The History of the Camaro Convertible

Camaro Convertible. Own the Open Sky.

It’s no surprise that the Camaro was developed to capitalize on the overwhelming public response to the 1964 Ford Mustang. Chevrolet executives realized that the Corvair, the compact sporty car, would not be able to generate the sales volume of the Mustang due in part to its rear-engine design. Chevrolet saw a new, fast growing market where it could dominate sales with a competitive offering.

The Camaro was first shown at a press preview in Detroit, Michigan, on September 12, 1966, and then later that month in Los Angeles, California. The Camaro officially went on sale in dealerships on September 29, 1966, for the 1967 model year. The Camaro was touted as having the same conventional rear-drive, front-engine configuration as the Mustang. In addition, the Camaro was designed to fit a variety of power plants in the engine bay. The first-generation Camaro was available as a two-door coupé or convertible with 2+2 seating with a choice of six-cylinder and V8 engines.

Both the Mustang and Camaro gave birth to a new class of American sporty cars in the mid to late 1960’s. They were coupes with long hoods and short rear decks. Strong consumer demand for the new coupes brought in competitors such as the AMC Javelin, Chrysler's revamped Plymouth Barracuda, Dodge Challenger, and Pontiac Firebird. All of a sudden it was a very crowded marketplace.

Chevrolet produced 220,906 Camaros in 1967, 25,141 of which were convertibles. Chevrolet became a solid competitor in the new sports coupe segment with production of just short of 700,000 first-generation Camaros (1967-1969). About 9% of the first generation models were convertibles.

The racing and enthusiast market went wild over Camaro’s powerful V8 engines. The Z28 was headed for a Trans-Am racing championship, several dozen specially produced ZL-1 aluminum-engine Camaro coupes were providing thunderous thrills at drag strips, and a specially detailed RS/SS 396 Convertible popped up just in time to pace the 1969 Indy 500. No 1969 Camaro would ever become just another used car.

For the second-generation Camaro (1970-1981), Chevrolet did not offer a convertible model. The next convertible came with the third-generation during the years 1982-1992. These were also the first Camaros with factory fuel injection, four-speed automatic transmissions, five-speed manual transmissions, four-cylinder engines, 16-inch wheels, and hatchback bodies. The cars were nearly 500 pounds (227 kg) lighter than the second generation model.

Production of the third-generation convertible totaled just 24,367 units, less than 2% of the total Camaro build during the 1982-1992 time frame.

From 1993-2002, (fourth-generation), popularity of the Camaro convertible spiked to 65,886 units, almost 11% of total production. It would retain the same characteristic since the first-generation's introduction back in 1967; 2-doors, 2+2 seating, available as a coupe (with optional T-top roof) or convertible, rear-wheel drive, and a choice of pushrod V6 and V8 engines. The 1998 model year was refreshed and revised with both exterior and engine changes. The fourth-generation Camaro would last up through the 2002 model year when General Motors discontinued production due to slow sales and a deteriorated sports coupe market.

After an eight-year hiatus, the Camaro received a complete redesign and a new platform for the 2010 model year. The new fifth-generation model was based on the 2006 Camaro Concept and 2007 Camaro Convertible Concept. Production of the Camaro coupe was approved on August 10, 2006. The Oshawa Car Assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada began producing the new Camaro which went on sale in spring of 2009 as a 2010 model year vehicle. The Camaro received an enthusiastic response from consumers – a whopping 129,405 fifth-generation coupes were produced in its first year, a sales increase of over 200% over the 2002 model. The fifth-generation convertible became available in 2011 and sold 21,035 units, the highest sales mark for Camaro convertibles since the nameplate was introduced in 1967.

On May 16, 2015, Chevrolet introduced the sixth-generation Camaro at Belle Isle Park in Detroit, Michigan. The launch, complete with previous generation Camaros on display, coincided with the vehicle's upcoming 50th birthday. The sixth-generation Camaro is offered in both coupe and convertible models.

The 2016 Camaro Convertible is a high-tech masterpiece. Features include a fully automatic soft top that seamlessly disappears beneath the hard tonneau cover, modular underbody bracing to allow the same sharp, nimble handling as the coupe. The 2016 Camaro is the only convertible in the segment to offer all of the following:

  • Fully automatic operation with latches that automatically release and secure the top
  • Capability of opening or closing at speeds up to 30 mph
  • Remote opening with the key fob
  • A hard tonneau cover that deploys automatically, providing a more refined, finished appearance when the top is lowered and stowed.

The electro-hydraulic power roof system features multilayer construction – including acoustic and thermal barriers – designed for a comfortable, quiet driving experience in all seasons. The top emulates the sleek silhouette of the Camaro coupe.

“The 2016 Camaro coupe set the benchmark for the segment in terms of technology, performance and design,” said Todd Christensen, Camaro marketing manager. “Adding the most sophisticated top in the segment brings another level of refinement – and driving enjoyment – to the Camaro convertible.”

Like the Camaro coupe, the convertible benefits from a stiffer, lighter structure that helps reduce total vehicle weight by at least 200 pounds compared to the model it replaces. Consequently, the Camaro convertible retains the coupe’s sharp chassis tuning and nimble reflexes.

“From the beginning, the Camaro’s architecture was developed to incorporate a convertible with uncompromised driving dynamics,” said Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer. “Customers will appreciate what they don’t feel: quivers, cowl shake or an under-damped chassis typically found in a four-seat convertible.”

The architecture also enables the Camaro convertible’s sleek design, allowing the top to fold down completely beneath the belt line. The hard tonneau cover automatically covers the folded top, creating a finished appearance.

“With many convertibles, you have to affix a tonneau cover manually – if it’s done at all,” said Tom Peters, design director. “The Camaro convertible’s automatically deploying hard tonneau not only makes it easier to enjoy convertible driving when the inspiration hits, it ensures the car always looks its best.”

For 50 years, American sports car enthusiasts have had a love affair with the Camaro convertible. The sixth-generation model is poised to be one of the greatest convertibles ever, continuing to grow Chevrolet’s sporty car segment market share and sales leadership.