Christmas Came a Month Early to Las Vegas as slack-jawed lovers of American muscle cars crowded by the hundreds into theCorp. pavilion to behold the Chevrolet Camaro of their dreams.
Not just one Camaro, but a workshop full of custom-painted, Hurst-shifting, chrome-wheeled, attitude-drenched macho coupes powerful enough to pull Santa's sleigh clear around the world in the time it takes to run a quarter mile.
Camaro production at GM's plant in Oshawa, ON, Canada, doesn't start until Feb. 16, but GM uses this year's Specialty Equipment Market Assn. show to stoke the creative energies of tuners.
“Despite the economy the way it is, people still want to personalize and create their own Camaro,” John Cox, GM marketing specialist-performance parts, tells Ward's. “We have our vision of what the Camaro looks like, but we want (tuner customers) to create their vision.”
In addition to the standard production Camaros on display, GM debuts four concepts equipped with many of the 27 accessories available for the new coupe.
For NASCAR fans, there's a Dale Earnhardt Jr. edition, customized in multi-color fashion to the racer's liking and powered with a standard LS3 6.2L V-8, modified to use E85 ethanol and paired with a 6-speed manual transmission.
Of the four SEMA Camaros, the Earnhardt concept interior draws the most attention, including seats trimmed with leather and suede.
Completing the cabin are a leather-trimmed steering wheel, shift knob and armrests; carbon-fiber treatment on the dashboard and door panels; racing-style aluminum pedals; and custom sill plates.
For those planning to race their new Camaros, the GS Racecar concept bears the bold color, decals and garish yellow wheels of the truly track-worthy.
Not all Camaro concepts are about raw horsepower. The matte-finish Black model — with all-black interior, of course — is motivated by GM's excellent 3.6L direct-injection gasoline V-6, a Ward's 10 Best Engines winner in 2008. The concept's stern face turns sinister with the red headlamp halo rings switched on.
Finally, the blazing red LS7 concept churns out some 586 hp and 545 lb.-ft. (739 Nm) of torque from its LS7 7.0L all-aluminum crate engine, which launched in 2005 in the Corvette Z06.
Unlike the well-appointed interior of the Earnhardt concept, the LS7 cabin is all business, with base trim and few accessories to minimize weight.
Chevrolet dealers began accepting “sold orders” for Camaro intenders on Oct. 13. “Right now, we have 7,000 to date at Chevy dealers,” says Cheryl Pilcher, product/marketing manager-future product for the bow-tie brand.
Pilcher says a “sold order” doesn't necessarily mean a customer has placed a cash deposit. “It means someone has gone in, spec'ed out a car and left their name and address,” she says.
The Camaro team hopes the launch will unleash a bumper crop of accessory sales, propping up GM's bottom line at a time when profits are desperately needed. Among the most popular add-on parts is a classic-styled Hurst shifter for racing through the six forward gears.
“The Camaro customers understand what they want; they understand that car lives in them,” Cox says. “People are so passionate that payment worry comes later. They'll figure out how to pay for it.”