Let’s say you hear that a veteran Hollywood actor is reviving a famous role he played years ago. Maybe, in his current time-worn state, Harrison Ford is going to play a version of the character he did in one of his first big roles, the film American Graffiti. I mean, it’s a good movie, but when you hear that actor’s name, wouldn’t you rather see him as, say, Indiana Jones or Han Solo again? This is similar to the feeling that I got some years back when Chevrolet revived the Camaro for the fifth generation; a bit of confusion and disappointment.
I mean, when Ford introduced the rehashed Mustang, we received a take on the golden-era late sixties version that we all love. When you think Dodge Challenger, the retro Vanishing Point model that was introduced was EXACTLY what you expected. That’s not necessarily the case with the Camaro.
How about some word association? If you close your eyes and I say “Camaro,” what comes to mind? Before the 2010 revival model was introduced, for many of you I would venture to guess that the car appearing in your mind would have been a second generation car – You know, the kind that appears numerous times in the parking lot of a Judas Priest concerts circa 1986 (I can’t take more than five minutes of the video below but you will see plenty of 1970-82 Camaros even in that brief time).
You’re thinking about the Camaro that Jeff Spicoli wrecked in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
If you’re a GenXer, I guarantee that your buddy Dave or whomever had something like a 1978 Rallye Sport with rusted quarter panels, and you rode around in it blasting Def Leppard from a Kraco head unit through Sparkomatic speakers.
The first generation cars are certainly nice, but when you hear Camaros mentioned in songs like The Dead Milkmen’s “Bitchin’ Camaro” or Thelonious Monster’s “Sammy Hagar Weekend”, I can virtually guarantee the songwriters were not thinking of the 1967-69 model.
Despite the associations with members of The Bad Element, the fake Ferrari 250GTO style of the 1970 ½-1981 car is really one of GM’s greatest styling achievements and has to be my favorite of them all. The third generation started to get a bit angular and the fourth generation gained some rather cartoonish proportions.
As this site has discussed about the current Mustang, we’re getting to a point now where the Camaro is basically reliving 1969 over and over again with trendy of-the-moment styling cues added with each successive generation. The thing is starting to look like an uncomfortable pastiche of old and new where they’d be better off starting from scratch.
What about a revived Generation II Camaro?
With the Corvette now firmly planted in the mid-engined exotic category, there’s certainly no redundancy in having a front engined 2+2 fastback GT in the Chevrolet lineup. However, we know that GM is invested in their current notchback sedan direction if they were to continue making the Camaro, which apparently they will no longer do after this year. It’s not like anyone else would create an homage to the second generation car, right?
Wrong. The Japanese car firm Mitsuoka is one of our founder Jason Torchinsky’s favorite boutique manufacturers; the fact that he likes it should tell you that they likely aren’t doing conventional cars. They are known for making odd homages to old classics built onto modern cars.
In fact, speaking of GM rehashes, they even do a rip off of an old Chevy Blazer called the Buddy:
One of Mitsuoka’s most popular models appears to be the Viewt, which features sixties Jaguar styling details applied to new compact Japanese sedans like the current one on a Toyota Yaris platform.
source: The Autopian
This firm is obviously more than qualified to create an homage to a long-departed car, as long as you aren’t too overly concerned if they’ll get the proportions and shape exactly right. You’ll likely get something just this side of Too Silly To Drive, a bit of a caricature that a sidewalk sketch artist might do.
For our Camaro we’ll need to start with an existing car. Twenty years ago we’d have a big selection of coupes to work with but today the market has reduced to only a few cars. After considering the Supra, I think that any year of the latest generation of Toyota 86 seems to fill the bill quite well as a candidate for this major makeover.
Here is the result- the Mitsuoka Speekoli, named for Sean Penn’s pre-Chavez interviewing Camaro-wrecking character (but changed enough to keep lawyers at bay). Like typical Mitsuoka creations, the front clip will go into the dumpster so even if you chose an earlier 2020 or 2021 model (like I did) it really won’t matter. Our simulated Z28 nose would blend into an almost unmodified center section of the car.
Well, I say almost since aping the rear window area means we might need to do the old Chrysler New Yorker trick of adding a thin plastic ‘targa bar’ cover over the roof to blank out the rear quarter windows and simulate a wraparound backlight with black painted sections over the side sheet metal (cutting into that critical part of the roof would likely be a non starter). I’ve used much of the pre-2022 lower bumper section; we could go with the never model’s parts as well, but I felt that the parts earlier car seem to work better.
Overall, the proportions are a bit stuffed up, almost like if your sister made a throw pillow of your car for Christmas, or bought you one from a place like Autoplush:
However, the somewhat distorted shape just adds to the charm that we’ve always come to expect from Mitsuoka. Also, it’s not like you’re vandalizing a 1974 Ferrari 365GTB Daytona either to make this silly thing; I’ve always found the Toyota 86 to be an inoffensive but hardly spectacular looking sports car design.
Sadly, I would think that the little Japanese firm would have to do too much for the NHTSA to be able to sell this thing in the land where the car’s inspired folks to rip burnouts leaving the Dairy Queen. However, unlike the sixties Nova-based real car, with a Toyota 86 chassis this Camaro would drive the way that outsiders assumed that a Camaro drove, but never did. This would be a pleasantly surprise fifty-year-olds attempting to relive their past.