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Deep history, popular updates give iconic cars perpetual cachet

Special to ADAMM – Automobile Dealers Association of Metro Milwaukee.

This 2020 Mustang is outfitted with the High Performance Package.

The 2020 Camaro SS has an updated new front fascia.

Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro became “iconic” because they offered sporty looks and performance options at affordable prices. More than a half-century later, those remain big reasons so many people still love them.

The retro design, powerful engines and precise handling of latter-day Camaros appeal to first generation aficionados as well as their grandchildren, says Jered Voss, sales manager for Lynch Chevrolet in Burlington. “It’s an incredible car for what you pay,” he says of the current model. “You can get one that’s pretty well equipped for $32,000.”

The price range goes from $24,000 to $69,000.

Ford executives predicted success when they introduced the Mustang in 1964, two years before Camaro, so they ordered 100,000 inaugural units. A quarter of those sold on the first day. Sales continued at a gallop, with 681,000 Mustang convertibles, fastbacks and coupes on American highways by the end of the first model year.

Part Falcon economy car and part full-size Fairlane sedan, the original Mustang was considered so novel that it gave rise to a new class of vehicle, the “pony car.”

Both icons have experienced ups and downs—Camaro even went on hiatus for a few years—but they’ve emerged as steady niche sellers. Ford has sold between 72,000 and 123,000 current generation Mustangs per year since 2015, while Chevy has sold 60,000 Camaros each year since the sixth generation was unveiled in 2016.


Bloggers say Mustang’s history fuels its continued popularity—people like driving cars that are part of a legacy. But being able to own something that looks like a $250,000 supercar while paying between $28,000 and $74,000 is also high on the list.

“Some are drawn to that iconic look, but with all the technological updates,” says Dave Vajgrt, sales consultant for Heiser Ford of Glendale. “And the turbocharged EcoBoost six-cylinder engine makes customers say, ‘Wow, you can drive this powerful car and not have to stop at every gas station along the open road’.”

John Hassell, sales and leasing professional at Gordie Boucher Ford in Menomonee Falls, says that people who own 21st-century Mustangs often treat them like classics, taking them out only after the snow melts and a few hard rains have banished all traces of salt.

“A man just traded in his 2000 for a 2020, and it was immaculate,” he says “He put 2,000 miles a year on it, and I turned around and sold it right away.”

As in 1964, Ford today offers a wide range of options and trims to fit the budgets and desires of many buyers. One reviewer says you can “configure your Mustang as anything from an economical runabout to a weekend race car,” noting that the top-of-the-line 760 hp Shelby GT500 mines Mustang’s past and present, “blending sports-car performance and iconic muscle-car presence.”

“Every store gets one,” Hassell says. “The one we got didn’t even hang around long enough for us to display it online.”


Dean Duston, Holz Chevrolet’s new vehicle manager, says he remembers when Camaro returned with a model updated for the 21st century that retained retro body styling and rear-wheel drive.

“The line at the Chicago Auto Show was forever,” he says. “You couldn’t get near it.”

That iteration was so cool that Hollywood made it the inspiration for “Bumblebee,” the “hero” of the movie “Transformers.

The most recent generation—the sixth, introduced in 2016—“is just insane,” Duston says. “You get in and drive it and laugh, because it’s so much fun.”

Voss and Duston note that current Camaros have a lot in common with cars that generally cost more and have snazzier reputations. The SS, for example, features C7 Corvette’s 455-hp 6.2-liter LT1 V-8, and a 3.6-liter, 355-hp V-6 is listed as “the midrange engine option.”

Meanwhile, you can also get a Camaro with a four-cylinder engine for the first time in 35 years—but it’s turbocharged and produces 275 hp—the same as the ’93 Z-28’s V-8.

Voss says that Camaros are also sought-after used vehicles.

“People who want to keep up with the latest trade in previous-generation Camaros and drive away in new ones,” he explains. “Those trade-ins usually have low mileage and are especially popular with young guys on a budget.”


Mustang goes electric with the new Mach-E. The name recalls the gasoline-powered performance “Mach 1” that first appeared in 1969, but the Mach-E is a crossover. With a motor that produces 459 hp, it can go from zero to 60 mph in less than four seconds, and yet the battery ranges 300 miles and recharges in a little more than an hour. Prices range from $45,000 to $61,000.

For more than 25 years ADAMM (the Automobile Dealers Association of Metro Milwaukee) has had an editor on staff to plan, assign and edit timely and relevant auto coverage. The first editor was Barbara Tabak, who oversaw several reporters who provided content for several pages each week in the Milwaukee Journal’s Sunday Classified Auto Section. After the Journal and Sentinel merged, the relationship between ADAMM and the new paper continued.

About 10 years ago Tabak retired and Nancy Herrick took over as editor. Both Tabak and Herrick were award-winning editors at the daily paper and they brought that same professionalism to their duties at ADAMM, working with experienced reporters who know the right questions to ask and how to craft a readable and informative story. One byline you will often see is that of David Thome, a former daily journalist who has been writing about cars almost exclusively for the last 15 years. He knows the topic inside and out. 

Most of the sources contacted for the stories are professionals in the sales and service departments at Milwaukee new car dealerships. These sources have the latest information on new car models as well as longtime familiarity with what it takes to keep cars running their best and staying on the road. The sources are contacted because of their expertise. They do not pay to be featured in ADAMM stories, nor does ADAMM pay them.  

ADAMM is pleased to provide its content for the Hot Rod Radio website. It’s an audience we value and we look forward to a great relationship.

For more information on ADAMM Automobile Dealers Association of Metro Milwaukee.