My Car Quest

June 12, 2024

Do Cars Have Pedigrees?

by Wallace Wyss –

I am eagerly awaiting a review copy of a new book from Car Tech Publishing that has many pictures, I am told, of clay models of Camaros. It’s entitled: Camaro Concept Cars: Developing Chevrolet’s Pony Car by Scott Kolecki.

Camaro Concept Cars

Why eagerly? Because I am of the mind bent that likes to see the pedigree of a given car design. We all know that there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip and I enjoy seeing all the variations on what led to the final design.

On cars like the ’70 1/2 Camaro, it’s over half a century later so it’s unfortunate some of the designers have passed on, but at least we have pictures that authors found that tell us “it was almost gonna look like this” and sometimes they even credit the designer “And then Fred says ‘let’s try this hood scoop.'”

I happen to be (I used to say I was a cowboy but nobody believes me) affiliated with the horse breeding industry and I think I can tell a thoroughbred horse, which my boss tells me are all related to one horse long long ago. They have a certain conformation, and look like they’re ready to run even standing still.

In fact I don’t ride them because I am afraid they will want to run full tilt boogie and it’s been quite a while (could it really be 63 years?) since I rode the Bitterroot Range. The horses are younger (even racing at two years old). I’m a whole lot older.

Camaro Concept Cars

I was actually looking for a book on the styling development of the Firebird Trans Ams that has clay model shots when I found the Camaro book advertised, but haven’t found the ‘Bird book yet.

Odd thing–as an auto reporter–when I would attend a new car preview the head designers were always very hesitant to show clay models shots for fear you would say “But why didn’t you do this one–it’s soooo much better.” They hate hearing that phrase but the truth is often the variation in the clay model would have cost more and that’s why the feature you like didn’t make it. Maybe $12 more but hey, it adds up when you sell 200,000 of them.

To me these books add to what I’d call the pedigree of the car. I can look at those pictures and see the mindspace of the designers at that time, and see what they wanted for the car, see it as proposed in comparison to what rolled out to the showrooms.

Camaro Concept Cars

I grew up in Detroit and knew many of the designers personally so I take a special interest in their designs-not-built. So I’m hoping to see more books in this vein, revealing the secret designs of many marques. It’s a little like reading film scripts and comparing them to the finished movie. If you’re like me you suddenly cry out “But why did they cut this scene?”

The answer Hey, it’s Hollywood….

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss art

THE AUTHOR: Speaking of Hollywood, Wyss reports he is dusting off his action thriller Ferrari Hunters and now in search of an agent.


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Do Cars Have Pedigrees?
Article Name
Do Cars Have Pedigrees?
To me these books add to what I'd call the pedigree of the car. I can look at those pictures and see the mindspace of the designers at that time.


  1. I, too, would be interested in reading it – and I didn’t grow up in Detroit or knew many of the designers personally!

  2. Glen Durmisevich says

    Every car design goes through a maturing process. There are hundreds of sketches done by the studio team. Most of which are even better looking than the production car. That’s because they are more gestural and not to any engineering criteria. The initial full size clay models comprehend some architectural criteria but try to capture the sketches theme so will always look better than a fully compliant design. The big factor is the input and approval of the design management. Each layer has preferences and a design will change until all levels are in agreement or the VP makes the unilateral decision. A few get better and some don’t.

  3. I think the Killer of a Good Design is when it is say 7/8ths done and they change the platform is is supposed to go on. I think that happened to one of the Buick Rivieras–it would have been a great car if it were a few inches smaller. Conversely sometimes it is built on too small a chassis thus to me lacks “stance” and can’t be regarded seriously since it doesn’t feel full scale

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