Sit down, Toyota Camry. And you, Honda Accord — you may be as American-made as any car ever built, but this is about being American. That’s American as in apple pie, baseball, drive-in movies, bikinis and game shows. About the vehicles that have helped define the unique look and driving experience that created an emotional connection with drivers since, well, the Model T. It’s about the power of the Bowtie. The charisma of the Oval. The ruggedness of the Ram. From sublimely good to ridiculously bad, an American car is a unique automotive experience that has been nurtured by the roar of big block engines and the commercials of countless marketing campaigns.
Just as British cars are green and have lousy electrical systems, American cars are big, bold and brash — even the small ones. And while there are hundreds of cars that created that American brand, two stand above all others: the Chevy Camaro and the Ford Mustang. Sexy, fun, image-conscious and attainable to all, the twin kings of the pony car set have been fighting for American bragging rights since 1967. And while an argument can be made for the likes of the Jeep Wrangler, Ford F Series, et al, these two are unique in that they have been fighting bookends for almost 50 years.
Chevy Camaro vs. Ford Mustang
There is no better, or more American, rivalry. Yes – I’m looking at you, Yankees/Red Sox fans. The Camaro and the Mustang began as a celebration of a new generation of “Baby Boomers” coming of age and choosing an automotive identity far removed from their parents. The Mustang debuted in 1964 to considerable sales success, which prompted The General to bring their own version of a “secretaries car” to market in 1967. Two years later they redesigned it and gave us the classic 1969 Camaro, and the game was on. The ’69 was such an iconic hit that it lives on today, as the modern Camaro is based almost entirely on its signature design.
Ford, meanwhile, has been successfully building and selling Mustangs non-stop, selling more than the Camaro and etching itself in the psyche of Americans for almost 50 years.
Unlike the Camaro, which didn’t see great sales success until the ’69 version, Mustangs were popular from the start: The 1965 fastback version sold over 500,000 copies. For car enthusiasts, however, the 1965 model also introduced the Shelby Mustang to America – and forever changed the American racing. Since then, notwithstanding a Camaro sabbatical and a decade or two when the cars were anything BUT classic, the Mustang and Camaro have gone head-to-head on dealership lots and Main Streets across the nation, fighting for sales, hearts and minds.
As for me, count me on the Firebird side, with a nod to that beautiful ‘69 Camaro for no practical or rational reason at all. What do you think? Camaro, Mustang or none of the above?