Reader Question: New Heart for Old Z28?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Dood asks: I have a 1992 Camaro Z28 5-speed that I bought new and have used as a daily driver since. But the engine is now no longer functional. Supposing I have a few thousand to spend, what would be the best option for replacing the engine so that I can continue driving as a daily driver for many years to come? I’d prefer a new (not rebuilt) engine. It doesn’t even have to be a 350. Would a crate engine make sense, or are those more suited for racing and thus require more maintenance?  Could I find a way to buy a new GM-built engine?  Does Jasper make new (not rebuilt) engines? Also, on the same note, assuming I have the money, what is the best option for buying a new transmission? It doesn’t have to be a 5-speed, 6 would be more preferable anyway.

My reply: The world is your oyster on this one!

GM offers an entire lineup of crate engines, which you can buy either from a GM dealer or JEGS/Summit and other suppliers. These are new – not rebuilt – and come with GM warranties. You can go from mild to wild and since your Camaro came with a small block Chevy, any small bock Chevy will bolt right up.

Internal differences make no difference. Have a look here to get started.

You may need a new/reflashed ECU, ignition set up, etc. – but none of that’s a big deal.

Many of these engines offer paired peripherals.

The main issue you may have to deal with is emissions legality – depending on where you live – and whether you can “get away” with not installing an “approved” engine. The good news is your car is old enough to qualify as an antique – and (in many states) antique-tagged vehicles are exempt from smog testing/annual registration renewal requirements.

As far as the tranny (not Bruce)…

The six-speed will give you tighter ratios and perhaps a deeper OD ratio. I’d talk with the tech department of the place you end up buying the engine from to figure out which transmission works best. I have very good things to say about Tremec boxes.

While you’re at it, you may want to take into account your final drive ratio. You could go higher – or lower – depending on the transmission’s ratios and depending on what balance you’d like to strike between quickness and speed.

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Thank you for the answer Eric! That gives me more hope for the future. Thankfully, I live in a state that does NOT require annual emissions testing. I used to live in MD, and hated having to do that testing every two years on every vehicle (I seem to remember the emissions testing beginning around 2001).

  2. I’m not sure I’d go with a six speed unless you’re drag racing. The six speeds are often too close for real world driving, even aggressive real world driving. On curvy roads you’ll often spend a lot of time shifting between two gears in a six speed versus being able to stay in a single gear with a five speed, especially if you’ve got the torque of a V8. Lotus put a six speed in their Toyota-based lineup; a number of folks up the torque and horsepower of the engine then swap in the older five speed.


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