Things started going downhill for the Camaro Z28 in 1971. That was the first year of horsepower reductions, although the drop was only 30 hp (compression also dropped, from 11:1 to 9:1). In 1972, the Z28’s 350ci small-block was rated at 255 hp, but this was net horsepower, compared to the previous gross horsepower rating system. By 1974, the Z28 was using hydraulic lifters and the net horsepower rating was 245. 1974 also appeared to be the end of the Z28.
After a two-year hiatus, the Camaro Z28 returned in 1977 as a separate model rather than an RPO number. Even though the Z28 wasn’t available at the start of 1977 production, it still managed to record sales of 14,349 units. That was the second best total since the banner year of 1969. Sales hit a record 54,907 units in 1978 and jumped again to 84,877 Zs in 1979. The 1979 Z28 accounted for 30% of Camaro sales. 1979 Z28 sales stood as a record until 1984, when 100,899 Z28s were sold.
We picked the 1979 Z28 as a sure bet because of its large production numbers. The outward appearance is also wilder than before, with new front air dams that wrapped around to the front wheel wells and a unique bolt-on hood scoop. The blacked-out grille and headlight surrounds look great with the body-colored bumper covers. The substantial rear deck spoiler is a nice compliment to the front spoiler.
Horsepower is nothing to get excited about at 175, but at least the engine is still a 350. An M21 close-ratio 4-speed manual transmission was still available with the Z28, but only 18,987 Zs were so equipped. Since less than 25% of 1979 Z28s came with 4-speeds, that makes them considerably more desirable.
The 1979 Z28, as well as other late-second-generation Z28s (1977-1981), represent the budget buys on our list of collectible Camaros. These cars aren’t going to win any races, but they’re handsome cars that should appeal to an increasing number of collectors who dreamed about them when they were new.
Given the relative affordability of these Zs, you shouldn’t accept anything less than a premium car. You can buy a pristine example for far less than it would cost to restore a rough one.
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