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First Camaro lights up Woodward Dream Cruise

Aug 17, 2016

DETROIT, MI - The Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) illuminated glass showcase containing the very first Camaro built in 1966 will light up Woodward Dream Cruise from Wednesday, August 17th through Saturday, August 20th.

The special exhibition celebrates Camaro's 50th anniversary and introduction of the Camaro model that took place in Detroit in August 1966. The first Camaro built is also being recognized as No. 15 on the HVA National Historic Vehicle Register program in partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) to be archived in Library of Congress. The exhibition is part of an HVA public heritage program launched on the National Mall in Washington, DC in April where President Taft's 1909 White Steam Car and President Reagan's 1962 Willys Jeep CJ-6 were similarly displayed and honored.

The opening ceremony of the exhibit will take place at 11:00 am on Wednesday with an official "Lighting Ceremony" to follow at 8:30 pm. The Lighting Ceremony celebration is free and open to the public. The exhibit will be illuminated until midnight each night through Saturday.

"This first Chevrolet Camaro launched one of the greatest rivalries in automotive history with the Ford Mustang," said Mark Gessler, President of the HVA. "That rivalry is still alive and well fifty years later and we are here at the Woodward Dream Cruise with a public exhibition to celebrate where it all began."

The first Camaro built is owned by 18 year-old Logan Lawson of Hutchinson, Kansas. Logan found the car online in Oklahoma when he was in the seventh grade. Logan's father inspected the car and completed the purchase. Over the next five years Logan and his father completed extensive research on this and the 52 other pilot prototypes and returned the Camaro to its launch day debut specifications.

From 1966 to 2011, the car passed through several owners and dealerships with the distinction of being a very early Camaro, possibly even the first. It was built up as a drag racer before Logan Lawson purchased the car. Author Phillip Borris helped confirm the Norwood, Ohio pilot production build records and researcher Jamie Schwartz contacted the families of the prior owners to fill in the history.

About VIN 123377N100001

The first Camaro built was completed at the GM Assembly Plant in Norwood, Ohio on May 21, 1966. It was the first of 52 pilot prototypes produced, 49 at Norwood and three more produced in Los Angeles. The car is a base model with the 140 hp 230 ci. inline 6-cylinder engine. The seat belts, wheel covers and whitewall tires were the options present on the first Camaro built. Base price for the new Camaro: $2,466.

Three Flavors

Here is a flashback from a period advertisement of how Chevrolet marketed the three versions of the Camaro.

"Camaro-about-town. The sport coupe. Buckets. Carpeting. Fully-synchronized 3-speed. Very civilized Six. Safety features like dual master cylinder brake system with warning light. Especially nice for wife-types.

Country-club-Camaro. Rally Sport with hideaway headlights and standard V8, 210 hp. Add custom interior, Powerglide, console, wheel covers, vinyl roof cover, stereo tape system. Decorate right front seat suitably.

Camaro the Magnificent. SS Convertible, now available with 396 cu. in. 325 hp! Bulging hood, striped nose, red stripe tires all come. You order the 4-speed, front disc brakes. Positraction and such. At your Chevrolet dealers."


Ford spent years teasing the public with show cars and concepts that hinted at the anticipated Mustang. GM, by contrast, revealed nothing about the Camaro until the car's name announcement on June 9, 1966 which meant "comrade or pal" according to GM. The formal Detroit launch took place in August 1966. Dealers had cars within a month. Boom.

Gold Luck

During the 1960s General Motors would often launch a production line with the first car painted gold. This was probably the case for the first Camaro built with the order for special "show paint" in Granada Gold with gold vinyl seats and gold carpeting. Six generations of Camaros are proof it was lucky. In 2016 the color looks appropriate as we celebrate Camaro's golden anniversary.

Camaro Makes Podium

We know the Camaro is popular but just how popular? With over one million collector car vehicles insured in the United States, Hagerty ranks the Camaro third in overall popularity. The most popular collector car is the Chevrolet Corvette followed by the Ford Mustang.

Why Woodward

According to Mark Gessler, "The Woodward Dream Cruise is one of the greatest automotive heritage events in the world. It's a great place to tell the story of the first Camaro, a model deeply imbedded in American automotive culture. With this exhibition we are hoping to build a strong public memory of how the iconic Camaro model launched 50 years ago."

From 50 Years to 500

The first Camaro built spent much of the summer at the HVA National Laboratory in Allentown, Pennsylvania. While there the vehicle was extensively photographed in the HVA state-of-the-art studio and a documentary was created. In addition, with staff from HAER, the Camaro was 3D scanned to for precise line drawings of the exterior to be produced. When complete the documentation such as film negatives, drawings and historic narrative will be provided to the HAER program and archived by the Library of Congress in a manner meant to last 500 years.

Local Heritage and Global Reach

The HVA showcase exhibit of the first Camaro is presented in cooperation with the City of Birmingham, Michigan, GM Heritage Center and is part of the MotorCities National Heritage Area partnership which inspires residents and visitors with an appreciation of how the automobile changed culture. The exhibition is further recognized by FIVA (Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Ancien) as part of World Motoring Heritage Year under the patronage of UNESCO.

First Camaro lights up Woodward Dream Cruise

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