General Motors was caught napping when Ford launched the Mustang in April, 1964. GM knew the Mustang was coming, but GM executives weren’t at all concerned and didn’t expect it to generate the mass appeal it did. Nor did they expect it’d sell 100,000 units within four months, and keep on soaring. Having got a very early Mustang into their studios to examine, they quickly concluded it was too boxy looking, too basic, and technically outdated. It was, after all, based on Ford’s economy car, the Falcon. They were convinced their new-for-1965 Chevrolet Corvair would easily see it off. How wrong they were.

By August 1964, realising they’d massively under-estimated its appeal, GM top brass gave the green light for a Chevrolet version of the Mustang. The goal was to make the Chevy pony car just a little bigger in its dimensions, a little more powerful, provide better handling, and to offer a better-quality ride. Initially, it was to be named Panther, but Chevrolet general manager Pete Estes decided upon Camaro, an old French word for comrade, or friend.

To read this and other articles on the Classic Driver website please click here to sign up for a membership. Once a member and logged in, you'll be able to read all the articles on the site. If you are already a paid up member, please log in, using the Log In link in the menu at the top of the page.