1 Of 90: IMSA-Inspired 1980 Chevrolet Hugger Camaro

OK, first off, a “Hugger Camaro” is a real thing. According to BangShift.com, this regional special model came to life through a collaboration among Jacksonville, Florida Chevrolet dealers, IMSA racer Tom Nehl, Chevrolet’s Special Vehicle Department (SVD), and Camaro tuner Bill Mitchell. Though built in an era when sport models often had the same engine that your Grandma might order and “GT” stood for “Goofy Tape,” the Hugger Camaro included a long list of useful goodies. All Huggers packed the 350 cid V8, hood pins, an SVD front spoiler and rear sway bar, Koni shocks, a Racemark steering wheel, Minilite wheels, and special stripes. This Hugger is offered here on eBay and made its way from Florida to it’s current location in Charlotte, North Carolina.

This face means business – at least as much business as any early 80’s car could muster. The first time I sat in a second-generation Camaro I was struck by the boldness of the hood contours from the driver’s view, and how relatively small the car felt compared to the typical motor pool of parental sedans.

Sadly (for a road-race-inspired model) all Hugger Camaros except ONE four-speed manual car were three-speed automatics like this one. Notice the console-mounted power locks. If there’s any question that this is a driver’s car, the location of the HVAC controls left of the steering wheel settles it. Fans of the cop show Starsky & Hutch may have hoped this was a “Huggy Bear Camaro,” but no such luck. Actually a Huggy Bear Buick Electra 225 would be more likely. I couldn’t help but wonder what features would adorn the Huggy Bear Camaro; there would definitely be some fur on the dashboard and animal print upholstery… and curb feelers.

All Hugger Camaros featured the venerable 350 cid smallblock V8 making 195 HP at a time when many cars produced fewer that 100 horses. With its 3.42:1 rear end this Camaro had enough pep to “peel out” as you left the local burger joint. For comparison the 1980 Mustang’s puny 255 cid V8 made an embarrassing 120 horsepower. The seller, Hendrick Performance, states that this unrestored and largely original Hugger has accumulated fewer than 30,000 miles. We actually featured it back in January of 2016 when it was priced at $33,900, you can read that post here. Does this special model, from a ho-hum performance era, constitute an investment at the Buy-It-Now price of $27,990? Is the price drop large enough to get you motivated to buy it?

Fast Finds


  1. Doug

    At $27990 it would be an investment but probably not a good one!

  2. Mitchell Gildea Member

    If I had the money I’d buy it. It looks cool and I doubt you’ll see another one out there cruising. The design takes a cool looking muscle car and makes it look more aggressive

  3. Bruce Johnson Bruce Johnson Staff

    My brother has a 30k mile 4 speed Z28 and I thought it was 305 V8 because it was so anemic. Car & Driver called the “Chevrolet Camaro Z28 a medieval warrior on the path to a rocking chair”

    I think the 350 was only 190 hp. The switch on the console are power windows not power locks.

  4. JimmyJ

    The console buttons are the windows not the locks….

    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Thanks Jimmy – I foolishly assumed the locks (which usually work with key off) would invite coat-hanger-equipped thieves if they were on the door. Just goes to show that research trumps logic. My apologies to all.

      • CarNut from Winnipeg Member

        Those guys are too busy stealing 3rd gen Integras.

  5. Rock On Member

    Your brother might have a 305 Z28 if he is in California. The 350 was not legal in all 50 states in 1980-81. Canadian cars got the 350s.

    • Bruce Johnson Bruce Johnson Staff

      Rock On, you’re right about the engine options. My brother’s Z28 is a Texas car and we checked and confirmed it was a 350. It’s just slow compared to his 1978 Trans Am. The torque of a Pontiac engine is addicting!

  6. Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    warm the motor a bit …
    ……..and do a 700R4 ( or LE ) conversion to wake up the acceleration big time, and have OD at the top too…….the 4spd shifter kits are cheap.

  7. Gary

    I remember seeing Hugger cameros at Gary Fronrath Chevy in Ft. Lauderdale fla. Each one was numbered 1 of . They must have had 20 of them. Haven’t seen one since.

  8. Troy S.

    Decent looking machine but bigger tires would surely help add to the aggressive overall look. Curious if that air cleaner is original. Modern exaust, 700 r and deeper gears in the rear and this could be a real blast to play around with, but the price seems way too high for a car from this era.

  9. DG

    Why is this car not painted Hugger Orange?

  10. Anthony

    Love the 1978 to 81 I have a 79 I’m building and customizing far better look with a ls7 then this design but for back in the day good looking car mine will be out there soon what one should have looked like then and now will see

  11. Rock On Member

    Air cleaner assembly is stock 1980-81 Camaro Z28. Standard with the functional cowl induction hood.

  12. Superdessucke

    An interesting curiosity but I would spend less and get a W72 WS6 Trans Am or even a regular 1978-80 Z28 with the 350 4-speed.

  13. JRP

    Just my opinion, those stripes are uuuugly!

  14. Stephen Dycha

    My buddy had a black 81 z. 4 speed 350 Canadian car. I had my 69 gto rag 4 speed. No contest but nice car.

  15. E Berghof

    My friend Larry had one in Orlando in the ’80 He went to Boone High School and graduated in 1982 so I guessing his dad bought it for him new. I was 3 years younger and that was the coolest car I had ever seen. Seeing these pics really brings back some memories. I can’t remember his number but if I ever find it, I’ll buy it on the spot.

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