Camaro Vs. Firebird – Muscle Car …

Camaro Vs. Firebird – Muscle Car Of The Week Episode 370

Two of the most popular Muscle Cars were introduced for the 1967 model year, and although they are technically cousins, the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird both have very loyal, and different followings.

Built of GM’s new “F” body platform, the Camaro and Firebird share some basic DNA, including the unibody design utilizing a body tub with a bolt-on front subframe to locate the front suspension and engine cradle. They share common sheet metal underneath the skin, including the floors, firewall, trunk floor, rocker panels, and some bracing. The leaf spring rear suspension design is shared, as is the glass. But that’s about where the sharing ends.

The Camaro hit the streets fully armed to go after the wildly successful Ford Mustang, and that was not by coincidence. The Mustang was mopping up youth market sales like crazy, and had a 3 year head-start on any comparable GM product, so Chevrolet had to bring all they could to the fight. And that they did, with the introduction of the 1967 Camaro Z/28 and Camaro SS models. The Z was a TransAm road-race inspired hot rod powered by a high-revving 302 cubic inch V8 making an advertised 290 HP, rolling on 15” wheels and performance suspension. It’s one of the pinnacle Camaros ever, and one of the few new-launch cars that got everything right.

Pontiac was marketed as an upscale performance brand, and when they rolled out the new for 1967 Pontiac Firebird, they were targeting a slightly more sophisticated buyer. The Firebird was going after the Mercury Cougar and Plymouth Barracuda crowd, with burlwood trim and loads of comfort and convenience options.

But the ‘Bird didn’t skimp on the performance goodies, as evidenced by this 1968 Ram Air II Firebird. This is a pretty bare-bones car, with no power windows or air conditioning, and a no-nonsense dark green paint scheme with black steel wheels and dog-dish hubcaps. But under the hood lives the Pontiac 400 HO Ram Air II V8, capable of 340 HP and 430 lb. ft. of torque.

Of course, Camaros were also offered with big-inch V8s, like this flashy 1967 L78 SS 396 car, an 11:1 compression, aluminum intake, 4-barrel high-lift cammed big block Chevy that kicked 375 HP and 415 lb. feet. of sand in the face of those who dared to approach.

Although they share some of the same bones, the Camaro and Firebird styling is distinctive enough to differentiate the cars. Firebirds always had a pointier, more “beak” like nose, while Camaros have more of a traditional grille.

For 1969, Firebird shed it’s conservative feathers and turned up the Wow with the 1969 Trans Am, it’s own version of a street-going road racer inspired by the racing series of the same name. And although you could get this striped and spoilered new ride with a raucous Ram Air IV V8 under the hood and performance tuned suspension, Pontiac didn’t lose sight of their customers desires for a comfy ride inside. The new Trans Am looked like nothing else on the road, and further distanced itself from it’s Chevrolet cousin.

The ‘69 Camaro also got a visual tune-up, with a wider body and speedy lines trailing the wheel openings, and the SS and Z/28 models continued to perform. Specialty dealers like Yenko Chevrolet worked the system to offer the 427 V8 in the Camaro, an option that was technically not available in the car. However, Chevrolet did produce some C.O.P.O. 427 cars and 13.8 handfuls of ZL1 all aluminum 427 cars for drag racing purposes, and those legends live on today. It would have been cool to see similar Firebirds or Trans Ams built with competition parts right from the factory.

So which do you prefer, the racier first generation Camaro, or the refined and stylish Firebird? Share your thoughts with us in the comments, and be sure to subscribe for more fun Muscle Car goodness from The Brothers Collection on Muscle Car Of The Week!

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Camaro Vs. Firebird – Muscle Car Of The Week Episode 370

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