The Beater Version Of The Classic Pony Car Rivalry: 1999 Ford Mustang vs 2000 Chevy Camaro

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Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown! Today we’re going to look at one of the great all-time rivalries, right up there with Coke vs. Pepsi, Cardinals vs. Cubs, and David Lee Roth vs. Sammy Hagar. But first let’s see which car won yesterday’s lengthy battle:

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Well, that’s the long and the short of it. The bar graph is the opposite of the overall lengths, and the little Chevy Sprint is our winner. I do like the idea of building a twin-engined all-wheel-drive monster out of the two cars the seller was parting with; It seems like a noble amd terrifying way to die.

Ford introduced the world’s second pony car, the Mustang, on April 17, 1964 (Waitaminnit! Second, you say? Yes, Plymouth beat them to market by two weeks with the Barracuda). [Editor’s Note: Mark, a Barracuda is a fish. The entire concept of “Pony Car” came from the Mustang, which, per all the scientific equine research papers I’ve been reading, is basically a pony. -DT]. It was an immediate success, and left crosstown rival GM without a competing vehicle for a couple of years, until September 29, 1966, when Chevy unveiled the Camaro. When asked what a “Camaro” was, a GM product manager replied, “A small vicious animal that eats Mustangs.”

And they’ve been at each other’s throats ever since.

For a long time, used Camaros and Mustangs were performance car bargains, a good way to get some cheap thrills in a reasonably stylish package (sometimes more stylish, sometimes less, depending on the era). But now that early examples of both cars are considered classics, and even the ’80s Fox-body Mustangs and third-generation Camaros are starting to creep up in price, kicks just keep getting harder to find, as the old song goes. [Editor’s Note: I have no idea which song Mark is referring to, here. -DT]

But at the moment, twenty-something-year-old examples of either car are right at the bottom of their depreciation curve, so there are still some to be found for our meager budget. We’ll have to settle for six-cylinders; V8s either don’t run or cost too much. Let’s take a look at one of each.

Ride, Sally, Ride – 1999 Ford Mustang – $2,495

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.8 liter V6, 5 speed manual, RWD

Location: Tacoma, WA

Odometer reading: 216,000 miles

Runs/drives? We can assume

This is a fourth-generation Mustang, the first year of the “New Edge” refresh. Like all Mustangs before it, and quite a few after, it’s about as complicated a machine as a C-clamp. Sit down, stomp on the right pedal, do something antisocial. While not as raucous as its V8-powered stablemates, the 3.8 liter “Essex” V6 in this car received a serious power bump for 1999, up to 190 horses. Particularly when backed by a T-5 manual as in this car, it can still manage some mischief. But it’s also tractable enough to drive every day.

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And personally, I think the New Edge Mustang is a sharp-looking car, much better than the blobby mess that preceded it. This one looks well-used, but reasonably well-kept. It’s got a lot of miles, and coming from a buy-here-pay-here lot, probably not much written history.

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Inside, a cheap parts-store seat cover and some missing cruise control buttons on the steering wheel show the miles, but it could be a lot worse. You could probably rely on this car as a daily driver, if an inspection didn’t turn up any surprises.

Donuts On Your Lawn – 2000 Chevrolet Camaro – $2,250

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.8 liter V6, 4 speed automatic, RWD

Location: Houston, TX

Odometer reading: 104,000 miles

Runs/drives? Great, according to the seller

Camaros always seem to end up one notch scruffier than Mustangs. I don’t know if it’s because they get driven harder, or cared for less well, or if GM’s materials just get grubby-looking faster than Ford’s. But looking at this Camaro, compared to the Mustang above, you’d never guess it had half as many miles on it.

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Mechanically, it’s at least as tough, if not tougher. In 1996, GM began using the Buick-derived corporate 3800 V6 as the base engine in the Camaro and sister model Pontiac Firebird, and it was a nice bump in power and refinement from the older 3.4 liter V6. This one is backed by an automatic; I tried to find a manual Camaro so we could compare apples to apples, but no dice.

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This poor Camaro has suffered some questionable modifications, namely the aftermarket taillights and those awful wheels and rubber-band tires. But it’s standard five-lug GM, so you can replace them with just about anything. It has also been booped in the nose, and the seller settled for replacing the bumper skin with a mismatched junkyard unit and leaving the sheetmetal damage alone.

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Still, it’s intact and drivable, and if the seller is to be believed, runs really well. And like the Mustang, the Camaro is designed and intended to be “just a car,” not some precious exotic plaything. You can use a Camaro as your only car if you want; it will carry groceries as well as any minivan, and the six-cylinder models even get reasonable gas mileage. Sure, some plastic stuff will break, but the basic core of the car is stout.

Really, these two cars are almost interchangeable, except for a little brand loyalty. The Mustang is a little smaller and sportier; the Camaro has a hatchback and a bit more bad-boy reputation. Which one suits you better?


Images: Sellers
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76 Responses

  1. I reluctantly voted for the stang and I’m not happy about it. That generation of Mustang is the main reason I am not attracted American made cars. Everything about it is terrible, the interior is ugly and cheap, handles and rides like poo, the styling is ugly at best, and it ain’t fast. They are peak rich high school kid whose parents bought them a new car and they think it’s the shit because they know nothing about cars. But it’s better than the clapped out slushbox camaro.

    Thanks for ruining my morning

  2. That Camaro looks ready for the junkyard. You’d also have to undo whatever is going on with the wheels/suspension.

    The Mustang is a shitbox, but looks great compared to that Camaro. Both have a shitty V6, so rather have the MT than the slushbox.

  3. I would much rather have a 200k mile car that was daily driven than a 100k mile car that was treated like that Camaro. To paraphrase John Hiatt: She lived 10 lifetimes in 20 years, anywhere the law would allow.

  4. Mustang easily.

    Everyone’s covered the main points already, but I’d add that the base Mustangs of the era had basically the same running gear as the GTs minus the powertrain. And possibly the sounds badass but isn’t really “quadra shock” setup at the back.

    Big thing here then is the brakes.

  5. There was a cheaper Camaro with a stick in the Seattle CL yesterday I think (could have been a couple days ago, this has been a hellacious week). It had a misfire though, and I’m looking at pictures of the engine bay and remembering how famously bad it is to change the plugs on those.

    Stang all the way.

  6. I’ve owned both (’96 Camaro with the 3.4 POS, 2000 Mustang GT auto and ’04 GT manual). Run, don’t walk, away from the Camaro. I can hear the plastics (body panels and interior) falling apart through the picture. The 3.8 is the only redeemable thing about that car. And with the V6 Mustang, only small trees and crowds of children will be in danger at a C&C event.

  7. This one is tough for me. My username would generally indicate the Camaro. However looking that makes me realize why I won’t let mine go. I don’t want it to end up like that.

    The Mustang won for the better shape, with the higher mileage. I will work as is or I can look into a period correct V8 upgrade.

    1. Absolutely. The junkyard insanity you could shove in there and the manual make it a no-brainer. Plus, at least the buy here pay here lot appears to have detailed it. That Camaro needs a wash, poor. Thing.

  8. That Camaro doesn’t even have T-tops! That’s really the only reason you’d buy one of those because it has no other redeeming virtues. Impossible to work on (the engine is under the windshield, not under the hood), Tesla-quality interior, not really a great driving car.

    At least the equivalent Firebird has the Monsoon radio and an extra cupholder in the passenger side door (and only the passenger side, not the driver side door for some reason). I don’t know why they didn’t put a cupholder in both doors. it also has different seats with separate headrests.

    If it had T-tops, I might have given it more consideration. Therefore, I voted Mustang.

    1. The 98 did have the Monsoon option. There is cup holder in the center console and swing out for the passenger.

      Also T-Tops are great as long as you put the shades on hot sunny days unless you want an EZ-Bake Oven.

    1. Well, this series IS called “Shitbox Showdown” so the title should clue you in that the desirability factor is likely to be very low or even zero.

      So really, it’s about which shit sandwich will make you gag less, not which one you really want to eat.

  9. Author’s notes to the editor’s notes:

    1. Yes, I know a barracuda is a fish. Had the Mustang been a flop, we might be calling them “fish cars” now, which admittedly doesn’t have the same ring to it.

    2. Paul Revere and The Raiders, “Kicks,” released in 1966.

  10. I like them both, but I’d take the Mustang for it’s manual transmission. And the Camaro looks donk-ified. They don’t normally ride that high. But no V8s, I cried! Then I thought about spending $25 to fill up my *motorcycle* this morning. Suddenly a V6 is more appealing.

    If either of those were sitting on my neighbors lawn, surrounded by empty beer cans, with a for sale sign in the window, it would be mine.

  11. 1. We are polar opposites where SN95 Mustangs are concerned- I greatly prefer the 94-98’s, especially the early ones with the Windsor 5.0L.
    2. Generally, I’d choose the F-body over the Stang, although I’ve owned a couple ’69 fastbacks and consider that to be among the most beautiful of all pony cars.
    3. In this comparo though, the Mustang wins hands-down. Manual equipped over the snore-inducing 4L60E, not to mention the Camaro looks like it’s a hurricane refugee. Not that I’d want that V6 pony, but it’s a much better option than the Camaro.

  12. Not a fan of either of these appropriately named shit boxes but my feelings
    1. Chose the Camaro over Mustang because rather hang with beer drinking rednecks than coffee swelling metrosexuals, not that there is anything wrong with that.
    2. I thought the pony car term was derived from the equine family Mustang that included an admission that the car was so poorly underpowered they had to pony for pony powered because well it was a girl’s car.
    3. Definitely any foreign car would be my choice over these as both were made to throwaway after the warranty.

        1. Well the coffee-drinking metrosexuals deserves that. Especially as I was sitting on the porch drinking beer with my boyfriend when I read it. Pretty sure he had The Judds playing as well. I love stereotypes, don’t you?

          This guy just loves being a douchebag for some reason.

          1. Wow was drinking beer with my boyfriend when I posted. Seems okay to make Mohawk wearing rednecks driving Comeras or rolling coal comments but not anything about a perfect cars and coffee comment. You think that might be because the new generation is just as bigoted but doesn’t accept it when it applies to them?
            Frankly I am an old obese pollock who grew up with the last name Horchak during the welcome back Kotter days. As long as you don’t hit me from behind or with an actual weapon it really doesn’t matter to me.

  13. I wanted to vote Camaro here as it was my first car but holy hell, no. There’s no way that thing only has 104k miles, None. You’d have to spend at least a month wrenching just to get it to the point of that Mustang. It maybe $250 cheaper but that’s a $250 investment I’ll gladly make!

  14. Honestly neither because V6, but if I had to pick I’ll go with the Stang, just like I did in early 2004 when I did this debate but with V8 cars. The Mustang is just an easier car to live with.

  15. ‘Stang by a country mile. Any car with 200k on the clock that still presents that well must have been well cared for, plus it’s a proper five speed. The Camaro is…oh, lord. It’s destined for the afterlife. GM plastic breaks if you look at it cockeyed, so I can only imagine what kind of creaking and groaning you’ll hear in that interior while bouncing around on those ridiculous 22s. I don’t even want to think about the kind of sorry state its suspension components must be in.

  16. One of my friend’s mom’s owned one of those Mustangs when we were growning up. She was a schoolteacher and the most mild-mannered passive woman you’d ever imagine meeting. Absolutely the last person you’d suspect of demanding a Rustang as their commuter car. The Rustang has hidden depths. The Camaro is a high-school hero that still thinks it can throw a football over those mountains.

    In the end it’s just that manual transmission. I’d rather have an automatic Camry than either.

  17. I’ve always preferred GM over Ford, having driven a lot of Holdens in my time. I’m pretty familiar with the Buick 3800, having had it under the bonnet of a couple of my old Commodores.

    …I’ll take the Mustang, thanks.

  18. If it were a straight apples-to-apples comparison (mileage/transmission/damage), I think this era’s Camaro has a little edge on styling over the Mustang. That said, the mileage (accurate?) can’t save how ragged out the Chevy is. The awful wheels are icing on the rancid cake. The Mustang actually starts looking like a decent car for $2500, but you’d have to force me to take it.

  19. Mustang. My first wife had a ’95 Firebird with a V6 and automatic, and it was… fine. But it had T-tops and it was only two years old and thus in much, much, much better shape than this F-body. Still, way too plasticky. I would indeed like a WS6 Trans Am of this vintage, but this ain’t that.

  20. This was a coin toss – The Mustang does look cared for, but only because it’s from a dealership. There’s a good chance it looked a lot like the Camaro before it got detailed.

    Weren’t we going to get “Triumph Spitfire” as a permanent third option? I would vote for that.

  21. Mustang by a mile. It’s far less clapped than the Camaro and if you’re going to force me to choose a V6 pony car, I’d at least want one with a manual to let me get as much enjoyment as I can from it. I’ve ridden in V6 auto 4th gens before and they’re slooooooow

  22. The Camaro is horrid. The wheels look ridiculous (and probably ride like a Roman chariot), the interior looks like it hasn’t been vacuumed since the early 90s (and yes, I’m aware it is a 2000), half of the body panels are damaged and/or falling off, and the aftermarket tail lights look like they should sell for $4 on whatever the Kentucky version of Craigslist is. All together, that car looks like it is owned and driven by a mildly successful meth dealer who likes to sample his product. That Camaro should be burned, although I’d recommend not inhaling the smoke.

    I’d go for the Mustang.

  23. Engine to engine, I’d definitely say the 3800 wins heavily over the Ford…but that car is beyond beat to shit.

    Pulling up the Craigslist ad, I am actually surprised it isn’t spelled “Camero”, nor does it say anywhere “Very fast”, as is almost requisite for a V6 4th gen Camaro.

    “Runs and drives great
    Only 104,000 miles
    6 cyl 3.8 engine Corbett engine
    Have some dents and scratches (see pictures)
    Clean title
    20-22 inc chrome wheels”

    What is a “3.8 engine Corbett engine”?

    Does it have two different size wheels…or do they legitimately not know what size wheel they are?

    What about it is “Classic”? Legally it’s not even there (yet).

  24. Even though I’m a Ford guy, I picked the Camaro. When they were both respectively redesigned, Ford had a concept drawing very similar to the car they’re building right now but they passed it up for this jelly bean girly looking piece of crap. Chevy absolutely nailed the camaro. I have owned one, it had a ton of miles on it. I bought it for $200 because the owner said it needed a motor. It didn’t need an engine it needed a $30 engine relay. He was not happy when I drove it out of his yard. One of the best chassis that General Motors built to that point other than the Corvette.

  25. Having owned a 2002 Mustang GT with the stick, I voted Camaro. Never driven one, but anything has to be better than that Mustang. It had power, sure, but it actively resisted any spirited driving. The stick was terrible and the handling sucked.

    Looking at these 2 examples, the Mustang is probably the better car, but I just can’t.

  26. None of the above this time.
    I’d take a rattle-canned ‘85 Sentra before this pair.
    Mainly because my only reason for owning either would be a 3-pedal v8 for shenanigans, so I’d default to my standard lightweight tossable shitbox if I can’t check both boxes.

  27. I guess the Mustang? It has a ton of miles and BHPH dealers are the absolute scummiest scummy used car dealerships, but that Camaro looks like shit. At least I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in that Mustang. The stick also give its smidge of enthusiast cred in an otherwise forgettable car.

  28. The GM 3.8 is a better engine than the Ford 3.8, but that Camaro is BEAT. Plus it’s the ugliest Camaro body style ever, by far. Then you couple it to an automatic, and NOPE NOPE NOPE! I fully expected based on the title to choose the Camaro, but nah dude, the Mustang is the clear choice here. Anybody who picked the Camaro must own an “I’d rather push a Chevy than drive a Ford” trucker cap.

  29. These are great grocery getter cars. Despite having practically a car lot at the house, we always drive the 2000 V-6 Mustang to Walmart.

    Truth is, I’m driving it more often now that the truck is back in the shop to get the carb fixed (again).

    I don’t hate it. I’m a Ford guy, but honestly it’s about the last Ford I’d have chosen (one above the Windstar).

    I voted for the Mustang, but I find it disappointing that it’s at a BHPH lot.

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