Rolling Project: 1981 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

The second-generation Chevy Camaro enjoyed a long run – 12 years, to be exact. They grew in popularity after their late delay in coming to market in 1970. But, by, 1981, the design was getting tired and new life was on the way the next year. This once-burgundy ’81 Z28 is said to have been a very nice car at one time as the seller has known of it for the past 38 years. But the powertrain is missing as a previous owner never got around to finishing a swap. Now it sits in Enid, Oklahoma, waiting for someone else to bring it back to life. It’s available here on eBay where the current bid is $2,700.

Physically, the 1981 Camaro was a carryover from 1980, and with sales at 126,000 copies, it was far from a record year. The Z28, with its 350 cubic inch V8, was a major part of the demand at 37,000 units. But the Camaro’s were the first to have a Computer Command Control emission system and a lock-up torque converter on the transmission. But neither is relevant here as the motor and tranny were pulled on this car before the seller got it. Since the 350 was watered down at 190 hp, it’s understandable that a previous owner wanted to go with an LS set-up instead.

As the story goes, the seller became aware of this car in high school in 1984. The guy who owned it took way too much care of it, buffing off much of the paint rather than waxing it. In the next 30 years, it changed hands twice and the last owner ran out of money before the LS could get done. That’s when the seller got it and planned to restore the Chevy, but money and life have gotten in the way so perhaps the third time is the charm for this car to have a motor again.

It was a well-equipped Camaro when new, with options including T-Tops, power windows and door locks, factory air conditioning, and so forth. Except for the empty spot under the hood, we’re told everything you see is original – the faded paint, decals, wheels, etc. While there is a little rust and a few dings here and there, the body is said to be reasonably solid. The seller can’t comment on the condition of the trunk as the lock is frozen and he/she can’t get it open. Besides putting in new power, a driveshaft and radiator will also have to be sourced.

What you have here is a roller that is going to need a whole lot of work and money. If you take on such a project, do you follow through with the LS vision or drop in another 350 under the hood, but one that isn’t performance-constrained like so many cars of the 1970s and 1980s? Surprisingly it has the potential of being a $60,000 car, at least according to Hagerty.


  1. Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

    Not seeing the value in a rotisserie restoration, with so much missing / to be replaced. Glad to be proven wrong by anyone with vision and deep pockets, though…

    Like 5
    • Mike B

      On something like this, I wouldn’t bother with a rotisserie. Sort it cosmetically, drop in a power train of your choice, and drive it.

    • Ike Onick

      It has already been “rotisseried” as this unit has been baked, broiled, and has a huge fork stuck in it. Its final act will be to go back into the furnace and transform into 50 LG washing machines.

      Like 7
      • Mike



        Like 1
  2. Tom

    I just don’t get it why are these cars just rat boxes!!
    I had cars sitting for along time and never looked like this.
    My 2000 grand am gt coupe was sitting for 10 years outside had a cover on it intermittently and still looks new. I guess the owners just did not care and let them rot…

    Like 6
  3. Ike Onick

    You know what rolls downhill, right?

    Like 2
  4. Melton Mooney

    Funny, I lived in that small Oklahoma town for 20 some years. Some of those pics were taken at the intersection of Willow and 4th streets. We scrounged up a lot of interesting cars from that region over the years. My 70 challenger T/A was sold new there.

    If for some inexplicable reason you find yourself in that area, there is a remarkable, primarily Ford museum close by:
    Hajek Motorsports Museum.
    It’s worth googling, or checking out on youtube even if you’re not that into Fords.

    As for this subject camaro, I’m going to say that it was once owned by a guy named Terry and that it has hail damage. Either of those is a safe bet in northwest Oklahoma.

    Like 3
  5. Troy

    Flintstones powerd Camaro for $2700 bucks what could possibly go wrong. In my 20s I would have jumped at the chance and dropped a junkyard drivetrain in and just had fun with it now that I have grandkids in their 20s I look at this and just think I don’t have what it’s going to take to save it

    Like 1
  6. George Birth

    This definitely has to potential to be a $60,000. Car. Especially after you pour $60K into restoring it.

    Like 2
  7. Gk

    It has the potential to be a $20,000 car after putting $50,000 into it.

    Like 4
  8. Ike Onick

    I think the minty fresh 1978 Z-28 shown here a few weeks ago on ebay priced at $48,000 did not sell.

  9. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    SOLD for $3,000.

  10. Robert West

    Another Camaro with no engine. Who would remove a Camaro engine and use it in another car?

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