Curbside Capsule: 1971 Camaro Z-28- Timeless Beauty


Paul already created a Curbside Classic on the second generation Camaro, calling it GM’s Greatest Hit #1, but I would be remiss if I did not share these pictures. This early model car has the chrome bumpers used from 1970 to 1972, along with the smaller rear window used from 1970 to 1974. It also includes the Rally Sport appearance package, making it a Z-28 Rally Sport (more on that later).

IF the parts on this car are correct to the model year (and I can identify several modifications to this car), the high back bucket seats (1971-on) and door panels without any storage pockets (offered in 1970 and ’71) narrow this car down to the model year 1971. However, when dealing with pony cars of this vintage, I’d want to check the VIN to confirm the year, the engine serial number to assure myself the car came with the Z-28 engine option, and then check the build sheet or RPO (features) sticker to confirm the Rally Sport package.


Personally, I want to believe this is a genuine Z-28. From the back, the spoiler, badging and stripes all look right, and the car looks ready to launch down the street and disappear over the horizon. Is this brown shade called “Rosewood”? If so, that’s further confirmation it’s a 1971, which was the only “chrome bumper” year to offer Rosewood.

(I didn’t check every color chart, but I also recall a similar color on the later plastic-bumpered cars.)


The interior looks inviting, doesn’t it? If this were a first generation car, that horse shoe shifter would automatically disqualify it as true a Z-28. Those hairy chested, uncompromising, race-car-for-the-street models only came with a stick shift and clutch pedal.

However, these second generation Z-28s offered an automatic with a larger, 350 CID small block to provide more tractable power. I’m pretty sure Chevy didn’t offer a wood steering wheel, but everything else in here looks correct.


I mentioned the RS package earlier. Here’s a closer look at those parts. I’ve always loved the look of this package; the extended grille, small bumpers on each corner, and those unique turn signal assemblies all added up to “European.”

I do find that chrome trim on the turn signal lenses a bit jarring. For a car with such breakout styling, those little tiny cones hark back to 1950s “Jet Age” styling. The pieces are small enough to slip by mostly unnoticed, but I’d prefer lenses that reflected the cars clean tail light design, not this busy filigree.

In terms of overall correctness, the bolts for the license plate bracket are on the correct side, but there should be a small “Camaro” badge on the front header panel located between the black vinyl stripes. Since there are no holes for the badge, I’m thinking some body work and a repaint were done. I believe there should also be a rub strip between the grille halves inside the grille opening. Overall, call it a foul tip- Contact but no home run.


If this is truly a 1971 Z-28, the web tells me it’s one of 4,862 cars (out of a total of 114,630 Camaros built that year), making it a rare car. That brief bit of data will wrap up our detailed look at this car, but before we go, there’s one more thing to mention. When I looked up the second generation Camaro production numbers, they reminded me of something odd about Camaro (and Firebird) sales in the 1970s.

Production numbersThis sales chart shows the numbers; It’s one of the weirdest things in the history of car sales. Despite the fact that the 1970 to 1973 Camaros are generally regarded as the best looking and best performing car of this generation, the later cars outsold them by a considerable margin.

In fact, the best sales year for this platform came in 1979, in the tenth year of production! Few cars ever saw this sort of sales increase over time, especially in the very style-driven Ponycar segment.

Many folks will point to the sales jump in 1974 and say, “Well, of course Camaro sales went up, that’s the year the Mustang II came out.”

Before reaching that conclusion, I recommend checking the Mustang data. While the Camaro saw a 50% increase in sales in 1974, the Mustang II almost tripled its sales over the previous year’s Mustang. In addition, the Mustang II beat the Camaro in three out of the five years it was offered (1974, ’75 & ’76).

In fact, the Mustang performed pretty well against this generation of Camaros. While the Chevy had its best year in 1979, the new Fox body also came out that year, and topped Camaro sales. Overall, the second gen car sold well late in its middle and later years, but those sales do not appear to have come at the expense of the Mustang.

Obviously, the answer is a bit more complicated than weak Mustang competition. While I can think of several explanations for the F-body’s late in life success, I think I’ll shut down and let the debate continue in the comments section.