COAL: Camaros, Camaros, Camaros!

I’ve owned Camaros from three generations.  I am going to merge the memories all together here into one big COAL.

The second-generation GM “F” bodies ran from 1970 ½ through 1981.  These corporate cousins, the Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird shared a good bit of parts.  As a little kid, these cars were all I had known regarding the “F” bodies.  Of course, they were revised from time to time, but the platform was largely unchanged.  They were large on the outside and small on the inside.  Furthermore, they were heavy, and not particularly well-built.  Their engines suffered from all the accumulated governmental smog regulations.  This generation endured through two national gas crises.

When I was a little older (but not yet a man), the brand-new versions of GM “F” bodies debuted.  Both of the new models, the Camaro and the Firebird left quite an impression on my twelve-year-old mind.  These third-generation cars were sold from 1982-1992.  They were complete re-designs, they carried their names over and virtually nothing else.

I viewed this new Camaro as a fantastic, futuristic, masterpiece.  It had a beautiful shape, lean and taut.  Some say the ’82 Camaro design was a rejected clay mockup from the Corvette development team in 1979.  Wherever it came from, it was beautiful in my eyes.  This was also around the time Knight Rider debuted on television.  The car on that show stuck in my brain too.

These cars were better than the ones they replaced.  Smaller, yet with the hatchback they were more versatile with more useable room.  There was no longer a front subframe, they were 100% unit body.  The reduced weight combined with the high output 305 V8 made them much better performers.  As I young man, dreamed of owning a third gen.

As a teenager I got a base model ‘81 Camaro.  These second-generation cars were very common in the late 70s through the 80s.  Besides the model’s popularity, I can’t think of too many other redeeming qualities.  Mine came with the tiny 267 c.i. V8 and was alarmingly underpowered. The computer carburetor and low compression killed any hope of performance (Remember that for ’80 and ’81 Ford did a similar thing – making their small V8 even smaller).

So gen two: 70 ½ through ’81.  Then gen three ‘82 through ‘92.  Then the fourth gen debuted in ’93 and ran until ‘02.  After this GM produced no Camaro for a while.  I’m familiar with the fourth gens because I owned a V6 Camaro of this iteration.  One thing that sticks out in my mind was how steeply raked the windshields were in those cars.  The rear part of the engine was deep under the cowl.  The floorpan of the ‘93 and newer F body was essentially a carryover from 82-92 cars with slight changes to the front.  But I digress.

Back to the third-generation cars.  My neighbor had an ’86 IROC-Z that he always planned to fix up, but never did.  After it sat for almost a decade, and then it was vandalized.  I bought it from him after that.  This particular one came with the Tuned Port motor and loaded with every option.  Like the Firebird GTAs, these cars had firm suspension and quick-ratio steering and were great in the corners.  This is my current COAL.  It is parked in my garage right now, I drove it today. I’ve done the LS swap, and am slowly fixing the rest of it up.

GM produced a slew of these cars at multiple plants.  Developmentally, the change from ’81 to ’82 was a quantum leap forward.  Would I buy another?  No, I think I’m finishing up my Camaro phase.  I’ve owned second, third, and fourth generation Camaros.  The first generations have skyrocketed in price so I probably will never have one of those, and to be honest, I don’t really like the new ones.