Camaro fans were terribly disappointed when Chevrolet decided to retire the nameplate for the 2003 model year. It looked like Mustang had finally won the muscle car battle. The Firebird was also discontinued and the Mustang was the only domestic pony/muscle car still on the market at the moment. However, it turned out that Chevrolet was just waiting for the right moment to return the Camaro to the market in a totally redesigned, restyled, and re-engineered form. That moment came in late 2009 when a brand new, fifth-generation Camaro was introduced to an eager market (via Cnet).
The 2010 Camaro was a triumph of retro-futuristic design and engineering. The GM’s Zeta platform was highly sophisticated and allowed the new model to have sports-car-like road holding and driving dynamics. The base engine was a V6. But right from the start, 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 at the moment. With an advanced chassis and brutal performance, the Camaro SS was far superior to the Mustang G.T. of the same vintage, which helped Chevy beat Ford in the sales war.
As one of the most popular American muscle cars, the Camaro appeared in numerous movies in the last 52 years. However, the most popular of all movie Camaros is the Bumblebee – the yellow and black Camaro from the Transformers movies (via Motor Authority).
As such, it deserves a place on this list, both in a classic and modern interpretation. The Mustang might be featured in more movies, but the Camaro is equally recognizable and famous.
The 1970 Camaro was strangely a mid-year release due to a strike of G.M. workers that delayed the introduction of 1970 models. However, when it finally arrived on the burning muscle car scene, the 1970 Camaro SS set the new standards in the pony car segment. The first-generation SS models, the 350 and 396, were immensely popular with the buyers. 1970 brought improvements in suspension geometry, aerodynamics, and appearance (via Mecum).
The SS package included 350 V8 with 350 HP and 396 V8 with 375 HP. The engines were a carryover from the last year. However, more than capable of propelling the new Camaro to pretty respectable 0 to 60 mph times and helping it beat the competitors, including the new-for-1970 Dodge Challenger.
Chevy knew that the Camaro platform could handle much more than 426 HP. It was already capable of delivering fantastic cornering speeds and world-class handling. So it was only natural that as soon as the new generation hit the streets in 2010, engineers started developing performance versions. The first of those was the great Camaro ZL-1 introduced in 2012 and sold throughout 2015 (via Evo).
The ZL-1, as you know, was a special 427 V8 powered drag beast from 1969 and its 2012 counterpart followed the same formula. Chevrolet took the biggest and most powerful engine G.M. had – a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 and stuffed it into the Camaro. The result was a 580 HP street terror. It boasted a highly advanced Magnetic Ride suspension, performance Goodyear tires, Brembo brakes, and more. The 2012 Camaro ZL-1 wasn’t the one-trick pony like its 1969 predecessor was. It was rather a pure sports car that could put Porsche 911 to shame and outrun much more expensive and exotic cars. It was not cheap at $57,000 MSRP, but it was well worth it.
Like all muscle cars in the ’70s, the Camaro faced tightening emission and safety regulations and loss of power and performance. The early second-generation models looked promising, but just a few years after, the Z/28 was gone. The most powerful V8 model had something like 165 HP. A pale shadow of its former glory (via Auto Evolution).
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 horses but it looked wild with a unique body kit, wild graphics package, and spoiler. However, the second reason is much more interesting. In 1977, Chevrolet Camaro finally outsold the Ford Mustang for the first time since 1967. The mid-’70s Mustang was a really slow and ugly car. While the Camaro at least looked much better with proper muscle car styling and stance. That is why Camaro sold over 200,000 examples that year alone, while the Mustang only managed to sell 153,000 copies.
You’re mistaken if you think Camaros are only about big blocks and massive V8s. Of course, like any good muscle car, Camaros are defined by V8 engines, but there’s more to this model than that. The proof is the 2016 Camaro RS powered by a 355 HP, 3.5-liter V6, as this model is a BMW-killer more than Mustang GT competitor (via Motor Trend).
It’s capable of going 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds, which is not extremely fast. It’s fast enough to keep things interesting. However, its most significant advantage is that this car weighs less than the V8 model. It is also significantly more affordable, making it one of the cheapest ways to become a member of the Camaro family.
Think again if you believe Yenko was the only classic Camaro tuner. There were several well-known names in the business, but the most extreme was the Baldwin Motion (via Motor Trend).
Their 427 conversions for the early 1970s models were simply the best. 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 HP. Today, Baldwin Motion Camaros are highly sought-after and valuable pieces of muscle car history.
Before we get into explaining the 2018 ILE Turbo, let’s talk numbers. A 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 70s? No. It’s a four-cylinder turbocharged Camaro from the current lineup (via Car and Driver).
Although Camaro fans are V8 fans and love a proper V8 machine, we have to give credit to this little Camaro. It’s a modern-day sports car with a modern engine and loads of performance but in a small, fuel-efficient, and affordable package. It just 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 just doesn’t sound as good.
Even though California Highway Patrol used the Camaro even before the appearance of the Mustang S.S.P. model, Chevrolet didn’t release the full “cop spec” model until 1991. Called B4C (factory code), it was a special Camaro designed for law enforcement work and high-speed pursuits.
The B4C was basically a Z/28 Camaro with a 350 V8 engine and 5-speed manual transmission. However, a lot of exterior details were gone, and the car looked as stock as possible. The suspension and brakes were beefed up, and several heavy-duty parts were added as part of the package. The Chevrolet offered Camaro B4C until 2002 and less than 3000 were made (via Code 3 Garage).
The fourth-generation Camaro, along with its twin brother the Pontiac Firebird, lasted until 2002 and then went on an eight-year hiatus. During nine 9-year lifespan, Chevrolet improved the Camaro, not only esthetically. The introduction of various mechanical improvements, and newer and more powerful engines, added to the performance and style of the late ’90s and early ’00s Camaros (via American Muscle Car Museum).
Arguably the best Camaro from that period is 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 with 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 and most affordable muscle cars from the period. An excellent basis for modifications since the venerable V8 has significant potential. Achieving 400 to 500 HP from the LS1 V8 is relatively easy to do.
You all know about the legendary C.O.P.O. Camaro ZL1 cars of the late ’60s and their incredible drag strip performance. Well, for the 2012 model year, Chevrolet introduced a special-edition C.O.P.O. Camaro which was made for N.H.R.A.’s Stock Eliminator Championship (via Top Speed).
Under the hood was a naturally aspirated 427 V8 engine with over 600 HP. Plus all racing technology to be the fastest car on the drag strip. Chevrolet wanted to pay a little homage to the original C.O.P.O. Camaros, producing only 69 examples for 2012.
The ZL1 might steal the headlines when it comes to horsepower and insane 0 to 60 numbers. However, the standard Camaro SS is still the best choice. If you want an exciting muscle car but have a budget, keep your eye on. With incredibly composed chassis, precision steering, and excellent suspension, this Camaro is arguably the driver’s muscle car (via Chevrolet).
Under the hood is the venerable 6.2-liter V8 with 455 HP. It’s capable of getting 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 the German de-restricted Autobahn to prove Chevrolet’s claims.