Classic Cars

Chevrolet Camaro 2nd gen. (1970-1981)

February 18, 2011

Camaro 1970_01The second generation Camaro was introduced to the public in the spring of 1970 and stayed in production for 12 years. With styling inspired by Ferrari, the second-generation Camaro was also bigger and heavier than its predecessor. The second generation Camaro was not available as a convertible. It still used a unibody structure with a front subframe, leaf springs in the back and A-arms up front for suspension. Those A-arms were freshly designed and the steering gear moved from the back to the front of the front axle, but otherwise the basic mechanical pieces were familiar.

The 155 horsepower 250-cubic-inch six was now the Camaro’s base engine, followed by the 200 horsepower 307. A 250 horsepower two-barrel 350 effectively replaced the 327. The SS package for 350 included a four-barrel carb and with additional compression, it reached 300 horsepower. There was also an option for 350 or 375 horsepower 396 big-block V8. The Camaro was offered with Rally Sport or Super Sport equipment or both. The Rally Sport package featured a unique front-end appearance with a split front bumper and a center grille cavity encircled in rubber. The SS again had heavier-duty suspension and the SS logos. The star 1970½ Camaro was again the Z28, now powered by a 360 horsepower high-compression LT-1 350. The LT-1 was available with an automatic transmission.

Due to tougher emissions regulations, GM dropped compression ratios across the board for 1971 and also adopted “net” alongside “gross” power ratings for its engines (by ’72, all engines were only net rated). For the 250-cubic inch inline six, the power rating dropped from 155 gross to 110 net horsepower. For the LT-1, the drop was a 30 horsepower plunge down to a 330 horsepower gross and 275 horsepower net. Otherwise, the ’71 barely changed from the ’70½ model. High-back bucket seats were new, and the rear spoiler on Z28s was now a larger three-piece unit.

In 1972 the grilles on the non-Rally Sport models gave a new appearance with a coarser mesh. Vinyl roof covers now had a “wet” look. The 1972 Camaros were the last Camaros to offer big-block engines and, in fact, only 930 were produced with the big block. This would be the last year for the SS until SLP Engineering and Chevrolet introduced a new Camaro SS in the 1996 model year. Camaro production was reduced to 68,651 due to a 120 day strike at the Norwood, Ohio assembly plant. When the strike was over, nearly 1,100 partially assembled 1972 models were scrapped because they could not be brought into compliance with 1973 bumper requirements. In 1973 the bumpers were slightly revised. In place of the Super Sport was the “Type-LT” Camaro, which bundled a slew of luxury options into one cohesive package.

To meet new bumper regulations, the 1974 Camaro was redesigned with thick aluminum bumpers front and rear. The one-and-only grille (the Rally Sport option vanished) was now shovel-shaped and the rear taillights wrapped into the fenders. Distinguishing the ’75 from ’74 was a new rear window that wrapped down into the roof sail panels. Also new for ’75 was a Rally Sport package that consisted of two-tone paint and some tape stripes. The ’75 Camaro sold well, so there were few changes to the 1976 model. An aluminum panel between the taillights was now used on the Type-LT, power brakes were standard and cruise control was a new option. The two-barrel 350 was replaced with a 305 producing 140 horsepower while the four-barrel 350 produced 165 horsepower.

The Z28 returned to the production in the spring 1977. The Z28 could not be ordered with either the Rally Sport equipment or with the LT trim. However, a special custom interior for Z28 was available. Colors available for the Z28 were limited to black, brown, orange, light red, silver, antique white or bright yellow. The ‘78’s featured the third and last face-lift for the second generation cars. Body color fascias gave the front and rear ends a cleaner, more aerodynamic look. This was the first year for option removable roof panels, better known as T-tops.

While exterior styling remained the same, the ‘79 Camaros received a new instrument cluster design. The type LT was now replaced with the Berlinetta. The Z28 received changes to the air dam and several modifications were made both mechanically and appearance wise. A new electric rear window defroster was now available replacing the forced air type used previously. This would also be the last year for an ‘in-line’ six cylinder engine. In the 1980 the styling changes were minimal, but engine range was updated. For the first time, a V6 engine was available in a Camaro. While 49 states received a 229ci engine, California received a 231 cid engine built by Buick. Z28s received a new hood that featured a rear facing hood scoop with an intake door that was solenoid controlled and enthusiasts loved it!

Appearance changes for the last year of the second generation cars were limited to color and trim. A new engine control computer ensured that all engines were certified for all 50 states, but output on the Z28’s 350 dropped to 175 horsepower. The Rally Sport died and the ’81 Camaro lineup consisted of three well-defined models: base sport coupe, Berlinetta and Z28.