We don’t want to start a war. The Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang both have plenty to thrill car lovers of any stripe. It’s just the sixth-generation Camaro looks an awful lot like the 2015 Ford Mustang in profile, and it got us thinking how it’s not the first time Chevy took cues from the original pony car.
Even though Mustang has responded on occasion to Camaro’s designs since the latter’s 1966 debut, there are examples of the General being shameless in its duplication of America’s signature car. There’s good reason for the homage. It’s unthinkable for Steve McQueen to torch the San Francisco streets in anything but his stripped-down green ‘Stang. And the Wilson Pickett song isn’t called “Camaro Sally,” after all.
With that in mind, we look at a few ways Camaro copied Mustang since the 1960s in tribute to Ford’s 50-odd years of muscle car innovation.
We start with the most obvious example. Without Mustang, there is no Camaro. Ford caused such a sensation at the 1964 World’s Fair that GM’s sexy Corvette became a wallflower while the debuting ‘Stang posted 22,000 orders in a single day. By the time Chevy came up with a response, Ford had already delivered one million models to a rabid car-buying public. What would the middle of the 1960s have been without this monolith?
The original Camaro design came off a bit flat and rather plain, but Chevy offered a more attractive version for the 1969 model year. However, this Camaro struck many as a bit too close to comfort to the 1967 Mustang. Did Chevy give credit in the footnotes?
In any event, the mere existence of the Camaro was a product of Ford’s shots fired back in ’64. As with the Battle of Lexington-Concord, the war became about two sides fighting, but in this case it is important to remember who launched the first offensive.
2. Generation Three redesign
Things got ugly for American muscle cars in the mid-to-late 1970s, and we prefer to pretend that era never existed. It took until the end of the decade for the mojo to return and — go figure — Ford was the one in the driver’s seat. Mustang came back with violent engine specs and the Fox Body platform that departed from the serpentine hideousness of Mustang II.
By the time Ford’s third-gen bruiser hit the streets, Camaro had gone nearly a decade without an upgrade. Naturally, the introduction of hot new ‘Stang required a response. Chevy obliged with the new version for the 1982 model year and kept its foot on the pedal until the IROC-Z appeared in 1985.
Again, what would the 1980s have been without the performance Camaros? Who knows, but it began with the Fox Mustang and its hot-blooded variants.
3. Retro revival of 2000s
It was back to the future for the Mustang when Ford brought out the fifth-gen model in 2004, and it turned out to be exactly what drivers wanted: vintage style with modern tech and real muscle under the hood. The updated pony more or less ensured the icon’s place would be secure in the 21st century. Full validation came with the arrival of the 2015 Mustang.
For its part, Chevy had given up on the Camaro entirely by the early 2000s. It was a dead duck as far as the General was concerned, which explains how influential the updated ‘Stang was. For the 2010 model year, Chevy introduced its own fifth-generation Camaro and — surprise — it was based on the original Camaro, too.
4. Generation Six and the turbo four
By 2014, Camaro had outsold Mustang in three of four years, but that did not stop GM from borrowing liberally from its competitor. For Generation Six, Ford brought out a sleeker 2015 ‘Stang with a turbocharged four-cylinder model in the mix.
We won’t spoil the suspense for anyone by noting Chevy had exactly the same thing up its sleeve with the 2016 Camaro that debuted May 16. What was a bit of a shock was the visual similarities of the two cars in profile. Camaro was already beating them. Did they really need to join them, too?
Of course, with all the back and forth, both sides win, unless you’re a Mustang fan and are annoyed about the new Camaro mirroring your ride at a stoplight. Then again, Challenger is on board, too, making the entire muscle car field better in the end. But please, Chevy, feel free to take the lead whenever you get the motivation.