By on April 20, 2010

You wake despite the hope that you would never awake, that it was all just a bad dream. But you know she’s there in the bed next to you. In the early gray light of morning, your bleary eyes reluctantly open and fall on her mottled and pallid white skin. She seemed so hot and glamorous last night, in the sparkly beams of light on the dance floor at the Rockin’ Rodeo. Everyone always raved about Camaro, what a hot number she was, and how you just had to have one some day. And last night there she was, and you finally screwed up your courage to ask her for a dance. At the time, all you could see were those hips, those glorious bulging hips. You just knew they promised action, despite the fact they weren’t hardly moving at all. Oh yeah; she was saving her energy for the big run, the final blast, you kept telling yourself. But it never came.

And now, as the fog-filtered light ever so slowly increases, you lay there and actually look at her features, which were all just a blur in the heady heat of your desire last night. Yes, the hips are still the first thing your eyes are drawn to, but now they seem so exaggerated and unreal. Your eyes slide just a bit further, and they focus on the details between them that you totally missed last night. Christ, her butt! It’s not real; its a cartoonish thing, so crude , simple and unfinished; something maybe a ten year old would draw, in a hurry.

Perhaps aware of your gaze, Camaro gently rolls over, now facing you in the muted rays of light falling from the high window of her cheap apartment. Holy shit! That’s not a face!  It’s just a jumble of lines hastily arranged where a real face should be, and totally devoid of any expression or subtlety. My God, how could you not have noticed that last night? Just how many beers did you have before you walked up to her and slapped her gently on those damned hips? For years, you’d been staring at Camaros all dressed to kill in those glossy magazine spreads, and assumed they were all the same. Sadder but wiser, you now know otherwise.

Now the painful details of last night start to take shape and tumble out of the tangled haze of your embarrassment and hangover, like baby spiders hatching out of a cobweb.  From the moment you first kicked her over, you knew something wasn’t right. Instead of that wicked come-hither rumble emanating from her nether regions that was guaranteed to get a guys’ juices flowing, she emitted a most pathetic little nasal whine. What the hell? You lift up her skirt, and there it is: “Turbo-Thrift 230 – 140 HP”; a fucking six banger!  Its one barrel carburetor’s venturi is the size of a drinking straw. Just please don’t let her have a slushbox too. Sure enough, her feeble little six is backed by a two-speed Powerglide, with a column shifter no less. Now you know for sure you’re not dreaming, because you couldn’t have imagined a column shifter in a Camaro in your worst nightmare.  No Mustang sure as hell ever had one. Call it a Powerslide all you like, but obviously neither power nor sliding was going to be on the agenda. Any visions of a long hot night burning rubber with a crackling hot Big Block and a Muncie rockcrusher are gone with the puff of bluish smoke the tired little six emits on startup.

What a nightmare! No wonder you heard some snickering as the two of you left the Rockin’ Rodeo. Her feet should have been a tip-off: those tiny size fourteens looked utterly ridiculous, even if she was wearing Cragars. And the missing little badge next to the front side turn indicator that announced the cubes, but for V8s only. Well, it was too late then; you were way too caught up in the idea of a Camaro to turn back. Let’s just spare everyone the un-juicy details. At least you can be thankful for not getting baited into any races on the way home.

Her gentle nasal six-cylinder snore confirms she’s still asleep. You take one more regretful look, especially at that “Camaro by Chevrolet” tattoo on her ample breast. As a kid, that said it all, the invincible General’s one-two punch comeback to that sassy upstart Mustang. You knew when GM finally realized they’d been snookered and put their mind to it, they’d kick that Mustang’s ass with it, even if it was a rush job that wasn’t quite finished. What’s a fourteen year old to tell the difference? And you’d been lusting after one ever since. You quietly slip out of bed, grab your clothes off the floor, and tip toe out the door. It’s going to be a long cold walk home in the drizzle.

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43 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1968 Chevrolet Camaro...”


  • avatar
    Juniper

    Paul WADR can the poetry PLEASE. Stick to cars.

  • avatar
    relton

    This is likesaying she looks like Lauren Bacall, but she can’t cook.

    I can hire a cook, and I know how to put in a V8 and larger wheels (and a few other things).

    Bob

  • avatar
    NickR

    I am glad someone else doesn’t like the 67-68 Camaro. I thought the front always had a wierd googly eyed look. It looked a lot better in 69, and the 70-73s were great.

  • avatar
    Jeffer

    I’ve always thought the Coke Bottle style worked best on the Malibu, the Camaro was too small to wear it gracefully. Back in the day we called the 2-speed the slip-n-slide. I recall a “drag” between two high school friends both driving Chevy Nova ‘SS’ models, both had 230 six powerglides. My Labrador retriver could have outran either in the quarter.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    Just make sure you are sober the next time you go on a car hunt.

  • avatar
    Cheevie

    Paul, you are AWESOME! now I have a stomachache from laughing so hard. I’m pretty sure you’ll win some kind of award for this one.

  • avatar
    Revver

    Well, let’s just save ourselves a whole lot more of these dreamy walks down teenage lust memory lane. . . forget the missing V8: none, nada, not a single pony car is gonna deliver the goods “in bed.” The driving experience universally sucked.

  • avatar
    relton

    At the risk of repeating myself, I think this Camaro is the cleanest and slickest looking of all the pony cars of the era. I would take this over a Mustang in a heartbeat. The rest of the flaws can be rectified.

    My recollection is that these cars handles much better than a Mustang, but worse than a Barracuda. But, again, that can be rectified.

    Bob

    • 0 avatar
      Ingvar

      Clean and slick, yes. And bland. It’s a pathetic excuse for GM making a sorry assed mee too-Mustang effort. The problem is, pony cars, and muscle cars above all, shouldn’t be about clean ans slick, but testosterone filled in your face aggression. Like the E-body Cuda/Challenger. Clean and slick is the Riviera/Continental crowd. I always thought GM missed the boat with this one, though they gained in on and passed the competition with the second gen Camaro. Rental car fleet white is the most appropriate color for this one…

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Ingvar,

      One man’s bland is another man’s clean. Personally, they never did anything for me, but I would give it that it isn’t glopped up.
      Sort of like Ghandini’s proto v. the LP400 v. the LP500 Countach series.

      At least the proportions look right on the old car, which they certainly don’t when aped out on the new car.

    • 0 avatar
      thebeelzebubtrigger

      I agree with the clean and slick. Love the look of this car, especially in white. Put some 16 inch chrome Keystone Klassics on there, exchange the powerglide for a 5 speed, add a Paxton supercharger, decent carb and intake manifold, headers, convert to R&P steering and beef up the suspension and you’d have a hell of a nice ride.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    I understand where you’re coming from with this, Paul. But you can always take ‘er to the gym and tone ‘er up a bit. A nice 396 cubic inch augmentation out front would go a long way toward righting the wrongs with this particular find. Throw in a taller set of shoes, and you’d have a pretty tempting mistress on your hands.

  • avatar
    86er

    And the missing little badge next to the front side turn indicator that announced the cubes, but for V8s only. Well, it was too late then; you were way too caught up in the idea of a Camaro to turn back.

    I feel the same way about V6 Challengers today.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    Great piece, Paul. You wax poetic. Cars and sex, sex and cars. And never take yourself too seriously, the world is too much fun for missing out. Great piece, great reading…

  • avatar
    skor

    I never cared for the first gen Camaro, but the first gen Firebird was actually quite a nice car.

  • avatar
    MarcKyle64

    Paul, if you don’t want it, I’ll take it. That 230 six can be woken up a little bit, just go to

    http://www.cliffordperformance.net/

    Now, the six weighs a lot less than the V-8, and even less than the monstrosity 396. That translates to better handling. Much better handling and road feel, especially with the non-powered steering. How do I know that? One of my first cars was a 69 Camaro, slightly better equipped than yours, with the 327 and powerglide. My fourth was a 68 el Camino, with the 250 six and three speed manual (also on the column). The Camaro had the weak 327 two barrel, slushbox ‘glide, serene highway cruising ratio rear end, power steering, power brakes, a/c and lots of other crap. The el Camino’s bare engine bay touted none of that and had a higher ratio rear end. In real horsepower, the Camaro had 40 extra, but weighed more so it came out pretty even. The two felt comparable in power and the ‘Mino was much more fun to drive. I’ve always thought a 1st gen Camaro with a hot rodded big cube 292 six, muncie 4 speed and a decent rear-end ratio would be a decent road cruiser and an interesting ‘dare-to-be-different’ project at the shows.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Actually, your ticket would be the Pontiac Firebird with the base engine being the exclusive-to-Pontiac OHC six.I vaguely recall driving one of these a time or two and being pleasantly surprised by the engine, especially in the top end. The car that I remember driving had the autobox, but I’m not sure it was the lousy two-speed Powerglide.

      IIRC, the OHC six came in two versions, the more powerful of which included a multi-stage carb. But even the base version had more ponies than the Chevy OHV six of the same displacement — something like 160 gross, instead of 140.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    I liked the first gen Camaro until I figured out that everybody seemed to have one. I’d wager there are more 1st gen Camaros on the road today then there were when the last one rolled off the production line, owing to reproduction parts and the like.

  • avatar
    conswirloo

    My Sister in Law has a 68 firebird that was her mothers. Her mother died young so it stayed parked for 20+ years. Motor was seized when she got it. They spent a lot of money getting it restored, and its beatiful now. Has the 400 motor in it. Not as fast as you’d think, as it seems more geared for higher speed interstate cruising. People always seem to show up wanting to buy it, they say no, but dutifully record the askers contact info “in case they should change their mind”

    They never will change their mind, but it’ll be nice to have a list of suspects if it ever goes missing.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    20 comments in and no “mullett” yet?

    I would say the 1984 with the iron duke and steel hubcaps is worse.

  • avatar

    No, it doesn’t look as good as the Mustang, or the second gen Corvair, but it sure looks better than 93.645% of anything that’s been manufactured in the last 20 years. Oh, sugar, I don’t know what to say. It’s not high commercial art, and it’s not the slam-dunk that the first Mustang was, and it’s not as good as anything Chevy made in ’64. (I spotted a red ’64 Corvette yesterday, that was a thrill.) Funny, I think I’m struggling with the fact that my perception of this car is still strongly shaded by the fact that I was a Chevy Man when it came out, and even though it’s 40 years since I ceased worshipping the One True Car Company (as of this past January), I’ve never before tried to see the Camaro through clear glasses insetad of the rose-colored ones. It’s better looking than almost any American car from the ’70s, but it’s just not great, like so many american cars of the ’60s.

  • avatar
    bmoredlj

    After inspecting this, its V6 and column powerglide, I would recommend you get yourself tested for GMTDs…just in case!

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      I6, respect the inline cylinders, man. I’d love to have a Straight-8 Buick as a show car someday just for the look and the purr of those old inline power plants. I was hoping the Atlas I6 was going to be a home run for GM so it would finally replace the ancient 4.3 in their base trucks. Nothing smoother than an inline engine. It’s just that they’re a packaging nightmare and then the old crankshaft whip at high rpms. Actually with a little light “crankshaft whip” the old girl would be easier to wake up next to. ;)

  • avatar
    mountainman

    Nothing can be worse than the ’84 with the hated 2.8 V6 2-barrel.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    I’m just not feelin the Mickey Spillane writing style on this one.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    I’m not writing as any particular fan of the first-generation Camaro, but: Hardly any GM car in that era had wheels larger than 14 inches (even the full-size Pontiacs, for example, didn’t go up to 15-inch wheels until the 1969 model year). Also, my mom’s air-conditioned ’67 GTO hardtop coupe had a column-shift automatic (although at least it was the THM 400 and not a miserable two-speed); I’m not surprised that GM offered that as an option on the new Camaro (and presumably the Firebird as well).

    (How would the waking-up-next-to metaphor have turned out if this Camaro had been equipped with headlight doors? Or with one open and one shut? And your readers must be told whether modern cars with overstyled rear ends and high trunklids constitute the sort of butt that appeals to you, contrary to this one…)

  • avatar
    Monty

    I get the hate for the Powerglide, but why the lack of love for the I6? Man, there is something elemental in a straight six. Smooth, torquey, and powerful (if a bigger carb or some forced induction is applied). Bavarians seem to think it’s the best choice.

    The 300 I6 in my brother’s older F150 is a work of art, seriously. You want low end power to pull another vehicle out of a snowbound ditch, put ‘er in low, and let it go. You need to throw a metric tonne of shingles in the box and run it up to North Vancouver? Load that truck to the limits and hit those hills. Need to pass that semi on the Coquahalla? Drop it into third and punch it, and watch that semi disappear in the mirror.

    Better mileage than his previous truck, a GMC with the 350 V8, and better distribution of the power curve.

    I love me I6’s.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      +1. Unfortunately they don’t fit sideways.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzuki_Verona

      That’s the last car I can recall with an I6 driving the front wheels. Designed by Porsche the engine was most remarkable in it’s low hp (155 at 5800 RPM) and it’s half way decent torque (175lbft at 4000RPM). According to the tests I saw it was a smooth engine that gave the car a horrible turning radius cause of the way it was mounted. It was available in other markets with an ECOTEC I4 which was probably a better all around choice.

      Another quality product from Daewoo shoved off on Suzuki by GM. Wow I can’t believe that Suzuki wanted out of that marriage.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      Let me rephrase. I loves me a longitudinal I6 with RWD. Preferably on a BOF. With a 5 or 6 speed stick.

  • avatar
    geeber

    A great article…although I’ve never cared much for any first-generation Camaro. Even the V-8 versions don’t impress me. I’ll take a contemporary Mustang or Barracuda.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    I was never the biggest GM fan, and this car causes no deviation from the pattern. Only GM could get by with offering a 2 speed automatic in 1968. If you wanted to look at it, buy a Mustang. If you wanted to drive it, buy a Barracuda. If you wanted to . . . , well I can’t think of any reason to buy one of these.

    My lack of respect for these cars aside, I have always found some perverse pleasure in the unexpected strippo model. This reminds me of a friend’s car from college. A bright red 74 Charger (think Burn Notice). It looked really hot, until you drove it. Slant 6, 3 speed column stick, bench seat, no radio, rubber floor mats (not on top of carpet, but instead of carpet). It was throughly miserable to drive, but still oddly fascinating.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      Add me to that group of masochists that has that ‘train-wreck’ fascination with the base, stripped, inline-six versions of cars that the vast majority of which came with V8s.

      The smaller cars aren’t that rare (sixties’ Mustangs with sixes are a dime a dozen) but it’s rare to find the larger cars (especially the 2-door coupes) in their most basic, six-cylinder iterations.

      I guess it has to do with the idea that, at one time, manufacturers would build (and sell) huge cars that required to be muscled around with a woefully underpowered drivetrain, 3-speed column shift, and non-power everything when, in today’s world, it’s tough to find a new econobox without power steering (the stripped Nissan Versa, which has no radio or A/C).

    • 0 avatar
      bugo

      I like the bottom-feeder six banger cars too. I remember watching Overhaulin’ or one of those shows where they hotrodded a 1970ish Torino. The car had like 2000 miles on it with a 6 and 3 on the tree. They ripped it apart and made a generic hot rod out of it with a giant V8. Made me sick to my stomach.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I think it’s beautiful.

  • avatar
    TAP

    Entertaining writing indeed!
    I agree that the ’69 was a big improvement, especially the rally
    sport with hide-a-ways.
    Was it true that the big block versions’ torque could cause cracking
    of the body on each side below rear window?

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Funny, I never noticed how much the Ford Maverick front and rear resembled the original Camaro. Coincidence?
    http://tinyurl.com/mavrear
    http://tinyurl.com/mavfront1

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    I generally like the literary cleverness of this series but the above posting laid it on a bit thick. And long.

    The first-generation Camaro never lit my fire. It has an overly generic coke bottle look. Chevy even dumped its trademark dual port taillights. Lame-o.

    As for the mechanicals, weren’t most pony cars effectively sold as secretary’s cars? The top-end performance versions were a fairly small fraction of overall sales.

    At any rate, I suspect that the pony car segment wouldn’t have taken a precipitous decline in the early 1970s if the then-Big Four hadn’t gone overboard on bloat and power. No one realized that a six cylinder could be the basis for a nicely balanced sporty car in the European tradition. Ironically, early 1970s compacts such as the Duster and Hornet X hatch came closer to that ideal than any of the pony cars of that time.

  • avatar

    I had a 69 firebird in High School. (Don’t get excited…when I got it it wasn’t yet a classic, just a beater used car-had I only known….)

    With a 400 4bl power was no issue. The car also handled decently for the era. I had a set of fat 60’s all around (same size), the car was not jacked up, and a set of heavy duty shocks. Whilst a sled of lead, with the 400 up front, it had no lack of power or brakes. I have pleasant memories-now the second generation Camaro/Firebird, what was that all about ?

    These cars came in a zillion different option packages, unlike today where the dealer’s lot has none of what you want but three of “almost, but of course more expensive” versions. I waited three months for my last car for that very reason.

    The CC featured has either three on the tree or an automatic. It looks like no option boxes were checked that day.

  • avatar
    msquare

    Absolutely they were. Just about every sporty car of that era came in plain-Jane economy, luxury and sporty versions, just like their full-size brethren and especially like the build-it-your-way Mustang.

    The “secretary special” was a volume seller for the person who wanted a basic, economical car but wanted a little extra style as well. That’s why you can find a stripper six-cylinder Camaro on the street 43 years after it left the factory. The hot ones are either museum pieces or were cracked up long ago.

    The volume generated by those secretary specials made the muscle cars possible.

    By the way, the six and small-block V8 were comparable in weight. Some claim the six was indeed heavier than the lightweight-for-its-time V8.


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