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Have your Camaro Cake and eat it too!

August 26th, 2009

CamaroGrandBend.jpg

To some people ‘a car is just a car’. Turn it on, drive it, trust it, clean it in the spring and fall. All the while, pay the payments and funnel your hard-earned Loonies into the fuel tank.

I suspect these days there is a higher ratio of car owners that fit into that category than those who fall in love with a car or truck, want for it through bouts of car fever then purchase either an extension of their personality or a reflection of who they want to be.

I can’t help but feel that the ‘car nut’, the person who takes gobs of pride in what he or she drives, is on the decline. Understandable in a way. Most of today’s fun cars miss the boat when it comes to the ownership equation… they are either too expensive, too fuel thirsty, temperamental or not practical. So why not just drone on behind the wheel of a nondescript people mover?

What about the slew of automotive nameplates out there? With literally hundreds of makes and models on the market even someone immersed in the world of cars and trucks is pressed keeping names and models straight. Let alone decide on one they can fall in love with.

Some manufacturers, like BMW and Mercedes, do it with numbers and letters. There are 545, 745 and 335 BMW models where the first number obviously designates the body size and the last two digits tell the thousand and hundred digit of the cubic centimeter displacement of the engine. Mercedes Benz uses a combo of letters and numbers to reflect body and engine. Then there’s letters, ‘T” usually means turbo, ‘D’ is a diesel and ‘S’ stands for ‘sport’, whatever that means.

There are car names that mean nothing at all, invented words like Acura, Lexus and Lumina. Cars named after real things like Rogue, Durango, Pathfinder, Quest or Yukon are easier to remember.

“Hey, the rogue I met in Durango last week was really a pathfinder bent on a quest to find a shortcut to the Yukon.” A whole fleet etched into one easy-to-remember sentence.

Seems falling in love with a Rabbit is more likely than with an SRX or a Q45.

When I was a young car nut, the Pony car invasion hit with a vengeance. Affordable, fast and fancy with plenty of personality, they captured the attention of a generation ready to make a statement about freedom and individuality. They were strapping into Mustangs, Barracudas, Cougars, Javelins and Camaros in hordes.

In 1968, as a university sophomore, twin brother Larry and I purchased a year-old 1967 Mustang. With a 335 horse, 390 V8 and a 4-speed stick, our blood red GT fastback was constantly prowling for other Ponies to fluff its feathers at.

Most of the Pony cars have run their ranges but the Mustang has lived for 45 years. Although the Chevrolet Camaro went out of production in the 2002 model year, the iconic Chevy is back in the showrooms again; bold, beautiful and state of the art.

I had the good fortune to get my hands on one for a few days last month while developing a driving program in southern Ontario. That spelled about 2,500 kilometres of backroad Ontario over a three-day period that resulted in plenty of rubbernecking while on the move and lots of Camaro talk whenever we stopped anywhere.

When I first climbed aboard, errr slipped on, the drop dead gorgeous Camaro, I felt 20 years younger. It was cozy in the cockpit sitting low, feeling as if I were in a private world. I’m usually a V-8 guy but the 3.6 litre V-6 with 304 horses is one six cylinder that could wrap its tailpipes around many of the V-8 pony cars of yesteryear.

Fuel economy might not be the first thing you think of when you see this Camaro, but with a cruising consumption of only 6.8 L/100 km, it’s right in step with cars like the V6 Toyota Camry and the V6 Honda Accord.

So with Chevy offering such impressive performance and fuel economy in a car like the 2010 Camaro, folks don’t have to pass up their fantasy ride because of the guilt usually associated with having your cake and eating it too.

Perhaps the new Camaro is the tip of the iceberg in a trend that will let people fall in love with vehicles they desire, which are affordable and are fun to drive.

And with GM’s Oshawa plant running overtime building the new Camaro, it seems there are more drivers out there who don’t think ‘a car is just a car’.

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