First Look: 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

Thanks to sporadic Facebook teasers and a limited-edition Neiman Marcus edition model, we've already seen the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible in almost its entirety. That didn't, however, stop Chevrolet from dropping a host of details on its new drop-top muscle car before its official debut at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show.

We first laid eyes on a reborn Camaro Convertible at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show, when General Motors teased muscle car fans with a ragtop variant of what was then its latest design concept. Like the coupe, the Camaro Convertible transitioned into production with few major cosmetic revisions. The production car does without the concept's chromed windshield header, slick redline wheels, and enlarged exhaust tips, but is otherwise virtually a line-for-line copy of the earlier show car.

According to GM, a Camaro Convertible was never an afterthought -- the car's structure was reportedly designed from day one to accommodate a topless model, and engineers worked to strengthen the body -- not soften the suspension -- to compensate for the lack of a fixed roof. Camaro Convertible models receive additional structural bracing, including an underhood strut tower brace, a transmission support reinforcement, an underbody tunnel brace, and front-and-rear underbody V braces. To help curtail cowl shake, the A-pillars are reinforced with hydroformed tubing, an inner bracket in the header, strengthened front hinge pillars, and reinforced rockers. All this work pays off -- according to GM, the Camaro Convertible offers torsional rigidity eclipsing that of a BMW 3 Series convertible.

Arguably, engineers had their work cut out for them when it came time to working out the top mechanism -- something designers never fretted over when penning the show car. GM worked to replace conventional aluminum bows and knuckles with composite parts to help retain the coupe's roofline. The power top reportedly stows and deploys in 20 seconds, and is latched via a single, center-mounted handle. Perhaps the best feature of the power top is the ability to raise and lower it while the car is still moving, so you’ll never have to hold up traffic to raise the top during an unexpected cloudburst.

Predictably, a power top mechanism, coupled with the requisite reinforcements, adds roughly 276 pounds to the Camaro's curb weight, but output from both engine offerings remains unchanged. Six-cylinder cars continue to utilize GM's 312-horsepower V-6, while Camaro SS models are fitted with GM's 426-horsepower, 6.2-liter LS3 V-8. Both engines are available with either a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission, but SS cars fitted with the auto will lose 26 horsepower and 10 pound-feet of torque.

Although Camaro coupes are offered in an entry-level LS trim, Camaro Convertibles will only be offered in LT and SS forms. According to GM, an entry-level 1LT convertible stickers at $30,000 (including $850 in destination fees), signifying a $5270 premium over a comparable LT coupe. Pricing for SS models hasn't been announced, but it's expected a V-8 convertible will likely sticker in the neighborhood of $37,000.

We'll know for certain in a few months. Production of the 2011 Camaro Convertible will begin at GM's facility in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada early next year, and early production cars should reach dealers by February.

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