Spannerhead Dot

New Chevy Camaro: Muscle Caricature

February 20, 2012 by Matt

2011 11 Chevy Chevrolet Camaro SS Red

The new Camaro is really ugly.

There; I said it.

The new 571-hp Camaro ZL1 stares at me from the cover of the latest issue of Car and Driver whenever I walk by my desk, and I’ll occasionally stop and let my eyes linger on the angular nose and convoluted haunches, trying to like the shape, but… I just can’t muster it.

I vividly remember watching Transformers in the theater and hearing an audible intake of breath from the guys in the audience when Bumblebee morphed into his new Camaro shape. The film was released in ’07, and was a showcase for the upcoming car, which wouldn’t hit showrooms until March ’09. The new muscle car was duly spectacular in its movie role, and perhaps it fit the big screen too well, in a sense, its cartoonish, hyper-charged lines a better match for film stardom than real-life city streets.

1969 69 Chevy Chevrolet Camaro SS Blue

That touches on my main objection to its shape, I think. The original Camaro (shown above) was an instant classic, a shape at once lovely, well-proportioned, sensual and aggressive—without turning into a parody of itself. It helped, of course, that there was nothing to parody in ’67, the year the original was released, and the stylists were forced to pen a fresh shape. The latest Camaro, by contrast, plagiarizes far too much from its ancestor, and does nothing with its lines except pull and distort them into a blocky, awkward mess. Also, with the first-generation car, manufacturing materials and processes then weren’t what they are now, able to turn just about any designer’s fantasy into reality. But as with so many great movies, the limitations of the technology sometimes create a better film, or better-looking car in this case. As it is, though, the new Camaro banks far too heavily on the nostalgia of potential owners; hardly any of its lines are of the quality I would call enduring, in the sense that they aren’t visually exhausting to behold for more than 30 seconds or so. Don’t get me wrong; it’s nowhere near the nadir of modern car design, but if I owned one, I can confidently say it would quickly wear out its welcome in my garage. If the original Camaro was a timeless superhero on the order of Spider-Man or Batman, the new car is more analogous to one of the more modern crop of comic book characters, all of whom shamelessly borrow story lines and super powers from their forebears, and have yet to truly catch on.

Filed under: Aesthetics, Chevrolet, Muscle Cars


  1. John D says:

    This one was aimed at me, wasn’t it? Don’t even try to deny it. (Narcissistic? Me? Never. ;)

    As much as I want to argue with you, I just can’t. I don’t think it’s ugly and I love how it played on the most awesome model of it’s time (using and enhancing some of it’s better qualities), but rather than finding myself trying harder and harder to justify putting one in my garage, I’ve settled into a puzzling apathy in such pursuits. It hasn’t mesmerized me. I am far less excited about it now than when I first saw the concept and soaked the page in drool. I do still love the proportions, the grill/headlight assembly, and the all consuming c-pillar transition…but the rest of it looks at the same time too busy yet too simplistic. The whole things looks like it’s made from plastic in China. The wheels are straight out of an anime series and lack any sort of class or pinache. So even though I greatly appreciate the resurrection of the ’69 persona, I don’t think I can see myself in one. If I were in high school or college, sure…but I’m not. So there you have it. Even the engine isn’t enough to excuse the rest of it. Ever since F*rd came out with it’s new 5.0 and put it in that attractive machine they try to masquerade as a Mustang (even though it is worlds apart from it’s predecessors in every way)…ever since then I’ve begun doubting my loyalties to the bow tie brand. Shockingly enough I can see myself in one of those more than the Camaro. What has the world come to.

    PS The ZL1 is a different animal entirely. I love it. Not the most beautiful car out there…but I absolutely love it, caricature or no. It’s just too crazy for anybody to care. ;)

    • Matt says:

      Well…kinda. :) I think I have a Carly Simon song for you…

      Seriously, the post was most provoked by the aforementioned C&D cover that features the ZL1 with a little subtitle/caption that reads “American Beauty.” And every time I glance at that, I respond, “No, it’s not.” And then it grew into a post. :)

      I’ve tried to determine whether the Mustang falls for the same kind of “nostalgia augmentation” featured with the new Camaro. Partially, I think it does, but somehow it stands on its own better and feels, as you allude to, a bit more mature. Can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe the fact that it’s on its second iteration after the big redesign helps? Like, it’s given the styling more time to “settle?”

      • John D says:

        (That’s song’s not about me…I don’t have a ‘R’ in my name. Duh. I really expected more from you, Matt. Next time do your research, will you? :)

  2. Jer says:

    I won’t say it’s the greatest looking car, but compared to the last 40 years of almost all American cars I’d have to say it’s in the top few. …and you had one post on how a Sebring convertible was something to look at – whereas I don’t think there’s ever been a more bland drop top in history. I’d say even the fugly LeBaron has more soul. I dunno, Matt… I’m starting to wonder if your mind is “slip-sliding away.” ;-)

    • Matt says:

      :) Being able to pontificate arbitrarily is one of the perks of being a blogger…or any user of the internet, really. Heh.

      I stand by my opinions, and offer this: “Bland” + nuanced > “exciting” + excessive. That’s been Audi’s styling credo for as long as I can remember, at least… :)

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