1980 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta 5.7L 350 from North America
The best looking, best handling, and most powerful chunk of rust I could ever hope to own
This car was very neglected when I bought it. Consequently, nearly everything imaginable has either broken, rusted, or needed upgrading.
Power windows were slow and the regulators sagged badly when the doors were open. This caused the windows to lean inwards, and made the doors hard to close.
Door hinges also sagged badly; it's cheap and easy to replace the pins and bushings, or just buy new hinges (also cheap).
Interior was ratty everywhere. Headliner sagged and rested nicely on top of my head, sun visors sagged in my face, seats were from a different car and didn't line up right, the dash pad was horribly cracked, and the console had chunks of plastic missing.
Someone put a junkyard turbo 350 trans and 305 V8 in it. Both of those leaked from every seal and crevice you can think of.
Both the engine and trans were on their last legs, but still provided me with years of service and relatively cheap maintenance.
Rear drum brakes provided me with many hours of frustration and profanity. I threw all of the drum brake parts away, and did a rear disc conversion instead. Well worth the money, hands down.
The steering was dangerously sloppy when I bought it. Replaced the steering gearbox coupler (rag joint) and it handled like new.
Driver's side leaf spring was broken... drove it like that for years, and it didn't give me any problems.
Roof had holes in it.
Trunk pan had holes in it.
Doors had gaping holes in the bottoms filled with filler and chicken wire.
Fenders were wavy and filled with filler.
Quarters had holes in the lower front and rear on both sides.
Passenger door jamb on the quarter panel was nonexistent due to rust.
Trunk lid was rotted out badly.
This car is awesome. It looks awesome, it handles awesome, it sounds awesome, and everyone will think you're awesome for owning one. Even when it had faded old paint and bondo falling off every body panel, people stopped to stare, and offered to buy it on the spot. It's also extremely easy to work on, and it will teach you everything you could want to know about working on cars, from engines to bodywork. Parts are cheap as well, and they reproduce nearly every panel if yours has rust (which mine had plenty).
None of the stock engines were particularly mind blowing performance wise, but the small block Chevy has almost unlimited aftermarket potential. A big block Chevy motor will also fit nicely in the engine bay with room to spare.
I can't say enough about the way this car handles. Even the soft Berlinetta suspension had minimal body roll, and took every corner with ease. With some aftermarket suspension parts, I'd put the second gen Camaro on par with many modern vehicles.
I've had more fun driving and working on this car than I ever thought possible. The second gen Camaro is pretty popular today still, so if you're reading this you're probably well aware of everything I've already said. If not, and you like driving and wrenching, then don't miss a chance to pick one of these up.
This car is like an old friend to me now. A hard partying relic of times when all you needed was attitude and an open road. A guttural burping of exhaust notes and timeless body styling. Most of all, it'll never go out of style, never say no to a sharp corner, and it will never, ever, be owned by someone else.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 23rd September, 2012
24th Sep 2012, 12:41
Even though it's all beat to heck, it sounds like a great car. Great project anyways that you can drive in the meantime.
I have a 79 Monte Carlo, so I appreciate this type of car a lot too. Classic styling, great rear wheel drive handling, and the 305 will run forever, even at high mileage and with lots of abuse. It will still start every time and bring you to your destination. Not bad for an old beater!
24th Sep 2012, 15:57
For your own safety and that of others, you should either repair this car to an acceptable standard, or put it out of its misery.
I don't know what kind of vehicle testing you have over there, but the car you have described would never be road legal in the UK.
25th Sep 2012, 20:17
The Monte Carlo is also a great car, and you're right about the 305. Mine ran for years with incredibly low oil pressure. Have fun with the old girl!
To clear some things up though.
The rust issues were not seriously threatening to the structural integrity of the car, and most of the ones my car had are typical of 30+ year old second gen F-bodies. My review was supposed to be a little tongue in cheek, because however much I love the car, it did have issues that needed addressing. Currently the car is retired in my garage, and won't leave until it is solid and roadworthy.
16th Nov 2012, 13:17
I have been to the UK, and that's not totally true. Most cars over there that I saw were not worth the time to fix, let alone be on the road. The cars were either 4 bangers or taxi looking cars, rusted to the hilt.