Every May, the Indianapolis 500 race is a “tentpole” event in the international racing schedule. Since 1911, there have been designated pace cars, with replica pace cars often being sold. A 1982 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 Indy 500 Commemorative Edition with 2,630 miles sold for a $35,000 hammer price at the 2021 Mecum Indy. Are these distinctive and good-looking (I think) cars finally attracting significant interest?
“Even its shadow boasts performance”
The 1982 Chevrolet Camaro could reasonably be described as all-new. This moniker applied to the “pleasing and exciting” exterior, the interior, much of the chassis, and most of the engines. As Road & Track stated, the new Camaro was “keenly anticipated.”
The Z28‘s standard powertrain was the LG4 145 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor paired with a four-speed manual transmission. An optional LU5 Cross-Fire 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with throttle-body fuel injection and 165 bhp set the buyer back $450 and required the $396 three-speed automatic transmission. 0-60 took just under 10 seconds with the base V8 and the four-speed manual and shortened to 9 seconds with the top-of-the-line Cross-Fire motor and the automatic.
The Z28 had a base price of $9,700—about $27,700 in 2021 dollars or about what a base 2021 Camaro coupe goes for. Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on all 1982 Z28s included front air dam, “ground effect” lower body extensions, a rear spoiler, body-color dual Sport mirrors, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and 215/65R-15 tires (a size still readily available) on 15 x 7 inch 5-spoke aluminum wheels. Inside, every 1982 Z28 came with full instrumentation, an electric quartz analog clock, courtesy lamps, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Standard equipment specific to the $10,999.26 Z50 Indy 500 Commemorative Edition included Silver/Blue two-tone accent paint, specific commemorative edition decals, Custom interior trim, and blue Custom cloth bucket L/S Conteur (Chevrolet’s spelling) front seats.
Options and Production Numbers
Among the many options available for the Camaro Z28 were tinted glass ($88), removable glass roof panels ($790!), power windows ($165), a power door lock system ($106), an electric rear window defogger ($125), automatic speed control ($155), air conditioning ($675), a Comfortilt steering wheel ($95), and a host of radios ($111 to $390).
Chevrolet sold 6,360 Indy 500 Commemorative Edition cars in 1982, in addition to 63,563 “normal” Z28s. However, the most popular Camaro was actually the base Sport Coupe, which moved 78,761 units. The somewhat more luxurious Berlinetta sold another 39,744 copies.
Reviews of the new Camaro were decent. Road & Track liked the Z28‘s exterior and the handling but bemoaned the interior packaging and the fuel mileage (EPA rated at 17 mpg but rarely attaining that in real life). Car and Driver famously accused the Z28 of being “Emily Post polite” but later retracted the remark.
The View From 2021
Third-generation Camaros attract plenty of collector interest, and there is substantial club support. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1982 Camaro Z28 hatchback coupe with the Cross-Fire motor in #1/Concours condition is $24,700, with a far more normal #3/Good condition version going for $11,100. 1982 Camaro Commemorative Editions are often available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds, on eBay Motors, and at auction. As I write this post, Hemmings has three listed for sale, all in the $25,000 range.
Other Camaros I have written about include the 1980 Rally Sport coupe, the 1980 Z28 coupe, the 1985 IROC-Z hatchback coupe, and the 1986 Berlinetta hatchback coupe. Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams with blog entries here include the 1981 coupe, the 1982 hatchback coupe, the 1984 15th Anniversary Edition hatchback coupe, the 1985 hatchback coupe, and the 1989 20th Anniversary Turbo hatchback coupe. Unlike with the Camaro, I have yet to cover anything but the top-the-line Firebird.