JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
7/10/02 1:27 p.m.

When the dinosaurs were wiped off the face of the earth, lots of fire and explosions and tidal waves and cool stuff like that occurred. When the Camaro is eventually nixed, there will probably be no such theatrics.

It's sad, too. We probably all realize that these cars are, indeed, dinosaurs-throwbacks to another age when V8s thumped, fat tires steamrolled the landscape, and live rear axles jittered over uneven parts of said landscape. While that may sound like a prehistoric description of motoring, it is one that will be sorely missed. Soon, Chevy will pull the plug on the Camaro (and the Pontiac Firebird will die as well). Luckily for enthusiasts, these cars will be remembered as models that just kept getting better right up until the day the big corporate meteor hit.

Our recent drive of a Camaro SS convertible showed that while the platform may be dated, it still works extremely well. The Camaro's body structure, even with a sizable chunk of it removed, is reasonable stiff. Not Lexus stiff, mind you, but it goes over bumps without slapping body panels against one another, and the large, heavy doors close with a reassuring "thump" rather than the nightmarish "clang" of mid-1980s F-body cars.

However, GM is still behind the rest of the world in interior appointments-they just never learned to go to the same plastic store that Toyota visits, and certain controls feel dated. The turn signal/cruise/wiper stalk, for example, is straight out of a 1982 Buick Regal. The seats are comfortable, if a bit short in the leg, but support is fine for spirited driving, and the seat belt hugs you in all the right spots.

But Camaros aren't about hugs. They're about putting the top down, popping the T-tops, or simply opening the windows, letting loose the big V8 and allowing your mullet to flap in the breeze.

The 325-horsepower LS1 in the latest SS can certainly produce plenty of breeze, too. Coupled to a four-speed automatic in our test car, the Camaro jumped to 60 mph from a dead stop in a sho-lo stretching 5.9 seconds. The car seems a bit heavy coming off the line (and at nearly 3500 pounds, it is), but once all that mass is moving, the automatic is no detriment to performance. When you have 350 lb.-ft. of torque available, it really doesn't matter what kind of gearbox you have, as long as the power gets to the ground.

Around corners, the SS is a typical Camaro: It has a nice, flat cornering attitude and tracks well thanks to its short/long arm wishbone front suspension. The car is easily upset by bumps in the rear thanks to its solid rear axle, but in the grand scheme of things, that really isn't a big deal. If you autocross or road race a Camaro, chances are you do it on a relatively flat surface; if you're driving fast enough on city streets that the rear end movement is a problem, then you're going too fast, anyway.

Bottom line: press pedal = go; move wheel = turn; own Camaro SS = smile.

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