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Chevy Camaro engineer Al Oppenheiser talks ponycar rivalries

Praise for the Dodge Demon, but he gets in a dig at Ford.

Chevrolet is showing a Hot Wheels-edition Camaro at the Detroit Auto Show, and it's just a spitwad's distance from Ford's Mustang Bullitt exhibit across the aisle. It's an interesting illustration of the state of competition in the modern ponycar segment.

Vintage-car insurer Hagerty caught up with Al Oppenheiser, who's been the Camaro's chief engineer for two generations and two platforms, dating back to the car's fifth-generation unveiling. "We're here because last year was Camaro's 50th anniversary," he said. "It was such a hot car back then that Mattel came to Chevrolet and wanted to make it one of the first 16 Hot Wheels — a blue Camaro. They're celebrating their 50th this year and wanted to work with us, and we got a chance to take 50 years worth of Camaro and tie it into their heritage."

Oppenheimer in the Q&A also offers insight into the competition between his hometown competitors. Asked about the Ford Shelby GT500 that's coming to take on the Camaro ZL1, he said, "I think they've got a lot to catch up on." Yet he gives Fiat Chrysler credit for the 840-horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, saying it "challenged some rules like we like to do with Camaro."

Oppenheimer added, "I'm glad for cars like (the Demon) and what Ford's announcing these days. It keeps the segment relevant; not everything has to be autonomous."

Oppenheiser also dishes on making it easier to order performance parts, how Chevy is "exceeding build schedules" for the ZL1 and ZL1 1LE, and how the turbocharged inline 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine has sometimes outsold the V6.

Read the whole Q&A here.

Chevrolet Camaro Information

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