The Camaro was a direct answer to the highly successful Ford Mustang. The Mustang had more or less created the category of "pony car," and Chevrolet wanted in. The fact that Chevy was working on a competitor was an open secret. What they got most wrong was the name. The rumor was that Chevy was working on something called a "Panther," but Chevy had a practice of naming their cars starting with "C." They had a bit of fun with the press announcing the car as part of the Society to Eliminate Panthers from the Automotive World or SEPAW. This cheeky publicity stunt heralded Chevy's entry into the pony car market with the Camaro.
Since that launch, the Camaro, named after what was assumed to be a French slang term for "comradery or fellowship," was instantly popular, giving the foot soldiers of the Ford and Chevy wars a lightweight and powerful contender at the local quarter mile, the race track, or backroads. It was also Chevy's entry into the golden age of SCCA Pro's Trans-Am series. The Trans-Am name would later be licensed by GM for the Pontiac sister car to the Camaro, rights GM renews for a dollar a year to the SCCA.
The popularity of the Camaro has meant that a lot of fabricators and car builders, both amateur and professional, have had a go at one of the car's five generations. Like with anything involving subjective elements like taste and skill, the results can end up being mixed. Some Camaros end up works of gas-burning art and some that just make no sense. Here's a collection of both.
19 Roadster Shop Gen 2
There's a fine line between tribute and parody. In the late seventies and early eighties, there was an open production-car category for road racing known as "Group 5." With only a few production car markers like roofline and hoods, it allowed for other radical body modifications. The muscular look of the racecars of that era has influenced custom car design since its brief time on the track. The Japanese have turned this aesthetic into comedy with the bosozoku designs. Here's a much more authentic replication of the Group 5 look with its wide wheels, large wing, and air ducts. It even has a tow hook on it. While over the top, it's hard not to get caught up in its muscular racecar looks.
18 Candy Camaro
I actually spotted this at a Burbank Auto Show in Johnny Carson Park, and good news, bargain seekers: it was for sale. Believe it or not, under all of those chocolaty swirls lies what used to be a run-of-the-mill fifth-generation Camaro. But now, it's this oddball art deco-ish pony car. The mish-mash of influences includes '50s style fins and what can only be considered a Dr. Seuss-inspired side pipes. The swirl comes to an odd widow's peak at the front of the custom job. At the time, it was being offered for a crisp $110,000. At the very least, it's not something you'd lose in a parking lot.
17 Confused Custom
Perhaps the biggest sin in this collision of concepts is that it doesn't appear to actually be a Camaro at all. It's not even a GM car. Instead, it's a Chrysler 300 dressed up with a Camaro nose cone. This is really only the beginning of this car's problems.
One of the worst custom car cliches is the scissor door or 'Lambo' doors, which this custom has, for whatever reason, only done to one side of the car.
Perhaps, it's because such a custom touch on a car like this renders the doors useless. In order to make up for the regular opening doors on the driver's side, there's the oddball sideways-opening trunk. Finished off with an excessively busy paint job, the car becomes the embodiment of 'too much.'
16 Wheel-Standing Gen 3
The generations of Camaros generally go through a bit of a gestation period. Selling plenty of examples, they're usually a popular car for Chevrolet. With the cars already being affordable comparatively, to begin with, there eventually becomes an aftermarket of cheap Camaros that tend to be the chosen car of people who tear the sleeves off their sweatshirts or wear cheap gold chains. These cheap and available cars also start to find their way onto dragstrips where they really start to shine. While we wait for the generation that grew up on Gen 3 Camaros to become nostalgic for the style—something that's happening slowly with the IROC version—we get these pure U.S. muscle wheel standers for the Wednesday night grudge matches down at the quarter mile.
15 Tacky Overload
There's a twisted logic in turning anything that's not a luxury car into a limo. It's, of course, contrary to the whole purpose of a limousine, but part of limousines is showing off, so we can give an allowance. It always hurts just a little, though, when it's done to a competent performance car. With the added weight and long wheelbase, performance is off the menu for this Camaro. Then, there are the gullwing rear doors, like a cherry on the top of the cheesy cake. At the very least, limousine convention means that the chauffeur will be there to open and close the doors, removing one of the chief issues with the oddball door arrangement. The final decision, however, to make the car Bumblebee yellow, just seems unconscionable.
14 Wood-Grain Apocalypse Camaro
Since the first Baja 1000 in 1967, creating custom off-road versions of sturdy roadgoing cars has been a popular trend. The most common, of course, is the Volkswagen Beetle, but other cars have gotten the 'Baja' treatment. The Camaro lends itself well to this for the same reason it's a favorite among fans of 'donk' customs. Camaros have unusually large wheel wells. There are the usual and somewhat forgivable off-road touches like the brush guard and the light bars. It's not clear what the pipes facing backward on the hood are meant to do. What seems to be a bridge too far on this custom job is the wood-grain wrap. To make it worse are the now out-of-place rivet marks along the body line.
13 Colorful Smoke
One might not be aware that there's such a thing as a burnout champion, but this is the burnout champion of Australia. This fifth-generation Camaro features a 1,750hp 623-cubic-inch V8, and that's in casual tune. There's more on tap if they feel like they need it. The competitors use 17" SUV tires because they're cheaper, last longer, and put out more smoke. Each round goes until the car shreds its rear tires, which can be as long as five minutes. Colored rubber tires can be used to give the smoke a distinct color for that little bit of extra. It's certainly not for everyone, but it's hard to resist watching all that power get laid down.
12 Clean Gen. 2
The Gen 2 Camaro was so ubiquitous and so cheap, for such a long time, it was used as the shells for 'pro-stock' dirt-track racecars, essentially shelled-out second-generation Camaros that bang it out door to door on quarter- and half-mile dirt ovals at fairgrounds across the country.
This generation of Camaro has started to come into its own as a collector car now, especially since so many were sacrificed for a Saturday night at the dirt oval.
With so many rough examples of the generation 2, seeing one this clean is a sharp contrast. This two-tone split bumper ends up making the gen 2 a really good-looking car.
11 Too Much
There's a phrase in hot rodding that's a variation of "there's no replacement for displacement," the idea that if you want more power, the answer is inevitably going to be that you'll need more engine. The Camaro sold at dealerships became a legend when an enterprising dealership noticed you could order the Camaro with the aluminum 427 used in Chevrolet race cars. Some would argue that 427 cubic inches was already too much for the first-generation Camaro to handle. That hasn't stopped hot rodders from putting even larger, more ridiculous engines in it. This makes it end up looking like a manifestation of an Ed "Big Daddy" Roth drawing. If it's in the left lane, can the driver even see the Christmas tree?
10 Hood-Bulging Gen 4
The fourth-generation Camaro temporarily ended the Camaro, going out of production in 2002 with no Camaro to replace it. Instead, Chevy experimented with a throwback hot rod pickup that didn't end up being all that popular. The fourth generation was thought to lose its way by offering a more or less token back seat and being a smaller de-tuned Corvette. As a result, it was competing with itself and losing to the Mustang, which retained a functional 2+2 layout. With the dramatic facelift of the eventual generation-5 Camaros, these gen-4 machines are a little off the radar now. That makes them a cheap source of big horsepower. If the look of the gen 4 is your thing, it's a great time to own one.
9 Camaro Speedster
With the cars that we eventually ended up with, it's hard to imagine that most of these iconic U.S. cars were an attempt to compete with or recreate the lightweight sports cars that returning World War II vets discovered during the war and were craving. The Corvette and the Thunderbird started close but diverged in distinct ways shortly after being introduced. The 'speedster,' the open-top roadster that's stripped down, with no or a minimal top and two seats, is a common European configuration. Trying to link the Camaro back to that European sports car connection, they've built themselves a Camaro speedster complete with cones behind the seats. To finish the look, they've chopped the car, taking inches off the body, which ends up making the Camaro look like a Camaro wafer.
8 LSX Gen 1
The LS line of V8 motors is Chevrolet's current workhorse for their performance cars, trucks, and sedans.
The power plant has been the go-to for the resto-rodder. The LS2 is the Corvette engine and the LS3 the Camaro's stock option.
For the aftermarket crowd, there are even crazier options. One of those is the LSX, a modern interpretation of the legendary 454 from the late 1960s. This iron block V8 is built to handle up to 2,000hp, making it a drag monster out of the box. With the belt-driven supercharger strapped atop the beastly LSX engine, this car does tastefully what other cars have overdone. With the clean lines and contrasting flat and glossy two-tone paint, it's a pretty mean-looking Camaro.
7 Orange Gen 2
There are some colors that only cars from the '70s can get away with. Dodge has certainly tried with its seventies-inspired color palette reintroducing colors like "Plum Crazy," but that's really done more to prove the rule that only cars from the '70s can really pull off these colors. One of those colors is definitely this orange with the rally stripes. On any car from any other era, this orange would be ridiculous, but on the seventies style of this early second-generation Camaro, it kind of works. The low-angle shot gives a view of the pro-street drag setup, suggesting that the car is more than just a looker.
6 Clean and Simple
There are volumes written for artists on the subject of knowing when their painting is done. While it seems like a simple concept, when one is in the process of creating, it's hard to tell the difference between something that's complete and something you've done too much on. As we've seen on this list, going too far can certainly ruin a project or, at the very least, make it less palatable overall, sometimes being worse than not finishing the project completely. Neither of these are a problem for this clean Gen 1. All modifications are focused on simplifying the lines of the car and clearing up clutter. Wheel fit, a big factor in modern hot rods, is nearly perfect, and the blacked-out grille simplifies the overall look of the car. Integrated fog lamps are a nice finishing touch.
5 Molded NASCAR Fin
The spoiler in a NASCAR car is rather subdued. Stock-car racing's brief flirtation with large aerodynamics at the rear of the car was as short lived as it was dramatic with the tall arch on the aero-bodied Charger Daytona and Superbird.
While many other racing categories have made use of advanced large and elaborate wings in the back, NASCAR has settled on a single adjustable spoiler identical on every car.
This lends itself to the 'stock' conceit for the race but also reduces the cost for teams to develop their own wings. The nice touch on this Camaro is to integrate the NASCAR-style spoiler as part of the bodywork, giving the Camaro a clean uniform look.
4 4x4 Gen 2
For those not satisfied with the 'baja' look for a car, there's always the inappropriate 4x4 setup. Usually, this is accomplished by taking a proper 4x4 chassis and fitting a body on top of it that makes the off-roader look completely ridiculous.
This practice is so popular that there are websites where you can enter the car you have and look for other cars with a similar wheelbase in order to do a chassis swap.
Perhaps, they're waiting for the collapse of society, so they can join Immortan Joe's gang of War Boys, not that there's anything inherently wrong with this. The chassis is likely off a functional off-roader, and the later model Camaro of the '70s was neutered by fuel and emissions regulations that the manufacturers hadn't work out yet. But it's unsightly regardless.
3 Token Donk
Donk is an extension of '90s customizing trends that equated larger wheels with opulence. Once this connection was made, the wheels could only get bigger. If a 22" wheel was rich, a 24" wheel was richer. A 24" wheel is nice and all, but check out these 32s! With that, the Donk was born, half ridiculous custom and half a tongue-in-cheek mockery of ridiculous customs. They feature enormous wheels with low-profile tires. The Camaro is a popular Donk-mobile because of its larger-than-normal wheel wells, which increase the gulf between the Donkers and the muscle-car fans. The internet is full of Donked-out Camaros; this one's soundwave wheel design and bright green paint set it apart.
2 "Turbo" Camaro
The movie Turbo was about a snail who wanted to go racing. It's the sort of passing-thought kind of concept for a movie that's bound to result in a lot of silliness. It was a computer-animated movie with no real car licenses, so there were no proper movie cars for use in promotion, but that didn't stop the filmmakers.
The result is this blown 700hp Camaro.
The design edict on this appears to be the idea that since Turbo was a kids' movie, they should create a kid's idea of what a cool Camaro looks like. It tops off a massive bulge with another massive scoop and blower with a tall wing in the back and boxed-out flares with low-profile tires that in no way could handle the full wrath of that engine.
1 Gen 4 Ute
The Chevrolet El Camino has had a small but dedicated following for years even after it ceased production in the '80s. In Australia, the pickup bed on a car-sized vehicle remains popular. Australians refer to this kind of vehicle as a 'ute', short for 'utility vehicle.' The cry for the return of U.S. 'utes' like the El Camino or the Ranchero has been low and steady for decades. Concepts have popped up based on various GM vehicles including the Camaro, no doubt harkening to the the 454 powered El Camino SS and the popularity of El Caminos at drag strips. It stands to reason that someone would take matters in his own hands and make a Camaro ute to illustrate why this hasn't happened yet.
Sources: hotrod.com, roadandtrack.com,