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CRG Research Report

1968 Camaro Rally Sport Grilles

© 2010, Camaro Research Group

Author -
Reviewed by the CRG
Last Edit: 26-Jun-2010
Previous Edits:
Original Release: 26-Jun-2010

Index

Introduction

This research is about the change from a chrome-highlighted grille for the 1968 Rally Sport (RS) to a black grille at the end of May 1968. (Note: the term chrome is used to denote the material used to give the chrome / silver highlight on the horizontal bars of the RS grille). The research started with a post on the CRG Forum, and after more than two years of research of known original cars, parts manuals, and original 1967 and 1968 RS grille blueprints, it is time to pass on the findings.

The data collected shows that the 68 chrome grille was used in regular production on the Rally Sport until the later part of May 1968. To date, the data shows some 05D and 05E RS/SS cars with a black grille, and some with the chrome grille, indicating a transition period during the last two weeks of May.

Early 1968 Camaro RS/SS Publicity Photo
with "Chrome" Grille
1968 Camaro Publicity Photo
Early 1968 Camaro Rally Sport Publicity Photo
with "Chrome" Grille
1968 Camaro Publicity Photo

It's still not clear just what prompted the change. Perhaps Chevrolet was looking ahead to the black 69 RS grille and wanted to institute that new look in post-May 68 models. Or perhaps they wanted to revert back to the black 67 RS grille style. GM currently makes only the black grille and has been doing so for service parts from the end of the 68 model year to the present day.

Later non-chrome 1968 Rally Sport Grille
Non-chrome RS grille

 

Factory Documentation

The change to a black grille is also implied by the Camaro sales literature of the day that describes the SS and RS factory options.

Camaro Factory-Installed Optional Equipment - January 1968
Camaro Factory-Installed Optional Equipment

The January 68 Model Options description (highlighted in blue above) states the Camaro SS features, but there is no mention of the grille. However, an April 22, 1968 description of those same Camaro options (highlighted in blue below) notes a black accented grille on the SS.

Both descriptions list the same RS features, simply stating that it "Includes special grille....".

Chevrolet Motor Vehicle Price Schedule - Vol 2 - Revised April 22, 1968
Chevrolet Motor Vehicle Price Schedule

 

Grille Design

It appears that from the GM point of view that what was special about the 68 RS grille was that it was full width and not that it had chrome horizontal ribs. Nowhere in GM literature was it noted that the RS grille came with chrome highlighted horizontal ribs. Likewise, the only thing in the literature regarding the RS/SS combination is the statement "Note: RS emblems replaced with SS emblems when Camaro SS and RS are combined". The revised SS description calls for SS cars to have a black grille. It does not state what color grille would be used if a car was ordered with both the SS and RS packages, but one could presume it would also be black, which is supported by vehicle data.

GM has always manufactured the grilles and it is produced today using blueprints that originate from the 67 design. In fact, the 68 grille blueprints refer back to the 67 prints for design specifications and other information such as the required color/shade of black for the ABS plastic. One of the most interesting discoveries was that none of the original GM blueprints examined had any notation regarding chrome or the placement of chrome on the grille.

There is a design difference between the 67 and 68 RS grilles. On a 67 grille, the horizontal and vertical bars are the same height. On a 68 grille (and headlight doors), the horizontal bars extend about 1/16 " to enable the application of the chrome to the horizontal bars. The 67 RS grille was only available for service during the 67 and 68 production years before the 68 grille was used for both 67 and 68 applications.

Close-up of 67 RS grille
Close-up of 67 RS grille
Close-up of 68 RS grille
Close-up of 68 RS grille

Note that the center grille assembly is comprised of three parts: the "lower grille", "center grille", and the "upper grille". See the 1968 Camaro Assembly Instruction Manual (AIM) page that illustrates the assembly. The individual parts were assembled at the assembly plant. The complete center grille assembly was available as a service part.

1967 Production Part No. 1967 Service
Part No. *
1968 Production Part No. 1967 and 1968
Service Part No.
RS center grille assembly n/a 3905745,
removed 12/68
n/a 3929281
Lower grille 3921842,
was 3898140
3921842,
removed 1/68
3927420 3927420
Center grille 3921841,
was 3898141
n/a ** 3919060 3919060
Upper grille 3898139 3898139 3898139 3898139
Headlight cover (LH) 3898135 3898135,
removed 11/68
3919063 3919063
Headlight cover (RH) 3898136 3898136,
removed 10/68
3919064 3919064
* - Removed date is when the service part was no longer available and was superceded by the 68 part.
** - The 67 center grille was never released for service.

It's not confirmed that the 68 service parts were chromed, but they probably were the same as the production parts. So the 68 service parts were probably chrome up to the May 68 timeframe and then supplied as unchromed from then on. If a 68 chrome grille needed to be replaced and a NOS chrome grille was not available, the replacement black 68 grille would have been painted to match the original chrome doors. The first "Note: paint as required" is found no earlier than October 1968 for the headlight covers. So far, December 1971 is the earliest such a note is found for the center grille.

Today, the chrome grille is being made by suppliers who purchase the black grille from GM and then add the chrome. The chroming process used on the original 68 center grille is thought to be a process called metallizing (the process has been improved on from what was used in the late 60's). Reportedly, the current suppliers of the chrome grille are using a hot stamp process and the appearance is not equivalent to the original "chrome".  

Other Related Changes

There were other changes that surfaced during the grille research that appear to be related to the grille change.

The 68 RS headlight doors have a mold cavity number on the back side. The left (driver) side is usually number 1 and the right (passenger) side is usually number 3 (see "3", rotated counter clockwise, molded in the center of cover below). However, on some of these original cars it was noted that several of them had a mix of original 67 and 68 headlight covers. There are no mold cavity numbers for the 67 covers but instead they have part numbers on the back side. Apparently with the changeover to the all black grille, the 67 covers (with the part numbers molded on the back side), were utilized on the late year 68's. It is speculation only, but this may have been necessary as a shortage of black 68 headlight covers may have existed or perhaps a way to reduce leftover 67 cover inventory.

Rally Sport Headlight Covers (Rear View)
RS headlight covers RS headlight covers

 

The backing plate assembly (which holds the headlight cover) also appears to have changed in the late May timeframe. The left picture below is the earlier version, the right picture is the post-May version. (It should also be noted that the backing plate has some adjustability via the caged nuts to aid in aligning the headlight covers to the center grille and the the outer bezel.)

Rally Sport Headlight Backing Plates
RS backing plates RS backing plates

Some of the hardware used on the grille/front end appear to have been changed around the same time as the grille change. The hardware changes involved nuts, washers, and screws (see the change noted to item 8 in the AIM and the pictures below). Note that the nut (#8) was replaced with a U-nut attached to the lower grille in observed 05D and later cars (another change from the AIM illustration).

1968 Camaro Assembly Instruction Manual (AIM), Z22 page A4
1968 AIM
Attaching Details: Note the screw is inserted from the bottom
which differs from the AIM illustration.
RS grille attaching detail       RS grille attaching detail

Part number 9419303 screw and 9422836 nut found on later (after 05D) RS cars
RS grille screw RS grille nut RS grille screw RS grille screw

Grille Rivets
RS grille rivet

The original rivets (part #4 in AIM) that held the center grille to the upper and lower grilles have played a major role in determining the originality of the grilles investigated during this research. The original rivets were anodized aluminum and dull black. They measured 3/16" x 17/64" x 14/32" and were a semi-tubular rivet. The rivets were actually waxed with a product called Fabrilube to help with the installation. (These rivet details were supplied by AMK products in Winchester, VA who have the original GM manufacturing spec's for these fasteners.)

Note that a center grille assembly service part may also have the original style rivets. So the presence of the rivets is not definite proof that it's the original grille, but the lack of the rivets (i.e. presence of bolts or pop rivets) is proof that it's not original.

 

Chronology

The following is a chronology of the 68 RS grille with the 67 RS grille as the starting reference point.

Year & Month 68 RS center grille info
except as noted
Notes / Comments
Feb - March 1966 67 RS center grille is blueprinted.
April 1966 67 RS grille redesigned.
November 1966 68 RS grille is blueprinted. Blueprints refer back to 67 prints for specifications and details. A note on 68 print states that it is "identical to the 67 part". But the 68 grille is known to have a raised horizontal bars.
January 1967 67 center and lower grille are redesigned and part #'s changed. Center grille changed from 3898141 to 3921841.
Lower grille changed from 3898140 to 3921842.
January 1967 68 grille is revised but no indication of what change was made. Probably the same revisions as were done to the 67 design.
September 1967 67 grille revision made - unknown revision.
April 1968 Revised GM literature stating all SS cars to have a black grille.
May 1968 Research data shows transition taking place on 05D and 05E cars. Transition period from chrome grille to all black grille for RS cars.
October 1968 68 grille and headlight covers being supplied by GM Parts as replacements for 67's & 68's RS. 67 RS grille no longer available. Ref. 9/68 and 10/68 P&A 34 Parts Catalogs

 

Conclusions

The change from the chrome highlighted grille to the all black grille happened in the last few months of 68 production. The data shows some 05D and 05E RS/SS cars with a black grille, and some with the chrome grille, indicating a transition period during the last two weeks of May. There is a lack of later RS (non-SS) vehicle data to confirm that the change occured on all RS vehicles, but there is nothing to indicate that the grille change was not made to all RS models. These findings are based on current observations, review of available documentation, and discussions with GM representatives.

We are still collecting car data to help support the conclusions presented here. And while we have not observed any difference between the LOS and NOR assembly plants, we again would like more data to confirm this. We would greatly appreciate anyone who has an original grille or original headlight covers to contact us with the data from their car.

 

Acknowledgements

This research project would not have been possible without the contribution of all who provided information by way of the forum thread and the research data provided by other means. I thank each one of you and especially Ed Bertrand for all his assistance from the start. I also want to give a special thanks to the Detroit Office of EMI (Equity Management Inc). EMI handles all of GM's restoration parts licensing. They relayed some detailed information regarding the grille to me and answered several of my questions about the original 1967 and 1968 RS grille blueprints.

 



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