996 and less than 3,000 were made.

1993 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
Photo Credit: Rich Mccoy

1993 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

The year 1993 marked the return of the Camaro and the Z/28 in a brand-new body mated with an improved and slightly modified F-Body platform, which retained the live rear axle setup. The fourth-generation Camaro was a modern-looking and capable muscle car that came in two body styles – coupe and convertible (via Driving Line).

Photo Credit: Bring A Trailer

The engine lineup consisted of V6 and V8 units, and in the Z/28 version, Camaro got Chevrolet’s LT1 engine with 275 hp. It doesn’t sound like much today, but for the early ’90s, it was a pretty good number and translated to lively performance. The Z/28 package also has improved brakes and a six-speed manual transmission.

2002 Chevrolet Camaro Ss 35th Anniversary 4
Photo Credit: GM

2002 Chevrolet Camaro SS

The fourth-generation Camaro, along with its twin brother the Pontiac Firebird, lasted until 2002 and then went on an eight-year hiatus. During its nine-year lifespan, Chevrolet improved the Camaro, not only aesthetically but with various mechanical improvements and newer and more powerful engines. These added to the performance and style of the late ’90s and early 2000s Camaros (via Cars).

2002 Chevrolet Camaross35thanniversary2
Photo Credit: GM

The best Camaro from that period was the 2001/2 SS version, which featured a 5.7-liter V8 with 325 hp. The combination of a powerful engine, sturdy chassis, and six-speed manual made the fourth-generation Camaro SS the classic muscle car in every aspect. It had the same feel, noise, and performance as the legendary models from the ’60s but with better comfort and ride quality. The early 2000s Camaro SS is remembered as one of the best affordable muscle cars from the period and an excellent basis for modifications since the venerable V8 has enormous potential. Achieving 400 to 500 hp from the LS1 V8 was relatively easy.

2010 Chevrolet Camaro Ss 4 1600x0
Photo Credit: GM

2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS

The Camaro fans were disappointed when Chevrolet retired the nameplate for the 2003 model year. It looked like the Mustang had finally won the muscle car battle since the Firebird was discontinued and the Mustang was the only domestic pony/muscle car still on the market. However, it turned out that Chevrolet was waiting for the right moment to bring the Camaro back to the market in a redesigned, restyled, and re-engineered form. That moment came in late 2009 when a new, fifth-generation Camaro was introduced to a very eager market (via Edmunds).

2010 Chevrolet Camaro Ss
Photo Credit: GM

After years of showing concept cars and design renderings, Chevrolet was finally ready to introduce its modern interpretation of the classic Camaro shape with new, highly advanced chassis and engines. The 2010 Camaro was a triumph of retro-futuristic design and engineering since GM’s Zeta platform was highly sophisticated. It allowed the new model to sport car-like road holding and driving dynamics. The base engine was a V6. But right from the start, the fifth-generation Camaro buyers had the option of the SS model with a 6.2-liter V8 engine and 426 hp, which made the 2010 Camaro SS one of the fastest domestic cars. With advanced chassis and brutal performance, the Camaro SS was far better than the Mustang GT of the same vintage, which helped Chevrolet beat Ford in the sales wars.

2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 via Motor Trend
Photo Credit: GM

2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Chevrolet knew that the Camaro platform could handle much more than 426 hp and was capable of delivering fantastic cornering speeds and world-class handling. So it was only natural that engineers started developing performance versions as soon as the new generation hit the streets in 2010. First of those was the great Camaro ZL-1 introduced in 2012 and sold throughout 2017 (via Car and Driver).

2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 via Motor Trend
Photo Credit: Motor Trend

The ZL-1, as you know, was a unique 427 V8-powered drag beast from 1969 and its 2012 counterpart follows the same formula. Chevrolet took GM’s biggest and most powerful engine – a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 and stuffed it into the Camaro. The result was 580 hp street terror with highly advanced Magnetic Ride suspension, performance Goodyear tires, and Brembo brakes. The 2012 Camaro ZL-1 was not the one trick pony like its 1969 predecessor was. Rather, it was a pure sports car that could put the Porsche 911 to shame and outhandle and outrun much more expensive and exotic cars. It was not cheap at a $57,000 MSRP but it was well worth it.

2011 Chevy Copo Camaro Coupe 01
Photo Credit: GM

2012 COPO Camaro

Chevrolet couldn’t let Ford and Dodge have all the fun. In 2012, the modern-day COPO Camaro debuted. It was based on a regular Camaro but had several engine options. There was a naturally aspirated 7.0-liter V8, a 5.3-liter V8 with a 2.9-liter supercharger, and a 5.3-liter V8 with a 4.0-liter supercharger (via Motor Trend).

Chevrolet Copo Camaro Concept
Photo Credit: GM

With a base price of almost $90,000, it was expensive but also well-constructed and astonishingly fast. Chevrolet made only 69 examples in 2012, with the number deliberately chosen to pay tribute to the original 1969 COPO Camaro, produced in only 69 examples.

Used 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 Coupe 2k Miles
Photo Credits: CAS

2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

The legendary Z/28 version returned for the 2014 model year and is an exciting and competent package. Once again, the Z/28 was a track day car, a road racing-oriented Camaro with brakes, suspension, and steering dedicated to precision and driving dynamics (via GM Media).

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Photo Credit: GM

Under the hood was a 7.0-liter V8 from the Corvette Z06, which delivered 505 hp and provided more than enough power and grunt, but the rest of the car was highly engineered for precision. Stiffer shocks, thicker anti-roll bars, unique wheels, brakes, and even a 300-pound lighter body helped the Z/28 achieve better numbers on the race track. With its supercharged engine, the Camaro ZL-1 was faster in straight lines, but the Z/28 was a better all-around performer and a perfect track-day vehicle.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro Ss 002
Photo Credit: GM

2016 Chevrolet Camaro RS

You’re mistaken if you think Camaros are all about big blocks and massive V8s. Of course, like any good muscle car, Camaros are defined by V8 engines, but there is more to this model than that. The proof is the 2016 Camaro RS powered by a 355 hp, 3.5-liter V6. This model was a BMW killer more than a Mustang GT competitor (via Car and Driver).

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Photo Credit: Car and Driver

It can reach 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds, which is not extremely fast but fast enough to keep things interesting. However, its most significant advantage is that this car weighs less than the V8 model and is significantly more affordable, making it one of the most affordable ways to become a member of the Camaro family.

Photo Credit: Auto Blog

2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE

The base Camaro SS is one of the best muscle cars around with its 6.2-liter, 450 hp V8 engine, loads of torque, and perfectly balanced chassis, and 1LE is even better. The engine is the same one you would get in a Corvette, which means it has 460 horsepower. The suspension is even more focused and slightly revised to give the driver a better driving feel and sharper response. Imagine driving this perfectly tuned machine on a long road trip, with every mile bringing you more driving pleasure (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: GM

Also, the aero package is slightly improved, and the 1LE is the best car if you want an all-around sports machine. It’s a capable road car, comfortable enough to be used daily and for long drives, and sharp enough to be a track car that will provide tons of fun on the race track. Besides the SS V8 1LE, for $10,000 less, you can get the V6 1LE, which is less powerful and slower but still a perfect sports car.

Chevrolet Camaro Gt4r Price 1
Photo Credit: Top Gear

2018 Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R

The incredible chassis, powerful engine, and driving dynamics of the latest Camaro model made it the perfect basis for a race car. So, in 2018, the famous Pratt & Miller racing outfit designed and manufactured the state-of-the-art racing Camaro intended to compete in the GT4 class. The FIA-sanctioned GT4 class requires that the car is based on a regular production model but with purposefully made additions, aerodynamic packages, safety components, and suspension changes (via Pratt Miller).

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Photo Credit: Top Gear

In the case of the Camaro GT4, the power comes from a 6.2-liter V8 engine but is restricted to 480 hp. The body is made of light composite materials; full race-spec dashboards and spoilers exist. Interestingly, the car has been offered for sale to private race teams for $260,000.

2019 Chevrolet Camaro Zl1 1le
Photo Credit: GM

2019 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

The ZL1 Camaro is what the Shelby GT500 is to the Mustang crowd. It is a top-of-the-line model that perfectly combines performance, handling, outright speed, and a legendary nameplate, which means so much to many people. The 2019 model continues that tradition, further refining the formula and improving every aspect of this fantastic machine (via Chevrolet Media).

Photo Credit: GM

With 650 hp under the hood and a 10-speed automatic, the 2019 ZL1 is capable of insane 0 to 60 mph times. If you hit the accelerator pedal hard enough, you will hit 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds, which is supercar territory. The top speed is an astonishing 198 mph, which is something that Camaros of old could only dream about.

2019 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1le 16
Photo Credit: GM

2020 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE Turbo

Before we get into explaining, let’s talk numbers. The 0 to 60 mph sprint takes 5.3 seconds, the top speed is 150 mph, and the power output is 275 hp. Is this a high-priced classic model from the early 1970s? No. It is a four-cylinder turbocharged Camaro from the 2020 lineup (via Motor Trend).

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Photo Credit: Motor Trend

Although we are V8 fans and love a proper V8 machine, we must credit this little Camaro. It is a modern sports car with a contemporary engine and loads of performance in a small, fuel-efficient, affordable package. It shows that you don’t need a big engine to have fun. However, you still need a V8 for a great soundtrack since this four-cylinder doesn’t sound as good.

2020 Chevrolet Camaro Ss
Photo Credit: GM

2020 Chevrolet Camaro SS

The ZL1 might be stealing the headlines regarding horsepower and insane 0 to 60 numbers, but the standard Camaro SS is still the best choice if you want an exciting muscle car but have a budget to keep your eye on. With an incredibly composed chassis, precision steering, and excellent suspension, this Camaro is arguably the driver’s muscle car (via Chevrolet).

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Photo Credit: GM

Under the hood is the venerable 6.2-liter V8 with 455 hp, which can get the 2022 Camaro SS to 60 mph in just 4.0 seconds. The top speed is a pretty respectable 183 mph. Unfortunately, you will need German de-restricted Autobahn to prove Chevrolet’s claims.

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Photo Credit: GM

2022 COPO Camaro

Even though Ford has shocked the drag racing world with the Cobra Jet 1400 EV concept, Chevrolet stayed true to the original gasoline-powered formula for the 2022 COPO Camaro model. Once again, three engines are available, but Chevrolet pushed the envelope further by introducing the massive 572 CID (via Motor Trend).

2019 Copo Camaro 002
Photo Credit: GM

With a 9.4-liter displacement, this unit is naturally aspirated and is Chevrolet’s most extensive engine. The horsepower rating is unknown, but the smaller and supercharged 5.7-liter makes 580 hp. The 7.0-liter, naturally-aspirated unit also offers 470. We believe that those are actually conservative ratings.

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