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Thread: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    In 1973, GM - through its Pontiac division - released what was arguably the last big-engined, high-powered muscle car in the form of the SD-455 Trans-Am (and SD-455 Formula Firebird).

    Unfortunately, the car's release coincided with the first energy crisis as well as the economic death spiral of the '70s that accompanied it. The last thing on most people's minds at the time was a 12 mpg muscle car - even if it could dip into the 12s in the quarter mile. Predictably, the SD-455 was cancelled after 1974 - and high-powered cars all but ceased to exist for many years thereafter.

    Fast forward to now - and GM is once again behind the curve, only it's a Chevy instead of a Pontiac that's about to dive into the deep end just after the water's been drained. The revived 2009 Camaro is almost here - about five years after it should have been and just in time for $5 per gallon fuel and a nation of (justifiably) freaked-out consumers who are already saying no thanks to $3 cups of Starbucks coffee - let alone a $30,000 muscle car that'll cost them as much to feed over the course of a five or six year loan.

    But maybe it's not too late to salvage something. Camaro's not out yet - and it might be possible to re-engineer it in such a way that it could survive in the new world of high energy costs that is blossoming all around us.

    First, it will have to go on a major diet.

    The prototype GM has been showing around looks to be in the same ballpark, weight-wise, as similar mid-sized two-plus-two RWD coupes like the Ford Mustang and the new Dodge Challenger - so figure around 3,500 lbs. for the base car and around 3,800 lbs. for the Z28.

    Which is about 800 lbs. too much for either. Because at its current weight, the base car will have to have a V-6 (and a pretty large V-6 at that) while the "performance" version (the Z28) will need a Corvette-sized V-8 in the 350-plus hp range to deliver the performance enthusiasts will expect. The problem, of course, is that even the V-6 will be unacceptably thirsty - expect no better than mid-20s in combined city/highway driving while the V-8 Z28 will be absolutely profligate - with city mileage likely to be in the mid-teens and combined average economy only a few MPGs better than that.

    Yes, I know. Highway mileage will be better; maybe as high as 27 or even 28 mpg. Problem is, that still sucks. And beyond that, most of us don't spend our time coasting along in top gear at 65-70 on the highway with the engine barely turning a fast idle. We more typically bump and grind in fairly heavy traffic, exactly the kind of driving where a V-8 muscle car's fuel efficiency is the worst.

    Camaro will offer great performance, it's true. But equivalent (or better) performance is already available from smaller, more efficient - and lighter - sport compacts that don't need a big V-6 let alone a big V-8. When gas cost under $2 per gallon, plenty of people were able to savor the luxuriant excess of a huge V-8.

    Not anymore.

    To be competitive in a world of $5 per gallon fuel, Camaro must be high efficiency as well as high-performance. If GM could shave the weight of the car by 500-800 pounds - perhaps by using more composite materials in lieu of steel - then it might be possible to outfit the base car with a punchy four cylinder engine and the "performance" Z28 with a high-efficiency (but also high-power) turbo, direct-injection V-6.

    Before you screech about the heresy of a V-6 Z28, remember the 20th anniversary Trans-Am of 1989. It was the first Trans-Am to come with a V-6 (3.8 liters and turbocharged/intercooled) and it also happened to be the quickest and fastest TA built up to that time. A turbo Trans-Am could pluck the screaming chicken right off the hood of any '70s-era V-8 Trans-Am in both the quarter mile and top end. Yet it was vastly easier on gas than the cast iron lunkers you'd find under the hood of something like the '73-'74 SD-455 Trans-Am.

    Why not emulate this most excellent example - and before it's too late? To paraphrase "The Six Million Dollar Man," GM has the technology. The 3.8 liter turbo V-6 GM used in the mid-late 1980s was a fabulous powerplant that produced V-8 power and torque with two less cylinders and probably 150 pounds less deadweight hanging off the nose of the car. This engine was making around 300 horsepower circa 1989. With modern tweaks, 320-350 hp ought to be no problemo. And in a lightened-up 3,200 or so lb. 2009 Camaro, a 320 hp V-6 would provide equivalent or better performance than a 400 hp V-8 in a 3,800 lb. 2009 Camaro. And it would be capable of 30-ish MPGs, too - which would not only make it a lot more palatable to consumers but would also put the '09 Camaro much closer to compliance with the recently passed 35 mpg CAFE fuel economy mandates.

    The problem as I see it is that GM has this tunnel-visioned idea that it can resurrect the muscle car - as muscle cars were traditionally built - in a world that is no longer able to support such cars. At least, not as mass-market cars - which is just what Camaro has always been and always will be. (Excepting Corvette, people who want an exotic don't buy Chevies. And the relative handful of aging Baby Boomers who have the money to buy a V-8 muscle car are too few in number to sustain the market viability of a car like Camaro.)

    But it's still not too late. Instead of "staying the course" and bringing out the '09 Camaro next spring or summer as currently planned, GM could put things off for another six months or so while the car is re-tooled and tweaked. It would then have a car that might last longer than the '73-'74 SD-455 Trans-Am. Or for that matter, the almost certainly doomed new Challenger.

    END

  2. #2

    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    I honestly believe that if GM were to release the Z28 (or, god help us, the SS) in a V-6 trim, they would be laughed out of the room. No Camaro enthusiast would buy one - me chief among them (and considering I'm willing to buy the big V8 with $5/gas, and I'm not the only one, thats saying something)
    '06 Lotus Elise, '07 Saturn Sky Redline

  3. #3
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    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    I agree with you, Eric.

    The new Camaro needs to be at least 800 lbs lighter.
    A turbo-charged V6 would be an excellent performance motor for it.
    If there is enough demand, they *could* put a V8 in there, but honestly, it would probably make not that much more power, and swill gas.

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

  4. #4
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    Quote Originally Posted by damen
    I honestly believe that if GM were to release the Z28 (or, god help us, the SS) in a V-6 trim, they would be laughed out of the room. No Camaro enthusiast would buy one - me chief among them (and considering I'm willing to buy the big V8 with $5/gas, and I'm not the only one, thats saying something)
    Why? Is it just the "image" of the V-8? Because if it's performance that counts, the concept of a V-6 Z28 is by no means wimpy or sad.

    You're too young to remember the '89 Turbo Trans-Am, but Pete and I can vouch for it - these things were fast. Even by today's standards. The car ran 0-60 in 5.8 seconds or so and the quarter in the 13s with a top speed around 150 mph. What is "not credible" about that level of performance? No one mocks these cars for being six-cylinder powered; in fact, the '89 turbo V-6 TA is highly collectible... one of the most collectible third gen. TAs.... why would a similar in concept V-6 Z28 be taken any less seriously?


    And (as I wrote) if it can be notched up to say 0-60 in 5.2 seconds or so and low 13 second quarters... with mileage anywhere from 5-8 mpgs better than a V-8... well, what's the issue?



  5. #5

    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    its not a Camaro then
    the Z28/SS has ALWAYS had a v-8
    why not put a turbo-4 in the corvette while we're at it?
    '06 Lotus Elise, '07 Saturn Sky Redline

  6. #6
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    Quote Originally Posted by chiph
    I agree with you, Eric.

    The new Camaro needs to be at least 800 lbs lighter.
    A turbo-charged V6 would be an excellent performance motor for it.
    If there is enough demand, they *could* put a V8 in there, but honestly, it would probably make not that much more power, and swill gas.

    Chip H.
    It seems very logical to me; and as I wrote to Damen, V-6 performance can be formidable. Who doesn't respect the Buick Regal GN and GNX? It kicks the ass of just about any V-8 powered car of its time (and ours, too). Then there's the turbo Trans-Am (same basic engine) and also the GMC Cyclone and Typhoon... with AWD, no less.


  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    Quote Originally Posted by damen
    its not a Camaro then
    the Z28/SS has ALWAYS had a v-8
    why not put a turbo-4 in the corvette while we're at it?
    Well, the same was no less true of the Trans-Am until 1989. But the turbo V-6 changed a lot of minds.. mine included.

  8. #8

    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    and for the record, I DO remember the turbo T/A
    I may have only been 7 when it came out, but I did look at one of those when I bought my '89 IROC
    '06 Lotus Elise, '07 Saturn Sky Redline

  9. #9
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    Quote Originally Posted by damen
    and for the record, I DO remember the turbo T/A
    I may have only been 7 when it came out, but I did look at one of those when I bought my '89 IROC
    Roger that! ;D

    But have you ever driven one?

    I have. They are impressive. The thing pulls as hard as any V-8 muscle car; huge torque off the line as the turbo spools up.

    I also remember the anguished cries when the car was announced. A V-6 Trans-Am? Heresy! But most of the critics changed their minds when they drove it - or read the stats.

    Look, I'm as much a fan of big V-8s and traditional muscle as anyone. But the idea of the V-8 Z28 makes less and less sense with each uptick in gas prices. As much as you (and I) may like the concept, the reality is that a muscle car with a big V-8 in a world of $5 (and maybe more) gas just has about as much chance of making it as Bush has of acquiring a Mensa card.

    Trying to recreate the muscle car era is a non-starter. The times have changed. For mass-market performance, efficiency is as much an issue as performance. GM (and Chrysler) ok'd their respective reborn muscle cars when gas was still around $2 per gallon. The assumptions underlying these cars' sales potential are now totally changed.

    I see no reason why a properly executed high-performance V-6 Camaro couldn't work - and many reasons why it could work very well. And much more so than a 16 mpg V-8 Z28 .....


  10. #10

    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    I think we'll have to just agree to disagree on this one (not that this should be any surprise)
    I suspect that the Camaro will do better than you think - in fact, I think it will surprise you
    '06 Lotus Elise, '07 Saturn Sky Redline

  11. #11
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    Quote Originally Posted by damen
    I think we'll have to just agree to disagree on this one (not that this should be any surprise)
    I suspect that the Camaro will do better than you think - in fact, I think it will surprise you
    Could be; I make no claim of omniscience.

    But look at Mustang sales; also Challenger. If those two are flat or trending downward, it doesn't take a genius to see where Camaro is headed.

  12. #12
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    I think it would take them two/three years to make the adjustments you describe. Look how long it's taken them to get the present design into production, a design that was pretty much set three or more years ago.

    That's one of the problems with GM, even more so than the other two US auto makers, this lack of agility in product development. I'm fairly impressed by how quickly Chrysler got the Challenger done, even though it's only a restyle of an existing product.

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    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    Just posted this on the main site with pictures:




    http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/...2&Itemid=10857

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    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete
    Just posted this on the main site with pictures:




    http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/...2&Itemid=10857
    The drop-top doesn't do much for me I'm afraid to say, the shiny red example just looks like a bigger, updated, MX5. For looks I'd much sooner have a Shelby Mustang or Cobra GT500.

    Ken.
    Die dulci fruimini!
    Ken.
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  15. #15
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken
    Quote Originally Posted by Pete
    Just posted this on the main site with pictures:




    http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/...2&Itemid=10857
    The drop-top doesn't do much for me I'm afraid to say, the shiny red example just looks like a bigger, updated, MX5. For looks I'd much sooner have a Shelby Mustang or Cobra GT500.

    Ken.
    Me either; the earlier cars were much better proportioned. Here's a vid (two actually) of the '89 Turbo Trans Am:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1iq0VkmojM

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fLaC1ttOgk

  16. #16
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    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Quote Originally Posted by damen
    I think we'll have to just agree to disagree on this one (not that this should be any surprise)
    I suspect that the Camaro will do better than you think - in fact, I think it will surprise you
    Could be; I make no claim of omniscience.

    But look at Mustang sales; also Challenger. If those two are flat or trending downward, it doesn't take a genius to see where Camaro is headed.
    Don't forget that today's V6 Mustang makes as much power as the V8 "5.0" Mustangs of the 80's did, and drinks less gas.
    And that's without any added boost.

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

  17. #17
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken
    Quote Originally Posted by Pete
    Just posted this on the main site with pictures:




    http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/...2&Itemid=10857
    The drop-top doesn't do much for me I'm afraid to say, the shiny red example just looks like a bigger, updated, MX5. For looks I'd much sooner have a Shelby Mustang or Cobra GT500.

    Ken.
    Me either; the earlier cars were much better proportioned. Here's a vid (two actually) of the '89 Turbo Trans Am:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1iq0VkmojM

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fLaC1ttOgk
    That's more like it, and here's the sound that raises the ducky bumps on the back of your neck, 'specially the dyno run at the end.

    http://www.youtube.com/view_play_lis...6B1E507565B967

    Ken.
    Die dulci fruimini!
    Ken.
    Wolds Bikers, Lincolnshire, England.

  18. #18
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    Quote Originally Posted by damen
    its not a Camaro then
    the Z28/SS has ALWAYS had a v-8
    why not put a turbo-4 in the corvette while we're at it?
    They made plenty of straight-six Camaros, and even put Iron Dukes in them in the early 1980s.

  19. #19

    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    yes, there were lots of 6-cyl camaros
    none of them wore a Z28 or SS badge (afaik)
    '06 Lotus Elise, '07 Saturn Sky Redline

  20. #20
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: The Camaro GM should build - but won't

    "Don't forget that today's V6 Mustang makes as much power as the V8 "5.0" Mustangs of the 80's did, and drinks less gas.
    And that's without any added boost."

    An excellent point!

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