Blue Plate Survivor: 1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

My first new car was a ’77 Chevrolet Camaro Z28. The Z was discontinued after the ’74 model year and then reintroduced mid-model year ’77. When I learned that it was coming back, I just had to have one. I only kept it three years but every time I see one of those late second Gen 2 (’77-’81) Z28’s for sale, I have to check it out. That being the case, let’s take a close look at this ’79 Z28, located in Orange, California and available here on eBay with a current bid of $5,100.

By ’77, the Z28 was mostly an appearance and handling package. The L82 engine that powered Corvettes and the ‘73/’74 Z28 was not carried over for new Z28 usage, so high-performance motoring was somewhat constrained. What was not limited was the appearance package as the Z28 had side stripes, front and rear spoilers, a Z28 graphic and stripes stretched across the trunk lid and a faux sort of hood scoop thing surrounded by more stripes. Other unique qualities included 15×7 inch wheels, G70-15 tires, recalibrated suspension and in the case of a manual transmission, a Borg-Warner Super T-10, close-ratio, four-speed, and an eleven-inch clutch. So, there were clearly some unique sporting bits to the Z, just not so much so under the hood.

Speaking of the engine room, our Barn Find is equipped with the sole Z28 power plant, a 175 net HP 350 CI motor (170 net HP in California which is this vehicle’s origin). This engine is known as an LM1 and powered a large number of Chevrolet vehicles including Caprices, station wagons, pickup trucks, Novas and so forth. The seller claims that this Camaro “runs and drives well”.  All California Z28’s in ’79 had automatic three-speed transmissions and this one is no exception.

The interior of this Camaro is a bit worn but not terrible. The seller is very generous with the images that he has provided and you can see all of the rips and tears that are present – all pretty well expected for a 40-year-old survivor. There is an aftermarket radio that has been poorly installed and what I would call a Hardware store style repair that has been performed on the gear selector bezel but nothing here is insurmountable.

Body-wise, this Z looks as you would expect a California car to look (at least one that hasn’t spent its life at the beach). It appears to be free of rot and corrosion though I’m a bit concerned about the rust that has settled in near the A-pillar on top of the dash – indicative of a long-term leak. As with all older cars, the underside should always be checked for soundness. The seller makes no mention of body integrity other than to state that this Camaro has “a few minor scratches and dings with some sign of rust present.” It’s hard to be too judgmental about gaps and body panel alignment on a 40-year-old car when the gaps weren’t too consistent right off of the assembly line – that’s just the way these rolled in ’79.

From my experience, my Z28 handled and maneuvered excellently, solid braking too. On the power side, not much to write home about and mine had a four-speed manual transmission and 3.73 rear gears. The workmanship and parts quality on my car were poor too though I have been told that the Van Nuys cars (which this example is) were higher quality than the Norwood produced Camaros (which mine was). Nevertheless, note the rear spoiler alignment on this example. I had a coworker back in the late seventies who bought a brand new ’79 Z28 and had to have the cylinder heads replaced under warranty – I don’t remember getting to the bottom of that one but it was cause for concern at the time.

I have been watching values on these ’77-’81 Z28’s for a while and see mixed results. By all recognition, I would expect them to move upward but haven’t really seen that happen yet. The Pontiac Trans Am seems to steal all of the air in the room for these late seventies F bodies. So how about you, do you like this vintage Z28 or would you rather hold out for one from a different, more powerful era?


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  1. beaudog

    That filler panel popping up under the rear window and the very poor alignment of the rear spoiler looks like an rear-ender to me. I know panel alignment was an issue but this seems extreme, even for GM cars of this era.

    Still love these Z-28’s though….

    Like 5
    • Chuck Simons

      I think you are correct. We wouldn’t let it out of the plant like that.

      Like 1
  2. harry

    What I don’t understand when it comes to a relatively nice-looking Camaro that the owner would let something like the A-pillar on top of the dash get so messed up? IF they don’t care about that what else did they not care about? makes me pass on a car like this. Whether it is a 4-year-old car or 40-year-old car I know I would not let the A-pillar on top of the dash get that bad. Just poor care on the owners part. It would be a car I would pass on.

    Like 5
  3. Stangalang

    Looks like it might be twisted and not from engine torque…and why would it only be rusting at the base of the windshield? Nice 2nd gen but needs a good inspection me thinks

    Like 3
    • Steve R

      GM cars of this era are notorious for leaking windshields.

      Steve R

      Like 3
      • Rosco

        Definitely not just a GM thing. Have seen plenty of other brands from this era with similar issues.

  4. JoeNYWF64

    Plenty of ’70s F-bodies came with uneven rear spoiler/end caps.
    That Z28 lettering looks custom but restrained – i like it.
    I have never seen lettering like that b4.
    Odd no oil press gage on any ’70’s z28 – yes the silly clock is there instead.

  5. Superdessucke

    I like this color scheme but this thing is rough. It has the wrong stripe kit. As somebody pointed out, the rear spoiler alignment off. And so are the front fenders. Might have gotten smacked at some point in its life.

    The author is absolutely right in that these things were not very well built from the factory but the panel gap is off more than it would have been stock. I wouldn’t buy this without putting it on an alignment rack. These are partial unibodies so once they get hit, it’s very hard to get them perfectly straight again

    Like 2
  6. John S

    These cars make excellent organ donors… In stock form they are gutless but steer & stop great! I have a ’77 Z-28 sub-frame under my Studebaker pick up & it handles really well.

    Like 2
  7. George Mattar

    John S is correct. This vintage of Z handles and stops. Sound good too. But gutless and terribly built by sssembly line workers who in 79 believed the American car industry would flourish forever. I worked at a GM dealer them. These cars new had problems. Lousy panel fit. Terrible paint. Even when rustproofed, remenber Rusty Jones, these Camaros rotted to the Windows. Pass on this twisted heap. GM cars have terrible windshield seals and leaked since the early 60s.

  8. Ronnie

    The decals aren’t original as the Z28 numbers on the stripes side and rear are very cheesy looking. Although the actual stripes look ok the Z28 never was that small nor was it laid in the strip like this.

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