The History* of the Chevrolet Camaro Z28
All I'm going to cover in this Write Up is the History of the Z28 line of Camaro's, for your other glorious Camaro History, refer to Chevrolet Camaro.
My good friend Transitional Man and fellow gearhead would like to inform me (and you, as the reader) that I've overlooked one very important fact: The Z/28 was created specifically for the competition in the Sports Car Club of America's Trans Am racing series. The team was campaigned by Roger Penske with Mark Donahue and Peter Revson driving. Thanks TM!
Back in what we call, as Camaro Enthusiasts, The "First Generation", GM/Chevrolet decided to add an optional package onto the main line. They called it the Z/28. (If anyone knows why Chevrolet chose Z/28, /msg me). The first production Z/28 was built in December 1966, it featured a high-compression engine (The "DZ") 302 cubic inch V8. They managed the 302 by taking the short stroke crank from a 283 and putting it in a 327 big-bore block. Built to turn as many rpms as possible, and put down 290 horsepower, this awesome power plant was matched with a much more aggressive suspension.
The Second generation
I'm not sure how long the Z/28 from 66 ran, but in 1970 1/2 (1/2 because it entered production late in the model year), Chevrolet produced yet another Z/28. Instead of the high revving 302, a high compression LT-1 350 was the substitute. Forcing 360 horses to the ground, this easy going daily-driver friendly Z laid 0 to 60 times in 5.8 seconds, and pulling the quarter in 14.2 seconds at 100.3 mph. Unfortunately, drivers felt the engine still lacked bottom end power.
The glorious days of the LT-1 in the Z/28 would only last in 1970, stricter emissions requirements, a fall in compression ratios for all of the engine GM produced, and a change in the way the power output numbers (from gross to net) were displayed all occurred in 1971. For the most part,
everything else stayed the same; High-back bucket seats, and a new three piece rear spoiler for the Z/28 were the new.
The Z/28 saw a mediocre run, in each year a few things here and there changed, but most noticeable was the power output from all of GM's vehicles, with the largest of the large engines on the specs sheet barely putting out more than 240 horsepower. In an amazingly short-sighted move, Chevrolet killed off the Z/28 in 1975. In other news, the engine power outputs continued to fall, slowing in 1976 for the Four-Barrel 350 to a lame 165 horsepower. In 1977 Intermittent wipers were on the menu, of the very few changes. The Z/28 made an unexpected appearance as a new model (instead of an option) entirely. The focus was handling and appearance, and it did a good job at both. Unfortunately the engine was the same from 1976, producing only 170 horsepower.
For the first time, Chevrolet sold more Camaro's (198,755) than Ford sold Mustangs (161,654). Testing the waters, Chevrolet equipped the 78 Camaro with a new nose that dropped the big bumpers back behind soft plastic, Translucent T-Tops and a total of Five Models on the Camaro list (SC, RS, LT, LT RS, and Z/28). The Z/28 acquired front fender vents and a fake hood scoop, along with a revised version of the still weak 350 V8, for a total output of 185 horsepower.
Even though not much changed from 78 to 79 for the Z/28, but 1979 proved to be the most popular year yet. Chevrolet still battling emissions restrictions forced the 79 Z/28's power output back further. A Contemporary instrument panel and better control placement was the most substantial change for all Camaro's. Chevy sold 282,571 camaro's during 1979. To this day Chevrolet has never managed to top that number.
In 1980, buyers of the Z/28 received a slightly more powerful engine, at 190 horsepower, except for California
where stronger emissions got the best of the 350, and Chevy fell back to the 305 V8, putting out a meek but better-than-nothing 155 horsepower engine, mated to a mandatory 3 speed automatic transmission, in the car. The fuel crisis of 1980 lead to the dive in sales, to only 152,005 units.
By 1981, the Second Generation had begun to show it's age. The introduction of a new Engine Control Computer certified the Camaro for all 50 states, however output on the Z/28 350 fell to 175 horsepower. The Z/28 was one of the three (out of five) models that made it to the Third Generation
The Third Generation
In 1982 came a change in suspension for all Camaro's. Doing away with the leaf-spring suspension and the front sub-frame, Chevrolet changed over to a modified MacPherson strut system for the front, with a long torque arm and coil springs keeping the hind end planted. Fuel Injection had become standard, four Speed Automatics and Five-Speed Manuals were the option. Everything else was stuck with the Four Cylinder engine as a base, whereas the Z/28 received the 305 V8 with a Carbureted Intake and the option of a 3 Speed Auto or 4 speed Manual Transmission, on the alternative end, you could get the "Cross-Fire Injection" (TBI) style engine with a 3 Speed Automatic only.
The Z/28 paced the Indianapolis 500 in 82, but the T-Top Z/28 that actually went around the track that year was a highly modified 350 V8. The same type and configuration engine wasn't available to the general public.
The only change the Z/28 saw in 1983 was the nice "Power Bump" and the introduction of the L69 engine option, corvette spec camshaft, revised exhaust, and a Four-Barrel Carb. the 305 (5.0L) "High Output" V8 was rated at 190 horsepower and had the option for a new Five Speed Transmission.
In 1984 the L69 became more common, Chevrolet dropped the junky "Cross-Fire" engine, and the 700R4 Four Speed Automatic Transmission was adopted.
In 1985 the IROC-Z was introduced along size the Z/28, both models had options for the Carbureted 305 V8 but the big step forward came with Tuned Port Injection for a sweet 215 horsepower. Unfortunately the engine only could be had with the 700R4 automatic.
The only noticeable change in 1986 for the Z was a blister atop the rear hatch to comply with the CHMSL standard.
In 1987 the 350 V8 made it's return, fitted with the TPI Intake and the 700R4 Automatic Transmission, big engines had finally made it back into the world of the Camaro, putting a decent 225 horsepower to the ground, the most that the Camaro has seen in 13 years. The 305 Finally saw the T-5 5 speed Manual.
The Convertible made a comeback, only the second time the Convertible has been an option since 1969. The "High Output" 305 carburated engine was dropped in favor of the standard output 165 horsepower variant. The CHMSL was an unsightly requirement to all camaro's back then...
But would be standardized along with the rear spoiler in 1988 for all camaro's. Unfortunately Chevrolet killed the Z/28 AGAIN, now that it had established the IROC-Z as the high performance name.
We didn't see the Z/28 again till the 1991 model year, the IROC-Z had died in 1990 when Dodge picked up the sponsorship of the International Race of Champions. New on the 91 was a taller rear wing, lower body cladding, fake "Power Blisters" on the hood, and the very pretty Five Spoke Wheels. There were two engine options available with the 91 Z28, the 305 TPI came standard with the 700R4 but you could opt for the T-5 5 Speed (only putting down 230 horsepower). However the top dog was the 350 TPI (Same TPI as on the 305) with only the 700R4 providing a reliable choice at the time. New ground effects and fake air inlets were the appearance changes.
With plans for a new Camaro Z28 in 1993, the 1992 saw little change from 1991. "25th Anniversary" badges dotted the instrument panels, and a $175 "Heritage Package" was offered for any 92 Camaro. "It was time for another new Camaro."
IMHO. The 91 and 92 Camaro Z28 305/350 were some of the best Camaro Z28's ever produced. Their Style, performance, and handling haven't been topped yet, in my book. I have had the opportunity to work on, and drive a 91 Camaro Z28 Convertible, and it has been the best experience of my life. I long for one to this day, and I'm determined to get my hands on one again.
The Fourth Generation
The 1993 Camaro was new, but not all-new, it shared a lot of rear suspension and floor stamping components of the Third Generation. The noticeable differences were in the Front suspension, Rack and Pinion steering, and a sleek new pointed profile. It was new enough.
The Z28 came powered with a corvette 5.7L LT1 Small Block V8, but underrated at 275 horsepower. The Convertible was gone.
The LT1 was the most powerful small block installed in the Camaro since it's birth, with an option of the 4 Speed (700R4?) Automatic, or the T-56 6 Speed Manual; 6 Inch wheels/tires, and four wheel ABS was standard.
The Convertible, as expected, made a return in 1994, with a stiffer chassis and the electronically controlled 4L60 automatic. No other changes were made
Same story for 1995, All-Season Tires and Traction Control was now available
In 1996 the Z28's V8 jumped to 285 horsepower and SLP brought back the SS
In 1997 chevy introduced a specially optioned white Z28 with orange stripes and orange houndstooth upholstery; otherwise there were new "Tri-Color" tail lamps and SLP produced a small run of 330 horsepower Z28 SS's powered by Corvette's LT4 5.7L V8.
The first visual update to the Camaro came in 1998 with a new front facia design, but the big deal in 1998 was the All Aluminum LS-1 that took residence in the Z28, putting out 320 horsepower (with Ram Air Induction)
Not much to say about 1999 or 2000, minor changes from CD Changer Options to Radio Control Placements took place. By 2001 The Z28 was running on fumes, as well as the rest of the Camaro series for that matter. New Paint, Restyled 60 inch wheels, and a downgrade from 320 to 310 horsepower in the Z28. The Camaro barely made it into 2002, with limited changes. A new power steering cooler and sound system came in the Z28, that's about it. Chevrolet did celebrate Camaro's 35th year though, with a special graphics package for the Z28 SS Coupe and Convertible.
Many fans were angry at Chevrolet for the loss of the Z28 in 2002, in the end it came down to some plant contracts and Chevrolet wasn't allowed to discuss future projects with the public until they were settled. Unfortunately for Quebec, the GM/Chevrolet plant in St. Therese had reached end of contract, and GM demolished the plant.
The Fifth Generation Camaro is expected to debut in 2007. Speculations are rampant as to the options, but it will definitely be a competitive vehicle. I've heard one rumor about All Wheel Drive, and frankly, I'm for it. In the end, The Camaro Z28 is the all American muscle car of the century, and it will always be with us to dominate the sports car crowd. GM has tried to kill the Z28 three times, and she just keeps coming back.
I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the comments provided in that article, some of the information here has been my own knowledge.
* May be incomplete, if you have anything significant to add, /msg me.