Vince Bond Jr.
Vince Bond Jr.
Reporter and Community Editor
VINCE BOND JR.

Inside the Camaro's transformation for latest 'Transformers' film

The edgier, more aggressive Bumblebee that Michael Bay envisioned demanded extensive design modifications not seen on the road today.
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The reimagined Camaro in the latest Transformers film features a slew of design alterations unique to the movie.

Chevy Camaro enthusiasts hitting theaters for Transformers: Age of Extinction this weekend should have a field day identifying changes amid the over-the-top explosions as Bumblebee fights alongside Optimus Prime and the rest of the Autobots.

The rebooted Bumblebee came to life after deliberations between the GM North Hollywood Advanced Design Center, GM's Vice President of Global Design Ed Welburn, director Michael Bay and his crew.

The center used a 2014 Camaro SS as the foundation, taking a little over a month on the new design. It took another three months to build, said center director Frank Saucedo in an interview this week.

The Aria Group, an Irvine, Calif.-based company that makes movie prototypes, constructed the Camaro along with the redone Chevy Sonics in the film, which were also designed by GM's Hollywood center.

The center's portfolio includes the futuristic Cadillac Elmiraj concept and Pontiac Solstice. The studio, which also worked on the previous three Transformers films, will have more designs on the silver screen in a 2015 Disney film that Saucedo wouldn't name.

The edgier, more aggressive Bumblebee that Bay envisioned demanded extensive design modifications not seen on the road today.

The alteration list includes a stance that is 2 inches wider on each side. The front fascia, lamps, spoiler, rocker panels, rear lower diffuser and exhaust were changed too.

The hood, in particular, received special attention.

"We had a much subtler hood and they went with a little bit more aggressive hood. Ed went back and forth with them and we ended up with something that I think was a really good, strong hood but not too over the top," said Saucedo, who added that the Camaro is basically a stock car on the inside. "On camera, I think it's going to read pretty well."

Asked if the updated Camaro has any design elements that could reach future production models, Saucedo was tight-lipped.

For the Sonic, the center used the RS trim as the base design. Saucedo said the models, which can get close to 300 hp, are basically racecars that closely adhered to World Rally Car specifications in their length and width.

The front ends were remodeled, stances widened and the interiors were gutted as the team installed full roll cages. Two of the Sonics were given rally specs, while three were built so more people could fit.

Saucedo said one of the little rockets was lost on the first day of filming, so a sixth Sonic had to be built. Two Camaros were made for the film.

And for the more dedicated Transformers fans hoping to create their own Bumblebee renditions, Saucedo shared another nugget that should make their hearts skip a beat.

“[Everything] we did mechanically is stuff you can buy from a parts bin in our aftermarket stuff from the dealer," he said. "I believe all of it is available now."

Saucedo was quick to point out, however, that the body work itself is specific to the movie. That'll require a little more effort to reproduce.

GM’s Bumblebee design squad included two exterior designers, a handful of staffers on parts and pieces, another eight on 3D development and four clay modelers.

So how does this Bumblebee Camaro stack up to the previous iterations?

“We got to do a little more on the car,” Saucedo said. “This is our favorite.”

You can reach Vince Bond Jr. at vbond@crain.com. -- Follow Vince on Twitter

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