For the communications technology buffs among New River Valley Magazine readers, the first time that 14 cities were connected via telephone lines was June 28, 1966, at the Statler-Hilton Hotel in Detroit. For automotive enthusiasts, the press conference was held to announce Chevrolet’s answer to the wild popularity of Ford’s mustang, launched two years earlier. Drum roll ~ the Camaro.
Two executives at Chevrolet found the name in a French-English dictionary, noting it is slang for “friend, pal or comrade.” It works because everyone knows a car can be your best friend when you want to go somewhere, like a pal on wheels. The Camaro went on sale in September for the 1967 model year, promoting its having the same conventional rear-drive, front-engine configuration as the Mustang.
Tommy Gautier of Giles County bought this “lightning yellow” (a Ford color, by the way) 1968 SS Camaro late in 2022. “I always wanted a Camaro SS,” he explains, “and I loved this car because it was a total off-frame restoration. Everything was replaced with new parts.” The motor is a Chevrolet 383 Stroke 400 HP which had only 150 miles on the restoration. “I put about 1,000 miles on it going to shows and parades. And I added new aluminum wheels and put on new tires.”
The first generation of Camaros were the Super Sport (SS), Rally Sport (RS) and high-performance Z/28 which came with the V8 engine originally produced for racing the Trans Am. From 1970 to 1981, the Camaro became larger and wider. Both the RS and SS versions were dropped and re-introduced in 1996. The storied history continues to evolve with styling and technology modifications about every 10 years.
In 2010, Camaro was cited as the World Car Design of the Year, and the following year, it was available with a convertible top. In 2012, Camaro celebrated its 45th anniversary, though it was not in continuous production. In 2016, it was “Car of the Year” by Motor Trend. The car has a good reputation for reliability and serves many as a fun daily drive.
The Camaro is also a favorite racing car, though Gautier wouldn’t have dreamed of taking his 1968 true SS model on any track. Upon buying the vehicle, he was given documentation which included the build sheet from Chevrolet, the Protect-O-Plate booklet and business card of the original salesman.
Lucio Tan, Filipino business magnate, investor and philanthropist, is credited with saying: “Everything is for sale if the price is right.” And along came the r.i.g.h.t. p.r.i.c.e. for Tommy Gautier to part with his 1968 SS Camaro with its shiny new aluminum wheels and Ford color.
Chevrolet announced in March of last year that Camaro production will cease in January 2024, like now. Sales have declined, but the company states: “This is the not the end of Camaro’s story.”
Text by Joanne M. Anderson
Photos by Tom and Christy Wallace
Nathaniel Ehinger, automotive writer and staff writer for motorbiscuit.com, observes: If you drive this car for fun and don’t have a smile plastered on your face, you’re doing it wrong.