Low Cost High Performance: 1989 Camaro IROC-Z

Sometimes it is hard to see the dream cars of your youth roll past the 25 year marker that signifies that they are an “antique.”  Yet, there are now a number third generation Camaros running around with antique or collectible plates bolted on their rumps.  While it may be hard to believe, the advanced age of these cars combined with the number of them still out there has resulted in a few that could be considered bargains.  Take for example this 1989 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z found on Craigslist in the scenic city of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  While not bothering to take the car you have for sale off of the jack stands kind of hurts the seller’s profit potential, this one may end up to be a bargain for the buyer at just $4500 or best offer.

Before we go any further, you need to know two things.  The first is that this car is in the perfect color combination as ordained by the Bandit himself in 1977: black with gold trim.  American muscle cars always look better in that black sheep color combination.  The second thing you need to know is that this one is packing the optional 350 cubic inch small block V-8 under the hood.  Putting out 240 horsepower and 330 lbs.-ft of torque, this engine had more than enough oomph to push similar Camaros to the 140+mph top speeds reported in the enthusiast magazines of the time.

While it is on jack stands, the seller states that it needs just tires and exhaust work, and that it only has 89,000 miles on the odometer.  The car is equipped with a four speed overdrive automatic transmission, power windows and locks, air conditioning, cruise control, and an aftermarket radio.  There is no mention of other desirable options, such as a limited slip differential, four wheel disc brakes, or an oil cooler.  However, being that the car was pretty well optioned, it would be worth a look to see if it was equipped with one or all of these options.

The seller further states that the body and paint are “straight,” and, from the pictures, everything looks to be in good shape on the outside.  It would have been nice to have pictures of a cleaned and detailed car, but I guess we have to look through the dust to see whatever we can.  One thing that is evident is an aftermarket sunroof.  To many, that just kills the value, and it may be why an otherwise nice IROC is selling for a fairly low price.  If you buy it, it might be a good idea to buy a roof from a junkyard and hoard it away.  Cheap first and second generation Camaros seemed to have no end just a few years ago, and now prices are climbing to unheard of heights.  It won’t be long before cars like this are commanding big money and being restored.  That uncut roof may come in handy.

Inside, we see another reason why the price isn’t too danged high.  The dash is cracked quite a bit, but there are dash caps out there to make it look presentable if you intend to use the car as a driver rather than a show queen.  While the gold cloth upholstery looks to be free of rips and major fading, it could certainly use a deep cleaning, as could the carpet.  The armrest seems to have a crack in it as well, but the leather wrapped steering wheel appears to be in excellent shape.

While the jack stand pictures leave us with a lot of questions, I think this IROC is worth a look.  The price is right, the color and engine are perfect, and the fairly low mileage combined with the impressive number of options make for a very nice car.  The dash and the sunroof detract from the overall value, but the real value in these cars is in how much fun they are to drive.  They are solid cars at speed, and the aftermarket offers a number of handling and power upgrades that would make this car hard for even modern sports cars to handle.  Some elbow grease and steady, dedicated improvements could turn this black beauty into a car that an enthusiast could be proud of at a fraction of the cost of a new Camaro.


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  1. ToddQ

    Having an ’87 Camaro myself, I do enjoy driving it a lot! The handling is on par with any modern car. Though in this one listed, that engine will be anemic, the ’80s were not kind to horsepower. As to the sunroof, while many do hate them and feel they lower the value, the T-Tops were a nightmare to keep leak free. This may be easier to keep water-tight. I have often thought of putting one in mine.

    • TriPowerVette

      +ToddQ – Thank you, sir. I got eaten alive for taking issue with the author of an article on another thread, who wrote that a 1984 Mustang had “plenty of grunt” with 223 H.P.! You have rightly said that 240 H.P. doesn’t cut it.

      You are also correct; those IROCs were excellent handlers… that 350 engine had the potential for 375-400 H.P. without supercharging, or any really exotic mods.

      It is sad, but true, but the mid- late 1970’s through the mid- late 1980’s were just the Automotive Dark Ages for most performance metrics. The shining light was handling, which made strides during the time.

      Wish I could give you more than 1 thumbs up. Wish Mustang fanatics could buy a clue.

      • ToddQ

        Thank you good sir!

        Yeah, 240 HP is nothing in a modern car. Luckily for these Thirdgens, you can bolt in an LS engine and buy plenty of go-fast parts for cheap.

        I run a large Camaro group on Facebook, and they don’t often have a clue either ;)

  2. edh

    I think of how I liked these back in my younger days and that’s when I realize how naive I was back then.

    • jdjonesdr

      Amazing. Me too. Now I just want a 66 convertible.


    Dime a dozen. This one is screaming for an LS swap

    • TriPowerVette

      +OIL SLICK – Respectfully disagree. In the same way that 1974 454 Corvettes don’t need an LS swap (although intriguing), mid-late 1980’s IROC Camaros don’t either.

      The early- mid 1970’s 454 was a complete dog in stock form, but it was, after all, a BBC. Properly upgraded, it would easily produce 450-500 H.P. without any exotic parts.

      The 350 in the IROC was the same (only in mouse form). It will make as much H.P. as your wallet can stand, easily exceeding 350 horses on a modest budget.

      • OIL SLICK

        You have your OPINION and I can have mine. I would LS swap it all day. This ain’t no Vette

      • FortErieRocks

        My 88 350 IROC is a beast all I’ve done to it is a set of shorty headers with 2 1/2 Borla Atak mufflers and a mild Isky cam, K&N filter and it has to be 275-300HP with just those easy upgrades. I also have an 84 base model V6 which I’m currently rebuilding a Corvette 327 and a 4 speed for, going to leave it original paint with the stock 14 inch wheels and have fun with it.

      • FortErieRocks

        My Berlinetta

    • Steve R

      Why pay $4,500 when all you need is a roller with a blown up or missing engine. The price is probably too high for the car as it sits even if you are planning on using the original drivetrain.

      As someone else stated, the tacky sunroof makes the car unacceptable.

      Steve R


    Also by the time you pour money into that trefiddy I.E. heads, manifold, fuel system and engine work you will be way past the cost of a used LS. Why do you think so many guys run em? CHEEEP

  5. PaulG

    The TPI engine runs well enough for 90% of the people that enjoy these cars.
    Leave it as stock as possible, drive it as you like, and in 5-10 years it’ll pay dividends.

  6. ToddQ

    With the hole in the roof, it will never be stock. PaulG is right, most people will enjoy it as-is. OIL SLICK is also right, the LS swap is cheap! However, OIL SLICK is also wrong, there are some super cheap mods you can do to get more horsepower out of that TPI 350. There are MANY options for these cars out there!

    • TriPowerVette

      Thumbs up.


      I don’t care what kind of cheap mods you do as it will never have as much power as an LS

      • Steve R

        How much did your last LS swap cost to complete, including mounts, headers, oil pan, wiring, accessory drive, etc.? What did you put it in?

        Steve R

      • TriPowerVette

        +Steve R – Thank you, sir. You are here, the voice of reason.

      • ToddQ

        OIL SLICK, I never said “as much horsepower”. And not everyone wants to do an LS swap. Like I said, many options with these :)

    • Jim

      Its NOT cheap to do an LS swap. Never mind the cost of all the items needed to mount it and make it run- The LS motor/tranny is not cheap especially compared to throwing go- fast parts on the existing combination. These parts for Gen 1 small blocks that are everywhere and cheap because everybody is swapping LS. Im restoring an 84 Camaro- and dang, its to the point id rather build a wicked traditional small block just to annoy all of these people who can only parrot every Car Craft magazine published since the late 90s “do an LS swap!” “do an LS swap!”

  7. ToddQ

    Ugh! Sold already! I hope someone out there really gets to enjoy that car!

    Makes me want to get mine roadworthy again ASAP! :)

  8. Rock On Member

    Almost 20 comments and nobody mentioned mullets or gold chains. Impressive!

  9. irocrobb

    Most will disagree with me,but I think in the next 10 years they will be a lot more money to buy. I have 2 Irocs that I have owned for 16 and 23 years. No chance I will ever sell them. I have noticed the last couple years I see to gert lots of nice comments.

  10. Dan

    Ordered an ’87 new w/5.7 (350tpi) motor & loaded, including the rear lovers. Awesome car I sold after owning it 18 years. It had 20,200 original miles on it and had never been stored outside over night and NEVER in the rain 1 time.

    Like 1
  11. Jim

    Its NOT cheap to do an LS swap. Never mind the cost of all the items needed to mount it and make it run- The LS motor/tranny is not cheap especially compared to throwing go- fast parts on the existing combination. These parts for Gen 1 small blocks that are everywhere and cheap because everybody is swapping LS. Im restoring an 84 Camaro- and dang, its to the point id rather build a wicked traditional small block just to annoy all of these people who can only parrot every Car Craft magazine published since the late 90s “do an LS swap!” “do an LS swap!”

  12. Maestro1

    If the car is sold already, it’s our loss, it’s a car with lots of potential and the roof idea is excellent. This is a very sexy driver. And I’m not a Camaro fan.

  13. Richard Jenkins

    I’d leave the drive train as is & modify it with simple bolt on parts to wake it up & make it a modern powerhouse! That’s the thing with Chevy mouse & rats, it don’t take much to win the race.

  14. gaspumpchas

    Iroc-incapable of racing other cars……

  15. Digitaluser32

    Great car. I was born in 1980 and always like the late 80s camaros and the 92 mustang. I had a 68 mustang with original 289. Wasn’t fast but was fun. Now I have a 5th gen camaro SS2. Fast and fun. I’d live to start restoring one if my childhood dream cars and leave every thing as close to stock as possible.

    • TriPowerVette

      +Digitaluser32 – Not to contradict your memory, but in 1968 the small V8 for the Mustang was a 302. I believe 1967 was the last year for 289. It is 6 of one and 1/2 dozen of another.

      They are essentially the same engine. Just more emissions on the 1968. I won my class, N/S, at Beeline Dragway in my 4-speed fastback. The small V8 could be made to perform. Even the 6, with a few Kay Sissel pieces was entertaining.

  16. Fiete T.

    I have a perfect dash pad for a 3rd gen F-body. About 2 minutes to pull, paid $30 or $35 bucks for it. For giggles, put it on the local CL for $175. After a few pings from folks, decided to just put up in my shed rafters- even if it gets pitched in the future, I’ll have the satisfaction of not selling for $50 or trading for a pair of used 15″ tires.

  17. Robert

    I love my 82iroc Z28 my dad bought it new in 1982 the body style did not change the hood did.good car gas mileage sucks.but it’s not my daily driver.

  18. Z28

    Love the ls1 engine in the Camaro 1999 z28 . My dad left me his and love driving it almost as much as my benz -cls 55 amg

  19. Z28

    All stock ,except flowmaster exhaust

    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      I had a ’99 Z, bought brand new off the showroom floor in 2000, loaded with everything the dealer could throw on it.
      Sold it when our first kid arrived. Both my wife and I still miss it.
      I should dig up a picture and post it.

  20. joeinthousandoaks

    I used to smoke these when they were new at the stop lights with my stock 240Z.

  21. TriPowerVette

    +joeinthousandoaks – Just say NO to drugs, buddy. We’re here for ya.

    • joeinthousandoaks

      LOL, No joke! A nearly stock 240Z. BTW, TriPower, I now have 2 big block Corvettes

      • TriPowerVette

        +joeinthousandoaks – I just knew you were a man of discernment and taste (with a notable exception). My brother had a 240Z. My friend had a 300ZX. And my ex-girlfriend had a 260Z.

        I am very familiar with the type.

        They’re best with SBC’s or SBF’s installed. Gave ya a thumbs up for sportsmanship.

  22. Hatter

    The 3rd gens have the t-top support beam built into the roof structure. An aftermarket sunroof like this means it’s been cut and the roof structure at the very least is weakened. I wouldn’t touch this car with a 10 foot pole.

  23. Scott Sabinson

    Just finish the job and cut the roof all the way off. This is my 92 WS6 Trans Am 5 speed which is pretty rare (with the manual trans.). Mine is only a 305 and it’s a replacement at that so I’ll probably be doing an LS/T56 swap on it (only because it’s not a matching numbers car). The only reason the LS swap is so popular is because GM put them in almost every full size car up until the last couple of years and they’re still putting them in nearly every full size truck so supply is not an issue and the aftermarket support also makes it easy with a wide variety of plug and play wire harnesses available including third gen F bodies. BTW, all 3rd gens are antiques now. Cars from 1992 are 25 years old.

  24. M.

    I had an 89 Iroc-Z28 with T-tops and the 350 and a 5 speed in the mid 90’s. I don’t know if it was just mine or what, but it blew 3 radiators in the first summer I had it. Replaced the entire coming sure twice. Rumor I heard was the cooling passages in the blocks were too small for hot climates. Lived in central Cali at the time and regularly had +100 degree days. When I started watching I’d see late 80’s Camaros at stop lights in the sumer with leaking radiators. Got tied of it and turned it back into the finance company as a lemon. It was fun when it worked, but basically undrivable several months out of the year.

  25. TriPowerVette

    @M. – There is no fun like the fun of driving a high performance car, not by the tach, or even the oil pressure, but by the temp gauge. (Sometimes you have to drive by the gas gauge, especially in the dual-quad, and tri-power cars.) It seems that was chronic for my 427 Corvettes. I had an XK-E that honest-to-gosh overheated in the middle of a rain storm!

    My Mopars and Fords never seemed to have the problem.

    Arizona summers are brutal on cars (or anything) that is heat sensitive.

    One night, the woman who later became my wife and I were in line at the drive-in theater, and my butt was cutting doughnuts in the seat as I watched the temp gauge slowly creep toward what I knew was coming. Finally, in near panic, we had to pull out of line and wait for the car to cool down.

    Needless to say, we got a lousy spot in the movie when we finally went in.

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