Monday, April 23, 2018

I Just Figured Out Why I'm Not Crazy About the Last Two Camaro Generations

Sixth-generation Camaro. Photo: GM media website.
Don't get me wrong. The current generation Chevrolet Camaro is a nice car. It's a fast car and more than meets all of the requirements to carry the mantle of the grand tradition of pony cars that it comes from.

First-generation Camaro: Photo: GM media website.
If someone offered me a new Camaro for free, I would gleefully accept it. And I would keep it and drive it for many happy miles and years, rather than sell it.

 And yet, since the fifth-generation Camaro first came out for the 2010 model year, and continuing into the the current generation that launched in 2016, something has always just bothered me. And now, after taking a really good look at a fifth-generation Camaro yesterday, I think I more clearly understand why.

To frame up my explanation, allow me to indulge in a cliche and quote "Webster's," because there are two terms that explain my impression of the last two Camaro generations. Both of those terms have definitions in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary that vividly illustrate what I am talking about:

  • Caricature—"exaggeration by means of often ludicrous distortion of parts or characteristics" [emphasis mine]
  • Postmodern—"of, relating to, or being any of various movements in reaction to modernism that are typically characterized by... ironic self-reference and absurdity..." [emphasis mine]
Yes, as you might have guessed, my take is that the fifth and sixth-generation are postmodern caricatures of the classic first-generation that launched in 1967.
Mind you, fully explaining what I am talking about could extend to the length of a doctoral dissertation. But the term "postmodern" has itself become enough of a pop-culture cliche that many readers will know exactly what I am talking about without further explanation. 

Take a look at the photos above, and it's easy to see that, in creating a postmodern caricature of the classic Camaro, the designers took the easy way out and created designs that exaggerate characteristics of the original Camaro in ironic, self-referential ways. One could almost say that the current Camaro is a self-parody of the original Camaro. 

Where the lines of the original were tasteful and sensual, the lines of the fifth-generation are "fatted-out" and exaggerated. The design has the characteristics of what I have also heard termed "comic-book styling" to describe so much of what we've been seeing in the aesthetics of automotive design for the past decade or so. 

The fifth- and sixth-generation Camaros also have what I would call as an angry, Darth-Vader-ish look that I don't care for. I'm sure many will disagree. But there is a difference between an aggressive visage for an automobile and an angry one. The former requires more subtlety and taste, which was perhaps too much to ask.

I was just as excited as any GM-revering car guy when it was announced that the fifth-generation Camaro would be a retro design that would recall the spirit of the original. But to me, sad to say, GM fell short. The designers took the easy way out and created a postmodern caricature of the original Camaro. Creating tasteful, well-thought out Camaro design that, while modern, would also pay clear respect to the classic precedent apparently was too lofty a task.

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