Let’s just get this out there. Camaros have never interested me. They did not interest me in 1967, they did not interest me in 1977 and they have not interested me in modern times. But in this car I have found the Camaro that interests me. And I think it will interest you too.
We recently featured a nice original 79 Camaro that is serving as the first car for Paul Niedermeyer’s nephew Aiden. There, a nice old car is chosen by a teen as his first car. This Camaro’s story sort of dovetails with that one. Here, we have an original car picked out new by the guy who still owns it. Two nice Camaros, two great stories.
Before we get to the car itself, perhaps we should examine more closely my complicated relationship with the Camaro. From the beginning until maybe 1972 or so I found them merely uninteresting. Nobody I knew owned one, I can never recall having ridden in one, and my tastes went in other directions.
Beginning around 1973 or so my Camaro Disinterest Syndrome morphed into more of a Camaro Disgust Syndrome (which I sort of wrote about here). Having added many years of seasoning to my psyche, I can now acknowledge that my dislike had little to do with the car itself. It is true that I was not a Chevy Guy, but the cars were no better or worse than anything else being pumped out of the USA-1 Division of General Motors.
My dislike stemmed from the Camaro’s increasing popularity. This may be hard for some of you to believe, but all my life I have been hard-wired to resist popular trends and fads. Look up the word “Contrarian” in the dictionary and you might find my picture. This was never more true than during my high school years. I never owned a Pet Rock, I never watched Saturday Night Fever and I never listened to Frampton Comes Alive. And I damned sure wasn’t going to take an interest in the car that every football player and prom queen dreamed of when they thought about cars.
This popularity wasn’t really the Camaro’s fault (I must acknowledge now). The market had been changing. Ford threw in the towel after 1973 and turned the Mustang into a Pinto Ghia. The following year Chrysler just gave up completely on the E body Barracuda/Challenger. Which is just as well because with what Chrysler was turning out in the late ’70s a new E body would have been frightening.
The Camaro was the unintended beneficiary of competitors abandoning the market, a temporary reduction in gasoline anxiety and a bazillion American dealers who were happy to fill a void that the young men of America demanded be filled.
So I watched the Camaro become the object of affection in much of my age group. As time moved on and my age group moved on to Honda Civics and Datsun 4×4 pickups I watched the Camaro infiltrate every trailer park in America as it became the official vehicle of real-life Beavis & Buttheads.
So back to this car – what is it about this particular Camaro that interests me now? Boiled down to basics, I would have to say that it is because I have changed. And that this Camaro has not.
CC reader Glen Swisher Jr. bought this car brand new in 1978. It was painted brown (Dark Camel, actually), a very popular color in the late ’70s. Nobody restores Z-28s in brown today, but that doesn’t matter because this car has never needed to be restored and therefore carries some awesome late-70’s swag.
Glen was the rare guy who knew on that day in 1978 at Bob Baker Chevrolet that he had found a car that he loved. 1978 was the first year of this front end treatment which cleanly integrated the front bumper into the rest of the facia. Some equate this style with the less appealing Camaros of 1980-81, but in 1978 it was the first real update that the front of the car had seen since 1974. The wrapped back window that appeared in 1976 remained. I like both the front and rear treatments, and would argue that they combine for one of the most successful mid-cycle refreshes ever accomplished.
Every guy who gets a cool new car says that he will drive it forever. But Glenn was one of those rare guys who has actually done it. He has driven and enjoyed this Z, and has preserved it by driving other cars in the rough weather and road conditions that Indiana is known for. He has cared well for this Z-car and to this day it has chalked up all of 58,000 miles. This ’78 Z-28 is about as original as they come.
As I approach the age of sixty most of the emotional baggage that I carried around as a youth has been put down somewhere along the way. Which allows me to look at this Camaro as a car and nothing else.
It is a car that GM (and more specifically, the Chevrolet Motor Division) got very, very right. Hindsight tells us that GM was at its final periodic peak around that time, and for good reason. Not only had Ford and Chrysler so horribly muffed both what they chose to build but also the way they managed to build many of them. Chevrolet did what Chevrolet did so well back then – they brought something out and stuck with it as they made slow, steady improvements. This car was the right car at the right time. There may have been some dumb luck involved, but doesn’t dumb luck at least partly explain many breakout successes in the car business?
And a breakout success it was, with over 272,000 built in 1978 (nearly 55,000 of which were the range-topping Z-28.) To put this into perspective, in the industry’s previous all-time record sales year of 1973, the Camaro managed fewer than 97,000 units. This car’s 1978 (and even higher 1979) sales figures are most impressive when seen in this light.
The 1978 model was also in sort of a sweet spot, as cars of the late 1970s go. By 1978 Chevrolet’s engineers had mostly figured out the tough lessons in how to meet stringent emissions targets and the next big hurdle of CAFE-mandated increases in fuel mileage was still a year away. Size (and power) matters, and Chevrolet was able to (for the most part) conquer these engineering conundrums that seemed to elude the suffering engineers at Ford and (especially) Chrysler.
An excellent Chevy 350 V8 with a Quadrajet carb, and the equally well-thought-of Turbo Hydramatic 350 transmission were mated to a suspension system as good as anything coming out of Detroit and an attractive and reasonably well-constructed body . . . well, isn’t this just another example of how GM managed to rule the automotive world in its the first sixty years or so?
I must now admit the truth, which is that I hated Camaros in 1978 simply because they were so damned good and successful and popular, while my own favorite car companies could not seem to avoid regular bouts of self-harm.
So, good for Glenn. He was able to see something in 1978 that I was not able to see, and bought this car instead of, say, a Lean Burn-equipped Dodge Magnum that came with more compromises than a crooked politician. Quite often something is popular because it is both appealing and good. I can now join Glenn in appreciating the ’78 Camaro Z-28 as something in that category.
1978 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 and 1979 Ford Mustang Cobra – Two Right Answers To The Same Question (Aaron65)
1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 – Nephew Aiden’s First Car (With Driving Impressions) (Paul Niedermeyer)
1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 – Paradise Express (Joseph Dennis)
1980 Chevrolet Camaro & Camaro RS – The Object Of High School Dreams (Jim Grey)
1980 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 – Compromised Expectations (Joseph Dennis)
JP, I very much get your feelings on the Camaro, as for most of my life I have felt the same way about these cars, along with others like the Mustang, Corvette, et al.
While they do have many serious car people among their enthusiasts, their fanbase is also populated by a large number of people who know nothing about cars. It’s the same with the Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee. Many people like and buy them “because their Jeeps”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but I like to do my own thing and not be part of the crowd.
I’m enthusiastic about certain cars and other things because I find them interesting to me. Which is why I get way more excited over a thirty year old Chrysler minivan than most sports cars 🙂
As one born after this body was introduced, and whose initial exposure to these was as they were being purchased used by the Cousin Eddies of the world, seeing a Camaro of this vintage in such phenomenal shape is a weird experience.
But it also allows what Chevrolet gave it to shine through. No fatties in the back, no rattle can paint job, no poorly repaired body damage. That Glenn’s Camaro is painted dark camel works to amplify the experience. The interior is the most inviting I’ve ever seen on any Camaro of any vintage.
With JP now having expressed appreciation for a Camaro, I now have to borrow a Jackie Gleason line from an F-body themed movie – What is the world coming to? 🙂
It took a car like this to get the job done. It is stunning in person, for both its condition and originality. With the period color, it all came together to appreciate it for what it is. A beautifully preserved original is my very favorite kind of car and this one is every bit that.
I am a little embarrassed that it took me something like a year and a half to write it up. But the concept eventually gelled for me and here we are. It is as if the CC effect is putting a series of cars in front of me that I never cared for and forcing me to reconsider them (the 76 Cadillac comes immediately to mind).
I liked the original Camaros in ’67-68 and hated the restyle in ’70. But, like you, apparently, I’ve mellowed with age and, actually, I’ve come to admire the ’70 design — kind of wish I had one now.
Forget it, though, when they added those massive government-mandated bumpers in
73; those girders wrecked the design. Like giant boils on a teenager’s face.
“… all my life I have been hard-wired to resist popular trends and fads.”
I have the same affliction. Maybe that’s why we both own North America’s least popular minivan, and why we’ve both battled Camaro Disinterest Syndrome.
I was always ambivalent about Camaros and Firebirds; never disgusted by them, just not interested. For me, that changed about 15 years ago when I drove my brother-in-law’s ’95 Firebird. It was downright fun. His car (he still owns it) has the 350 V-8 and 6-spd. manual, and yes, it has all of the faults that we’re all aware of, but the thing is a blast to drive. After driving that car a few times, my apathy towards F-bodies began to thaw.
Of course part of this is because time does heal all wounds, and what annoyed me decades ago no longer bothers me much. But also, I’ve just come to view these cars in a different light.
And congratulations to Glenn for maintaining such a great car.
That is one Bitchin’ Camaro! Truth be told I quite like this shape, and for one reason all the add-ons have always done it for me in a Hot Wheels kind of way, which is weird as I’m really more of a Matchbox over HW guy which will make sense to anyone with a large collection of either. But for many of the same reasons have never really felt the urge to own one. This one however is magnificent and quite appealing, obviously due to its time capsulinity.
JP, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard you in person wax eloquently over the successor 80’s version, more specifically the “Berlinetta”; somewhere in your closet there must be a satin jacket or two and some pictures of you with longer hair (in the back). 🙂
Oh, and Saturday Night Fever is a gem, if you’ve never seen it you need to correct that gregious oversight ASAP.
I have now fawned over a 70s Camaro. Saturday Night Fever is a bridge too far. A man must have some standards.
I would have brought the Soundtrack to Detroit had I known of this at the time…
Saturday Night Fever is not a bridge too far. It is a Bridge on the River Kwai – wooden, too long, arising from torture and in need of blowing up.
As for standards, a glance at what Mr Travolta wears in the alleged musical would quickly tell you that, apparently, not every man must have some.
Well, I haven’t seen Saturday Night Fever for 40 years, but when I saw it in the theater in 1977 I was surprised to find it a great film. Far more emotional and subtle, even complex, than I expected. And I not only owned Frampton Comes Alive, I even saw him perform live. A concert I drove to in my Vega GT, which I primarily bought because it seemed like a mini-Z28. And I went on to own a second-gen F Body of the Firebird variety, though I’m pretty sure I’ve never driven a Camaro. I liked them then, like them now, and seeing a stock, original owner car like this one is a treat. Thanks!
BTW, I may be just old enough to have been indelibly influenced by the praise from Road & Track for the 1970-1/2 restyle, and the subsequent Car & Driver rapture over the later (1977?) updates to the Z28 steering and suspension. The whole “trailer park” thing came later … maybe around the time of Bitchin Camaro by the Dead Milkmen (1985) … and by then I had owned a Honda Civic and was driving a Datsun 4×4.
The movie I most associate with the late seventies Z28 is ‘Fast Times at Ridgement High’. The character played by a young Forrest Whitaker is given a new Z28 as reward for being an outstanding high-school football player and is later trashed in some typical teenage movie scheme (involving a young Sean Penn, as well).
“My dad is a TV repairman, he has this ultimate set of tools, I can fix it!”
The way we feel about new cars is so steeped in the context in which they are introduced. I always felt that these late 2-gen Camaros were kind of cool but kind of over the top, when they were new.
But GM did a pretty reasonable job of making these look good despite the silly bumper regs of the day. And they did a reasonable job of making them perform despite the probably not-so-silly fuel efficiency and pollution regs of the day.
And these cars kept running when their “competitors” (if the Mustang II can be called that) did not. It’s why 100% of my experience riding in these was during their Great Beater Phase. They did not impress me much — rough, ill-handling beasts. But I’ll bet that they felt pretty good to ride in when they were new.
I love everything about Glenn’s car… what a beauty. And this post does it justice.
And Mr. Cavanaugh, I thought it was my picture in the dictionary next to “contrarian”. Maybe I’m confusing that with the internet’s definition of “adverse selection”.
Yes, these Camaros are cars that I loved as a young kid, came to disdain later, then came back around, full-swing, to loving wholeheartedly. The soundtrack to my workday today may now come from the late-’70s.
“I thought it was my picture in the dictionary next to “contrarian””
I thought it was contrarian, but maybe I am under oppositional defiance. 🙂
P.S. An all-original Z28? If I saw one of these at a show it would probably be my favorite car there. Because someone had the foresight to keep it nice.
Yes, if ever there was a car designed to *not* be kept nice through its life cycle, it would be one of these. We can be sure that if Glenn had traded if on a new 84 model this one would have been sucked into the meat grinder immediately.
I think you need to posess a slightly contrarian streak to hang around at CC so add me to the list of those who were disintrested in Camaros because they were just so darn successful and mainstream. I drove AMCs, nothing mainstream or successful about that 🙂
Anyway this is a beautiful car for the reasons you mention. Nice to see one in such good original shape
I totally understand where JP is coming from, although I always secretly kinda liked second-gen F-bodies. Glenn’s Camaro in that gorgeous period-correct copper certainly shows many of their virtues to full advantage. It’s just that the Camaro (and Firebird and Covette) drivers were never part of my tribe, and the guys I wanted to be identified with at age 16 drove the 1977 Buick LeSabre Turbo Coupe, the 1978 Toyota Celica GT, or one of the original BMW 3-Series coupes, all of which were probably dynamically inferior in many ways to Glenn’s Z-28. Chalk this one up to another instance of CC opening my mind on many cars that I dismissed as unworthy of my affection or attention in my teens and twenties!
So I take it Mr. Glenn has no intention of selling that Camaro?
I can’t be redeemed as the Author was.
You see, these devices weren’t sold here new. They were a slightly tacky US oddity, unappealing to me (at least, until a local racing driver rolled one at high speed in our national Great Race at Bathurst: that got my young attention).
They have since been imported in armadas by the chin-hairy male folk who left my school in the eighth grade whilst still not being able to spell “I must not..”, but who most irritatingly have made more money with their allotted skills than long and tedious education and professional endeavour has ever brought to me. (Theirs often seems to involve concrete. Or pipes, but I digress). Lounging about in their now-middle age and possibly temporarily lost inside the very large mansion (built inevitably in a style long since thought to be lost in the often-forgotten Baroque and Tudor log-cabin era), they chance upon the opportunity to buy a toy denied them in our youth. Hence the endless container ships.
Thus, I do not associate the cars with desirability – or taste or class or sophistication or style – but with jealousy. This means that a car I did not fancy at all when I was 10 has become a car that is bought by people I didn’t like who are now all-but retired in luxury and buying things I still cannot afford as I grind away at work.
One small thing though. I remain a car nut – some, perhaps many, would remove that prefix to “nut” – and I too would have stopped to admire the superb originality of this example.
So there is some hope my soul may yet be saved into grace, or at least, graciousness.
And one thing last, let it never be said I am one who begrudges things…
Love your comment, and your description/caricature of the kind of people who import ‘classics’ from America! Tradies who’ve made good. A lot of truth there. I’ve got a mate in the local Men’s Shed who brought in a ’67 Chevy pickup last year.
That being said, I have to say these Camaros have never appealed to me either. If I was in a position to bring in a car from the States (which I do not aspire to), it could never have occurred to me to get one of these. I’ll admit that there’s a negative image/stereotype thing there. But what a survivor! I can certainly admire it in that regard.
That would have been Mr Bartlett that flipped the channel 9 Camaro if memory serves, not a great handling car of the era, they arrived in small numbers ion NZ years ago and in tsunami like amounts more recently cluttering up car shows around the country,
That copper coloured Z28 is in remarkable condition mind you he has hardly driven it since purchase, I simply could not do that, cars are built to be driven.
Ooops, now I’m worried that I am “that guy” who follows the herd when it comes to automotive obsessions. I drive Jeeps and BMWs, I had Japanese sporty coupes when those were hot … and I think this Camaro is awesome (and would have when it was new and I was 11). In the 1970s I definitely lusted after the Firebird Trans Am the most, but this Camaro would have been way up there on the list. And this beautifully preserved specimen is spectacular to see. I love that it is a one owner car, cherished since new and protected against the ravages of the Midwest climate.
Perhaps I am becoming more contrarian as I age, since today’s current automotive obsession–Tesla–leaves me cold. I have absolutely no interest in getting that luxury EV, while I am seriously considering an Alfa Romeo.
The 1970 Camaro was perhaps the last American car that bowled me over when it came out. I was caught totally off-guard; there were no spy shots or concepts or leaks; one day these ads appeared and it blew me away. It was such a profoundly better shape than its predecessor, which I always felt was half-baked, especially the ’67-’68 version.
When it first arrived in 1970, its image was distinctly different than the one it developed later in its life. It looked very sophisticated, and it was positioned quite differently than its competition. Both the Mustang and the ‘Cuda/Challenger were in their peak cartoonish phase, with all sorts of wild graphics and bold colors and emphasizing their biggest big-block engines.
The 1970 Camaro took a different tack, rather similar to the original GTO: a genuine driver’s car, not a kid’s fantasy hot rod. The ads didn’t focus on big engines, and in fact, the 396 option was hardly ever emphasized. The Z-28, with its brilliant new LT-1 350, was what was shown and pushed.
Of course this should not come as a surprise, as JZD was now in charge of Chevrolet. The advertising and positioning of the ’70 Camaro reflects that quite strongly, never mind its genuine all-round performance capabilities which were absolutely the best available in the US at the time.
It was the last time that an American performance car was successful at targeting the full spectrum of buyers, meaning also buyers that would soon be shopping for European cars, or already had been. The image of the ’70 Camaro was not at all of a “mullet-mobile” when it first came out, although obviously that didn’t last very long.
My early appreciation for it stylistically and as an international-class performance car didn’t last long. And as its clean original styling mutated and its image devolved, I soon lost any interest. But I still had to respect the inherent goodness of its basic shape and proportions, and its ability to be so successful in its later life.
That is something I don’t think of enough – how advanced the shape was in 1970 when this series began. That the car could remain not only competitive but be breaking sales records after a decade says something about the legs this design had.
Also the car could carry off looking like a sedate pony car, a little luxurious or full-on boy-racer (like this Z-28), all of them equally well. This is not something that a lot of designs can do, especially at a decade or beyond.
Also interesting is how this design was so different in 1970 yet nobody really copied it. And even when styling trends went other directions, this basic shape still pulled in buyers, and lots of them. You were right to call the F body a GM greatest hit.
The latest Camaro would be selling much better had it revived the 1970 version. The early 2nd gen Camaro was way ahead of its time. The “split bumper” and big grille opening fit current design trend (and bumper construction) very well. Another missed opportunity by today’s clueless, historically ignorant GM.
I agree that the 70 was a stunning design and I don’t understand all the love the 69 gets (and of course is the basis for the styling of the 2009 and later Camaros).
David E. Davis, Jr. said, referring to the 1970 Camaro, that were it produced in limited numbers, its styling would be as highly regarded as anything Ferrari made to that point. I think it worked up until about ’72. After that, it descended into caricature and parody.
That said, the ’78 in the article is a very nice example. But I’ll take a clean, unmolested ’70 like this every time:
Thanks to new Federal bumper regulations, caricature and parody were inevitable.
I’m with you, a ’70-’73 is where I’d want to be if I were to own a Camaro.
23 years ago a ’70 1/2 Z/28 came up for $5500. But I couldn’t justify it. I hope it found a good home, it was an all-original car.
were it produced in limited numbers, its styling would be as highly regarded as anything Ferrari made to that point.
This in no way dismisses David E. Davis, Jr or the 70 Camaro, both of which I hugely admire, but this statement I find applicable to a sizeable portion of other Detroit designed cars of the time, and also true in the inverse if Ferrari’s were made in huge numbers.
The thing that strikes me with the otherwise well deserved praise the 70 Camaro gets is it’s almost exclusively directed towards the front end, and specifically the RS front end, presumably because it’s a closer imitation to the gaping Ferrari eggcrate grille look of earlier 60s models. People seem quite dismissive of the standard front end with the full width bumper with turn signals under it, which I actually find attractive in its own right. Once the car got facelifted for 5-mph compliance people drop their admiration for this bodystyle like a hot potato (never once have I heard 70-73s referred to as mullet trailer trash cars like 74-81s and Firebirds), leading me believe that most people don’t look past the pretty face to take in the rest of the body, which was as good as ever to the very end.
For me the first generation Camaro was the best and they have only gotten worse with each update. I have never lived in a trailer park, but I must confess to being a closet bogan / Butthead type and I did live out of a van for a while but that was mostly just to travel. Still have a campervan which spends 99% of its life in the drive and is used mainly as the doghouse / mancave. Also have a Chrysler minivan, as it is so practical for a modern family man’s needs but have been lusting after a last gen Monaro (GTO) since they came out.
I know what you mean about being a contrarian. If it’s trendy, it’s guilty until proven worthy.
This car is beautifully kept, Glen should be proud. I don’t like the styling on these, the early 70s version looks far nicer to my eye, but that’s peanuts. This looks like it just rolled off the showroom. In a sea of CUVs, this would catch my eye faster than a modern Lamborghini.
The only thing I can add is I don’t know how you managed to avoid listening to “Frampton Comes Alive”. Back in the day it was almost impossible to not hear that unless you never listened to the radio.
I am of two minds about Camaros; when they first came out I wanted one but couldn’t afford to buy one. Then, when I could afford to buy one they didn’t interest me enough to even consider a purchase. I was impressed by the fourth generation and actually ended up owning a 1996 Camaro, with the 3800 V6 and automatic trans. Although not especially fast this was an enjoyable car to drive; unfortunately I had to get rid of it after a short time as some back issues made getting in and out of the car almost impossible. The latest iterations don’t interest me at all, they seem cramped on the inside and the interior seemed fourth-world econo car cheap.
I was one of those annoying people who’d change radio stations when a song I didn’t like came on. If the media hyped something, I’d go in the opposite direction. Still do!
I never really liked these for most of my life either, but because I wasn’t of this earth in the time to witness the full lifecycle of it being a cool new car in 1970 to parody in later production years to trailer park beaters in the 80s, my perspective is just different. For me it was because I always preferred Firebirds, and from a very young age, I wore out my parents VHS copy of Smokey and the Bandit taking in every line and detail of the 77 Trans Am from that movie before I started elementary school, and when I’d be out of the house and see the odd tell tale second gen F body profile show up on the road or parking lots in the mid 90s I’d get super excited…. and thoroughly deflated realizing it was “just a Camaro”. Third gens may have fueled that as well, they were very much in full parody status well through the 90s at my most impressionable age and the details carried over from second to third gen like the wraparound rear window and taillight shape made the second gens seem less interesting or special(in contrast the Firebird looked like a totally different car).
Having said that I completely relate to being a contrarian and probably would have shunned them and even Trans Ams too when new like I do a lot of current “cool” cars. Now a days I’m as excited to see any Camaro from this generation as its cousin, if not more. That these weathered the depth of the malaise era without succumbing to landau tops with fillers to remain relevant and managed to look fresh with 90% of its original styling for 11 years is impressive. I recall seeing a picture from an old magazine test with an all new Fox Mustang next to a 79 or 80 Camaro and despite the familiar old body it didn’t look at all anachronistic, which I couldn’t possibly imagine being the case if it were the Fox next to a 70 Chrysler E body, 70, Javelin, or 70 Mustang.
Thanks for sharing this JPC! And Glenn, what a beautiful car. The interior looks in amazing shape, and even the plastic parts seem t have held up well. I give a lot of respect for guys who keep their new cars over a long term. It takes some serious dedication and work over the years to keep a car nice and original, as I saw first hand with my dad and his car.
I remember several of these late 70’s Camaros in brown, even some Z/28s, even though few seem to be around today. I too like many other CCer’s have some contrarian in me (which has certainly effected my daily driver purchases). I, however, have always been a big fan of American performance cars, and I still am. When I was young I really liked these cars, and thought that they were great looking for the time. I remember thinking that Chevrolet made a mistake by sticking with two old fashion round headlights as opposed to the more modern Trans Am with the quad rectangular lights. In hindsight, I am glad they kept the round lights.
Nevertheless, as other’s mentioned, they and the corresponding Firebirds became the quintessential “hillbilly hot rod”, with primer spotted body, too wide tires on Cragars, glass packs and slapper bars. I really disliked these cars for some period because of the image they portrayed. And by that time, the more modern pony cars, like the Fox Mustangs, really put these cars to shame.
However, as the old beat-up Camaros left the roads and only nice survivors hung around, I have really learned to appreciate these cars again. I have a lot of respect for the excellent performance and handling that they had during an era when there was little for the performance enthusiast. These F-bodies might be far from perfect, but they do earn a lot of respect from me for keeping American performance alive.
I just remembered that the girlfriend of my law school roommate bought a new Camaro in 1978. Hers was either the basic Sport Coupe or the LT painted a dark teal blue-green (very unusual for 1978) with this same tan interior. I can’t recall if it was a 305 or a 350 but it had whitewalls and rally wheels.
That car (they married and drove it for a long time) showed one other thing about these – that they could cover a wide swath of the market from tasteful and understated to all-out performance car with all of the decals and such.
Glenn must have really loved this car to hang onto it and treat it special during the mid to late 80s when these were so horribly out of fashion.
The seventies were a turbulent time for the ponycar. I might go so far as to suggest that without all of GM’s ponycar competitors dropping by the wayside, the f-body might not have made it, either.
As it was, by 1974, the traditional ponycar had all but evaporated. Chrysler and AMC’s last ponycars were built that year, as Ford went both up and down market with the Cougar and Mustang II, respectively. FWIW, Ford’s strategy was sound, at least for the first year or two.
But then there was a huge swing and resurgence back to the f-body, culminating in the all-time best sales year of 1979. Of course, two years later, those stellar sales numbers were back down again by over half.
Personally, my favorite of those late seventies, final second generation, low-output, smogged Z28s is the 1980 model with the functional, rear flap hood scoop. I’m not sure, but I think it was the last year you could get a 4-speed with the 350 engine.
I had an opportunity to ride in the back of one of these for a weekend road trip, 90 minutes each way. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, it was very confining. No side view, just a harsh sunburn on the back of my neck.
That said, I am pleased that this fellow has maintained this car in such excellent condition all these years. I say, “Well Done!”
Sounds like my experience sitting in a new one, if front!
I am not now nor have I ever been a Camaro fan. Too many mullet and acid washed jeans flashbacks I suppose. Every guy I knew in high school that had one was a douche.
And they are everydamnwhere. Every issue Hot Rod, Car Craft and Popular Hot Rodding had a red Camaro on the cover. Try going to any car show or cruise night and not seeing at least 450 of them.
Every Generation X car guy has some kind of Camaro story. Love them or hate them, they were the cars of my generation. I guess my favorite Camaro story is regarding a brown ’78-81 Camaro that I knew that hung out on my cruise strip when I was in high school. I had my ’77 Grand Prix with a stock 350 that would get smacked by that Camaro every time I saw it. Then I swapped a junkyard 455 into the Grand Prix and then the Camaro’s feelings got hurt.
That all being said, I’ve aged and have come to appreciate the Gen 1 and Gen 2 Camaros for what they are, and I will admit to wanting to own a ’70 Z28. Ive had a couple of Gen 2 Firebirds and they are really well-built and nice driving cars.
Look at them. They are gorgeous cars.
I love that brown Camaro and the fact that the original owner still has it.
I love that brown color, it’s just starting to come back on the market. I’ve always found that the second gen Camaros and Firebirds were so much better looking than the originals. My one year older brother bought a new ’73 Camaro Model LT, followed by a ’75 Trans AM. Two years later he found a ’76 Camaro with a four speed. I drove these cars when they were new, and nearly new, and they were great fun to drive. They looked terrific and made you feel really special behind the wheel.
As these aged and depreciated they were treated poorly and many were modified to the styling trends of the day. Standard sport coupes and later Berlinettas best display their attractive lines. Trans Ams were originally more cleanly styled, but by the 1990s they became caricatures of themselves. I do prefer the 70’s Trans Am version but I really like this great Camaro magazine ad.
That is a very nice car. I’ve always been a Camaro fan, and I don’t give a flying fig what image it has with other people.
Having come of age in the ‘70s and graduatied high school in 1981 in the solid car culture of middle America, I don’t have enough fingers to count the friends who had this generation Camaro, and we won’t even include to a (little) lesser extent it’s cousin the Firebird. My list of friends had these from base 6-cylinder sticks to big block Zs, and most every flavor in between, whether new, used, or beater. They were popular with everyone, even the “contrarians” who were too cool to admit it. They were, however, almost guaranteed to get you in trouble, laid, or both.
My girlfriend in 1981 had a ‘79 LT in black. Just a very nice, mid-range, late-model with a 305 and an automatic. I found I didn’t like the driving position compared to the big sedans I was accustomed to. Too low and stretched out for my driving comfort. (On a side note, I loved driving her mom’s ‘81 Corolla Tercel, it was a blast!) The bumpers on the ‘78 refresh were a fantastic design, unless you had a habit of running over garbage cans, barricades, and stop signs such as I had. I needed real bumpers on my rides. I noticed the author, J P, mentioned the back glass became curved in 1976; actually it was 1975. I’m certain of that because I always associated it with the catalytic converters of ‘75. Also because Jim Rockford’s Firebird’s rear window changed, too, from ‘74 to ‘75. Why GM changed the glass to an obviously more expensive design in 1975, I don’t know; but it looked better to me than the ‘70 -‘74 flat rear glass.
The featured Z28 looks incredible. I myself somehow prefer the ‘80-‘81 Z28 better. I like the color-keyed horizontal slat grille over the eggcrate that preceeded it. The color-keyed “torque thrust” wheels really complete the look of the car. At the apartment complex I lived in when in Delaware in 1981 (when I dated my previously mentioned girlfriend) there was a neighbor with an ‘81 Z28 in this exact color. Perhaps not “exact”, I think the ‘81 shade of brown was a little darker than that of ‘78. That car was the nicest of the 50 in the complex’s lot. That guy also drove a ‘81 base model F-250, also in “bear-shit brown”, as I called it. Regardless of my description of the color, I liked it very much. Even to this day, a nice, deep brown has an aura of “richness” to it, in my opinion.
I give kudos to the owner of this ‘78 Z28 for keeping it in such outstanding original condition. If I had had one back then, it would have had 58k miles racked up in just a few years, and been beat to death, too., like many were.
On a final note, the Camaro/Firebird redesign of ‘82 was….fantastic. But, I was a sedan or truck guy. Still am.
Thank you Frankster. If you remember the wheels on my car were also used on the 1971 and 1972 Chevelle SS. (15″ x 7″ with the 4 3/4″ bolt circle)
These late 2nd gen was very common American cars in Europe. The strong german currency allows purchased them new and bring them over there. I was on hunt for these back in 2005 when was able to save some bugs from summer job, being on its bottom level price around 5k usd. I passed on few because they were too beaten up and snap 91 Camaro 305 with 5 speed instead.
It was wisdom decision as it was somehow easier to keep it running as daily driver for 3? years. Then I got tired out of it, being one wheel wonder and just tbi engine with 170hp. But so many years later, I still have a soft spot for 2nd and late 3rd gen. The 4th gen have respectable power but I hate the short wheelbase with giant overhangs. 2nd gen commands now 15-20k usd easily, as many gets restored from beaten up status. But I would take now one with 350 and 4speed only, or one with retrofitted modern gears.
I had heard that the later wrap-around rear window was originally planned for the 1970 1/2 F-Bodies, but problems with forming the rear quarter panels prevented it from happening. Improvements in metal forming technology eventually allowed the intended rear window design to be implemented for the 1975 models.
Bob, if, and this is a big if, I remember correctly, Collectible Automobile in past issues ran a two part article on GM designer Bill Porter. He said he stubbornly resisted the wrap around rear window on the F bodies when first proposed because he felt it destroyed the curves and lines he had designed in the sail panel from the roof to the rear deck. This held up the implementation of the wrap around rear window for several years. Again, this is only if I remember correctly.