At A Glance: How To Spot Differences In First Gen Camaro – 1967-’69

ataglance-1stgencamaro-leadartHow many times have you looked at a Camaro and you thought it was a ’67, and your buddy insisted it was a ’68, but neither of you were absolutely certain? You were pretty sure of the year, but you didn’t know how to prove that your friend was wrong. We have some help for you with our “At A Glance” series.

There are a few variances between the three years that comprise the first generation Camaro, and we’re going to cover these differences as best we can so that when you go to a car show you can confidently assure your friend that you’re correct – and you’ll be able to tell him why he might be wrong.

68custom

This custom build goes against many of the rules that you’ll find listed below, we can’t begin to tell you what this started life as, but it’s listed as a 1968.

Editor’s Note: While researching vehicles for “At A Glance:” we often come across a car that has been modified with parts from other years or models. Be that as it may, this series of articles is to identify factory stock appearance cues, and not try to identify modified vehicles.

Quick Detection

Of course, there are simple differences between the three years that absolutely identify what year the Camaro is. For starters, if it has a vent window that’s a dead giveaway for the 1967 model. If it has ‘gills’ on the quarter panel in front of the rear wheel, that tells you it’s a 1969.

Left: Vent windows make this a 1967.
Center: Wheel arch body lines and quarter gills make this a 1969.
Right: The missing vent window and the lack of quarter gills make this a 1968.

If it has neither a vent window, or the gills on the quarter, it has to be a 1968. This, of course, is based on the car being correct, and not modified with other parts. It should also be noted that the horizontal body lines that flow rearward from the top of the front and rear wheel arches are unique to the 1969 model year. 1967 and 1968 are typically a little harder to tell apart, but it can be done.

Additionally, the 1967 does not have side marker lamps; the 1968 has large rectangular side marker lamps (lower in the front) and the 1969 side marker lamps will have a more slender rectangular shape (higher in the front). 1967-’68 bumpers are slightly extended while the 1969 bumpers fit the body a little tighter, with the front bumper curving upwards on the ends.

Left: You can see the difference in the 1967-'68 bumper and the 1969 bumper in these pictures.
Center: The 1967 wasn't equipped with side marker lamps, so if it has side markers cut in, look for the vent window to be sure.
Right: You can see the different shapes and locations here on the 1968 and 1969 side marker lamps, respectively.

That’s simple, right? But it goes much deeper, too. Perhaps you’re viewing an image on the Internet or Facebook, and it’s a full front or full rear view. Can you identify what year and model it is from just a picture? If you’re not able to see the rest of the car to make a determination, there are ways to distinguish one car from the others. The information below should get you in the ball park the next time your friend tries to show off with his first gen Camaro knowledge.

Front End Identification – RS Models

The easiest model to distinguish from the front for all three years is the Rally Sport (RS) which is sometimes combined with the Super Sport (SS) trim or Z/28 package. The RS is easily identified because of the hidden headlamps. The 1967 and 1968 models are very similar to each other, but the grille itself will help identify them.

Left: We've seen the SS and the rs emblems on both 1967 and 1968 models, so that may not be the way to identify the differences. The 1968 (bottom) originally had silver horizontal trim.
Right: the 1969 RS is completely different, and easier to identify.

On the 1967 model, the grille is all black, whereas 1968 models originally had silver horizontal trim. The 1969 model stands alone, the headlamps are hidden behind a three-bar headlamp door that partially exposes the headlight behind it.

All three years will have signal lamps below the bumper: in 1967-’68 it’s a square lamp at the outer edges of the grille, lined up with the headlamp. In 1969 the signal lamp is round, and moved inward towards the license plate.

Front End Identification – Base/Sport Coupe, SS, Z/28 Models

For the 1967-’68 Base/Sport Coupe, SS, and Z/28 models, you can easily identify the year based on the signal lamps. The 1967 signal lamps are inboard of the headlamps and are round, while the ’68 signal lamps have more of a soft-rectangular shape. The 1969 models have round signal lamps below the bumper.

The differences in the front lamps and grilles are significant enough to tell the difference.

The grille on the 1967 has two horizontal bars above and below the signal lamps, and in 1968 the grille trim encapsulates the signal lamps and grille. For 1969, the grille will have a more pronounced point at the center, with two horizontal bars extending to the inset headlamp.

Rear End Identification

Identifying the first gen Camaro from the rear requires a couple of details. Firstly, the fuel filler is in the rear of all three, but only on the 1969 Camaro is it below the bumper, behind the license plate. On the 1967 and 1968 model, the filler cap is on the rear body panel between the tail lamps. The identifying factor for the RS model, however, is the back-up lamp below the bumper.

There are subtle differences between the models. 1967 has a single lens, 1968 has two lenses, and the 1969 lamps have a more slender appearance.

For 1967 there is a single lens for the tail lamp. The RS model will have a long, rectangular red tail lamp, with the back-up lamp below the bumper. The Base/Sport Coupe, SS, and Z/28 model tail lamp has a captured back-up lamp to the inside of the housing.

In 1968, the RS model will have a two-part red tail lamp with a rectangular back-up lamp below the bumper. The Base/Sport Coupe, SS, and Z/28 models will have separate tail lamps and back-up lamps within the same rear lamp housing.

In 1969, the tail lamps take on a different, more slender shape. The Base/Sport Coupe, SS, and Z/28 models have a small back-up lamp encapsulated in the center of the three-section lens, while the RS model has two horizontal panes with a rectangular back-up lamp below the bumper.

camaro04

The Dick Harrell 1969 Camaro SS 427 is owned by Classic Industries. The Yenko Camaro builds were typically built on the SS model because of the heavy duty suspension, while COPO Camaros were built on the base model platform for 1968-’69.

1969RSModel Emblems

Emblems are pretty sporadic, depending on the year and trim level. From the information we’ve gathered, trying to weed out the clones and up-badges, this is what we have found:

  • Z/28 – It was just an RPO code in 1967, but in 1968 the emblem was on the front of the fender, and in 1969 it was on the grille and on the front of the fender.
  • SS – This emblem appeared on the grille for all three years, and on the front of the fender for 1967, and the rear of the fender for 1968 and 1969. The SS emblem trumped the RS emblem on combined trim packages.
  • rs – This emblem was in lower case on the grille for 1967 and 1968 and on the front of the fender for 1967.
  • RS – This emblem was in upper case, and showed up in 1969 mounted on the grill.
  • rally sport – This emblem showed up on the rear of the fender for 1968 and 1969.

Top: 1967 Sport Coupe and Z/28 were sans emblems, the RS and SS models had emblems.
Bottom: 1968 and 1969 RS and Z/28 models had emblems in various locations.

Hopefully this will help you to identify both year and model when you see the first gen Camaro. When it comes to engines, transmissions, and fender emblems, that’s a completely different topic and goes much deeper, so we’ve avoided identifying other RPO codes like L30 and LM1, which were not SS or Z/28 models. Pace cars (Z11 RPO) were built on the RS/SS convertible package; some models had striping packages, but that also gets a little deeper than the basic differences listed above.

We’ll continue our At A Glance Series with other popular musclecars from the 1950s through the 1970s, with the first generation Firebird next. If you want to see one of your favorites, list it below and we’ll get cracking on it.

About the author

Michael Harding

Michael is a Power Automedia contributor and automotive enthusiast who doesn’t discriminate. Although Mopar is in his blood, he loves any car that looks great and drives even faster.
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