Chevrolet Camaro 1982-2002
After 12 model years of the same basic design for the 2nd gen model, even though it wore well, it was time for a change. This change would center largely around a smaller body, lighter curb weight, enhanced utility and, of course, better fuel economy, goals in which the new F body accomplished. The 3rd generation would last almost as long as the 2nd gen models, and the 4th gens would last almost as long as the 3rd gens.
As with the Firebird, the Camaro still retains a very strong and loyal following. And now that GM has officially revived the Camaro for the 2010 model year, loyalty for this car remains almost unstoppable, and will no doubt continue.
- Chevrolet Camaro
- Chevrolet Camaro 1967-1981 for info about the first 2 generations.
- Pontiac Firebird for info about the Camaro's twin.
|Body Style|| 3-Door Hatchback|
|Transmission|| 4-Speed Manual, RWD|
5-Speed Manual, RWD
3-Speed Automatic, RWD
4-Speed Automatic, RWD
|Engine|| 2.5L (151 cid) I4 (1982-1985)|
2.8L (173 cid) V6 (1982-1989)
3.1L (191 cid) V6 (1990-1992)
5.0L (305 cid) V8 (1982-1992)
5.7L (350 cid) V8 (1987-1992)
3rd Generation (1982-1992)
As mentioned, the 3rd gen Camaro was an entirely different animal from the 1st and 2nd gen models. It was shorter, rode a 7" smaller wheelbase and was about 300-400 lbs lighter, depending on model. Thankfully it was still rear-drive, but it was now a 3-door hatchback with a fold-down rear seat, a tremendous improvement in cargo capacity over the footlocker-sized trunk of the previous model. Front and rear seat room dimensions remained pretty much the same. The new Camaro sported quad rectangular headlights up front, and while the taillights carried over the tri-colored scheme from the last model, they were much larger, and still wrapped around the sides to double as rear side marker lights. Inside was an all new center console and dashboard, which oddly eliminated the traditional glovebox. T-tops also carried over. Z28 noses differed from the base and Berlinetta in that they did not have the 3 narrow horizontal slats above the grille, and the parking lamps were rectangular instead of square.
Underneath, there was still a live rear axle, but it was no longer supported by leaf springs, instead it was now a multi-link design, and Macpherson struts were now up front. Base, Berlinetta and Z28 models carried over, the engine on the base model was now the 92 hp 2.5L (151 cid) "Iron Duke" I4, with a 112 hp 2.8L (173 cid) V6 (standard on the Berlinetta) and a 145 hp 5.0L 305 cid V8 as options. The 145 hp 305 was standard on the Z28, with a 165 "crossfire injection" 305 as the top option - the 350 was no longer available (although it would return in 1987). 4-speed manuals and 3-speed automatics could be had with any engine except the crossfire 305, which had only the automatic. Z28s came with lightweight fiberglass hoods with twin functional hood air induction flaps on crossfire-injected cars.
Camaro fans no doubt mourned the loss of the 396s and LT-1 350s of old... but it was a new era. Raw power was out, luxury and fuel efficiency were in, and short of upgrading to a Corvette, a European exotic (or god forbid a Mustang GT), this was as good as it got.
The new Camaro Z28 would pace the Indianapolis 500 for the third time this year, this one was a 2-tone silver and blue with the optional door decals, making this the one 1982 Z28 model to attract any real collector interest.
Identical on the outside to the '82s, there were a couple of significant (and very welcome) changes for the Z28. The trouble-prone crossfire-injected 305 was mercilessly killed mid year, to be replaced with a 190 hp L69 305 4 bbl "H.O." V8, and could have a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic (which were also now available on the 2.8 V6 and "regular" 305 V8). The HO 305 was a godsend to the Z28's "street cred" (for lack of a better term), no longer getting sand kicked in its face by its arch-rival Mustang GT during stoplight drags. All radios were digital this year, eliminating the interesting analog console clock.
1984 Camaros entered the year with little change - since the Z28 got a new engine last year, it was the Berlinetta's turn for some attention, and it got it by way of an entertaining Star Wars-inspired digital dashboard. This dash also had an interesting center-mounted hinged stereo pod that could pivot towards the driver or passenger. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the Tokyo-by-night dashboard, Berlinetta sales were way down versus the previous years, but the base and Z28s both saw huge sales spurts - over 200,000 were sold this year, making this the best selling year of the 3rd gen, and the highest sales figure the Camaro would ever see again.
Road & Track magazine selected the 1984 Camaro/Firebird as one of 12 best cars in the world and the Best Sports GT category in the $11,000 to $14,000 range. Car and Driver also picked the 1984 Camaro Z28 as the best handling car built in the United States, besting even the all-new Corvette.
The 1985 Camaro had a slightly revised nose, many of the previous edges were now more rounded off, and the grille was different. The 3 horizontal slats on the nose of the base and Berlinetta were now slimmer. Z28s continued with a new horizontally louvered grille, but the big news was the introduction of the hot new IROC-Z (International Race Of Champions). The Camaro IROC-Z featured an upgraded suspension with lowered springs, specially valved shocks, and a larger rear sway bar, a special decal package and an optional Tuned Port Injection system taken from the Corvette, but instead of the Corvette's 350 engine, the top engine was a 205 hp 305. It also shared the Corvette's 245/50ZR16 tires and new aluminum 5-spoke 16" rims, a first time for such a rim on a Camaro. IROC-Zs also had a single paint scheme versus the 2-tone of the Z28, but both got new "twin-zipper" hood vents. The IROC's taillights differed from the rest in that they had a tight cross-hatch pattern on them. The base Iron Duke I4 hung in (barely) for one more year, and the 2.8 V6 got an hp boost to 130. Base engine for the Z28 and IROC-Z was the "regular" 170 hp 305-4, with the 190 hp H.O. 305-4 and TPI 305 as options. The TPI 305 was available only with the automatic. Also, speedometers no longer had the dual-pointed needle that simultaneously read MPH and KPH - it was now a single conventional needle.
The biggest visual change was the addition of the Center High Mounted Stop Lamp (CHMSL) atop the rear hatch. The H.O. 305 was cancelled mid-season due to supposed fuel-boiling issues, and the what-the-hell-is-this-doing-here Iron Duke I4 was also dumped (along with the 4-speed manual transmission) - the 2.8 V6 was now the standard engine in the base and was now fuel-injected. Z28s and IROC-Zs continued with either the base 305 or TPI 305. Berlinettas were barely a blip on the sales radar by now, and the model, along with its gee-whiz digital dash, would be dropped by the end of this year.
The much-anticipated 225 hp 350 TPI engine finally became a reality this year in the IROC-Z. Many have referred to this as a "Corvette engine", but the IROC 350 used a standard cast-iron block instead of the Corvette's aluminum block and were about 15 hp less, so they weren't really the same. The IROC 350 was unfortunately available only with the automatic, but the 215 hp 305 TPI could finally have a 5-speed manual. Base models continued, along with a new LT model, which (ironically) replaced the Berlinetta. Speedometers now read 145 MPH on TPI-equipped IROCs and Z28s, 115 MPH on the rest. The CHMSL was relocated to the rear spoiler, but on the base and LT models without the optional spoiler, the CHMSL remained atop the hatch. Z28s by now were being grossly overshadowed by the IROC-Z, which was now the new top-dog.
Big news this year was the introduction of the first factory-produced Camaro convertible for the first time since 1969, and it was available on all models, even the LT (making one of those an ultra-rare find). The biggest selling convertible model was of course the IROC-Z, but unfortunately the 350 engine wasn't available on the convertible. This would be one 3rd gen Camaro that should undoubtedly become a collectible.
The one-year-wonder LT model went away for good and the Z28 took another hiatus, leaving only the base and IROC models. To compensate for the loss of the Z28, base models gained the old Z28's front clip, ground effects and 15" 5-spoke aluminum wheels, while the IROC was decontented - for example, the same 15" 5-spoke rims from the base model were now standard and the previously-standard 16-inchers were now moved to the options list. The 16" rims were changed slightly, but looked largely the same. The IROC-Z door decals were moved to the rearward portion of the door instead of the forward portion as in years prior, and IROC-Z nameplates replaced the former Z28 nameplates. Early base models got a raised low-profile one-piece rear spoiler that (thankfully) was used this year only. The base 305 V8 finally got fuel injection (TBI), so all engines were now fuel injected. Other drivetrain options continued as before.
This year saw the return of the Rally Sport (RS) name, and it was now the base model. With the Z28's old ground effects and 5-spoke rims, the RS looked very much like the early 3rd gen Z28s did (minus the hood scoops/vents), which was entirely intentional. IROCs continued as before, and it got a new dual catalytic-converter option for the TPI engines, raising hp to 225 on the 305 and 240 for the 350. The 2.8 V6 continued in the RS with the standard 3.42 rearend, with the 170 hp 305 TBI as optional and standard on the IROC. Since Camaros were a hot ticket with thieves, all now got a new VATS "Pass Key" computer chip on the ignition key, an idea borrowed from the Corvette which got it 3 years earlier. This would prevent the engine from being started unless it matched the engine code with the key, discouraging "hot-wiring". And for those who actually dared to ride (or we should say squeeze) in the back seat, all models got rear shoulder seat belts.
Even though this was an abbreviated model year, there were still some significant changes for 1990. A driver's side airbag was now standard, the dashboard was redesigned from circular gauges to half-moon shapes, and RS models got a bigger standard engine: the 140 hp 3.1L (191 cid) V6, basically was a bored-out 2.8, which was no more. Other drivetrain choices remained the same. This would be the final year for the IROC, as the contract would go to Dodge effective January 1, 1990, so all 1990 IROCs were actually made between September and December, 1989. This would be the only IROC model that would have an airbag and the new dashboard, and due to its rarity, a 1990 IROC will be the one to watch as far as collectibility goes, especially the convertible. The rear seatback was no longer split in the middle this year, it was now one piece. 1990 was also the 1st year that a full leather interior was available - before, all years before had leather front trim with a thick cloth back sides. A CD player became an option this year also. The L98 350 was no longer available with T-tops, as GM worried that the 350's higher torque rating would damage the weaker T-top frame (but some aftermarket conversions do exist - some have suffered at most only minor frame twist, easily corrected by sub-frame connectors).
All engines now used speed density instead of the mass air flow, while Ford changed from speed density to mass air flow - the same year Camaros went up in power and Mustangs when down. All TPI engines also used the L98 higher lift cam but all engines without the N10 dual catalyst option received the base 2-1/4 exhaust.
1991 Camaros got a head start this year, being introduced in April, 1990, and since the IROC was now a Dodge Daytona, the Z28 returned in full glory again as the Big Kahuna. The Z28 got revised ground effects with simulated air inlets (as did the base), twin hood scoops, new 16" 5-spoke aluminum rims, and a new one-piece raised rear spoiler. Base engine was still the 170 hp 305 TBI, with the 225 hp 305 TPI and 245 hp 350 TPI as the top option, and still only with an automatic. RS models continued with the 3.1 V6 as standard and the 305 TBI as an option. The CHMSL was relocated at the top of the inside of the hatch, and the base and Z28 inherited the IROC's tight cross-hatch patterned taillights. A new B4C police package was introduced this year, none were sold to the general public. The B4C police package had all 1LE options but allowed for AC. Leather interior was not available on B4C, and it used a flat hood with RS nameplates.
The 1LE required the base heater code "AC delete" and hardtop roof to keep the average Joe from picking up one of these show-room stock race cars. The 1LE package also contained the G92 limited slip axle with 3.23 gears with the 350, 3.42 gears with the 305. 4-wheel disc brakes were upgraded to 12" rotors in the front from the stock 10-1/4, with dual-piston alloy calipers borrowed from the Corvette. More goodies included the N10 dual catalyst exhaust option, alloy drive-shaft, heavy duty springs and shocks/struts and larger sway-bars with polyurethane bushings. The 1LE option was designed purely for the autocross track and not advertised by Chevrolet except in some very tight circles, hence its very low production numbers.
The 1992 Camaro changed very little while an all-new 4th gen model was waiting in the wings for next year. A 25th Anniversary "Heritage" package was available that included hood and decklid stripes, and it was available on both the RS and Z28. All Camaros, however, would have 25th Anniversary badging on the dashboard and front seatbacks. One very subtle visual difference between a 1992 and a 1991 Camaro is that the front license plate assembly on the 1991 was black, where it was body-colored on the 1992. All drivetrain choices were the same as in 1991.As a special note to collectors.Any "factory" painted yellow camaro is a rare car.Very few were painted this color in this generation.
This bodystyle was around for 11 model years, and like its predecessor, it was time for a change.
Main Competitors (1982-1992)
|Body Style|| 3-Door Hatchback|
|Transmission|| 5-Speed Manual, RWD|
6-Speed Manual, RWD
4-Speed Automatic, RWD
|Engine|| 3.4L (207 cid) V6 (1993-1995)|
3.8L (231 cid) V6 (1995-2002)
5.7L (346 cid) V8 (1998-2002)
5.7L (350 cid) V8 (1993-1997)
After being threatened with extinction again and not knowing for sure if there even would be a 4th generation, the Camaro once again defied the odds and was back for an all-new 4th generation in 1993. Unlike the 1st, 2nd and 3rd gens that were very different from each other, the 4th generation models were more or less updated 3rd gen models, even using the same basic platform and wheelbase. 4th gens were hatchbacks like the 3rd gens, and while the overall interior dimensions remained the same, outer dimensions grew slightly. The 4th gen body was much more rounded than the previous, and would initially only be offered as a 3-door hatchback, although the convertible would return a year later. Windshields were also very steeply raked, one car mag claimed it was the "steepest windshield this side of a Lamborghini Diablo". Curb weights were about the same, but power (and build quality) was way up over the 3rd gens. Dual airbags were standard (a first for a GM model), as well as anti-lock brakes. T-tops were available on all models.
There were once again 2 models, the RS designation was dropped (again), so now there was a base Camaro and Z28. Base models had a new 160 hp 3.4L (207 cid) V6 as their only engine, with either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic. Z28s had a new 275 hp "LT1" 5.7L (350 cid) as V8 as their only engine, with either a 6-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. The LT1 was borrowed from the Corvette, but it was detuned 25 hp. Roofs and side view mirrors would be black on all Z28 models, and while the 1993 Camaro initially got some criticism for what some deemed a Geo Storm-inspired front end and taillights that looked as if they might have been lifted intact from a Nissan NX2000, the Camaro's styling remained distinct and very recognizable - and once again became one of GM's best looking designs. Base models could either have teardrop-patterened hubcaps or a new offset 10-spoke bright aluminum rim, known by some as "salad shooters", and were standard on the Z28.
The Z28 would pace the Indianapolis 500 for the 4th time, this time it was a 2-tone black over white with multi-colored stripes down the side - and an interior that shared the same theme. Unlike the previous 1982 Z28 Pace Car, this one required no mechanical changes or modifications to lead the race.
There were no exterior changes in '94, there were a few revisions to the LT1 and the automatic transmission gained electronic controls (becoming the 4L60), but hp remained the same at 275. The 6-speed gained the dreaded CAGS (Computer Aided Gear Selection) that automatically shifted from 1st to 4th under light acceleration (although a quick blip on the gas before upshifting would cancel it). Dashboard graphics changed from yellow to white. Convertibles returned this year on both the base and Z28, but ragtop Z28s were initially governed to 108 MPH like the base because they weren't available with Z-rated tires.
Z28s could now have body-colored roofs and side view mirrors if so desired instead of black. Traction control finally became available on the Z28s, and they could now have Z-rated all-season tires as a new option. Convertible Z28s with this option no longer had the 108 MPH speed governor. The base Camaro got a new engine option mid year, the Buick-built 200 hp 3.8L (231 cid) V6, and like the 3.4 could have a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. There was some color shuffling also. Sales reached a peak this year at over 100,000 units.
1996 saw the return of 2 familiar Camaro designations, RS and SS, although they couldn't be combined as in years past. Starting with the RS, it was now a spoiler and ground effects package and could be had on the base or Z28. The SS would reclaim the hallowed spot as the top Camaro for the first time since 1972. SSs had a functional hood scoop, raised rear spoiler, and Street Legal Performance (SLP) added engine tweaks resulting in a 305 hp LT1 and 17-inch five-spoke wheels wrapped with P245/40ZR17 BFGoodrich Comp T/A tires. Z28s got a 10 hp increase to 285, and the base models now had the 200 hp 3.8 V6 as standard. To put this in perspective, the base Camaro now had more horsepower than the most powerful Z28 did in 1984.
All Camaros got tri-colored taillights this year with separate amber turn signals and were treated to a new dashboard, which layout was very similar to the Pontiac Firebird's. Daytime running lamps became standard this year (using the parking lights). The Camaro celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, so Chevy treated it to a 30th Anniversary model, which was white with dual orange hood and decklid stripes and a white houndstooth interior - no doubt inspired by the 1969 Pace Car. The Pace car could be had on the Z28 and SS, and in either hardtop, T-top or convertible variations. SLP managed to slip in the Corvette's 330 hp LT4 V8 engine into 100 of these Pace Cars - all were SSs, hardtops and 6-speeds. Collector status is assured on these. All other 1997 Camaros would have 30th Anniversary badges and embroidered seatbacks. Z28s got a new 5-spoke rim design, which were similar to the SS rims - no more "salad shooters", and they could be polished, chrome, or white on the Anniversary models. These were optional on the base as well. All drivetrain choices were the same as the previous year.
Camaros got a new facelift this year with composite headlamps replacing the mini-quads, and the hood and fenders were new as well. Z28s were treated to a new engine, by way of an all-aluminum LS1, once again borrowed from the Corvette. This would be the first all-aluminum Camaro V8 since the vaunted 1969 ZL-1. Horsepower was rated at 305, which was at last year's SS rating. SSs were now built in-house and their hp started at 320, but various SLP options could bump that figure up even further. The horsepower ratings were heavily underrated by General Motors to protect base model Corvette sales. The LS1 F-bodies were never "de-tuned". Dyno testing of completely stock LS1 F-bodies confirms this, as these cars dyno over 300 rear-wheel horsepower consistently. The RS designation would be dropped (again), but the spoiler and ground effects package that used to be the RS could still be had on the base and Z28s. Black roofs and side mirrors were standard-issue again on the Z28s and SSs, regardless of whether they were T-top or hardtop models.
Not many changes this year other than traction control becoming an option for base models and a new dashboard oil-life monitor became standard. 1999 did see the brief return of Hugger Orange, a very sought-after color from the Camaro's past, and would last this year only. Gas tanks were enlarged to 16.8 gallons vs 15.5.
Camaros finally dumped their 2-spoke Cavalier-inspired steering wheels for the 4-spoke wheel borrowed from the Monte Carlo, and could also have stereo controls. Z28s got a new 10-spoke standard rim, some which thought it looked straight out of a Honeycomb cereal box (not to be confused with the Pontiac Trans Am honeycomb rim from the 1970s), but the previous 5-spoke rim was still available. SSs also got a new 17" 10-spoke rim, but the old 17" 5-spokers were also still available. All side-view mirrors were now body-colored on the Z28 and SS (the roofs, however, remained black) and there were some new interior fabric designs for the cloth seat models.
This was an abbreviated model year in anticipation for an early 2002 model season. Z28s and SSs got a 5 hp increase to 310 and 325 respectively (again, these figures are heavily underrated), but the base 3.8 V6 remained at 200 hp. The previous 16" Z28 and 17" SS 10-spoke rim that both debuted last year could now be had in chrome as well as polished. Sunset Orange Metallic became a new color option, and has become one of the most desirable and sought-after colors, looking especially good on the SS. SSs with SLP options could now have an interesting center-mounted exhaust, which required a special lower valance panel. The RS designation would appear one last time (for those keeping score, that would now be sixth total time) as a limited-edition SLP V6 model, boosting hp slightly and utilizing a few handling and appearance items. This would be the lowest production year Camaro in F-body history, selling only 29,009, due largely to the short model year.
Pretty much a rerun of 2001, but there was a 35th Anniversary model. Unlike the 1997 30th Anniversary, this one was available only on the SS models, and was red with checkered-flag motif decals. Rims had black inserts, and like other SSs, it could be equipped with various SLP go-fast options. Base and Z28 models changed very little other than getting 35th Anniversary interior badges. Very limited edition 380 hp Berger Camaros helped ring in what would be the Camaro's last year. No amount of begging and pleading from F-body fans would change GM's mind, but their cries didn't go totally unnoticed, as GM declared that the Camaro would be treated to an all-new model in 2009.
See the New Camaro page for info about the relaunch of this classic.
Main Competitor (1993-2002)