Camaro celebrates 50-year anniversary

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Chevrolet celebrate 50 years of the sporty Camaro. (KABC)

It's time to say happy birthday to the Chevrolet Camaro as the sporty car celebrates 50 years.

It was the summer of 1966 that Chevrolet introduced the first Camaro, a response to the overwhelming success of Ford's Mustang, which had debuted two years earlier. General Motors scrambled to get the Camano to market to try to cash in.

Today, the Camaro is once again a hallmark of Chevrolet's lineup, though technically the 50-year anniversary doesn't mark 50 consecutive years. The Camaro was on hiatus from 2003 to 2010, when it then made a big comeback.

This year brings a sharper, more svelte design, available once again as a coupe or convertible. The Camaro has shed some pounds and continues to be a thorn in the Mustang's side all these years later.

Every year the Camaro has been sold, it's been offered with a V8 engine as an option. The Ford Mustang, however, can't make the same claim. The 1974 Mustang II offered only four or six cylinders, though Ford realized its mistake and brought back the 302 V8 in 1975.

But since this is 2016, it's a new era when it comes to offering more fuel-efficient choices, and the redesigned Camaro delivers. As in the most recent model years, there are V6 and V8 engine choices. And now, there's a four-cylinder Camaro in the lineup.

The last time a four-cylinder was offered was in the early 1980s. The third-generation Camaro, new for 1982, was launched with a base 2.5 liter "four-banger," making a paltry 90 horsepower, and putting a black eye on performance in the wake of the 1970s energy crisis.

Today, it's a whole different story. First, you can't tell from looking that the base four-cylinder Camaro is much different from the V8 or V6 versions, particularly with options like 20-inch wheels and upgraded Brembo brakes. Stick with the base six-speed manual transmission (an eight-speed automatic is an option with all engines), and the turbocharged 275 horsepower 2.0 liter four-cylinder offers up performance that wasn't even dreamed of in the Camaro's dark days.

By contrast, the 1982 Camaro Z28, with the optional higher-powered 305 cubic inch V8, offered just 165 horsepower, and only with an automatic transmission. That's right, progress means that a 2017 Camano with just four cylinders has 110 more horsepower than the top V8 model did 35 years earlier.

Though to purists, a four-cylinder engine might sound a little strange coming from a Camaro's twin exhaust pipes. Fans of the V8 needn't worry, however, as the SS model still comes standard with a 455 horsepower V8. Prices for a 2017 Camaro range from $26,305 for a base coupe to $44,900 for an SS convertible.

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