25 February 2019
More than an old car #96: Chevrolet Camaro Z28
Over the years in my spotting/documentation journey, I have come across cars of all makes and sizes. However, a notable absence are American cars for some reason: maybe people don't like huge cars or parts are hard to get, I don't know. Imagine my astonishment when I chanced upon this 1981 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 when I was out for a jog!
In April 1965, the renowned Ford Mustang had established itself as the go-to car for Americans, and Chevrolet was itching to grab a piece of the pie. It developed a project, code-named Panther, and informed automotive journalists to attend a meeting of the "Society for the Eradication of Panthers from the Automotive World" via a cryptic telegram. Notwithstanding the rather mysterious way the Camaro was revealed, the origin of its name is quite interesting.
In keeping with the tradition of naming Chevy cars starting with 'C', the general manager, Pete Estes, claimed that 'Camaro' suggested the comradeship of good friends as a personal car should be to its owner. Later on, Chevy managers simply said that it was a "small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs", a clear dig at their rival. Although it was later claimed that Estes saw the word in a French-English dictionary, the actual word is "camarade"; "camaro" is not a recognised word in French.
The Z28 is a performance package that was designed for the Camaro to enter in car racing events at that time. It name is derived from GM's own Regular Production Option (RPO) Z28, which was the code for the Special Performance Package. Such units were often distinguished by racing stripes and a 'Z28' logo on the cars.
The 2nd generation of the Camaro was introduced in 1970, and it went through a series of changes over the years. It performed better than its predecessor in terms of road handling and sound-proofing. For the 1981 model, it differed from the base model with a reverse hood scoop that could open to take in cooler air and a unique front end. The engine was also fitted with a Computer Command Control unit, which provided indicators about the engine status. It was powered by a 5001 cc (305 cubic inch) V8, allowing it to reach a top speed of 173 km/h, with an acceleration of 9.3 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 5019 mm long and weighed 1585 kg.
Production of the 2nd-generation Camaro also ended in 1981, with 20,253 Z28s made in 1981. This unit was recently imported from Australia; although GM only made LHD cars at that time, GM Australia did receive some complete-knock-down units where they were reassembled in RHD. Interestingly, Camaros were also sold in Singapore back in the 1980s, although there are none left currently.
I was really lucky to come across this gem: it had arrived just the day before before it was covered up even until today. Throughout the months, it has never moved, although I have heard that it is awaiting registration! Its VIN number indicates that it is made in USA, under GM (Chevrolet), has a non-passive restraint system, adopts a sports coupe style and made in the Van Nuys plant in California between May and June 1981. This unit looks pretty tidy despite the layer of dust, and I guess you have to wait for a while to see this American muscle tearing up our roads!