Chevy wheeled out the first Camaro in the middle of the model year 1966, at the same time Dodge was offering the first generation Charger and Ford was rolling deep with over 600,000 sales of the Mustang. Diving into the market was risky, so Chevy took a novel approach. The first generation Camaros came with a salad bar of options and trim packages, with the idea that at least some of them would be popular enough to keep around and grow the line from in time. First generation buyers could opt in for the coupe or the convertible, which came with an inline-6 powerplant in 230 or 250 cubic inches. Foreshadowing the muscle contest to follow, Chevy also offered 302, 307, 327 and 350 V8s, and then just for the heck of it, they also shoved a 396 V8 into the premium power models on the off chance anybody was nuts enough to want that. Trim packages ranged from the conventional, ho-hum standard model to the Super Sport, Rally Sport and, in 1967, the Z28.
Camaros liked playing with fire from the beginning. The Super Sports, for example, were generally silver-and-black, with an aggressive “SS” flash on the front grill. Chevy didn’t actually put a skull and crossbones icon on the hood or advertise itself as a final solution for morning commutes, but the design choices hinted at a rebel outlaw attitude that went pretty well with the 6.8-liter insane asylum under the hood. When the Z28s came out – for car customers who felt the Rally Sport street-(barely)legal racecars were for old ladies – the even more aggressive styling became distinctive racing stripes and a broad, predatory ram scoop for the hood that did absolutely nothing for air intake, but made the car look like an orbital battle station on the prowl. To Chevy’s surprise, the market loved everything they were offering. Over 800,000 first generation Camaros would be sold before the 1970 redesign.