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1980 Camaro reliability

Hey guys, I’m considering a buying a 1980 Camaro Z28. I was wondering how reliable these cars are, since no one I know has owned one. My dad is saying it’s going to be unreliable because it’s a Camaro, needless to say I do not believe that. The car has a mildly modified 350 {Headers, intake manifold, and a Demon carburetor, which is similar to a Holley from what I’ve found online} with a turbo 350 transmission. I live in Florida, so I don’t think the carburetor will be an issue. This car would be a daily driver.

Thanks in advance.

the car is now 32 years old and will only be as reliable as the previous owners made it. How much are they asking for this relic? If it’s anything above $500, they’re asking too much.

As a hobby car, it might be ok, but not as a daily driver

A 1980 Camaro is not something I’d choose as a daily driver, even if it was stock.

A modified 1980 Camaro is something I’d run away from.

The reliability of this car was not great to start with (not because it’s a Camaro, just because it’s a 1980 Chevrolet), but now you’re relying on the quality of the modifications, which may be good or may not be good.

Buy it if you must, but be prepared to spend money keeping it running. Lots of money.

And we won’t even talk about the need for premium gas, and the fact that this car will get terrible gas mileage.

Enjoy your Camaro.

I wish you the best of luck.

The guy wants 3800 for the car with a set of Centerlines or 3200 with the stock wheels, but it’s in pretty good shape, body wise. I’ve seen cars that are much newer in worse shape. I can tell right off the bat the paint isn’t original though {the stripe decals are missing}.

Here’s the ad.

I took a closer look at the engine in the ad, and I think it’s not the original one, or has been painted at some point, since it’s black and not blue or orange. If I recall correctly, GM crate engines are black, so that might be what’s in there.

Thanks for the link.

The AC doesn’t work (in Florida) and the interior “needs work.”

The car is set up for drag racing, or driving in a straight line, and it will be a pig any time you have to negotiate a corner or an intersection.

The current owner drives it twice a week, but he doesn’t say how far. I’m betting not very far. You want to drive it seven days a week. Not a good idea.

You and the owner seem to think $3,800 is a good price. You and the owner live in a universe different from mine.

All I see is a money pit. A bottomless money pit.

If you had unlimited funds, and could spend whatever it took to restore this car, and didn’t care that it would be a loss, then I’d say, “Great, go for it,” but I’m guessing you’re a young person with limited funds.

If that’s true this car will bury you. You’ll run out of money in a few weeks, or a few months, and then you’ll be desperate to sell it, and you’ll probably lose money on it.

As I said before, best of luck to you.

Please post later and let us know how it works out.

Yeah, I’m pretty young, I’m 22. I do need a car though. The only problem is I’m 6’2 with short legs and a long torso, and because of this, I have found that I just don’t fit in the Japanese cars everybody suggests. The problems I have with Japanese cars is that I have no headroom or have problems seeing out of them and have to take my eyes off the road to check the gauges. Based on my personal experiences, European or American rear wheel drive cars fit me best. Either way, my finances are going to get screwed.

If the car has any rust, walk away. You will continually need things like brake lines and suspension bushings, and any rust will make removal of parts impossible.

The engine and transmission should be pretty reliable if they’re not neglected or beat on. Avoid the “Metric” transmission if this car came with one–they are pieces of junk. You will constantly have electrical problems that will drive you crazy, and the door hinges often sag requiring you to lift the doors to shut them, or constantly readjust them. On the plus side, these cars don’t handle too bad on dry pavement. But they’re terrible in the rain or snow. The Chevy 350 has been around forever and is a solid, reliable performer. The HEI ignition on these is bulletproof. But the build quality and interior materials on these cars were simply awful.

I have short legs, a long torso, and I’m 6’. I drive a 2005 Honda Accord EX V6 with power seats. Any Accord EX between 2003 and 2007 will have the same interior. I also drove a 1998 Buick Regal without any problems. Any Regal after 1998 will be the same. Actually, I used to travel a lot and I had many rental cars. I never found one that fit me poorly. I don’t think you will have any problems finding a car to fit you, either.

So, the current owner drives it twice every week? How far? Is it a quarter mile at a time?

A mullet comes as standard equipment.

@jtsanders I can’t afford anything that new, unfortunately. I wear pants with a 30 inch inseam, so that might give you an idea of what’s going on. What happens in my friend’s 94 Camry and 04 Civic is that my eyes are about level with the top of the windshield, resulting in a field of vision that is approximately 40% headliner, 55% glare strip, and 5% clear glass. The worst offender out of all the cars I have sat in was a Mazda 626! I couldn’t see anything that was more than 15 feet in front of the car!

The late 70’s and early to mid 80’s were bad years for any American car. The American manufacturers were trying to play catchup with the safety and emissions laws. Our anti-monopoly laws did not allow the manufacturers to share information, each had to figure out how to meet the new standards by themselves.

The Japanese government not only allowed their manufacturers to form a consortium to work on these problems, it helped fund it.

My advice to you is to avoid these cars, including the Camaro. If you want an American car, really look for anything made after 1996. While a 98-00 Camaro is not the best thing that GM produced those years, it will be a lot more reliable than the one you are looking at, and I think you wil like just as much.

If you find one with a 3.8 v6 and 5 speed, you will get pretty good gas mileage and you won’t be ashamed of the HP either. It should be within your budget. A Mustang GT of that era would be better though.

I gotta agree, a 1980 anything is not going to be reliable, and a modified Camaro would be, if anything, worse. If you’re needing something for daily transportation see what you can find in the 1996 or newer vintage.

I see plenty of pricey parts under the hood, but sort of wonder what’s inside the engine. If it’s fairly mild and unabused inside, someone could easily turn this car into a pretty reliable daily driver, and ideally that person would be you. If you are not mechanically inclined, you need to look elsewhere. I have driven plenty of junk from the '70s and '80s, but I also have a knack for tinkering with a car like this and finding a “set it and forget it” sweet spot with the ignition timing, carburetor jetting and other settings on the engine. If this is not you and you don’t think you can learn it pretty quickly, it’s time to walk away. Having this stuff done professionally will be cost prohibitive, and maybe impossible if you can’t find someone working in a shop with a great deal of experience with these cars, or carburetors in general.

Oh, and if that car has a really stiff (numerically high) rear end ratio (probably does) and/or a double pumper carburetor (pretty sure it does), you will be looking at anywhere from single digit to low teens at best in the gas mileage department, although these things can make the car accelerate at a very thrilling rate. If either of these does not sound like your idea of a good time, it’s time to walk away. I enjoy a car with a ridiculous amount of power, but do not really enjoy feeding its voracious appetite. It can be toned down to get mpg’s in the teens, but that means buying and installing different parts.

The car should be reliable if it’s in good shape right now. The engines, transmissions, rear axle, and suspension are all time tested and proven.
The positives are that this car is bone simple to work on and mechanical repair parts if needed are cheap.

Negatives would be fuel mileage that is not so great and body and trim pieces.
The doors are long and the hinges wear. This leads to a door that will not close properly and many an interior door handle has been torn off by people yanking the doors shut.

Many body and trim parts are available from Year One but they are not cheap. Keep in mind that as far as the mechanicals it’s easy and cheap but the appearance part can be something else if an item is needed.
If the car has Hurst T-tops instead of Fisher (most have Fisher) you should avoid it because the Hurst tops are in the dictionary between obscene and outrageous when it comes to price.
(Last time I priced a set of T-top rubber seals for the Hurst tops they were 900 bucks. The tops themselves were about 2 grand or better.)

Your dad is wrong about the cars being unreliable. I’ve owned a '77 (same thing as an 80) and it was a great car but cramped. in the back. My oldest son still owns a quarter million miles Camaro that is driven often and my youngest son had a 300k miles Camaro until it was taken out permanently by a Crown Vic.
Both of those Camaros are and were rock solid and both also had engines/transmissions, and rear axles that had never needed anything.

You also have to look at, on average, the type of person who owned a Camaro. Many were young people with heavy feet who cared nothing about normal driving habits and maintenance.

@mark9207 I have no experience with carbureted vehicles, but one of my dad’s friends was a mechanic back in the 70s {he had some cars back then that I would kill to have today} and he would be willing to teach me, but I’d probably get a book on carb tuning and use that for bathroom reading. I’m somewhat mechanically inclined, I’ve done fluid changes, brake jobs, and tuneups on my previous vehicles. I could live with not so great gas mileage, since I had an SC400 that got about 14 in town, it was pretty quick too, but it just didn’t have enough headroom.

Don’t let these guys talk you out of a fun car. Yes you will have to work on it. But I have owned cars like this and you don’t work on them all the time. As it was said in a post on here a 350 is a good solid motor. Have it put on a lift and looked over real good. If it checks out talk him down in price. If you take good care of it and don’t beat on it. You get back about what you paid for it. $3000 is not much for a car that runs good these days. If the doors drop a bit it is a easy fix. Pins and bushing under $20.00. The only thing I would do is make sure the tires are good for rain. Hydroplaning at 70 is not fun. I would bet if the car is geared right 3.73 not 4.11 and a mild cam, you will get 18-22 highway.

I took a look at the add I see its 3.73 gear. The t -tops are Fisher. The only down side I see is the AC. If you want that to work I would find out what it will cost to fix it. Other wise I say go for it. Oh it should have no bigger than a 650 cfm carb. If it does then I would walk away. A 350 street driven should not have over a 650 cfm carb.


Wow - that makes your torso 4" longer than mine. You should look for a car that has seat height adjustment if you can find it. But I don’t think many cars before 2000 had that feature. Still, I’d stay away from anything like the Z28. You should be able to find a 1996 RS Camaro for about $1000. An unmodified 1996 Z28 would be about $1500. You will pay similar prices for a 1996 Mustang and Mustang GT, respectively. The guy with the modified Z28 is asking too much for the car IMO, and he is unwilling to deal. Let him have is way and forget about his car.

One of my grand sons bought an 81 Camaro and has swapped the TH 350 for a 700 R-4 and after rebuilding the Holley 4-bbl the 11 mpg prompted him to install an OE Quardrajet resulting in 14 mpg. Switches are failing regularly and the AC has not been repaired because all his time and money are spent keeping it running. But when it runs it will fish tail when it shifts to second so he enjoys it. Lucky for him he kept the old C-1500. It’s also 30 years old but seems to have aged much better. I try to keep my mouth shut. He’s working hard and paying for his fun.