Still image from video below.
Have you ever wanted to get the inside story regarding how the Camaro was designed and engineered? Now you can by watching this vintage film Camaro, The Car of Today, produced by Jam Handy for Chevrolet. Famed writer/artist Milton Caniff, creator of the Steve Canyon adventure comic strip (which ran from 1947 to 1988), is the host.
The opening is comprised of quick edits between the Camaro’s features and young smiling faces, which progresses into young people dancing to period music to reinforce the fact that this is a young person’s car, or at least it’s for the young at heart. We then meet Caniff who provides a bit of history regarding Chevrolet innovations and where some of the ideas incorporated into the Camaro came from. Various vehicles, including a Nomad show car, Impala show car and the XP-700 are presented as examples of forward thinking.
We are then introduced to Donald McPherson, chief engineer passenger car Chevrolet, and Dave Holls, group chief designer Chevrolet. They conduct a substantial portion of the narration during the engineering and design segments for the XP-836 (Camaro), where the steps of the processes are laid out.
It all began with designing the seating package. Next came basic styling for the exterior and interior, which ran concurrently. We’re shown lots of renderings, some of which we’ve seen in print over the years. Multiple designs were then whittled down to one.
McPherson discussed how computers were employed to “evaluate the engineering approach of the new car.” He also stated, “This unique computer program is the first where the overall driving behavior of the car in motion is predicted on paper.”
Two-dimensional drawings were transformed into a full-size clay mockup and the details and final package shape were determined, according to Holls. The XP-836 was then approved for production.
Computers were also used to produce prototype parts. Mockups of parts were, “fitted into a wooden framework of the F-car,” says McPherson. Actual parts were then installed in current cars for durability testing.
A non-running full-scale fiberglass model was built to aid in finalizing styling and trim details. Running prototypes were assembled next and tested vigorously with the results correlated via computer and evaluated by humans.
Holls elaborated on the design of the body and pointed out the aspects that made it contemporary. Alex Mair director of engineering Chevrolet, discussed the attributes of some of the finer engineering points of the Camaro. Bob Lund assistant general sales manager Chevrolet revealed many of the Camaro’s unique options.
Skip Hudson, a sports car enthusiast and racer, then took a prototype SS/RS Camaro convertible on the GM proving grounds for a workout and offered his opinion. That segment was augmented with some dramatic proving grounds action featuring a red production SS/RS convertible piloted by a GM test driver.
Though this 19-minute and 42-second cut of the film is a bit contrasty and glitchy here and there, it doesn’t detract from indulging in the development of one of the most popular vehicles ever produced.