It’s that time again. Rust or Lust is back, and while we approved of the refined SC300 last week, this week we’re looking at a totally different animal – the last of the F-body Camaros. Better crank up the AC/DC and bust out your muscle shirt, because we’re taking a quick trip down the Highway to Hell.
The Car: 1993 – 2002 Chevy Camaro
For those that don’t know, the venerable F-body platform debuted in 1967. It was used exclusively for only two cars: the Chevy Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird. Refined and updated, it was produced all the way until 2002, when it underpinning all the 4th generation cars – including our subject today, the 1993 – 2002 Chevy Camaro. The 1993 version was an updated version of the previous car, as all previous generations had been revisions too. Think of the F-body as an experiment in evolution, having crawled out of the Detroit ooze in ’67 and changing with the times ever since.
As anybody will tell you, the big news with any Camaro is the engine. You might think of the Camaro as merely a rolling platform for the engine it’s designed to accommodate. Since the General’s pushrod smallblocks are universally regarded as excellent ways to move a vehicle to extralegal speeds, it’s no surprise that the ’93 Camaro debuted with the new LT1 V8 (which had appeared in the Corvette one year earlier). This 5.7 L lump made a healthy 275 HP and 325 ft-lbs of torque, which in the early nineties was a pretty big deal. Of course, many were offered with the anemic 160 horse V6, but we’re not interested in that. We’re more interested in the fact that you could get a Borg-Warner 6-speed cog-swapper right off the bat. You could also get your choice of roof configurations – coupe, convertible (starting in ’94), or T-top.
The LT1 was the most powerful motor offered in a Camaro since 1970, after which emissions restrictions strangled the crap out of the former pony car. At under $17,000 new, it offered a lot of Corvette-level engine at bargain-basement prices. So when the ’93 V8 models debuted, let’s just say that lots of long male hair was waving in the wind as backroads everywhere were filled with the acrid scent of tire-smoke. When the 305 HP SS version (produced by non-GM contractor SLP Engineering, at first) was a welcome upgrade. Furthermore, in ’97, you could pick up one of the rarest modern Camaros ever made – the Z28 SS, which produced 330 HP out of its Corvette-sourced LT4 engine. Only 106 were made. The engine upgrade march went on as the ’98 non-SS cars received the new LS-1 engine making 305 HP dead stock. This was the first all-aluminum Camaro engine since the insanely rare and expensive ’69 ZL-1. After ’98, the SS cars produced 320 HP.
And then, the upgrades stopped. Sales plummeted, revenue fell, and GM couldn’t devote the resources to redesign or upgrade thing with such low numbers. The Canadian plant that built all F-bodies shut its doors in August of 2002, and the Camaro and related Firebird were no more. But that didn’t keep a rabid fanbase and an enthusiastic aftermarket away. It’s still one of the cheapest ways to go fast there is.
Of course, let us not forget all of the niggling quirks that tend to saddle these cars. They were crude vehicles, with uncomfortable interiors, questionable ergonomics, and problematic build quality. You could hardly see out of the things, and with a short wheelbase and a live-axle rear end, they weren’t the best handlers in the world. Although the suspension can be sorted out with aftermarket tweaks, it’s never going to be a S2000.
We’ve never had a draw on Rust or Lust before, so we’re as baffled as you as to what to make of it. The pros of this car are obvious – it’s a dirt cheap way to go very fast. Parts are easy to come by, and any bow-tie lovin’ aftermarket entity will sell you anything you want. How fast do you want to spend (to paraphrase Matthew Crawford)? PS – there was also a cop version!
But also, would you want to? Camaros are saddled with some class stigma – just like the a Corvette or a Ferrari. You don’t become a synonym for “mullet inside” for no reason whatsoever. Plus, with a car like this, there aren’t simply any “used cars.” You get two flavors of used Camaros – driven raw and put away bleeding, or waxed four times a day and driven only on leap Sundays. One is suicide, the other is going to cost you an arm and a checkbook (but will pay dividends in on-demand burnouts). Choose wisely.