Third Generation 1982 - 1992
The third generation Camaro was launched in the fall of 1981 as an ‘82 model. Motor Trend magazine awarded Camaro “Car of the Year.” For the first time in Camaro history, a 4-cylinder engine was available in the sport coupe – yet the 3-speed manual transmission disappeared with the 3rd generation – leaving the base transmission as a 4-speed manual. The all new body styling was futuristic -- looking like nothing else on the road! The body now featured “hatch” styling rather than a traditional trunk. Models included the sport coupe, Berlinetta, and Z-28. 189,747 units were built for the ‘82 model year. For the third time in history, Camaro was selected to pace the Indianapolis 500. The pace car was silver with blue and red accents. 6,360 pace car replicas were built for public sale.
Following a short production year due to an all new “f-body” few changes were made to the ‘83 models -- and those changes were primarily color and trim. A 5-speed manual transmission became available on Camaro. A 4-speed automatic was also offered for the first time. The 8-track tape player disappeared for the ‘83 models and in its place: the cassette tape player. A new 190hp V-8 was introduced midway through the model year. Known as the 5.0 liter h.o. it was available only with a 5-speed manual transmission -- and a total of 3,223 units were built with this powertrain. Total production reached 154,381 for the ‘83 model year.
A renewed emphasis was placed on the Berlinetta model for 1984 as Chevrolet went after more ‘non-traditional’ customers. A brand new futuristic dashboard distinguished the Berlinetta from Sport Coupes and Z28s. It featured digital readout for speed, a very graphic electronic tachometer and adjustable control pods on either side of the instrument gauges. The turn signal lever was located on the left control pod and was activated by a “paddle” of sorts. The radio was located in a swivel pod mounted to the console and could be rotated for use by either driver or passenger. The Berlinetta also featured a roof console that was also optional on all other Camaro models. Road and Track Magazine named the ‘84 Camaro as one of the ten best cars in the world. Car and Driver Magazine called the ‘84 Camaro the best handling car built in the U.S. While Camaro’s cousin, the Corvette, had higher road holding capacity on the skid pad, when all factors were considered, including acceleration and handling -- Camaro came out ahead of his “big brother!” Production for the ‘84 model year totaled 261,591 units.
New for ‘85 was the IROC sport equipment package (named for the International Race of Champions -- which at the time featured identically equipped special Camaros for this prestigious race) The IROC package was an option on the Z28 model and allowed the Camaro to pull .92g’s on the skid pad. Moreover, many people would refer to Camaro as an “IROC” – so strong was the branding. On all models, new air dams, grilles, front fascias parking lamps and tail lamps were new. The V-6 engine received Multi-port fuel injection for 1985. Top horsepower for 1985 came with the LB9 Tuned Port Fuel Injected 305 Cu. In. engine which was rated at 215 HP. Ten of the Twelve Colors available on Camaro were new this year as well as revised interior fabrics and colors. Production totaled 180,018.
All 1986 Camaro Sport Coupe models received a host of new standard equipment that added greatly to the appearance of the base model. This included, among other things, styled wheels, dual tailpipes with tuned exhaust, black sport mirrors, power steering and brakes, lower body accent color, and an upgraded sport suspension. Available from the factory was option “DE1” rear window louvers. All models received a standard 5-speed manual transmission replacing the 1985 model’s 4-speed manual. The Berlinetta model was discontinued during the model year due to low sales volume (only 4,479 units). All Camaros for 1986 received “base coat - clear coat” paint -- and eight of the twelve colors were new -- although all paint codes were changed due to the new paint process. All ‘86 Camaros received a Center High Mounted Stop Lamp which were mounted to the outside forward edge of the rear hatch window. Production totaled 192,219 units.
The convertible model returned for the 1987 model year -- the first since 1969. Convertibles could be ordered as base, Type LT (which, incidentally, replaced the Berlinetta model), Z28 or IROC. Units were converted by ASC Incorporated. The 350 ci “Corvette” engine was available on the IROC as option “B2L.” However, Camaro’s heads and exhaust manifolds were iron, instead of aluminum and stainless steel like on Corvette. This engine was rated at 225hp. The Norwood Assembly plant would close on August 27, 1987 -- at the end of the ‘87 model run. A total of 137,760 units were produced for this model year. A limited RS model was offered in California and parts of Arizona and Nevada.
The Z28 model once again disappeared as did the LT option. Replacing the Z28 was the IROC Z model. While all Camaros offered 15 inch wheels, a 16 inch wheel option was offered on IROC Z models. The sport coupe model received the Z28 style fascia from the previous year –due to the hugely successful “California” model offered in the 1987 model year. The 350 ci “B2L” engine received more horsepower and was now rated at 230hp. Production totaled 96,275 units -- all built at Van Nuys.
Success with a regionally offered RS model in 1987 and 1988 led to the offering of an RS model nationwide in 1989. This would become the base model. Visually, the change was primarily a set of body colored ground effects panels which were not offered on the 1988 Sport coupe. An electronic “pass key” theft deterrent system was now standard on all Camaros which aided in insurability. Chevrolet built a total of 111 “1LE’ Special Performance Package Camaros for the ‘89 model year -- targeted for the SCCA Showroom Stock racing series. To get the “1LE” package was quite an exercise! An IROC coupe had to be ordered with the “G92” performance axle and then Air Conditioning had to be deleted. This then triggered the “!LE” option and included an aluminum drive shaft, larger front brakes from the Corvette, fuel tank baffles, specific front and rear shocks and different jounce bumpers. Furthermore, Fog Lamps were deleted for weight savings and better airflow to the radiator. The “G92” axle also forced an engine oil cooler, 4 wheel disc brakes, dual converter exhaust and P245/50ZR16 tires. A total of 110,739 ’89 Camaros were produced at Van Nuys.
The V-6 Engine for 1990 was increased in size (from 2.8 Liters to 3.1 Liters) and gained additional horsepower -- now rated at 140hp. All 1990 Camaros received a driver’s side airbag along with standard tilt wheel, tinted glass, intermittent wipers, and halogen headlamps. Yellow instrument graphics replaced white in ‘90. Because the ‘91 models would be in dealers’ showrooms in March of ‘90, the ‘90 model year was cut short -- and a total of 34,986 were built at Van Nuys.
The Z28 model returned when Chevrolet did not renew its agreement with IROC. (Curiously, most people have no recollection of a Dodge manufactured IROC – which tells you how strong the Camaro brand coupled with IROC became.) Four models were offered: RS Coupe, RS Convertible, Z28 Coupe and Z28 Convertible. All ‘91 Camaros featured new ground effects. Z28 coupes received a much taller rear spoiler, while RS coupes had the same spoiler as 1990 but the center stop light was relocated to the upper inside of the hatch window. Convertibles retained their unique spoiler. The Special Service Package (B4C) better known as the Police Package essentially got you a Z28 – in base coupe form. Production for the ‘91 model year was 100,838.
The 1992 model year marked Camaro’s 25th birthday - thus, all ‘92 Camaros featured a 25th anniversary plaque on the instrument panel. A special “z03” heritage package was available that featured a body color grille, heritage stripes, and badging. This package was available in white with red stripes, bright red with black stripes, purple haze with silver stripes, black with red stripes, or polo green with gold stripes. This would be the last year for the third generation Camaro and production at Van Nuys would reach 70,007. Sadly, the final Camaro coming from the Van Nuys plant was built on august 28th, 1992 – after which the Van Nuys plant was shuttered – and eventually demolished.