The 2009 Camaro: The Return of the Muscle Car?

Chevrolet Camaro Concept

Chevrolet Camaro Concept

A fuel-efficient muscle car? Gee, it really must be the 21st century. When you think of American muscle cars (those full-throated beasts of the 1960s and ’70s), a few names spring immediately to mind – the Pontiac GTO, the Trans Am, the Ford Torino, the Mustang, the Hemi ‘Cuda. And right there near the top of the list was the Chevy Camaro.

The Camaro was instant cool, no doubt about it. The Z28 in particular, with its hunky lines, 302-cubic-inch V8, heavy-duty suspension, and dual exhausts, is still a classic coveted by collectors. Too bad that, after more than 30 years in production, the last of the Camaros rolled off the assembly line in 2002. The end of an era? Perhaps . . . and perhaps not.

At the 2006 Detroit Auto Show, GM vice chairman (and chief cheerleader) Bob Lutz rolled out the Camaro Concept Car to much fanfare (the event was so loud ear plugs were handed out to attendees). Taking design cues from the original Camaro, which was introduced in 1967, the Camaro Concept has a low, angular appearance, with that distinctive Camaro flare over the wheels, a raised hood, large tires, and a very contemporary grille. Under the hood is a 6.0-liter LS2 aluminum-block V8 that can pump out 400 horsepower – certainly in the muscle car range.

The Camaro Concept comes with a six-speed manual transmission, a state-of-the-art chassis with four-wheel independent suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes. But perhaps best of all is its Active Fuel Management system, which saves fuel by shutting off four of the cylinders when they’re not needed. As a result, the new Camaro can get up to 30 miles per gallon – not bad in this age of fuel-efficient hybrids, and a true sign of the automotive times.

The lastest news has the Camaro Concept appearing in early 2009 as a production vehicle, though other real news is in short supply. If it does make its way to a showroom near you, it will join an ever-growing list of reintroduced muscle cars, including the new Mustang, as well as a new version of the Dodge Challenger (also apparently coming in 2009) and the reappearance of the Ford BOSS 302 engine. It’ll be like 1970 all over again – except cooler and more fuel-efficient. And maybe it really is part of a turnaround for American automakers.

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