“You’re going to get some eyes with this one.” As the delivery driver handed me the keys to a 2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS Hot Wheels Special Edition, it sounded more like an omen than a passing comment. It turns out he was very right. The Hot Wheels Special Edition is a show stopping Camaro. It elicits waves, cell phone cameras, and comments every time it stops. We had some experience of this when we drove one in downtown Albany last March. Before we could review the car itself, we felt the need to share the sheer magnitude of attention that this car received. Everyone has a Camaro story, whether its an old model that they remember fondly or a new model that catches their eye at the local Chevy dealer. It extends beyond the car itself, as part of American culture.
A few months ago we met a young enthusiast, Sam, who had bought a 1986 Camaro as his first car. He and his father then proceeded to do what any right-minded gearheads would do, and dismantled it. What may have started as a paint job eventually grew into a restoration project. When he heard that we were driving a new Camaro, he invited us over to check out the finished product. Of course, what’s a restoration without a few personal modifications? Most notably, an overnight trip to Ohio to replace the 2.5L V6 with a 5.0L V8. A new clutch package, two wiring harnesses, and many sleepless nights later the results speak for themselves. The combination of young enthusiast and hard work landed Sam a judges choice award at a local car show. When we arrived, he had lined up his uncle’s 1969 Camaro RS to make for an interesting comparison. The evolution of the brand is clear when you line up a first, third, and fifth generations of Camaro. Needless to say, much time was spent comparing the three vehicles. All unique, yet all Camaro.
Sometime during the week, we were tipped off about the Curtis Lumber Car Show. With all the attention we were getting, we decided this would be another opportunity to talk with other Camaro owners. We met up with another local Chevrolet enthusiast, Fred, who we knew wanted to check out the Camaro for himself. Fred was glad to bring his C6 Corvette along to the show. Unfortunately the judging categories only went up to the 2000 model year, but we were able to smooth talk our way into the show (the Camaro may have admittedly helped here). A Camaro at a car show is not an unusual sight, but the Kinetic Blue Hot Wheels Special Edition was only 5th generation Camaro in the entire show. This drew some added attention. Most questions could be answered with words likes; 2013, L99, 400, 21 inches, and Special Edition. That was until we met Dennis.
Dennis, a man wearing both a Chevrolet hat and Camaro t-shirt, was making his way around the show stopping to chat with each Camaro owner. Dennis regaled us with tales of learning to drive his father’s 1978 Camaro Z28. That car had clearly stuck with him, as he rattled off a list of Camaros that he’d owned since then. It culminated with a story of a six month search for a low-mileage and unmodified 1995 Camaro Z28. As enthusiastic he was about his Z28, he was also eager to talk about Chevrolet’s recently unveiled 5th generation Z28. This involved phrases like 427, 500hp, 6-speed, rear end, and smokin’. The Hot Wheels Special Edition had netted us another enthusiast who appreciated all things Camaro.
The Chevrolet Camaro is an American icon. Its presence throughout the years has engrained it in people’s minds. The mere presence of a Camaro seems enough to inspire nostalgia and adoration. We simply weren’t expecting the countless “nice car” comments or people wanting to share a story of someone they knew with a Camaro. The Camaro became the catalyst for bonding among complete strangers. While that says nothing about the car’s abilities, it does speak to the reputation and identity that the Camaro has in American culture. It goes beyond the numbers. Perhaps that’s why, all these years later, the Chevrolet Camaro continues to star in movies, pace around race tracks, be wrenched on in garages, and assemble in empty parking lots.