Curbside Capsule: 1976 Chevy Camaro – Narrowing Down Your Choices

I caught this nice, original Camaro outside my doctor’s office a couple of months ago. The parking job limited my camera angles, but this shot captures the essence of the car.

When I titled this posting “Narrowing down your choices,” I had two issues in mind. First, the reduction in options for mid-seventies Pony car buyers. AMC and Chrysler had both abandoned the market, while Ford moved their Pony car nameplates to completely different platforms (more on that later). Meanwhile GM left their second generation Pony car platform in a sort of stasis, mostly spending money when needed to meet government regulations.

An eBay search for Camaro parts only confirms this stasis. The grille, turn signals, tail lights, and bumpers remained unchanged from 1974 to 1977. I know a number of readers have expressed their dislike for these aluminum bumper Camaros, but I’m actually a fan. Given the time period, these are sleeker bumpers than the competition, and using aluminum saved weight and prevented corrosion issues. These bright bumpers also helped differentiate the Camaro from the Firebird.

Earlier, Ford had also differentiated their Pony car nameplates, moving the Cougar to the intermediate platform, and dropping the Mustang down to a sub-compact. Based on these changes, many argue the GM F-body was the ONLY Pony car option in ’76, which helps explain why GM felt little need for year to year changes.

I’d encourage you to compare those Cougar bumpers to our Camaro. While a step back from the bumpers used from ’70-’73, the ’74-’77 Camaro bumpers are WAY better than the battering rams placed on most Fords.

While improvements to the F-body were rare through the seventies, we did see a few. This brings us to the second issue in my title- Can we narrow down this Camaro to a specific model year? The traditional touch points (bumpers, grilles, tail lights) won’t help, but there were changes to look for, starting with the backlight in 1975. Since the back window on this car is the newer style which cuts into and squares off the B-pillar, we know it’s a ’75 or newer.

Checking out the (very clean) interior, we see a Firethorne (red) base model trim with vinyl seats which doesn’t seem to tell us much. However, Chevy started using these new style door panels in 1976, further narrowing down our model year to either ’76 or ’77.

Seeing no other year by year changes inside, I feared I had narrowed things down as far as I could, but an internet search provided one more clue.

To see it, we need to go back to our initial picture. Looking at the windshield, you’ll notice the wipers park on the glass. Even though GM designed the car with space for hidden wipers, poverty spec cars parked the wipers up high, letting the neighbors know the owner left unchecked boxes on the order sheet.

Comparing online brochures, I discovered Chevy made hidden wipers standard on the Camaro in 1977. Since this car lacks the hidden wiper option, we know we’re looking at a 1976 Camaro. Now that I think on it, the broad options sheet associated with this era car reflects a third dimension to narrowing down your choices, so there you go.