It was seven years ago this very morning that the last Firebird and 4th Gen Camaro made their way down the assembly line at Ste. Therese, Quebec.
I remember this day because it was a day for mourning the loss of two of North America’s performance Icons.
In fact the time was shortly after 9am eastern…….. my cell phone rang……and my friend Art Spong, our Camaro/Firebird Quality Manager at the time quietly said to me: “Well – it’s done……” – and I don’t remember much else of what we talked about because I was that upset……..and I know many of you were, too.
I'm still haunted by the memories of hundreds of thousands of Camaros and Firebirds 'roaring to life' within the walls of Ste. Therese Assembly -- and of the memory of the proud men and women who built cars that still turn heads and shame cars costing much more in terms of overall performance.
Frankly, had anyone told me that morning in 2002 that GM and Chrysler would find themselves in Chapter 11 – and that Pontiac Division would be going away – and that the Camaro would never be reborn, I’d have questioned their sanity and/or motive. I wish I could say that the Firebird is going to return next year. Unfortunately I can’t tell you that it is.
The World has changed – perhaps not all for the better – but we CAN celebrate that the Camaro has once again roared to life. As the billboard on Woodward Avenue put it: “Heaven just couldn’t handle all of the noise.”
It’s being embraced by most enthusiasts as well as the general public. One look at sites such as Z28.com, 5thgen.org, Chirpthird.com, CamaroZ28.com or Camaro5.com (to name a few) will show that even when customers had to (unfortunately) wait for an extended period of time for their new Camaro to be built, most feel the wait was well worth it -- and that their new Camaro meets, or exceeds, or greatly exceeds -- their expectations.
And speaking of websites: I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank every Website Owner and every Moderator on those sites for the thousands upon thousands of hours that each of them has spent over the last seven years – allowing us to have a forum in which to meet and make friends and talk about all things Camaro and Firebird.
For anyone who’s had the opportunity to drive the new Camaro: I believe they might tell you that the car is unquestionably a superstar no matter where you drive it or park it. From personal experience, I can honestly say that in 32 years with GM (and hundreds of company cars later, including some early pilot models) I have NEVER had a car create such commotion and stir so much emotion. From a mini-van full of 5 year olds screaming “IT’S BUMBLEBEE!” to a “young lady” in Ohio who purchased a Victory Red LT/RS to celebrate her 89th Birthday – the new Camaro simply delights nearly everyone.
No – not everyone is quite this enthusiastic – there are those who wish it were lighter. There are those who wish it had 600 horsepower. There are those that wish it were smaller. There are those who wish it were larger. But overall – people are loving it and they aren’t bashful to say so.
Sooooooo…….I guess I want to thank each of you individually and very personally – for “Keeping the Faith.” I’m quite certain it was not easy for most of you, but I’m grateful that you did and I know that the entire Camaro Team feels this way as well.
If you haven’t had a chance to drive one – how ‘bout considering a quick trip to the Northeast Ohio Camaro Club’s “Camaro/Firebird Fall Summit” on September 12? John and Cheryl and I along with Al Oppenheiser (Chief Engineer and Camaro Enthusiast to boot) and several other members of “Team Camaro” will be bringing several Camaros to that show so that YOU (provided that you are over 21 and have a license…) can get behind the wheel and go for a test-drive. (…not to mention that it gives you the perfect opportunity to ‘hang out’ with the best people in the world: Camaro and Firebird Enthusiasts! ) Go here for more info: http://NEOCC.homestead.com
Thanks for “Keeping the Faith!”
(...and Tim -- I'll never forget that 'gray box' in the back of your Camaro at Bowling Green!)