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Suggestions for 1989 Camaro Restoration

I recently inherited an 1989 Camaro Iroc-z and its in pretty bad shape. The paint is peeling on pretty much every part of the car, as well as gaping rust holes along the roof of the vehicle. So far i have prioritized the inner workings of it, taking into various shops and such and now she runs fine, but i feel it is time to work on the body. Would it be cheaper to find another roof entirely and weld it on, or should i attempt to repair the rust holes? Also, i am on a budget as well so i don’t need everything as pristine as a collector would like. I am just looking for a place to start. Any suggestions would be well received. Thanks.

Not to be a Debbie Downer… but you might do well to walk away from this project.

Rust is pretty much the death knell for any vehicle, especially if you’re on a budget.

My advice would be to walk away now. But I could be wrong.

Good luck to you.

Well, it depends on the extent of the damage. A roof is part of the structure of the car… you don’t want it to collapse in case of a roll over. Can you send us pictures of the problem areas?

Have you checked the support pieces under the car for rust? that is usually where there is the most rust, and the most dangerous.

LS + T-56 swap.

Restoration and budget can’t work.

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Rust through on this part of the car is bad and also very rare. You need to determine if it rusted through from the inside or from the outside. From the inside is pretty much a write-off. Pull the headliner out of the car. What do you see? Lots of rust on the underside of the roof? Rust on the cross supports? This is pretty much un-repairable unless you win the lottery.

If its rust through from the outside-in. It is fixable. I’d suggest a new roof panel if one is available as you will have a devil of a time welding a patch into the roof and making it smooth again. Notice I said “welding.” A reasonable repair could be made with sheet metal, pop rivets and epoxy with a bondo layer, inexpensively, but unlikely to last so don’t spend a ton of money on a paint job.

The paint job… Peeling paint, for this car probably means peeling clear coat. It needs to be sanded until the clear is gone and and cracking is sanded away. Preferably NOT to have the primer layer sanded off. And any break-thru to bare metal primed as soon as you are ready to stop working that area. It is a big job along WITH the rust repair and has side-tracked many a DIY-er. If you are paying for this work, don’t. The car won’t be worth the value of the paint job when you are done. Sorry.

As others have said, you might want to look for a better car to start with.

Agree with the others - first thing is to have somebody who knows cars go over it looking for rust, especially underneath, and ESPECIALLY in and around the suspension and its mounting points. Also, have you gotten the brakes back in shape? What about the front suspension? Are the tires relatively new (5 years old or less)? Safety first…

Make mine another vote to walk away. Sell it as a resto to someone who might have the money, time, and desire to bring it back to life… or sell it by the pound to the junkman.

Restoring a vehicle in the shape you describe will cost far more than you’ll ever recover, and it’ll drain your budget.

How many times does someone come here with the idea they can restore a vehicle on a budget? Maybe they should watch some televised collector auctions and see what they sell for and what the announcers estimate that was spent on the vehicle.

i used to think i wanted a 88-89 z-28. than i wanted a 98-99 since it had the LS motor. i think both generations shared the same poor frame/body/suspension issues but the 98-99 would be 10yrs newer at least and probably in better shape. i test drove a 88 firebird formula with no t-tops and it had a 305 tuned port and 5spd manual trans. pretty rare combo. maybe it was 87? i drove it. i looked under hood. got in a few arguments with f-car nuts who said it was never built that way. this was in 88 at a pontiac dealer. car was used, with maybe 10k miles.

I agree. Finding a usable car with bad or missing engine and trans would be the only logical decision.

Walk away. There are far better fish in the sea.

Post some pictures first and we can provide some feedback on options. A lot will depend on the extent of the rust and your tolerance for perfection (or lack thereof).

There’s a guy at the local Cars & Coffee that has a late 80’s IROC with an LS1 swap. The LS just looks like it belongs there. One of the cleanest looking engine swaps I’ve seen. I imagine it’s easier to live with vs. the hokey “Crossfire” setup that some of the 3rd gen F-Bodies had. I think this particular car started life with a tuned-port 305 though.

we used to call it cease-fire injection. the 83-86 camaros had a mix of stuff. the z-28 had the crossfire. the base v8 camaro had a 4bbl carb with the manual trans and a tbi with the auto? dont think there was a CFI manual trans car?

Yup I think it depends on the type and size of the rust. There is a youtube on a guy replacing the roof sheet metal somewhere if you look for it. Shows what you run into anyway and you either need a donor car or a replacement roof panel.

Really not that rare. All those options were available as stand-alone. Now if it was an 89 305 tuned port, 5 speed, 3:73 rear gear and no AC or T-tops… THAT would be rare. One of 111 built. The car would be a 1LE built for SCCA racing. Came with bigger 4 wheel disk brakes and 145 mph speedo and really stiff race shocks. Now if it was an 89 350 automatic AC delete car, also a 1LE, it might be one of 2 built that year.

93-up cars are similar to 82-92 cars from the firewall back. The front was re-designed to have a double A-arm suspension rather than the struts suspension. The later LS-1 V8 cars got the better engine.

I’m curious about rust on the rest of the car. It would be odd to have the roof rusted to oblivion and yet the undercarriage remain decent. A T-Top car all rusted out???

Post some pics and we will take a look at it.

It does happen if near ocean. Co-worker with a 2year old civic had a 2inch hole in Roof-all the way through.