This is one of six features celebrating the Camaro’s 50th anniversary. Check in each week for additional coverage. Learn about a new generation, aftermarket potential, legendary racers, age-old rivalry and much more. We’ve included some throwback videos for your viewing enjoyment!
Both the Camaro and Mustang were back in the saddle with a little extra juice under the hood by the mid-90’s. The fourth generation Chevy Camaro became the official car of rock n’ roll with its smooth physique and gains in horsepower, showing off new plastic front fenders, a short-arm/long-arm front suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, as well as a groomed profile.
“The LT1 was easily the most powerful small-block installed in the Camaro since its namesake, the 1970 LT-1. And, considering the move from gross to net power ratings, probably even more powerful than that legend. Behind it was either a four-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission with 16” wheels and tires; and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes were standard. With Z/28 prices starting under $17,000, the value was just amazing,” commented Edmunds.
The Camaro SS graciously returned to lots in 1997 and gave drivers 330 horsepower out of the gun from a LT4 V8 engine. Edmunds explained the package included a larger rear spoiler and special 17” wheels. The 1998-2002 SS versions received improved exhaust and intake systems, bigger wheels and tires, a slightly revised suspension for improved handling and better grip, an arc-shaped rear wing for downforce and different gearing ratios for faster acceleration.
Introduction of the LS
But GM’s aha moment came in 1998 with the release of the coveted LS platform, also used in the Corvette C5. The 5.7L LS1 was the first all-aluminum engine offered in a Camaro since the 1969 ZL1. It carried between a 305-325 horsepower rating, an enormous uptick from previous ratings of recent years.
“The LS platform was a huge improvement over previous gen small-block Chevy’s and is still a popular option for many engine swaps. The LS underwent gasket and cylinder head technology improvements, resulting in a better flowing design,” said John Potucek, Product Master Data at Keystone. “The stock power on an LS was equivalent to or better than a lot of aftermarket heads available for previous gen small blocks,” he continued.
Choosing an LS engine swap for his ‘73 Chevy Nova project, Potucek said “the stock power on a LS usually ranges between 295-350. I did a turbo and was getting 500 horsepower at the wheels. A bolt-on cam and I increased another 100 horsepower. The stock engine remains untouched from GM. It’s the way the factory built it. That pushrod design really worked for them—it was a home run,” he said.
And it’s exactly why the fourth generation Chevy Camaro is a mainstay at the track. “The fourth generation LS-engine Camaros are very popular,” said Steve Wolcott, President of ProMedia Inc. “Once secondary market kicks in and these can be purchased outside warranty then you can really afford to do modifications,” he continued.
Despite the success of the LS engine, production of the F-Body platform was discontinued due to slowing sales, a perceived deteriorating market for sports coupés and plant overcapacity. The Camaro endured an uncomfortably long reprieve, but returned to its former glory with the release of its fifth generation modern muscle.
‘Til next week, burnout folks.