Shots were fired on April 17, 1964. A battle was started, but not the kind we typically think of: it was the Pony Car War. Now, rivalries in America aren’t new. Just like Coke and Pepsi, Yankees and Red Sox, Ed Sullivan and pretty much every guest on his show. Just like all rivalries, the Mustang vs. Camaro has its own unique story. Here’s the tale:
1964 World’s Fair, the stage was set. Ford knew their new “small car” would make waves, so what better venue to debut an instant classic than the exciting World’s fair? The new “Mustang” was a car that appealed to everyone, it was affordable, it was efficient, it was stylish, and it was fast. Chevrolet was caught completely off guard and had no idea what to do! They only had the pricey Corvette, and the Corvair, which was unsafe at any speed. They took 3 years to respond, but they fired back. For in 1967, the Chevrolet Camaro was unveiled, and they created another American icon with the same formula as the Mustang.
Now these two had it in for each other from the beginning. For every groundbreaking option Ford had, Chevy had to one up it. For every performance variant Ford released for the Mustang, Chevy would be right behind. It was the late 60’s and the performance car wars were in full effect in Detroit. Some great cars were made from this rivalry, including the legendary Boss 302. Even in the 70’s, when “classy style” was prominent in cars, Chevy and Ford both offered luxury versions of the pony cars in the Mustang Ghia and Camaro Berlinetta (history please forget these models). The late 70’s were a terrible time for performance cars as emissions put a leash on the sporty capabilities the engines could produce, and the gas crisis made V8 engines less appealing. So by the time the 80’s came around, it was almost a shock that the two cars had survived! The Mustang had been redesigned with a very conservative boxy styling that was a dramatic difference from the Mustang II, and the Camaro had become a more squared-off version of the design that debuted in 1970. However, Ford had something that Chevy didn’t, the 5.0L V8.
The new 5.0 engine made the Mustang a hit! Journalists at the time considered the fox-body Mustang a future classic with endless modification possibilities. This legendary status has been cemented by today’s standards, and even the turbocharged SVO shares the historical status of its naturally aspirated counterparts.
The 90’s were similar to the 80’s in terms of power and new styling available on the Mustang, but the Camaro continued the evolution of the T-top style design. The 4.6L V8 that replaced the “5.0” was introduced in 1996, and new models like the SVT Cobra provided more performance as a competitor to the Camaro SS. By the early 2000’s, the Camaro’s days were numbered and in 2002 production ended. The Mustang soldiered on competing against new rivals alone, with a legacy as the only surviving muscle car in production (until the 2004 Pontiac GTO showed up, but that’s another story).
When Ford unveiled the reto-designed 2005 Mustang, Chevy immediately felt the same blow that hit them in 1964. Chevy’s designers went back to the drawing board and created the 2006 Camaro Concept, which later went into production for 2010. The Pony Wars were back, and in true tradition, each version kept one-upping the other. GT vs SS, 1LE vs. Boss 302, ZL1 vs. GT500. As long as these two cars are on the market, they’ll be competing for the greatest titles out there. Even Chevrolet recognized the 50th Anniversary of the Camaro’s nemesis as a landmark for decades of improvement for both brands, and wished the Mustang a happy birthday. “Here’s to another 50 years of rivalry. Your friend, Camaro”… we hope so too! Not because we love watching Camaro’s through our rear-view mirror, but because we recognize the improvements to muscle cars that were birthed from good, old fashioned competition. Now that the 2015 Mustang is out, your move Camaro.