The 1970 Chevrolet Camaro
The larger second-generation Camaro featured an all-new sleek body and improved suspension. The 1970 Camaro debuted as a 2+2 coupe; no convertible was offered and would not appear again until well into the third generation. Most of the engine and drivetrain components were carried over from 1969 with the exception of the 230 in³ (3.8 L) six cylinder — the base engine was now the 250 in³ (4.1 L) six-cylinder rated at 155 hp. The top performing motor was a L-78 396 in³ (6.5 L) V8 rated at 375 hp (280 kW). Starting in 1970, the 396 in³ (6.5 L) nominal big block V8's actually displaced 402 in³ (6.6 L), yet Chevrolet chose to retain the 396 badging. Two 454 in³ (7.4 L) engines (the LS6 and LS7) were listed on early specification sheets but never made it into production. Besides the base model, buyers could select the "Rally Sport" option with a distinctive front nose and bumper, a "Super Sport" package, and the "Z-28 Special Performance Package" featuring a new high-performance LT-1 360 hp 350 in³ (5.7 L) V8. The LT-1 350, an engine built from the ground up using premium parts and components, was a much better performer overall than the previous 302 cubic-inch V8s used in 1967-69 Z-28s and greater torque characteristics and less-radical cam permitted the Z-28 to be available with the Turbo 350 automatic transmission as an option to the four-speed manual for the first time.
The new bodystyle featured a full fastback roofline and ventless full door glass with no rear side quarter windows, therefore moving the Camaro away from a true pillarless hardtop design. Doors were wider to permit easier access to the rear seat and new pull-up handles replaced the old handles for which the lower button had to be pushed in to lock the door. The roof was a new double-shell unit for improved rollover protection and noise reduction. The base model featured a separate bumper/grille design with parking lights under the bumper while the Rally Sport option included a distinctive grille surrounded by a flexible Endura material along with round parking lights beside the headlights and bumperettes surrounding on both sides of the grille. The rear was highlighted by four round taillights similar to the Corvette.
Inside, a new curved instrument panel featured several round dials for gauges and other switches directly in front of the driver while the lower section included the heating/air conditioning controls to the driver's left and radio, cigar lighter and ashtray in the center and glovebox door on the right. New Strato bucket seats, unique to 1970 models, featured squared off seatbacks and adjustable headrests and the rear seating consisted of two bucket cushions and a bench seat back due to the higher transmission tunnel. The optional center console was now integrated into the lower dashboard with small storage area or optional stereo tape player. The standard interior featured all-vinyl upholstery and a flat black dashboard finish while an optional custom interior came with upgraded cloth or vinyl upholstery and woodgrain trim on dash and console.
The 1970 model was introduced in February 1970, halfway through the model year. This caused some people to incorrectly refer to it as a "1970 1/2" model; all were 1970 models. The 1970 model year vehicles are generally regarded as the most desirable of the early 2nd generation Camaros, since the performance of following years was reduced by the automobile emissions control systems of the period and later the addition of heavy federally mandated bumpers.
The 1971 Chevrolet Camaro
The 1971 Camaro received only minor appearance changed from its 1970 counterpart. Inside, new high-back Strato bucket seats with built-in headrests replaced the 1970-only low-back seats with adjustable headrests. The biggest changes came under the hood due to a GM-corporate mandate that all engines be designed to run on lower-octane regular leaded, low-lead or unleaded gasoline, necessitating reductions in compression ratios and horsepower ratings. The 250-6, 307-V8 and two-barrel version of the 350 V8 were virtually unchanged as they were low-compression regular-fuel engines in 1970 and previous years, while the LT-1 350 V8 used in the Z/28 dropped from 360 to 330 horsepower due to compression ratio decline from 11.0 to 1 to 9.0 to 1, and the big 396/402 cubic-inch V8 dropped from 350 to 300 horsepower due to compression ratio drop from 10.25 to 1 to 8.5 to 1.
Production and sales dropped due to a 67-day corporatewide strike at GM that coincided with the introduction of the 1971 models in late September, 1970, along with a continued declining interest in the ponycar market fueled by skyrocketing insurance rates for high-performance cars. Rumors of the possible cancellation of the Camaro after 1972 began to surface and were nearly confirmed a year later when another worker's strike hit the assembly plant at Norwood, Ohio, which was the only plant building Camaros and Pontiac Firebirds. Camaro and Firebird production had been discontinued at the Van Nyes, Calif. plant in 1970 in favor of Chevy Novas.
The 1972 Chevrolet Camaro
The 1972 Camaro suffered two major setbacks. A UAW strike at a GM assembly plant in Ohio disrupted production for 174 days, and 1,100 Camaros had to be scrapped because they did not meet 1973 federal bumper safety standards. Some at GM seriously considered dropping the Camaro and Firebird altogether, while others were convinced the models remained marketable. The latter group eventually convinced those in favor of dropping the F-cars to reconsider, and Chevrolet would go on to produce 68,656 Camaros in 1972. 970 SS396s were produced in 1972, and this was the last year for the SS model. This year it was changed from "Z/28" to "Z28". Horsepower ratings continued to drop not only due to lower compression and tighter emissions but beginning with the 1972 model year, a switch from gross (on dynometer) to net ratings based on an engine in an actual vehicle with all accessories installed. With that, the LT 350 cubic-inch V8 dropped from 330 gross horsepower in 1971 to 255 net for 1972 and the big-block 396/402 cubic-inch V8 was now rated at 240 net horsepower compared to 300 gross horses in 1971.
The 1973 Chevrolet Camaro
A new luxury LT model was offered in 1973, and new impact-absorbing bumpers were standard. The Super Sport package was dropped, and the big block 396 in³ (6.5 L) V8 could no longer be ordered. Power was down due to new emissions standards, with the top rated 350 in³ (5.7 L) V8 producing 245 hp in the Z28, which was now offered with air conditioning as an option thanks to the switch from a solid-lifer to a hydraulic-lifter engine. The Z28 option could be ordered on both the sport coupe and LT models. When the Z28 option was ordered on the LT, the usual Z28 badges, stripes and graphics were deleted making for a virtually "street sleeper."
Other changes included a new console-mounted shifter for automatic transmissions similar to the Rally Sport Shifter used in Pontiac Firebirds replacing the Buick-like horseshoe shifter of previous Camaros, and the reintroduction of power windows to the option list for the first time since 1969 with the switches mounted in the console.
Camaro sales increased to over 96,000 units this year thanks to a record sales year industry-wide and a slight revival in the ponycar market as word got out of Ford's downsized Mustang II planned for 1974 and the planned discontinuation of other ponycars.
The 1974 Chevrolet Camaro
The 1974 Camaro grew seven inches longer thanks to new aluminum bumpers and a forward sloping grille. Round taillights were replaced with a rectangular wraparound design. It was the last year to have a flat rear window, with thick roof pillars. All later years had slimmer roof pillars and a wrap around rear window for better visibility.
Camaro sales increased to over 150,000 units despite the energy crisis fueled by the Arab Oil Embargo. Two ponycar competitors left the stable this year as Ford downsized the Mustang to a subcompact based on the Pinto and Mercury upsized its Cougar to an intermediate-sized personal luxury car to compete with the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix. Chrysler Corporation would discontinue the Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Challenger during the course of the 1974 model year and American Motors would drop the Javelin at the end of the year. During the mid-to-late 1970s, the Camaro and similar Pontiac Firebird would have the traditional ponycar market all to themselves and score record sales in the process.
The 1975 Chevrolet Camaro
The Z28 option was discontinued for 1975 despite an increase in sales to over 13,000 units in 1974 and similar popularity of Pontiac's Firebird Trans Am. Chevy dropped the Z28 due to ever-tightening emission standards that spelled the end of the higher-ouput versions of the 350 cubic-inch V8 which was rated at 245 horsepower in 1973 and 1974. Engines that were offered in 1975 continued to reflect declining horsepower. Two 350 in³ (5.7 L) V8s produced 145 hp and 155 hp (power ratings were now net as opposed to the prior gross ratings. Net power ratings (used since 1972) were taken from the engine crankshaft as before, but now all accessories had to be attached and operating, and all emissions equipment and a full production exhaust system had to be in place. These power-robbing additions — along with stringent new emissions laws — were instrumental in creating the vastly smaller power figures found in subsequent cars). The year 1975 was also the first for the catalytic converter, which was designed as a much more efficient way of reducing emissions than the previous air pump and other smog gear, allowing for finer tuning of engines to permit improved drivability and fuel economy. However, the converter spelled the end of true dual exhausts and mandated the use of lower octane unleaded gasoline, which was not only inferior in antiknock qualities but also more expensive than leaded regular gas, a great disadvantage at a time of dramatically rising gasoline prices in the aftermath of the 1973-74 Arab Oil Embargo. The catalytic converter and GM High Energy electronic igniton (also made standard for 1975) were advertised among the components of "Chevrolet's new Efficiency System" which was promoted to offer other benefits to 1975 Camaro owners (in comparison to '74 models) that included extended maintenance intervals from 6,000 to 7,500 miles for oil/filter changes and spark plugs that lasted up to 22,500 miles compared to 10,000 miles on '74 models.
A new wraparound rear window was introduced for 1975 and the Camaro emblem moved from the center of the grille to above the grillework and the "Camaro" nameplate was deleted from the rear decklid. Also new block letter "Camaro" nameplates replaced the previous scripts on the front fenders. Interiors were revised slightly with new seat trim patterns and birds eye maple trim replacing the Meridian grained walnut on the instrument panel of LT models. Announced for this year was the availability of a leather interior option in the Camaro LT, but never saw the light of day as no production cars were equipped with real hide seats. Other developments included the availability of air conditioning with six-cylinder engines and standard radial tires on all models. Power door locks were a new option for 1975. The Rally Sport option returned after a one-year absence, but amounted to little more than an appearance package.
Despite the loss of the Z28, Camaro sales remained steady for 1975 at 145,770 units. With the demise of the other ponycars the previous year, Camaro and Pontiac's Firebird were now the only traditional ponycars left on the market, giving GM 100 percent penetration of this segment for the first time ever. Also, despite General Motors' policy against factory-sponsored racing efforts, Camaro began to make a name for itself on the track on the new International Race of Champions (IROC) series with many top drivers winning trophies from behind the wheel of a Camaro year after year until the late 1980s.
The 1976 Chevrolet Camaro
Only minor appearance changes highlighted the 1976 Camaro most notably a brushed metal insert in the rear tail section on the LT model. The 250 cubic-inch six-cylinder remained the standard engine in the sport coupe and a new 140-horsepower 305 cubic-inch V8 became the standard engine in the LT and base V8 option in the sport coupe. The larger 350 cubic-inch V8 was now only available with a four-barrel carburetor and 165 horsepower. Power brakes became standard on V8 models this year.
The 1977 Chevrolet Camaro
The Z28 was re-introduced to the buying public in the spring of 1977 as a 1977-1/2 in response to dramatically increasing sales of Pontiac's Trans Am, which sold over 46,000 units in 1976 and accounted for half of all Firebird sales that year. Like the Trans Am, the revived Camaro Z28 was an instant hit and was powered by a 350 cubic-inch V8 with four-barrel carburetor and 185 horsepower (175 horses with California emissions equipment), with most cars sold equipped with air conditioning and an automatic transmission for a comfort-oriented public. The cars were also available with a Borg-Warner Super T-10 4-speed manual transmission and minimal option packaging for those buyers interested in a performance-oriented vehicle. The half-year model was one of the few American performance vehicles available at the time. The car was capable of turning in quarter-mile times comparable to many of the 1960s muscle cars, and the chassis was developed to reward the driver with a first-class grand touring experience, capable of outstanding handling, especially in the hands of a competent high-performance driver. More than one Z28 was sold as a stripped performance car, and in this trim the Z28 could outperform Pontiac Trans Ams and aging Corvettes on highways and canyon roads.
In other developments, intermittent wipers were offered as a new option and the 250-6 became the standard engine for both the sport coupe and luxury LT models. The 140-horsepower 305 continued as the base V8 and the four-barrel 350 optional on sport coupe and LT models was uprated to 170 horsepower.
The 1978 Chevrolet Camaro
The 1978 model featured new soft front and rear bumpers and much larger taillights. To go along with this new bumper, Chevrolet also gave the feature of a body kit to lower the front nose. Some of these body kits even featured sideskirts as well. This was also the first year the T-top — a t-bar roof with dark tinted glass lift-out panels — became available as an option. Moonroofs were also offered. RS models differed from the rest of the lineup with a unique standard 2-tone paint and striping scheme.
The 1979 Chevrolet Camaro
1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z28The biggest changes for 1979 were the introduction of the luxury-oriented Berlinetta model, replacing the Type LT, and a restyled instrument panel with a much flatter appearance than the previous wraparound design (although the gauges themselves remained in the same places as before). The base model, RS and Z28s carried on as before, the Z28s now came with a front spoiler and fender flares much like its Pontiac Trans Am twin had, and now came with "Z28" decals that ran from the beginning of the front flares to the bottoms of the doors. Electric rear window defroster became optional this year, replacing the old blower type. Sales for 1979 were the highest ever, numbering around 282,571 units altogether, the highest the Camaro would ever see again throughout its lifetime. Engine choices remained with the 250 I6 standard in the base and RS models, with the 305 2bbl being an option and standard on the Berlinetta. The 350 V8 remained standard on the Z28 and optional on the base, RS and Berlinetta.
The 1980 Chevrolet Camaro
For 1980 the aged 250 in³ (4.1 L) inline-six was replaced with a 229 in³ (3.8 L) V6, 231 in³ (3.8 L) in California. The 120 hp (4.4 L) V8 became an option on the base, RS and Berlinetta models this year. The Z28 hood included a rear-pointing raised scoop with a solenoid operated flap which opened at full throttle, allowing the engine to breathe cooler air. 85 MPH speedometers became standard issue this year, replacing the 130 MPH unit. Z28s had new optional grey 5-spoke rims (later used on the 1986-1988 Monte Carlo SS) and smaller revised graphics on its lower-door decals. The 350 V8 was no longer available in the base, RS or Berlinetta models, being reserved only for the Z28 this year.
The 1981 Chevrolet Camaro
The 1981 model was virtually unchanged from 1980 and would be the last model year for the second generation Camaro. Total production had dropped down to 126,139 from a high of 282,571 in 1979 as potential would-be buyers were awaiting the all-new third-generation Camaro set for 1982 introduction. The Z28 was still powered by a 350 cubic-inch V8 that was rated at 190 horsepower, but that engine was now only available with an automatic transmission and those who preferred the four-speed stick had to opt for the smaller 165-horsepower 305, which was the only engine offered in Z28s sold in California, and then only with an automatic (Canadian models, however, could still get the 350 and 4-speed combination). RS models were dropped this year, but the RS designation would reappear in 1989.
Second Generation Engines
- 1980-1981: 3.8 L (229 in³) GM 90-Degree V6 engine V6
- 1980-1981: 3.8 L (231 in³) Buick V6 (California models)
- 1970-1979: 4.1 L (250 in³) Inline-6 I6
- 1980-1981: 4.4 L (267 in) Small-Block V8
- 1970-1973: 5.0 L (307 in³) Small-Block V8
- 1976-1981: 5.0 L (305 in³) Small-Block V8
- 1970-1981: 5.7 L (350 in³) Small-Block V8
- 1970-1972: 6.6 L (402 in³) Big-Block V8