camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
1 of 49 1968: Chevrolet Camaro SS 396 and Ford Mustang 390 GT in Six-Car Shootout

Curiously, our first comparison test featuring both the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro didn’t take place until 1968, the year after the Camaro was launched. Perhaps even more curious, the Mustang and the Camaro anchored the bottom end of this six-car comparison test’s finishing order. The Chevy barely edged out the Ford, but both classic muscle cars were beaten by a Pontiac Firebird, a Plymouth Barracuda, an AMC Javelin, and a Mercury Cougar.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
2 of 49 1968: Chevrolet Camaro SS 396 and Ford Mustang 390 GT in Six-Car Shootout

According to our testers in 1968, the Camaro “was an unmanageable handful on the road course simply because of overwhelming understeer.” We held the Mustang in similar regard.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
3 of 49 1968: Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 vs. 1968 Tunnel Port Ford Mustang coupe

A no-holds-barred test between two competing automakers using modified cars? What could possibly go wrong? With Trans-Am racing and factory-offered performance parts on the rise, we decided to host a grudge match between factory-fiddled pony cars from Ford and Chevy. In spite of cheater tires, the Mustang lost to the Camaro. Both cars were unabashedly cool, however.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
4 of 49 1968: Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 vs. 1968 Tunnel Port Ford Mustang coupe

Sam Posey, our test driver, was surprised by his best lap time around Lime Rock:

“Really? A 1:09.2? That would have put us somewhere in the middle of the Trans-Am grid here last year which is pret­ty intriguing since it’s really a street car.”

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
5 of 49 1982: Porsche 928 vs. Chevrolet Camaro Z28, Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, Ford Mustang GT

While this four-car comparo might seem bizarre, it was really a test to see whether America could produce a fast GT car that even came close to the European standard. Our Euro example-setter? The Porsche 928, a car we “anointed to serve as the group’s spiritual inspiration and silver-plated yardstick.”

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
6 of 49 1982: Porsche 928 vs. Chevrolet Camaro Z28, Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, Ford Mustang GT

“The serpentine switchbacks up and down Mount Palomar demonstrated a clear difference between Camaro and Firebird handling: The Camaro cuts and thrusts with the Porsche, while the Trans Am is noticeably slower on the uptake.” For all its impressive handling, the Camaro proved too stiff to win over its more Grand Touring–focused competitors; after all, this was a test of America’s GT mettle.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
7 of 49 1983: Ford Mustang GT vs. 1983 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 H.O.

A test that’s based on the fact that the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro V-8 engines gained horsepower sounds great, right? At the time, it was even better than you think, because the engines’ output improved to 175 horsepower in the Ford and 190 in the Chevy. Yep, the early 1980s were bleak.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
8 of 49 1983: Ford Mustang GT vs. 1983 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 H.O.

As we wrote in 1983, “In fact, the Camaro Z28 and the Mustang GT have become the focus of the first all-out perfor­mance contest between Ford and Chev­rolet since the Sixties. That war for domination of the all-American-GT class prompted our ‘Red Speed’ shootout last August. And its continu­ing importance to the folks in Warren and Dearborn—not to mention to those of us who relish driving at speed—has led to this return bout.”

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
9 of 49 1984: The Best Handling American Car Is . . . Camaro Z28 vs. Chevrolet Corvette, Dodge Daytona Turbo Z, Ford Mustang SVO, Pontiac Fiero 2M4

In ’84, we introduced this five-car comparo thusly: “This is a test. Five automobiles—what we believe to be the cream of the American crop in terms of handling prowess—will engage in pitched battle.” So with no shortage of drama, we pitted five of America’s sportiest rides against one another to find which one handled the best.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
10 of 49 1984: The Best Handling American Car Is . . . Camaro Z28 vs. Chevrolet Corvette, Dodge Daytona Turbo Z, Ford Mustang SVO, Pontiac Fiero 2M4

Ignoring the eclectic grouping—any comparison test that includes a Fiero automatically qualifies as odd—the Camaro not only won the test, but it also was the clear favorite over the other Chevy contender, the Corvette.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
11 of 49 1985: Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta vs. Ford Mustang SVO, Chrysler Laser, Nissan 300ZX, Mitsubishi Starion, Merkur XR4Ti, Toyota Supra, Audi Coupe GT

Late in the second-generation Camaro’s life cycle, Chevrolet came up with the idea for a luxurious, stylish Camaro model to attract non-performance-minded folks. It was called the Berlinetta, but we’d have dug a vinyl-roofed Brougham just the same. Nevertheless, the Berlinetta survived into the Camaro’s third generation, and even among the suitably offbeat company of a Ford Mustang SVO, a Chrysler Laser, a Nissan 300ZX, a Mitsubishi Starion, a Merkur XR4Ti, a Toyota Supra, and an Audi Coupe GT, it placed dead last.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
12 of 49 1985: Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta vs. Ford Mustang SVO, Chrysler Laser, Nissan 300ZX, Mitsubishi Starion, Merkur XR4Ti, Toyota Supra, Audi Coupe GT

“It’s clear from our Berlinetta experience that Chevrolet’s interest in sporting Camaros stops with the Z28. The Ber­linetta V-6 proved to be a Percheron among quarter horses in this comparison, destined to go through life with too little motor, run-of-the-mill rubber, and an un­derachiever suspension.” Ouch, that really says it all, doesn’t it?

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
13 of 49 1986: Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z vs. Ford Mustang LX 5.0

The auto industry’s slow, grinding crawl back toward viable performance machines in the 1980s continued with the introduction of the Ford Mustang LX and the Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z. Both pony cars came standard with the highest-output versions of each brand’s respective V-8 engine, and of course we put them head-to-head.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
14 of 49 1986: Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z vs. Ford Mustang LX 5.0

The Camaro IROC-Z narrowly lost this comparison test, but it also went on to become an ’80s icon. So, a win?

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
15 of 49 1987: In Search of the Best American GT Car – Ford Mustang GT vs. Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z, Pontiac Firebird Formula

Following a Mustang-vs.-Camaro IROC-Z prototype showdown the year before in which the Ford won, we decided to host the pair again and toss in a third competitor for good measure. The task? To find the best American GT car, meaning the best all-rounder, not necessarily the quickest, stickiest, or hottest-looking.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
16 of 49 In Search of the Best American GT Car: Ford Mustang GT vs. Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z, Pontiac Firebird Formula

Talk about anti-climactic—the Camaro followed its prototype defeat with a production-ready . . . defeat. The Mustang trounced the IROC-Z yet again, as did the Pontiac Firebird. Ouch.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
17 of 49 1993: Chevrolet Camaro Z28 vs. Pontiac Firebird Formula, Ford Mustang Cobra

When the Camaro was redesigned for 1993, Chevrolet went a little nuts with the Z28 version, adding an optional package that included a 150-mph speedometer, shorter rear-end gearing, and Z-rated performance tires. So naturally, we went a little nuts, too, and tossed the hot Z28 into a blood match with the Ford Mustang Cobra and the Pontiac Firebird Formula.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
18 of 49 1993: Chevrolet Camaro Z28 vs. Pontiac Firebird Formula, Ford Mustang Cobra

It could be argued that, at least against the Mustang, the Camaro was bound to win this comparison test. After all, by 1993, the Mustang still had the same basic styling and structure it had in 1979. It was old. But the Firebird Formula posed more of a threat, and not the least because it was essentially the same as the Camaro. In the end, however . . .

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
19 of 49 1994: Ford Mustang GT vs. Chevrolet Camaro Z28

Just one year passed in the early ’90s before we pitted the Camaro Z28 against the Mustang again, but this time, the Mustang was the newer car. Significantly redesigned for 1994, albeit with the same ancient Fox-platform bones, the Mustang was ready for a new fight. Full Test

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
20 of 49 1994: Ford Mustang GT vs. Chevrolet Camaro Z28

Having just dispatched the Mustang Cobra in a comparison test one year prior, the Camaro Z28 was riding high. After meeting the ’94 Mustang, it was riding even higher. In terms of power, the 275-hp Chevy absolutely crushed the 215-hp Mustang (yeah, that was the V-8 Mustang in 1994); in terms of everything else, well, the Camaro took those contests, too.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
21 of 49 1994: Chevrolet Camaro V-6 vs. Ford Mustang V-6

Attached to our 1994 Camaro-vs.-Mustang test was a showdown among the V-6–powered versions of each car. As always, the high-output muscle coupes received the most attention, but their less-powerful brethren often end up in more driveways.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
22 of 49 1994: Chevrolet Camaro V-6 vs. Ford Mustang V-6

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: If a car offers a V-8, what excuse do you have to not get the burlier engine? Today, increasingly sophisticated and powerful turbocharged fours and V-6s have made their way into the Mustang and the Camaro and are viable V-8 alternatives. But in 1994? Not so much. (Oh, and the Camaro won this showdown, too.)

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
23 of 49 1995: Chevrolet Camaro Z28 SS vs. Ford Mustang Cobra, Pontiac Firebird Formula WS6

In the Camaro Z28’s third run-in with the Mustang in the 1990s, it once again faced down a Cobra but also was joined by the nearly identical Pontiac Firebird WS6. But this was no ordinary Z28—it was the SS, with 305 horsepower and a sweet-ass hood snorkel.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
24 of 49 1995: Chevrolet Camaro Z28 SS vs. Ford Mustang Cobra, Pontiac Firebird Formula WS6

Impressively, the SS posted a 4.9-second zero-to-60-mph time, which in 1995 was solidly in Corvette ZR-1 territory. We complained about the loud exhaust and the stiff suspension, but be it on a road course, the drag strip, or a fast road, the SS was a machine in its element, and it won this test.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
25 of 49 1999: Chevrolet Camaro Z28 vs. Ford Mustang GT

In spite of meeting a second significantly updated Mustang within the same decade, the fourth-generation Camaro nonetheless held its ground. Even with a significant power boost, the 1998 Ford Mustang GT’s 4.6-liter V-8 made only 260 horsepower, way down on the Camaro Z28’s 305 ponies.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
26 of 49 1999: Chevrolet Camaro Z28 vs. Ford Mustang GT

The Camaro managed to brush off the Mustang for a third time in as many showdowns, but even our testers were beginning to lose interest. The Camaro was getting old, and shortcomings that were easily overlooked in 1993 started to wear thin. Even so, the 305-hp, Corvette-derived 5.7-liter LT1 V-8 cured many ills—and smacked down the Mustang in terms of performance.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
27 of 49 1999: Chevrolet Camaro V-6 vs. Ford Mustang V-6

Just as we did when the 1994 Mustang came knocking at the Camaro’s door, we also paired up the six-cylinder base models of both cars.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
28 of 49 1999: Chevrolet Camaro V-6 vs. Ford Mustang V-6

Unlike the previous V-6-on-V-6 Mustang/Camaro meeting, this time, the renewed Mustang took the crown from the aging Camaro. It helped that the Mustang’s engine, down 10 horsepower on the Camaro’s, had less weight to drag around and thus won the benchmark drag race. We also deemed the six-cylinder Mustang more fun to drive.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
29 of 49 1999: Chevrolet Camaro Z28 SS convertible vs. Ford SVT Mustang Cobra convertible, Pontiac Firebird Trans Am convertible

In the (production) Camaro’s last comparison-test appearance in Car and Driver’s pages before a lengthy hibernation, it again faced down a Mustang and a Firebird. Feeling frisky, we gathered all three V-8–powered examples in droptop guise, albeit in their highest-output variations: SS, Cobra, and Trans Am.

camaro vs. mustang: a complete history of our comparison tests
30 of 49 1999: Chevrolet Camaro Z28 SS convertible vs. Ford SVT Mustang Cobra convertible, Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am convertible

The Camaro won this comparison test—and then it went into a seven-year slumber before reawakening as the fifth-generation model.

Keyword: Camaro vs. Mustang: A Complete History of Our Comparison Tests

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