Perfect 1967 Camaro Trapped in a Box at Woodward Dream Cruise
August 18, 2016
The illuminated glass showcase containing the very first Camaro built in 1966 will light up Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit through Saturday, Aug. 20. The special exhibition by the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) celebrates Camaro’s 50th anniversary and introduction of the Camaro model that took place in Detroit in August 1966.
The exhibition is part of an HVA public heritage program launched on the National Mall in Washington D.C. in April where President Taft’s 1909 White Steam Car and President Reagan’s 1962 Willys Jeep CJ-6 were similarly displayed and honored.
The exhibit will be illuminated until midnight each night through Saturday.
The first Camaro built is also being recognized as No. 15 on the HVA National Historic Vehicle Register program in partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) to be archived in Library of Congress.
“This first Chevrolet Camaro launched one of the greatest rivalries in automotive history with the Ford Mustang,” said Mark Gessler, president of the HVA. “That rivalry is still alive and well 50 years later and we are here at the Woodward Dream Cruise with a public exhibition to celebrate where it all began.”
The first Camaro built is owned by 18 year-old Logan Lawson of Hutchinson, Kansas. Logan found the car online in Oklahoma when he was in the seventh grade. Lawson’s father inspected the car and completed the purchase. Over the next five years, the Lawsons completed extensive research on the vehicle and the 52 other pilot prototypes and returned the Camaro to its launch day debut specifications.
From 1966 to 2011, the car passed through several owners and dealerships with the distinction of being a very early Camaro, possibly even the first. It was built up as a drag racer before Lawson purchased the car. Author Phillip Borris helped confirm the Norwood, Ohio pilot production build records and researcher Jamie Schwartz contacted the families of the prior owners to fill in the history.
The first Camaro built was completed at the GM Assembly Plant in Norwood, Ohio on May 21, 1966. It was the first of 52 pilot prototypes produced, 49 at Norwood and three more produced in Los Angeles. The car is a base model with the 140 horsepower 230 ci. inline six-cylinder engine. The seat belts, wheel covers and whitewall tires were the options present on the first Camaro built. Base price for the new Camaro was $2,466.
Check out this flashback from a period advertisement of how Chevrolet marketed the three versions of the Camaro:
“Camaro-about-town. The sport coupe. Buckets. Carpeting. Fully-synchronized 3-speed. Very civilized Six. Safety features like dual master cylinder brake system with warning light. Especially nice for wife-types.
“Country-club-Camaro. Rally Sport with hideaway headlights and standard V8, 210 hp. Add custom interior, Powerglide, console, wheel covers, vinyl roof cover, stereo tape system. Decorate right front seat suitably.
“Camaro the Magnificent. SS Convertible, now available with 396 cu. in. 325 hp! Bulging hood, striped nose, red stripe tires all come. You order the 4-speed, front disc brakes. Positraction and such. At your Chevrolet dealers.”
Sheathed in Secrecy
Ford spent years teasing the public with show cars and concepts that hinted at the anticipated Mustang. GM, by contrast, revealed nothing about the Camaro until the car’s name announcement on June 9, 1966, which meant “comrade or pal,” according to GM. The formal Detroit launch took place in August 1966. Dealers had cars within a month.
During the 1960s, General Motors would often launch a production line with the first car painted gold. This was probably the case for the first Camaro built with the order for special “show paint” in Granada Gold with gold vinyl seats and gold carpeting. Six generations of Camaros are proof it was lucky. In 2016, the color looks appropriate as we celebrate Camaro’s golden anniversary.
Camaro Makes Podium
With over 1-million collector car vehicles insured in the U.S., Hagerty ranks the Camaro third in overall popularity. The most popular collector car is the Chevrolet Corvette followed by the Ford Mustang.
Mark Gessler, president of HVA, said: “The Woodward Dream Cruise is one of the greatest automotive heritage events in the world. It’s a great place to tell the story of the first Camaro, a model deeply imbedded in American automotive culture. With this exhibition we are hoping to build a strong public memory of how the iconic Camaro model launched 50 years ago.”
From 50 Years to 500
The first Camaro built spent much of the summer at the HVA National Laboratory in Allentown, Pennsylvania. While there, the vehicle was extensively photographed in the HVA state-of-the-art studio and a documentary was created.
In addition, with staff from HAER, the Camaro was 3D scanned to for precise line drawings of the exterior to be produced. When complete, the documentation-such as film negatives, drawings and historic narrative-”will be provided to the HAER program and archived by the Library of Congress in a manner meant to last 500 years.
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