Popular Hot Rodding first brought young designer Kris Horton to the attention of PHR readers back in the September 2003 issue with his eye-popping rendition of a fifth-generation Camaro. Adorned with Hugger orange paint and a wild pair of SS stripes, then stuffed with a modern fuel-injected Gen III powertrain, Horton's imaginary future Camaro quickly turned into the most talked-about PHR story in recent memory.
The updated rear of Kris Horton's...
The updated rear of Kris Horton's fifth-gen Camaro is more in line with current Chevrolet styling. A brushed aluminum accent with a gold Bowtie emblem bisects quad taillights. The license plate cove is below the bumper--it had previously been in the center like the current C5 Corvette. This update addresses the few concerns expressed by readers in the first version.
The biggest reason for the popularity of Horton's Camaro design is the simple fact that after a checkered 35-year history, Chevrolet and General Motors have walked away from the Camaro. The aftermath of this decision has left legions of Camaro (and Firebird!) fans simultaneously saddened and enraged. Among the disenfranchised was a 19-year-old art student from Ridgecrest, CA--who has a serious jones for a new Camaro.
We're not going to regurgitate the original story we ran in September, but we will expand on the original concept with input received by readers via the Internet. Our original story called out to readers to critique the design and to channel their thoughts concerning Horton's design--via the PHR web site--to the folks at Chevrolet. The response was overwhelmingly positive (you can check out some of the email responses here), but there were also some strong and valid criticisms of the design.
Quite independently of our requests, Horton began working on a more evolved version, based on the one appearing in our September 2003 issue. You can see the changes by comparing the updated car (in green livery) with the original Hugger orange version. (Those unfamiliar with the original can log onto www.popularhotrodding.com to see September's complete story.)
As Horton began to get feedback, we also began to get e-mail. Within days, we received more than 500 e-mails--all of which were read and filed. Surprisingly, there were almost no complaints regarding the concept's retro styling. The strong resemblance to the first-generation model ('67-'69) was widely applauded, but there were some tweaks suggested by some.
Although the new front fascia...
Although the new front fascia prepared by Kris Horton has hide-away headlights, this version with exposed, sealed composite headlights was also created. One possibility for production would have the exposed lights on an entry-level model and the hide-away lights on a high-end SS version. The cost for implementing both would be modest.
Almost as an afterthought, we decided to include in our original story one of Horton's early renditions, which featured hide-away headlights. This turned out to be high on the email wish list. (You'll note that Horton included hide-aways in one of the updated images shown here.) The other most frequently requested change was to the rear fascia--although reader feedback was a little more vague about what exactly should be done here. Readers generally thought the rear of the concept was too close to the current Corvette or to a Barracuda. (In fact, the intent for the rear was to evoke the early second-generation cars from '70-'73, but that apparently didn't happen). Rather than scrap the rear entirely, Horton went to Chevrolet's current styling lexicon and borrowed the horizontal brushed aluminum bar and topped it with a prominent Bowtie emblem. The license plate cove was then moved from its central Corvette-like location and moved below the bumper where it was last seen in the Camaro's final iteration.
Besides the experimentation with hide-away headlights, Horton has also made some subtle, yet important changes to the front. A heritage cue--in the form of a brushed aluminum horizontal bar--has been added to the Bowtie emblem (as seen in current Chevrolet products) and the grill has been laid back to give the design some much-needed aerodynamic help. This important change not only improves the looks, but also gives the Camaro a fighting chance of working in the wind tunnel, thereby improving fuel economy and high-speed stability. The ROH R/T wheels were left alone (they're bitchin'!), save a liberal dipping in chrome.
So what does GM think about all this? So far, our contacts at Chevy are tighter than a clam, but you can rest assured Kris Horton's original design has been seen by the brass. To top things off, this issue of PHR is being distributed en mass at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas--a venue known for its attendance by Detroit's big-three automakers. In fact, in recent years the top brass have all attended SEMA in support of their huge displays and concept cars. We can only hope GM will awake from its performance coma and see the light which Kris Horton has so charitably shone on Chevy's performance icon.
A NOTE FROM THE DESIGNER
I opened up the old Camaro file and took some time to clean up some of the areas on the body that needed attention. I took into consideration that this would be a follow-up on the previous design so I made some changes, which are hopefully an improvement on the past design.
Of all the responses that I read, the ones that stood out the most were those suggesting a bit more modern treatment of the front end. Many loved the retro headlights, but thought the front of the car could be more modern. What I did was give the front fascia a bit of a rake with a different grill. I think this type of design would be easy to work with in future models and not require an entire redesign. Since the '67-'68 RS looked like it had one large grille going from one side to the other, I tried to capture that look on my model. The headlight doors work in the same manner as those on the first-gen models yet would probably not be vacuum operated. I hope you like the changes!
Click Here to see GM's Concept Camaro from the 2006 L.A. Auto Show
VERSION ONE --THE READERS SPEAK OUT
This is only a small sampling of the hundreds of emails we got on the PHR Web site. Yeah, we liked Kris Horton's Camaro too, but we thought we'd get at least a trickle of negativity. In fact, the negative comments were so exceedingly rare (perhaps one out of fifty), that we'll pass on printing them here. It will suffice to say that even the negative comments showed a great passion for coming out with a new Camaro, it's just that a modern aerodynamic shape was more to their liking. As you can see from Horton's subsequent changes, this aspect was addressed to some degree. (The image in this sidebar, in fact, was from the original story we ran, so you can see the differences.) The question is, can GM bring the Camaro back? Or do they even want to? From the near unanimous feedback we got from readers, we can say the resounding answer is "yes!"--Camaro should be reborn.
"That's an awesome-looking Camaro. I would buy one in a heartbeat!" --Josh Lewis
"I hope there are more Kris's out there and they take over GM design..." --G. Keith Smith
"It's beautiful. I'd cut off small body parts to own one..." --Bob Tissot
"I think this is exactly what GM needs to build. It's perfect in every way." --Saul Vela Jr.
"This car has all the right curves to set it apart from the other cars on the road..." --Patrick S. Darling
"I like the retro look ... You can tell Chevy I bought a Subaru WRX when they dropped the Camaro." -- Jeff Meixsell
"Just looking at that thing makes me want to go to a custom shop and have one built from scratch." --Chris Lewis
"There are not enough 'o's' in smooth for how good this car looks!" --Kevin Hamm
"Give me that car with an LS6 engine so I can wipe away the smile on a Cobra owner's face." --Ryan White
"Imagine if there were more designers like him working for Chevy. Give this man a paycheck and raise the bar." --Craig Sayers
"Maybe he should come up with a design for the GTO. I'm sure it would look better than the no-excitement car being released next year." --Mike Clayton
"When I saw the pictures ... my heart stopped. To hell with the SSR. I want something like this!" --John Wojan
"Build it and I will buy!" --Scott Beauchene
"Even my wife likes the car, and she's all into Hondas and import crap!" --Paul Macatiag
"Kris Horton's fifth-gen Camaro is awesome. That's what a Camaro should look like." --Diane Prato
"GM should give this guy a job pronto." --Bruce Knight
"I love my [1969 Z/28], but I have room in my heart, and my garage, for this beast." --Barry Hitechew
"All I need to know is, where does the line form?" --Mike Pozzi
"If that Camaro was real, I would have one in my driveway. That kid has some awesome talent." --Jason Sani
"This thing crushes the new Mustang coming out!" --Raul Quintero
"I just can't fathom why a 19-year-old can foresee what the future of the F-body should be, but the GM execs can't grasp this..." --Byron P. Smith
"Even though I am more a Ford Mustang fan than a Camaro fan, I thought it was beautiful!" --Alex Coleman
"Keep the price under 30K fully loaded and you'll have a winner." --Brian Ferrell
The Fifth Element