Cars We See Round Here – Chevrolet Camaro

April 16th, 2019

A while back we took a look at the influence Ford’s latest Mustang is having on Australian car-buying choices. Now it’s the turn of General Motors’ Camaro to take up where the lamented HSV Commodore range left off and deliver old-style performance to a new audience.

The Camaro was a car that from its earliest days was playing catch-up. After several years playing second fiddle to the Mustang though, Ford fumbled when designing a new model and that was all the incentive Chevrolet needed to begin leading the way.

Today the playing field is less level than it was in the 1970s. HSV has decided that rather than match the latest 2019 Mustang on price, it will offer buyers a higher-specification Camaro at a much higher price and let Ford have the mainstream sales.

The Camaro appeared on North American roads in late 1966 and just a few months later the first imports, complete with costly right-hand drive conversions, were showing up here.

Australia’s first Camaros were sold through Holden dealers, although not via any approved import programme. These cars were ordered on behalf of long-term customers who wanted the latest thing in performance motoring from the USA.

Some were owned by prominent motor sporting people but they weren’t raced as prolifically or with the same success as Mustangs. The first Camaro to do well on the racetracks of Australia was absolutely atypical of the cars being imported by Holden dealers in Sydney or Melbourne.

The ZL-1 model used by tyre-shop king Bob Jane to contest the 1972 Australian Touring Car title was powered by seven litres of thundering V8 and dominated on the faster tracks. Even Allan Moffat’s dominant Trans Am Mustang stood aside as Jane recorded four wins from eight races to take the Championship.

Next into the fray and by far the most famous of Australia’s racing Camaros was a 1977 model built by Kevin Bartlett as a rival to the Toranas, Commodores and XD Falcons that dominated a new style of Touring Car event. Brake problems and a famous roll-over during the 1981 Bathurst 1000 stopped the Bartlett car from achieving its potential but he did finish second to Peter Brock in the 1980 title chase.

Camaros with the kind of power produced by the Bartlett and Jane cars aren’t legal for use on Australian roads, however the vast majority of cars imported during the 1970s and ‘80s are V8s with plenty of power to challenge local and European performance models.

Most came with Chevrolet’s long-serving 5.7-litre engine that had powered local Holden Monaros. Virtually all Camaro imports had three-speed automatic transmission and were loaded with options that few US buyers bothered with. Of course, in the USA market, Camaros were not considered a prestigious purchase at all and most cars were never thought of as future ‘collectibles.’

That attitude has changed dramatically since the 1990s and pre-1973 Camaros generate similar money in the hobby-car market as Mustangs of similar specification. Camaros that followers in the USA and also here as well are keen to own will include scarce RS/SS models and especially those with ‘big block’ 396 or 427 cubic inch engines.

Several types of Camaro have been built by Chevrolet in tribute to those used as Pace Cars for events held at the Indianapolis and Daytona motor speedways and other race venues across the USA. Some ‘Pace Car Replicas’ are now valued at more than A$100,000.

Camaros of all ages and types rarely travel huge annual distances. Even buyers of current models seem reluctant to use their new cars as everyday transport.

These people and many others who use their cars only occasionally are ideal candidates for Enthusiast Insurance’s Drive Less…Spend Less motor vehicle cover.

Cars of any age and most types are eligible and the best way to discover if your Camaro or other model qualifies for Enthusiast’s most cost-effective levels of cover is to visit www.enthusiast.com.au for a quote.

Leave a Reply