In the Rearview Mirror: 1977-81 Z28 Camaro

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The smart athlete retires gracefully, at his peak – before he starts to slip and give off that “has-been” stink. To their credit, that’s what Chevrolet managers did when they discontinued the Z28 version of the popular Camaro sport coupe after the 1974 model year. True high-performance engines such as the 1970–1971 Z28’s solid lifter-equipped high-compression LT-1 V-8 (and the later L-82  350, also sourced from the Corvette) had been involuntarily retired by ever-tightening government regulations as well as by fading consumer demand in the wake of startling gas price hikes and shortages that made owning a 12 MPG muscle car as popular as the Herp at a swinger’s party.  

So it was decided to allow the Z28 RPO (Regular Production Option) a dignified fade-away with its well-earned reputation still intact, rather than exploit the performance image of the older cars to sell new cars that had none. The Z28 would not have to do embarrassing commercials for Bengay – or have the tabloids dissect its marital problems. It would retire like Johnny Carson from The Tonight Show – with class. 

For two model years—1975 and 1976—there was no Z28 option at all, conferring a sort of moral superiority on Chevrolet for not trying to slip the public a “roofie.” Other brands (notably Ford and its Mustang II) had been mercilessly exploiting the legacy of their once-proud performance cars of the 1960s to hawk their watered-down, non-alcoholic beer replacements. For awhile, “Z28” still meant something on the street – unlike “Cobra,” which by the mid-late 1970s had become synonymous with stripe-and-decal disco cruisers driven by guys wearing medallions and too-tight Vidal Sassoon jeans.

It didn’t last.

After two years of resisting the same temptation that had gotten the better of Ford, Chevy brought back the Z28 – but in name only, sort of like “New Coke.” The “all-new” 1977 Z28 was pretty much the old (1976) Z28 in every way that mattered. 

It did not have a special high-performance engine, as it had in years past. Instead, it was motivated by the same low-output, low-compression LM1 350 V-8 used in grandma-destined Malibus and Novas – and exactly the same engine used in non-Z28 1975 and 1976 Camaros, right down to the emissions calibrated carburetor, cast-iron exhaust manifolds and single exhaust. Chevy advertised a special high-performance suspension but even that had been offered the year before as the optional F41 package on RS and Type LT Camaros. Ok, maybe it had been “tuned” a bit, but that hardly makes a Z28.   

The “all new” 1977 Z28 was thus little better than a quick skin job. It didn’t even come with a fake hood scoop – just a decal that suggested one. Kind of like that spray-on stuff that suggests hair on a bald spot.

This same basic soft-cammed, low compression 350 4-barrel engine lasted through 1981 – by which time Chevy had at least bolted on a fiberglass “air induction” hood scoop and fitted the flabby Z with aluminum wheels instead of the heavy stamped steel Rally wheels that had been used in 1977 through 1979. In a bid to bleed away some sales from Pontiac’s highly successful Trans-Am, Chevy also added a chin spoiler, fender flares, and dummy air extractors on the front quarter panels after 1978 – but these features did little to make the car any faster. The fairly aggressive 3.73 rear axle ratio was one of the few legitimate performance pieces the car was allowed, but with so little horsepower available – and so much weight, nearly two tons of it – the performance gear set only served to limit the car’s top speed to around 110 MPH at the edge of the gutless V-8’s 5,000 rpm redline. This was 20 or 30miles per hour less than in the Z28’s heyday four or five years earlier – and less than a current year Prius hybrid is capable of achieving. 

As toothless as the 1977-1981 Z28s were, they appeared to have dentures at least when the downsized “Third Generation” Camaros appeared in 1982. The 5.7 liter LM1 350 had been dropped entirely, replaced by an even smaller and weaker 5-liter 305 V-8 that in top “high output” form offered a meager 165horsepower, 25 less than the 1981 Z28’s 350 4-barrel engine.

These were dark and dismal years, and the Z28 never fully recovered, even though power and performance eventually came back in the mid-1990s. By then, however, it was too late to undo the damage of a decade’s worth of dragging the Z28’s memory through the mud. GM eventually cancelled the Camaro (and its corporate twin, the Pontiac Firebird) for good after the end of the 2002 model year.

The franchise was revived again in 2010 – this time, with performance to match the image. But the resurrection coincided with the worst economic belly flop since the Great Depression and the future of the Camaro is (once again) a question mark.  

Five Fast Facts

Unlike the original 1967 Z28 and models through 1974, the 1977–1981 Z28s were mass produced –  and used engines no different from those used in other Chevy vehicles. The 1977–1981 Z28s’ standard 350 V-8 could even be ordered as an option in other, non-Z28 Camaros- something which was never allowed with the 1967–1974 models.

Though Pontiac’s Trans-Am had stopped using exposed metal bumpers years earlier, the Z28 did not get a flexible “Enduro” nosepiece and tail section until the 1978 model year – four years after the ’Bird. 

The 1977–1981 Z28 did not come with mufflers; to enhance the illusion of performance, the cars were fitted with twin “resonators” (basically echo chambers) and a Y-pipe aft of the catalytic converter to provide an approximation of that rumbly V-8 muscle car sound. 

Beginning with the 1979 model year, all Z28s were fitted with 85miles per hour speedometers – a measure intended to discourage people from speeding. (It also gave the owner the possibility of burying the needle.)

The 1977–1981 Camaro Z28 was the last Z28 (and the last Camaro) to have an interior design substantially different from the Firebird’s, including different dashboard, instruments, door panels, center console, and seats.

Excerpted from “Automotive Atrocities” (MBI, 2004)


  1. Guys, I saw the Can Am mentioned in an earlier post. Eric, as you know these are kinda considered the holy grail of Pontiac performance cars. I actually owned one, with a Black interior no less. Pontiac only made 1377 of these puppies before ignorance and stupidity killed the car. In 1977, true performance was dead except for at Pontiac. The Can Am is Jim Wangers baby. He originally wanted to call the car “The Judge” but Pontiac relented. He went home, licked his wounds and came back with a car called the Can Am and the rest was history.

    The Can Am:

    True Pontiac W72 rated at 200hp in the Can Am due to single exhaust, and the appropriate sandbagging of the day. California cars got the Olds 403.
    TH400 transmission was standard, 403 “California” cars got the TH350
    Dash was from the Grand Prix with the Rally Guage cluster, tach was optional.
    3.23:1 limited slip (Optional) 3.08:1 standard
    Rally RTS handling package
    Variable assist power steering
    Power front disc brakes

    These cars were capable of high 15’s in bone stock form, through the single exhaust. The Lemans was considered a mid-sized car in 1977 and the Can Am was a huge hit. Pontiac had expected to build 5000 of the cars, but like I said….stupidity took over.

    Check the pic’s out, only a few of the Can Am:

    • Hi Randy,

      Love those Can Ams, too!

      Great looking cars that had the potential to resuscitate the GTO – in spirit if not in name. Pontiac had several almost-were (and coulda beens) along these lines, including the 301 turbo Trans Am and, of course, the Fiero.

  2. “People seem to think the difference between a V8 and V6 Mustang is just the engine. It’s not. It’s practically everything.”

    Well, that is a given, to a degree. But despite all the hysteria on the web about the ONE ‘Weak’ driveline failure, it is the provided ‘H’ rated tires that limit the speed. Order the upgraded factory supplied tires, and most Mfg’s, up the limiter.

    The aftermarket sure benefited from all the V-6 drive line hysteria. The drive line failed due to a Metallurgical failure. Shelby’s modified _Blown_ ‘CS6’ V-6 Mustangs, with 350 hp, had no issues with the stock V-6 driveline. The Mustang V-8 driveline is slightly different, but uses the same CV joint and is of the same diameter, the real difference is in the center support of the two piece V-8 driveline, and the slip joint, rigid style V-6 driveline.

    Yes, the rental fleets only carry Auto boxs, BrentP. I just reserved a new Camaro SS convert for visiting my son in Phoenix, will pic it up a LAS, thanks to the Hertz ‘Adrenaline Collection’. Previously, my Mustang rentals have been V-6 Mustang convertibles as I was entertaining buying a V-6 Camaro or Mustang.

    My experience with Ford’s manual shift linkage is primarily on the track and the occasional test drive. I track tune cars. I used to do this for fun and to help out club members, and still do, but now it may become part of an accidental business.
    In the past few years, the number of Mustangs in both V-8 and V-6 form that are set-up for track cars, has grown considerably, due I think, to the press, ‘Grass Roots_MotorSports’ magazine, and the Boss 302. This has provide me a lot of time on the track with track tuned Mustangs. Track cars are a growing phenomenon.

    Getting back to the tranny issue, both(V-6 Camaro/Mustang) use the ‘TR6060’, but with different linkage. My bitch is why should someone have to go out and spend another $400-$500 plus install labor for the Mustang when GM got it right on the Camaro, Ford bean counters, or a lack of attention to details?

    Regards… Tre

    • The V6 Mustang uses the Getrag MT-82. Complaints from most people seem to parallel typical complaints of Getrag transmissions. The Ford shifter is cost effective for what they have to achieve across the board, but to fix the issues with it requires compromise elsewhere. (noise mainly)

      The TR6060 has it’s own complaints regardless of application and the aftermarket has shifters for it as well. This sort of thing goes back 30 years back to the T5. Even further back…. in the 60s corvette shifters were just plain crap too. People buy aftermarket shifters for Camaro, Corvette, etc and so forth as well for the same reasons.

      A stock shifter isn’t going to be designed for track use. A design that is for track use is not going to be liked by Mr. and Mrs. Apple pie. It will generate warranty costs dealing with people thinking something is wrong because they have no clue that the firm mountings that make it shift nice bring gear noise into the car. I have a steeda tri-ax in my ’97 mustang. a vast improvement over stock but it brought a lot of odd noises into the car. I did my own engineering work to stop their transmission. I eventually got used to what remained.

      I will review the service manual, however when I checked some time ago the drive shafts were of considerably different design, not even remotely the same. The V6 having a slip-joint spline type arrangement. It’s not even comparable. However, through the forums a number of people broke their V6 driveshafts. The CS6 does not appear to exist for 2011 and up. This would be something different than what is done now. I understand there is a ‘late build’ 2013 change to the V6 driveshaft.

      But even if it were just the tires, Mr and Mrs. Clover aren’t going to go even a 100mph. Computer limits for this for liability reasons also go back decades and are not unique to ford.

      And as far as cutting corners, that’s GM’s way and has been for decades.

      • Hi! Brent,

        According Ford parts, both the Getrag MT-82 and the TR-6060 are supplied in the V-6 configuration.

        Again you state the obvious> “A stock shifter isn’t going to be designed for track use” But what I’m experiencing is the stock shifters when the cars are brought to me. I do advise the owner, that after market shifters are available, but most of these cars are also street cars, daily drivers, not all out assault cars for the track. Most racing shifters require ‘deliberation’, not something most people want to deal with daily, especially wives and grrl friends. Hurst makes some of what I call ‘Lazy’ shifters that improve the shift _let you get it into gear without difficulty_ but are not race shifters.

        You digress needlessly in bringing up the historical problem with shifters, seemingly displaying a Ford bias in the process. I’m not a GM guy, I’m ‘Car; guy and without bias, that is how I view the world of cars, I have never owned a new Camaro or any Camaro, except in a team partnership(1-Le). I have owned a new Mustang(SVO) and loved it, should have never sold it, but had problems from new, shifting wasn’t one the, cuzz Ford spent the money on the SVO. I have owned 2000’ Cobra ‘R’, another stiff shifter. Additionally I have owned numerous new Ford vehicles, more then any other make. And while I hate to throw more fuel on the fire, I had plenty of problems with them, even from brand new, Every new GM product was Ridden hard, put away Wet and do it again tomorrow. Only our diesel Chevette had a problem from new, and that was the speedo drive.

        As far as the Ford spec Getrag in the Mustang, even the Mustang community . . . Ford Guys, have a lot of complaints- google ‘Getrag MT-82’ . I have Getrags in all three of my BMW’s. They shift like butter with precision, and I have no complaints in this application. Leads one to wonder why, in a Mustang application, there are so many complaints, going back a long time. Ford has to be aware of them, but seems to not too have bothered to address them, at least in their lesser models, the V-6’s and GT’s. But even Randy Probst complained about the new Boss 302 shifting, so maybe it is across the board.

        I’m here to discuss cars based on my experience. . . not sell Camaro’s or wave the GM flag, or any brands flag. I’m not here to demean any make of car or product. I love cars, even Pacers and Gremlins. COL!

        Regards . . . Tre

        • You are confusing something. Ford does not offer two transmissions for current V6 cars. It never offered the TR6060 in the V6. The TR6060 is in the GT500. The only 6 speed to go into a V6 mustang from the factory has been the MT-82.

          You seemed to be complaining that tracking cars is becoming more common and ford isn’t offering a shifter for that in the base car. It may have a 300+ hp engine now, but it’s still market segment wise that 1965 200cid straight six. Many aftermarket performance shifters are quite usable on the street, one simply has to put up with some degree of noise and other things stock shifters mask. Which is why they feel the way they do. It is engineering balance. (The steeda shifter has been in my ’97 mustang for 150K miles or so give or take)

          The 2000 cobra R would be a T-56 as I recall. The transmission the TR6060 replaced. It also came with a B&M shifter, not a stock ford shifter. The SVO shifter was a Hurst. In other words, factory installed aftermarket shifters.

          I do not understand why you are now digressing into ‘problems from new’. It has no relationship to cutting costs and engineering for the masses rather than the car guys and those who track their cars. Any Ford bias would be because I know the details there, I wouldn’t likely pick up on details that are wrong for a GM car.

          I am well aware of the MT-82 complaints and the vast majority of search engine matches would likely trace back to a very loud guy who was shall I say very rude to yours truly and practically anyone else who wasn’t in lock step with him. Once most forums banned him the noise dropped off a cliff. A fair number other complaints go people who are quite literally destroying their cars’ transmissions by not understanding the ratios of the MT-82, but rather expecting it to have the same gear numbers referring to the same ratios as a five speed and then forcing downshifts when the trans does what any MT does with a huge rpm mismatch. This may very well be a mistake on Ford’s part with regard to the public, but it is not a transmission quality issue. What’s left after that is really no more noise than the T-45 had (shared with camaro)

          Back to ‘search the intertubes’, In said forums BMW owners tended to defend the MT-82, saying it had the same quirks as their BMWs with Getrag transmissions at the worst. The fundamental problem with the mustang shifter is that it’s a remote shifter and suspended with soft rubber. The solution for many people really isn’t the shifter but rather a bracket to support the shifter. Aftermarket shifters vary in how much they replace. the MGW shifter replaces everything, others less. (MGW makes shifters for various models, generally addressing the same problems. Looking at their camaro shifter video. Their connection to the body is much more rigid than what ford uses on the MT-82.

          Track/Boss complaints often really aren’t the transmission but the stupid (my opinion of it) idea of using a hydraulic slave cylinder mounted inside the bellhousing. This causes problems with high RPM shifts in pretty much every make that uses it to one extent or another. The treatment for mustang was learned from the one used on corvette. Flush the fluid. Also can use a less restrictive line. The Boss 302 has the same shifter as the ‘lesser’ models.

          I am not trying to deny your experiences, rather address the details you surround them with.

          • Hello! Brent,

            Reg> “You are confusing something. Ford does not offer two transmissions for current V6 cars.”

            I wasn’t referring to just 2013’s. And, I was using Ford’s parts info which seemed to suggest/list those transmissions for the V-6.
            I am in no way particularly familiar with what Ford uses for transmissions in various late model Mustangs. Fellow racer, club member, and my go to guy at Ford regional, suggested that it may have been a supply issue, requiring a build date to sort.

            Reg> “You seemed to be complaining that tracking cars is becoming more common and ford isn’t offering a shifter for that in the base car.”

            I realize that a lot is lost(nuance) in digital texting, but that is quite a synaptic leap.

            Why would Ford offer a shifter for Track Cars in base models or any models other then the Boss 302. It would be nice if they offered/included a better shifter with the ‘V-6 Performance pkg and GT, or the Boss, but that would be admitting that they put cheap shifters in their cars, unless, as you suggest, that it is a mount issue, which seems like such a simple inexpensive fix for Ford.
            I don’t have an issue with Ford designers or engineers, but Ford’s corporate ‘bottom line’ ethic leaves a lot to be desired, and to varying degrees, all domestic MFG’s are guilty.

            I don’t live and breathe late model Mustangs, so not as infused or as enthused with the breed as you are, Brent, but will defer to your knowledge of the later Mustangs parts build, making you a go to guy for those models. I’m only familiar with the suspensions/tires and how they perform on the track. Things like engines, transmissions, shifters, are incidentally to that regime.
            I do know about Tremec’s, and the standard TR-6060 would seem to be inadequate to the task of dealing with the GT500’s considerable torque, as it is rated at under 500ft lbs, so it must have been upgraded like the one used in the ZL-1, and is OEM specific.

            Bottom line . . . at $26,585, they way I would order a base 2014′ V-6 with the V-6 performance pkg, and Recaro’s, it isn’t a bad deal for an iconic 300+hp Pony car. Add an after market shifter(or mount?), some AW performance tires, and a one piece aluminum drive line for better acceleration and MPG, and null the speed limiter, and we have a bargain performance trip car, a true GT. Still wouldn’t have an operable sunroof, or IRS, and would have a severely dated platform, but it is not a bad car. Should be able to pick them up for huge discounts at the dawn of the new Mustang, which I am very much looking forward to seeing and driving.

            The Alpha platformed Camaro, appears to coming sooner, rather then later, so it will be interesting to see how the new Ponies match up.

            Thanks for your input on some of the issues, noted and filed.


            In the mean time a perfect candidate for a ‘Sleeper’ LS-376 build>

  3. Eightsouthman
    June 24, 2013 at 12:18 am “I broke a leg 3.5 months, both bones and other problems, ”

    Is this ongoing or are you better now(?), Eightsouthman.

    Reg> “but my taste buds have changed.” Among my friends(60 plus), some of them have complained of similar losses, sense of smell, taste, and appetite. Sometimes it returns to a degree. Luckily, I think, I still have most of my senses…No comment from the peanut gallery …please! Unless it is wall shakingly hilarious.

    • Tre, I broke it March 6 and it’s still not well, not even that close. The outside bone was a green limb break, has the skin all messed up and sometimes makes me say bad things as does my ankle that’s still huge and now it’s moved into my knee(never had knee problems)and finally into my hip. I won’t go back to that doc, the one who did surgery on my wife’s leg when she got her ankle crushed working cattle, new squeeze chute with automatic head gate. She went the wrong way, cow hit it and sent her flying, didn’t break till we got to the house and she stumbled over a cat on the steps. I’ve had plenty bad hurties in my life but this leg tops them all. I think just being in so much pain for so long has done something to my taste buds or I’m actually losing my mind being down. I’m not good with being down, not much experience with “being down” since I always managed to get out and about even one armed when I had extensive shoulder surgery. Back surgery, a piece of pie comparatively. I didn’t sleep for months, literally could not sleep, maybe doze off for an hour. Right now I’d take an induced coma and hope for the best after a couple months. That’s not true though, done found out how being down makes it so much harder to moving again. The jury is still out on this one. Be careful and hang onto what works for you. I could never have seen this coming, a freak accident on a steep tank dam, thought I’d been shot, heard and felt that big “snap” and then blinding pain and some fool wouldn’t stop screaming. Well, let me just come clean ha ha. For close to a year, maybe over a year, we’ve had this noise a couple times a day, once in the morning, normally about 9-10am and then mid afternoon. I’d think I was just audio hallucinating but my dog Cholley Jack hears it too and goes off like a gun when it cranks up. Nothing in the sky, no neighbors, no manufacturing plants, highways, or anything else out here. I can limp around now with a lot of pain but lying there in bed CJ would explode, I’d get on my crutches and we’d go outside, look around for the thousandth time. At least CJ shows no signs of insanity but he does look at me and whine sometimes when it’s going on. We go outside again, yep, still there but you can here it in a structure better than outside. I built this whole place, know exactly what’s here…I don’t hear like I once did but I’ve been hearing that same noise since I was a kid and that 12 gauge went off right beside my ear and then decades of working around really loud things and guns, outboards, hot rods, etc. I still hear things others don’t, even young uns. Vision sucks from always looking at print or something close and that’s happened since my leg. I also have friends who have lost a lot of one sense, mostly hearing and vision but they generally didn’t have good hearing or vision before. At least my wife still has a sense of humor at times. We’re always complaining we can’t get really hot peppers but we just got a sack that are really hot. She was cutting some up today and when she was through, turned, held up that hand and asked me “Wanta “left hand job?”. I declined and maybe I should have considered it further. Surely I would have learned to run again???? Been considering trying to find a crack head or crank head. They may look like hell for their age but it seems they’re always up and moving. I’ve hired a lot of roofers that smiled big and you only see gums. Thanks for asking Tre, bet you won’t again ha ha. Well, what does a guy do who can’t get around do?

      • Man, I’m on my knees kissing the ground. I will be thinking about you on my next stress relieving hike, Eightsouthman .

        “what does a guy do who can’t get around do?” Makes me appreciate being able to bounce around here cleaning up, making Carrot cake, cooking dinner, while writing over due e-mails to friends, and monitoring several blogs. Maybe some 420 brownies will relieve you some, helping to heal you.
        All of my injuries were as a young adult when moto crossing and skiing in my forties. And, except for blowing both shoulders out, nothing major.
        Wishing you a decent recovery.

        Back to loss of senses… Some of my friends who have been on a doctors care for one reason or another, have reported loss of taste/smell/appetite/desire/erections, while on prescribed medicines, and the return of said senses when finally off. Luckily, so far, I don’t even take aspirin at 66′.

        • Tre, I was just about to bring up medications since I’ve known people who went stone deaf from some of them, like Vioxx they knew was a killer before ever asking approval. I had a friend send me an “emergency” package but I couldn’t waste anything in brownies. I do and don’t take BP meds, according to my weight and I don’t even have to guess what my stats will be when looking at scales. I take nothing else except alcohol. Safety came to haunt me when I was 59 and walked(very fast)into a 3/8″ nipple hanging down at a 45 and went through the top of my head, knocked me down on my back on concrete. That was the first time I ever recall getting knocked down and was unable to jump back up and shrug it off. That happened right before quitting time on a Thursday and I went back to work Friday and was fine, had a job that had many steps and was one of those “feel” jobs where you affect the outcome of pressure testing so you have to do lots of things “not” to affect it and there are lots of steps and you are constantly using a computer program. I had no problems friday but Monday drove me crazy. Tues, things really sucked, doing things out of sequence, that sort of thing. I quit at noon and got in the car and drove 175 miles to the house, walked in and surprised my wife who thought I’d be gone for another month or more. She wondered why I came home and I told her. I was fine the rest of that day and then woke up the next morning feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. My torso, esp. my left side hurt so bad I could barely breathe and I was really uncomfortable. I could only lie on my side and gasp. My wife whips the covers off and nearly screams. I had shingles in a big way. I went to the doctor a few days later and he said it was the worse case he’d ever seen, gave me some meds and sent me home. I was in bed for two weeks from not being able to deal with the pain in my body. Everybody thought I was suffering from the shingles on the outside but I barely knew I had those. Things have been rocky since then. Unreal headaches for a couple years. Just one little slip, not looking up and trying to get that nut and bolt I had in my hands working because I didn’t have spares, idiocy. I certainly hope no one else walks in those footsteps. I have a feeling those headaches and assorted things are the cause of my lessened senses.

  4. “I have a 2004R (automatic OD) behind the 455” The 2004r is a really good trans.

    The Richmond Super T-10’s have smooth ‘constant mesh’ synchro meshing. Always a nice change up or change down. Still available, new for GM engines. The M-22 is a solid tranny with tough synchros, gears, and bearings and slower shifting. Not aware of any new iterations or production. Widely available rebuilt in the aftermarket, though, you will generally need a core.

    Reg: the T-56, There is also a GM TR6060 LS 6-speed ‘M’ trans. We don’t use them as the torque rating is less then the torque available from the LS376. The T-56 has a 700 pd torque rating versus the under 500 pds of the TR6060. The price is essentially the same at about a $100.00 less for the T-56. The TR6060, though, is a great, easy shifting and durable tranny for street use.

    • For “non Chevy” GM people out there:

      The 2004R is the only overdrive automatic that can be bolted directly to a Pontiac (or Olds or Buick) V-8 without an adapter plate. It also has just one 12V lead – for the lock-up converter. It does not need a computer.

      I bought mine from Phoenix Transmissions – they specialize in building upgraded/HD versions of this unit.

  5. Reg; LSD’s and handling,

    Street driving is generally a different regime then road courses. Almost all street/road surfaces, are sloped to the shoulder, so are physically biased to the right, which has a dynamic effect on a vehicle. Road courses are flat to positive cambered. In a corner, the torque bias shifts to the inside wheel.

    When a vehicle takes a hard/fast left turn on a street/road surface, it unloads the left rear tire and overloads the right rear tire. With an LSD in that situation, the dif feeds more power to the inside/left wheel which is now lightly loaded and less able to solidly put the additional torque to the ground. the result can be a severe loss of friction/traction, resulting in wheel spin and a slide. On a track, both tires maintain nearly the same loading due to the positive camber of the track surface. The worst situation on a track, is and uphill off camber, apex and exit, corner. Make it blind and you really can get some butterflies agitated. Despite all the negatives of an off camber corner, I love them for their challenge, excitement/thrill, and the satisfaction of getting them right. just hope no one is sitting on the track when I come around.

    Corner loading and tire pressures are critical to handling. Example; Make that hard left turn on the street with your right tire softer then your left tire by a few pounds and you compound the situation, whether you have LSD or not. Wish I had a figure for how many people that situation has killed or maimed. Keep your tire pressures correct and even, for safety, mileage, and wear.

    Traction-Locks have no business on a road course

    Stay out of the ditch and keep the shiny side up. . . you All.

    • Tre, living in the middle of nowhere has disadvantages too, like my road course has signs along the side, Don’t Mess With Texas. I have certain highways I know I can see oncoming traffic from the front of the curve well down the straight. One thing I notice is a big problem since Nanny state braking become common is low tire pressure goes unnoticed, a biggy when we’re speaking of braking hard with radials. Some things carry over from trucking. We look at all the tires before using a vehicle and check pressure often. Off camber corners reminds me of my first time to drive US 80 to the east coast, before interstate. We had nothing but the same old two lanes through Alabama but got to the Georgia line and here the interstate ends in the side of a mountain so we go across the bridge and then wait to turn left onto the service road to go east. Traffic is crazy heavy and I finally get a chance to turn left with all these fools that continue to come at speed at me turning so I push it a bit looking more at traffic than the turn and only when I got onto the access road I notice how hard the offset is so I’m letting the truck, loaded with cotton bales go toward a lethal barditch in an effort to keep it upright since every tire on the tractor and trailer except the front tire were off the ground on the drivers side and the trailer was down on the outside tires front and rear. I had the accelerator nailed and pushing out as far as I could to the edge. It finally started settling and landed softly because of what I was doing. I don’t think my wife or I said anything, don’t think we could swallow or talk. 30 minutes later we hit a truck stop and went to a bar to try and stop our shakes. Don’t think I’ve ever been more glad to see a decent highway.

      • Physics won’t be denied, unless you change the dynamic . . . nice save, Eightsouthman.

        And a stiff drink(s) in proportion to the physical/mental distress, make mine Whiskey or’ Jeremiah Weed’, can go a long way to even out the bodies systems.

        • The only thing I changed was my drawers. I don’t normally believe in divine intervention. I suspect to start we either had a couple of double Platte Valley and branch waters or the same of Wild Turkey, my mainstay back then and not necessarily with water. We probably had a cooler full of Lone Star on the truck but who cares? It was whiskey or as in our case, bourbon time. Thanks for the tip on whiskey. I drink blended whiskey now instead of bourbon.

          • Yikes! Blended Whiskey? Mostly(80%) neutral spirits/rubbing alcohol, and un-aged. There is a lot more actual whiskey in straight whiskey, bourbon, and blended bourbons, then blended whiskeys. Blend whiskeys are for the the bar trade ‘house’ and for mixed drinks. Straight up, splashed, or a touch of Lime for the good, sipping stuff.

            Straight Whiskey, Bourbon, or Blended Bourbon for flavor, nose, and smoothness, value. Preferably ‘bonded’ single malts or with Wheat or Barley, some like Rye. A good straight whiskey or bourbon, like cognac, is also good for cooking. I make a killer bourbon or whiskey buckwheat pancake. Dark beer also makes a great pancake.

            Going to do part of the Whiskey/Bourbon Trail this Fall, followed by a national whiskey tour in the Spring.

            I’m also, more recently, exploring good Tequila for unmixed enjoyment with a twist of Lime

            I never fully trust a man who doesn’t take a drink now and then. I watch them, real close . . . COL!

            Here is a funny story on Jeremiah Weed and the connection with fighter pilots, Not sure of its genuineness, as I have heard other stories about the origin of the connection to test pilots, from Edwards AB and in two bars in Victorville(CA) that the test pilots habituate.

            A tip of the glass to you Eightsouthman

          • I got started on blended whiskey with Crown Royal and drinking at bars. I need a change. I’ve gotten burned out on Potter Crown, Black Velvet and similar. I broke a leg 3.5 months, both bones and other problems, laid in that bed, had my wife stocking my bedside cooler with beer and a tribesize bottle of whiskey next to it. Doc giving me a minimum of pain medicine so I laid there and sweated bullets, .45’s, HP’s I think. Books, Zen player, beer and booze. Now I want to change beer from what I’ve drunk for nearly 50 years and need some new liquor badly. I don’t know how to explain it but my taste buds have changed. Wish I’d had an enemy to slip me a Mickey. Unconsciousness was a direct relation to amount of alcohol, not my first choice for pain relief but it’ll work in a pinch.

        • Great bar story. I’ll send it to my cuz who retired at the Skunk Works. He has some good stories also. Just a little fun next:

          The Guitarist
          > As a guitarist, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper’s cemetery in the back country. As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost.
          > I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch.
          > I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play.
          > The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I’ve never played before for this homeless man.
          > And as I played ‘Amazing Grace,’ the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished I packed up my guitar and started for my car. Though my head hung low, my heart was full.
          > As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, “I never seen nothin’ like that before and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.”
          > Apparently, I’m still lost…

          • Damn! Had to catch my breath on that one,. Wall pounding, sustained laughter does that to me.

            Will be passing that one, on.

            Thanks for the great laugh. . . Eightsouthman

  6. Note, Not all GM crate motors are provided a warranty. Race only motors . . . You own them, when you start them., unless it can be proved that supplied parts were defective.

  7. Eric_ “But not in a classic Pontiac!” I’m with you on that, Eric. A Chevy in any 1’st/2’nd/3’rd gen Poncho Birds would be inappropriate. Bad enough that they had that slug of a Olds. The Olds was an ok motor for a family sedan or a Toronado. I bought a 79′ T/A clip with the Olds motor and tranny to put in my 54′ Chevy Phantom pick-up. It worked out fine for that situation.

    EightSouthman_ ““have you seen this car?” There are two 80’s Merc SL’s in the Portland area that come to the every Wednesday night ‘Beaches’ car show and drags(700-900 Hot Rods-Customs, Classics, about 200+ Custom bikes), that have the crate Injected ‘Ram Jet’ Engines. One is the 350″ and the other is the 502”. They get that kind of comment and attention.

    • Tre, I had no idea about those complete engines. Been a while since I looked and I mainly looked at GM crate engines with warranties. I would have thought they’d have a more modern head but those work well enough.

      • @ ‘Eightsouthman ‘

        If your speaking of the ‘Ramjets’, they are old school, but with a modern electronic ‘FI’ system. The neat thing about them is their near plug and play. Just install engine, hook up drivetrain, hook a hot wire to the brain and one to the coil. Connect the fuel line and radiator hoses. Add the Alternator and hook to car electrical system, weld a Bung on the exhaust system for the Oxy sensor, and off you go. You need a Starter, alternator, external coil, ‘FI’ fuel pump, belts, filters, and drives,
        They do have some great parts, Vortec heads, hypereutectic pistons, Roller cam, and other good parts. I put the 350 Ramjet in a friends 48′ ford 2-dr with a 700r tranny. Looks good and scoots while getting decent MPG. At around $6,000. plus additional parts, they are a bargain.

        The Ramjets do have a warranty>
        ” GM Performance crate engines are covered under the provisions of the GM Dealer Service Parts and Accessories Warranty for 24 months from the original sale or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. ”

        Because we bought so many GM crate engines and other parts, we are classified as a re-seller. So the warranty doesn’t start till the build is paid for or you load it in your truck or we ship it. We only have the LS376 in stock. GM ships free, we don’t. GM shipped ours free. So it is best to go to another reseller and get the free shipping.

        We bought ours to use for customer and personal builds. I’m putting one in my Gen-2 RX-7, and put one in my Sevenesque style roadster(1,650 pds. and 530Hp, you do the math, it is not to far off an Indy car P/W). One went into a 92′ ‘F’ body. Two more are slated for a Gen-3 and a gen-4 ‘F’ bodies. We have someone talking to us about a Miata build(hope that one is realized). So we have, maybe, 4 left . . . Make my day, fill out a build sheet(pick a tranny, detail your build). Send Me a check to cover parts, and ship me your car this Winter. If your State/area requires DEQ testing/Emission tests, we add dual performance CATS to Stainless exhaust systems, your choice of performance muffler.

        If you want more then a replacement engine/tranny, there are other things too consider> Suspension> Global suspension(tubular upper A-arms, bushings, bars, springs, etc_ Gen-4 ‘F’ body only ). Hotckis for Gen-3’s, Quick ratio manual box, Baer brakes or other brake upgrades, Roll/crash bars/cage. Seats_ Recaro etc. Fuel cell. Rear end upgrades. Remote battery. Road Race prep and suspension tune. Interior panel work, paint, and so much more.

        With an ‘F’ body, or Corvette, build and prices are pretty cut and dried, anything else and we will have to develop a quote for you or do it T&M based on an ball park estimate. There are no . . .’5 minute jobs”.

        ‘Life is too short to drive boring cars’

        • Tre, I didn’t realize Summit was re-selling GM crate engines. Ok then. Funny thing about those engines, my cousin is the parts manager for a large GM dealership. I get flyers for parts although not lately for some reason so I’m out of touch on their prices. I need to call him and find out what’s happening. I get parts sent to Brent’s Wholesale, get them cheap, cheaper than anybody around. So what quick ratio tranny are we speaking of here? The last manual I used was an M-22 that had aftermarket gears, a close ratio with the big “rock crusher” gears….and you could tell they weren’t as slick as the original close ratio gears but then high HP would blow up the tranny either. No more direct gears in my future though, at least one OD if not two. To this very day I can be on the road and come up on a hill and be reaching out to get the shifter so I can downshift in the next bit. My wife slaps my hand and say “You’re not driving a truck, there ain’t no gear to drop to”. Oh yeah, just habit. That’s something I can’t get past in my Chevy diesel with New Venture Gear tranny. I get to about 80mph and then bring it out of OD and about the time I’m in neutral I realize I don’t have another stack of OD’s. If I build something for me, it’s going to be a manual. I love being able to stay where the power is the greatest when I’m high speed cornering. That was the only thing I didn’t like about the El Camino but it had really large wheels and tires and you didn’t want to get too much strung out with P-Trak and 4300 lbs. curb weight. As you well know hanging it out in a high speed curve requires copious amounts of power to the amount of traction. I like a car that drives with the throttle as much as with the wheel. I’m always torn on wanting a LSD and an open carrier for high speed. Maybe my next build will have an air locker or something. A friend has a new Camaro and I’ll agree it’s much smoother, tighter and quieter than a Mustang and fairly well takes the bad spots out of cornering. Mustangs to me have a much less “tight” feel and what’s with the ubiquitous “clunk” they always seem to develop? It’s in the front suspension as best I can tell.

          • I prefer the Super T-10 to the Muncie; my understanding is that it’s a stronger transmission, too. Of course, it’s only a four-speed (no OD).

            The Tremec five-speed is thoroughly excellent.

            I have a 2004R (automatic OD) behind the 455 in my Trans-Am. Great transmission with a really deep overdrive fourth. Drops the revs at 70 down to about 2,300 – even with 3.90 gears!

          • @ Eightsouthman,

            A lot of vendors are reselling GM performance parts. GM makes it easy to buy their parts. And with free shipping and warranties on crate motors, plus the pricing, they put everybody else(Ford/Chrysler on the couch scratching their heads and looking for much more build money.
            The ‘ Quick ratio manual box’, should have read> Quick ratio manual ‘steering’ box, or QR Rack & Pinion. The 92′ ‘F’ body build used a ‘Remy Racing’ GM 525 manual steering box. The next 3-Gen ‘F’ build will have a QR rack.

            We use the Tremec manual 6-speed(s) or the 4L65-E- 4-speed Auto for LS series engines. There are several variations the Tremec 6-speed

            ‘Mustang clunk’ _ That is the rear suspension in the rough. The front dampening and travel is limited so it has a rather annoying body/chassis slap and hard, corner lift. Anything causes this reaction, expansion joints are really annoying and speed bumps, take them slow and at an angle. The Camaro doesn’t seem to notice road imperfections.

            There are suspension kits for the El Camino, and the QR manual steering box is available, too, Eightsouthman.

            As for LSD’s in a road race situation, depends a lot on the car, chassis, and power, type of LSD, and driving style. If you carry a lot speed through the corner and are smooth, not a problem. I learned to carry a lot of speed in a corner racing moto cross with 2-stroke bikes. I liked the control of the 4-stokes, but they just didn’t have the speed to win on Moto cross tracks. For enduros, I used a a 4-stroke bike for control up and down hills. You rode the two differently.


          • Tre, great response and info. I have new springs for the Tow Package on the El Camino but realized along the way I wanted something lower at times but then I have to pound down rough dirt roads and need ground clearance. I’m considering bagging it all the way around but don’t know if they make an easy way to know where the proper height for the suspension should be once on the hiway and that’s what I want it to be accurate for. My only bagging has been basic stuff, load handling things. The high speed steering box would work well for that vehicle. When I originally installed the WS 6 parts in the front, I ran over a curb right off, that much difference. I experienced the curb thing again and was surprised since it was my one ton I had changed my narrow wheels and 235R85X16’s for 8″ wide wheels and 265R75X16’s, just turned right over it. Hard to believe it made that much difference. I found Automotive Friction in your neck of the woods yesterday doing a totally unrelated search. They have a complete machine shops and evidently do one-offs parts wise.

    • Reg: ” A Chevy in any 1′st/2′nd/3′rd gen Poncho Birds ”
      That should read . . . 1’st & 2nd-Gen. . . .

    • I owned an ’86 RS (305/automatic) years ago. I always liked the 3rd gen’s looks and relative to the over-sized/overweight/over-teched monsters of today, they are a breath of fresh air. The new Camaro does nothing for me. It’s the only Camaro I don’t like. Quick? Fast? Absolutely. But also bloated, preposterously expensive and (like all new cars) laden with crap (half a dozen air bags, ABS, OnStar, EDR, direct injection, Belt Minder, DRLs, tire pressure monitor, traction control/stability control, etc.) I just don’t want and therefore have no desire to pay for.

      The third gen cars were the last cars that didn’t have that all that crap. The current car has one thing the third gen. cars didn’t have – when new: Power. But, so what? The 3rd gen. cars were so much lighter (800 pounds lighter – seriously) and so much simpler. Getting 300-350 hp out of a 305 or 350 is not hard or expensive and in a light car such as a circa ’84 Camaro or TA, that is plenty sufficient to get the car moving right quick.

      • Reg; ‘New Camaro’

        I like the new Camaro as a bargain trip car/GT in the guise of the base($23,345) or LT-1 with Sunroof($27,740) and a lot less on sale. It handles quite well in street form, gets excellent MPG, and Scoots. It also has a Warranty, which is real handy when a long way from home and I travel a lot.

        Sure it is heavy, but carries its weight, well. Fairly dances through rough corners, compared to a Mustang, and transitions, well. Brakes are nicely linear, and are adequate for canyon running. Seats are too wide, but I, almost, always replace seats in performance cars. Sure there is not much of a trunk, and for some the view is a little tight, but i drive a Miata almost daily, so not an issue for me.

        You have to buy a ‘truly’ expensive German import, to get that kind of suspension compliance and 300+Hp. I drive BMW’s and Miata’s, and have for some twenty years, now. The Camaro is not in that league, but doesn’t miss by far. And the base Camaro is about half the price of the 2013 335i and compared to the 335is, you get $30,000 in change. And the new 2014 4-series coupe, who knows in 300Hp form.

        Would I actually buy one over a Genesis coupe, since Hyundai dropped the 2.0T Track model, I probably would, unless the new Mustang is a truly modern Pony car, and given Ford’s bean counters, not likely. What is left, the new BRZ/FRS, though, they don’t have 300+ Hp, but they’re such a nice cars and fit my driving style so well, there is not really another choice. My problem is, I have been promising myself an efficient 300+ horsepower trip car with a warranty. I can’t afford a new BMW or CLK, the new Mustang is a ways off, and I have a 10,000 mile trip planned next Spring. Will probably just rent a car for that trip.

        • Hi Tre,

          I can’t fault the car’s performance; it’s the car itself that doesn’t do anything for me. It looks wrong to my eye; jumbled disparate retro elements (the sort-of side profile of a ’69; the front clip of a ’77) and disproportionate.

          I would never fault the trunk space or back seat utility of any pony car as these considerations are as irrelevant in my opinion as the off-road capability of a Corvette. But the Camaro’s driver ergonomics are terrible. Poor visibility and inadequate headroom – both the Mustang and Challenger are clearly better in this respect.

          So is my ’76 TA!

          But the thing I dislike most about the Camaro is that it is grossly over weight – the base V-6 coupe weighs 3,780 lbs. This is heavier than my ’76 Trans-Am, an old tank with a bolt-on steel subframe and a 7.4 liter cast iron V-8!

          The SS is almost 4,000 pounds.

          A new Mustang coupe, on the other hand, weighs close to 300 pounds less than a Camaro coupe. That is a huge difference.

          Having driven both, I found the Mustang much lighter feeling, less ponderous. It’s not just the weight, either. The Camaro is a physically huge car – and on narrow country roads, you definitely notice this.

          The Challenger is also heavy – but it (unlike either Camaro or Mustang) has a passenger-viable back seat and a huge trunk.

          I loved my ’78 Camaro LT, my ’80 Z28 and my ’86 RS. I’d love to have a ’69 SS – and an ’84 L69 305 Z28 5-speed.

          But this new Camaro?

          Throw it in the woods!

          • COL! What the hell are you doing up this late…?

            Yes, to all of the above, I just, apparently, find it less onerous then you, Eric.

            I find both of the car too have a bit of the caricature in their looks. And the most recent Mustangs have a bloated look.

            The Mustang, despite its lower weight, is a club in comparison, and seriously dated. Makes me feel like I’m driving a sedan. And the front suspension is quite harsh. The shifter is bulky in all of the examples I have driven. And, unless it is a really smooth corner, you never know how your going to exit. It can put down some good handling numbers on smooth surfaces, but it is just not that much fun to drive fast. Brakes are good, But who cares when the Puter shuts the car off at 112-115MPH. What the F–k is that all about? Cheap tires…Ford bean counters. The Mustang also has a tough time hitting anywhere near its EPA MPG’s, and I have put nearly 5,000 miles on several rentals.

            I have tried hard to like the Mustang, but it always offends me in numerous ways, apparently your finding the same with the Camaro. Bottom line, both can be had for very little money for 300Hp, manual tranny, RWD, decently fun coupes. And I will probably rent another Mustang for my cross country trip to the Keys, then the Whiskey trail to NY and back to Las Vegas, this spring.

            I love the look of the Challenger and had it in mine to buy the RT when they arrived sometime back, because I bought a Charger RT in the day, but the car just isn’t up top snuff in build quality and efficiency, and a lot of other niggling things I can’t overlook.

            My thing is corner work, I have plenty of cars to do that, I just need/want a fun trip car covered by a warranty, preferably with 300+ Hp, that behaves itself in a corner and scoots when I want that. 25+MPG is a bonus. And I just hate 4-dr sedans unless they have a long roof.

            So here we are, you in your corner and me in mine, but I think we are still on the same page, essentially.

            Yak at you later Eric, time for a little shut eye.


          • People seem to think the difference between a V8 and V6 Mustang is just the engine. It’s not. It’s practically everything. There’s a video out there in youtube land of someone who changed the software in his V6 mustang to eliminate the top speed limit. Well, at a 135mph or so the drive shaft let go. It’s not the same drive shaft the V8 cars get.

            And this isn’t new. It goes back to day one with Mustang. The base car has always been a lesser car in much more than the engine.

            Oh and the shifter, it’s pretty much a given to get an aftermarket one for mustang, camaro, or any other. Not sure who would be renting manuals these days though so maybe you mean the AT. The stock shifting is pretty smooth and effortless. What’s annoying is that it is a remote shifter and moves around too much which can mean missing the gate. The aftermarket has a number of approaches to fix that.

  8. @_Eightsouthman Reg; “In ’03 or ’04 a friend bought a really nice used ’98 TA with the LS-6 engine”

    The ‘LS’ series engine was available for the first time in an ‘F’ body, in 98′, but it was the ‘LS-1’. You probably conflated LS and WS6. I never do that myself…col!

    You know an often over looked ‘F’ body is the early Gen_4 cars. With their LT-1 motors. Finally ‘F’ bodies had some serious scoot to rival the old performance cars of the late 60’s/early 70’s. They were fast and got great mileage if you could moderate your enthusiasm. They are widely available in good condition for very little money.

    Some time back, we picked one up(94′ Z-28) for a build, an LS376/480 transplant for a customer. I have been driving it around and recently took it up to Portland and back, a 500 mile trip. I’m a bit of a hyper miler when on the freeway, the average for the 500 miles at 55-60MPH, was 27+ MPG. Not bad for a true 160 MPH car. The similar Bird in the Firehawk version was probably a bit faster at speed with its 300Hp rating, most of that due to the Air scoop which is only effective at speed. That extra speed may have been negated by the clumsier front end design which only got clumsier in 98′, or is that. . . grossly ugly, and the additional weight of the Birds.

    By the way, the 94′ Z-28 is a 70,000 mile car, always garaged, one owner car. We picked it up for $2,800.

    ‘Life is too short to drive boring cars’

    • Tre, I realized I said LS-6 after I posted but couldn’t find the thread. Yes, I meant LS-1 or it may have been and LT-1 engine. I DO think about the WS 6 package though since back in the day, it was hard to find parts for my El Camino but I used the polyurethane bushings meant for a WS-6 option since a friend could get those parts easily and cheaply enough.(dealer mechanic) Funny you should detest that front end. I think it’s the best looking body. Of course I still think the ’88-98 GM pickups were the best looking ones to date also. It’s a slick style to me. And from ’94 back they had more interior room than any other model. I have a ’93 Chevy with a black painted grill on a black truck and not only does the grill cost initially a bunch more but then you have to prep and paint it to match. I see a fair amount of Tahoe’s with those grills and wonder if people have replaced them like I did. I don’t know what model that was actually meant for although my front end is a ’96. I still have an ’82 Chevy 4 WD 3/4 T truck I think is pretty handsome too. It’s a 4 shock front end I have pounded the shock mounts off of since they used the same shock mount from a 2 shock front end. I replaced the axle shock mounts with much larger steel and it doesn’t want to break now. That pickup really set a higher standard for any other 4WD 3/4T pickup as far as ride goes. Stuck a one ton rear end from a ’76 Chevy crewcab under it and it’s fairly much bulletproof, although nothing like the 10.5″ ring gear rear end under the ’93. I’ve always threatened to do a chop on the bottom side but I drug that thing up a mountain in Mexico where there were nothing but mining trucks and it was beaten out so deep I had no choice but to drag it when I couldn’t stay up on the sides. Luckily never caught a rock so no harm, no foul.

      • @ _ Eightsouthman

        I was going to buy a new Firebird in 79′ as I loved the earlier 77′-78′ front end. When the new ones hit the showroom in the Fall, I went to the local dealer and was accosted by the new 79′ front end and was disappointed and pissed, and vented my frustration on the salesman. The dealers didn’t have to work the old 78′ inventory to get rid of it that year as a lot of people were looking for left over new 78’s after seeing the 79’s. Took a very long time for me to warm up to them. I did like the styling of the early Gen-4 Birds, but Bonneville proved that they weren’t the “most aerodynamic product GM had ever released” or the the most streamlined of the F-bodies at very hi speeds.

        I’m with you on the 88′-98′ Chevy/GMC’s. My 88′ 2500 Extra cab has been nearly flawless for over 180,000 miles. A new starter and recently a new Dampener has been the only major parts replace in all those miles and this thing has been past the Arctic Circle three times pulling a 20 ft. travel trailer with a boat on top of the canopy. The interior is still like new and gets many compliments, the outside suffers from to much sun on sketchy GM paint and fact that the grandchildren decide to wash it for grandpa after a particularly dirty rock hounding trip, and used a brillow pad to effect some carnage on the paint. still looks good wet. Will paint it one of these days as it is a keeper.

        I/we put over 500,000 on the old beater 81′ 3500 crew cab. Looking for a newer one now as the cab is gone, too many back road adventures and over worked for 30 years. Still a goer with its 383″ stump puller. Looking for a late 3500 to pull the new 3-car hauler and race trailer.
        If your speaking about a 5th Gen El Camino, I can’t believe how many there are down here in SW Oregon and Northern California. We took a drive out into the country to take a look at a car today, and there just seemed to be one of those every mile we traveled, and there are always plenty on Craig’s list. I have always like them, especially with the ‘SS’ front end. I may have to pick one up for a fun shop truck and put one of the LT-1’s or 350″ TPI’s we have taking up too much room around here.

        Bed time……..

        • Morning, Tre!

          As you probably know (but I bet a lot of non F-car people don’t) the ’79 TA was supposed to have headlight doors and a completely flush front end. That was John Schinella’s original design intent, but corporate cost-cutting eliminated the headlight doors. There may have also been some issue with internal politics as this “look” might have been regarded as a threat to the Corvette.

          The ’79-81 nose has also grown on me over the years – and at least Pontiac did not make the same mistake inside that Chevy did that year. The TA kept the original dashboard layout but Chevy changed out the Camaro’s “cockpit” dash for an ugly and totally not right for the car breadbox dash.

          ’79 was also the last year you could buy the “T/A 6.6” 400 V-8, available only with the 4-speed manual transmission.

          • eric, I have a friend who still has his ’79 Silver Anniversay TA with a 6.6 and auto. He wanted a 4 speed but couldn’t find one anywhere. I guess I should tell Tre but hadn’t even thought of the car till it was mentioned. He would sell it….and it was running when it was parked 20 or so years ago. Also, he’d changed cams in it new and it was a really strong car.

            • Hi Eight,

              ’79 was also the last year for the Oldsmobile 403 V-8 (180-185 hp) which is what your friend’s car has. These engines were only paired with the THM350 three-speed automatic. There is some confusion about engine ID, because in ’77 and ’78, if the car had the Olds 403 or the base (not high-performance) Pontiac 400, the decal on the shaker scoop read: “6.6 litre” (yes, spelled that way). You can tell the Olds engine from the Pontiac at a glance by looking at the front of the engine; the Olds engines have an oil fill tube there. On the Pontiac, the oil fill is located on the driver’s side valve cover.

              If the car had the high-performance Pontiac 400, on the other hand, the decal read: “T/A 6.6.” These engines also can be ID’d by the chrome valve covers that came as part of the package. They had a hotter cam and a higher (not much, but some) compression ratio, as well as beefier blocks than the base 400.

              This engine – rated 200-220 hp – was available with either the automatic or the four-speed in ’77-’78, but for ’79 was only offered with the 4-speed manual. These ’79 400 4-speed cars (very low production) got the relative handful of left-over 400s from the ’78 model year. Pontiac stopped building that engine before the ’79 model year.

              I’ve driven – and worked on – both cars.

              The 403 has an undeserved bad reputation. In stock trim, it may not have been exactly high-performance, but it was a torquey, understressed engine that worked well with the mandatory automatic. Most of these cars had “highway” axles (2.41-ish) and so could cruise comfortably all day at 75-80 MPH. A “T/A 6.6” 400 car with 3:23 or higher gears, on the other hand, was really working at the same road speed.

              As per your friend, with a little work – a cam change, some tuning and a performance ring and pinion – a 403 powered TA can be turned into a potent performer.

          • eric, yes it does have the Olds engine, a real tire-burner in present form. This was an amazing car with way over 100,000 miles it still had the original a/c compressor, alternator, PS pump. I think the only thing he ever had to do was replace a water pump and belts. It has the honeycomb style mags, nice car….and T-Tops that were sealed shut ha ha.

            • Ah, those T-tops….!

              Been there/done that.

              They always leaked. The Hurst tops (smaller, with chrome trim) are worse than the Fisher tops (larger, with blackout trim) but they all leaked. On top of this, they hurt the body integrity of the car. The roofs of T-Top cars invariably have stress cracks where the rear sail panel meets the roof section.

              They’re neat to have – if the car is garaged and never sees rain.

              But otherwise, they’re bad news.

          • eric, I can remember seeing only one of the Can Am’s….in Dallas best I recall. I really couldn’t understand the concept, ugly car that it was to me. My buddy with the TA asked what he could do to keep the T-Tops from leaking. He was told “don’t use them” so he put clear silicone sealer on them and left them there. They are the black-out Fisher style, no chrome.

            • The Can Am was a kinda-sorta latter-day GTO. Pontiac didn’t have an intermediate sized performance coupe in the lineup and the Can Am was conceived as fitting the bill. The emphasis was on “sophisticated” muscle; that is, a car with power but also good handling and lots of luxury amenities, as well as a roomy, comfortable interior.

              I liked ’em; always thought the car looked good and that the concept only needed further development to bring back the great days of the Grand Prix SSJ. Imagine it with a 455 – and a factory 4-speed! Or perhaps a turbo 400, with an overdrive 4-speed automatic….

              Of course, I’m also one of those weirdos who likes the ’74 GTO!

          • eric, I liked the ’73 Grand Am a friend had. It was a hoss and quiet and comfy and handled well for a car that size. He had 225,000M on it when the speedo broke and he didn’t fix it. He drove it another 2 years and the entire time he had it he worked for Equifax and stayed on the road 5-6 days a week. He worked for spin-offs of them also and they’d always be changing rules about paying mileage or furnishing company cars. The last company car he had was a Corolla he drove into the ground fairly quickly and he hated because of the noise and ride and no power. He had a ’94 and ’96 Grand Prix, according to him, pure junk. Yeah, I saw a lot of those cars in the auto salvage back in the day. GM dropped the ball on those.

          • Hi! Eric,

            As I noted before, I did buy a really nice Gold 79′ a few years back and sold it on e-bay for crazy money. So it worked out for me, eventually. I did enjoy driving that car while I had. They still get down the road in a fine fashion.

            Yes, Chevy didn’t do the Camaro any favors with that dash change. The Bird always had the best dash and I liked it, because it reminded me of the classic sports cars and Studebaker/Packard cars of the fifties that I grew up with. Hawks and Stude Speedsters were often in our driveway, along with English, German, and Italian sports cars. I always loved their simple, but effective dash layouts, and the jewel like instrumentation of those cars…Classic.

            Loved to sit behind the wheel of those cars and pretend to drive them. Those early experiences ingrain you forever… so I’m still a devout Gear Head. When I retired I started pursuing the hobby again, now I hate to admit that I have found a new vocation building cars for customers and spec. Instead of ordering car loads of building material, I’m ordering truck loads of engines and searching for rare parts. But, hey, it gets me out of bed in the morning with a smile and a purpose.

            Well, First day of Summer, so off for a hike.

            You all have a good weekend and go out and drive an fun car or motor. or wrench on one, just don’t sit there and look at it…col!

        • Tre, from the research I did way back, I think my El Camino is probably fairly rare. It is a ’77 SS with the trailer tow package which gives it completely unique parts in the suspension, brakes, wheels, and cooling system, even the driveshaft and u-joints . It has the Monte Carlo interior with the same type dash and rotating buckets seats, a feature we always loved, just spin around and step out, turn around, sit down and spin back, slick.

  9. Just to let ya know I just bought a c clip eliminator kit for it. Watched some videos of them failing and it’s scary to watch.

    • Good move, Chad!

      Hey, PS: I’m giving some pretty serious thought to updating my TA some under the hood. When I built the 455 15 years ago, 320-ish hp was pretty solid. Not anymore. I’m considering a more aggressive cam and – maybe – earlier heads (Pontiac adjusted compression via head cc, not so much pistons) to get the CR up to around 9.5:1 (which is a lot for a street-driven classic Pontiac V-8 that has to use pump gas).

      Will keep you posted…

    • I think on his best day he can get low 11s. I’m not sure though. I have not talked to Willy in a long time. I sold him a 67 Chevy II about 15 years ago and I could kick myself in the ass now for doing it. That would have been a fun car to build.

    • Novas are great!

      They’re light – and the 70s models share pretty much their entire front subframes with the ’70-81 F cars. Which means, you can swap/bolt on most Camaro/Firebird suspension stuff (including aftermarket Z28/Trans-Am upgrades). I especially like the hatchback versions.

  10. I put a trick flow differential cover on to strengthen things up… I don’t know if that will help any. Hey sorry to keep asking you questions but do you know anything about foxbody mustangs.

    • Hi Chad,

      Others here can definitely help w/the Fox body Mustang. I don’t know enough about them to feel comfortable giving more than general info.

      On the Camaro’s rear end: It’ not the pumpkin (differential) housing itself that’s weak. It’s the C clips inside that secure the axles. For street driving, they’re fine. But if you start to get into serious bracket racing, it’s a weak point.

      Just FYI –

    • Chad… Just Google ‘Fox body Mustang’ or ‘Ford Mustang third generation’ … There is a lot of aftermarket support and several forums that can answer almost any question you have.

      Of course, nothing about Ford speed parts is cheap, you will pay a premium for any performance parts compared to a Chevy. The 5.0 and GT Stangs are also much higher in price then a comparable Camaro/Bird. A decent 87′-93′ 5.0 or GT around the NW, will run $8,000 plus. I have seen some go for around $15,000.

      JEG’s has a big section for 3-Gen/5.0 Mustangs in their catalog.

  11. The engine is a gm performance zz383 packin 425 hp and around 440 ft lbs of torque. It’s goin into a 79 z. I rebuilt the stock 350
    but wanted to beat on it a little bit so I bought a crate instead of throwing the original motor in.

    • Can’t go wrong with that engine! My buddy has a similar rig in his ’69 Nova. He’s got a steel crank and forged pistons in his unit. Has an under the hood blower and a 150hp NOS shot. Good stuff.

      • I agree, mang!

        Small block Chevys are hard to beat. The only other engine that comes close – as far as availability/aftermarket support/cost-benefit is the small block Ford. But, I suspect that Chevy is going to pull clearly ahead in the future, because Ford no longer makes the OHV V-8 for anything except over-the-counter sales. But the small block Chevy is still in production. Which means, OE parts will remain both plentiful an cheap for some time to come and it’ll remain easy (and cheap) to find used parts/cores.

        I love my Pontiacs, but the last Pontiac 400 V-8 was made in 1978; the last 455 in ’76. That’s almost 40 years ago. Result? It is getting hard – and expensive – to find good blocks and cranks. Especially 455 blocks and cranks. Last time I checked prices – which was a few years ago – a 455 crank was in the range of $800. A used crank. The cost to build a 455 – assuming you have to find/buy a good core engine to start with – will probably be 50-75 percent higher than the cost to build a SBC.

    • That sounds like a winner!

      Good on you for saving the factory (numbers matching) engine. At some point, you may want to return to stock – and if you ever decide to sell it, having the original/correct engine will enhance the car’s value.

      One thing: Look into the C-clip thing I mentioned. It’s the weak element of the GM 10 bolt rear you’ve got. Especially if the car is a four-speed car and especially if you intend to do a lot of drag racing!

  12. Thanks so much I dropped a gm performance crate engine in and I was worried. No bracket racing just somethin to light up the goodyears…one more question, how much can the stock super t10 hold up to.

    • Hi Chad,

      You bet!

      The T-10 is actually a very strong box; as tough (or tougher) than the older Muncie. You might want to upgrade the clutch at some point – but I wouldn’t worry about it until you need to!

      Which engine did you put in, by the way?

      I had a stroked 350 with a 280 degree cam in my ’81.

    • Hi Chad,

      “How much hp do you think an 8.5 inch 10 bolt can handle. It’s has posi and 3:73s.”

      A lot, actually!

      My ’76 TA has the same 10 bolt rear (almost all the second generation F cars do). The weak point is the C clip retainers, but even these usually hold up well behind high-torque/hp engines. The 455 in my car probably makes close to 500 lbs.-ft. of torque and around 350 (honest) hp. It’s the original rear end – with 3.90 gears – and I’ve had no problems. I have been playing around with second gen. Camaros and Firebirds since the 1980s – and also know/have known a lot of others who have played around with them. The consensus seems to be that as long as you’re not talking bracket racing – and running a big block with 500 hp – you should be ok.

  13. Im not trying to be a jerk but you don’t need to trash the reputation of the coolest cars of the late 70s.although theyre not the fastest cars out there the 78- 81 were definitely one of if not the coolest looking and bedt handling second gen camaros in my opinion. Secondly these cars had comparable et times of the late 60s ss camaros and that’s with a couple hundred more pounds on them. Lastly part of their low horsepower ratings were due to net horsepower ratings which are less generous than the gross ratings used in the early 70s. Next time point out some positive things because it offends the people who think these are badass cars.again I’m not trying to be a jerk.

    • Hi Chad,

      I’ve owned five second gen. F-cars (including an ’80 and an ’81 Z28) and still have my ’76 TA. I love these cars! They did look great – and still do. But stating the facts about their power/performance in stock trim isn’t trashing them.

      The truth is, most of them were pretty slow – in stock trim.

      The ’77-81 Z-28, in particular – because unlike either its sister car (the Firebird Trans-Am) and also the Corvette, the ’77-81 Z28 never offered an optional – real performance – engine. The ’77-81 Zs all came with the same LM1 350 that was available in non-Z28 Camaros as well as Malibus and other Chevy vehicles. It had no – zip, zero – high performance components. You did get (or could get) a four-speed manual behind it – and yes, the Z28 also came with a more aggressive axle ratio. But the stock LM1 350 was a low-compression, mild-cammed, nothing-special ordinary passenger car engine. In the fairly heavy Z28, the result was 16 second quarter mile times and top speeds of around 118 MPH all out – comparable to a modern four-cylinder Camry (a V-6 Camry would destroy a stock ’77-81 Z28 in a 1/4 drag race).

      A 1970 LT-1 Z28 or even a ’74 L-82 Z28 was much quicker – and, faster. Any comparison between an early Z and a late ’70s Z in terms of acceleration would prove to be very embarrassing for the late ’70s Z.

      Pontiac, on the other hand, offered an engine upgrade in the late 1970s TA.

      You could replace the standard 400 (and later, 403 Olds) with the “T/A 6.6” 400 – which had more compression, a hotter cam and a stronger block, among other specific performance upgrades. This engine produced 220 hp – making it one of the strongest V-8s of the time. More important, it was a true performance engine. It was not the same 400 you’d find under the hood of your mom’s grocery getter Bonneville. The only other car that offered the “T/A 6.6” 400 was the Can Am – another performance car.

      Chevy also offered the L-82 350 in the late 1970s/early 1980s Corvette, which was likewise a true performance engine.

      As I see it – as someone who has actually owned these cars and who appreciates these cars – the chief weakness of the ’77-81 Z28 was that its stock LM1 350 engine was nothing special. It left the car open to mockery. Justifiably so, in my opinion. A Z28 ought to be packing something more under the hood than a grocery-getter Malibu’s same-same 350. Unfortunately, the ’77-81 Z28s were not.

      But, the upside is that the LM1 350 is a small block Chevy. Very easy to wick up the power/performance. I know – because I did so myself.

      A weekend cam swap, a set of headers (lose the crappy factory single exhaust – which also afflicted the TA) and some tuning could get you from the stock 180 hp (190 in 1980) to near 300, no problem, with the stock heads and stock intake. Then, you’d have something.

      Something more than just a good-looking/good handling car.

      Something more than a stripe and decal package.

      A real performance car.

    • “the 78- 81 were definitely one of if not the coolest looking and bedt handling second gen camaros in my opinion. ”

      It’s a matter of taste, but IMO Camaros looked coolest before the “new Camaro” body style change of ’69. I haven’t liked the looks of a Camaro since then. They all seemed a little too slick-looking for my taste, after ’68, but that’s just me.

      • I also like the ’67-69s, but give GM a lot of credit for not just the 1970 redesign but also for being able to tweak it to meet government mandates and keep it good-looking for 11 years in production (vs. just three for the first generation).

        Personally, I think Pontiac did the best job of all. The clean lines of the 1970 Camaro got all messed up in ’74, when (in order to meet the latest impact resistance mandates) Chevy hung an ugly – and huge – metal bumper on the nose (and tail). Pontiac – which pioneered the “bumperless” look with the ’68 GTO – used the same technique to keep the Firebird’s lines cleaner looking. The heavy bumpers were there, but out of sight – hidden behind a body-colored fascia. The Bird’s tail section and ornate tail-lights were beautiful, too.

        It took Chevy until the ’78 model year to do what Pontiac did in 1974.

        The Firebird’s interior was also much more interesting – and higher-end looking (especially the Trans-Am). The Camaro’s was plasticky. And in 1979, they changed the cool-looking cockpit shape to this awful-looking breadbox thing that lasted through 1981.

  14. I was just given my dads 81 Z28. I’ve wanted this car since I can remember. He bought it new off the lot. Its a one owner car that is completely stock. Though he passes when I was 5 years old my mother held on ro the car for years driving it occassionally but sitting in storage for the majority of 24 yrs afyer he passed. I want to keep the same motor but maybe a rebuild and add some headers and exhaust I’ve been doing a lot of research but I was wondering if any of you guys have any advice on how to get more hp and a quality muscle sound…

    • Hi Matt,

      Congratulations! You’ve got a neat car – as well as a car that’s among the easiest to modify for more performance (because it has a traditional small block Chevy V-8). There is a wealth of aftermarket support for these cars; you can readily find almost anything you’ll need – and the engine parts will be among the least expensive to acquire just by dint of the enormous popularity of the SBC V-8.

      First though, some advice: You mention that your ’81 Z is completely stock. If it has survived this long in original condition, you might give some though to preserving it rather than modifying it. It is a collectible antique already – and the value of these cars is only going to go up and original/stock cars are always worth more than cars that have been modified – even when the modifications are done to a very high standard.

      You might also consider storing the factory engine/transmission – with all the peripherals (such as the factory emissions gear, air cleaner, etc.) and installing a high-performance crate engine, etc. Then, later on, you can always return the car to stock – and you’ll have the stock/unmolested drivetrain.

      At the least, document the car as it is now with pictures and video – both to have for just looking at and also to be able to refer to if you ever want to return the car to stock.

      Ok, that said, I’d begin with making sure the stock engine is in good mechanical condition; then do a proper tune-up. There is no point in trying to get more performance out of a tired (or out of tune engine). Also check the condition of the transmission, the driveshaft and rear end – as well as the braking system and suspension. Again, make sure everything’s in good working order before you do anything else. Do all necessary basic maintenance. Remember: This car is more than 30 years old.

      These cars had very restrictive exhaust systems from the factory – a “Y” pipe from a single catalytic converter (a very restrictive one) fed into a pair of mufflers, to give the appearance of dual exhaust – but it’s a really a single exhaust with two tailpipes. If your car still has the stock exhaust, you can realize a noticeable performance improvement by swapping this out for a true dual exhaust and low-restriction mufflers (such as Flowmasters). You can use cats – or not – but if you use them, use two (one for each side) and use high-quality, low-restriction units. Headers are not necessary – and my advice is to not even try to install them on this car due to the age of the car. Or rather, the age of the engine – the bolts that hold the stock exhaust manifolds in place. If you try to remove the bolts, the odds are good you’ll snap off at least one or two – and there’s no easy way to repair that short of pulling off a head to tap and die the damaged bolt. Just have a muffler shop make you some 2 1/4 inch pipes from the manifolds back. Or order a ready-to-bolt in set from Pypes Performance (see here ) You will be very happy with both the increased performance as well as the sound.

      The factory 4-barrel (Quadrajet) and intake (a nice dual-plane aluminum unit) are very good – do not replace these with aftermarket “performance” pieces unless you just want to spend money. Instead, spend money on a jet kit for the Q-Jet from Cliff Ruggles Performance. (see here ) Cliff is a good dude and will set you up for about $75.

      Adjust the ignition for maximum performance, to complement the above mods – which should result in a boost from the stock 190 hp to around 220 – or about what a stock Corvette L-82 makes. Should get you into the 14s – and make the car a lot of fun to drive!

      You did not mention whether your Z is a four-speed car or has an automatic. If it has an automatic, I recommend installing a reprogramming kit (“shift kit”) which will increased the quickness and firmness of each upshift as well as raise the RPM at which shifts occur under WOT. These kits cost about $150 and are very easy to install with basic tools.

      The last thing I’d recommend – as far as fairly simple/cheap mods to wake your Z up – is a more aggressive ring and pinion. Some Zs came with 3:73 gears, which is plenty for a street-driven car without overdrive. But probably your came with a 3.08 – in which case, going up to the 3.73 set will give you a dramatic improvement in off-the-line performance at the expense of raising your engine cruise RPM on the highway in top gear – but not too much.

      For handling, you can bolt on a same-era Trans-Am’s four-wheel disc brakes as well as the TA’s faster-ratio steering box. You can upgrade the factory anti-sway bars with larger diameter units – easy bolt in swap. Or just replace the factory rubber bushings with aftermarket urethane bushings.

      This ought to get you started!

      PS: I have owned two of these cars myself – and still own a cousin (’76 Trans-Am). I recommend Pypes and Ruggles based on my personal dealings with them. They don’t pay me to steer people their way.

  15. But why don’t you argue that the 180hp ’77, 185hp ’78, 195hp ’79 *version of* the LM-1 is the same engine used on the standard Corvette? It shares the same rating as the base Corvette engine all the way through 1980. By 1978 the Caprice and El Camino were the only others to share Chevrolet’s biggest single exhaust car engine. But the Corvette and Z-28 engine had a low restriction dual exhaust and later, real ram-air induction. Wasn’t that a ’60s supercar thing? Ram induction? An engine gets 195hp in 1979, offers 3.73:1 gearing and a close ratio 4speed or a 3.42:1 and a high stall torque converter on automatic models – but you don’t like that.

    Why not?

    Some have pointed out that air conditioned models were slower. At least you could *get* AC on the ’70’s cars. If you could even get it, most sixties supercars only had AC with the numerically lowest axle ratio and/or automatic transmissions anyway. And if mid fifteen second/90mph quarter miles aren’t super/muscle worthy, you’d have to throw out the ’66 360hp Chevelle SS396 4speed, not to mention every automatic trans GM super/muscle car from ’65 and ’66. Add to that list the Ford GTA, 271hp ’66 Mustang – well the list goes on and on.

    Why not look at the ’77 Z-28 as a resurgence of ‘hair’ and a breath of fresh air?

    • Hey King,

      The Corvette could be ordered with the L-82 350, which was a real performance engine (performance cam, specific cylinder heads, etc.) and, unlike the ’77-’81 Z28’s 350, not just a standard passenger car 350.

      The ’77 Z had a hood sticker.

      The ’78 and ’79 Z had a dummy hood scoop.

      The ’80 and ’81 had “air induction” – functional flapper door.

      I just stated facts about the car. I didn’t say I didn’t like the car! Heck, I’ve owned two of them – a ’78 and an ’80 – and loved them both. But my love for those cars doesn’t make me blind to the fact that engine-wise, they were nothing special.

      Chevy tried – and did an ok job with what it had available, given the times.

      • For the times the Z ranked right up there with the T/A and Corvette. To get the same performance of a late seventies F car or vette, you’d be spending more than three times the base sticker of the ’77 Z to get a european car.

        I will agree too that the famous 2.02″ 1.60″ valve L82 was a thoroughbred in the way the LM1 wasn’t. But by that time the 350 wasn’t a ‘regular’ engine. It was the biggest available on passenger cars.

        So it’s hard to argue that one of the fastest cars of its time somehow ‘ruined’ the name Z-28 forever.

        • The hp and performance of the ’77-’81 Z-28 was way behind that of both the L-82 Corvette and the “T/A 6.6” optioned Trans-Am, both of which had special high-performance engines, as you know. The “T/A 6.6 liter” Trans-Am, for example, was packing a 220 hp 6.6 liter engine – much more powerful than the same-year Z-28’s much smaller 5.7 liter 350.

          It wasn’t even close.

          In fact, the L-82 Corvette was the only American car that could touch (or beat) the 220 hp Trans-Am!

          That said, the ’77-’81 Z-28 was a good-looking car, with lots of potential. That LM1 could easily be awakened with a few relatively simple upgrades, such as a cam change, headers and tuning. I know – because I did that to my ’80 Z-28. One fairly mild (260 degree) cam, a set of headers – plus a shift kit for the TH350 – and the thing was pretty damn quick!

          It’s just a shame that Chevy wasn’t able to make the ’77-81 Z28 much more than an appearance (and handling) package, unlike previous Z28s, which always offered a high-performance engine as the heart of the package.

          Admittedly, the Trans-Am and Corvette of the ’70s both lost a few steps, were detuned for emissions and other reasons relative to earlier models. But they always offered a performance engine upgrade – and that’s what the Z lost in ’77-81 and didn’t recover until the L69 “HO” option returned with the third gen. cars…

          If the ’77-81′ Z had been available with the L-82, now that would have been something!

          • Hey! You Guys, Your on the same page and the choir is getting feedback . . . . .

            The 2nd Gen ‘F’ cars were very popular, as the sales proved. A lot of people loved them and are warming back up to them again(the later post 73’s). I wish I had a yard full of them, especially with the availability of the crate LS engines(GM Performance Parts LS376″/480-525Hp Crate Engine) which allows performance and good MPG, and the ability to get them DEQ and licensed and therefore street-able. Something we here in the West have to consider if we want to put our performance 74′ and newer rods on the street. 525 Hp and possibly 20MPG with low emissions, and completely streetable. It is also available with a carb manifold. Too much fun.

            I have a stack of LS crate motors here in the shop looking for cars, and they are bargain for what you get. For $10,000 you can put the LS376, a Tremec 6-speed(T-56), and the install kit(electronics/harness/senders) in your old ride. That is $18.00 per horse. You can’t beat it. Got an old ‘F’ body, Nova, RX-7, 924/944 Porsche, 3rd or 4th gen Vette, or how about a broke 928 or XJ Jag, or Merc SL. Hell, I would love to put one in an old Merc 250C/280C, or BMW 320i/E-30/E-36.

            Caveat; They are pretty ugly, but they can be dressed up with after market parts or over the counter at GM parts with Corvette covers. Won’t look as good as the Ford cammers with their Ford Motor Sport dress up parts, but it will sure out run a cammer.

            Note; This engine is also available in combination with an auto box for an even cheaper all up cost.

            • Yes, you’re in luck… if you’re a Chevy guy!

              Us Pontiac People on the other hand….

              When I get some time, I plan to massage my TA’s 455 a bit. The engine is very tight (probably I won’t even need to touch the bottom end) but it’s not powerful enough to keep up anymore. I’ve never dyno’d it, but expect it makes around 300-320 honest hp in current form. I’m thinking a bit more compression (today’s fuels will support this) and a bit more more cam will bring things up to date.

              I know it’d be easier/cheaper to just plug in a crate Chevy V-8, but that is something I will never do. Not to a Pontiac (a real one). No offense meant toward Chevy V-8s; they’re outstanding engines – and in Chevys, I like ’em fine.

              But not in a classic Pontiac!

          • Tre, I reckon I could live with that drivetrain in a 928 ha ha ha ha. Gee, what a screamer that would be. Or an old SL, in that baby blue or pastel yellow/bone color, the ultimate highway sleeper. I have a feeling the latter…and maybe the former both would be on the “have you seen this car?” list sooner than later. Instant On, yep, the race.

  16. It pains me to read articles such as this. It is clear that the writer has little knowledge of these cars. I owned a 77 auto, 79 4 spd, and a 80 auto. I know the cars and options very well. First of all, there was no Z28 in 1976. Secondly it is easy to sit back and state the obvious. The 1977 Z28 came with a LM1 350 rated around 170hp (depends on whose story your reading. 190 for 1980). I have read that the Z28 came with a different cam however that helped raise the static compression ratio, but this has not ever been verified to my knowledge. Regardless the Z28 of 1977 was never intended to run with L82 beasts. What a 77 Z would do, is run the canyons with anything else out there. As was stated “the 77 Z28 is a close as you can get to a Corvette”. Automatic Z’s came with the Corvette “CVC” TH350 which had a different 1st gear ration, and a 3.42:1 ring and pinion. 4sp Z’s came with the 3.73:1 standard most years, I believe they changed this around 1981. Quick steering ratio, much bigger sway bars than the 74, as well as stiffened springs made for a very balanced, great handling package. Although the LM1 wasn’t a beast, with a little tinkering (advance recurve) and some good gas they were quite respectable…especially for the day. One has to remember we didn’t have very good gas back in the day as well. Regardless the big 3 was out of the “hot rod” business…but anybody with a little hot rod knowledge could really make these cars run without serious modification to the engine.
    My 1977 Z was my favorite due to the short overhangs. To me the 77 just looks like a hot rod. In 1980 they changed the springs and lowered the car just a bit. Most people don’t know, or just don’t care. As I have owned several of these cars I consider myself a bit of a “Z28 geek”.
    Anybody who ever owned one of these cars knows they were a blast to drive. Quick enough for most of us, with handling that unheard of just years before.


    • Hey Randy,

      I’ve actually owned three – a ’77, a ’78 and a 1980. So yes, I do know something about them. (Did I say there was a Z28 in 1976? Maybe there’s a typo in the piece; if so, I apologize.)

      I’ve also owned several same-era Trans-Ams and the Pontiacs handled much better, with a far more compliant ride, due to the emphasis on sway bars rather than stiffer leafs. (Check out the relative differences in sway bar diameters, Z28 vs. Trans-Am.) This – the Trans-Am’s superior handling – was acknowledged by period testers. In fact, the Trans-Am from that era was the best handling American car – better than Corvette, in fact. Go look it up. (By 1978, Pontiac was offering 15×8 wheels and four-wheel-disc brakes, too. Camaro had drums through the end of the second generation run and never offered wheels larger than 15×7.)

      The LM1 350 was identical to the LM1 350 used in other Chevy vehicles of the period. It had no special performance parts at all, though the 1980-’81 Z28, as you know, had a functional “air induction” scoop. Yes, the LM1 could be hopped up – like just about any small block Chevy. But stock, these were (at best) mid-high 15 second cars.

      That’s a 350/manual with no AC and 3.73 gearing. An automatic car with less aggressive gears and a lot of power equipment (AC, windows and locks, etc.) was slower. I have multiple reference volumes with rod tests from the era. And as I mentioned, I’ve owned three of these cars, too. So I am not spouting my opinion, I’m just quoting what contemporaneous road tests published.

      A current Camry V-6 would smoke a stock ’77-81 Z28 0-60 and 1/4 mile. And the same era Trans-Am 400 L78/W72 “TA 6.6” with 200-220 hp was quicker, too.

      Were they fun to drive in their time? Sure! I don’t think I ever said (or wrote) otherwise… they’re neat cars, with a lot of potential. And unlike the more powerful – and collectible – earlier L-82 and LT-1 Z28s, the ’77-’81 versions are still reasonably priced.

      I’d love to have another someday. Sorry if you got the impression that I am not a fan of these cars, because I am!

      • The Trans Am’s of the era were fitted with almost exactly the same size sway bars as the Z28. The standard Pontiac 400 of the day was rated around 180hp. They started putting the dreaded Olds 403 in these cars around 79 I think, and most of these cars came with very conservative rear gearing which made them really, really slow. Did I mention they were slow?

        The only way a Trans Am could hands down spank a Z28 of this era was if said Trans Am was ordered with the “WS6” Package. The WS6 package added the W72 Pontiac 400 which was very conservatively rated at 220hp. The WS6 package did incorporate a larger diameter rear sway bar although the front sway bar stayed the same 1.25….rear disc brakes with a 4.11:1 gear were also part of the package along with the 4speed. Now….comparing a 1977 Z28 to a WS6 Trans AM is not the fairest comparison out there. The “WS6” Trans Am was a factory hot rod when most car makers had abandoned the idea.

        Comparing a stock Z28 to a “WS6” Trans AM is not the fairest comparison I could think of….but I will agree a W72 T/A would smoke a 1977 Z28, I know, it happened to me.

        Pontiac was THE only car maker in the mid 70’s that had the balls to market anything close to performance, but that’s a different story.

        • Hi Randy,

          A few corrections:

          The Olds 403 was first offered in ’77 – and was rated by Pontiac at 185 hp. The “regular” 400 Pontiac was rated 180; the optional W72 400 (“T/A 6.6” on the shaker) was initially rated at 200 hp – then 220 in ’78 and ’79.

          1979 was the last year for the 400 – W72 or otherwise. And only a relative handful of the ’79s got the 400 – which was only available with the four-speed manual that year.

          The late ’70s Trans-Am never came with a 4:11 rear axle. It was 3:23 with the 220 hp engine. Remember: These were not high-RPM engines. The big-inch Pontiac was a torque engine. (I am pretty sure the ’77-’81 Z28 had a more aggressive 3:73 ratio with the manual transmission.)

          Sway bars: 1.250/.625 for the standard TA – but .750 for the WS6 cars.

          The T/A 6.6 was a legitimate high-performance engine – unlike the ’77-’81 Z28’s 350, which was exactly the same LM1 used in other Chevys, including non-Z28 Camaros.

          I’ve owned both, incidentally. Both great cars – but in my opinion, the TA was much more refined and, when equipped with the W72 400, it was much quicker.

          • I guess I stand corrected on the 4.11:1 gear. I had a friend who owned a 79 WS6 with a 4.11 gearset, and I always assumed it was factory. He ate my very mildly modified 77 Z for lunch.

            Having owned a 72 GTO, and a 77 Can Am I know and love the Pontiac 400’s.

            • Probably, you’d have a helluva time even hooking it up with a 4.11 rear! I have a 3.90 (not stock) rear in my ’76 and I have to roll it out to about 20 MPH before I can give it full throttle!

              I love GTOs, too – and that ’77 Can Am was a really neat almost-GTO that had so much potential. Too bad Pontiac wasn’t able to develop it further!

  17. I purchased an 81 Camaro z28 last year and have had the car upgraded with a 425 hp 383 motor with all the bells and whistles. The motor was added along with a 700r transmission with a stall speed converter and a shift kit, Caltrak taction bars, brakes redone totally, all suspension upgraded or replaced, all body mounts replaced, headers with dual exhaust. About $30,000 invested so far. The body needs to be redone and I am in the process of sending it to a professional body shop for that mission. The interior will be included in the $10,000+ restoration of the body. I recently put Mickey Thompson street radials on the back and radials on the front. Im wondering if anyone is interested in the car as it is now without the body and interior restoration. The car has 700 break in miles and is a blast to drive. I need to sell the car with tight year ahead. I hate to part with the car but it is what it is. Anyone interested please e-mail. It is a mean motor scooter.

  18. Hello

    So………..A friend is restoring a 1981 Z-28 with a modified 350 pushing around 370 hp and automatic. It has the t-tops, red interior, cowl induction, and stripe kit. The friend, a Pontiac and Camaro fiend, claims these cars are VERY popular as many teenagers and years beyond came to know and love these cars as they were considered a ‘muscle car’ to them. No expense spared on the car, total front end rebuild, new (and flawless) paint etc. etc. etc. I am considering purchasing the car, but am also looking at market value and popularity down the road. Any ‘inside track’ on the desirability of this car?? Thanks for your opinion.

    • Hi Daryl,

      Late second generation (circa 1975-’81) Camaros are already very popular – and collectible – and likely to become more so. Though not as powerful in stock trim as the earlier versions, they’re still basically the same cars (with minor trim/sheetmetal differences here and there) and easily modified to perform as well as the earlier cars, stock or modified. There is also interest in restoring and preserving them as they were. Either way, it’s a very safe bet as far as an investment. Some stuff to know:

      The ’80-’81 Z28s were the only second generation Camaros to have operational cowl induction from the factory. The ’78-79 cars had dummy scoops; the ’77 just had a sticker.

      Automatic-equipped cars were (and still are) much more common; 4-speed cars are more valuable today.

      The T-tops leak. No matter what you do. They will leak. Your ’81 has the factory Fisher tops, which are much better than the dealer-installed Hurst hatches. But they all still leak. Be aware of this, because most T-top cars have rusted floor pans as a result.

      Parts for these cars are abundant, with one exception: The molded cowl seal end pieces; damn hard to find NOS and not made (that I am aware of) aftermarket.

      Disclosure: I’ve owned an ’80 Z28 and a ’78 Type LT with the same 350 as the same-year Z28. These were great cars. I think you’ll enjoy owning it!

      • Thanks Very Much Eric

        The current owner/restorer is selling the car because he has a line on an ’81 Z with a four speed, apparently blue and similar to the one he adored in high school, and has always wanted another.

        I was not aware of the T-Top issue so will be sure to keep a close eye on that, and should I stumble across the cowl induction pieces at a parts swap meet, I will be sure to secure another set of parts, just in case.

        I too am a former Camaro owner; a 1974 LT with a four speed; somewhat somnolent but looked good with a set of Cragar SS mags; and a 19701/2 Z-28 which was an odd copper/salmon colour………that I never should have sold, nuff said.

        I am currently restoring a /75 FIrebird Formula, numbers matching 400 and 4 speed, but wanted something to enjoy in the meantime. Somewhere down the road I will have to choose because of limited space and marital compliance.

        Your comments and additional info are most greatly appreciated.


        • Np!

          And: Your ’75 400 4-speed Formula is a pretty rare (and cool) car. I had a buddy whose father owned an even more rare ’79 Formula with the W72 “T/A 6.6” 400 and 4-speed, WS6 – the works. Of course he sold the car long before he knew what he had….

          • Not many around for sure…..this one is Buccaneer Red with white interior, engine with some perormance mods, polished exhaust and intake, cam, electric fuel pump, even has working ram air. The same guy who is doing the Z-28 did the motor on this car, should be around 400hp.

            • Sounds great!

              You can see some indirect/background pics of my ’76 in the articles on the Kawasaki S1 resto that are up on the main page (and under “motorcycles”). It has a 455 with mild street cam, tuned Quadrajet and MSD ignition, factory-style RA III cast iron headers and working shaker scoop. Probably makes an honest 370 or so hp. But the torque is incredible!

          • Back around 1987-88 I would always see a 73or74(forget which)Formula SD-455 at the local car shows.This car was beautiful and in flawless condition.It was for sale too-$6,500.I was only 16 at the time and though this was crazy money he was asking.Now I look back and think I should have robbed a bank or whatever it took to get this car.

            • Ah feeel your pain, Getcha!

              Back in the early ’90s I had the same experience. I used to frequently pass a red ’74 SD-455 parked in this guy’s driveway; it was tired-looking but “all there” and still operational (he moved it every once in awhile). It had a For Sale sign on it: $5,500 or something like that. I was recently out of college and po’ – so $5,500 might as well have been $55,000. But if I could turn back time… I’d have become a manwhore or whatever it took get the coin to get that car!

      • Reg; “Late second generation (circa 1975-’81) Camaros are already very popular ”

        The TPI 3rd Gen Z-28/IROC-Z’s are heating up also. I’m looking for a 350″ TPI 87′-92′, HDTP or Convert, preferably with the manual tranny that came in the later issues. Will pay top dollar for exceptional examples and will pick up anywhere in the US.

        • Tre, I just realized Tx. DPS had a big fleet of that model Z. I think I remember them being a higher HP than the ones customers could buy. No T-Tops I ever saw but that may not be the end of that either. Officer cars in Austin were sometime pretty elaborate (just for testing don’t you see?). Not very long ago, I saw a Lincoln DPS car my passport told we was chunking out radar. But I think the deal was they traded all their cars in 95-96 for the current model. A friend had one, a good car he said and was really quick. He also said he had other friends who bought them and they’re cars were good as well. This was in ’95 in Odessa. I’ve seen a lot of those model cars been used as a trash bin or just sitting there with everything coming apart and wonder if the owners realize how cheaply those cars would run again.

          • Eightsouthman/June 20, 2013 at 10:14 pm

            There wasn’t an actual police model, but I suspect that the 1-LE was actually 1-Law Enforcement. There was no Hp increase, but suspension, cooling, and driveline, etc were upgraded. This year the 1-LE is now a separate Camaro model. We bought one back in the early nineties(91′ model) for track duty… fun car, and I’m still quite fond of them. We order it with no options other then G92 Performance Axle, and with several ‘Deletes’. It was made ready for the SCCA ‘SS’ class and we dominated that class locally. The Camaro was replaced in 2000 with a Mustang SVT Cobra-R. Much faster, but never really warmed up to that car.

            In 1989′ I was traveling(rapidly) North on I-395 South of Carson City, Nevada(but still in Cali) in my SVO Mustang when I picked up a bounce signal on the detector, I hauled the Pony down just in time as a CHP IROC in a pretty blue, came over the crest in the road. He turned around and put on his light. I pulled over and expected a big hassle or worse. But, he was just curious about the car, as SVO’s were pretty rare and rarely seen. I had bought the SVO for track work, but it was such a nice car I couldn’t bear to strip it and hammer it, so I saved it for a trip car, a true Grand Turismo.

            We have a 92′ Rock/Le here at the shop that we just put in a LS376/530Hp and the Tremec 6-speed. We also gave it 6-point cage and a Winters NASCAR rear with Global suspension and other upgrades. Its about ready to go to paint. Owner is looking to do the Silver State and do some track work.

            From wiki…> To take an IROC-Z coupe to the maximum performance extreme in 1989, when the G92 Performance Axle was ordered with no air conditioning (C41), RPO code 1LE was automatically triggered. This included extra equipment intended to make the IROC-Z more competitive in SCCA Showroom Stock road racing events: larger 11.65-inch (296 mm) rotors with 2-piston aluminium calipers from PBR; an aluminum driveshaft; a special baffled fuel tank; specific shock absorbers; and stiffer suspension bushings.

            The 0riginal ‘1-Le was available from 89′-92’ >

          • Tre, I’m sure you know this. The only upgrade options I saw on the car was a/c, fairly much a stripper. In ’03 or ’04 a friend bought a really nice used ’98 TA with the LS-6 engine, a very wicked little car. I’d guess it was a 160mph car, long legged and quick too. I would have had one before that but we were saving for a new barn/house combo, wanted next to nothing or really no finance.

  19. Hello , how are You today ? I owned a 1980 Z-28 Camaro from feb. 1985 until sept.2001 and I loved the car . That engine did’nt come alive unless You ran the timing at between 12-13deg btdc and installed full dual exhaust .Also Bfg 275-50-15 rear , 265-50-15 fr . In that trim the car reached 60 in 6.0 sec . The reason I’m leaving a comment is to make a correction of the differential gears . They were 3:42/1 . It’s a common mistake I used to see alot when guys would advertise those differentials for sale . They would also adv them as being lim slip/ posi-traction which they were not . The Trans-Am had the lim slip/ posi-traction but not the Z-28 in those years . Anyway I really miss that car as I had all the goodies including the posi , KYB shocks , T/A big block fr springs , T/A sway bars fr and rear , the rear discs and combination valve off a T/A , killer stereo …….etc

    • Hi Chris,

      I know TAs better than Camaros so maybe I am not remembering correctly, but I’m pretty sure limited slip was at least available as an option on the ’77-’81 Z28.

      I once owned an ’80 Z28 and it had the limited slip tag on the pumpkin – and both tires would spin, not just the right rear. I agree that a good performance tune – and definitely dual exhaust – would much improve the car’s 0-60 time, but 6 seconds flat? I dunno, man. These were big, heavy cars and the stock 350 was not even remotely a performance engine (in fact it was identical to the 350 that was optional in non-Z28 Camaros and also the same as the 350s used in other Chevy passenger cars). Even with the performance tune and duals, the 350 was probably not making as much power as the same-era Trans-Am’s “W72” 400, which did have a few performance features such as a more aggressive camshaft and was rated at a much stouter 220 hp vs. the Camaro’s 190 hp…. and the TA was not a 6 second car in stock trim. The ’73-’74 SD-455 (290 hp) was in that ballpark (mid 5s, if memory serves) but the SD-455 was a serious, purpose-built performance engine with big valve heads, a hot cam, header-style exhaust (with duals) and so on… (Here’s some detail )

      I don’t have my hp calculator handy, but my guess is you’d need to be making at least 260-275 honest (net, rear wheel) hp to get a late ’70s Z28 or TA to 60 in 6 seconds flat.

      • Notice something that you may have accidentally misstated, Eric.

        The Camaro’s/Firebird’s(67′-81′) never had a removable 3rd member style/’pumpkin’ rear end. They all had the Saginaw style rear end with the carrier mounted internally in the housing. Made it difficult to swap gears, that is why a lot GM race cars installed 12″ Fords or Chrysler new process rears.
        The code to identify the gear ratio, the build date, the plant where it was assembled, the work shift when it was assembled, and posi-traction source – if equipped, is stamped on the forward facing passenger side axle tube on 2nd generation, and forward facing drivers side axle tube on 3rd gen Camaros. It can be found about 3 inches away from the carrier housing /center section of rear end housing. 10 and 12 bolt rear ends were dropped after 1970 and a ‘Corporate; 10 bolt in all ‘F’ bodies, after. The ‘Corporate’ 10-bolt only had a 8.50″ ring gear and, though, stronger then the earlier 10-bolt, it was just adequate to the emasculated engines of the mid to late 2nd ‘F’ bodies. The SD-455 TA’s may have continued with the 12-bolt(?) after 1970.

        Posi-traction was available in all the Camaro years.

        Hope this helps… Tre

        1970 Axle code example: COZ 01 01 G E
        (COZ = Ratio, 01 = Month, 01 = Day of month, G = Plant, E = positraction source)

        1971+ Rear Axle Code example: CB G 112 1 E
        (CB = Ratio, G = Plant, 112 = 112th day of year, 1 = shift, E = Positraction Source)

        Assembly Plant Codes
        Plant Code Plant Code
        Buick B Warren, MI W
        Buffalo C Oldsmobile O
        Cadillac D Pontiac P
        Detriot Gear & Axle G Pontiac/Canada M
        GM of Canada K

        Shift: D or 1 = Day shift | N or 2 = Night shift

        Positraction Source/Code:
        – = No positraction G = Chevrolet G&A Positraction Carrier
        D = Dana Positraction Differential O = Oldsmobile Positraction Carrier
        E = Eaton Positraction Differential W = Warren/Warner Motive

        Positraction Casting Numbers

        8.2″ 10 bolt 8.5″ “Corporate” 12 bolt
        Casting # Series Gearing
        ED32118 2 2.73:1 & down
        EDB30116 3 3.08:1 & up

        Casting # Series Gearing
        410408N 3 2.73:1 & up
        410409N 2 2.56:1 & down

        Casting # Series Gearing
        ED32088 2 2.73:1 & down
        30140PM1 3 3.08:1 to 3.73:1
        EDB30174 4 3.90:1 & up

        Rear axle casting date code Rear Housing Casting Date

        Example: D141 – (D = Month, 14 = Day, 1 = Last digit of year (1971)).

        Month: A = Jan, B = Feb, C = Mar, D = Apr, E = May, F = Jun G = July, H = Aug, I = Sep, J = Oct, K = Nov, L = Dec

        Camaro Ring & Pinion Gears
        Axle Ratio ring & Pinion gear tooth count
        2.56:1 41-16
        2.73:1 41-15
        3.07:1 43-14
        3.08:1 40-13
        3.08:1 37-12
        3.31:1 43-13
        3.36:1 37-11
        3.42:1 41-12
        3.55:1 39-11
        3.73:1 41-11
        4.10:1 41-10
        4.11:1 37-9

        • Hi Tre,

          Oh, I know!

          IIRC, one of the other posters said something along those lines. I mentioned the C-clip axle retainers used in the 10-bolt axles from 71-through ’81. IIRC, the only second gen, F bodies that had the the 12 bolt were a few of the high-powered ’70 models.

    • chris maple 1981 z/28. I have two 81 Z/28’s both of witch have posi rear ends with posi tags.I took all the stock bolt on’s off & put in place a edelbrock intake 600 cfm holllet headers mini turbo’s vac hei dis with hotter coil a borg warnner super T-10 4-speed, a 130 mph speed o.. it’s not a hot rod like my 1969 chevelle SS that runs low 9’s but it does get side ways in all 4 gears and runs like a Z/28 should..and with the stock working cowl hood, looks as a Z/28 should..


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