05/04/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

For Wagoner, Camaro Comes Too Late

When he drove to Washington in December in his second bid for a government bailout, why didn't GM's Rick Wagoner saddle up the 2010 Camaro? GM's reinvented muscle car is an achievement worth pointing to. Big, bad, and nasty, it also delivers the best fuel economy ever in its class.

Of course Wagoner couldn't just jump in the Camaro. That would have been fun. After his disastrous first descent on Congress in the GM corporate jet, the chairman had to grovel on the second trip. Not to worry: There's a GM model for that, too.

To us on the West Coast, the sight of Wagoner en route in a Chevy Malibu hybrid summed up the carmaker's problems. At 34 mpg on the highway, the hybrid Malibu is just medium-green. Design-wise, it's solid, not sexy. Like too many GM products we grew up with, it aims for the middle -- a thousand models, and every one just like your mom's station wagon.

The Camaro, on the other hand, could be GM's biggest hit in years. At least that's how it looked to me when the automaker invited me to drive the V6, 304-hp model in West Hollywood last week.

Even here, in Celebrity Central, people stopped on the sidewalks to stare. Heads turned; cell-phone cameras clicked. After all, the Camaro is a movie star. It debuted in 2007's smash hit Transformers as Bumblebee, the loyal Autobot who helps Shia LaBeouf save the world and get next to Megan Fox.

Angelenos may want virtuous cars, but we want sexy too. Climate change or not, this is Hollywood. With an EPA-rated 29 mpg on the highway, the Camaro delivers both ways. It's fast enough to pin your ears back but green enough to soothe your conscience.

There's no love lost for GM in Los Angeles. Detroit's a world away. Japan's next door. Midwest and West Coast, we regard one another with suspicion. Out here we respect the Cadillac CTS, and maybe we'll love the long-awaited Chevy Volt. But nothing we've seen makes up for the joke that is the Hummer.

Still, let's be fair. We say GM can't make fuel-efficient cars Americans want to drive, but the Camaro proves otherwise. Whatever his failings, Wagoner, who resigned Sunday at the behest of the Obama administration, deserves a piece of that credit.

I'm told that 14,000 Camaros are on order, and that's before Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen hits theaters in May. Recession and all, we still want a piece of that ride.