I remember clearly how, despite the mad rushing around and nervous glances upwards to see what the ever-changing weather was doing, how every person present at last year’s CAR Performance Shootout immediately stopped what they were doing as soon as the bright yellow Chevrolet Camaro pulled up in Kyalami’s pit lane. Even if you’ve seen the Transformers movies a hundred times, somehow nothing quite prepares you for seeing Bumblebee in the metal.
Modern shape-shifting movie effects aside, and even before you hear its muscular V8 engine fire to life, there’s just something about the shape of the Camaro that commands attention. To me, it’s the cars lines. I love how the bonnet and front fenders extend over the front grille, lending a menacing look to the deep-set headlamps. I love that the wheelaches are flared and that, thanks to anything up to 22-inch alloy wheels (as fitted to Bumblebee), these spaces are filled to the brim. And I love the shallow glasshouse and I’m particularly fond of the sweeping shoulder line when viewing the car in profile – starting with enlarged haunches at the rear, dropping down around the doors, and then rising again over the front wheels. It’s the best-looking modern American muscle car. I know that Mustang and Charger fans will disagree, but I think the Chevrolet is the perfect combination of modern thinking in a retro package that pays homage to the original Camaro.
I didn’t get to drive Bumblebee but I was nevertheless satisfied with the fact that I had examined and appreciated every line, curve and detail of this rare (especially in our right-hand-drive-only market) beast. And perhaps because I had already seen a modern Camaro in the metal, I didn’t think I would be as excited to see another one. I was wrong. While Bumblebee, with its distinctive yellow and black paint job and massive alloy wheels, certainly commands a stage, nothing can quite prepare you for seeing those same evocative lines wrapped top-to-toe in a matte-black coating. Perhaps it’s the fact that the headlamps look even more menacing when the black grille matches the colour of the bonnet and fenders, or perhaps it’s because there appears to be even less space between the tyres and the arches, but the vehicle that arrived at the CAR offices earlier this week (for me to drive!) looked decidedly more sinister than Bumblebee.
Arguably making this particular Camaro look even cooler was the fact that it bore the signature of another all-American icon, a certain Mr Jasper (Jack) Newton Daniel. To celebrate what would have been his 162nd birthday, Jack Daniel’s is offering one lucky winner the chance to win a right-hand-drive 2012 Chevrolet Camaro SS1 V8 worth R1 million.
Looking just as fantastic as the SS1 V8 main prize, the RS version that I got to sample was fitted with a 3,6L DOHC V6 engine. And while I was grateful that no one asked me to blip the throttle in anticipation of a V8 bark at any traffic lights, I quickly began to appreciate the character of the less aggressive RS model. More surprising than discovering a manual gearlever positioned alongside the handbrake was the fact that this six-speed transmission is actually decidedly refined and easy to operate. Indeed, it’s the combination of this transmission and smaller-capacity engine that arguably makes this particular Camaro easier to live with than its near 300 kW sibling. That said, I think I’d still fancy putting ease-of-use daily commute needs aside to have a go at taming the SS1 – if only for the soundtrack!
I had read that the modern-day Camaro wasn’t that comfortable to drive mainly due to the limited visibility offered to the driver by the shallow glass house, but I have to say that I didn’t have any problems placing the car on the road. The large front seats offer good comfort, if not great lateral support, and although the interior fit and finish of this Chevrolet wouldn’t cause any German manufacturers sleepless nights, everything feels nevertheless solidly put together.
To stand a chance of winning the Jack Daniel’s Camaro, simply purchase a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and SMS the unique code on-pack, or buy a tot of Jack Daniel’s in birthday promotions in participating bars. Find more details on Jack Daniel’s Facebook page.