Your High School Sweetheart: 1986 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z

By Jeff Bennett

As we get older, it is natural to reflect on missed opportunities and wonder about the direction our lives might have taken if we took a different fork in the road.  For automobile enthusiasts, most of us are drawn to our first cars as if they were our first loves.  Others of us were indifferent about our first cars, but are still head over heels about the dream cars in high school.  A trip to the back row of a seedy used car lot is usually a good way to put those feelings to rest.  However, reality, with all its warts, can deliver a surprise on occasion.  This car is one of those shocking glimpses at a lost love that can turn that spark back into a flame.  This 1986 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z, found on EBay with a buy it now price of $37,900, is the high school love of many collectors around my age.  However, this lost beauty, located in Plymouth, Michigan, hasn’t lost any of its luster over the years.

Somehow, this IROC-Z has survived for the past 31 years in an almost untouched condition.  Having served just two owners, and showing just 1,477 miles on the odometer, this one looks like it just rolled out of a time machine.  I wish we knew the story on this one, but the seller has given us no clues concerning why it is in such good condition.  While we often see “collector’s editions” and “limited editions” cocooned away for years in hopes of a big payoff, this Camaro is not a rare car by any means.  IROCs were very much sought after when they were new, and there are special ones around such as the race bred 1LE option models that collectors are tracking down even as you read this, but they generally weren’t the kind of car you hid away.

At any rate, it is nice to see one that has been preserved.  So many of them have been used, abused, beaten to death, and driven into the ground 1/4 mile at a time.  Finding a good third generation Camaro is hard to do, and collectors and enthusiasts have already begun driving the market up on the few great examples that occasionally pop up.  This one, a 1986 model, doesn’t seem to be overly optioned.  It has the standard 305 cubic inch Chevrolet small block V-8 and an automatic transmission.  Unfortunately, the 350 option didn’t arrive until 1987.  The ad doesn’t say of it has the handling package, but you likely won’t miss it.  Its not as if the enhanced handling package equipped cars are easy on the kidneys!

Inside, we see a pretty run of the mill Camaro interior.  The seats appear to be pretty basic, the stereo doesn’t have an equalizer, and even the windows are hand cranked.  It does have floor mats, cruise control, and air conditioning.  All and all, it is equipped with the usual plastic, velour, and vinyl interior that car magazines belittled General Motors about at every opportunity during this decade.  They caught a lot of grief for cheap interiors on otherwise attractive cars, and it was, for the most part, warranted.  Styling and drivetrain can only take you so far in a competitive market.

Under the hood is the usual tuned port injected V-8 that IROCs were blessed with as standard equipment.  The good news for 1986 was that this engine now had a one piece rear main seal to correct the previous leaky two piece seal that soiled driveways all over North America.  I don’t have to tell you what a fantastic engine the small block Chevrolet V-8 is, but I will warn you that working on one in a Camaro or Firebird of this vintage requires the renting of a contortionist to get at some of the parts.  Now that the circus is no more, prices have gone down for contortionists, thus lowering your maintenance costs.  I doubt that you’ll have many problems with this particular V-8, but sitting for so long may have had a detrimental effect on the fuel system.  The first thing I would do on this one is flush out the fuel tank, fuel lines, and change any filters before firing it up and driving it out of pushing range of the house.  If you end up with it, and have to pull the fuel injection unit, it looks like it could use some TLC.  I have seen aluminum motorcycle parts restored to a new shine using a soda blaster, and I’d guess it would work well here to bring this engine compartment back to new condition.

Underneath, we see everything is in tip top shape as well.  It may have been detailed, but I don’t see any signs of damage or even mud.  The Goodyear “Gatorback” tires look brand new, and the exhaust exhibits just a hint of surface rust.  The transmission pan looks perfect as well, but seeing it makes me wonder if the seals will give you problems after sitting so long.  Automatic transmissions are notorious for not working perfectly after extended periods of rest, so buyer beware.

While there are things to be careful of on cars with insanely low mileage that have sat for extended periods of time, these are relatively minor concerns in comparison to restoring a like car in rough shape.  The styling of these Camaros is just amazing, especially when you hold them up in comparison to other cars of this era.  Like a song you hear for the first time and just know that it will be a hit for the ages, these cars are just so perfect to the eyes.  It is good to see that one has survived in such wonderful condition, and I hope whoever buys it keeps it in this condition.  This is the kind of car that you could justify knocking out a hole in your living room wall to put it inside, as you would a piece of artwork, so you could stare at it for hours.  You can’t go back to the eighties again, but you can go back to first loves in rare instances such as this.

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Comments

  1. Anthony R in RI

    Jeff, You summarized perfectly ….cheap interiors on otherwise attractive cars. Give me a nice Gen 2 any day over a Gen 3.

    7+
    • Jim

      Mine would have been a 1967 4-speed with a 327ci (old school)

      3+
  2. Howard A Member

    While I never cared for this style Camaro, or any style from the original, for that matter, there’s no disputing the mileage on this one. Considering where it’s arch rival, Mustang was, this was about as sporty as you could get in ’86 without going the Corvette route.

    6+
  3. John Holden

    How true, Jeff, when you say “As we get older, it is natural to reflect on missed opportunities and wonder about the direction our lives might have taken if we took a different fork in the road”. I’m 71 and back in 1981 I bought a 1961 Allemano-bodied Maserati 5000 GT (serial No. 046) for about USD 20,000 in Venezuela. It never ran due to Lucas (!!) fuel injection problems and I was delighted to exchange it about 2 years later for a bog-standard nice, clean – and efficient – Mercedes Benz 280. 2 years later the Maserati was sold at auction in Belgium for USD 850,000!! I’m trying to attach the only photo I have left of what would indeed have been a life-altering opportunity.
    I expect other readers have had similar experiences that they’d maybe like to share?

    9+
    • MIkeG
      0
    • Alford Pouse

      John I had 2 shots LOL When I got back from 1st tour of duty had a chance on a 61 190SL for $1500 with a bad starter. then a Ferrari 275GTB for $5000, it needed some cleaning and odd and end minor things ran good though. I ended up choosing option 3 which didn’t last long, got married!

      2+
  4. monty

    Nice but not 37K nice.

    4+
  5. Chris

    Nice car. Are they this expensive now? My Uncle had one new (same color as this one) and had it at the dealer for warranty. When the intake was off, the mechanic dropped a screw in the motor and did not realize it until he started it. Blew up the motor with about 10k on it. My uncle gave them a new 350 short block, and the dealer swapped it out for free, so he could get the 45 cuin upgrade. He let me drive it when I was 16 and it was pretty awesome. He sold it 10 years later and I was bummed I missed the opportunity to buy it.

    2+
  6. Nova Scotian

    Love to rock the iroc. This is one seriously mint car. So cool! You’d have to be careful with it, cruising it on sunny days. At least that’s what I’d do with it. Buy and drive!

    5+
  7. Dan

    I have a red 1990 IROC I bought new, has 52,000 miles now, no T-tops and the 350 engine. Never seen salt or snow, I was offered $17,000 for it awhile back, told the guy “no”….

    4+
    • Adam

      My wife has a 1989 Iroc, about 100k miles, tops, 5.7 and mechanically the car is perfect. The red paint has faded and flaked. Trying to figure out what to do with it.

      2+
      • Clinton

        You could sell it to me cheap. Really where are you located?

        1+
  8. Steve

    I graduated from high school in 89. I went to a small school, and the only IROC I knew of was a red one a guy had. We were rural and most everyone had trucks.(I had a 71 El Camino). This would be cool to show up to my 30th reunion in. Makes me feel like I have a “phantom’ mullet…

    3+
  9. Pa Tina

    It should say “Have Your Head Examined Price” of $37,900.

    3+
  10. EJB

    There used to be a guy in my town (within the last 5 yrs) that had a blue IROC convertible. The top was fabric and the wheels were chrome (aftermarket or just chromed originals I don’t know. I always thought it looked pretty slick and I’m a Mustang guy.

    When I was in HS I still wanted one but at that time they were new cars on the dealers lots.

    0
    • CarNut from Winnipeg

      There’s one just like that near me in Winnipeg. I see – and hear – it a few times each summer.

      0
      • Allen Wrench

        All that is missing is the Canadian Tuxedo and the mullet

        0
  11. John Holden

    Yes, MlkG, it is, as you can read in Bonham’s ad.: “Starting from the sound and complete car found in Venezuela, etc.”
    Top speed 168 mph (in 1961) 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds. The first one (Touring-bodied) was made for the Shah of Persia. They used ex-competition 5 liter engines (300 bhp) after Maserati abandoned grand prix racing, thanks, ironically enough to the disastrous results with their 450Ss at the Venezuelan Grand Prix in 1957, after which “Two weeks after the race, Maserati announced that a controlled administration was taking over the management of the company and that the racing department, Officine Alfieri Maserati, was closed”.
    I think they only made 30 or so, with many different and beautiful bodies (Frua, Pininfarina, Touring, Allemano and others).
    Selling in 2011, I see, for USD 300,000 less than it was in the mid-late seventies.
    I only have one poor photo but for some reason can’t manage to attach it.

    1+
  12. thetrick59

    38K for a 305?????

    4+
  13. Drew Babich

    Had a 92 rs tbi 305….how could you make a 5.0L that only makes 170 hp??? In 1992!!! Automatic too.

    I got a free paint job after taking it to macco after getting rear ended. After a few trips back to maaco it came out pretty sweet. I added the daytona cowl induction hood and the z28 spoiler.

    I wish the car had a five speed. It sure looked more exciting then it really was to drive. But it was BEAUTIFUL to me. I need to find pictures of it.

    I then got miatas, corvettes and subarus that were ten times more fun to drive, but that car always turned me seeing it in the parking lot.

    1+
  14. fulltoy1

    1476 Miles om it is hard to believe with 2 Owners?? Sounds like the ODO was changed and that would make it a TMU True Miles Unkown. I’m sorry but I can’t see it being a 2 owner car and each owner drove it 700 miles?

    2+
  15. Rustytech

    No doubt this is one of the best examples I’ve seen in a couple years, but there are tons of these around that are still in good usable condition for far less money. Personally I’d rather have a decent 60k mile driver for $12 to $15k than this over priced car that’s good for nothing but bragging rights.

    3+
  16. Tom Member

    Great car for a museum…..not a ton of money, it will appreciate. Can’t drive it without killing the value. Again, great specimen for a collection or museum.

    Yep 305 sucked. I had an 89 convertible. I don’t regret it. I also don’t regret selling it.

    0
  17. Stu

    No stick and only 190 horsepower makes me really, really sleepy… zzzzzzzzzzzz

    1+
  18. Thomas

    Why does nearly everyone overlook the best offer option on eBay listings that have a lay down the crack pipe buy it now.?

    0
  19. Troy S.

    Wow, Miami vice, new wave, greed is good, and too much hairspray! Eighties again? No way. And definitely not for 38000 dollars!

    0
  20. Jared

    has no figured out yet this is not a 1,476 mile car? It clearly has 101,476
    miles on it. If you look at the photo’s under the car the exhaust has some deterioration on it. A car with that low miles parked in a garage would not have any. Also looks to me like they resprayed under the car some to make it look better.
    I do know someone who has legit low mile camaro’s. one is a 1981 or 1982 z28 with only about 60,000 miles on it And the other is a iroc with under 90,000. but they have both been parked in a storage building for over 25 years so the dust needs cleaned off and a few other minor things.

    1+
  21. Jared

    my mistake the 2nd gen was a 1980 or 1981 with the air induction hood and painted blue with white stripes.

    0
  22. Steve Visek

    Crack pipe.

    1+
  23. Pa Tina

    If my high school sweetheart memories were worth $37,000 , I would have been dead at age 19 from loss of fluids.

    1+
  24. DG

    Low mileage or not, at the end of the day you’re buying an ’86 IROC. Perhaps the nicest one on the planet, but still not worth nearly $40K. I never liked the early ones. No 350, no convertible, no 1LE (if you can find one).

    0
  25. Keith

    When I was in high school in the late 80’s and early 90’s, this is what everyone at my school wanted.
    “I remember my first car never forget it
    A candy apple red I-roc with windows deep tinted
    Imagine red rims but if that wasn’t enough
    It had a car phone for when I wanted to reach out and touch”
    –the Fresh Prince, 1990.

    0

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