Camaro Kings: Al and Jim Go Back to School

Written By: Trevor Thompkins

The Camaro team at Chevrolet is firing up all cylinders right now. From collecting industry awards left and right and debuting new variants at two major auto shows thus far in 2016, to driving automotive rumor mills crazy, Camaro Chief Engineer Al Oppenheiser is quite the busy man.

That’s why we were stunned when he and Camaro Program Manager Jim Kalahar set a date to visit with the Ohio State EcoCAR team on our campus. Accompanying Oppenheiser and Kalahar was Bill Hare, a controls engineer for the Camaro, and Brad Cooley, GM Powertrain Technical Lead for EcoCAR 3, both Ohio State alums. Shock turned to excitement as we began to plan a day worthy of their valuable time.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at their visit:


No proper tour with high-profile guests would be right without introducing them to professors and department directors at Ohio State. We threw in coffee and donuts from a local favorite to help break the ice!


While enjoying the coffee and donuts, Oppenheiser and Kalahar spent some one-on-one time with our team members. It was the perfect opportunity to exchange trade secrets.


Then Oppenheiser took some questions from the room, and talked about his road to being named chief engineer of the Camaro program.


The team was all smiles after some time to talk and munch on donuts.


For the first part of the day, Oppenheiser and Kalahar did most of the talking. Now, it was our turn! A group of team leaders presented to a room of more than 30 professionals with science and engineering backgrounds who were gathered to judge The Denman, Ohio State’s annual Undergraduate Research Forum. Not only did we introduce these professionals to EcoCAR 3, but Oppenheiser and Kalahar were able to witness presentation skills that the competition fosters.


After grabbing a free lunch, a perk of presenting at the Denman, we showed Oppenheiser and Kalahar Ohio State’s Autonomous Vehicle Laboratory. In the background of this photo, you will see a vehicle that competed in a DARPA Challenge in the mid-2000s.


But now it was time to get down to business. We all knew what Oppenheiser and Kalahar were here for: Camaro time!


Oppenheiser examined the progress that we had made. As he walked around and made comments about the vehicle, one could tell that he knew this vehicle like the back of his hand. He effortlessly mentioned measurements and ratios as he questioned team members about our design.


We must have passed Oppenheiser and Kalahar’s Camaro examination with flying colors because they decided to sign our car! This was a cool moment; we now own the first six generation Camaro that Oppenheiser has signed, and the second that Kalahar has signed. Car collectors eat your hearts out!


Before we let Oppenheiser and his team leave, we had to check out the Camaros they brought down. Oppenheiser drove the beauty with the stripes in the center, but he said he is already planning on picking up his newest creation, the mighty ZL1! Some fans of the team may recognize the red fifth generation Camaro, owned by Dave Emerling, industry liaison for the Center for Automotive Research, who helped us make this event a reality. We used his first and fifth generation Camaros for our tradeshow video in Year One.


And with that, the Camaro Kings hopped into the hottest car in the lot and sped back to Michigan! We can only imagine they are hard at work making all of our wildest Camaro fantasies come true…all except for a performance hybrid Camaro; they left that one to us.

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