Photos by Jerry Heasley
There is no denying the immense popularity of the first generation Z/28, but a very strong argument can be made that the 1970 Z28 (the slash was dropped in 1970) was a superior car. The styling of the second generation Camaro was stunning. The fact that it holds up so well forty years later is a tribute to the design team.
Overall, 1970 was the height of the original muscle cars. Competition was fierce among manufacturers, and outside regulatory forces hadn’t affected performance yet. The second gen Camaro was more its own car since it didn’t have to share components with the Chevy II. This gave the designers more latitude. The handsome new split bumper styling on Rally Sport models highlighted an already excellent design.
A nice 1970 Z28 is more difficult to find than the ubiquitous 1969 Z/28. The shortened 1970 model year (and extended 1969 run) meant that only 8,733 Zs were sold, compared to the prodigious 20,302 1969 output. 1970 was the first time a Turbo Hydra-Matic could be ordered with a Z28. That should have increased sales, so we feel the difference between the two years was as much about availability as popularity.
The nature of the Z28 changed from the first gen cars largely due to the new 360hp 350ci engine. This engine was essentially the same as the legendary Corvette LT1. The high-revving 1967-69 Z/28 302ci small-block was designed for Trans Am racing, but rule changes allowed destroking larger displacement engines to the 305-inch limit. Therefore, the less tractable 302 was no longer necessary. The 1970 Z28 engine was better suited to daily driving, and it still had plenty of performance. The new Z28 was a better all-around car than the less sophisticated first generation models.
Our choice for a sure bet is a Z28 with the Rally Sport option and the 4-speed manual transmission. This combination elevates the 1970 Z28 to a sophistication level more in keeping with expensive European sports cars than run-of-the-mill ponycars.
Horsepower dropped to 330 in 1971, but a 1971 Z28 Rally Sport would still be an excellent second choice.
Seven Sure Bets
Collectible Camaros that Don’t Require Selling the Farm.
1969 Camaro Pace Car Convertible
Leading the Pack
1969 Camaro SS 396 Coupe
375hp of L78 Big-Block Muscle
1970 Camaro Z28
Beauty, Brawn and Balance
1979 Camaro Z28
Resurrecting the Z28
1990 Camaro IROC-Z
Top Down Rockin’ in an IROC Convertible
1993 Camaro Pace Car
The Fourth Camaro Indy 500 Pace Car
2002 Camaro Convertible
After 35 Years, the Camaro Exits In Grand Style