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90K Mile Plain Jane: 1976 Chevrolet Camaro

Back in the olden days, if you were looking for a new car you scanned the classifieds.  All of the local dealers would have sale ads that invariably featured a car so devoid of options that no sane person would ever buy it.  However, the low sticker price for that model was what lured people in.  This 1976 Chevrolet Camaro for sale on Craigslist in the outskirts of Washington D.C. may be one of those “loss leader” cars.  With a straight six under the hood and 90,000 original miles, is this a rare Camaro because it is so plain? Is it worth the $5,000 asking price?  Thanks to Tony P. for the tip!

When your local grocery store advertises a gallon of milk at a very low price, sometimes below what they pay for it, and sells it to you when you come into the store, that is called a “loss leader.”  They may lose some money on the gallon of milk, but that loss is inconsequential when you go there to pick up a gallon of milk and leave with a dozen other things you didn’t even know you needed.  The same thing happens when a car dealership purposely orders as plain of a model car as possible so that they can advertise “starting at….” for that model.  This tactic was once so common that lawsuits were filed when dealerships could never produce the exact car for customers when asked.

Stories also abounded that salespeople were forbidden to sell this cheapo car.  If they did, they would be fired, as the dealership could no longer prove the car was on the lot.  Maybe the salesperson’s claim was just urban legend, but it is a fact that loaded cars make a whole lot more money for both the manufacturer and the dealership.  Customers were signing up for a new vehicle.  Having a new vehicle was a prestigious event unless you were the person who ordered the cheapest car possible.  Then you would be ridiculed for being a cheapskate.  The kind of person who shops for a Christmas tree on December 26 kind of ridicule.

So, what is the story behind this silver 1976 Camaro?  There is no written history of the car in the ad.  However, we do know that it is powered by an inline six-cylinder engine.  This was the base engine in 1976, and, despite the large number of Camaros we have profiled on this site, cars with inline sixes are almost unheard of on these pages.  Still, records indicate that 38,047 Camaros left the production lines with that engine out of 182,959 total.  That engine packed 250 cubic inches and belted out 105 horsepower.

A hole in the theory that this car is a loss leader is the presence of the Turbo Hydramatic automatic transmission.  Some records say an automatic was the only option for the six, while others say a three-speed manual was the standard transmission.  I think I even remember seeing a column shift second-generation Camaro profiled on Barn Finds.  Does anyone know just what transmission was available with the six?  As for other options on this one-owner car, it did come with power steering and a dealer-installed air conditioning system that may have been added much later.  It may not even be a GM system.  Can anyone identify it?

Despite the outcroppings of rust and hints of Bondo under its silver paint, the seller tells us that this car has just 90,000 original miles.   It has been sitting since 2022 but runs when you jump-start it.   Given the durability and longevity of this Stovebolt Six descendant that doesn’t come as a surprise.  With the engine and transmission combo, this car was equipped with, it will be slow but darn near indestructible.

So, is this plain Jane Camaro worth the $5,000?  We would have to examine the underside first, but this might be a car worth looking into.  If you bought it, the dilemma would be to restore it as stock or use the body and discard the rest.  Restored, it would probably draw more of a crowd than a proper 350-equipped car (there were no Z28s in 1976).  It is an odd duck then and now, but an interesting one regardless.

Would you keep this car “as-is,” or build up a beast of a Camaro with the body as a starting point?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. Avatar photo angliagt Member

    There was a guy in the Sacramento area who,after seeing an
    ad for a Ford Ranger for a really cheap price,went in to the dealer
    & said he wanted to buy the truck in the ad.They said that they didn’t
    actually have it in stock,& tried to steer him towards a loaded up one.
    After threatening to contact the authorities,the ordered one for him.

    Like 12
    • Avatar photo Jim

      He sounds like me. I had to search all over just last year to find a base Sentra. I wanted as few bells and whistles as possible. Finally found a dealer that tracked one down for me.

      Like 6
      • Avatar photo JoeNYWF64

        Unlike the Ranger, a modern base Sentra is hardly a stripper car! – i’m sure yours has standard automatic, p/w, a/c, & stereo. & say goodbye forever for a cheaper to build 2 door one, much less a 2 dr with a trunk.
        The ’70s Pontiac T/A s!! did not even come with a standard radio!, much less a/c or p/w or automatic. & the firebird formula did not even come std with p/s or p/b or aux gages!

        Like 0
  2. Avatar photo KC John Member

    I’ve developed a fondness for low option vehicles. Lots of restoration parts available. Replacement panels don’t know they’re going on a basic model. Inexpensive entry point to the hobby.

    Like 19
    • Avatar photo Mark Phillips

      I live in Sacramento which dealership was it?

      Like 1
      • Avatar photo Bamapoppy

        Vicky had a red 6-cylinder Camaro back in the 60’s. It also had the stripe around the front of the car. I don’t know if it came that way or was added on for appeal. Back then it was possible to get pretty much anything done; add a trim, etc. I ordered more than one car with specifics and it was built as ordered. Not so easy today.

        Like 3
      • Avatar photo angliagt Member

        Not sure.It was from back in the days when there were
        ads in the Classified pages of the newspaper – pages & pages,
        & pages of them.
        I still have the ads from the Oregonian from September 3,1991.
        There an ad for a brand new Taurus SHO for $15,995.

        Like 3
    • Avatar photo Greg

      To be honest, Camaro’s shouldn’t be priced the way they are, that car at most 3 grand. If that was a plain Jane Firebird then I can see a heftier price but not a Camaro

      Like 4
      • Avatar photo dan

        The 3 speed manual trans offered that year was on the floor. I owned one in 76 that had the “new” 305 engine.

        Like 0
  3. Avatar photo Howard A Member

    Finally! You know, up and comers to the musclecar scene may think all Camaros were fire-breathing, wheel standing big block monsters, when, hello, newsflash, THIS was the majority of Camaros sold. Chick car, all the way. Sorry, but guys went for the aforementioned types, secretaries, librarians, that funky art teacher in high school, all drove 6 cylinder Camaros. At least the ones that didn’t have the influence of a big brother, that is. So why all the big block monsters today? They were the only ones worth saving, and were extreme rusters, poor metal I was told, but regardless, yards were full of them. I think it has a great chance of staying just like it is, maybe some nice wheels, but a Camaro that looks cool AND gets good gas mileage? Preposterous.

    Like 13
    • Avatar photo William Milot

      Looking cool with good gas mileage is easy! You stuff an early GEN IV 454 in it with a 6L80 Trans and 3.08 gears in the rear. She’ll be idling at 75 mph getting 24 + mpg hwy and still kick some Major Ass light to light racing lol.

      Like 2
    • Avatar photo DW

      Because the muscle car camaros of the day were rode hard and put away wet. The plain jane ones like this one escaped that death sentence.

      Like 4
    • Avatar photo Jim

      Newer Camaros have 330 hp v6 motors, not gonna hang with a zl1, but still has pretty good performance. Probably more power than the v8 that might have come in this car.

      Like 0
  4. Avatar photo Troy

    I like it because it’s the 6CYL I’m not familiar with that state and how much salt they dump on the roads so I would be concerned about the rust you can’t see in the pictures, in most cases I would say that the odometer has rolled at least once this one the seats and interior look clean enough its possible. Not bad for the money.

    Like 1
  5. Avatar photo RoadDog

    I’d leave it as is, because as previously mentioned, it is a rare bird these days. And, those engines can be souped up. Just ask the Slant-six crowd. GLWTS.

    Like 7
  6. Avatar photo Rosseaux

    According to the 1976 information sheet, 3-speed manuals were floor mounted and available for all engines, but not in California.

    Thanks to GM Heritage center: https://www.gm.com/heritage/archive/vehicle-information-kits

    Like 0
  7. Avatar photo Mark

    Inside looks very clean. Add some ralley wheels clean it up change all fluids and drive it the way it is!

    Like 17
  8. Avatar photo Jake

    This is my dream car. No miss no fuss, favorite bodystyle and an engine that’ll just tote you along at 60 all day. Lazy, beautiful, comfortable. The American dream as it were

    Like 5
  9. Avatar photo John Roudebush

    Exactly like my first car. Silver. Six cylinder. Mine had no A/C. Bought it new upon college graduation for $3,800 I believe. Sold it with 70,000 miles for a 1983 Berlinetta. The 1976 car was completely trouble-free in the seven years of ownership.

    Like 0
  10. Avatar photo MarkF

    I actually had a 1979 Camaro that came with a straight 6. And it even had a trailer hitch installed at some point, my friends used to joke and say it wanted to be a truck. But the straight six didn’t last long, 6 months later it had a 350 with a tunnel ram and dual 4 barrel holleys. I’m a hot rodder deep down, so I would probably swap the drive train and have fun with it since it wouldn’t be messing up a factory Z-28 or something really valuable.

    Like 4
  11. Avatar photo Matthew Dyer

    Less stuff to break. I heard that from my dad many times when he brought home stripper cars. I learned to drive in manual steering 3 on the tree inline 6s. Some without radios too.

    Like 1
  12. Avatar photo Jim Sartor

    Worked for very short time in early 90’s for a dealer (long since closed) that did this. Would hide the car and anyone that found and sold it was fired on the spot. True story.

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo Real Enthusiast

      Does the “very short time” imply that you sold the cheap car and was fired on the spot? 😂

      Like 0
  13. Avatar photo 8banger Member

    It shoulda’ve been illegal for a six to be stabbed in any Camaro or Rustang for that matter…

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo RJ

      Wait until you find out the F body Camaro and Firebird in the early 80s were available with a four cylinder and the current Camaro is available with a Turbo four cylinder.

      Like 6
      • Avatar photo Luxo-cruiser enthusiast

        That’s right. The good old Iron Duke
        Four if I remember correctly.

        Speed isn’t everything…

        Like 0
  14. Avatar photo Al

    “Belted out 105hp”? Kind of like my ’99 Craftsman snowblower!

    Like 4
  15. Avatar photo Rustomodrob

    Old man in me…could buy these all day long for $500
    30 years ago. Today’s money…$1200 roughly. Give it the “not many out there anymore” bit…$3k at most in this condition and options. IMO

    Like 2
  16. Avatar photo DW

    In 1976 if you wanted an automatic transmission with your new inline 6 Camaro, you got a TH-200 which is a 3 speed (like the TH-350) but unlike the TH-350, it didn’t sap as much horsepower from the engine. Likewise it didn’t hold up to much abuse from a larger engine either.

    The TH-200 looks similar to the TH-350, one telltale sign is the TH-200 uses 11 bolts to hold the transmission pan on, and the TH-350 uses 13 bolts.

    Like 4
    • Avatar photo RoadDog

      The pan is also stamped ‘METRIC’ on a TH200.

      Like 1
  17. Avatar photo Not Again

    Purchased a 1974 camaro in 1976. Had the factory 6 cyl and 3 speed trans in the floor. Red exterior, and checked black interior buckets. No ac, roll up windows..put 6 x 9 jenson speakers in the back deck, put a set of cragers all way round and y out the exhaust and added a bottle rocket muffler..everyone thought it was a 350 under the hood the way it sounded… Cruised to boston and the Doobies.. What memories were made in that camaro

    Like 4
  18. Avatar photo timothy herrod

    In 1987 I bought a camero for the first and only time. It was a 76 with a 6 cylinder. Didn’t even know they made such a thing. Dragged it home with a chain, a buddy of mine that had a shop helped me with a rebuild of a 350. We worked on it at nights after I got off of work, we got the motor down into it one night and we quit on it for the night and the next day he got it started. The story I got was he held it to the floor to break the cam in and something happened, all I really know was when I got there he had the motor back out and torn down. Spent quite a bit of money on that motor and was really discouraged about it. My brother knew a guy that was wanting the car so I sold it instead of putting more money into it. Turned out to be a bad choice as I ended up with no car or money. Never got another camero or even wanted one after that

    Like 1
  19. Avatar photo Paul Alexander

    I don’t know if I’d pay 5K for it. I’d have to see it in person in order to truly evaluate its worth to me personally. Typically, I’d expect it to be sold for more in the $2500 – $3000 range, based on the pics and the information given. That being said, I had a close friend who drove an almost identical car, and it was a very solid and dependable unit. If I was looking for a project right now, I’d definitely be interested in this one.

    Like 0
  20. Avatar photo Jason

    I owned a 1976 straight 6 250 cubic inch Camaro when I was a teenager bout 33 years back. I remember it well. I traded a 1984 cutlass for it. Put fat tires on the back, rebuilt the 250 in my votech class for 3 $ , slapped a 4 barrel intake on it and outran a 1970 cutlass rocket and did it with the automatic transmission the car came with stock. I traded the beauty straight up for a 1973 roadrunner 400 V8 way better trade. Would trade my crown Victoria interceptor for either one right now

    Like 0
  21. Avatar photo Harry 1

    See it wasnt sheltered. Flaking paint & rust probably inhabit its undercarriage. But for that probably a good project camaro to restore. For 5g. Would have it tboroughly inspected. DC in noted for snow & salts on the roadways especially back when this car was rolling on the streets & highways.

    Like 2

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