A few years after Ford dominated the automotive market with the introduction of the Mustang in 1964, General engines decided to cook up something to go against Ford’s car. Using the same platform, Chevrolet and Pontiac produced the Camaro and Firebird. The Camaro went on the market in late September 1966 for the 1967 model year. According to a Chevy spokesman to reporters, the name Camaro meant “friend, friend, or companion.”
Chevrolet continued production of the Camaro through four distinct generations until 2002. Although the nameplate was successfully revived as a production car in 2010, the second generation Camaro (1970-1981) remains the most successful in the car’s history.
Although Chevrolet is preparing to say goodbye to the Camaro in 2024, the name remains alive and kicking in the minds of many car enthusiasts, especially as a desirable muscle among classic cars. Let’s take a look at what made the 1979 model year the best-selling Camaro ever.
Chevrolet sold more than 280,000 Camaros in 1979
Chevrolet is off to a strong start to the second-generation Camaro. With an all-new structure that featured a wide footprint and a lower center of gravity, the Camaro was now not only bulkier and more attractive, but also offered significantly better handling. Although many changes in the automotive industry and regulations went against the raw spirit of American sports cars, the Camaro remained at the top of its game well into the seventies.
Although the first generation Ford Mustang was the star of the show through the late sixties and early seventies, the nameplate experienced a huge setback after the introduction of the Mustang II. Now, with most rivals in the picture, the Camaro and Firebird were the only frontiers of the pony car class. The Camaro has become the go-to option for drivers looking for a sporty yet quite practical ride.
The Camaro managed to outsell the Mustang for the first time in 1977 by over 60,000 units. With the introduction of the T-Tops in 1978, Chevrolet was able to widen the gap even further by selling more than 80,000 Camaros more than Ford’s Mustang.
Ford was able to turn things around by introducing the third generation Mustang in 1979 and putting a turbocharger on the Mustang Cobra. However, Chevrolet managed to sell 282,571 Camaros that year. To this day, ’79 remains the best-selling year for the Camaro.
Of the 14 colors available, Dark Blue was the best seller with over 36,000 units. With less than 3,500 units, light green was the least popular color for the 1979 Chevy Camaro.
The 1979 Chevy Camaro was offered in four different variants
Because the 1978 model year was so successful, Chevrolet didn’t need to make drastic changes to the ’79 Camaro. The most noticeable change was that the previous LT trim was now replaced by the Berlinetta. The Berlinetta had bucket seats and a custom cloth interior.
Moreover, the 1979 Camaros offered a smoother ride thanks to the newly designed suspension system. Chevrolet also upgraded the engine mounts which were custom made. The base model, called the “Coupe”, had a retail price of $4,676.90 and had a total of 111,357 units sold for the year. Compared to the 1978 model year, Chevrolet sold about 12,000 fewer Camaro Coupes.
On the other hand, the Berlinetta had similar sales rates to its predecessor (the LT model). This equipment added a touch of luxury to the Camaro and included improved handling. With more than 19,000 units sold, sales figures for Rally Sport equipment have almost doubled compared to the previous year.
The flagship, the “Z28”, had a total production run of nearly 85,000 units. It’s worth noting that the ’79 Z28 was the first Camaro to come in priced over the $6,000 mark. The Z28 offered a performance-oriented suspension with anti-roll bars, dual exhaust, and a close-ratio four-speed manual transmission that buyers could choose at no extra cost. No manual transmission models were available to California buyers.
Chevrolet packed a V6 and three V8 engines into the 1979 Camaro
Similar to what they did with the styling, the folks at Chevy changed a few things about the Camaro’s available engines. The base 250 CID was a V6 that could now produce 115 horsepower (5 more than the previous year).
On the other hand, the output of the standard eight-cylinder engine was reduced from 145 horsepower to 130. The 350 CID V8 featured in the Camaro Z28 also compromised on power output and boasted 175 ponies. Last but not least, an optional 170 horsepower V8 was also available for the Berlinetta and Rally Sport models.
Source: General Motors