Engine Upgrade: 1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

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By 1979, cars like Chevrolet’s iconic Camaro Z28 felt the pinch. With power figures dropping, top speeds followed suit while ¼ mile ET’s blew out. Buyers became used to this trend and tended to accept it as an inevitability. However, some owners took matters into their own hands and worked to extract improved performance from their classics. That is the case with this 1979 Z28. As you examine this car, you will realize that there is a lot to like about it. You may find that you want it enough to pursue it further. If so, you will find the Camaro listed for sale here on Craigslist. Located in Chandler, Arizona, the owner has set a sale price of $29,800, although he may entertain trades for the right vehicle. I have to say a big thank you to Barn Finder Pat L for spotting this stunning Z28 for us.

When a vehicle has spent its life in a location like Arizona, there’s a better than even chance that it will be rust-free. That is the case with this Z28. Its original steel is remarkably well preserved, and the buyer can be sure they will be leaving their grinder and welder in the cupboard when they park this classic in their workshop. Of course, there can be a price to pay for that dry climate, and this Camaro was no exception. The owner indicates that its original Camel Metallic paint had suffered the rigors of harsh UV rays, so he treated it to a refresh in that original shade in 2015. This new paint has held up exceptionally well and shows a beautiful depth of color and shine. There are few defects or problems worth mentioning, and it cloaks panels that are as straight as an arrow. The distinctive Z28 decals and graphics are in excellent condition, as are the factory alloy wheels. The original owner ordered the vehicle with a T-Top, and this shows no evidence of deterioration or leaking. With spotless glass and trim, this Z28 makes a positive first impression.

The owner doesn’t mention any interior restoration work, so the trim and upholstery may be original. If so, it is another aspect of this car that has survived remarkably well. There is no sign of significant wear or stains, although there is some stretching on the seat bases. The carpet is in a similar state, but I notice that the tops of the door trims are wrinkled. The one thing that raises eyebrows is the cover over the dash. This could be purely for protective purposes, but it may also hide some cracks and other problems that can occur due to UV exposure. If it is cracked and beyond repair, it is not the end of the world. Replacement pads are readily available and generally sell for under $400. Beyond that, there is little that this interior needs. The factory radio has made way for an aftermarket radio/cassette player, but there appear to be no other modifications. While it isn’t loaded to the hilt with optional extras, this Camaro does include air conditioning, power windows, power locks, and a tilt wheel. These features should combine to provide the buyer with a pleasant motoring experience.

I am disappointed that the owner supplies no engine photos because what is under the hood separates this Z28 from mere mortals. As he rightly points out, Chevrolet’s 350ci small-block V8 had become pretty anemic by this point. It delivered 170hp, which was enough to launch an automatic-equipped Camaro through the ¼ mile in a relatively leisurely 17.2 seconds. That figure was about average for any pony car of the era, but its owner sought much more. Therefore, he consigned that original motor to the pages of history and slotted in a GM LT4 Crate Motor. Suddenly the driver could kiss goodbye to 170hp and welcome 330hp with open arms. The impact of this upgrade should be profound and place it on par with the sorts of figures produced by a 1969 Camaro SS with a 396ci big-block under the hood. The ’79 model is marginally lighter, and the power figures run neck-and-neck. Therefore, this classic should sneak into the 14-second bracket over the ¼ mile. For potential buyers, the news is positive. The owner says that this Z28 drives as nicely as it looks, suggesting that it is set to provide its next owner with a satisfying classic motoring experience with a touch of Tabasco for added spice.

For many owners, the glory days of the late 1960s must have seemed a dim memory as they slipped behind the wheel of their 1979 Camaro Z28. That would not be the case with this vehicle because not only does it present beautifully, but it should offer performance to satisfy most enthusiasts. There’s not a lot to criticize, but there’s no doubt that this car would command attention both when stationary and when the loud pedal is pressed. If you find that prospect irresistibly attractive, you may want to pursue this one further. If you do, I could hardly blame you

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. 370zpp 370zppMember

    Too many things covered up in the cabin.
    Same under the hood. The right motor is probably in there – as stated, but along with a generous helping of rust?

    Like 3
  2. Steve Clinton

    1979 Z28s, all bark and no bite.

    Like 2
  3. grant

    30k for a ’79 Camaro? Um, no?

    Like 10
  4. mercury200

    Isn’t a GM LT4 a supercharged 6.2L engine? I doubt this is the case with this Z28.

    Like 1
    • Matt G

      This LT4 is probably the Gen II 350 that was the high performance version of the 90’s LT1.

      Like 6
  5. sparkster

    Too lazy to pull it out of the garage ? ? ? No engine pictures on the ad I looked at. “he just missed Barrett Jackson auction” his quote in the ad perhaps that would have been an eye opener for it value.

    Like 4
    • Steve Clinton

      Barrett Jackson wouldn’t allow him to include the garage.

      Like 1
  6. Stan

    Whats the rearend in these ? Can the diff handle the new hp / tq

    Like 3
    • Steve Makowski

      Great Question Stan!

      Like 1
  7. Ed Casala

    My favorite car in high school, just hated the motor. Wonder if it would pass smog with the new motor? If this was a manual shift, I would be all over this. But not at that price.

    Like 0
  8. RKS

    I would’ve just pulled and built the 350 it was born with and made more than 330 horse.

    Like 3
  9. Derrick

    Automatic. For when you hate to drive, but need to get to the store anyway.

    Like 2
  10. DGMinGA

    “I missed Barrett Jackson…” = i have unrealistic expectations of value of the car I am selling.

    Like 4
  11. PRA4SNW


    Like 0

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