The 1970-1973 2nd-Gen Chevrolet Camaro Z28
The early second generation Camaros produced by Chevrolet during the period of 1970-1973 are my personal favorite classic Camaros ever made. The first generation Camaros have timeless styling and will probably always be the most sought-after, but there's no denying that the second generation Camaros were a significant improvement. Build quality, accleration, handling, interior refinement -- the 2nd generation Camaro improved on all these aspects. The second generation of the Chevy Camaro is much more mature and refined when compared to its predecessor. Combine this with the fact that emissions and gas prices in the late 70's contributed to the death of large engines in muscle cars, and it is evident why the early model 2nd-generation Camaros are the best performing classic Camaros out there!
Identifying 1970-1973 2nd-Generation Camaros
Second generation Camaros came with a large number of small differences between body styles, making it difficult to pinpoint exact years if you are not a Camaro expert. Second generation Camaros have 2-door fastback style bodies, with a front-engine, rear-wheel drive architecture.
The front crossmember is not integral to the chassis like the first generation Camaros were, improving ride quality by a significant amount. The solid rear axle remained, and 1970 Z28 Camaros featured the strong 12-bolt differential while later models came with a variety of other rear end housings.
The 1970-1973 Camaros are the known as the early 2nd gens, and are distinctly different from the 74-81 models. Early 2nd gen Camaros have large "egg crate" rectangular grilles and round headlights up front, and four round taillights in the rear, usually accompanied by a lip spoiler.
Later second gen Camaros received heavier and more complicated bumpers to comply with federal regulations, and the front grille and all lights changed over the years. The basic body shape and interior remained relatively consistent from 1970-1981, but the head and tail lights of the 70-73 models set them apart from the rest!
The RS Package
The second generation Camaro came with a number of options, including the RS, SS, and Z28 packages. The RS package, or Rally Sport option, was an appearance package that included trim upgrades and the famous split-bumper in 1970-1973 Camaros. This split-bumper exposed the entire front grille area and for some reason is extremely popular. Many surviving 70-73 2nd gen Camaros are converted to split-bumper even if they did not originally come with the RS package.
The SS Package
The SS package is also very well-known and has been an option for Camaros of all generations. SS stands for Super Sport, and while the exact upgrades included in the package varied widely from generation to generation and year to year, it always included higher performance engines and suspension upgrades. The main difference between the Super Sport and the Z28 package is that the Z28 is intended more for track use while the SS package keeps the little luxuries that make it more enjoyable to drive on the street. You could not get both the SS package and the Z28 package, but the RS package could be had along with either an SS or Z28 Camaro.
The Z28 Package
Now for my favorite, the Camaro Z28. The Z28 package adds more value and performance to the 2nd gen Camaro than any other, due to much lower production numbers and performance upgrades in both drivetrain and suspension in Z28 Camaros. A 70-73 Camaro Z28 with the RS package is generally considered to be the holy grail of 2nd generation Camaros.
The Z28 package was created as a road racing oriented option, and Chevrolet entered many Camaro Z28s in various racing series throughout its production lifetime. Unfortunately, it did not win any championshops in 1970, and subsequent years led to smaller and smaller engines heavier bodywork, which led to bad finishes. It would have been nice for the top-performing Camaro of the muscle car era to secure one last win for Chevy before its decline, but things don't always work out like they should.
Z28 Camaros in 1970-1973 came with some of the last true high-performance V8s offered in Chevy muscle cars in the 70's, the 350-cubic inch LT-1 with an amazing 360 horsepower and 380 foot-pounds of torque! Oddly enough, 1970 was the first year a Z28 could be purchased with an automatic transmission, the TH400. An automatic is nice in most cars, but for the Z28 Camaros most people opted for the 4-speed manual since the Z28 was intended for track and high performance use.
The Camaro Z28 also came with taller rear gears in the differential; 3.73 Posi-traction gears standard with 4.10s as an additional option. The suspension geometry and chassis rigidity was improved greatly for the second generation Camaro already, and with the upgrades included in the Z28 package, it became a very formidable track car.
The Z28 Camaro also came with racing stripes, a black grille, extra wide lightweight wheels with polished lug nuts wrapped in the best tires available at the time, and no air conditioning. Another interesting fact is that 1970 was the first year Z28 Camaro badges said Z28 instead of Z/28.
The Chevrolet Camaro
The history of the Chevrolet Camaro is extremely rich, and memorizing all the appearance and drivetrain options of each model would take years. There have been four generations of the Camaro produced so far, and the fifth generation is scheduled for release in 2010. There have also been many dealer-modified and aftermarket tuner-modified Camaros over the years, which are usually worth boa loads of money and extremely difficult to find. There is no question that the Camaro has earned its status as a lasting American icon, and good examples will become more valuable as time goes on. The first generation Camaros have become so popular that even base models with V6 engines go for a few thousand dollars in junkyard condition!
The 1970-1973 Camaros will likely become more and more valuable as time goes on, due to fewer good examples staying in existence. The 1970 Camaro Z28 in particular is already a very valuable muscle car and to many represents the peak in performance of classic Camaros that rolled out of Chevy's factories. The early 2nd gen Camaros also have a distinctive look that sets it apart from all other generations due to its round taillights, large black rectangular grille, and many other features. If you see one lying around, it might be a good idea to restore it to keep an American legend alive for future generations to appreciate!