The second-generation Chevy Camaro cemented the pony car as a very American expression of automotive muscle. You’re probably hearing a wailing hair metal riff in your head as you’re thinking about it, actually. But what if the Camaro went a different direction, with European styling that’s more Turin than Detroit? It actually happened, and it’s our understanding that Chevrolet commissioned the design. You’re looking at the 1976 Chevrolet Camaro Europo Hurst, designed by Pietro Frua—a glimpse into an alternate reality where this arch-nemesis of the Ford Mustang paired Italian styling with American brawn.
Is it the prettiest of Frua’s designs? Probably not. Frua penned a number of distinctive Maseratis, and some interesting Glas and Monteverdi designs, too. The Frua Camaro is very mid-1970s, with a blacked out front end that recalls the Pininfarina-designed Lancia Beta Montecarlo/Scorpion. The rear hatch is flanked by a couple of large, triangular quarter windows, with high-mounted Firebird taillights hovering over a strange scalloped-in rear panel. The big impact bumpers don’t do it any favors, but overall the Europo Hurst is distinctive and has presence.
Even if it’s not classically handsome to modern eyes, there’s the sense that a this design might have evolved into something like a grand tourer. Think about the Jensen Interceptor, which featured sheetmetal that conveyed more of a sense of brawn than beauty—or the Jaguar XJS, which was arguably prettier but equally muscular. The long overhangs and low roofline give it a sense of speed, and the quad sealed beam headlights hunkering underneath their black-painted brows look very aggressive. Perhaps Frua could have given the Europo Hurst another round of revisions and made the Camaro into the Italian masterpiece he was hoping for.
Mechanically, the Europo Hurst is pure Camaro, rocking a 350-cubic-inch small block V-8 and a four-speed manual. GM would later return to the idea of wrapping an Italian body around American mechanicals later with the Cadillac Allanté. Of course, air-mailing chassis to and from Turin to get bodied by Pininfarina wasn’t exactly a cost-effective strategy. Surely, had a Frua-designed Camaro made it to production, the body would have had to be made in America.
Weird? Sure. Cool? Yeah, even if it’s a bit homely. The Frua Camaro is one of the stranger Chevrolets we’ve ever seen, and if you are intrigued enough to actually buy it, this one (the only one, actually) is for sale at RM Sotheby’s. There’s no reserve and the auction house expects it to sell for between $80,000 and $120,000 as part of the Mitosinka Collection auction in September.