(First Posted November 9, 2013) Here it is, the car to which most of my male peers aspired during my 1980s teenagerhood: the second-generation Camaro. The Colonnade Cutlass Supreme may have been the car most often spotted in my high school’s parking lot – and the broughamier the better – but the Camaro inspired almost as much lust as was rumored to have actually been indulged after practices for the annual powderpuff football game.
Even though I will always prefer the first-generation Camaro’s body, I will admit that the second-gen body looked pretty darn good – at least until Chevy started tinkering with the schnoz and tail styling. The simple, clean look of the 1970-73 Camaro’s flat face and cheerful, round tail lights brackets the rest of this slinky body best. The sugar-scoop headlights and wraparound tail lights of 1974-77 looked okay, but weren’t as clean. The integrated bumpers introduced in 1978 simply made the lithe Camaro look big and ponderous.
Whoever owns this one added a tach, but what’s the point when the transmission shifts itself?
A privileged few managed to snag Camaros during my high-school days, and they all looked like this one: rough around the edges, often with some non-original body panels. I rode around in a few of them and wasn’t as impressed with them as their drivers were. Maybe it was because they were all pretty used up, but they were sloppy handlers with surprisingly little go power. Maybe my Camaro-driving buddies all ended up with sixes.
Within days I came upon this Camaro RS of similar vintage and color. I’m guessing 1980 for both of these Camaros, but it’s hard to know for sure as the styling barely changed after 1979.
This Camaro lives in my part of town. I’ve repeatedly seen it parked in a driveway in a nearby neighborhood. This strip mall is a hop, skip, and a jump from this Camaro’s home. Apparently, it’s this owner’s grocery getter.
Except for those lumpy seat covers, this Camaro’s interior looks pretty good. It’s remarkable that the dashboard is uncracked.
But oh, isn’t that body rich with delicious patina? I never went along with all the Camaro lust back in the day, and certainly feel none now, but I’m glad these two originals are still rolling.
Yep, the six cylinder RS. What all those current middle aged adults drove in their teen years. Even though they’ll swear on a stack of bibles it was a 454, 4-speed with a 4.10 rear end, AND Porsche-like handling.
The second generation body style was soooooo good that even the combination of federally mandated bumpers and later we-have-to-change-it style updates didn’t ruin the car. Biggest complaint was the enlarging of the rear window. It may have improved vision but it didn’t help the lines at all. And I don’t remember rear vision in dad’s ’70 RS being all that bad.
The first generation ones were pretty – or at least the ’67’s and ’68’s were. Never cared for the ’69 when it was new, thought it was a bit overblown. However, its greatest sin was ‘inspiring’ the current abomination they call a Camaro. Yeah, inspired. The current Camaro was styled in 1970 by a bored eighth-grader sitting at the back of the class while the teacher droned on, dreaming of a hopped-up ’69 and what he’d do to it.
You mean the current ‘Crypt with a view’? Cause that’s apparently what “2014 Camaro” means these days. I sat in one. Absolutely no way to satisfactorily check behind or besides me to back up. Fuhrerbunker slit windows. Plastic…OMG the plastic everywhere. The houndstooth interior on my ’69 sport coupe was better. The base vinyl interior on my ’68 el Camino was better.
I got out completely disgusted and with a vow to give these things a wide berth in traffic, because they won’t see me besides them.
Don’t even get me about the styling. It’s like a kid took a ’69 model made of soap and left it in a bucket of water for a day. Reminds me of Ed Roth’s ‘Rat Fink’ caricatures I used to see back in the ’70s.
The new styling on the next gen 2015 Mustangs isn’t so great, either.
(Ahem) That being said, the Camaros in the article roamed my high school/college parking lots by the thousands. Gone now, swept away. We will never see their like again.
Führerbunker slit windows in a Camaro SS, driven by a Grammar Nazi.
Can’t get more evil than that….
(I bookmarked “Führerbunker slit windows” BTW)
Funny, but the Fuhrerbunker didn’t have windows!
I like the 2nd gens more. Early ones. And then, of course, the T/A.
T-Top+gold flakes+screaming chicken FTMFW!!11!!!
I want one with some Judas Priest and AC/DC cassettes.Nice car and more appealing than the Mustang from the same year. I liked the first generation best but the 70 – 73s were good lookers though I could easily put up with the feature car.The new one doesn’t do it for me,it’s Mustang first,Challenger 2nd Camaro 3rd.
You sure you don’t mean 8-tracks?
Nah. Even back then, anyone who was half-serious into audio would do a cassette deck rather than an 8-track. If for no other reason than you could record your own cassettes a lot easier than recording your own 8-tracks. Yes, I had an 8-track recording deck back in the day. Talk about a kludge.
Not sure Ed, 8 tracks were a lot longer lasting than tapes so maybe it is a better idea
You can split the difference. Back when, there was an adapter that would fit into your 8 track deck that allowed you to play cassettes. Every “audiophile” in town who had invested in the wrong technology had one!
Thanks, I’d forgotten about those.
Don’t forget the FM converter…
I had the ultimate in Rube Goldberg 70s audio tech in my ’69 Camaro: a stock Delco AM radio with an 8-Track player where the cassettes fed through the flip-up dial slot, with a Wal-Mart sourced Sparkomatic FM converter and Radio Shack Realistic cassette adapter. I even had the converter patched into a cigarette lighter adapter so (at Dad’s insistence) I wouldn’t have to cut any wires. I even bungee-corded the converter to the ash tray. The FM converter even had it’s own dedicated pre-set pushbutton.
I wish now that I’d taken pictures…
This thread has got me thinking back to my first under dash stereo in my Vega GT, it was this chromed Radio Shack lump that would play BOTH 8-tracks and cassettes. The trick was that it was an incredibly industrial looking unit and didn’t have a slot to put the media in. Rather, you slid the media of your choice along the top tray against the guide on the right hand side. Depending on 8-track (push in tape end first) or cassette (pushed in tape side on the right hitting a certain point, the proper mechanicals would pop up out of the chassis and start threading the tape.
Crazily enough, I seem to remember it working rather well.
Sparkomatic!!!! Now that’s a brand name I haven’t seen for decades. Thanks for the memories …
Longer lasting? A friend of mine easily went through two or three 8-Track cartridges to one of my cassette copies of our favorite albums. I couldn’t take the wow and flutter of a new 8-Track tape, let alone one that was nearing the end of it’s short lifespan.
I’ve not so fond memories of the Scorpions Lovedrive tape being chewed by a £9.99 Woolworths cassette player and throwing it out of the window and seeing it trailing behind still attached to the player 15 minutes later.
Longer lasting? What? I had friends who stupidly bought 8-Track players and they went through cartridges probably 3 to one or more than I did tapes. All you needed to do was buy decent blank cassettes(and not buy the mostly awful prerecorded ones) in the first place, and not let them sit on the dash or get dirty and they lasted a long long time, and sounded vastly superior to any 8 Track(The WOW drove me crazy on 8-Tracks), and as a bonus, they didn’t switch tracks in the middle of songs. By the time this Camaro was sold, about 1980, I didn’t know anyone who still had an 8-Track in their car, except when someone bought it recently, and hadn’t had time or the cash to rip it out and put a cassette deck in yet. The JVC cassette deck I put in my ’79 (Which had a trashed cassette deck in it when I got it) T/A in 1981 still works perfectly!
I’ve always had a big thing for the 1979 – 1981 Camaros. The ’78-’79s appeal to me the most. I love that 1980 RS. Perfect color outside…although I’d probably want the Oyster interior to go along with it. Too bad about the crappy wheels… The ZJ7 body-colored rallies looked so good on these. They only made about 12,000 of these & few survived.
Most non-Z28 Camaros had the 305 engine which was adequate but not fast by any means. I bet that’s what all your buddies’ cars were equipped with. Base cars were available with the 350 through ’79 although I’ve never seen an original 350 non-Z28 1979 model.
Many years ago, my father bought a ’78 base Camaro in Carmine Red with camel (yuck) vinyl interior to resell at his failed car lot endeavor. It had the common ZJ7 rallies, A/C, tilt, cruise, blower rear defogger, AM radio, clock, & deluxe belts (no rear spoiler originally). The best part was that it was ordered with the 350 4bbl. Since it was a non-Z28, it had a 2.41 rear axle which gave the car a suicidal top end. Despite the gearing, I remember the car to be quite fast!
He bought another base Camaro, this one was a ’79 model originally pastel green but repainted a much nicer forest green. This car was very basic with only automatic, A/C, 305-2bbl and the ZJ7 rally wheels. I loved its green interior as few were so-equipped.
I was seventeen or so & my father took a trip somewhere one weekend & I took the green car out for a drive without him knowing — he’d have beaten me to a pulp if he found out! I had never “snuck” a car out before and had never driven over 70mph and it was just killing me. How fast could I go? Just ouside of town, I eased the Camaro up to about 105mph on a 2-lane road just outside of Jasper, AL (the speedometers still registered 130mph in ’79). I had only been that fast once before when father took me for a ride in his rusty ’67 GTO when I was a young child.
So anyway, I still had pedal left but knew there was a T-intersection about 1/4 mile ahead and therefore had to back off. I came to a normal controlled stop and right before the stop sign — I was down to about 5mph — BOOM! The right front tire just exploded. The car had a spare but no jack & I ended up walking to this girl-I-knew-at-high-school’s house & her dad helped me get the tire changed. He laughed a little because he knew what I had been up to but saved my butt in the end.
At that point, I was paranoid & barely got over 40mph on the trip back to the lot where he kept the cars — I would have likely been killed had that tire given up twenty seconds earlier than it did. I replaced the spare with the shredded one & I don’t remember him drilling or even asking me about the RF tire on the green Camaro.
I was so bummed when he sold that car and then even more bummed when I read in the local paper that “a 1979 Chevrolet driven by Jacqueline Adherholdt was involved in a collision with a”….etc. etc. It could have been a fender bender but I suspect that was the end of my green friend — I so miss that beautiful thing.
Great story. This one could be a post of its own, if we could just find a photo of a green Camaro.
Ah, the things we do when we’re young and stupid. When I was 21 I bought a brand new 4-cyl. Chevy Beretta. It was the first car with my name on the title. I shortly took it out on a long, straight, lonely stretch of state highway and rowed it through the gears as fast as I could, and laid into the gas pedal until the car would no longer accelerate. It was exhilarating when the speedo crossed 100. But today my primary memory is of how disconnected the car felt, as if I were driving on cold glass – and how all it would have taken was a pothole or a critter crossing the road (it was way out in the country) for me to lose control and become a statistic.
There was no oh-shit moment in that drive. I let off the gas pedal and let the car slow down until I felt it was safe to brake, and then slowed to normal highway speed. But that car was not at all meant to handle what I gave it that day.
Ah the base 4-cyl L-body.
I had a 1988 Beretta GT with the F41 suspension. The only complaint I — didn’t — have about the car was that it always handled really well. Oh yeah, and for it’s day, it looked really good: black exterior on whorehouse red cloth interior.
That’s about it.
3 years old and everything was falling off of it. It ran on 4, 5 sometimes all 6 cylinders. That was an issue that the dealer could never exorcise under warranty. The A/C gave out at 3 years. Just an utter piece of crap. I swore off Chevy for decades after that car. I did own a 1991 Saturn SC2, which I loved and which was a great car. After that Hondas, Fords, Audis and BMWs… all of which have been light years better than the Beretta.
I used to despise this generation of Camaro. But now 30+ years out, even the later ones look good to me.
It’s easy to make fun of these cars now, but they were the car to have if you were young and foolish in 1978. GM sold a lot of F-bodies in the late ’70s, and I can’t think of another car that was around for so long and yet had it’s best years near the end of it’s production run. By that time they were hopelessly outdated and had embarrassingly bad build quality, but GM caught a late wave of “sporty car” popularity and rode it for a couple of years. In ’78 the Chev Olds dealer my dad worked at sold every one they could get their hands on. Probably didn’t get too many repeat buyers though….
I prefer the 70-73’s, especially the Firebird, myself.
Whenever I see this body style, I immediately think of Spicoli and Jefferson’s little brother (“Is that your little brother? He’s a good-looking kid!”). Good times, good times…
+1 That scene pretty much sums up the second gen Camaro in a nutshell 😀
Doors. They were monster heavy. Impact beams must’ve been made of tungsten. I should know as I unsuccessfully tried to tear one out of my 73.
It was my first car and was cheap due to its chamois or buckskin exterior with lemon yellow interior. It had the 2.73 rear end and was the car that taught me a lot about mechanical devices. Put some headers on it and removed its ability to go over the slightest speed bump. I remember having to tighten header bolts weekly. Some sort of 3 way adjustable shocks from Supershops and handling was transformed. I’d liken it to a buckboard wagon.
What else? Needed valve guides at 50K. Replaced cam and 2bbl with Z28 parts. Had it repainted same color but it seemed the enamel used never dried completely. I was always touching it up.
Brakes were horrid. I rode the left pedal kart style for fear of rear ending someone. Once my sleeping brother hit the front windshield with his head during a panic stop in Dallas traffic. Broke it. I was more mad that he wasn’t wearing his belt than concerned about the growing lump on his noggin.
Sold to a car alarm installer. And yes, it had 8-track with the cassette adaptor.
Heavy doors? Try a 1973 Monte Carlo… or any of the Collonade coupes… jeez, you could take out a prospective carjacker by simply unlocking it and giving the door a good swift kick out towards them…
I myself have very fond memories of a second generation Camaro. In early 1982, my father bought my mother a new, leftover 1981 Camaro, gold (which was a pretty scarce color) with camel cloth interior. That was a really nice car, despite the fact that it was a bare bones base model…267 V8, automatic, AM radio and nothing else. I remember all the grade school trips I took in that car with my mother….and how every kid in my class wanted to ride with us because of the Camaro. In grade 8, our class took a graduation trip to Ottawa, and when the trip was over that was the car my mother picked me up in at the school. That was when the car was already 10 years old.
During the spring of 1995, my mother decided to replace the Camaro with a new Monte Carlo, and instead of selling the old car, she decided to give the Camaro to my brother and me…we both thought we died and went to heaven! My brother and I had some great times with that car ourselves. Unfortunately, during the later months of 1999 we had to sell that car…my brother and I were both in university, and the Camaro needed more in repairs than we were willing to spend and able to afford. To this day all of us (parents and brother in addition to myself) all miss that car terribly. I remember I just about cried when the Camaro was sold because of all the wonderful times we had with that car.
I also have no idea why people keep bashing the second generation Camaro (especially later ones) for having terrible build quality…the one that my family owned was one of the best quality and sturdiest cars we’ve ever owned.
It looks like you located both Bevis AND Butthead – and all on the same day!. 🙂 Sigh, another ratted out F body. I’m older than Mr. Grey – the kids who drove these when I was in HS were the rich kids whose daddies bought them cool late model cars to drive. The rule then was anything from the 70s was a parental gift, while cars from the 60s were either parental hand-me-downs or self-purchased.
I will surprise everyone with at least one kind word about these. When I was in law school, my roommate’s GF had a teal green 78 with camel interior and rally wheels, 350/auto that she bought new. The rest of us were driving either worn-out pieces of crap or newer econo-sheissboxes. The Camaro stood out as representative of someone in the “real world” who was driving a “real car.” It was well built, reliable, good looking and probably my favorite 2nd gen F body in all of my experience. These later ones, with all of the gingerbread tacked on, did nothing for me.
A friend of mine had (and still has) a ’76 with the 305 and A/T. Purchased for him by his parents, used, in around ’78. It’s a regular model – silver exterior and red cloth interior. He had a custom paint job applied in the early 80’s.
Fast? More than enough. Brakes and handling? Can’t really say, since I only got to drive it once. It must’ve been adequate because decades later, we and all of our friends are still among the living. Kinda amazing, really, considering the typical stupid teenage stunts that car was involved in. Never wrecked, though. I don’t think even a fender-bender.
I never was a fan of the 2nd Gen Camaro. I always liked its sister car the Firebird better. If you take this featured Camaro and compare it with the brownish/gold Firebird that was a CC feature last week or so, the Firebird wins in the look department. I think the nose of the later Birds (79-81) makes the Firebird better looking then its Camaro sister as Pontiac went and restyled the car with quad square lights in 1977 and then refined the front end to make it even better looking. The Camaro simply stuck with 2 round headlights and a front end that looked like a jagged tooth. More damning was the 3rd gen Camaro which debuted in the stylish(an some say materialistic) 1980’s with a sleek body and exposed headlights. The Firebird went to hidden headlights and that looked so so so much better. I can excuse the use of the square headlights at the beginning of the production run as it took till 1984 for the USDOT to get off its ass and amend the light laws to allow composite lights BUT they refreshed the 3rd gen design in 1991 and could have given the Camaro a composite headlight upgrade. But that did not happen till 1998 when the 4th Gen was on its way out the door a few years later.
The year was 1984, I was 17, and I was hanging at the local bowling alley on a Saturday afternoon. One of the kids that was always hanging there had a 1979 Camaro R/S with the 305 V-8. It was 2-tone light and dark blue, fairly loaded – he thought he was a god with that car. So I challenged him – let’s race! Well I was driving Dad’s 1982 Country Squire, and with its “massive” 130 HP 302 V-8 I thought for sure I would never beat a Camaro. Well, guess what? I whipped his butt with Dad’s Ford! The only problem was that the road we raced on had a curve in it, and there was a kid on a bicycle that we nearly knocked over due to our “race”. Someone got the plate from Dad’s Ford and that night there was a knock at our front door. “Do you own a beige 1982 Ford Country Squire”? I heard my Dad talking to the guy at the door for a few minutes and then the door was shut. I figured a month or two grounding was at stake. Dad looks at me and is shaking his head. He leans over to me and whispers “I really hope you won!” Dad never told Mom – he was the best!
The mid-70’s (74 to 76 or so) second generation Camaros had those big, solid, silvery aluminum bumpers that weighed practically nothing. Back in my circle track days, all of us would install those bumpers on our Chevelles and Novas. On a good junkyard day, one could score two or three fronts and a similar number of rears. On a bad junkyard day, the lot would be littered with fresh F bodies, untouched except for the missing bumpers, because somebody else had gotten to them first. On a rough racing night, a lot of bumpers would get used up, but they would do a good job protecting the rest of the bodywork, more or less. We would use them up like water, but there were always plenty more, that’s how many Camaros were sold back then.
I remember that these were really common sights in the early 90s when I was real little, and having preferred the Firebird even then, I always got disappointed seeing the roofline in a grocery store parking lot and finding out it was just a Camaro once my Mom and I walked past it. Now a days these Camaros actually look pretty good.
One thing I disagree with in the article is the calling of the 78 bumpers ponderous. The 74-77s used tacked on battering rams and just ruined the cleanness of the bodystyle for me. I couldn’t imagine the confusion going to the dealer in 1974 and seeing a used 73 near a brand new model, “what the hell happened!”. The 78 bumpers were pretty much a carbon copy of the 76-78 Firebird design, which looked great IMO, and I actually think they made the car look more cohesive and lithe. I also think the wider 78 taillights with the center amber section were more attractive as well, the small square red lenses of the 74-77 were very uninspired.
One of my co-workers and fellow car-pooler had a very nice black on black ’79 Z28, that was his pride and joy. He had spent a lot of money on a new paint job and a performance engine rebuild. The car looked great and sounded great. One day when we arrived at our car pool meeting place the car was gone. The poor guy was besides himself I thought he was break down in tears. The car was never recovered.
The only Camaro I ever lusted after was the ’70-’73 split bumper RS/Z28. These have gotten ridiculously expensive in any shape, so it will have to remain an unfulfilled dream.
Class of 91 here. A Late 2nd Gen F body (or an early 3rd gen) was a must-have for cruising duties, along with a stack of tapes from Van Halen and Guns and Roses. A couple of rubbers in the console for that rare occasion you made it into that ridiculously tiny backseat with a partner who was also willing to fold themselves in half (there were positions I could get myself into at 16 that I couldn’t even think of now) The G-Bodies were more conducive to backseat activities.
I had an 80 Firebird in HS that I swapped a junkyard 455 into. Back in 1990, you could still find Pontiac 455s in junkyards and I found one in a 73 Grand Safari wagon. A cheap cam from Napa later and that car was fast enough to shut down the new 5.0 Mustangs.
I was always partial to the Gen 2 Firebirds but I wouldn’t kick a nice 79-81 Z28 with a 4 speed and T-Tops out of the garage.
Class of ’83 here. One day after school (my senior year) I went to a local car lot to look at a Camaro just like the non-RS model. This would have been the perfect car to install my Pioneer Supertuner (KP5500) for loud sustained blasts of Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. I even had the Pioneer speakers that sat on the back parcel shelf. With an amp, I could get very disapproving looks from our Assistant Principal.
I hadn’t shaved in a day or two, so I was sufficiently scruffy enough not to look 17. The salesman offered a test drive so off we went into the streets of North Seattle. This particular car had a bunch of newspapers and crap in the footwell on the passenger side. As I was posing like a real buyer, I moved the newspapers from around the salesman’s feet. I found a huge hole in the floorboard. I have to give props to the salesman, as he saw that I noticed the hole yelled “Yabba Dabba Doo”.
I was born in 79 and as a kid I thought these and the z28 and the rubber bumper mgb were by far the coolest looking cars on the road…cars boombers and gen x regard as ugly. Guess its a generation thing.
I had 3 Z28’s the first a 73 the second a 81 and the last a 97. The 73 was perhaps the most “mechanical” of the bunch. A L82, wide ration Muncie 4 speed and 3.42 limited slip rear end. A really fun car to drive at about 10 MPG. Mine was the “Sport Coupe” not the split bumber RS. Most of these cars got “butchered” and mine also was as I gave it to a nephew and the “PEP Boys” modifications began. Its too bad the evolution of the Camaro stopped in 2002 as the new “retro” Camaro seems just so so. If I was inclined to get a old one make it a stock 70 1/2 RS Z28, best of the bunch. Of course for the money they are going for now you could buy a used vette with twice the performance for a quarter of the price.
I liked the first gen Camaros, but loved the second gen, as long as there was a spoiler on the back of it. Without one, I thought it looked incomplete. On the other hand, I didn’t like the first gen Firebird much at all, but loved the Formula and T/A. I see my old ’79(Not crazy about the beak, but it was/is a solid car that was a lot of fun after it was modded)around town and really wish I had it back.
Wrong model the 71-73 series was current when highschool had me in captivity
In 83 I had a 305 1979 Berlinetta. I loved that car. For one glorious year – and 4 accidents – I did plenty of stoplight racing. Not much competition in 1983. Then I was t-boned by a LeMans and the Camaro was destroyed, I mean not one body panel undamaged.
Sometimes I want another one, or even an 84, I was so enamored with those when they came out. Completely irrational I know, but I can’t help it, I’m a product of the times. It helps me understand why boomers bid the prices of 60s iron so high.
I worked for Grand Auto in the Bay Area in the 1970s. Sparkomatic was one of the brands of electronics that we sold. I bought several over the years. Who can forget those cheesy Sparkomatic man ads?
Here’s another ad. I guess some of us couldn’t let Saturday Night (Fever) end!