Camaro vs. Mustang: A Test of Endurance

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Thread: Camaro vs. Mustang: A Test of Endurance

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    News Contributor Premium Member Perian's Avatar
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    Camaro vs. Mustang: A Test of Endurance

    Source: Edmunds.com / By Ken Gross

    Camaro vs. Mustang: A Test of Endurance

    Ford's got a problem: It just can't supply all the new Mustangs people want. Forget incentives, eager buyers are cheerfully paying well over sticker. Dealers are even offering cars on eBay. High demand for the new convertible is exacerbating the situation.

    The Mustang's a kick to drive and its price is so reasonable — try $25 grand for a 300-hp, V8-powered GT — that more buyers than anticipated are opting for the V8s vs. V6s. Ford is cranking up production; it initially expected to sell 100,000 units; now it'll produce at least 192,000 in Year One. And it'll sell 'em all.

    Naturally, Ford's got even bigger plans. The company just announced plans to produce a torrid 450-hp, 5.4-liter Shelby GT500 in conjunction with performance legend, Carroll Shelby. It will bow in summer 2006, for an estimated $40K. Those cars won't gather dust, either. We understand SVT is looking at reviving other great names like Mach 1 and Bullitt. There's probably no end to what Ford can (and will) do with the Mustang….

    Remember the Camaro?

    I was driving up the New York State Thruway, North of Albany, a few weeks ago, when I was passed by a N.Y. State Police Chevrolet Camaro. They're still in service, even though Camaro production stopped several years ago. Pontiac's Firebird died simultaneously. To Bob Lutz's chagrin, his attempt to resurrect the GTO isn't going well; they aren't exactly setting sales records.

    How could the General get this one so wrong?

    GM was already late to the party when the first Camaro bowed in 1967. Almost three years earlier, Ford dazzled the market with its wide-appeal, sporty, multioptioned and affordable Mustang. It sold over 400,000 in the extended first model year. To GM's credit, when it finally arrived, the Camaro soon had all the flashy style and high-performance options Chevy's engineers could pack into it.

    On the track, the SCCA TransAm racing series pitted soon-to-be legends like Parnelli Jones (Mustang) against Mark Donohue (Camaro and AMC Javelin) and Dan Gurney (Challenger). Racing on Sunday helped boost Monday sales, adding to the aura of these close-coupled, V8-powered, rear-drive "Pony Cars." Combined Camaro and Pontiac Firebird sales peaked at over 435,000 in 1978. Those were the days.

    Like full-size pickups, V8-powered, performance-oriented pony cars were a distinctly North American phenomenon, but unlike trucks, their appeal wavered when fuel prices spiked. Youthful buyers were accident-prone, and these cars were hyperquick, so sales were always sensitive to high insurance rates. The segment narrowed as competitors like AMC foundered and the TransAm racing series came to an end.

    Prices inevitably rose. The imports offered better performance, flashier styling and lower insurance costs. They intercepted younger buyers who'd never even tried the domestic offerings. Anxious to retain a strong image and hold market share, Ford did more to evolve the Mustang and widen its audience. In the 1990s, GM built a great car with the Z28 Camaro, then sat back and watched as sales eroded.

    After its demise, an annoyed N.Y. Chevrolet dealer told me: "Chevy never should have cancelled the Camaro. Besides offering Corvette performance for $20,000 less, it was an icon for Chevrolet, although we didn't sell a lot of them at the end because of the high insurance cost." Why did he think the Camaro grew stale? "Chevy never woke the car up," he insisted. "You could hardly tell a Z28 from an RS. They should have made the models much more distinctive; that's what Ford did and that's why they're still selling Mustangs."

    Looking back, the Mustang was an icon right from its inception. Chevy didn't anticipate the market and was slow to catch up; and as volumes shrunk, there wasn't much internal support for Camaro redesigns from GM's volume-conscious top management. The carmaker just didn't get it. So Chevrolet's performance image has waned, despite NASCAR-themed Monte Carlo SS variants (with V6s, yet). The Camaro is a model it should have kept, even if it had to shift production from St. Therese, Quebec, to say, Bowling Green, Kentucky, and share some Corvette underpinnings.

    Ford was always looking for ways to inject life into its Mustangs, even on that outdated "Fox" platform. Remember the $27,000 Bullitt edition, that evoked the hot little Dark Highland Green fastback that chased (and ran down) a Dodge Charger through the hilly streets of San Francisco in Steve McQueen's classic film? The Bullitt bristled with styling cues from the 1968 original, including a raucous exhaust note, and trick five-spoke wheels that aped classic American Racing Torq-Thrust Ds. Ford made only 6,500 copies and sold every one.

    This is America, so although Dodge doesn't agree for the new Charger, I think there will always be a place for hot rear-drive V8 coupes and convertibles. But just as it did with the Caprice (vs. Ford's Crown Vic), Chevrolet has quit the field. GM's accountants probably pointed to the old "business case" argument when they killed the Camaro, but curiously, Chevy launched the slow-selling, even-more-limited-appeal SSR. (The less said about the Aussie Holden-cum-Pontiac GTO, the better.)

    Meanwhile, Ford did it right. It redesigned the Mustang on the Jag S-Type platform, with classic long-hood/short-deck proportions, round parking lights, fish gills around the grille, and "hockey stick" side scoops. I was standing next to Carroll Shelby at an early Mustang preview at Pebble Beach a few years ago, when Ford styling boss J Mays pulled the cover off the Mustang redesign.

    "What do you think, Carroll?" I asked. "That there's my car," he said without hesitating. "Where's Jay's car?"

    You know…they're both right.

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    Re: Camaro vs. Mustang: A Test of Endurance

    Quote Originally Posted by Perian
    Ford's got a problem: It just can't supply all the new Mustangs people want. Forget incentives, eager buyers are cheerfully paying well over sticker. Dealers are even offering cars on eBay. High demand for the new convertible is exacerbating the situation.
    Now that's one problem I wish GM had.

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    Re: Camaro vs. Mustang: A Test of Endurance

    GM should really learn from Ford's example on this -- and perhaps not listen to the bean counters at every turn. True, Ford created the Mustang by 'dumbing down' the DEW-S-Type/LS/Thunderbird platform and thus made it profitable. But GM could have done the same thing. I know that people would say they could have put it on a dumbed down Sigma platform, or perhaps a cheap Corvette platform. But honestly, none of these options were really around when GM axed the F-Bodies.

    What would I have done? Well GM at the time decided to phase out the Opel Omega in Europe and dump it by the end of it's product-cycle. Its still on sale but coming to an end -- and the decision to cut this product was probably made around the time that the Camaro disappeared. GM already was importing German made Caddy Cateras for the US market, so the platform was already federalized. If it were up to me at the time, I would simply have used the Omega platform as the basis for a new Camaro/Firebird to be built here in the States. They would have saved a ton of money doing it cause the platform was already engineered. They probably would have just 'dumbed' it down like Ford did with the DEW platform, and could have built it in North America. Honestly, I don't know why this wouldn't have occured to them. Obviously the Omega platform is pretty versitle if the Aussies have managed to manipluate it to create a variety of products from their "One Tonne" to the Statesman to the Monaro. It would have just made good sense to have used this as a starting point and then went from there.

    By GM overlooking simple solutions like this, they've basically ceeded everything to Ford and lost a whole lot of revenue -- not to mention image and show room traffic. Now of course, the situation has changed and Zeta is in the wings -- hopefully/eventually for N.A. as well. But if it meant getting a product to market in the short-term, using the Omega platform would have been the way to go IMHO since there were virtually no other RWD platforms in the stable.

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    Re: Camaro vs. Mustang: A Test of Endurance

    Well, GM may be short of car RWD platforms, but it is swimming in truck/SUV rear and AWD platforms. Sure, they are heavy and use body-on-frame rather than unitized construction. But, as SUV's and trucks get more car-like, there may be an opportunity to leverage a high-volume truck platform to create a low-volume performance car.

    Could GM shorten an existing SUV chassis, upgrade the suspension to make it lighter and better suited for performance applications? Put an aggressive-looking coupe and convertible body on it and you might have a winner. Or, you might have another overweight SSR -- I guess it depends on how creative the engineers and designers are allowed to be.

    Perhaps such an approach would be better suited for a Chevelle -- which was a body-on-frame car anyway. But, GM already played with this idea with the Belair show car, which used the mid-sized pickup's chassis and turbo 5 engine.

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    Re: Camaro vs. Mustang: A Test of Endurance

    Quote Originally Posted by nadepalma
    GM should really learn from Ford's example on this -- and perhaps not listen to the bean counters at every turn. True, Ford created the Mustang by 'dumbing down' the DEW-S-Type/LS/Thunderbird platform and thus made it profitable. But GM could have done the same thing. I know that people would say they could have put it on a dumbed down Sigma platform, or perhaps a cheap Corvette platform. But honestly, none of these options were really around when GM axed the F-Bodies.
    Not exactly. This has been discussed in several areas around the site before but, to keep it short, the Mustang's platform, D2C, isn't a "dumbed down" DEW98. Ford originally started with the DEW98 platform with that intent but, due to cost concerns and an excessive amount of changes, the plan was scrapped. What resulted afterward was basically an all new platform designed from scratch that was built with inspiration from elements of the DEW98 platform and the Mazda-built C1 platform while incorporating unique elements exclusive to D2C (obviously the Mustang doesn't have an IRS like any DEW98 car and isn't FWD like a typical Mazda).

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    Re: Camaro vs. Mustang: A Test of Endurance

    Quote Originally Posted by MN12Fan
    Not exactly. This has been discussed in several areas around the site before but, to keep it short, the Mustang's platform, D2C, isn't a "dumbed down" DEW98. Ford originally started with the DEW98 platform with that intent but, due to cost concerns and an excessive amount of changes, the plan was scrapped. What resulted afterward was basically an all new platform designed from scratch that was built with inspiration from elements of the DEW98 platform and the Mazda-built C1 platform while incorporating unique elements exclusive to D2C (obviously the Mustang doesn't have an IRS like any DEW98 car and isn't FWD like a typical Mazda).
    I want to clarify one or two more things if you don't mind MN12. While C1 is commonly referred to as a "Mazda platform" this is not really accurate. For those who may not know C1 is merely a very heavily revised version of the C170 platform that underpins the Focus that we still get here in the States and that was replaced by the new C1-based Focus in Europe.

    IMO it is commonly referred to as a "Mazda platform" here in the US because the car upon which this platform debuted on these shores was the Mazda 3. As best as I can figure the new car rags began referring to it as a "Mazda chassis" because of this and the tag stuck. In actuality the platform debuted in Europe under a Ford and is simply Ford's newest global platform.

    As for the Mustang, the origin of this cars chassis is somewhat of a mystery as conflicting stories have surfaced from within Ford itself. Originally the car was supposed to be based on "DEW98-lite" but as MN12 mentioned this proved too expensive and was scrapped....or, at least it was scrapped in part.

    This is where the mystery begins folks. Hau Thai-Tang, the head of the Mustang program and now head of SVT, has said more than once that the car is at least loosely based on DEW98. However, one prominent Ford officer has said that the DEW98 lite proposal was scrapped wholesale and the DC2 chassis upon which the new Mustang is based is related to the new C1 platform.

    After having researched this about as best as current info allows I have come to my own conclusion. The one point everyone agrees on is that the plan for DEW98-lite was too expensive and scrapped. But as they were fairly far along in the design process when this occured logic would tell you that the engineers likely retained many of the "hard points" in the design already hashed out on what was initially going to be DEW98-lite.

    We know that there are C1-shared components in D2C, but no major componentry is shared between the two. Considering the size of the C1 chassis and the need to fill in some gaps on the now very loosely DEW98-based D2C chassis design it is logical that Ford looked to the new C1 platform to share some components and reduce costs.

    This is the only scenario I have found that reliably explains everything, and is my personal theory until somebody from Ford comes out and gives us the full scoop. The above scenario would create what could accurately be called a unique, stand alone chassis just as Ford has referred to D2C at times. But, it also explains how different sources within Ford have referred to the chassis as being loosely based on both DEW98 and C1 as well. It also covers the existence of C1 componentry and some DEW98 engineering within D2C both of which are known quantities.

    If my theory is correct I think the most accurate way to describe D2C is this: Very loosely DEW98-based chassis that is so heavily revised so as to constitute a new design and which shares components with other Ford chassis, C1 in particular.
    Last edited by syr74; 04-27-2005 at 04:30 PM.

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