Joshua Lee Williamson
January 24, 2002
The name Camaro came from a French word for friend. The decision on the name came down to the last minute, with most of the world sure the car would be named, The Panther. Although the strange name had to be explained to the public, Camaro fit in with other Chevy names- Corvette, Chevelle, Chevy 2, and Corvair.
The main reason the Camaro was introduced was because of the huge success of the Ford Mustang. The Camaro was roughly the same size as the Mustang, a little wider and based more on performance. The Camaro is one of the last remaining muscle cars still in production today. It is only fitting that buyers still expect maximum performance from their Camaros. It is that expectation that has kept the Camaro alive for all these years, while many other cars have faded away, lost in memory.
The Mustang GT only only offered the 289- cubic inch or an 390- cubic inch V8 in 1967. The Camaro rolled out with 302, 327, 350, and 396 cubic inch V8s (Camaro 14) The Camaros style was much smoother as well. The introduction of the Camaro threw pony car development into a frenzy. Before the Camaro, the Mustang and Barracuda were not quite considered full muscle cars. Most serious performance enthusiasts still opted for intermediate sized GTOs or the Chevelle Super Sports (SS). The Camaro changed the image of those sport coupes. (Camaros, Eric Ethan)
The Z28 and the stout SS-396 were more than just a stylish ride. Under the hood Camaros were well respected. Such respect helped establish the Camaro as the premier high-performance pony car.
Camaro sales increased each year form 1967-1969. To this day, these Camaros are the favorite among enthusiasts. The Camaro brings a bad-boy image to the street and the track. The car has always been based on racing even when the Camaro was not officially involved. Its at home drag racing, and racing away from convenience stores after hold-ups. Because of this, media has given the Camaro a bad boy reputation.(American Muscle Cars, 47)
1969 saw several noteworthy changes to the Camaro. The grill became deeper set, the taillamps were longer and thinner and broken into three segments. A heavy “eye-brow” crease was added on the both sides of the car extending from the front wheel well to the rear wheel well. A matching crease went from the rear wheel well to the rear quarter panel. Endura rubber bumpers were available on the Camaro as well as a two ram air induction systems for the SS. The first was a new special hood with a rear facing inlet and cold-air duct underneath the hood. The second was a dealer installed cowl plenum kit that came with a special air cleaner and adapter. No special hood was needed. The RS package was still popular, and included a special grill with concealed headlights and washers, and RS badging. The SS standard 350 received a slight power boost to 300bhp but the big news was the availability of special 427 cid equipped Camaros. The first were special dealer-installed units, most notably the Yenko Camaro 427. Yenko Sports Cars, based in Pennsylvania, along with other Chevy dealers such as Nickey in Chicago, Dana in California, and Baldwin-Motion in New York, would install the L72 427 cid block, rated at 425bhp by Chevrolet, ordered under the Central Office Production Order System (COPO) code 9562 into a buyer’s Camaro. The Yenko Camaro 427 is typical of the breed; it came from the factory with no ornamentation, badging, and the 427 in a crate. Yenko installed the 427 block, changed the rating to a more realistic 450bhp, and added 15-inch rally wheels, bigger front roll bar, and sYc (Yenko Sports Car) badging. A full complement of racing add ons were available and sub 13 second quarter miles were possible with a few more dollars. Overshadowing these dealer souped up Camaros was the factory Camaro ZL1. Specially designed to compete in the NHRA Super Stock drag classes, Chevrolet made it an option under the COPO system. The cars began as SS-396 cubic inch/375bhp Camaros with the F41 suspension. The SS trim and engine were deleted, and the 427 engine, cowl-induction hood, front disc brakes, a choice of heavy duty 4 speed transmissions were added. The ZL1 sported aluminum heads and the first aluminum block ever made by Chevrolet. It shared the L88 aluminum head/iron block’s engine rating of 430bhp but made closer to 500bhp — making it probably the most powerful engine Chevrolet ever offered to the public. And it weighed just 500 pounds, the same as Chevy’s 327 small block. The car was blessed with a 5 year/50,000 mile warranty and was fully street legal. With factory exhausts and tires, it turned low 13s; with headers and slicks, it could turn 11.6s @ 122mph. This was the fastest car ever produced by Chevrolet. Performance had its price — $4,160 for the ZL1 engine alone pushing the price of the Camaro ZL1 to an unbelieveable $7,200 (about double the price for a SS396 Camaro). Chevy needed to build 50 to qualify the car for racing; it actually built 69, 59 Camaros and 2 Corvettes. The high price made them difficult to sell and at least 12 engines were removed and about 30 cars were returned back to Chevrolet. It took until the early 1970s to sell them all. (GM auto technical data 134-167)
Production of the 1969 Camaros continued into the beginning of 1970 as the all new 1970 Camaros were not released until mid 1970. Despite predictions of the collapse of the pony car market, the new Camaro was released with much fanfare and much success. Most of the credit went to the new styling, which was European-inspired and would prove so popular that it would last until 1982. The new Camaro was two inches longer and had five inch longer doors. It had better noise insultation. Under the hood, the Camaro SS continued with the 350 and 396 engines. After January 1970, however, the 396 engines no longer displaced 396 cubic inches. Chevrolet actually enlarged them to 402 cubic inches but the executives decided to name it the 396 to take advantage of the name recognition and avoid any attention from insurance carriers. The Z28 saw the most radical change — an all new 350 cid engine know as the LT-1 350. It was rated at 360bhp (it had a rating of 370bhp when installed in Corvettes). This engine proved much more tractable, reliable, and generally outperformed the 302. (GM tech 155-162)
For a lot of reasons, the 1970 is often remembered as the last great year for American muscle cars. The pressure on the auto makers had been building for quite some time. The Environmental Protection Agency was formed shortly after the 1970 Camaro hit the road, and insurance companies were making it harder and harder for young people to buy the high-powered machinery everyone wanted. One of the first mandates form the government was the phasing out of leaded gasoline and a dramatic lowering of auto exhaust emissions
The 1970 Camaro had huge changes under the hood because of the new government restrictions. The Z-28 saw its 350 cid engine drop from 360 hp to 330 hp. Both the SS350 and SS396 (still with a 402 cid engine) saw decreases in power ratings and a proposed 400 cid engine never saw production. The RS package was still available with corresponding trim and appearance changes.
A 174 day strike at the Ohio plant where all Camaros and Firebirds were built severly limited 1972 model year production. Even worse, 1,100 unfinished Camaros had to be scrapped because they didn’t meet 1972 federal bumper safety standards. With the declining performance market, there were many calls to cancel the Camaro. Luckily cooler heads prevailed and the Camaro stayed in production. Visually, the 1972 Camaros had a revised grill with only seven vertical slats instead of the previous 12. Another GM mandate required that all power ratings be given in net terms (including all accessories). Although that led to drastic drops in peak numbers, the new ratings were actually more accurate than the old gross power ratings because they were a better reflection of the power that actually hit the road
The big news for 1973 was the deletion of the SS option, which only left the Z-28 to carry the performance banner. The RS option remained with revised front bumperettes. A new Type LT option was added as a luxury package which included a weak V8 and several trim items. The Z-28 saw another decrease in power as hydraulic lifters replaced its solid ones. As a sign of the times, air conditioning was available on the Z-28 for the first time. Despite all this, production for all models was up. The Chevrolet Camaro would continue, unlike most of its muscle car era competitors, in one form or another, until it would return to its performance roots in the early 1990s.
For 1974, the Camaro was given its first real face-lift of the new generation. Its nose featured a revised grille opening and the larger, impact-absorbing bumpers required by law. The taillights were replaced by flat, one-piece assemblies. The reworked nose and new bumpers stretched the carss overall length by 7 inches. The engine lineup was simplified by the removal of the 307 inch V8, leaving the 250 V6 and the 350 V8 engines as the sole choices. The Z28 was back for 1974 but with the first major alteration of its appearance since 1967. The traditional twin stripes running the length of the car were replaced by huge Z28 graphics on the hood, with three stripes trailing behind each character. The Z28 continued with 245 hp, although the engine benefited from the introduction of GMs High Energy Ignition (HEI).
The Z28 was retired after the 1974 model year. What was available for Camaro buyers looking for some excitement in 1975 was a revived Rally Sport option. This new Rally Sports most prominent feature was a flat-black hood. The top Camaro engine, still the 350 four-barrel, was rated at only 155 hp. The drop was attributed in part to the new catalytic converters introduced on GM cars that year, as the manufacturer fought to keep exhaust emissions low. With all indicators pointing back toward fun, Chevrolet announced midway through the 1977 model year that the Z28 would return. Chevrolet general manager Bob Lund made the announcement January 14, 1977, at a Daytona press conference. This time Chevrolet had no qualms about touting the cars heritage. You remember this car. Low and lean. Born to run. Its back. The Z28, ads promised. And instead of an option package, this time the Z28 was a separate model, priced at $5,170. Horsepower was up to 170, helped by a less restrictive exhaust. After a two-year-plus absence form the 1970s muscle car scene, Chevrolets Z28 had some ground to make up. Due to the late introduction, Chevrolet built only 14,349 Z28s for 1977. But the return of the Z28 created a bubble of excitement around the Camaro, helping push production over 200,000 cars for the first time since 1969. The Mustang didnt come close. The old friend was back, and the public approved. (Camaro Enthusiast 1970-1981)
In 1978, the Camaro was given some plastic surgery, to help keep the aging body style fresh. The exposed bumpers went away, replaced by body-colored endcaps that hid the actual bumpers. The tail lamps were redesigned as well. T-tops were introduced as a $625 option. The Z28 was given a more aggressive appearance for 1978. New additions included fender louvers and a fake hood scoop that traced the hood decals lines. His majesty as Chevrolet advertising copywriters called the Z28, now sported 185 horsepower.
These changes and a strong economy made a tremendous year for Camaro. The 272,631 production run was a new Camaro record. Z28 production reached 54,907, also a new record. During the 1978 model year Chevrolet also built the two-millionth Camaro, a significant milestone for a car that was nearly canceled only six years earlier. The 1979 was not much different from the previous year, but there were a few new attractions. The Berlinetta model was introduced , taking the place in the line-up formerly held by the type LT. As the new luxury Camaro, the Berlinetta offered extra insulation, a distinct grille and pin striping, bright moldings around the windows and a suspension for a plush ride.
The 1980 Z28 got the usual new stripes along its flanks plus half-flares at the rear wheel openings. The Z28 also offered a new hood scoop that let in a blast of cold air to the 190 horsepower, 350 V8. Every little bit helped, but at 3660 pounds , the Z28 was good for about 14 miles per gallon, and in 1980, that was the sort of thing people really noticed. Sales were not good for the Camaro in 1980, as the economy settled into a recession and high interest rates discouraged many potential buyers. The second oil crisis continued into the early 80s, wrecking sales for 1981 Camaro, as well.
1982 was the introduction of the third generation Camaro. The Camaro came with three nameplates to choose from, they were, Sports Coupe, Berlinetta, and the Z-28. Three engines were available with the new Camaro, they were the 2.5L (151 CI) the 2.8L (173 CI) and the 5.0L (305 CI). Transmissions were a 4 speed manual and a 3 speed automatic. (Muscle Car color history, Steve Statham)
Sport Coupe came standard with the 4 cylinder. The V-6 and V-8 were optional. Dog dish hub caps were standard, but they offered a cool set of 14×7 steel 5 spoke body-colored rally wheels as an option.
The Berlinetta was quite an upgrade from the Sport Coupe, it had no power lag 4 cylinder but instead came standard with the V-6. The V-8 was an option. The Berlinetta came standard with additional body insulation, softer suspension and full instrumentation. Berlinetta also came standard with exterior gold ‘Berlinetta’ badging on the rear bumper, and C pillars. The 5 spoke Aluminum rims also came with the Berlinetta badge on them and the steering wheel even received the Berlinetta Badge. The headlamp pockets were painted in an accent color and tail lights got a gold and black horizontal divider bar. The Berlinetta recieved its own lower body pinstriping as well came standard with custom cloth interior.
The Z28 came with the Four Barrel V-8 as standard motor and TBI* Cross Fire Injection 5.0 liter (305 CI) motor was optional. All Z28’s came with light-weight Sheet Molded Compound hoods. The optional Cross fire Injection 5.0L Z28’s came with functional hood air induction flaps. The Z28 had a different nose that did not have the three horizontal slits above the grille as on the Sport Coupe and Berlinetta. The Z28 came standard with a 3 piece rear spoiler and black horizontal bar in tail lights. The Z28 also came with front, side, and rear lower Ground Effects in silver or gold. Just above the ground effects were a two-color lower body stripe that en- circled the car. Headlamp pockets on the Z28 were black as well it came standard with a new 15×7 cast aluminum 5 spoke wheel accented with either silver or gold. Z28 badges appeared on the right rear bumper, and on the side valance just behind the front wheels. (Camaro History 1982-2001
the first thing added to the 1983 Camaro was the new 4 speed (700R4) automatic Transmission. Along with this was the new 5 speed manual transmission. Both these transmission were standard on all the V-8 and Camaros of that year, but the 4 cylinder and V-6 these transmissions were optional. All Z-28 hoods were changed from Sheet molded compound hoods to Steel, with the exception of the air induction hoods on the Z-28. Charcoal was added as a wheel accent/ground effects color. But the big news for the 1983 Camaro was not introduced till midyear(March 1983), and that was the 5.0L High Output motor. It came with a higher lift, and longer duration cam, dual snorkel intake system, special Quadrajet carburetor, lightweight flywheel, electric cooling fan and beefier 2.75 inch exhaust pipes. the 5.0 liter H.O appeared as a decal on the air cleaner, and as an exterior badge on the car. It came standard with the 3.73 rear axlem and was only available with the 5 speed manual. (same source)
For 1984, GM seemed to be selling the expected amount of cars, so they didn’t really improve it all that much on looks or performance, it seemed things were dropped, or replaced with better that year, but the big things went into the interior. The Berlinetta received an all digital instrument panel. It consisted of a Bargraph tach, digital speedometer, and stalk mounted Cassette/radio. On the steering wheel there were side mounted controls, cruise control was also in the steering wheel, and the overhead console. There were also a death that year, the 5.0L Cross Fire Injection V-8 was dropped, and the 3 speed automatic, and all Z-28 hoods were now made out of steel. On a lighter note, the 5.0 High output engine was now available with the 4 speed auto. And clutches switched to hydraulic on all manual transmissions.
The 1985 Camaro was given all new nose cones, with deeper valances and front spoiler for the Z-28 and the newly introduced IROC-Z. The hood ducts in the Z-28 were replaced by simulated hood louvers, and the taillights received a new grid pattern. The number of low body stripes grew from 2 to 4 on the Z-28 with a body colored gap between the top 3. The aluminum Berlinetta wheels became an extra cost option, and was now standard with its own special wheel covers that looked similar to the aluminum wheel option. The Sport Coupe had also received an extra cost option of Berlinetta aluminum rims. Finally that year the Tune Port Injection motor was introduced. It was a 5.0L (305ci), and was only available in the Z-28 or IROC-Z. Mean while on the lower end the V-6 Carbureted motor was replaced by the multi-port fuel injected engine. Both of these modifications were great, because the public got what they asked for more Horse power. In 1985 Chevrolet introduced the IROC-Z Camaro which became known as “the Camaro that thinks it’s a Corvette”.. The name IROC and the styling features were adapted from the Camaro IROC racing cars that were developed for the International Race of Champions.In 1985, the IROC-Z became available as a $659 package available only on the Z28 platform. Several distinct differences between the Z28 and IROC-Z were performance-calibrated front struts and coil springs, Bilstein reat shocks, and the famous 5 spoke 16 inch aluminum wheels with good year 245/50/R16 tires, these performance boosting items made the IROC 1/2 an inch lower than the Z28, and gave skid pad numbers in the .90g range. Under the hood started out with 155HP LG4, then came the 190HP High output 4 barrel 305, and finally the top 305 Tune Port Injection with 215 Horsepower, and 275ft/lbs of torque. Appearance wise the IROC had a redesigned front fascia, with a more rounded appearance, Halogen Fog lamps, and on the sides were more aggressive ground effects. Fake louvers were found on the hood. IROC’s received Monochrome paint treatment. (Camaros pg. 87-94)
In 1986, The Sport Coupe started off the year with some fine, new features, first the lower body striping, black headlight pockets, black mirrors, the f42 suspension, and the 15×7 steel 5 spoke rally wheels became standard. The SC also picked up it bigger brothers (Z-28) tail lights. A new option added was the fog lamps found on the Z-28 and IROC were now available on the Sports Coupe. The Berlinetta on the other hand was not so luckily, it found itself to be yesterdays news and was disconnected early that year. In Late 86, the 85 mph speedometer found in the Z-28 and IROC-Z was replaced with a new 145 mph Speedometer. The Original TPI motor came out in 1985, was detuned for 86 losing 25hp (due to smaller Cam), but gained torque, increasing from 275 to 285. Note TPI were only available with Automatic transmissions.
The 1987 Camaros had quite a bit done to them. The Sport Coupe got restyled rally wheels (unique to this year), new lower body stripes, and argent headlamp pockets.
The Berlinetta model was replaced with the new ‘LT’ option for the Sport Coupe. The LT option incorporated most of the Berlinetta’s equipment except the electronic instrumentation. Late in the model year, RS Camaro was introduced for California and with V-6 power only. RS had Z28 style valances that were painted body color (like IROC) and had no lower body stripes. The RS got the 15 inch 5 spoke aluminum Z28 wheel which were painted to match body color. 1987 RS Camaro came only in red, white, or black. Camaro convertible was introduced for the first time since 1969 as a regular production option. The convertible was available on the Sport Coupe, Sport Coupe LT, Z28, and IROC-Z. The new 350 TPI motor was not available in the convertible however!
1987 was the 20th anniversary of the Camaro and the convertibles were considered the anniversary editions and were signified by a special dash badge that read ’20th Anniversary Commemorative Edition’. G92 performance axle ratio and J65 four wheel disc brakes were available this year on the IROC-Z convertible. The 350 TPI and 5 speed 305 TPI combinations were finally available on the IROC-Z. The 350 was only available in the IROC-Z and only with an automatic transmission. The exterior differed in appearance only by ‘5.7 Tuned Port Injection’ badges rather than ‘Tuned Port Injection’ badges.
For 1988, The Z-28 Model was dropped and replaced by the IROC-Z. The 16 inch wheels were restyled, and now went from standard to an option. The Standard wheel on the IROC-Z was now the old 15×7 inch 5 spoke Z-28 wheels (these wheels were also now standard on the SC) Now the 5 spoke wheels was painted completely Gold or silver rather than just accented whit these colors. The IROC-Z Decals were moved to the back of the doors. The pin striping was changed to black on the top, with body color in between, rather than black on the bottom. Thats pretty much everything that was changed for the 1988 model year.
The Rally Sport replaced the Sport Coupe in 1989, and was now available with the L03 V-8. Headlamp pockets were no longer painted black on the RS, as well rear shoulder belts, and the Corvette PASS-Key Ignition lock system was on all Camaro’s. As for the IROC, the P245/50ZR-16 were replaced with new P245/50VR-16 tires. The TPI motors for “better” Multec fuel injectors, which meant more performance, and new calibration eliminated the cold start injector. As well the base 15 inch IROC wheels were restyled to match the appearance of there 16 inch sibling, the four wheel disc optional rear brakes were increased to 11.65 inch rotors (from 10.5 inch), which allowed for better stopping and a more reliable parking brake. The G92 option upped the ante a bit with its performance exhaust (Dual Catalytic converters) which added an extra 10 ponies (hp)
The 1990 model year was only a half year of production. Due to the termination of the Chevrolet IROC contract, no IROC-Z’s were produced after 12/31/1989. Instead, the 1991 Camaros were introduced early during last half of the normal 1990 model year. 1990 IROC’s and RS’s are easily identifiable: 1990 was the first year for the updated interior which included drivers side airbag, redesigned instrument panel, yellow lettering on dash, rounded controls. So 1990 IROC’s are the only IROC’s with the new interior. 1990 RS’s are the only RS’s with the new interior. (GM tech manual: Camaro)
For 1991 The IROC-Z was dropped, and the Z28 returned was the big headline for 1991. All Ground effects were redesigned, with side scoops in front of each wheel, and received a large Ferrari F40 like Wing. The Z28, CAMARO on the front license plate, was replaced with the Bow-tie, and the the hood louvers were replaced with power blisters, and badging only appeared on the rear bumper. The fresh new 16 inch wheel was now standard on the Z28 with optional P235/55R-16 tires or P245/50ZR-16 tires. But the P245/50ZR-16 tires were standard on the 350 Z28 and the Z28 Convertible. Fr the first time the Rally Sport was available with 16 inch wheels, it also received grid tail lights from its sister the Z28. “B4C ‘special service’ police package became available to law enforcement agencies only. Cars were RS coupes with Z28 5.0 TPI or 5.7 TPI drivetrains and Z28 suspensions. These cars came equipped with the 16 inch wheels and P245/50-ZR16 tires, engine oil cooler, rear disc brakes, and limited slip axle. Midyear, the 1LE 11.86 inch front brakes and HD calipers became optional for the B4C. This package was the only way to get air conditioning and the HD front brakes. There were 592 1991 B4C Camaros built.”
It was the 25th anniversary of the Camaro and the last year for third Generation production. 1992 also marked the end of Camaros produced at the Van Nuys plant (the only Camaro producing plant since the Norwood plant closed at the end of the 1987 model year). All Camaros had 25th anniversary badge on dash. The 1992 model wasnt changed very much because of the long awaited debut of the next generation Camaro.
And so, after two fuel crises, a couple recessions, and six presidents, all was much as it had been 25 years earlier: high-powered Camaros and Mustangs dueling on the street and on the track. And the scary part was, things were about to get even more competitive.
1993 was the year of the 4th generation Camaro . Not only was the exterior radically transformed, but under the hood there were numerous performance upgrades. 1993 saw the debut of the fourth-generation F-body, and a marked increase in power. Camaros and Firebirds received a version of the 5.7 liter LT1 engine from the Corvette. This “Gen-II” small-block featured aluminum heads, reverse-flow cooling, and a redesigned intake setup that made good power all the way to the engine’s 5800 rpm redline. The 1993 LT1 was rated at 275-horsepower, and LT1-powered F-bodies were good for low-14’s at the strip. Behind the new engine was an equally new Borg-Warner T-56 6-speed manual transmission, or a 4L60 (a renamed 700-R4) 4-speed automatic carried over from the previous generation. The rear-axle assembly remained basically the same as the third generation, albeit a tad wider. A new short/long arm (SLA) independent front suspension and aggressive, flowing bodywork capped by an extremely raked windshield rounded out the first models of the new generation.
In 1997, Chevrolet celebrated the Camaros 30th birthday with an anniversary option to commemorate the event. The anniversary Camaros were draped in white paint with Hugger Orange stripes, as used on 1969 Indy Pace Cars. Overall, the visual effect of orange over white was perhaps better suited to the older cars, but the look was still striking. Chevrolet even revived the interior with 30th anniversary logos. White wheels added to the effect.
1998 was a big year for the Camaro. It received a major refreshening with body upgrades including a new front fascia, a new hood, composite reflector headlamps, and new fenders. The 1998 model also received chassis upgrades, a new 4-wheel disc brake system and a new anti-lock brake system (ABS). But the biggest upgrade was the all new LS1 V8 engine for the Camaro Z28. This new engine produces 335 horsepower. Thats more than twice the standard horsepower offered in the 1982 Z28, to shine a little perspective on the state of modern high-performance.
Although most Camaros sold through the years have not been performance models, it is still the image and reputation of the various Super Sports, Z28s, Pace Cars, and IROC-Zs that have defined the Camaro and kept the car in the public eye. While other car fashions have changed, Camaro buyers still want powerful V8s driving the real wheels, preferably with a manual transmission between the two. Given the opportunity, they will buy performance.
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