The Chevy Camaro and Chevy Blazer don’t often get mixed together due to the nature of the vehicles. One is a classic SUV, and the other is a performance-based sedan. What exactly happened with the + of the Camaro and Blazer to get a Pontiac Aztek as the final product?
How does Chevy Camaro and Chevy Blazer = Pontiac Aztek?
According to an old issue of Car and Driver, the Pontiac Aztek has quite the history. Car and Driver says to forget that history, but it’s not time yet. Out of GM’s West Coast Advanced Concept Center came the idea that combining the attributes of the Chevy Camaro and Chevy Blazer would make a new and exciting vehicle.
The idea was to take the Camaro and Blazer to create some sort of “wide, low, powerful, off-roadish thing referred to as the Bear Claw.” That’s definitely not what happened here. Upon creating the Aztek, the automaker planned to debut it at the prestigious Detroit auto show.
This rumor is actually confirmed in another interview with Tom Peters, Director of Exterior Design for GM at the time, and The Fast Lane.
In response, one of the concepts I proposed to our team was “What if you took a Camaro and a Blazer and put it in a blender?” The result was an AWD, sporty vehicle that you could carry a fair amount of gear, as well as people, we called it the ‘Bear Claw.’ At the time, I had never heard the term ‘crossover.’Tom Peters | The Fast Lane
But what happened when the Pontiac Aztek debuted publicly for the first time?
No part of this was cool like the Chevy Camaro, especially the Pontiac Aztek
Pontiac thought it would be sweet to hire local enthusiasts to hype up the Pontiac Aztek further. It isn’t apparent what the stipulations were for this. One dude held a sign that said, “It’s the versatility, Baby.” Another had a sign that said “Aztek 185 hp.” None of it makes sense.
Even with all of the fanfare, the Pontiac Aztek sat on the stage looking disappointed in itself. What parts of the Aztek were inspired by the Chevy Camaro and Chevy Blazer? Upon looking at all three vehicles, there aren’t many features reminiscent of one another on it. Someone at GM stepped in and decided that the Aztek should take on more design cues from the popular minivans of the area.
So now the design elements include Camaro, Blazer, and minivan. No particular minivan was specified, and no hints of minivan remained on the SUV. In the interview with TFL, Peters mentioned the youth inspired him. In fact, he mentioned The North Face clothing specifically. Peters said he passed around a black and yellow North Face jacket and drew inspiration from that.
Well, that didn’t go as planned for the automaker
Peter says the initial Bear Claw concept started with an S-series full-frame truck platform, four-wheel drive, off-road capabilities, and aggressive style. He explained that the Aztek body style moved from the S-Series truck frame to the GMT200 minivan platform. This forced some more style changes in the design and moved away from the Chevy Camaro/Blazer/Bear Claw hodgepodge.
These changes included raising the roof (hehe) and cowl, plus narrowing the body. Smaller wheels and tires, along with smaller wheel arches, were also a necessary move. The Pontiac Aztek looked less cool and more like a North Face jacket on clearance with each tweak. Peters says the Aztek was ahead of its time. Unfortunately, that time never came.
There was a big push to make the Pontiac Aztek cool when Breaking Bad used the SUV in the show. The ironic cool/not cool dichotomy of the SUV never really made sense, and people still don’t think it was cool. Chevy Camaro? Cool. Chevy Blazer? Cool enough. Pontiac Aztek? Just no.