December 24, 2003
According to some within General Motors, a 4-seat sports car was designed in the late 50’s for a growing America which would be the Turbo-charged Corvair Spyder of 1962. Additionally, Chevrolet unveiled the “Super Nova” at the New York Autoshow in March of 1964, a matter of weeks prior to Ford unveiling the Mustang. While the Corvair was restyled in the fall of 1964 and the Turbocharged Spyder was renamed “Corsa,” within 6 months, the sales figures for Mustang convinced GM that the “pony car” market was more than just a flash in the pan.
Work became more intense on a program called the “XP-836″, a four seat sporty-type coupe that would share an all-new platform with the 1968 Nova X-body. This new car was referred to as the “Panther” or “F-body.” It would be the first GM car where computers were used extensively in the development process. The idea behind the car that would become “Camaro” was to offer a great-looking sporty car that attracted attention, no matter where it went. It would have the incredible performance attributes of the legendary Chevrolet small-block V8 and was said to be “the closest thing to a ‘Vette, yet!”. Additionally, the car must ride smoothly, but handle like a European sports car. It must allow the individual to tailor the car to his or her needs and wants, both from a performance and appearance standpoint, and it must do all of this at a Chevrolet price. You will agree that these brand attributes have been kept for 35 years.
According to documents dated June 10, 1966, and exhaustive search was conducted for appropriate names starting with the letter “C.” It should also be noted that at that time in Chevy’s history, all of the car lines started with the letter “C”. Chevrolet, Chevelle, Chevy II, Corvair and Corvette. Bel Air, Impala, Malibu, etc were models within the car lines. This letter designation stayed true until the fall of 1969 when the 1970 Monte Carlo was introduced.
A short list was developed from a list of over 2,200 words starting with “C”, and then an even more massive search was done to ensure that the name picked would not have any negative connotation.
One word really stood out from the others…”Camaro.”
In Heath’s New French and English Dictionary dated 1932, the word “Camaro” is defined as “Comrade, Friend, Mate, Chum, or Pal.” Thus, the name “Camaro” was chosen and blessed by then-General Manager Elliot M. “Pete” Estes, who would later become President of General Motors. When announcing the Camaro to the press worldwide, Mr. Estes had this to say about the name: “Chevrolet has chosen a name which is lithe and graceful….in keeping with our other car names beginning with ‘C.’ It suggests comradeship of good friends, as a personal car should be to its owner.”
And so it was, and on September 29, 1966, the Camaro roared to life in thousands of Chevy dealerships nationwide.
From a personal perspective, we often wonder if Mr. Estes had any inkling that the Camaro would go on to become an American Icon with a 35 year history, and that the car would forge untold numbers of friendships; pals or comrades, if you will.
Special thanks to Scott Settlemire and General Motors for supplying this information.