The Year Of Return: 1977 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

Disclosure: This site may receive compensation from some link clicks and purchases.

I have wanted to cover a 1977 Z28 for the longest time! I actually ordered a new one in March of ’77, kept it for three years, and sold it – more on that later. I was really excited about it and was happy to see the Z28 return to the Camaro line-up, especially considering what was going on in ’77 as I opined yesterday. So here’s my trip down memory lane, let’s see how it feels. This sharp-looking example is located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $13,800, reserve not yet met. Thanks, once again, to Larry D for this find and for allowing me a little nostalgia!

The ’77 Z28 was actually called a ‘77.5 Z28 because it was introduced in February of 1977, but they are titled as 1977 models. Yes, it had ’70s stripes and spoilers but it had a lot of unique “Z” class components like enhanced spring rates, larger front and rear anti-sway bars, 15″ wheels (instead of the Camaro’s standard 14″ rollers), either a 3.73 or 3.42 differential ratio, depending on the transmission selection, instead of a max. ratio of 3.08 and a Borg-Warner Super T-10 four-speed manual usurping the sloppy, hap-hazard Saginaw unit forced upon more pedestrian Camaros. This reintroduction was big news and a huge breath of fresh air! Pontiac essentially had the pony car market, the real pony car market, to themselves and they were killing it with the Firebird/Trans Am. There was room for a competitor! And I had visions of a reincarnated ’74 Z dancing in my head. It didn’t turn out that way.

The seller states that this Z28 is extremely rare, it’s not, there were about 14K produced at the Norwood, Ohio and Van Nuys, California plants in ’77. And he even states that further into the listing. This example is finished in “promotional” white (actually Antique White in Chevyspeak) as that was the color chosen for showcasing this reborn icon. Other colors were black, brown, red, yellow, and silver. The thing that I disliked the most about the exterior appearance was color keying the wheels to exterior hue – white, in particular, was a turn-off for me (I chose silver for mine). This Camaro is referenced as having an older repaint and it shows well though, as the seller mentions, there is some cracking on the tops of the quarters. The seller also mentions that he had the stripes replaced in 2018, I had mine replaced in the first month of ownership as they were ripped, torn bubbled, and misaligned – it was some of the worst workmanship that I ever experienced. I was told that the Norwood models, which mine was, suffered considerably more in the quality department than did the Van Nuys units but I don’t know that with certainty. Nice to see on this example is the intact front spoiler. The end caps are cheap plastic and usually warp but the rigid center section gets knocked out as easily as a Boom Boom Mancini 1-2 punch. The seller mentions that the rear spoiler is cracked too, they can be replaced or repaired – the issue from the assembly plant was usually one of misalignment and trunk leakage around the installation studs. BTW, I could never figure out what that goofy-looking decal on the hood was supposed to be, so when mine started to take flight, I helped it off. The car looked better without it IMHO.

In 1977, Chevrolet had three different versions of the 350 CI engine, the LM1 rated at 170 net HP, the L48 (Corvette) at 180 net, and the L82 (Corvette) ringing in at 210 net. Naturally, since the L82 powered the last Z28, it was an easy assumption to make that it would power this reborn creation – after all, it looked like the ’74, absent the larger backlight, and it had all of the unique suspension and driveline components. Uh-uh, employing the L82 would have required EPA certification of that engine in the Camaro which was going to cause a whopping $50K, or so I read. $50K, so what, right? Even in 1977 that was reasonable and amounted to just $3.57 a unit. Chevy went the poor man route, used the LM1, an engine more appropriate for a Caprice Estate station wagon, slapped a low restriction, semi-dual exhaust system behind the single cat, and rated it at 185 net. So how does this Z28, with its Turbo-Hydramatic 350, three-speed automatic transmission, and 3.73 gears run? Mum’s the word. OK, so I’ll tell you how mine ran. First of all, if this example has a 3.73 rear gear, it has been swapped, the automatics used a 3.42 gearset while the 3.73 was reserved for the four-speed manual – there were no substitutions. Mine, with its four-speed manual, would pull to 5,000 RPM but it was asthmatic. At 5,000 in fourth gear, it was running at 105 MPH. I got 111 out of it once but the tach was white-knuckled at 5,500 RPM – enough of that! No doubt about it, handling, maneuvering, and braking were that car’s attributes, acceleration? Not so much so. I would imagine that this example probably cruises better than mine but it is likely slower on acceleration. It is listed, though not documented as a 79K mile example, and if that’s accurate, this engine, in typical small-block form, still has a long way to go. Hopefully, it’s better on gas than mine was. During the Iranian oil embargo in 1979, I pulled into an Exxon station and was pumping 20 gallons of 89 octane (about $1.32 per gallon) into the tank, (it knocked on 87)  and this very nice lady filling the tank of her Toyota or Honda seemed amazed, she said in accented English, “That little car can hold twenty gallons of gasoline?”  And I replied, “Yup, and in 200 miles, I’ll be doing it all over again!” she seemed truly alarmed.

The interior of this Z28, for me, is Deja Vue all over again. Other than the automatic shift selector, in place of the wobbly four-speed stick (it didn’t start out that way but by the passage of two years’ time, it was more like a four-speed rower than a four-speed shifter) it all looks the same. And this black vinyl environment has withstood the test of time, it presents itself very well. The seller does mention that this Chevy has always been garaged, so that has helped with the preservation. There is nothing that separates a Z28 interior from a standard Sports Coupe interior other than a plastic Z28 horn button. Like my car, this Z is not air-conditioned. Actually, I’m so cheap, mine didn’t even have a radio, I wish I had kept the block-off plate but I think I sold it with the car.

The author’s car enjoying a beautiful sunny, Christmas day 1977

It’s hard to sum up my entire perspective of that Z28, I sold it in March of ’80, and 41 years’ time has dimmed my memory – and there have been a lot of other cars since then.  That Camaro had some nice road manners but really lacked in acceleration.  It was too cramped inside for a car that took up as much space as it did on the outside (they were considered a compact “pony car” but the trunk and passenger compartment were the only compact aspects). The quality and workmanship were poor, five trips to the dealership and a screaming match with the shop foreman to get an engine oil leak fixed. It turns out that Chevrolet had incorrectly stamped a bunch of small-block oil pans and all the Permatex in the world wasn’t going to stop the rear leak. I had to shove a Motor Trend article, that clearly described the problem, under his nose to get him to take action – the oil pan needed to be replaced. That 350 engine sounded fantastic however, the mufflerless/resonator-only exhaust tone, combined with the whine of the T-10, was perfectly melodic. And I had a lot of experience with that rich tone like the time I was coming back, late at night (or early in the morning) from the ah, how do you say it, the honky-tonk part of town and I lost a cotter pin out of the 3-4 transmission shift lever so I only had first and second gear (and all of that tone). Yeah, I put up with that sort of hi-jinx on my 53-year-old Impala but not on a one-year-old Camaro. And other issues like the leaking radiator and the posi clutches that I thought were going to give up the ghost in Key West, Florida (a long way from home) until I shot some whale-oil additive into the diff. box to quiet down the plates. Oh, and the poorly applied satin black paint flaking off of the window reveal moldings, the cowl leak which developed at year two, flooding the interior and then freezing the carpet in the winter of ’79 – remember, I only owned this tank for three years –  the list went on and on. But that was Detroit in the late ’70s too.

If the ’70s are calling for your attention, and you want a slice of muscle car memory from that era, this Camaro is a perfect representative. I’m not trying to encourage, or dissuade, anyone from living that experience, and this ’77 Camaro Z28 is a fine example that will scratch that itch. So, does absence make the heart grow fonder? Not in my case, out of sight, out of mind is more like it. But reminiscing is fun, and I thank you for allowing me to do it here.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Arthell64

    I don’t remember seeing very many 1977 z28’s but I always liked them. If a young guy had one of these setting in the high school parking lot in the late 1970’s it would be like having a Hellcat today. It was a cool car to have. I’m sure not many survive. Install a set of LT-1 heads, crane cam, headers, alum intake and they ran pretty decent.

    Like 7
    • Superdessucke

      I had a ’79 with the 3.42/automatic and a relatively mild cam, aluminum intake, headers, and true dual exhaust and a higher stall converter. It ran around 14.2 at 98 MPH. It was otherwise stock, including the Q-Jet and the heads. You could get deep into the 13s with good heads and a wilder cam.

      Like 2
    • Dr. Lundberg

      That’s exactly what I did with mine. LT-1 heads, Crane Fireball 296, Holley Street Dominator, 4777 double pumper, 1-3/4 Hookers, and it all went 13s at OCIR for years on the stock short-block. Extremely rewarding chassis to drive. Gear whine from the Super T-10 was music.

      When brand-new and with a dyno-tune for the LM-1, I raced a ’69 Z/28 and he beat me- by a front fender length only.

      I’d still have it if it weren’t stolen. Think I’ll buy another one.

      Like 0
  2. Steve R

    It’s a nice car. Though rare, the lack of options will hold it back.

    The suggestion, by the owner, that most automotive experts consider the 77 Z28 among the 12 most collectible Camaros of all time, is laughable at face value. It might have been the case 40 years ago, certainly not today. Hopefully his reserve isn’t set similar to earlier, more desirable z28’s.

    Steve R

    Like 5
    • Fred F

      I own a black 1977 Z28, there are not many around and finding certain parts for it.were very difficult. The car was a field find in California and needed to be completely restored and rebuilt, I actually agree with Mitch of the article about performance. Mine is a numbers matching car that I returned to factory specs.
      Car turns a lot of heads but I wouldn’t race anyone.

      Like 3
      • Fred F

        I own a black 1977 Z28, there are not many around and finding certain parts for it.were very difficult. The car was a field find in California and needed to be completely restored and rebuilt, I actually agree with much of the article about performance. Mine is a numbers matching car that I returned to factory specs.
        Car turns a lot of heads but I wouldn’t race anyone.

        Like 1
  3. Superdessucke

    I had a ’78 Z28 I bought in 1985.Yeah, these were not built well. Specific defects I remember were rust around the rear wheel wells, an air conditioning compressor that gave up the ghost, a power steering pump that gave up the ghost, door armrests that pulled off at the top, and sideview mirror glass that fell off. I didn’t have any leaks on mine thankfully but I recall it would take in water if you sprayed a high pressure car wash wand directly at the side window. Mine was a Van Nuys car.

    Mine was also a 4-speed and it revved very high at highway speeds indeed. Mine was modified with headers and true duals and I remember it being pretty quick for the time. It probably ran high 15 second in the quarter mile. That would be considered very slow now but back then it was able to keep up with most of the new muscle cars. I do recall getting beat by a guy in a new Monte Carlo SS, but not by much.

    They made a lot of these in 1978-79, so they were very popular in the high school parking lot. The 1977 is rare when you compare the production numbers of those years.

    Like 9
  4. Mr.BZ

    Great write-up, Jim. I always like the personal angle from BF, and your example of a late 70’s car-buying experience is so spot-on. I was 17 when you ordered your new Z-28, so I would have just been one of the fools filled with jealousy while not realizing how much frustration that new ride brought with it.

    Like 5
  5. DarrylB

    I have a ’71 and it’s interesting to see what’s the same and what’s different, other than the obvious bumper and rear window differences. The interior is pretty close except for the console and door panels. I can’t speak to build quality as I pulled mine out of field. I do know that I wouldn’t mind this ’77 but the engine couldn’t be left stock. I used to know a guy with a ’79 that had a 427 in it. That car was pretty sporty.

    Like 2
  6. Timmy v

    Had the same car, except mine was a four speed. Loved that car.

    Like 3
  7. jerry z

    My brothers friend had a rootbeer 4spd with a ‘few’ tweeks to the car. This was back in the early 80’s and it was fast! Beautiful car but unfortunately was stolen after owning for less than a year. Never recovered.

    Like 2
  8. Rudy Cordova

    I still have my 77 1/2 Z28 I purchased it in 1978 with 2000 miles I converted into a custom Z28 pushing 400 horses have won many awards at car shows fun car to drive thank you for posting the story

    Like 6
  9. Rosko

    I’m in love!

    Like 1
  10. OhioLou

    Boom Boom Mancini. Always great to see some NEOhio love. Great write up,

    Like 5
  11. Griff W

    I had a ‘77 That was Black on Black, automatic, AC, power windows and locks. I had none of the problems others report – drove it everywhere, and while it was underpowered as were all “performance” cars of that era, it handled well, and hanging the tail out on occasion was a smile-inducing event. Sold it in ‘83, recently bought a ‘72 (more rare), but always on the lookout for another like I had. Many great memories.

    Like 1
  12. Jeff

    I’d have to agree with you regarding the quality from the Norwood plant. I had a new ’80 Z28 built there, I had the dealer fix several runs in the paint when it was delivered, and when it was one year old I had them redo the hood because the paint was cracking. It was a black car, not my daily driver, never saw bad weather, and was stored in a garage under a car cover! So it wasn’t sun or weather damage. I sold it in ’82 with 5,500 miles on it!

    Like 0
  13. Denny

    Could not get a Z28 when I ordered my 77 RS in Sept. of 1976 .So the RS was the next best thing .Its a 350 4 speed with posi two tone silver with the RS strip kit.. Black enterer and no air or console .Changed the factory 4 speed for a Vega 4 speed for better 1st and 2nd gearing .Now sitting at 40 thousand miles in my sons garage in SC. Gave it to him 5 years ago .Best quarter mile run at Norwalk drag strip was a 13.4 quarter mile. Still see it when I visit my son.

    Like 5
  14. Karl

    Seems almost all of had an older Camaro of some model. I had both an 81 and a 78 RS with T Tops on the 78 I wanted to beef up the stock worn out cam 350 but ended up building a 377 for it the engine dynoed at 525hp I had good Dart heads big cam full roller ran Victor Junior intake I had a ton of money into the engine. Then changed the rear gear to 456 limited slip diff, the car ran into the mid 11s till I got inspected and was told I was done till I met the tech requirements! Biggest mistake I made was trying to build a hot street car to also race! Lesson learned! My 81 had a V6 one of the finest highway cars I have ever driven really liked both cars for obviously different reasons. To the perspective buy LOOK CLOSELY UNDERNEATH FOR RUST! Otherwise enjoy!

    Like 1
  15. Larry D

    @Jim ODonnell
    You wrote: ” BTW, I could never figure out what that goofy-looking decal on the hood was supposed to be,”

    I’ve wondered the same thing but considering what the scoop looked like on the 1978 thru ’81 Z28s looked like, I assume it was a predictor of what was coming. And possibly they were not able to get the scoop ready in time for the introduction in 1977.

    The later scoop is shown here from a listing on BaT in 2020 for a ’78 Z

    Like 4
    • Robbie R.

      Larry, that was always my thought too. A “placeholder” if you will, to show some continuity going forward.

      Like 0
  16. Al

    I was happy when I heard these were making a return but disappointed when seemed like it was where it left off in ’74 with the added groovy striping on the hood & lack of a scoop at least. This ones identical to my neighbors 6 homes over, color & all. Don’t know how long he’s had it, but has since I came to Meridian 21 yrs ago. Rarely drives it & spends most it’s time along side of his house behind a fence uncovered sadly. These weren’t what I expected when they came out and back in ’77, my cat-removed ’75 Formula 400 4sp would eat them up even before I added the ram air IV heads I had aside for a ’69 FB 400 project. Ended up getting a ’79 Z in ’85 w/ modded 350/4sp & that was a huge difference in performance as well as handling w/ GR60’s all around.

    Like 1
    • Dr. Lundberg

      My 77-1/2, 370 HP, headers, no cat, stock resonators: one of the best sounding exhausts of any car I’ve ever had.

      Like 0
  17. JoeNYWF64

    That hood decal is quite restrained & acceptable, compared to the optional one on ’74 z28 or the huge cobra on some Mustang II hoods or the huge anniversary t/a hood birds.
    This car looks so much better with body colored bumpers & blacked out trim up front. An ez way to improve the appearance of any ’74-77 camaro with dull aluminum finish bumpers.
    Are the ’77 z28 small resonators still being produced? I wonder what this(or any car) would sound like with no converter & just the 2 resonators. Or a cat & no mufflers or resonators.
    I don’t think ANY car could turn 13s with that big restrictive pellet cat converter. lol

    Like 1
  18. Mark

    I remember seeing more 1977 Trans AM Firebirds than Z28’s back then!

    Like 2
    • Robbie R.

      Definitely. Back in 77, you could drive down nearly any street in suburban America and see at least one TA, if not several (all colors, not just black ones like they are all painted today). The return of the Z28 was slower to catch on. You didn’t start seeing many of them until around 79-ish. The Z28s didn’t get a good car chase movie to help their sales, lol.

      Like 2
  19. BB

    I had a 1980 Camaro Berlinetta brand new with a 305 and the saginaw 4 speed. Mine was built at Van Nuys and I would say build quality would not be too much better over Norwood. My lower pin stripes blew off the bottom the second day I owned the car taking it to a car wash. I had a consistent problem from day one of the car and that was stalling with the a/c on, dealer tried to fix that many times. Too bad quality was job number 5 back then not one!

    Like 0
    • Larry D

      I’m really surprised to read these comments regarding the crappy build quality of the F-body cars from Norwood, Ohio and Van Nuys, California.

      Not that I think cars made during that period of time were perfect by any means but to read some of the things owners endured with their cars back then is surprising.

      I’m not sure if their quality improved by ’79 or if I just got lucky and got a good one. But I bought a ’79 Trans Am WS6 new that was made in Norwood and never had one problem at all with that car. I kept it for four years and enjoyed every mile with it.

      I sold it to a man in his 40s. I assumed he was having a mid-life crisis with this purchase. He gave me a deposit and said he would return the next day to get the car. He came back alright. With his 16 year-old son. I looked at both of them and asked if the car was for the boy. And they both said yes.

      I feared for the future of that car as they drove away. There was a teenage boy in our neighborhood who knew the purchaser and he kept me up to date on the car. Finally, after about a year, he told me that the boy had totaled the Trans Am the night before.

      I hate to say I knew it was going to happen BUT I knew it was going to happen.

      Like 1
      • PRA4SNW

        Similar story here, but mine involves a 2000 Audi S4. A lady contacted me and said she was interested in the car. I had it advertised all over the place, and she said she was coming from NJ to NH to look at it. I could tell from talking to her that she was not the type to want a car like that, so I wasn’t surprised when her tattoo-covered 16 year old son was the one she was buying the car for. He wanted it badly, so they drove home with it. I did not want to know what happened to that car because they were so easy to modify into a 500+ HP beast.

        Like 0
  20. Mark

    All my Z’s were 4 speeds. I don’t buy automatics in a sports car.
    My very 1st Z/28 was a 1968, british green w white stripes, black interior purchased in 1974 and a friend of mine is the current owner.

    My 2nd a 1971, bought in ‘75, rosewood w white stripes, custom brown cloth interior.

    My 3rd a new 1977, ordered new, silver with black interior w a/c. I wasn’t impressed w a LM1 that came in many Chevy’s. I was comparing my ‘71 w aluminum valve covers, chrome lid breather, the ‘77 was a let down but it was my 1st new car I bought and wish I had kept it.

    My 4th a new 1978, ordered new, black w black interior w gold turbine wheels.

    My 5th a new 1980, ordered new, red orange with black interior.

    My 6th a 1 owner 1970, cranberry red w white stripes w black custom cloth interior. I still own the 1970 Z/28.

    Like 0

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Get new comment updates via email. Or subscribe without commenting.

Barn Finds