Chevy Camaro got a big facelift in 1978. Gone were the awkward bumpers from the 1974-1977 models, replaced with much sleeker urethane plastic units that blended in much better with the almost ten-year-old body style. Over at sister division Pontiac, the 1977 Firebird was revamped with new-fangled quad, rectangular headlamps, but the Camaro stayed with single round units for the Camaro in a tasteful twist.
The car was a big hit, to say the least. The new rubber-bumpered Camaro sold a blistering 272,631 in 1978 units and followed that up with another 282,571 units in 1979. That’s over half a million sold in two years alone. For perspective, 35,000 units a year would be considered a good year for Camaro in 2022.
As we all know, this era of Camaro was saddled with emissions-strangled V8s that didn’t even break the 200-horsepower mark. Not only that, but rubber-bumper Camaros have traditionally held up the bottom end of the collector market for Chevy’s F-body. They are hardly considered the pick of the litter.
Today, with the prospect of electric cars looming, these late-era second-gen Camaros look pretty darn good, and as previously mentioned, they are abundant and easy to mod. An added bonus is, if you go the restomod route, you don’t have to worry about cutting up a rare or valuable chrome-bumper model.
Greatness for these malaise-era Camaros is achieved by a big hit of horsepower, and Roadster Shop just created the new benchmark for modding a rubber-bumper, second-gen Camaro.
The restraint shown here is commendable. The guys at Roadster Shop elaborate, “We recently completed the ’79 Z28 ‘Survivor Series’ build that packs a 755-horsepower LT5 punch combined with all new handling prowess and ride quality courtesy of a new, 100-percent bolt-in SPEC second-gen F-body chassis
“Subtle mods throughout retain the late-’70s roots, with a newly fabbed hood scoop and graphics to accommodate the taller LT5 motor. A newly upholstered interior by Miranda Built houses Recaro seats with custom graphic gradient inserts, a modified center console, and a machined bezel for the digital touch encoder. Our full-width custom electronic gauge setup sits within a 3D-printed dash surround complementing a lower 7-inch screen for controlling audio, AC, and other vehicle systems. White Forgeline JO3C wheels complete the look perfectly in 18×9.5-inch front (265/40r18) and 19×12 rear (345/30r19) with big 13-inch Baer Brakes.”
Our favorite part of the build, aside from the mega horsepower and chassis additions, is the interior. Historically, this era of Camaro had a crappy interior. Subpar fit and finish and cheap materials have always made a second-gen Camaro feel like you’re in a penalty box.
Well, no more. The design wasn’t an issue; it has kind of a cool Space 1999 feel to it, but the execution never tied it all together until now. Roadster Shop has corrected every debit of the interior. The new custom console really anchors the dash, and everything else is swathed in yards of baby blue leather. The seats are knitted out in early third-generation fabric that looks like it rolled off the line with the car in 1979. Some feel the off-the-shelf steering wheel is a misstep here, but that’s the only fly in the ointment.
Rubber-bumper Camaros and Firebirds have gained steam with collectors over the last few years, but we think this 1979 Z28 from Roadster Shop will accelerate interest in these once-derided ponies from General Motors.