Highs and lows of the Camaro, by generation

Jessica Lynn Walker/Chevrolet

With the Camaro nameplate retiring soon, we’re honoring the beloved two-door with a series of love letters, fun lists, and memories. Many performance cars, especially nowadays, aim for an anodyne version of perfection that only a few can afford. The Camaro is for the rest of us—and it’s always ready to party. Still, we can’t pretend the car we’re about to celebrate over the next week or so is perfect. That in mind, let down your hair and come with us for a deep dive into what, exactly, makes the Camaro so bitchin’. Here: the highs and lows from each of the Camaro’s six generations.

With so many memorable models and so many race-winning performances, it’s difficult to pick just one highlight from each generation of Camaro. Of course, we like to challenge ourselves, so we did exactly that, polling our staff to choose one high and one low from each of the six generations of our favorite Detroit underdog.

We welcome your input as fellow Camaro lovers: What triumphs or notable features did we neglect? Were there any issues that Chevrolet should have caught in development but didn’t? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

First Generation (1967–69)

1969 Mission Bell 250 Race - Riverside - Trans-Am
Who could forget that Sunoco blue and yellow? The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images

High: 1969 Trans-Am–winning Chevrolet Camaro.

AMC and the Big Three put a lot of effort into Trans Am racing in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Notable drivers included Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, George Follmer, Jerry Titus, and Mark Donohue. With Roger Penske as his crew chief, Donohue won back-to-back Trans Am championships for Chevrolet in 1968 and 1969 powered by the big-bore, short-stroke 302 V-8 from the Camaro Z/28 which ended production in 1969 and was replaced by the LT-1 the following year.

67 Camaro Convertible Shaker Drawing

Low: “Cocktail shaker” dampers on the convertibles.

Removing the roof of the Camaro eliminated a lot of structure, introducing a lot of body flex. The solution was a set of four oil-filled canisters with a suspended weight tuned to absorb the specific frequency at which the body would vibrate. It’s not a particularly elegant solution, and the canisters added about 100 pounds to the Camaro.

Second Generation (1970–81)

Second Gen Camaro Racquet Club

High: Pre-’74 Z/28 with all the right options.

There are plenty of ways to build a Camaro, and that degree of personalization is part of the draw of the pony car class. While there’s nothing wrong with a big-block, we’re fans of the Z/28 package, which brought a 350-cubic-inch LT-1 with a solid-lifter cam and a four-barrel carb along with upgrades to the suspension, already improved for the second-gen car. The RS package, shown here, with its redesigned fascia that included round marker lights and an extended grille framed by a split bumper, gave the Camaro a noticeably different look. If you also specced yours with a Hurst four-speed, mag wheels, and stripes—well, you might have the perfect second-gen, in our book.

Burt Reynolds Bandit Trans Am
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Low: This generation lived in the shadow of Burt Reynolds’ magnificent mustache and his Bandit Trans Am.

While the Camaro managed to survive the late ’70s with decent styling and sales numbers that eclipsed those of the Mustang (in 1977), the Firebird thrived, especially in Trans Am livery with its over-the-top graphics. A black and gold Trans Am, equipped with T-tops and dressed as a 1977 model, was almost as big a star as Reynolds in the film and has become synonymous with Smokey and The Bandit. Where was the Camaro movie love?

Third Generation (1982–92)

3rd Gen Camaro iroc_morrison
“The cool guys at my New Jersey high school, many with dads who worked in the ‘trash industry,’ wore cut-up sweats and Reeboks and all drove IROCs.” —Larry Webster Courtesy Bring a Trailer/Morrison

High: IROC with T-tops.

With its liftback cargo area, third-generation Camaro was downright practical,  but where it really shone was the style. The IROC, with its signature 16-inch wheels and ground effects, was one of the best-looking pony cars of the ’80s and we think its looks have aged rather well. Starting in 1988, you could also option your IROC with the 1LE package, which added a close-ratio transmission and brakes improved with parts pirated from the Corvette and Caprice.

3rd Gen Camaro Date calendar closeup

Low: The big engine came with only an auto. Also, someone kindly tell us what “Berlinetta” means, and why those cars had a datebook on the roof.

While they still look cool, the Tuned Port Injection (TPI) intakes were a bit of a strange choice for a sporty car, because their strength is low-end torque production. The 350 models produced an adequate 245 hp and an impressive 345 lb-ft of torque at the end of the third-gen’s run. The compact and lightweight T5 five-speed transmission, like the one used in contemporary Mustangs as well as in the 305-equipped Camaro, had a maximum torque capacity of 300 lb-ft and thus never found its way into the more powerful and torquey Camaros powered by the TPI 350.

Fourth Generation (1993–02)


High: The B4C-package Camaros produced for police.

The B4C gave the Camaro all of the performance of the Z28 without a lot of the additional options, many of which tacked on extra weight. They were also missing T-tops which seem to be found on most of the high-performance Camaro models. While the Z28 came with a black roof and mirrors, the B4C was painted like a plain old base Camaro, so it was also a bit of a sleeper—provided it didn’t have lights on top or wear police livery.

4th Gen Camaro stick
GM’s EPA fuel economy workaround forced a 1-4 shift under part throttle. Mecum

Low: “Skip shift. ”Also, the service procedure for replacing the rear spark plugs.

The tricky shift procedure could easily be worked around, but the long, steeply angled windshield meant that the engines are tucked way into the cowl on the fourth-gen Camaro. Working on the back of the engine is not going to be a simple task, but at least the plugs have a long service interval.

Fifth Generation (2010–15)

2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
Richard Prince/Chevrolet

High: The LS7–powered Z/28.

“Imagine presenting to Chevrolet leadership that we wanted to sell a vehicle that had no carpet, no air conditioning, and a trunk that had one speaker just because the seatbelt chime was a requirement, and that we wanted to sell it for more than the Corvette costs. That was a personal win. And the thing was a track beast.”—Al Oppenheiser lead development engineer, fifth- and sixth-generation Camaro

5th Gen Concept Trunk

Low: Concept car trunk.

The fifth-gen Camaro returned with concept-car styling, and it was a big hit. However, like the sixth-gen that followed, this Camaro featured a rather average-sized trunk only accessible through a tiny opening. Packing can be a hassle, and large, rigid luggage is a no-go. Pack light, or pick a duffel bag.

Sixth Generation (2016–24)

2023 Chevrolet Camaro SS high angle front three quarter
Drives like a BMW M3 but looks, sounds, and hits the wallet like a Camaro. GM

High: The SS 1LE.

The Alpha platform that underpins the 6th-gen Camaro is an absolute gem, with fantastic road manners and excellent handling and road feel. Chevrolet was nice enough to give us the 1LE package in turbo four, naturally aspirated V-6, naturally aspirated V-8, and supercharged V-8 varieties, so there’s a driver-focused 6th-gen for Camaro fans of every kind. Our favorite, of course, is the SS 1LE: It drives like a BMW M3 but looks, sounds, and hits the wallet like nothing but a Camaro.

2024 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 with Collector’s Edition Package

Low: Good luck seeing out of the thing.

Visibility in the sixth-generation Camaro isn’t any worse than it is in the fifth-generation, and it’s certainly no worse than many contemporary sports cars. That’s not to say it’s great. However, you get used to the sightlines. You can’t have a roof this low or a profile this sleek without some tradeoffs.




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    sad to see the camaro go away. I ordered my dream car and got this past March 2023.riverside blue metalic rs.

    You were lucky to order ahead, Scott. I wanted to get an LT1 Convertible nearest to end of production and order it as I wanted. I waited too long and now the orders for build out are already filled since October. I should’ve known better. I did the same thing in ’02 when I wanted to special order an SLP Firehawk and when I went to do that orders were closed. I ended up with an in stock Formula instead. I think this time I may just use my new Camaro money and buy a real collector variant instead ?

    Your lows are way off.

    First Gen was the single leaf rear leaf springs in 67. The shakers worked and most people never had a clue.

    Second Gen. Was just the lack of a good engine from 75-81.

    Third Gen failure was the Iron Duke 4 and 2.8 V6 in the early cars. Poor quality interior.

    Fourth Gen was the fish eye late cars.

    Fifth Gen Was too much concept car in everything.

    Sixth Gen. Please stop the seeing out of. There are a great number of cars with the same issue. Back seats short on space too as even in the Mustang my head hits the rear window.

    What Hurt the Sixth Gen was the retro thing is wearing thin and they really had needed to go another direction.

    The truth is The weak spots are few and many are petty. The real issue is the formula changed and while many envy the car few buy it today vs what they used to sell. It is difficult to make a small affordable REW performance car when there is no real high volume model to base it on.

    The engineering on todays car is amazing and well done. It sadly will be more asperated in the future than it is now.

    Sadly Trucks and Jeeps are filling in the role of the pony car. But they are fast becoming not cheap to modify and or buy. Jeep prices are off the chart as are most trucks. This will hurt the hobby as most FWD vehicles are not worth the effort to build.

    Once again hyperv6 always knows more than Hagerty. You are always posting that that Hagerty is wrong and you are right. If Hagerty is so wrong, why are you still reading their articles and posting. To brag how smart you think you are? Why don’t you go start your own magazine and see how many subscribers you get.

    Why are you trying to be the arbiter of the comment section?
    And just stop with the straw man fallacy…at least he’s educating people and not being a petulant little kid like you.

    The simple truth he is correct on all points, especially the Gen 6 vision “issue”- I have a coupe and convertible ZL 1- and are plenty of crossovers and SUVs that are harder to see out of.

    I agree with you. His posts are almost always negative, and primarily his personal own opinion. The article asks “which is your favorite?” He just starts in and tries to destroy the article, and half way through goes off the rails, and talks about nonsense. Sitting in a backseat, RWD, FWD, Jeeps, SUV’s, too expensive to modify, and too expensive to buy. Retros are wearing thin. If I need an education on “Negativity” then I’ve been enlightened.

    It’s an opinion, and just as you are expressing yours, hyperv6 is entitled to his/hers.
    Agree or don’t – that’s what forums are for.

    I tend to agree with your assessment, especially as it pertains to the 6th gen. I kept walking away from that car based on the many “expert journalist” (oxymoron) comments. I ended up buying a 2023 and love it. Luckily, the backup camera is really good and the long doors allow decent vision out the sides. I have a little trouble with the rake and thickness of the A-pillar, but it is a minor annoyance compared to the fun drive of this car.

    My list of lows would be it’s going away again. I’m afraid it’s going to be some EV toaster box if it comes back.

    The Bumblebee car in the movies should have been mentioned. Even if the movies aren’t award winning quality. The car really got attention for the Gen 5 and boosted sales.

    Agreed. I think the only reason that we have continued Gen 5 & 6 camaro sales is because of BumbleBee. I bought my son a 2022 Red Hot 3LT camaro. He wanted the new style and I wanted him to have all the safety features, especially the camera rear view mirror. At the time, used cars were the same price as new so we built one online and bought new. Anyway, his dream is to wrap this car so it looks like Bumblebee. I told him that it’ll be on his dime not mine. He can always unwrap it at a later date.

    4th Gen low – OptiSpark on the LT1 … disappointing physical placement. Don’t know who or why anyone thought that was a good idea.

    Yup. Replaced that a couple of times. Opti-spark and water do not mix well. I still have my 94 z28 Convertible LT1 Automatic.

    I agree, the optispark is the Achilles heel of the earlier fourth gen cars. It was placed on the front of the motor to be driven by the cam shaft so it would get high resolution engine rotation signal. That is what many of the other manufacturers were doing at the time but on overhead cam engines so the distributor was up out of the way of much of the mechanicals and fluids. GM added reverse cooling to the LT 1 also and the water pump location was likely an important design feature so the two systems were nestled together. I have two LT1 cars and just finished an optispark change (I am getting good at it!). Otherwise I love the fourth gen; six speed, V-8 with posi-traction is a recipe for fun!

    Yup, just did the Opti on my 97 B4C. At 134K it still had the original plugs, wires, and Opti, and was still able to break loose going into 2nd with a posi rear.

    OK Folks, since you asked…

    “A berlinetta is a sports coupé, typically with two seats but also including 2+2 cars. The original meaning for berlinetta in Italian is “little saloon”.”

    Now you’ll sleep better.

    Lows: Why wasn’t the original Z28 made available as a convertible? I’ve seen several clones that were meticulously done – and they were just drop dead gorgeous. GM missed an opportunity on that one.

    As is a bad habit of mine, I often buy cars predicated on aesthetics and even color, often not even test driving them. I bought a new 2013 Camaro RS LT automatic coupe the last year it was available in Inferno Orange. Didn’t want to shift this one as I already have a Ferrari 355 Spider three pedal as my primary toy. When my friend was driving me to the dealership to pick this one up, he was telling me all the particulars of the engine as the only thing I knew was that it had 323 HP. Four valve, direct injection and the biggest surprise, VVT. It didn’t even have conventional exhaust manifolds. The engine is state of the art unlike the pushrod SS V8. I love the variable valve timing as just cracking the throttle is like a little turbo boost. I have only put 10,000 miles on it in my ten years of ownership but I still love to look at it. I thought it looked like an evolution of the 1969 Camaro and when I was asked why I didn’t just buy a classic Camaro, I told the inquirer that my Mom had a 1969 Firebird and I remembered how badly it drove. This one rides firmly more like my Ferrari and looks good doing it. And, the Inferno Orange is virtually identical to Lamborghini’s Orange. As far as visibility out of this thing, I have no complaints.

    Like you, color and style drew me to the 2012 Camaro SS convertible. And I bought on Carvana of all places so it was delivered to my house before I ever drove it. It is white with double inferno orange stripes like the ’70 Indy pace car, with inferno orange seats. Reminds me of the ’69 style without the 50 years old car problems. Only had 26K on the odometer in 2022 when I got it. Everything works great. Fun to drive and the rear visibility is not at all a problem on the highway the way the mirrors are positioned. The back up camera on the rear-view mirror isn’t great but I didn’t buy the car to go backwards. And I can put the top down if I want to get a good look behind me. I love the car.

    While Donahue and Co were beating their fenders up, bill Jenkins was the highest paid athlete driving first gens, surpassing Wilt the stilt!

    I was never a “Camaro guy,” but it is sad to see it and the Challenger go away. The two really raised the bar in American grand touring coupes (and I’ll agree the 6th Gen 1LE was a genuine road course weapon more than a GT). I honestly probably wouldn’t ever own a 3rd-5th Gen Camaro, but some of the 1st and 2nd gens are classics and the 6th was pretty amazing. I got to spend a week with a 6th Gen SS, and was mostly favorably impressed, owning a Challenger SRT-8 at the same time. The Alpha chassis was fantastic and the drivetrain amazing, although the automatic had its own ideas and worked its own schedule (my SRT is a stick). My one serious complaint (apart from visibility as mentioned in the article) was a fairly simple interior ergonomic problem…. The drivers seat side and back bolsters were so close to the door panel that I had to remember to buckle up before shutting the door, or I couldn’t fit my mitt between the bolster and door to grab the shoulder belt buckle out of the retractor. Otherwise, that was a really fun week.

    Had an original 69 SS 350 hugger orange white hockey stick stripes, Auto delux interior w all original documentation. Performed 90% of the resto and sold it to buy our home in 1996. Wish I still had it.

    My biggest gripe with the Camaro has been the quality of the interior materials. I’ve owned second gens, several third and fourth gens including some Firebird/trans ams. The interior just disintegrates over time especially in the hot climates I’ve lived in. The second gen, 78 Camaro and 79 Trans Am, had the worst interior plastics of them all. The rear plastics would crumble if you touched them. Door panels would curl up, the seat tracks would rust and break at the mounting points etc.

    That being said, the F-body has been my favorite of the pony cars my entire life. I’ve bought them, made them as nice as possible, drive them with love and send them off to another owner when possible. It was hard seeming them drive off every time.

    I’ll miss the Camaro just like I did in 2002. I rather see the nameplate retired than have it live on as some electric SUV.

    Low…….ordering a 2024 LT1 6 Speed Convertible in Nitro Yellow Metallic in August that will never be built……..GM would have sold a lot more Camaro’s if only they would build them for paying customers……I understand the last production day was November 22, 2023 for convertibles…..

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