Major Project: 1971 Chevrolet Camaro RS

To see a once-prized classic car that has fallen on hard times is never easy for any enthusiast. To think that the vehicle in question might have befallen the same fate twice is a tragedy. So what does it mean if it happens a third time? Sadly, that is the story behind this 1971 Camaro RS. This once treasured classic is a sad shadow of its former self, but previous owners have already resurrected it in the past. It now suffers from some significant rust problems, and it will take a supreme act of dedication if it is to be revived again. If you think that you could be up for the challenge, you will find the Camaro located in East Greenbush, New York, and listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $8,089, and with the reserve now met, we have to hope that someone is about to give the Camaro another chance at life.

The life of this Placer Gold Camaro has been a long and sad one. Its first owner was a Vietnam veteran who sparingly drove the car until ill health put it beyond his capabilities. He parked the Camaro in a spot where it was exposed to the elements, and it spent many years falling into a state of disrepair. Things took a positive step forward around the mid-1980s. An unknown person (possibly the original owner or a relative) saw the potential that was there and began reviving the RS. They fitted new rear quarter panels and a new hood and then treated the car to a complete repaint. So once again, the Camaro would have been stunning. It had been given a second life, and things were looking up. That person then parked the vehicle in a barn that offered little protection, and this undid most of the hard work. The original owner’s son came into the Camaro’s life in the early 2000s, and he performed only the necessary work to get the car mechanically roadworthy. He drove the car for a single Summer before it was once again parked. This time its location was on a grassed area beside a barn, which offered no protection. It was sometime later that the current owner arrived on the scene. He coaxed the drivetrain back to life, but that’s as far as he has progressed. The level of decay that this classic has suffered is hard on the eyes. When you look beyond the faded paint, you can spot a severely shredded vinyl top. This has trapped moisture that has rotted away large sections of the roof. That’s just the beginning because there is rust in the trunk lid and almost every lower area of the exterior. All of this could be addressed, and we’ve seen Camaros that have looked worse revived in the past. Unfortunately, what we can see is the tip of the iceberg.

The owner says that the Camaro is nowhere near roadworthy and that its physical deterioration means that it could be driven around a yard for a test drive or on and off a trailer for transporting. The floors have significant problems, but the trunk pan is now non-existent. The rear frame rails have almost disappeared, and the rear springs are hanging on by a thread. The harsh reality is that the rails are one decent bump away from shearing off completely. It also appears that the lack of weather protection has resulted in rust beginning to develop in the cowl. None of this is good news, and it all spells dollars leaking from someone’s wallet at a great rate.

When the Camaro was treated to its mid-1980s refresh, the person who undertook the work replaced the seats with ones from a later model. These are showing significant deterioration, and if a restoration is in this car’s future, these would need new foam and covers. There are quite a few trim pieces that could be salvaged if the buyer plans on returning the car to its former glory. The new parts list will be extensive, so a trim kit may be the most cost-effective alternative. It appears that the original owner liked the occasional touch of comfort, which is why this Chevy comes equipped with air conditioning.

I know that you’ve been waiting for at least a shred of good news, and now is the moment that I can finally provide some. It seems that the Camaro is a numbers-matching car. The original owner ordered the Camaro equipped with the L48 version of the venerable 350ci V8 and a Hydramatic transmission. This delivered 270hp and would have launched the RS through the ¼ mile in 16 seconds. The vehicle didn’t run when the owner purchased it, but after replacing the plugs, distributor cap, and rotor, the 350 roared back into life. The owner then performed a basic tune-up, and the car runs and drives. If you have your doubts, take a peek at this YouTube video. The V8 sounds pretty decent, and the vehicle makes it to the end of the owner’s driveway okay. It also seems to verify the owner’s claim that the Camaro starts with the first turn of the key. Interestingly, the odometer shows 26,000 miles. The current owner has no proof that these miles are original, but chasing back through the ownership history reveals no point where anyone has indicated it has rolled over. While I wouldn’t take it as concrete evidence, the fact that the Camaro has spent so much time parked in various locations makes the claim at least remotely plausible. I’ll leave you to decide on that one.

As you’ve seen, this Camaro has led a sad existence, and it will take a dedicated individual if it is ever going to terrorize the tarmac once again. It has potential, and it must have been quite a sight in its prime. So, what do you think? Is there a chance that someone could return the car to its former glory, or is this a case of “three strikes and you’re out?”


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  1. Moparman Member

    DIVE! DIVE! The descriptive pictures of all the rust issues is going to put ANY further restoration effort DEEPLY underwater. It’s amazing that the remnants of the body didn’t collapse while being driven onto the trailer, and I would not be inclined to even do a yard drive. (IMO) The value of the numbers matching drivetrain is negated by the potential costs of rust repair/replacement. GLWTA!! (And to the brave top bidder) :-)

    Like 16
    • Fred W

      I agree 100% with Moparman. DANGER WILL ROBINSON!

      Like 7
  2. Tony Primo

    Growing up in Southern Ontario, this is how most second generation Camaros looked like if daily driven for 7-8 years.

    Like 9
  3. jeffro

    RS means “Rusty Spots”

    Like 8
  4. Raymond

    Rear spoiler is hard to find, take that and the RS nose and bury the rest…

    Like 6
    • Steve R

      The rear spoiler costs as little as $129 plus shipping or $157 free shipping and has been available through restoration suppliers for years.

      The way the nose is warped on the verticals portion of the drivers side suggests the metal substructure is likely rusted, if so it’s wall art. Those are also available new through restoration suppliers.

      Steve R

      Like 7
      • Reese

        Steve, if I’m following along correctly it seems you’re suggesting they go ahead and bury the whole thing. Can’t say I’d argue too strongly with that…

        Like 1
      • Steve R

        Reese, I had a matching numbers SS/RS 4spd with less rust than this and I parted it out because it made so sense to restore it even though I had accumulated a loft fill of NOS sheet metal. So, yes, I think it’s a lost cause.

        Steve R

        Like 4
  5. Roy Blankenship

    Cars are like people. A couple bad decisions will shorten one’s life. Adequate storage would have made a HUGE difference in this car. Very sad…

    Like 6
  6. Tom Stewart

    Oof. VIN donor.

    Like 1
  7. ed casala

    I had this car when in high school. Was well on its way to becoming a pile of rust. The rust on this car I can see scares me, the rust I can’t see terrifies me! Almost tempted to buy it for the emotional bond due to memories in the back seat with my girlfriend. How we managed to do anything back there as small as the space was is one of life’s mysteries. Sadly, this car needs way more than what its worth.
    RIP RS Camaro, we will always have our memories!

    Like 8
  8. martinsane

    Whats scarier than the condition, which is insanely bad, is the fact that it is bid to over 8k!?

    I bought a 70 1/2 RS in 1985 for 1k dollars and it was in great shape and i being 17 at the time drove it like i had stole it (apparentlt i did based on the costs now) and absolutely adored my 2nd gen Camaro and as someone mentioned earlier i fantasize about another as the memories are strong.

    Favorite attributes where the front end obviously. Incredibly iconic nose and those bumperettes awesome. Loved the buckets and upside down u shifter in the console as well as the dash configuration just a sweet car. This one is not however and in a sane world youd have to pay 50 bucks to have the scrapper come get it for the crusher.

  9. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Just a hard body style to find in any shape – what – a 3 year run.

  10. george mattar

    Some fool spent $8,000 on the RMS Titantic. There is so much money floating around to be spent these days. Amazing. Someone bid $4.8 million yesterday for a 71 Hemi Cuda. Owner refused the offer. Incredible. This is a money pit. One of my best friends in college bought a then RUSTY Copper Classic metallic 70 Z28 RS from the orig. owner for $1,800. I thought he was nuts, but in 1979, this is when older Camaros started being noticed. In those good old days of the 70s, you could still buy new GM sheetmetal. He did. He had the car for 30 years and sold it for $35,000.

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