Ever since the Chevrolet Camaro coupe concept broke cover to become the star of last year's Detroit show, interested observers have been wondering when a convertible would follow. Just as the current-generation Ford Mustang spawned a ragtop, it was simply inconceivable that Chevy wouldn't do thesame for the Camaro, even though the coupe is still a "concept." The convertible is also a neat way of keeping the Camaro buzz alive in advance of the coupe's 2009 production debut. The convertible will hit showrooms late in '09.
Like the coupe concept, this convertible is very close to the production version. Visually, the convertible makes a much bigger splash than the coupe. That's partly due to the retro hugger orange pearl paint job and gunmetal gray racing stripes. Tom Peters, General Motors' director ofexterior design for rear-wheel-drive and performance vehicles, says the idea was to create a more striking package: "We opted to go with bright metal accents, as opposed to satin finish, for things like the exhaust tips and fuel filler, and even the rear lights have a polished look. The wheels are different, too. We wanted to do an update of the redline tires from the 1960s, but instead of the red line going around the tire, it's actually onthe wheels."
Peters says the surface changes to the convertible's body are centered around the rear fenders and the trunk lid. Unlike a pure concept, where designers can do as they please, the convertible has been engineered dimensionally to accept a roof folding into the trunk, hence Peters'insistence that the real thing will look pretty much like the concept. He does allow, though, that the windshield will need to be taller on the production convertible.
The concept's rear seats have been moved inboard, too, in order to accommodate the extra folding-roof hardware. That said, the Camaro concept doesn't yet pack a lid. Interestingly, Peters won't entirely rule out the notion of a folding hardtop. Although it's unlikely, since the extra cost involved would make the Camaro less competitive against its Ford Mustang rival, Chevy could conceivably offer either a ragtop or a folding hard top, as do Mazda (MX-5)and Chrysler (Sebring).
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The creative designer for the Camaro's interior, Micah Jones, says that cars such as Audi's A4 Cabriolet were the benchmark for the Camaro--the Audi features a hinged tonneau that covers the roof once it's stacked in thetrunk. That's not a cheap solution, and as always, the final detail design for the Camaro's mechanism will be driven by cost.
Jones says the interior has been tweaked to reflect the car's open-topped mission: "We wanted a lighter, more airy atmosphere for the cabin, so we went for a light-on-dark color scheme. Jones also mirrors Peters in his assertion that the interior will reach production virtually untouched. It's gorgeous, at least as good a reinterpretation of a '60s theme as that managed by today's Mustang. Here, it's round gauges hiding in square binnacles, a treatment adopted by the first-gen Camaro. For the convertible, the instruments are white-faced with red needles, which is very cool indeed. And while cost will militate against the use of genuine aluminum for thebinnacle surrounds and switchgear, there are cheaper materials that can do a reasonable job of mimicking the effect.
Chevy isn't short of powertrains for the Camaro, and like its coupe sibling, the convertible will be offered with an entry-level V-6 and move up to big-displacement V-8s. It's very likely that high-performance variants to rival the Mustang's GT offerings will also be rolled out, perhaps wearing the legendary SS badge.
Cost will also determine how sophisticated the Camaro's chassis will be. At the moment, designers are specifying four-wheel independent suspension with a multilink rear end and progressive-rate coil springs with gas dampers. Again, this isn't the cheap option. And Chevy's bean counters will point out that the Mustang has managed to be a sales success in spite of its archaic solid rear axle.
That's true, but with two years to go before the Camaro goes on sale, buyers might expect something a bit more special. At least, those buyers who haven't already satisfied their hankering for American muscle with a Mustangor a Dodge Charger.