June 29, 2006
The GM Milford proving grounds is truly a sight to behold. It is over 4,000 acres of land covered mostly by over 150 miles test track and each track section is different to simulate the various road conditions that GM’s vehicles will eventually travel on. Overall, it is the largest facility of its kind in the United States and near the center of it is what is known as Black Lake. It is named this because when it was new decades ago, it was so large and black that it looked like a lake to aircraft flying overhead. To go along with the overall facility size, Black Lake itself is one of the largest paved surfaces in the country.
CamaroZ28.Com was invited to the Milford Proving Grounds to take the test drive of a lifetime behind the wheel of the Camaro Concept.
Upon our arrival to the facility, we almost immediately boarded a shuttle bus to travel to Black Lake. After we were dropped off at a building on the edge of The Lake, we met up with a few other journalists and after shaking a few hands and engaging in light conversation, the incredible Camaro Concept emerged from around a bend that is part of many smaller loops jutting off the immense test lot. It rolled by leaving a snarling exhaust note behind it, and then disappeared around the opposite bend to an area that we would be escorted to moments later.
As we have always said in our 5th Generation / Camaro Concept forum, you must simply see this car in person in order to get a true visual of the styling dynamics. However, seeing it under indoor lighting on a turntable at the various auto shows around the country still does not capture seeing it in a real-world situation. There it was, sitting in the bright morning sunshine on what could have been any road or driveway in the country, idling gently like a wild animal taking a rest before going after its next kill. In that environment, it could easily pass for a fully functional production car. It looked very natural and not so much the untouchable $5,000,000+ hand-built one-off design experiment that it is. It looked like a Camaro should.
After walking around the car and seeing it in a whole new light, so to speak, it was time for what only a few people will ever get to do: drive it. Getting into the car is not difficult, but the roofline is lower than a production car and the seats are a bit higher and thicker as well which makes you very conscious of how you are entering the car. Having the Director of Concept Vehicles in the passenger seat to ride shotgun also helps to remind you of just what you are doing. Once behind the wheel, everything felt very natural. The steering wheel is beefy, highly detailed with aluminum accents and the CAMARO logo in the center, and is in a fixed position that is both comfortable and unobtrusive. The seats felt very comfortable and supportive. Once we took note of this, it was time to put our hands on the wheel, situate our feet and look ahead across the hood. Yes, you can see the hood of this car from the driver’s position as opposed to the raking hood of a 4th generation f-body that immediately disappears after the windshield cowl. You can see just enough of the cowl induction hood and bulging front fender to get a great feel of the overall length of the car. It all gently drops away to the grill just enough to where the hood doesn’t seem too long. As a result, the view from the driver’s seat is just right. It looks and feels like a Camaro should.
While imagining what it is like to drive the Camaro Concept is nearly an unimaginable experience, in reality it is a very easy and predictable car to drive. The clutch is light and easy to engage and the Corvette-derived V8 between the fenders has the familiar powerful growl and response. Since the car was hand fabricated using the chassis parts of other existing vehicles, it was never intended to be driven much and was more designed to sit and be looked at. As a result, it is limited to only 40mph. With the windows down and coasting around the small oval course that our test drive was limited to, it is without question that it is a Camaro, through and through. It feels confidence inspiring, aggressive and powerful. Being behind the cowl with the power plant begging to be pushed harder (even though a throttle control wouldn’t allow it), the mellow but angry exhaust note churning behind the car and the overall design combination makes a Camaro enthusiast feel right at home. While we couldn’t test it to the level that we would like, steering response was surprising. Again, the suspension is borrowed from existing GM vehicles and is not engineered or tuned to the rest of the car, it still was relatively responsive and forgiving. Even at only 40mph, it didn’t have to be driven fast to be enjoyable. It drives like a Camaro should.
The test drive was understandably limited as the people we were there with had to get back to their jobs designing and engineering more vehicles. Before we knew it, our time with the Camaro Concept was over and we reluctantly boarded the shuttle bus to take us back to reality. The experience left us wanting to ask for just one more lap, just one more blip of the throttle and just one more minute behind the wheel. Getting enough time behind the wheel of the Camaro Concept is just not possible, you just want to drive it more. It felt right, it drove right and just as important, when it is driven the driver feels right. You could blindfold someone who owns a 1969 Camaro or a 2002 Camaro and sit them in the seat and remove the blindfold and they would both immediately know what car they were in, regardless if the car is at a standstill or in motion. Bringing modern elements and design to a car while remaining true to its own heritage is a rare feat, yet the designers deep inside the dungeons of GM’s design and engineering studios managed fuse everything together into the Camaro Concept that is the start of what could very well be the car we have been dreaming and hoping for. Naturally, many aspects of the car can and will change in a production version, but this is an excellent starting point. It is the beginning of what a Camaro should be.
So this still leaves everyone including us wondering, what is happening with this car? The agony of asking this question has plagued enthusiasts ever since it was unveiled in January of 2006, and not having an answer to the question has plagued GM for just as long. With all of the attention, recognition and awards this concept car has received, the clock continues to tick and we all continue to wait for an answer that cannot come soon enough. But until then, we have to continue to wait and hope. Will it be built?
This Camaro should be.