Motorbooks has published a great book by Darwin Holmstrom titled Camaro Forty Years. It is a combination coffee table book with wonderful David Newhardt photos with great historical info on the Camaro. Some call the Camaro a Pony Car but it is a Muscle Car in the right trim levels. Although most of us will want to focus on the early 1967-1969 years of the Camaro the book does a thorough review of all years of Camaro including the smog sleds and the new Camaro that hasn’t even been sold yet. There are even photos and references to the first Pony Car, the Mustang. It seems the Mustang has always been the Camaro’s chief rival although the GM internal struggle with the Firebird was no small conflict.
I usually spend most of my time with such books looking at the photos and reading the captions. This was still a highlight of this book for me but the text has a way of sucking you in. I learned a lot about the first generation Camaro. I have never owned one of these cars but have had friends who did, or do and have always lusted after a 1967 Z28 or a 1969 Hugger Orange SS 396 RS. I thought I knew a lot about these cars until I read this book. It is both entertaining and informative.
Although I never owned the first model of Camaro I have owned my share of the later versions, all Z/28s. My very first new car was a 1970 model Z/28. I was shopping for a little luxury car with full power, automatic and air to replace a 1967 427 Corvette that had side pipes and radio delete. It also had 411 gears, 4-speed and obviously no air. It was a blast to drive and obviously a real muscle car. However, it took its tole on you during long trips. I drove 700 miles non=stop one time and thought I was deaf when I got to my destination. It took a day before I could hear normally again. With the new car I wanted to sit back and cruise in a powerful car but one with all the amenities.
My mistake was stopping by the local Chevy dealer and letting him convince me that I should drive a new Z/28. He knew what he was doing. I absolutely loved that car. It remains one of my favorite cars to this day. I still don’t know why I don’t have one in the garage today. Maybe this book will get me motivated to look for one.
Holmstrom even gets into the rare cars and engines often overlooked in such books. He talks about Smokey Yunick’s Hemi. Not a Chrysler Hemi, the Chevy Hemi! On pages 102-103 he says:
“The heads featured modified hemispherical combustion chambers; like Mopar’s 426-cubic-inch Hemi engine, these heads used a semihemispherical design rather than a true hemispherical design……The design increased top-end horsepower, but with a corresponding loss in torque, lead to a peaky power band that compromised overall on-track performance.”
The book also describes some of the successes and behind the scenes exploits of the Trans Am race teams. Rodger Penske was the man behind what was arguably one of the most beautiful race cars of the day; Mark Donahue’s Sunoco Camaro.
There is not enough space in this Blog to tell you everything I liked this book. Jump over to our Product Review Page and read more and see more photos. If you like this book you might also be interested in the other reviews of books on the Camaro.