EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 14, 2013

Camaro gets a playful new edition

Motor Mouth
Jeffrey Zygmont

---- — The most expensive Hot Wheels car you can buy will set you back about $44,000. That’s a hefty mark-up when you consider that most Hot Wheels go for something like two bucks at WalMart and Toys-R-Us and such places.

Those two-dollar varieties are quite a bargain when you think about all the delight the 2-inch toy cars have brought to little boys since Mattel first started selling the Hot Wheels series in 1968. How could they miss? Hot Wheels are fun, fanciful, imaginative little racers that kids can guide along their bedroom floors while they envision high-speed stunts amid rumbles and roars from powerful engines.

The $44,000 variation emits real rumbles and roars from legitimately powerful engines. At nearly 16 feet in length, it is something like 9,500 percent larger than one of Mattel’s little cars. Four people can climb inside it. One of them, the driver of the Chevrolet Camaro Hot Wheels Special Edition, will experience thrills and street adventures as satisfying as anything a little kid imagines on his bedroom floor.

The Hot Wheels Special Edition is a new member of Chevy’s Camaro family in 2013. Just introduced, the unique appearance package is available on the more expensive, upper trim levels of both the V6-powered and V8-powered Camaro.

The Hot Wheels treatment adds $6,995 to the price. It gives the car distinguishing details that don’t exactly make the Camaro look like a toy. The compact, agile model is too sleekly masculine and aggressively styled to look like a toy. But it becomes suitably playful with features like a stand-out blue metallic paint job, a wide, matte-black stripe that runs longitudinally from bumper to bumper, and big, black wheels with a narrow red outline stripe.

But the coolest feature by far is the Hot Wheels name and zippy flame logo stuck all over the car. It’s stitched into the front seats, decaled onto inner door trim, placed on door sills, applied to the grille and trunk lid, and emblazoned on the fenders.

The Hot Wheels model is a special edition, manufactured in limited numbers and expected to appeal to car collectors – just as Mattel toy Hot Wheels cars attract collectors. When Chevrolet announced the limited edition, the company noted that its new, specially decorated Camaro is the first real, full-size Hot Wheels production car ever sold by a car manufacturer.

Said Felix Holst, a vice president at Mattel, “It’s been nearly 20 years since I started designing cars for Hot Wheels and I have yet to drive one home.”

He said he was eager to “see the Hot Wheels Camaro sitting in the garage,” according to a press release.

Close to home, many muscle-car fans are happy to park a Camaro of any variety in their garages and driveways. And for many, the car is as much a plaything as the 2-inch Hot Wheels toys might be for a tot.

“For a lot of our buyers, this is the fun car. It isn’t their primary vehicle,” explained Kevin Bihl of the Bill DeLuca family of dealerships in the Merrimack Valley.

Although some women purchase a Camaro, most buyers are men, drawn by the stealthy good looks and revved-up performance of the rear-drive, two-door coupe, Bihl noted. The two-door hardtop is the most popular version of Camaro, although Chevrolet – a division of General Motors – also offers convertible variations that start at list prices above $30,000, compared to about $25,000 for the hardtop’s opening list price.

After that, prices can reach lofty heights, as in the Hot Wheels Special Edition Camaro. Therefore, although the Camaro is filled with youthful verve, many young drivers can’t afford it.

“It appeals to every age group, but the typical buyer is not your 18- or 21-year-old. They want it, but the price of the car and the cost of insurance is tough for young people,” said Bihl, who is Internet sales manager and head of the business development center for the DeLuca family of auto retailers, including Bill DeLuca Chevrolet Buick GMC and Bill DeLuca Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram in Haverhill, and Woodworth Chevrolet Cadillac in Andover.

What’s more, although you can purchase the Camaro with an energetic, 323-horsepower V6 engine, most drivers want to step up to the 426-horsepower V8 that kicks the Camaro into a higher price range. They’re muscle-car adherents after all. “They want the power,” said Bihl. At DeLuca, upward of 75 percent of Camaro buyers take the V8, he said.

After that comes the nostalgia factor. When sculpting today’s thoroughly contemporary Camaro, Chevrolet designers successfully incorporated throwback, retro traces that convey the spirit of former Camaro models from the muscle-car heydays of the 1960s and ‘70s. Bihl noted that many of today’s Camaro buyers at DeLuca are mature enthusiasts first thrilled by Camaros in their youth.

“I had a ‘67 Camaro,” Bihl said. “We get people who, like myself, like the look of today’s model. A lot of the guys you talk to in the showroom say, ‘I always wanted one. Now I’m going to get one.’”

There are exceptions. Recently a young buyer at DeLuca opted to buy a 2013 Camaro with the V6 motor. According to Bihl, the appearance of the car appealed most to him.

“He loved the looks of the car, but he didn’t want the gas bill and the insurance bill. The performance of the V6 was satisfactory to him,” Bihl explained.

Chevrolet notes that back in 1968, the Camaro was one of the original 16 Hot Wheels miniatures issued by Mattel. While Chevy salutes the toy with its 2013 Camaro Hot Wheels Special Edition, the Camaro itself continues to delight kids of all ages.

Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction and non-fiction books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.

2013 Chevrolet Camaro :Vehicle type: 2-door, 4-passenger, rear-wheel-drive coupe Price range: $25,145 to $37,935 (plus options) Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic warranty; 5 years/100,000 miles powertrain warranty; 3 years/36,000 miles corrosion warranty; 5 years/100,000 miles roadside assistance Base engine: 3.6-liter V6 Power: 323 horsepower at 6,800 rpm; 278 lb.-ft. torque at 4,800 rpm Base transmission: 6-speed automatic Fuel economy: 18 mpg city; 29 mpg highway Wheelbase: 112 inches Length: 190 inches Width: 75 inches Height: 54 inches Weight: 3,769 pounds Fuel capacity: 19.0 gallons Turning circle: 37.7 feet