Introduced to compete against Ford’s popular and youth-oriented Mustang in 1967, the Camaro’s brawny good looks and high-performance options resulted in an immediate sales success. Building on this, Chevrolet debuted a completely redesigned second breed of Camaro on February 26, 1970, that was aimed to be “the Corvette for everyday use.”
Supported by a new chassis, the Camaro was longer, lower and wider than its predecessor. An angular front end replaced the well-known bumblebee nose, while leaner doors and a larger glass area complimented the fastback body. Those who opted for the Rally Sport package received a protruding blackout front grille with center bar, large parking lights and bumperettes. The Z/28 option featured a rear spoiler and the 360-horsepower engine.
An overwhelming success, the redesigned Camaro sold nearly 125,000 models during its first year of production. The Camaro became so popular that Road & Track magazine would later reflect upon it as the best-looking American car of the 1970s. As such, the automobile’s styling and engineering remained virtually unchanged for more than a decade.
This restored 1970 Camaro Z/28 Rally Sport is finished in Daytona Yellow with a black interior and has 86,000 actual miles on the odometer. The LT1 350-c.i. V8 engine has been completely rebuilt without needing to increase its cylinder bore and is mechanically sound. The interior is cosmetically perfect, with only the clock not functioning. Making an appearance just after its restoration, in the December 1992 issue of Chevrolet and Corvette Buyers Guide, this Camaro is a National award winner, complete with the desirable Rally Sport and Z/28 package intact.
This car sold with no reserve for $26,950, including buyer’s premium, at RM’s New York sale, September 21, 2002.
The 1970½ Camaro and Firebird (so called due to their late model-year introduction) ushered in the era of the bloated muscle car. Following right on their heels a few months later was the super-sized 1971 Mustang, the second major increase in physical dimensions and weight to which the once-lithe pony had been subjected. The early ’70s was a period just before insurance premiums, fuel economy and emissions standards reared their heads, and Detroit still believed that size did matter. Corporate marketing gurus perceived that muscle car enthusiasts wanted larger vehicles with more amenities to go along with their powerful engine options.
For decades in the collector car world, muscle-car purists looked down on these larger tire-burners, viewing them as an overweight stepchild rather than a true successor to the first generation. For example, think of the lean, mean 1964-65 GTO compared to the rubber-ducky-nose cars of the ’70s. The first generation had a purposeful look and was really about combining a big motor with a medium-sized body. The cars that followed had more of everything, but in the end were lesser vehicles.
Now that the first-generation models are moving up the pricing food chain, we are seeing the second-generation cars bring higher prices as well.
Among fans of the second-generation Camaro, the 1970½ is generally considered the best year. However, the styling is a love-it-or-leave-it affair. Depending on your viewpoint, the car is either a design tour de force that incorporates some of Europe’s best-known styling clichés (including Ferrari’s egg-crate grille) or a somewhat ungainly Vega with a thyroid problem.
While the 1970½ models benefit from engines that were generally left alone to do their job, the other parts of the drivetrain, switchgear and general appointments were typical of GM’s “the customer is the proving grounds” first-year build-quality technique of this era. Additionally, rust mites made short work of these bodies, starting behind all four wheel wells and progressing up to the windshield base and bottom of the back window, along with the lower two-thirds of the doors.
Since this example is titled in New York, we hope that the restoration shop properly removed any corroded metal and professionally replaced it. The claim that the cylinder walls didn’t need to be rebored (not that a small-block Chevy has the closest of tolerances) indicates, for a car of this mileage, that regular mechanical maintenance must have been done religiously. The LT1 was the highest tuned small-block in 1970, and factory performance tweaks like solid lifters often gained performance at the sacrifice of engine longevity.
As the values of second-generation Camaros plummeted during the late ’70s, they often became fodder for local high schoolers with a part-time job, some gas money and a hankering for something fast. Most often these cars went from stock, to modified, to barely surviving, to junkyard. Untouched survivors are rare indeed; properly restored cars are nearly as hard to find, as the low values of the cars don’t support a full-bore professional redo.
A fresh-from-the-shop, no-stories, matching-numbers car in today’s environment, equipped like the one pictured here, should be able to sell at auction within a few bids of $25,000. This car, despite having been restored a decade ago, brought a few dollars more than might have been expected. This is probably more indicative of the upmarket nature of the Waldorf venue than any aspect of the car itself. Providing it remains well cared for and not overly exercised, its value should gradually appreciate in the coming years.-B. Mitchell Carlson
(Historic data and photo courtesy of auction company.)