Numbers Matching Z28: 1981 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

The owner of this 1981 Camaro Z28 refers to it as a diamond in the rough, and that is probably a fair assessment. The paint is looking tired, but under that ruined paint hides a fairly solid car with a healthy heart. The Camaro is located in Brook Park, Ohio, and is listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding is currently sitting at $5,600, and with the reserve having been met, it appears that the Camaro is ready to head to a new home. The big question is, will it be yours?

The original Dark Blue paint on the Camaro is starting to look pretty tired, but the car itself appears to be quite straight. Rust appears to be confined to the rear valance, which is pretty common on both the Camaro and the Firebird. However, it actually isn’t too bad and should be relatively easy to fix. The rest of the photos indicate that this is the only rust, with the rest of the Camaro looking very clean. The owner points out that the doors also open and close cleanly, with no sign of sagging. This is good news, as with such heavy doors on the Camaro, the hinges and their mounting points can take a bit of a beating over the years.

The interior of the Camaro has stood up quite well over the last 38-years. Plastic trim from this era has a tendency to become brittle and to also begin to crumble. the dash pad is cracked, and the kick panels are heavily faded, but the rest of the interior looks pretty good. Better still, everything inside the Camaro works as it should. Even the factory 8-track player functions and the owner says that the sound quality is actually very nice.

Thanks to tightening emissions regulations, the 1981 Camaro Z28 was no longer the fire-breather that it had been only 10-years before. However, performance figures were still reasonable, but not startling. This particular Camaro is a numbers-matching car, and it is also said to be in good mechanical health. What you get is a 350ci V8 engine, a 3-speed automatic transmission, along with power steering and power brakes. It appears that the car is in terrific mechanical condition, as the owner says that the engine runs nicely, the transmission shifts firmly and cleanly, while the steering, brakes, and suspension all feel nice and tight. It looks like there’s nothing to do but to climb aboard and enjoy the ride.

This Camaro Z28 marks the end of the line for the 2nd Generation Camaro, which was first introduced in 1970. By 1981, performance figures had dropped sharply from the car’s halcyon days, and the ongoing viability of the Camaro was hanging in the balance. The Camaro survived, but the new car was a very different vehicle. Maybe this isn’t the most desirable Camaro ever built, but these are still a competent car with rugged good looks. This one looks like a fairly solid example, and for someone looking to take on a project in their own home workshop, this could be a strong candidate.


  1. Sandy Claws

    Didn’t like these when new, but sure like them now.

    Like 7
  2. Boatman Member

    Looks like a Delco cassette player to me.

    Like 2
    • The chucker

      Agreed…even in 1981, 8 tracks were pretty much done.

      Like 2
      • Lynn Dockey Member

        I bought a new car in 80 and I had a choice of cassette or 8 track. Being that all my music was 8 tracks that’s what I picked. Just like VHS or beta.

        Like 1
  3. Jack M.

    Looks like a nice unmolested example. Should be good to go with new paint. Bargain if it stays under $8,000.

    Like 5
  4. bull

    No “Chilly Wind” on this car.

    BIG Downer in today’s 70’s vintage Camaro Market.

    Like 1
  5. Arthell64 Member

    The 80 and 81 z28’s was my camaros. It was kind of a big deal for a young guy to have one of these in the early eighties. They got the stripes, wheels and air induction scoop right those years. I like the color combo on this car. After 79 the trans am sucked and the z28 was all there was in 80 and 81. I kind of wanted a new x11. Glad my dad didn’t let that happen.

    Like 5
  6. A.J.

    You want the 80 which has the 350/stick. Not available in 81, not to mention funky electronics introduced in 81.

    • Superdessucke

      If stock, this will have the Computer Command Control (CCC), which was new in all GM vehicles except diesels in 1981. I think in this early form it just consisted of a computer controlled carb and distributor. Also the first Camaro with the dreaded “Check Engine” light.

      Like 4
  7. JoeNYWF64

    Odd that Chevy closed up the front compartment of the console under the radio in later years of the 2nd gen. Why pay the costs to tool up a less useful console?
    Can’t tell if this motor has(or should have) an emissions air pump.

    Like 2
    • Arthell64 Member

      The closed up console is where the computer was located in 81. 1981 also had the lock up convertor that would shake the whole car when it locked up. 1980 still had the 350 4speed but the transmission had a funky lower gear ratio with a 308 rear gear. 1979 was the last of the 373 gears with a 4 speed.

      Like 2
      • JoeNYWF64

        With the short stroke of the chevy small block & a 3:73 rear & non overdrive automatic or manual, i would imagine this thing would rev like a son of a gun at 70 mph.
        I believe as late as ’74, the z28 350 still had some heavy duty parts inside the motor, but wasn’t the ’79 350 a mere “passenger car” motor inside? I would imagine it would not be difficult to blow that engine with a 3:73 rear & the 4 speed manual.
        Top speed can’t be very high either.
        I wonder if Chevy considered massaging it’s 400 small block for use in the z28 & vette to compensate for emission controls.
        The ’77 z28 with it’s unique & not bad looking BODY colored metal bumpers oddly is more than 2 inches shorter than ’78-’81 camaros.

  8. Charles Parker

    Did purchase a 79 Firebird right out of high school. Couldn’t afford the $8000 price for an Esprit which was the lowest trim our Pontiac dealer stocked. I ordered a base Firebird with 3 speed manual V-6, but had spoiler, rally wheels and white letter tires. $6300. In 1985, I traded it for a 1985 Citation X11 which I still have and drive on occasion.

  9. Lucky strike

    Of course it’s a number matching car in the 1980s no one took engines out and replace them the way they did in the 60s and 70s that 350 engine is only pushing like 180 horsepower

    • Arthell64 Member

      I am one of the guilty ones that swapped out the engine on many 1979-81 Z28’s and I had many friends that did the same. Back in the early 80’s you could buy 350 4 bolt main blocks cheap. We would pull the original 350 and usually sell it to help fund the new engine. We put 30 over flat-top trw pistons, 1970 LT-1 heads, Crane cam, alum intake, holley 750 and a set of headers. This combo with a BW 4 speed and 373 or 410 gears was pretty fast for the time. In the later 80’s we started putting the 400 crank in the 350’s which really increased bottom end torque.

      Like 1
  10. Tom

    Looks like a non-A/C car as it has vents in kick panels. Find that odd for a Z28. Noticed there are no photos of dash from driver’s side where ventilation controls are located.

    I had a 1981 Z28 I purchased new. The 350 had bad lifters that failed scoring the timing chain & gear. GM paid half of the repair. Got rid of it shortly after.

    If I was a buyer would want to see documentation of all prior repairs.

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