Camaro Spotters Guide & Yearly Changes

This page is going to make you be able to identify any 2nd generation Camaro like an expert.

To verify real (or faked - aka "cloned") Z28's and SS's: 1970 & 1971 click here.
To spotting real (or faked - aka "cloned") Z28's and SS's: 1972+ click here.

For everything you wanted to know about the Rally Sport or "split bumper" car, click here.

The 2nd generation Camaro underwent 3 major revisions during its 11 year production run. You need to use a combination of external appearance, interior, engine, options and other subtle changes to narrow down what you're looking at.

Some cars are easy to peg even from a distance, like the 74 Camaro. Some cars, you can't tell unless you get up close and look for specific give aways (including maybe the VIN). These spotter tips also assume that the car is "correct". Some cars are difficult to peg accurately because they've been changed, or modified. For example, a 1970 Camaro is the only second generation Camaro with low back seats. Another fun trick is putting 1979 front end sheetmetal onto a 1973 body.

NOTE: Every picture in here so far is a Z28 or SS, or some other fancy model. This means that some of the badges, stripes, wheels and other things (dual exhaust pipes, rear swaybars) may not apply to a standard/base/plain jane Camaro. The intent of these pictures is to give you the general, overall feel for the visual appearance of the cars of a particular year. (Tail lights, bumpers, glass, etc...)

1st Revision - 1970 - 1973

1971 Camaro Rally Sport 1973 Camaro Z28

Above left: 1971 Camaro Rally Sport (notice bumperettes).
Above Right: The rear of a 1973 Camaro. All 70 -73 Camaros look like this.

1973 Camaro Z28 1970 Camaro Super Sport

Above left: This is a 1973 Camaro (Z28). Notice the bumper has the additional bracing.
Above Right: This is a 1970 Camaro (SS). Notice the tight mesh grill, you can't see the tops of the front seats, and the "banana" style parking lamps, which are standard.

 

1970 Spotters Guide & New Features

  • Last year (only year in 2nd Gen) 12 bolt offered in Camaro
  • Only year a low-back style seat & headrest offered
  • Sunvisor was longer than other models
  • Only year a Chrome "C" used on header panel
  • Only year a "Camaro by Chevrolet" emblem used on trunk
  • Only year side marker lights didn't blink with signals
Verifying 1970 & 1971 Z28's & Super Sports
The Z28 and the Super Sport (SS) cars were performance oriented cars. There are not many of them left, and not many were built in the 1st place. For $25 you can buy new Z28 emblems and bolt them onto your fenders. This happens more often than you'd think. Contrary to popular opinion, this doesn't turn your car into a Z28. Most of the desirability, monetary value, or collectibility of these cars is hidden. What makes a Z28 is a special engine, suspension and some other things. A 1971 Camaro with a 307 or even a 350 and Z28 emblems on the fender isn't a Z28.

The easiest way to check the authenticity of these cars is to ask for and carefully check over the original paperwork if available. This includes the build sheet & POP. After checking over the paperwork, verify it on the car. If this car is original, the next thing you'd do is check the engine codes, transmission codes, rear axle code, etc.. Finally, you can scrutinize the casting dates on the components to verify they were cast BEFORE the car was made. Keep in mind, anything can be faked, including paperwork and trim tags. Whether accidentally (cloned) or intentionally (fraud). So you need to be very skeptical and check EVERYTHING.

A lot of the code information can be found on the decoding page. The rest of this information will assume you know how to check codes, or already looked at the decoding page and familiarized yourself with what to look at, what it's called and where it is.

Verifying a pre-1972 Z28
To verify a 1970 or 1971 Z28, hopefully the car will be built in Norwood Ohio because the Z28 accessory code will be stamped on the trim tag. However, since you can buy trim tags these days, you need to spend some extra time verifying what you're looking at. (And for heavens sake don't put a "Z28" trim tag on a car that still has a 6 cylinder VIN on it, you'll get caught).

Hopefully what you're looking at is "all original". If it is, you can verify engine codes and codes on the transmission and rear end. All the stuff should match the car it's in, and it should be coded as Z28 equipment. If it matches, you're in business. If it doesn't match, you got problems. Make sure the stampings are legit. Any idiot with a hammer and punch set can throw a wrench into this deal.

If the car was built in LA.... The Z28 WILL NOT HAVE AIR CONDITIONING. None. Verify that there are no traces of A/C (ducting, kick panels, big hole in the firewall for evaporator). Presence of Air Conditioning will disqualify the car immediately.
The Z28 got a UNIQUE throttle pedal. It's hinged off the floor with a bracket mounted on the floor board. Non-Z Camaros got a throttle pedal hinged off the firewall. The Z28 has a 8000 RPM tach, which redlines at 6500 RPM. Low performance cars have 7000 RPM tachs and lower redlines. The Tach (part of the optional instrumentation) is OPTIONAL in the Z28 however, so not all Z's will have a Tach. IF it does - it'll read to 8000 RPM. The Z28 has a 3/8" fuel line (and a return line?). Low performance cars don't have the "big" fuel lines. This IMO is not definitive because regular 350 powered cars got the same.
ALL Z28's got the F41 suspension, which means there will be a rear swaybar on the car, or presense of one. Since the rear swaybar brackets are welded to the frame, it'll still be there even if the bar is removed. The car MUST have these brackets welded to the rear frame rails. The car will have a 12 bolt in it (1970 only). 8 bolts and a couple brake lines and you can unbolt this and run off with the expensive 12 bolt, which has been known to happen. The (1970 only) Z28 originally had a 12 bolt rear. It's not uncommon for a 10 bolt to be sitting under the car now for whatever reason. Obviously the 1971 Z28 has a 10 bolt rear end.
The Z28 can be an automatic, or a 4 speed. If the car was an automatic, it was a TH400. The TH400 has an electric kickdown, so if you have a cable kickdown from a TH350, you have a problem. The TH400 requires a small hole to be punched in the firewall for the kickdown wiring to pass through. Also the throttle pedal arm will trip the solenoid switch.

Verifying a pre-1972 SS

1971 Spotters Guide & New Features

  • High backed bucket seats introduced.
  • "C" on the header panel was changed from chrome to Red
  • "Camaro by Chevrolet" trunk lid emblem was shortened to "Camaro".
  • Some new colors and hubcaps offered.
  • International symbols used on dash knobs as opposed to words

1972 Spotters Guide & New Features

  • Coarser grille mesh.
  • Z21 NOT INCLUDED with Z22 (need to confirm)
  • 3 point shoulder harness debuted in mid year.
  • Door panels restyled
  • Hurst Shifter no longer used
Verifying a 1972 Z28 or Super Sport:
Starting in 1972 the specific engines are coded into the VIN making picking out Z28's and SS models quick. The engine code for a Z28 is "L". Period. Only Z28's got an engine code of "L". What this means is a 1972 Z28 will have an L in the 5th position of the vin. If it's there - the car is a Z28. If it's not there, the car is NOT a Z28. Case closed.
The SS came with either the 350, which has a VIN code of "K" or the 396 which has a VIN code of "U". If the car DOESN'T have a K or a U in the VIN - it's not a SS. For example, if you look at a 1972 camaro with a VIN of 1Q87F2N10001 - ta-da, F= a 307. This car is not, nor ever will be a "SS", even if you bolt SS emblems on it. We know this because the 307 was not installed in SS's - or Z28's for that matter.

1973 Spotters Guide & New Features

  • RPO Z27 (SS) dropped, replaced with Type LT.
  • Formerly optional steering wheel (NK4) became standard.
  • New impact absorbing bumpers... RS kept bumperettes, but they were stiffened up.
  • Single rod ratchetting shifter replaced stirup model.
  • Z28 could get air conditioning (due to non-mechanical lifters).
  • New wheel selections....
  • Space-saver tire debut
  • power windows (console required).
  • Full foam rear seats with one piece backrest.
  • EGR for all engines & coolant-recovery
  • Warning buzzer/fasten seat belts debut
Verifying a Z28: In 1973 the engine code for a Z28 is "T". "No T - No Z". Very easy.
This year you could combine the Z28 option and the Rally Sport option onto the Type LT, making a "1973 Type LT/RS/Z28".

Discriminating features:
1970, low back seats.
1971, high back seats, and tight mesh grill.
1972, wide mesh grill and "weak" bumper. Z28 has engine code of "L".
1973, wide mesh grill and heavy bumper. Z28 has engine code of "T".

2nd Revision: 1974 - 1977

Above left: a 1974 Camaro (Z28). Notice the new heavy aluminum bumpers.
Above Right: The back end of a 1977 Camaro (Z28). All 1975 - 1977 Camaros look this way (rear window, tail light design and bumper).

  1974 Spotters Guide & New Features
  • 1st year of the 2nd revision: Big Facelift
  • New extruded aluminum face bars supported on flat leaf springs.
  • Front grill & head lights changed.
  • New rear bumper
  • Cut-in, wrap-around wedge-shaped tail lamps, eliminated the need for rear side markers.
  • Interior detail changes
  • Only year seat belt interlock used
  • Power steering standard on all V8's.
  • Bumper jack changed to a tab-in-slot type.
  • Gas tank increased from 18 to 21 gallons.
  • Z28 got HEI in mid-season.
  • Baby moon cap gave way to aluminum cap shared with Nova and fullsize
  • 307 V8 dropped and replaced with 350 2 barrel
  • New wear indicators on front disc brakes and ball joints.

1975 Spotters Guide & New Features

  • Rally Sport option returns as RPO Z85 in midseason.
  • RPO Z28 is dropped but a production figure of one (1) unit is shown.
  • Introduction of the "wrap around" rear window.
  • Landau roof debut
  • Central (power) locks debut
  • Sports Decor (Z08) introduced, then withdrawn mid season.
  • Finned rear brake drums
  • All cars got Catalytic converters (yippee)
  • Big LT change was using birdseye maple woodgrain instead of meridian walnut.
  • Twin exhaust tail pipes for all V8's
  • HEI standard on all engines.
  • Deep pile carpet added
  • New radios offered
  • A/C now available with 6-cylinder.
  • Cruise control becomes available.

1976 Spotters Guide & New Features

  • power plant selection limited
  • 305 debutes
  • Power brakes standard, bigger brake wheel cylinders and better lining materials.
  • LT got brushed aluminum panel trunk panel.
  • voltmeter replaced ammeter or idiot light.
  • Revised interior treatments & appointments.

1977 Spotters Guide & New Features

  • The Z28 returns in mid-year. It's now marketted as a handling package, since power output is nowhere close to earlier Z28s.
  • Hidden Wipers become standard.
  • Reverse gear on 4 speeds relocated from far-left-up to far-left-down.

Discriminating features:
The 1974 Camaro retains the non-wrap around rear window making it easy to pick out.

3rd Revision: 1978 - 1981

Above left: a 1978 Camaro. Notice the urethane nose cover.
Above Right: The back end of a 1980 Camaro. Notice the bumper cover and 3 color tail light lenses. All 1978 - 1981 Camaros looked like this.

  1978 Spotters Guide & New Features

1st year of the 3rd Revision. The 1978 Camaro will be the only camaro that looks like this, and has a wrap around dash board. Rally Sport offered as a Camaro Model, not RPO. Only available as 6-cylinder. WRONG.

1979 Spotters Guide & New Features

  • Introduction of "flat dashboard".
  • Rally Sport offered as a single model.
  • Type LT dropped, replaced with Berlinetta model.

1980 Spotters Guide & New Features

1981 Spotters Guide & New Features

  • Rally Sport model dropped.
  • VIN number significantly different than previous years.
  • Last year for 2nd Generation Camaro

Discriminating features:
The 1978 Camaro will be the only camaro that looks like this, and has a wrap around dash board.

I'm now going to describe how to quickly identify late model (78-81) Z28's.
Click on a hyperlink to view the part in question. Once the picture is cached, you can quickly jump back and forth to see the differences.

1978 Z28's had a unique decal/strip package. They'll have the wrap around dashboard. They DIDN'T have a front spoiler. They share the fender vents and hood scoop (decoration) with the 1979.

The 1979 Z28 has the flat dash, a unique to 1979 graphic scheme, the same fender vent & hood scoop as the 1978 Z28, however, the 1979 Z28 will have a front spoiler.

The 1980 Z28 got a new graphic scheme, new fender vent, new hood scoop, and grill. The 1980 shares the same front spoiler as the 1979. There is now a black stripe through the rear tail lights too.

The 1981 Z28 is visually the same to the 1980 Z28. The engine selection gets goofy, and the 1981 will have 17 characters in the VIN. If you count 17 characters, BANG - it's an 81.


Last updated: 10/20/2011
Author: MadMike Maciolek

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