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BY MARK PHELAN
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST

May 28, 2006

Let's kill retro.

Not the look, the word -- or at least its negative connotations. The critics sneered "retro" at the Chevrolet Camaro concept I drove two weeks ago, as if the word alone is enough to dismiss the car.

Yeah, retro like a Porsche 911.

Some designs work so well that the best thing you can do over time is refine them. Levi Strauss got it right in 1873 when he patented the idea of denim pants with copper rivets to reinforce the stress points.

The company he founded sells everything from dress shoes to eyeglass frames today, but Levi himself would recognize a pair of its blue jeans.

Car designers hate the word retro, because it suggests all they've done is put tracing paper over somebody else's work.

The best retro designs do much more than that. They take the essence of a car's appeal and bring it forward, incorporating new technology and ideas to improve on the original.
 

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I still don't think the Camaro is retro. It is retro inspired, yes, but the car isn't "retro" as a whole. The other concept, the one that lost out to the one they actually showed, was absolutely retro in that it looked like a '69 the way the new Challenger looks exactly like a moderized '70 Challenger.

The Camaro has its own lines, though it shares some general ideas with the original. But hey, all Camaros have shared traits through the years. This one does go back to the original formula moreso than any other, but its still not "retro".
 

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I talked with Scott quite a bit this past weekend. One word that he loved to use was "Heritage" as opposed to "Retro".
 

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IMO, no matter which way you slice it, "heritage", "retro-inspired",etc are all euphamisms for what the car really is...retro. The retro fad has been around for several years now and has been pretty successful. I would categorize cars like VW Beetle, PT Crusier, HHR, Mustang, etc as obvious retro stlyled as well. I mean how old is the PT Crusier? Almost 10 years I think.

My point is, how long will it last? When the new Camaro comes out, will the fad be fading or worse, gone. Honestly, this concept should have come out 3 years ago at the end of the last generation Camaro. We should be driving this car now and it should be ready for a redesign 3-4 years from now. I guess I'm a little pessimistic because I know how long it takes GM to refresh products. They seem to always design concept cars to compete with current production vehicles rather than future vehicles.

I still think the concept is beautiful and, yes, I will buy one when they finally come out. However, it is clearly not an evolved design from the last gen as all the other generations have been. It's more like pushing the reset button. Will the next generation look similar to a 70-73?
 

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Hdesign said:
Honestly, this concept should have come out 3 years ago at the end of the last generation Camaro. We should be driving this car now and it should be ready for a redesign 3-4 years from now.
:notworthy:
 

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Hdesign said:
I still think the concept is beautiful and, yes, I will buy one when they finally come out. However, it is clearly not an evolved design from the last gen as all the other generations have been. It's more like pushing the reset button. Will the next generation look similar to a 70-73?
I honestly hope Gen6 doesn't look like the 70-73. Aside from the Gen3 - Gen4 transition, there really hasn't been a true evolution in the Camaro lines. Yeah, if you park examples of each side by side in order, you know they're Camaros but only because you're a Camaro nut. If you park a Gen4 next to a Gen1, you're hard pressed to find many common elements. That kind of disgusts me.

On the other hand, if you do the same with the fullsize Chevy trucks from '67 on and you include the mid-cycle refreshenings, you can honestly see a better progression towards what we have today. The Corvettes since the StingRay ('69-'70?) are the same way. Evolution, not revolution. That's the way it should be IMO. Gen6 should build off of Gen5 IMHO.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Hdesign said:
IMO, no matter which way you slice it, "heritage", "retro-inspired",etc are all euphamisms for what the car really is...retro. The retro fad has been around for several years now and has been pretty successful. I would categorize cars like VW Beetle, PT Crusier, HHR, Mustang, etc as obvious retro stlyled as well. I mean how old is the PT Crusier? Almost 10 years I think.
I agree, call it what you want, it is a retro design. While the Camaro does not look as much like a 69 as the Challenger looks like the old version, the ideas behind it are the same.

Done right, it can work. Ford is King with their designs on the Thunderbird and the Mustang IMO.

Hdesign said:
My point is, how long will it last? When the new Camaro comes out, will the fad be fading or worse, gone. Honestly, this concept should have come out 3 years ago at the end of the last generation Camaro. We should be driving this car now and it should be ready for a redesign 3-4 years from now. I guess I'm a little pessimistic because I know how long it takes GM to refresh products. They seem to always design concept cars to compete with current production vehicles rather than future vehicles.

I still think the concept is beautiful and, yes, I will buy one when they finally come out. However, it is clearly not an evolved design from the last gen as all the other generations have been. It's more like pushing the reset button. Will the next generation look similar to a 70-73?
GM does have a history of waiting 10 years or so to redesign vehicles. maybe it is close to other manufacturers but it seems too long for some reason.
I don't forsee another retro Camaro after this one, no other generation of the Camaro has such a passionate following as the 67-69 cars :D
 

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OverAnxious said:
I agree, call it what you want, it is a retro design. While the Camaro does not look as much like a 69 as the Challenger looks like the old version, the ideas behind it are the same.

GM does have a history of waiting 10 years or so to redesign vehicles. maybe it is close to other manufacturers but it seems too long for some reason.
I don't forsee another retro Camaro after this one, no other generation of the Camaro has such a passionate following as the 67-69 cars :D
The Challenger is blatantly identical to the 70 with some smooth edges and more modern grill insert. I liked the Charger concept from a few years ago better. Who knows why they went for the blocky fridge look it ended up as.

69 is almost unanamously understood as the "iconic" Camaro image. I think taking SOME styling cues is a no-brainer but I think it needs a lot of refinement. It's almost too musclecar and not enough sports car. Afterall, it needs to appeal to people who are not familiar with or care about the heritage in order to keep sales numbers high enough to justify it's existence.
 

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Chuggernaut said:
Aside from the Gen3 - Gen4 transition, there really hasn't been a true evolution in the Camaro lines.
I disagree. I think the 1982 Camaro carried over a lot of lines and cues from the late 2nd gen. When you compare a 3rdgen to a '70 its obviously a lot harder to see though.
 

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Chuggernaut said:
I honestly hope Gen6 doesn't look like the 70-73. Aside from the Gen3 - Gen4 transition, there really hasn't been a true evolution in the Camaro lines. Yeah, if you park examples of each side by side in order, you know they're Camaros but only because you're a Camaro nut. If you park a Gen4 next to a Gen1, you're hard pressed to find many common elements. That kind of disgusts me.
What I never understood about the Camaro evolution was why there was such a huge difference in styling directions between the 69 and 70. I guess the arguement could be made that there is a clear evolution between 74 -02 and the 70-73 are orphaned to some degree. None of them, however, relate to the 1st gen in any way.

I grew up with the late gen2 and gen3 cars so that was the sort of Camaro "design language" I'm bias towards. Those cars were iconic to me...they said Camaro.
 

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What I never understood about the Camaro evolution was why there was such a huge difference in styling directions between the 69 and 70.
Because the 1st gen shared a chassis with the Nova II, and the 2nd gen was the first chance they had to clean-sheet what they wanted Camaro to be.
 

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The 2nd gen came almost completely from an immitation of a Ferrari GT from that period. Can't remember the exact model but most automotive stylists consider the early 2nd gen to be a classic design. However, most enthusiasts think of the '69 as the Iconic Camaro, like you said.
 

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My favorite camaro is the 1969 i have one. I like the 1967-68-69-70-71-72-73. I hate the 4th generation camaro to much glass the dash is to wide and you can't see the hood or fenders when you are in the drivers seat. The 3rd generation is ok. The 5th generation i think will be real good can't wait to see it on the street.
 

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well I really like the 1st gen cars the late 2nd gen cars and of course all of the 3rd and4th gen cars but by far the 5th gen is right there with the looks of the 1969 and all of the stuff to call it a modern icon;)
 
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