We used to have a lot of different muscle cars back in the ’60s and ’70s. Every other American manufacturer tried their hands at making a powerful V8 coupe. However, the 1973 oil crisis forced carmakers to change and adapt, and muscle cars became all but extinct. A few of them ended muscle car production right then, and most of the remaining ones did the same in the coming years.
Three major automobile manufacturers still make powerful muscle cars to this day, and those are some pretty darn good muscle cars. One of them is the iconic Chevrolet Camaro. It’s the flagship pony car of Detroit’s General Motors. The very first Camaro came out in September 1966. So it has been around for more than half a century now.
Of course, the Camaro went through many changes over the years. Some of those changes were cutting edge, while some were reputation-breaking. The current Camaro (especially the ZL1 trim) is a solid choice for a modern muscle car that is track-ready from the get-go. And for classic models, a few of them can fetch six or even seven figures in auctions. If we had to pick a Camaro from its 56-year history to throw our money at, we’d probably pick any of these five, along with five Camaros that we would stay far away from.
10 Blow Our Savings On: 1967-1969 Yenko Super Camaro
What better way to start a list of great Camaros than with a Yenko? Don Yenko was a racecar driver who owned a GM dealership. The 1967-1969 1.4-liter Camaro models were not almost at all. So Yenko started modifying Camaro models to unleash their full potential.
The 1969 Yenko-modified Camaro had a 7.0-liter V8 from a Corvette, and it made 450 hp. These cars became so famous that one even appeared on 2 Fast 2 Furious. The star of the movie, Paul Walker, owned one as well.
9 Blow Our Savings On: 1985 Camaro IROC-Z
After several years of underpowered Camaro models, the IROC-Z was its return to form as a proper muscle powerhouse. The name comes from the International Race of Champions. It remains one of the most popular Camaros of all time. It had a 5.0-liter V8 that made 210 horses and 285 ft-lb torque.
That amount of power is not massive by today’s standards, but it’s plenty to have fun with and very impressive for the post-oil crisis era. The Iroc-Z can go 146 mph flat out and will reach 60 mph from a standstill in a very respectable 7 seconds.
8th Blow Our Savings On: 1971 Camaro SS
If you ask 10 people about what the best Camaro is according to them, we’re sure a couple of them will say it’s this one. But you’ll have to be a classic car lover to fully appreciate the design language of the ’71 Camaro.
The SS trim had a 6.4-liter V8 that made 300 hp and 400 ft-lb of torque. This old-timey classic isn’t a slouch today either. It can reach 60 mph from 0 in just 6.6 seconds and can go over 140 mph.
7 Blow Our Savings On: 2019-Present Camaro ZL1
The current generation Camaro is one of the fastest muscle cars in history. And its ZL1 trim is technologically sound too. It’s got an aerodynamic shape, front splitter, boomerang-shaped fins, and a massive rear wing. The ZL1 is the most track-ready out of the Camaro-Mustang-Challenger trio.
The ZL1’s big 6.2-litre V8’s both hp and torque figures match at 650 each. Best of all, you can have such a powerful car with a 6-speed manual transmission! If you want a muscle car with amazing driving dynamics, this might be the one.
6 Blow Our Savings On: 2018 Camaro GT4.R
Prat & Miller, one of GM’s partners, made this race-ready car in 2018 and has a price tag of $259,000. That’s about 4 times the cost of a ZL1. But once you see the list of changes in this car, you’d feel it’s worth it.
Astonishingly, the racecar ditches the ZL1’s supercharged V8 in the favor of a 6.2-liter LT1 V8 that produces 480 hp. But, it’s got plenty of lightweight carbon fiber components here and there. Also, there are even more aerodynamically advanced parts all around the car.
5 Stay Away From: 1973-1975 Malaise Era Camaro
As we all know, the oil crisis and the resulting fuel economy regulations made a lot of automobiles slower than before. The ’73 Camaro and other pony cars and muscle cars were among the biggest victims of the entire ordeal. The 1974 iteration of the Camaro even had to go through a new bumper regulation that made it look worse.
But the 1975 Camaro’s fate was even worse because of the addition of a catalytic converter and GM’s new Air Injection Reactor system. The 5.7-liter V8 in that model was one of the slowest in a muscle car. Although we got some pretty good muscle cars in the Malaise Era, this isn’t one of them.
4 Stay Away From: 1999 Camaro
We bet a lot of you are probably trying hard to remember what the 1999 Camaro was like. The fourth-generation Camaro nearly derailed the Camaro name before the fifth-gen brought it back to the top.
Chevy brought some cool tech in the 4th-gen Camaro like an oil life monitor and Torsen limited-slip differential. But they only sold 42,098 units of the ’99 Camaro, mostly because of its uninspiring design. And we thought the Pontiac Firebird WS6 had a polarizing look.
3 Stay Away From: 2010 Chevrolet Camaro
A thrilling ride or an adrenaline-filled ride is one thing, but a dangerous or expensive ride is too much. We can look past a few unreliable aspects of an affordable and powerful muscle car. But the 2010 Camaro is one of the most unreliable cars of that time.
The 2010 Camaro has a timing chain instead of a belt. Despite that, the chain wears out pretty quickly, and the engine and transmission are just waiting for something to go wrong. If that’s not dangerous enough, the airbag light can go off on its own, perhaps just to give the people inside a little scare.
2 Stay Away From: 1968 L26 Camaro
There may be a daredevil or two who will drive the above 2010 model as long as it’s good to drive. But almost no one will be eager to drive the 1968 Camaro once they know how it performs. One of the engines of the Camaro was the L26.
The L26 is a 230ci. (3.7-liter) inline-6 that made a measly 140 bhp @ 4400 rpm and 220 lb-ft of torque @ 1600 rpm. It’s one of the slowest and least powerful Camaro models ever. Not that the car is bad, the first-gen started it all. Anyhow, in the sea of powerful Camaros, we wouldn’t want one that’s the slowest.
1 Stay Away From: 1982 Iron Duke Camaro
We all know that the Iron Duke is one of the worst engines. The 1982 Camaro with the same engine is one of the worst Camaro models of all time. Chevrolet’s sister company Pontiac designed the Iron Duke engine to be as simple as possible. GM thought that simplicity was the answer to longevity.
But GM never made the engine for sheer performance. So seeing it in cars like the Camaro and Pontiac Fiero seems contradictory. In simple terms, the Iron Duke Camaro had no purpose to exist in the first place, and its universal disapproval only reinforces the point.
This Custom Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Will Both Wake The Neighbors And Do Well At The Strip