GM introduced the third-generation Chevrolet Camaro for the 1982 model year, with production continuing through 1992. Camaro sales were slow during the last few years of the third-generation cars, and so they can be much harder to find today than the bigger-selling mid-80s examples. Here’s one of the very last third-gen Camaros built, found in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard recently.
Those who know these cars will recognize the distinctive Z28 hood, but all is not as it appears in this case.
I was excited when I found what appeared to be a final-year third-gen Z28 with manual transmission.
As soon as I lifted the hood, I realized that this car was really a base-level RS model with the 3.1-liter V6 engine. This pushrod 60° engine was rated at 140 horsepower and 180 pound-feet.
The emissions sticker on the hood’s underside shows that it came from a 1989 IROC-Z. This car started out with blue paint, but received a white respray to match the hood.
Manual transmissions in Camaros (or any US-market cars not sold on pure cheapness) had become very unusual by the early 1990s, but this car has a five-on-the-floor. This car weighed just a bit over 3,000 pounds (about what a new Honda Civic weighs today), so it would have been reasonably fun to drive with 140 horses and a five-speed.
The build tag says that this car was built in May of 1992 at the Van Nuys plant in California’s San Fernando Valley. That factory shut down a few months later, making this one of the very last vehicles built there.
The Van Nuys plant had become notorious for its quality problems by the dawn of the 1990s, with a GM internal report singling out the Van Nuys-assembled Camaro (and its Pontiac-badged sibling, the Firebird) as the worst-built cars built anywhere in The General’s North American empire.
This car still managed to travel close to 200,000 miles during its career, in spite of its troublesome origins.
Just over 70,000 1992 Camaros were built, giving it the smallest sales numbers of any model year of Camaro up to that point. Sales picked up again with the introduction of the fourth-generation Camaro for 1993. This car is rare, though not valuable.
You’ve always hoped that someday you could afford one. Welcome to someday!