Let me just start with… wow.1989 Chevrolet Camaro IROC concept

A personal favorite
My fondness for this concept stretches back to when it was introduced. While attending high school (yes, way back in the nineteen-hundred and eighties) it wouldn’t have been a stretch to call me a devoted General Motors fan. My first two cars wore bowties: a 1970 Nova, then a 1982 Z28. After that, I was bit by the Pontiac bug which led to a 1985 Trans Am, for car number three.

1988 Banshee and 1989 Camaro conceptsSuffice it to say, I was smitten with GM’s F-bodies through the late ’80s and had been burning with great, albeit premature, anticipation for their fourth-generation iterations. I say premature because those replacements didn’t arrive until the 1993 model year. Even though they were still almost half a decade away, there was much speculation floating about that fanned the flames of curiosity.

As if that fanning wasn’t enough, the equivalent of kerosene was poured onto those flames when the Banshee and Camaro IROC concepts were introduced in 1988 and 1989, respectively. Pontiac’s Banshee, shown above left top, will be covered in a future post so, for now, I want to focus on Chevy’s vision of the future that’s passed.

First, let’s establish our baseline for comparison with a reminder of Camaro’s styling during the late ’80s.

1988 Chevrolet Camaro

The black car pictured above is a production 1988 Chevrolet Camaro. It is a base model, not an IROC, but it was a good profile shot to compare with the concept’s profile, at the top.

1988 Pontiac Trans Am GTA frontThe third generation Camaro was a mostly frills-free, wedge-shaped design with a wide, low stance. Considering how much DNA it shared with the Firebird, designers managed an amazing distinction between the F-body siblings–without the use of whacky gimmicks that can age a vehicle so fast. Firebird’s sexy curves, shown left in GTA guise, were contrasted by Camaro’s formal, linear lines.

However, by the end of the ’80s and going into the ’90s, designs were becoming more fluidic, eschewing flat panels and hard edges in favor of flowing surfaces and bevels with increased radii. The winds of change were blowing and would be used to redefine a new look for a new generation of Camaro.

What’s in a name?
1989 Chevrolet Camaro IROC conceptThe subject concept car for this post goes by three names: its rather blasΓ© title, “Camaro IROC concept;” maybe the most commonly known, “California Camaro;” and its less familiar acronym appellation, “ACC Camaro.”

The first name in that list incorporates the then-current top Camaro model’s “IROC” nomenclature. IROC is an acronym that stands for International Race of Champions. It was a racing competition (started in the early 1970s and ending unceremoniously in 2006) that pitted drivers against each other using mechanically-identical cars. After a prior stint serving as IROC’s racing vehicle in the 1970s, modified Camaros were again used for the competition from 1984 until 1989. That honorable duty spawned the production IROC-Z model for Camaro in 1985 which was available as an option package on Z28 models (IROC Sport Equipment Package “RPO B4Z”). The IROC name was well established and liked by the late 1980s and, with no eminent end to the collaborative work in sight, Chevy saw fit to apply the lofty title to their bright red 1989 concept. Incidentally, when Camaro’s IROC sponsorship ceased in 1989, so did its famously named production model, subsequently returning top-of-the-line honors to Z28.

1989 Chevrolet Camaro IROC concept rear rightThe second and third names listed above are in reference to where the concept car was designed. Historically, a portion of domestic automotive styling has been sourced from outside of America’s car capital. There are various reasons for which that is done but one is that executives and/or designers want to infuse a vehicle with characteristics endemic to a geographic location, such as Germany, Italy or, in this case, the state of California.

Chuck Jordan, GM’s former design chief, placed the task of creating a conceptual Camaro remake in the capable hands of John Shinella. At the time, Mr. Shinella was in charge of GM’s Advanced Concepts Center (ACC) which was located on the 1980’s trend-setting West Coast, in Newbury Park, California. (From that, it becomes obvious how the names “California Camaro” and “ACC Camaro” originated.) Mr. Shinella’s experience had already included heading Pontiac’s design studio which, under his watch, produced big-ticket items such as the Fiero, eighth-generation Bonneville and third-generation Firebird.

1989 Chevrolet Camaro IROC concept profile left front

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