There aren’t a lot of Silver dollars in Arizona

The sell-through rate at Mitch Silver’s inaugural Arizona in the Fall auction was only 26 percent. Seems consignors valued their vehicles more than the snowbirds looking for something to drive during the winter months.

The sale was scheduled with an eye on offering cars that could serve as classy daily drivers for Arizona’s winter visitors, cars they might turn around and consign themselves next spring when Silver does a similar auction just before the ‘birds fly home for the summer.

But in many cases — too many cases — the bids offered fell just short of the owners’ reserve prices.

The high-dollar sale of the weekend was $55,000 for a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible. A 1968 Camaro RS/SS convertible brought $32,500, a 2008 BMW 550Li went for $29,600, a 1961 Pontiac Catalina convertible $29,000 and a 1957 Pontiac Star Chief hardtop traded ownership for $28,000.

Silver is back in Arizona in January for its big annual sale, and returns for its spring event in March. Silver also is working on a possible sale in the Phoenix area during the summer, though that one would be in an air-conditioned building, not outdoors in a tent.

Vehicle Profile: Chevrolet Camaro

Chevrolet Camaro

Sometime during April of 1965, long before any official announcement was made by General Motors’ Chevrolet Division, reports had begun circulating that Chevrolet was preparing to build a vehicle code-named “Panther” in the newly identified Pony/Musclecar category. This mysterious new vehicle was intended to compete directly with the highly successful Ford Mustang. The Ford Mustang was introduced in late 1964, as a “new for” 1965 model, and received rave reviews and huge sales numbers. Not to be outdone . . . GM had an ace up their sleeve to face this Ford rival, head on.

Chevrolet sent the first of two telegrams to 200+ automotive journalists on June 21, 1966, announcing their plans for the “Panther”, using very mysterious language. The first telegram read something to the effect of: “Please save noon of June 28, 1966 for important S.E.P.A.W. meeting. Hope you can be on hand to help. Details will follow .” The telegram was signed by John L. Cutter, Chevrolet Public Relations and S.E.P.A.W. Secretary. On the following day, the same group of journalists received another telegram to the effect of: “Society for the Eradication of Panthers from the Automotive World will hold first and last meeting on June 28. The (insert city name here) chapter will meet at (insert hotel name here) joining in a national 14 city live telephone conference with Detroit based , Chevrolet General Manager, E. M. “Pete” Estes. Please R.S.V.P. by telephone, etc….”.  This second telegram was also signed by John L. Cutter. Both of the telegrams left many automotive journalists puzzled at the time because none of them had ever heard of S.E.P.A.W. before the two telegrams were sent.

By June 28th, the industry was buzzing with anticipation and excitement about this big, strange meeting. Chevrolet’s General Manager, Pete Estes, would have some fun with this secretive game and make the announcement himself. Now, back in 1966, they used quite a cutting edge means of reaching more people collectively, in the Automotive Journalism society, than ever before possible. Rather than forcing all the 200+ journalists to make a trip to Detroit, GM utilized a new technological advancement by the Bell Telephone Company called two-way conference calling. It was the first time in history that 14 cities were connected together in real time for a press conference via telephone.

After a brief speech about how well things were going for General Motors and how they intended to remain the number one automotive manufacturer in the USA, Mr. Estes then said “Oh yes! I almost forgot! The purpose of this meeting! . . . Gentlemen, as much as we appreciate the tremendous publicity given “Panther” we ask you to help scratch the cat once and forever. And as such, this will be both the FIRST and the LAST meeting of S.E.P.A.W.! Chevrolet has chosen a name which is lithe, graceful, and in keeping with our other car names beginning with the letter “C”, it suggests the comradeship of good friends, as a personal car should be to its owner! Above all, it is the name of our new car line to be introduced on September 29, 1966! To us, at GM, the name means just what we think the car will do . . . GO! ….and here it is!”

At that moment, five beautiful girls came onto the stage, each holding a letter, while Mr. Estes held the sixth letter. While a narrator described to the out-of-towners, that could not see what was going on, Mr. Estes placed each girl in order and then lined up with them for all to see the word CAMARO. There was excitement and amazement and yet many were still puzzled at what it meant and what exactly was a CAMARO? The Product Managers, who fielded the many questions after the announcement about this peculiar, yet immediately likable name, only said (as smug as possible), it is “a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs”.

And so, later that year, on Sept. 12, 1966 in Detroit, MI, the new Camaro was unveiled to rave reviews and an eagerly awaiting public hungry for their own GM produced pony/musclecar. And, as stated at the mysterious meeting back in June, the cars were available at Chevrolet Dealerships across the country on or about Sept. 29,1966.

Alrighty then… now for some details about the First Generation (1967 to 1969) Camaro or F-Body (a platform also shared with the new Pontiac Firebird) which was a built on a front-engined, rear-wheel drive platform and only available as a 2-door coupe or convertible. A wide variety of engines were available, ranging from the 230-cid L6 to the ultra rare optioned ZL1 (only 69 were ever made and only for the 1969 year model), drag-race ready, aluminum block 427-cid, big-block V8, or COPO 9560 (Central Office Production Orders) package, which added over $4,000 to the sticker price, which was a lot of money back then. But oh, what fun it must have been to stuff your foot into that one. There were actually over a dozen (14) different engines available during the first three years of Camaro production and some were only available to a choice few specifically for racing purposes.

Some of the available options, such as the RS, was an appearance package that included hidden headlights, revised taillights, RS badging, and exterior rocker trim. The SS, which included a 350-cid V8 engine or the optional L35 and L78 396-cid big-block V8 was also available in SS package. The SS also featured non-functional air inlets on the hood, special striping and SS badging on the grille, front fenders, gas cap, and horn button.  It was even possible to order both the SS and RS packages together to make a Camaro RS/SS. In 1967, a Camaro RS/SS convertible with a 396-cid V8 engine, paced the Indianapolis 500.

The Z28 option code which was introduced in December 1966 for the 1967 model year was the brainchild of Vince Piggins. He conceived offering a virtually race-ready Camaro which could be offered for sale from any Chevrolet dealer. This option package was not mentioned in any sales literature, so it was unknown to most buyers and dealers for that matter. The Z28 option required power front disc brakes and a Muncie 4-speed manual transmission be installed on these models. It also featured a 302-cid small-block V8 engine, an aluminum intake manifold, and a 4-barrel, vacuum-secondary Holley carburetor. Only 602 Z28s were sold in 1967, along with approximately 100 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Replicas. The origin of the Z28 nameplate came from the RPO (Regular Production Option) codes – RPO Z27 was for the Super Sport package, and RPO Z28, at the time, was the code for a Special Performance Package intended to compete in the Trans Am racing series of the day. Many Camaro’s are raced, and very successfully I might add, in various forms and venues all over the world to this day.

There have been five generations in the life of the Camaro, with a brief hiatus in production from 2003 to 2009, with the awesome, retro-looking fifth generation Camaro making it’s debut in 2010. During the First Generation production run from 1967 to 1969, a total of 699,538 Camaros were made. You know what that means . . . there is a good chance that your favorite model, options and color are still out there and available for purchase .

Oh, hey, did I ever answer the question of the meaning of the Camaro name? When pressed for an answer, over a year later (sometime in 1967), as to how he came up with the name Camaro (which actually means friend, pal or comrade) from a list of over 2,000 words of which to choose, Mr. Estes laughed and casually admitted, “I locked myself in a closet and came back out with Camaro”!

2nd Generation Chevrolet Camaro

1972 Chevrolet Camaro

After the dazzling debut and extreme popularity of the 1st generation (1967 through 1969) Chevrolet Camaro, GM’s Chevrolet Division’s designers and engineers (inspired by the likes of Jaguar, Ferrari and Aston-Martin designs of the day) were challenged to give the next generation Pony Car a fresh new look and some added technological upgrades. For the 2nd generation Camaro (1970 thru 1981), there were obvious body style changes made, including lower, wider and longer dimensions. Some chassis and drivetrain upgrades were made and eventual horsepower downgrades were in the works as well (mostly due to pressure from EPA to meet continually restrictive, emissions standards) throughout the model run. Even so, some enthusiasts will argue that the 2nd generation Camaros, nicknamed the “Super Hugger”, were more a true driver’s car and quite possibly, the best all-around Muscle Car ever made.

The newly redesigned Chevrolet Camaro two-door coupe (the convertible was no longer offered), complete with fastback styling, would get a late start as a 1970 model (released in February of 1970). This would eventually make it the most sought after year of the second generation Camaros, due to low production numbers (just under 125,000 units) and more powerful drivetrain offerings.

Some notable changes throughout the second generation Chevrolet Camaro series were:

1970 – Totally new, re-design of body (all of Fastback 2+2 style) and upgrades to chassis, available in base Sport Coupe, RS, SS and Z/28 models. They were approximately two inches longer, an inch lower and just less than an inch wider than the first generation Camaros, with a longer hood and shorter rear trunk/deck area with a Kamm (flat cut-off) back styling with round, inset Corvette-like tail lights. The longer doors were of a full-glass (vent-less) design and gone were the rear quarter-panel, side panel windows. The roof panel was of a new double-panel design to increase roll-over protection and deaden sound. The base models featured a full front bumper, while the rest of the models all had a more aggressive looking, extended, rubberized “Endura” material surrounding a sunken grille, with chromed bumperettes on each side of the open grille. The new instrument panel featured several round gauge clusters, placed directly in front of the driver with other controls and radio near the center. The standard interiors were offered with an all-vinyl material and the dash was finished in a matte black color. An optional upgraded vinyl/cloth interior was offered along with some woodgrain surfaces. The largest engine available was the 396-cid V8 (which actually displaced 402 c.i., but Chevrolet decided to retain the “396” badging) which was rated at 375 hp and was only available in the SS models and came with 4-spd manual transmission, also available in the SS, was the 350-cid, 300 hp V8, again, with the 4-spd manual transmission. The six cylinder engine, available in the base Sport Coupe, was increased to 250-cid, 155 hp, from the former 230-cid powerplant and an optional 307-cid, V8, 200 hp, was also available. The RS models were available with the 250-cid L6, with 155 hp or the 350-cid V8, with 250 hp depending on your option choice. The Z/28 (Special Performance Package) was only available with the new high-performance LT-1, 350-cid, V8, 360 hp, powerplant. Transmissions available were a 3-spd standard, 4-spd standard (with Hurst Shifter) or Turbo-Hydramatic 400/3-spd automatic transmission.

1971 – Minor changes were made mostly in the appearance area (colors, stripes, badging, etc.) and the standard interior was now of the vinyl/cloth design. Also in the interior was the addition of the high-back bucket seats with built-in headrests that were not adjustable. Due to tougher emissions standards imposed by the government, most horsepower ratings declined in the performance offerings. The world was beginning the change-over to unleaded fuels and all manufacturers were scrambling to meet these more restrictive emission standards. Due to a corporate-wide, GM strike in late September, 1970, (which lasted 67 days) production was down for the 1971 year models. There were even rumors at GM about the demise of the F Body cars (Camaro and “sister” Firebird) because of declining interest in the PonyCar market and high insurance rates for all performance vehicles. Also, production of Camaros was halted at the Van Nuys, CA plant and were now produced at only the Norwood, OH assembly plant.

1972 – Again, minor changes are made to a faltering model, which again, is hit by a devastating UAW strike lasting 174 days. The internal battle to continue the F body cars went on at General Motors/Chevrolet and finally the supporters of the models won out and convinced the top-brass that it was still a viable vehicle. Only some 68,000 Camaros would be built in 1972, including only about 970 SS-396 models. This was also the last year for the SS models in the second generation run and the Z/28 model would lose the “/” and now be the Z28. Horsepower ratings continued to fall and even more so because the world was changing from gross to net ratings. For instance, the LT-1, 350-cid V8 dropped from 330 hp gross (1971 rating) to 255 hp for 1972 net ratings.

1973 – Standard impact absorbing front bumpers were added due to government safety legislation and again the horsepower ratings dropped and the 396-cid V8 was dropped. A new model LT was introduced and could be ordered along with the RS and Z28 to have all combinations in one car. The LT came with a more luxurious, quieter interior, full instrumentation, Rallye styled wheels, “hidden” wipers, sport mirrors and variable-ratio steering, among other available upgrades. Power windows were again offered, which had not been available since the 1969 year models. After a rough year and recovering from the previous year’s strike, they managed to build over 96,000 units.

1974 – A forward slanting grille was added to accommodate the new aluminum front bumper, which was added to meet further government safety standards. A similar rear aluminum bumper was added for the same reasons and overall the two new bumpers increased the length of the Camaro by some seven inches. The round rear taillights were replaced by elongated, rectangular, corner-wrapped units and sales would increase to over 150,000 units (despite the fuel crisis, which was initiated by the Arab Oil Embargo). Most of the Camaro’s (and Firebird’s) traditional competition would fall by the wayside and from now through the end of its run in 1981, the Camaro would be the reigning PonyCar with no real competition.

1975 – Interiors were changed slightly with new trim patterns and you could supposedly order a leather interior in the LT models (even though none were ever produced) and the walnut trim was replaced with a Bird’s Eye Maple woodgrain. Power door locks were now available and radial tires were standard equipment on all models. The rear window area was changed to a more wrap-around fastback style and gave greater visibility. The “Camaro” nameplate was removed from the rear trunk lid and the front fender scripts were changed to block letters. The “Camaro” badge was removed from the grille and a badge was placed on the cowl above the grille area on the front nose. The Z28 was dropped and would not reappear until 1977. The catalytic converter was introduced as a more efficient means to reduce emissions, which ended the use of a true-duals, exhaust system. Sales were again pretty strong at over 145,000 units for 1975.

1976 – The sales kept climbing as Camaro/Firebird now owned 100% of the PonyCar market and over 182,000 units were produced for 1976. A few appearance updates were made and the LT models received a brushed metal insert on the rear panel. All V8 models were now supplied with standard power-brakes.

1977 – The reintroduction of the Z28 was mostly due to the extreme popularity of the Firebird Trans-Am of 1976 and was a mid-year addition for 1977 Camaros. This late addition was an immediate success and very popular with a 350-cid V8, 4-barrel carburetor and producing 185 hp. Most of the Z28’s were supplied with creature comforts, like air-conditioning and automatic transmission. The Borg-Warner Super T-10, 4-spd manual transmission was still available, as well as the new intermittent wiper system. Over 218,000 units were produced for 1977 and the first time that Camaro outsold the Ford Mustang. A stripped-down Z28, in the hands of a capable driver, could outperform the Pontiac Trans-Am and even the Corvettes on any highway or even a twisty canyon road.

1978 – The Camaro would receive new bumpers front and rear for 1978 with rubberized, body-colored covers and the hood would now contain a “scoop”. Sales again increased to over 272,000 units and make a strong statement to those who had doubted it just a few years ago.

1979 – The “LT” model would be replaced by the more luxurious “Berlinetta” model for 1979. A re-designed instrument cluster, with flatter looking fascia, would replace the aging dash area in front of the driver. The “Z28″ came with a new front spoiler and fender flares and some new decals. The rear window now had an electric “defogger”, embedded in the glass. Another record year for sales with over 282,000 units being produced, breaking all previous sales by first or second generation Camaros.

1980 – The old reliable standard 250-cid L6 motor would be replaced by the new 229-cid V6. The Z28 hood got a new rear facing, raised, functional scoop with a solenoid actuated flapper valve, which opens under a full throttle position. New, optional grey 5-spoke rims were available for the Z28 and standard on all Z28’s was a newly styled upper and lower front grille and revised, colorful graphics. All speedometers now read a maximum of only 85 mph, reduced from the previous reading of 130 mph. Total sale figures fell to just over 152,000 units for 1980.

1981 – Virtually unchanged from the 1980 models, the 1981 Camaro would be the last of the second generation Camaros and the end of an era. Changes made were mainly government mandated, in order to increase fuel efficiency, while reducing emissions. A new computerized control system was used (CCC or Computer Command Control) with an oxygen sensor, electronically controlled carburetion system including a throttle position sensor, coolant temperature sensors, barometric pressure sensors and manifold absolute pressure sensors, along with the dreaded check engine lamp. This was only the beginning of changes that would take us out of the mechanical age and into the electronic age of today. The automatic transmission was also fitted with an electronically controlled, lock-up torque converter. This modernization (emissions restrictions) reduced the output rating to 175 hp for the 350-cid V8 in the Z28 and was now only available with an automatic transmission. The RS model was dropped this year and would not reappear until 1989. Total production fell again, to just over 126,000 units.

It was a great run for the second generation Chevrolet Camaro and they not only proved themselves as daily drivers that were loved by many, but also as great racing machines that dominated many series and all sorts of racing venues all over the world. The IROC series for one was totally dominated by the Camaros of the day.

Vehicle Profile: Black Panther Camaro

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While Ford was fighting off the early successes of the Chevrolet Corvair and Chevy II with their introduction of the Mustang in August of 1964, GM began work on a counter-punch experimental project named XP-836. The XP-836 project directly targeted the Ford Mustang mystique and the new youth market that emerged from almost nowhere in the eyes of GM marketers. The surprising popularly of Ford’s Mustang framed the XP-836 project from the very start and incorporated the “Mustang formula” in the early years of production.

In the winter of 1965, the XP-836 project turned out a prototype car based on some cobbled-up Chevy IIs. While crude, the new Chevrolet was shaping up to run well along side Ford’s Pony car. Now named the “Panther”, the project and the proto-types were written about in great length by the automotive press with all the excitement of a pending rivalry with the Mustang.

img-article-1Given a name that the public could latch onto, the “Panther” was quickly being promoted as GM’s Mustang-fighter. Sometimes called “Chevy’s Mustang” the “Panther” evolved conceptually using much of the Mustang marketing formula.

Now branded with the “Panther” script and leaping-cat emblems similar to that used by Jaguar, the proto-types advanced with an outward confidence that Chevrolet’s sleek new cat would be chasing down the Mustang. By early 1966, Ralph Nader was doing a hatchet job on the Corvair, and GM management sought to tone-down the image of their new car in hopes of not drawing the attention of safety crusaders with the aggressive “Panther” name.

Seeking a “clammier” image for the new car, the marketing department looked to their current line of Chevrolet monikers, the Corvair, Corvette, Chevelle, and Chevy II for inspiration. Desiring another “C” name brand, merchandising manager Bob Lund and GM Car & Truck Group vice-president Ed Rollert poured through French and Spanish dictionaries and came up with “Camaro”. Meaning, “warm friend”, the new name offered GM an excellent label to compliment the current Chevrolet line and introduce their new car with a much tamer image. Though the “Camaro” name was replacing the various project names the car had been developed under, outside the company some controversy over the meaning of the new name was causing a potential image problem for the new car. In an unprecedented national conference call with some 200 journalists, GM released the ” warm & friendly” Camaro name to the public ahead of the cars introduction to dealer showrooms. The effort was successful in quashing any “image killing” interpretations of the new Camaro moniker.

In 1967, amidst the phenomenal success of the Ford Mustang, General Motors pulled off a sensational introduction of the Chevrolet Camaro by delivering over 212,000 units to dealer showrooms that year. Keeping in fashion with the Mustang formula, the Camaro was offered with a laundry list of options at both the factory and dealer level. Camaro customers could custom build their own car with a host of options previously only available on Chevrolet’s higher-line models.

Desiring the same custom performance treatments being offered by Shelby America for the Mustang, Camaro enthusiasts looked to the dealerships in hopes of finding these performance options. Happily, the folks at Toronto-based Gorries Chevrolet/Oldsmobile dealership answered the call to incorporate their race knowledge into the new Camaro. The result was the “Black Panther” Camaro.