Then vs. Now: 1971 Chevrolet Camaro SS vs. 2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS

Patrick M. Hoey

Joe Montana or Tom Brady? Madonna or Lady Gaga? The first love or the new flame? It’s in our nature to look in the rearview mirror, to measure the brightness of the present against the best of the past. It’s no different with car enthusiasts. For all the areas in which automobiles have improved—safety, performance, efficiency, reliability—they still live in the shadow of the past. The great thing about cars, though, is that we don’t have to rely solely on our memories. We’ll never know how twenty-eight-year-old Michael Jordan would have fared against twenty-eight-year-old LeBron James, but we can find well-kept classic cars—the icons that enthusiasts worship—and pit them against their modern equivalents. That’s just what we did with these matchups. It’s throttle cables versus direct injection. AM radios versus infotainment screens. Old-car patina versus new-car smell. So, was it really better then? Come back next Thursday for the next entry in this series.

We’re staring at the taillights of a 2014 Camaro SS 1LE through the green-tinted windshield of a 1971 Camaro SS as we drive along the Atlantic coast in Satellite Beach, Florida. For fifty years, pony cars like these have let middle-class Americans tap into a level of performance usually attached to a high price.

This ’71 is optioned with a 402-cubic-inch V-8, an automatic transmission, a Positraction rear end, and upgraded front and rear suspension components—serious hardware that bumped up the price almost $2000, to $5175. That was just within reach for Kevin McKeown, then a college dropout and eventually a Green Beret commander. He convinced his mother to cosign on the loan and has owned the sunflower yellow SS ever since.

The big-block ’71 Camaro looks and drives like it’s fresh from the showroom, which isn’t high praise. Acceleration is weak, impeded by a mild 3.42:1 final-drive ratio and a V-8 with 300 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, figures that seem to exist only in ink (indeed, the numbers dropped to 240 hp and 345 lb-ft in 1972, when Chevrolet switched from gross to net ratings). The body sways in slow-speed turns, even with the tighter suspension setup, and we can’t feel the front tires through the thin-rimmed steering wheel.

The 2014 Camaro SS 1LE has the same mission as the old SS, but its execution is dramatically different. Its 426-hp V-8 with 420 lb-ft of torque is responsive and punchy at all points in the rev range. The chassis, upgraded for the 1LE trim level with larger anti- roll bars, retuned dampers, and Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires, is planted and easily controlled in high-speed corners. The 1LE costs about half of what you’d spend on the pricey new Z/28 but is three-quarters the car. It would’ve been science fiction in 1971. If it had existed and cost only ten percent more than a base SS, we would’ve sold a kidney and two toes to get the extra cash.

It’s fantastic that pony cars still exist and that so much performance is available to enthusiasts at such a low cost. If the guy who bought an SS in the ’70s felt excited, the guy buying a 1LE today should be downright, straight-out stoked.

1971 Chevrolet Camaro SS2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE
Engine6.6L V-8, 300 hp, 400 lb-ft6.2L V-8, 426 hp, 420 lb-ft
Transmission3-speed automatic6-speed manual
Curb Weight3300 lbs3860 lbs
Price$3261 ($18,800 after inflation)$37,850
Value Today:$20,000-$30,000
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Mahi Orton
Bumble bee
Sanjay Udaya
Christian Schmidt
71 anything after the early 70s is General Manure cr@p.
buy a 71 junker and become friends with Mark Stielow. Though I bet that will cost you more than  a new z/28.
beautiful machines-both! However,the new Camaro is hardly a pony car anymore. 500 pounds heavier and bigger in every dimension. I had a 1969 Z28 that I would consider a true pony. Too bad I live in the past.
Vrushank Bhor
Need for speed.....
love them both
Marc Hamady
Michael Anderson
HeNil SavAni
Adam Ariff
71 '
José Luis Vargas Aceves
I'd rather a 70 with the 350 LT-1 360 hp from the Corvette
Rachel Stickler Stover
Why choose, have both!
Akeem Broderick
Like it
Neeraj Pandey
:) :O
Bubba Locklair
Christopher Joseph Campbell
Chingiz Eldaroglu
Seid Huseynzade,Check this Page out, bro!
Kevin Holmberg
The one Wing some age o nota Wheels
Jam Durv
Brian Schneider
Pick the classic the original has no feel
Don TheBon
Now. Like my 2014 RS!
Tyler Shimp
That 71 all day long.
Jimmy Pham
'71...That would fetch some money at auction
Jayapriyan Jp
I like it
71, and the interior hasn't changed much except for the 2014 is slightly worse. 
Bob Powell
Lew Chung Yuen
Vroom let fire up the beast engine USA muscle heart pump out horse power tackle rival haha im the king of the world Thank God.
Paul Graziano
Which one would I choose? Def the 71...
Naveen Ghanghas
superb car it
Jeremy Collins
Dylan Telson
1971 anyday
Sathiya Seelan Text
I love camaro...
Ronny Phukon
Red Macalla
Rob Eckaus
Having driven and tracked an SS, 1LE and ZL1, I would pick the '71 over an SS.
Vihans Yadav
Rakul Kumar
Rakul Kumar
Mike Dewsberry
Then. The now looks too faggoty, superficial and fake. The old because it has that come and get you an ass whipping look not do you wanna buy some girl scout cookies Mr.?????
Brian Michael
Neither. All GM :poop:
Jeremy Fye
The 71, its the only Camaro gen that I like.
Scott Schlossberg
Paul Barkevich
A 1970 with high compression!
Bryan James
Joe Dominic
Saijo Simon
My favourite camaro
Lee Klein
Is that really a question?
Aniruddha Ghosh
Camaro nw

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