1967 - 1969 Camaro Parts - The Great Camaro - Designers at work Part 1 - Steves Camaro Parts San Bruno - 650-873-1890




Designers at Work

Word had come down in early August, 1964, that there would be a Chevrolet sporty car for 1967 to challenge the Mustang, directly. General Motors now realized that the 1965 Corvair couldn’t match the Mustang’s engine and option versatility.

The news pleased Chevy general manager Bunkie Knudsen mightily, and GM’s Design Staff, as mentioned, had been hoping for just such an opportunity and wasn’t caught at all unprepared.  The man with overall charge of the F-Car’s styling was GM design vice president William L. Mitchell.  Mr. Mitchell, now retired, also oversaw the second-generation Camaro’s styling – the 1970 1/2’s – and he makes no bones about which version he likes best.  “The 1970 ½ Camaro,” he says, “it is a designer’s design; but that first series was designed by committee.”

 What Mitchell means is that certain specification for the 1067 Camaro were laid down early by Chevrolet engineers and management to accommodate the practicality of the 1968 Chevy II.  While the Camaro came first and did get the major styling and engineering emphasis, everyone realized that the Camaro had to be the specialty car, and the Chevy II had to be the volume seller.  Thus the new 1968 Chevy II could and did dictate certain terms and conditions to the Camaro design team.

Two of the compromised dimensions that left the Camaro’s designers less than ecstatic were:  1) the tallness of the cowl, and 2) the short dash-to-front-axle span.  Comments David M. Holls, then Chevrolet group chief designer. “We were a little unhappy with those dimensions, but they were just requirements -  a tooling requirement and a cost consideration.”

The Camaro’s chief designer for both the first and second generation was Henry C. Haga. Haga reported to David Holls, who in turn reported to Chevrolet/Pontiac executive designers Charles M. Jordan and Irvin W. Rybicki.  All, of course, had a good deal to do with the Camaro’s eventual shape, but most of the actual drawing board work and clay modeling came out of Henry Haga’s Chevrolet Studio Two.

As it happened, that particular studio also had responsibility for the design of the re-bodied 1968 Corvette.  Haga had helped productionize  the 1965 corvai, and he’d been instrumental in styling the Super Nova showcar.  So all three – Corvette, Corvair, and Super Nova – influenced the Camaro’s design.

Henry Haga was working as design director for Opel in Germany when we contacted him for his remembrances of the F-Car’s early styling development.  Haga wrote back a long, very informative letter detailing his involvement with not only the first-generation Camaro but also the second. He headed the design teams that created both cars.  Here are parts of Haga’s letter:

“To start with, the men in Chevrolet Studio Two – the designers, modelers, and engineers – were all auto enthusiasts.  We were pretty excited when we found out we had a chance to design and all-new, 4-place sporty car that would eventually compete with the Ford Mustang.”

The General Motors design theme of that era was termed fluid, and it emphasized a look based on an interesting proposition. The GM theory held that if you take a heavy wire frame and bend it into the basic 3-demensional outline of the car you want, then stretch thin canvas over the frame, and if you finally blow compressed air gently up into the bottom of the canvas envelope, you get a very natural, free-flowing, unartifical body shape. This fluid form showed up most strikingly in the 1965 crop of General Motors cars, and it continued as a corporate look for a number of years thereafter.

“The canvas-stretched-over-wire theme,” continues Henry Haga, “served to give the Camaro its own character and separated it from the Mustang approach, which was much stiffer and more angular.”

The 1964 Nova showcar set the first direction for the Camaro-to-be, although it was used only loosely as a model. The Corvette and Corvair also entered into the Camaro’s early styling, as Haga explains further.

“We felt very strongly about reducing design to its simplest form, using only one peak down each body side, interrupted by accented wheel arches.  The profile of the car also was very simple, using the classic approach of crowned fender lines, with their high points directly above the accented wheel arches.

“We purposefully avoided any contrived design lines and superfluous detail. Even the execution of the wide, horizontal-loop front end and grille, with its hidden headlamps in the Rally Sport variant, was as pure in content as we could make it.”

Haga goes on: “The F-car design had one major flaw, though, and that was proportion. The cowl was too high, and the front-wheel location stood too far back; what we call the dash-to-axle ended up too short. Those were areas and dimensions shared with the Chevy II for 1968. Also, the execution of the side rear-quarter window didn’t help the car’s sportiness, because it make it look more like a conventional hardtop then an exotic sports car.


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source special-interest autos, February 1979
This was an excerpt from Mike Lamm's book, The Great Camaro
by Mike Lamm