What Years are the Generations of Camaros?
- OPTIMA Batteries
- Lake County, FL
General Motors has been producing the Camaro on and off since the 1967 model year and with the recent announcement that production would be "off" again after the 2024 model year, we felt it was a good time to take a historic look back at all the different generations of Camaros.
First Generation 1967-69
The first generation of Camaro production ran for three distinct years, although to the casual observer, these Camaros may all look nearly-identical. The easiest way to tell the difference between the first three years is by looking at the windows and the wheel wells. The 1967 Camaro, like the one pictured above, has a vent window behind the a-pillar. That window went away in 1968 (see below).
As you can see, the window behind the a-pillar is now one solid piece until you get past the door. That window would remain for the 1969 production year, but the wheel well would go from curved in 1968 and 1969 to having a flat section across the top for the 1969 model year (see below)
Second Generation 1970-81
The second generation Camaro started in the 1970 model year, although it is sometimes referred to as a '70 1/2. The styling of the exterior is obviously and distinctly different than the first generation, even if the engine and transmission options were largely carried over.
Government mandates forced the second generation Camaros to grow several inches, starting in the 1974 model year, as aluminum bumpers that ran all the way across the vehicle and a sloping grille were added. The flat rear window also went away after the 1974 model year, with a more wraparound design replacing it for the 1975 model year and beyond (see below).
Government mandates may have hurt engine performance in the second generation, but sales soared during this era, no doubt assisted by the high-profile presence of a Camaro on the TV series, Rockford Files and the corporate cousin Trans Am, being featured as the hero car in the wildly-popular Smokey and the Bandit movies, starring Burt Reynolds.
The Z28 returned in the 1977 model year and the following year body-colored front and rear urethane bumpers were added, along with an option for t-tops, which were wildly popular in part because of the Smokey and the Bandit films. Emission requirements continued to choke performance and sales began to slide, as the second generation production ended with the 1981 model year.
Third Generation 1982-92
The third generation of Camaros was a stark departure from the previous generation and an entirely-new design with a hatchback window and engine options including an anemic and infamous four-cylinder "Iron Duke." Coincidentally, a popular TV series, Knight Rider, debuted in 1982, which once again, featured the Camaro's corporate cousin, a Pontiac Firebird, as a hero car, which no doubt helped boost Camaro sales.
Even though the International Race of Champions series began using Camaros in the second generation production run, Chevrolet finally decided to come out with an IROC model in the 1985 model year.
Chevrolet also brought back a convertible Camaro starting in the 1987 model year, after having run the entirety of the second generation without a factory option (you may see some crude second gen aftermarket convertibles in the wild).
Fourth Generation 1993-2002
As had been the case in previous generations, when the fourth generation Camaro came along in 1993, a pace car version was offered. This particular version had some wild stripes on the outside and nearly-impossible to replace seats on the interior. A new LT1 engine was also introduced, which provided significantly more power than what was available in the third generation V8s, but it would be upgraded again before the end of the fourth generation.
1997 marked the 30th anniversary for the Camaro and as part of that celebration, a limited number of Camaros (including the one above) were sent to SLP, who made the modifications that turned regular Camaros into the Camaro SS (and Firebirds into Firehawks) and these special edition Camaro SS models emerged with an even more powerful LT4 V8 (330 horsepower). All 1997 Camaros also went to tri-colored taillights, which makes them easier to distinguish from the 1993-1996 models, but Chevrolet wasn't done with the fourth generation yet.
In 1998, Chevrolet changed the nose of the Camaro to what many folks refer to as the "Catfish" and changed the V8 engine option to the LS1. There were some really unusual color options in the fourth generation, so if you happen to come across a Sport Gold Metallic or Bright Blue Metallic, know that there weren't many others made (Mystic Teal is shown above). At the conclusion of the 2002 model year, Camaro Brand Manager, Scott Settlemire (known throughout the land as the Fbodfather) sadly announced the end of Camaro production, but encouraged the faithful to keep hope that the Camaro would return.
Fifth Generation 2010-15
It took a while, but the Camaro eventually did return, grabbing styling cues from the first generation, as Ford was also doing with the Mustang and Dodge with the Challenger. While Camaro production was on hiatus, the entire Pontiac line went away, so the corporate cousin Firebird did not return, except for some well-executed aftermarket tributes, like the one below.
The dark days of performance from the 1970s seemed like a distant memory, when the new V6 boasted as much (or more) horsepower (312), than many of the V8 options from previous generations. The new 6.2-liter LS3 was rated initially at 426 horsepower, but Chevrolet wasn't done yet. A whole new crop of special colors (Synergy Green) and editions (Transformers, Pace Cars. a 45th Anniversary edition and even a Nieman Marcus version) were on the horizon, as well as some big performance upgrades.
ZL1 and 1LE-options Camaros were soon hitting the streets, but Chevrolet also decided to offer what was essentially a factory-built drag car in the form of the COPO Camaro, that was built to compete in NHRA Stock Eliminator drag racing. While some of those cars did, many of them wound up in private collections, with almost no miles on them.
The 2014 model year saw a revision of the front and rear end of the car, as well as the addition of a functional vented hood on the SS models, which carried through to the end of the fifth generation with the 2015 model year.
Sixth Generation 2016-24
As you may have noticed, we've started showing more photos of Camaros from the front, because starting with the fifth generation, the body style is essentially the same, although the front and rear end get changed periodically, as was the case with the introduction of the sixth generation in the 2016 model year (see above).
A four-cylinder option returned in the sixth generation Camaro and as we saw with the fifth gen V6 engines, the 2.0-liter turbocharged Ecotec's 275 horsepower engine equaled or exceeded the output of many engines from previous generations, that had twice as many cylinders and more than double the displacement. We added the photo of the LT1 concept Camaro from the 2019 SEMA Show, just to highlight the differences between the grille treatments, as the four-cylinder and six-cylinder front ends also had a different look than the SS model Camaros, like Dave Schotz's 2022 Camaro below, which also features some additional aftermarket aero, including a front splitter.
The Camaro will again go on hiatus after 2024, but we believe Chevrolet will try to find a way to bring it back. When they do, we expect the seventh generation will have an electric version (or at least an option) that will out-perform the V8s of many of the previous generations, but we'll keep a close eye on the Corvette for hints of what's to come. If you'd like to see what the Corvettes have looked like through the generations, click here.
Since we are a battery company, we would also be remiss, if we didn't mention that OPTIMA Batteries offers direct-fit battery upgrades for virtually every Camaro ever produced. You can order factory-direct and have your battery (and charger) shipped to your front door (in the lower-48) within just a few days time. Just click on "Find Your Battery" at the top of the screen to plug in your vehicle information, to find out which OPTIMA batteries will work for you.