Right now, it's only a show car, but we might, just might build it.
That's the word from Chevrolet on the Camaro Concept, a car it says is "intended to explore customer reaction to design and engineering elements that might lead to an all-new version of the Camaro."
Chevy dropped the Camaro from its line-up in 2002 as sales dwindled, but the showroom success of the current Ford Mustang has led to a revival of interest in high-performance V8s in the United States - particularly the pony car genre which Ford invented with Mustang in 1964.
Chevy jumped on the bandwagon a few years later with the original Camaro, Pontiac had its essentially similar Firebird, Dodge weighed in with its Challenger and the now defunct American Motors built the still beautiful Javelin. All four manufacturers promoted their cars through the Trans-Am racing series.
Dodge has built its own concept for a new version of the Challenger which - like the Camaro Concept - broke cover at the Detroit Motor Show in January.
Where the current Mustang unashamedly uses retro styling cues - which have gained huge marketplace acceptance - the Challenger and Camaro concepts take inspiration from the past but add more aggressively modern and edgy elements, the Chevy particularly.
GM's design-speak puts it this way: "(the) Camaro Concept recaptures the spirit of one of the most popular sport coupes of all time and redefines the Camaro for new generations of fans."
"The Camaro Concept embodies the performance and passion that have made first-generation Camaros some of the most sought-after collector cars, updating the formula with a fuel-efficient powertrain, sophisticated chassis and contemporary design execution. The goal is to make the sport coupe relevant to younger enthusiasts while retaining its appeal to (older) fans."
GM's global design boss, Ed Welburn, says "millions of people of all ages fell in love with the Camaro for all of the right reasons. Camaros were beautiful to look at and offered performance that could rival expensive European GTs. Yet they were practical enough to drive every day and priced within the reach of many new car buyers."
Welburn, who penned another stunning Chevy concept that made it into production, the SSR coupe/convertible, high-performance pick-up, says the Concept picks up on that basic theme.
The Camaro's long bonnet, short rear deck and wide stance are designed to leave no doubt that it's a serious performance car.
Power is provided by a 400bhp, 6.0-litre aluminium small block LS2 V8. It drives the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox.
The chassis has four-wheel independent suspension, unlike the Mustang which uses a traditional live axle.
Welburn says that like its forebears, the Camaro Concept would be practical enough for everyday use.
Its fuel-saving features include Active Fuel Management which cuts four cylinders during cruising. Chevroler says the Camaro would be capable of yielding highway fuel economy of 30mpg or better.
The Camaro's size would be "a comfortable fit" for city streets and carparks, and its rear seat would provide occasional seating for two adults.
Camaro: The Design Brief
Stylist Bob Boniface, who heads up GM's Warren Advanced Design Studio in Detroit, says the Camaro Concept pays homage to the original Camaro, while being instantly recognisable as an all-new car.
"The fact that the Camaro has been out of production for a number of years made it particularly important that the Camaro Concept honours the Camaro heritage in the right way."
The 1969 Camaro, considered by many pundits to be the best first-generation design, was a significant inspiration for the Cpncept's designers. But as the design teams worked on alternatives for the Camaro Concept, they also turned to the latest Chevrolet Corvette and to aircraft like the YF-22 Raptor fighter, Boniface says.
They were seeking a design that "encompasses the spirit that made the 1969 Camaro great, but interprets that spirit in a fresh, exciting way."
GM's design director for rear-wheel drive performance cars, Tom Peters, says the Concept's "overall proportions, long (bonnet) and powerful fender forms say, 'this is a front-engine, rear-wheel drive performance vehicle'." Peters designed the current C6 Corvette, another vehicle in which he used influences from the Raptor fighter plane.
The Camaro's prominent front grille and bonnet bulge hint at the power of the Corvette-inspired V8 engine. Large wheels and tyres, exposed high-performance brakes and prominent fender shapes signal that the Camaro Concept has the handling and braking to go with the powertrain.
It has a Corvette-like high rear deck and the roof has two subtle bulges, also Corvette-inspired.
"My charge to the design team was for them to do the meanest, scrappiest, street-fighting dog they could sketch," Peters told American magazine Road & Track.
The cockpit of the Camaro nestles between sharply defined fender forms, a design element inspired by fighter planes and the new Corvette. And like any high-performance vehicle, the clean, purposeful design is integral to the aesthetic. "The Camaro Concept isn't just a styled shape," said Peters. "The design incorporates what the vehicle needs to perform to its optimum level."
The Camaro Concept's instrument gauges and splash of orange interior trim hint at classic first-generation Camaros.
Interior designer Jeff perkins told Road & Track that old Camaro interiors were "always kind of mysterious, kind of dark with deeply-hidden instruments. I wanted to pick up those cues but do it in a new way."
Will Chevy build it?
Is the Camaro a feasible addition to Chevrolet's model line-up? Yes, say American motor industry experts.
US magazine Car and Driver says: "officially the Camaro is only a design exercise to gauge public reaction, but we believe this pony car is on the fast track to production."
Road & Track magazine seems equally convinced.
The Camaro Concept was built on GM's global rear-drive platform which was said to have been shevled last year because of its cost.
Road & Track says that because the Camaro Concept shares the same basic mechanical hardware as the Pontiac GTO, "all indications are that this Chevy variant could join the line-up following the Pontiac's total redesign in 2008. Which means the Camaro could be a go for the 2009 model year."
Production of the current Pontiac GTO - which is based on the Holden Monaro platform - has ended at Holden's Elizabeth, South Australia, factory.
The next GTO will be an all-American car and is expected to be built on the global rear-wheel drive platform.
Chevrolet Camaro heritage
Designed in the mid-1960s, the first-generation Camaro captured the optimism of an era, says GM design boss Ed Welburn.
The Baby Boomers were in their teens, rock-and-roll and Motown ruled the radio airwaves, and American culture was sweeping the globe.
Like the Chevrolet Impala, Chevelle and Corvette Sting Ray, the new Camaro showcased Chevy's strength of bringing "stylish, high-quality cars to a mainstream audience."
Its dramatic proportions and graceful lines evoked both the Corvette and the Italian Grand Touring cars of the era. And its powertrain line-up, which soon included both the potent Z28 small block and the big block 396s and 427s, gave the Camaro performance to match its looks.
But, says Welburn, what really made the Camaro an American icon was that it was accessible to millions. Chevy sold more than 699,000 Camaros in its first three years.
So for every Z28 Trans-Am race car taking the chequered flag, there were thousands of less exotic Camaros cruising the drive-ins, picking up the groceries, or taking the family on holiday.
"The Camaro Concept is designed to have that same broad appeal, with unmistakable style, spirit and performance," says Welburn.
Chevrolet Camaro Concept specifications
Engine 6.0-litre LS2 V8. Maximum power, 298kW (400hp).
Transmission Rear-wheel drive. Six-speed manual T56 gearbox.
Suspension Front, MacPherson struts. Rear, independent multi-link rear. Progressive rate coil springs. Gas-pressurised dampers
Brakes Four-wheel disc. 350mm disc rotors with four-piston callipers.
Wheels Cast aluminium. Front, 21-inch. Rear, 22-inch.
Tyres Front 275/30 R21. Rear, 305/30 R22.
Dimensions Length, 4730mm. Width, 2022mm. Height, 1344mm. Wheelbase, 2806mm. Front track, 1620mm. Rear track, 1607mm.