The Death of The Camaro Will Bless And Curse Its Closest Rival

It’s no secret that the Chevrolet Camaro isn’t long for this world. No matter how hard it fought to mold itself into a genuine driver’s car, it simply couldn’t hold out against the less compromised Mustang and macho Challenger/Charger duo. And while its key competitors soldier on in one form or another after 2024, the Camaro will be laid to rest once again with no following act set in stone as of yet. 

I’ll admit that I’ve come to love and appreciate the Camaro for what it has achieved. Since its revival in 2010, the alternative pony car has gradually transitioned from a ho-hum movie prop to a genuine sports car. The first ZL1 brought big power and the glory of MagneRide handling to the Zeta-platform cars, followed by the more attainable yet similarly capable SS 1LE. Soon after, the Alpha platform brought vastly improved steering, significantly less weight, and a nicer interior with slightly less cumbersome sightlines. 

Whether Blue Oval fanboys like to admit it or not, the outgoing Camaro was an award-winning hero, facing far pricier cars and often leaving non-Shelby Mustangs reeling back to the drawing board.

And yet, despite the victories, it remained a divisive and somewhat unloved product. 

Not everyone could get past its Americanized Gundam styling or its comparatively abysmal practicality. And now, it’s destined to go the way of Hollywood Video as it lives its last days in the shadow of the headline-usurping C8 Corvette. 

I have a lot of friends divided on the subject, with emotions ranging from “sad but understandable” to “good riddance.” But the Camaro deserves more, and its demise will mean something in an already minuscule segment. Competition improves the breed, does it not? So what does that spell for the Tom to Chevy’s Jerry? 

Those in my social circle speculate that Ford could eventually grow lazy and allow their prized pony car to become stagnant with the new-generation Mustang. A few outlets even argue that it might already have. Even for a Blue Oval fan and Mustang owner like myself, it’s not too far-fetched to see why.

After the Camaro passes, the Challenger and Chargers, which had already carved out their own niches for muscle car traditionalists, will transition to all-electrics, leaving the Mustang with no true hometown competitors. Meanwhile, Ford will continue to pride itself on V8 power and shift-it-yourself goodness for as long as possible. While that’s definitely far from a bad thing, such a play likely won’t raise any bars as Ford insists on milking aging platforms for every last drop. After all, the S197’s D2C chassis ran from the 2005 to 2014, while the S550’s underpinnings will trot along from 2015 to 2023. 

Upgrades come and go; engine after engine, facelift after facelift. But the bones stay the same. Come to think, it sounds like Ford has been keeping the Mustang on a tight leash for some time, and some cynics will write off the next generation as some negligible nip-and-tuck, not even worthy of a yawn let alone a glance.

But I beg to differ. We currently live in an era of innovation where choosing evolution over revolution puts you at risk of being labeled as boring and lazy. But it’s the Mustang’s willingness to stretch its known quantities that ironically make it one of the most interesting cars today, and the death of its rival could spur it to even greater heights. 

The 2024 “S650” Mustang takes aim at serious targets, with Ford benchmarking the outgoing Mach 1 and current Toyota Supra. Whether these are benchmarks for the Mustang lineup as a whole or the all-new Dark Horse track special is unknown, but for Ford to set sights on the latter at all brings high hopes for canyon carvers and track rats alike. In a recent interview with Muscle Cars & Trucks, chief engineer, Ed Krenz, even promises “night and day” handling improvements, with better steering and damper tuning.

Part of challenging Asian and European rivals also includes upping your refinement game, so a tidy dashboard with massive digital displays shouldn’t hurt. Having customizable drive modes is also a page ripped right from Bavaria and should broaden the appeal to those wanting tight dynamics without a fat-jiggling ride on torn-up tarmac. 

The fourth generation of the fabled Coyote “Five-Oh” V8 sprouts a second intake and throttle body akin to Ferraris, while the Getrag MT-82 manual makes another bid to earn favors with undisclosed improvements. Dark Horses make do with the GT350 and Mach 1’s Tremec, which I can attest to needing zero fiddling. Power is sky-high, now rubbing shoulders with Scat Pack Mopars and base model M3s, while the Dark Horse grants the Coyote entrance to the Hundred Horsepower Per Liter Club. And the best part is that Ford made no sacrifices to the V8’s acclaimed eagerness to scream with a redline that still garners respect from peers. 

The Mustang isn’t growing stagnant but is merely refining existing architectures and proven ideas in a world where everyone seems to be downsizing, electrifying, or straight-up dying. It’s using modern engineering to prolong fan-favorite powertrains while furthering itself as a driver’s car and simultaneously acting as a time capsule for soon-to-be defunct ideologies. 

I think it’s safe to say that this upcoming iteration of Dearborn’s finest will be okay in the wake of the Camaro’s absence. But that’s not to say we still shouldn’t mourn the loss of a fallen warrior.

The Mustang is the Spike to Chevy’s Viscious, the Raiden to their Sam, and the Dante to their Vergil. It banked on the Camaro’s ferocity to spur its growth into the legitimate sports car that both ponies had become. Thankfully, Ford’s persistence means the loss of the Camaro won’t spell the death of the pony car segment, at least not for the near future. Instead, it will just encourage the Mustang to find another rival to dethrone. Besides, it’s not like they will turn to Dodge for advice on chassis tuning any time soon.

The Chevrolet Camaro will be missed by its collective of faithful loyalists and those who will be tipping their hats in respect to what it accomplished. And the Mustang will soon hurl threats toward challengers across both oceans, but it will do so alone in a much smaller segment, making use of the skills its former sparring partner pushed it to develop as all good old-fashioned rivalries do.

Published in Thoughts and Takes

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