The Unintended Cameo
Cast shakeup kills-off character before debut!
At some point during mid to late 1990, auto paparazzi turned up a picture that revealed an apparent plot twist in Cameo’s storyline.
In spite of dress rehearsals, the role was eliminated in an apparent last-minute script change. Okay, I’ll stop with the puns now.
Motor Trend’s August 1990 issue included that photo along with some reasonable speculation. The speculation was incorrect and the subject of the photograph would not be seen again.
In the beginning
While modern trucks can rival the style and comfort of their automotive brethren, in historical terms they were plebeian machines of necessity. Three decades ago many were yet nameless.
General Motors’ S-series pickups were introduced for 1982 (Chevy’s S-10 shown left) while variants, such as the extended cab and SUVs, came out the following year. Though I may be biased, I think the first generation S-series remains one of the best looking truck designs.
Having battled the urge to delve deep into the styling of these trucks, I’ll simply say the cubist shape remained essentially unchanged — and fresh — for more than a decade, having spawned myriad variations. Chevrolet’s optional Cameo package was one of the final variants, first available for the 1989 model year and running through 1991.
Although handsome, I was never much of a Cameo fan. First off, I always stumbled over the name (conflating it in my head with “Camaro” minus the “r”). Idiosyncrasies aside, and relative to say… the Syclone, the Cameo appears less a product of the factory and one more so of personal customization. Which is sort of peculiar.
I figured the underdeveloped and sometime asymmetrical integration of aftermarket body components was a result of small business inexperience or possibly compromise. When the S-10 Cameo (as well the 50-unit-run GMC S-15 “Californian S/T”) emulated this add-on look in 1989, it struck me as underwhelming coming from the auto giant. Yet, the buying public on the Coasts, where it was exclusively available, seemed to like it. Over time the clean look grew on me.
In its first year, the Cameo was mostly an appearance package, being labeled by Chevrolet marketing the “aero truck.” The name likely derived from its urethane wraparound front fascia, lower body ground effects moldings, wheel flares and flush-fitting tailgate valance. It could be ordered in monochromatic red, white or black and included inset fog lights to compliment the sporty tone.
There wasn’t much in the way of performance. Engine choice was incidental to the package the first year, so the standard fare 2.8 liter I4 and relatively new 4.3 liter V6 were available; the latter produced 160 horsepower and 230 pound-feet of torque. Tests of an automatic V6 returned a 0-60 time of 7.8 seconds. For 1990 and 1991, the V6 was standard equipment with the package.
The 1991 Cameo (not shown) saw probably the greatest changes. For example, the originally rectangular fog lights were made circular. And, in unison with a mild update to the model, the grille and headlight surround were revised (in my opinion, awkwardly on the S-10 but perfectly on the Sonoma). Drivers could also opt for more fun with a new five-speed manual transmission that debuted on GM’s small trucks in 1991; Cameo got it, V6 and all.
Okay, with all that foundation laid. Remember I started this post with talk about a picture of a Cameo mule that went the way of the dodo? Motor Trend confidently reported said Cameo would be out by the middle of 1991, apparently unaware that would be Cameo’s last year.
The spy shot is on the next page.
Continue to page 2, below.