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'98-'02 Camaro SS
Not that the fourth-generation Camaro isn't a well known muscle car, but what make the '98 version such a milestone was return of the SS moniker. Built by SLP for Chevrolet, the car produced 320 horsepower, 15 more than the base Z28. More than just engine mods, it had 17-inch wheels, a unique rear spoiler, composite cold-air hood and other goodies. If you were lucky enough to test drive one of the these Camaros when they were new, you would know why its on our list.
Whether you like the Corvair or not, without it we might not have the Camaro. Its influence on the first-gen F-body can be seen in the Corvair's interior and exterior design. For '65, the Corvair was thoroughly re-engineered with a completely revised suspension (featuring an independent rear), dynamic new styling and a clean, revamped interior. In '65 GM offered four power levels from the flat six-cylinder engine: 95-, 110-, 140- and 180-horsepower (the latter with a turbocharger).
'75 Caprice Classic Convertible What makes the '75 Caprice Classic such a notable ride? It was the last year you could get a full-size Chevy convertible. With a handsome new grille design and seating for six, the last full-size ragtop was the ultimate cruiser for the Bow Tie enthusiast with a large family. They rode like Cadillacs, were stylish and look good to this day.
Offered in '85 was the IROC-Z, which was named for the International Race Of Champions. It was an add on option to the Z28 that netted you a lowered stance, better suspension, better tires, and a Tuned Port Injection system from the Vette. The only way you could get a stick was with a 305 TPI engine; the 350 TPI version was automatic transmission-only. The IROC-Z Camaro racecar was driven by the likes of Al Unser Jr., Geoffrey Bodine, and Terry Labonte.
The most expensive, and typically luxurious, cars of the Tri Five era, the Nomads weren't just two door station wagons. With their special roof and sloped down tailgate design, the Nomad was a family hauler with style and panache, the first of a breed to blend the best design attributes of a station wagon and hardtop coupe. Harley Earl spurred the Nomad's development and production on the full size car line. Today Nomad's bring top dollar at any collector car auction, and are some of the rarest Tri Fives to be had.
From the ground up it was an all new car, sharing nothing except its optional V-8 engine with the first and second generation Camaros. It was smaller, lighter, and more nimble. The third generation used a torque arm design rear suspension and its MacPherson-strut front suspension design that gave the car superb handling and sports car like feel. The third gen cars' rear hatch glass was also the largest single piece of glass installed in a car in their era. The car's basic design would remain until the Camaro's retirement in 2002.
'77 Z28 Camaro:
After being absent from the Camaro lineup for two years, the Z28 made its triumphant return mid-year in '77, signaling that the concept of performance and driving excitement was dead yet in malaise era mired Detroit. While it didn't have the most power out of its cousins, the '77 Z28 boasted impressive handling and driving feel, and was the only other performance car in the Chevy lineup besides the Corvette.
'62 Chevy II/Nova:
To fight Ford's new Falcon, Chevrolet designers and engineers came up with an all new, no-nonsense traditional layout small car. 18-months of development time later the first car of what would be 17 years of production rolled off the assembly line. Intended as an economy car only, the Chevy II wouldn't see a factory V-8 option until 1964, but its cheap cost and light weight made it a popular V-8 swap recipient for enthusiast and racers. The Nova was one of Chevrolet's top selling vehicles through most of its production run, until it was replaced in 1980 by the abominable front wheel drive Citation.
On paper, the first fourth-gen F-body was a slam-dunk. With 260-horsepower, a six-speed transmission and four-wheel disc brakes, the Z/28 should have been a slam dunk in the marketplace. It was priced reasonably, but it never caught on like Chevy hoped it would. Sales were disappointing from the very start. The interior was full of odd shapes and it was hard to see out of. The styling was also very controversial. While it took most of its cues from the previous generation Camaro, many derided it as a "Geo Storm on steroids." Ultimately, its failures caused the F-body to go out of production for seven years. That alone makes it significant.
Briggs-Allen Chevelle LS6 Convertible:
The former Super Stock/E Automatic racecar sold for a staggering $1,150,000 at a 2006 Barrett-Jackson auction, a record at the time that shocked the musclecar-buying public. A genuine LS6 convertible, this car went on to win the NHRA Super Stock world championship. The car won The US Nationals, The Super Nationals, The World Finals and most of the division races it entered. Before it went to auction, it got a frame-off restoration, but the luster somehow wore off. When it went back to auction a couple of years later, it pulled a mere fraction of its previous price: $264,000.
1978 Corvette Indy Pace Car:
Thanks to Smokey & The Bandit, the Pontiac Trans Am became the car to have starting in 1977. The Corvette, riding the same platform since 1963 and the same essential body since '68 was getting long in the tooth. It celebrated its 25th anniversary in '78 and to hype the car Chevy got it selected as the 1978 Indy Pace Car, a first for the sports car and the first Chevy since 1969. Even though it was mostly emblems and black over silver paint, people went crazy for the Pace Car replicas. Only 300 were scheduled for production, but demand dictated 6,502 be built. The MSRP for a Pace Car was $13,653, $4,302 more than a base Vette. Despite this premium, they were many sold for way above sticker price and the publicity put the Corvette squarely back on the radar of car guys everywhere.
Dale Earnhardt Sr. GM Goodwrench Lumina:
Ahead of Jeff Gordon's Lumina was the black No. 3 of The Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt Sr. His four championships, '90, '91, '93, and '94, had the Lumina at the front of NASCAR until the Monte Carlo replaced it as the body of choice for the 1995 season.
Jeff Gordon's NASCAR Lumina:
The mid-1990's saw the rise of a new group of young drivers who would eventually take the reins from the senior drivers who had helped dive NASCAR to its global prominence. At the top of that list was Jeff Gordon. Dubbed "The Rainbow Warriors" because of their Dupont sponsored Chevy Lumina's paint scheme, Gordon and his team (led by crew chief Ray Evernham) would win the Winston Cup Championship in 1995 driving a Lumina, then again in '97 and '98 driving the Lumina's replacement, the Monte Carlo.
Route 66 Corvette:
There were actually a few Corvettes that appeared in the TV show Route 66. What made this car important was that it introduced a weak-selling fiberglass sports car to an entire nation and hooked a generation of young people on Corvettes. Who didn't want to be Martin Milner or George Miharis bombing around the country in a cool set of wheels, finding adventure and romance at every stop along the way?
Jungle Jim Lieberman, Chevy Funny Cars:
Many regard the late Russell James Liberman, aka. "Jungle Jim" as the "John Force" of his era, and John Force even admits to "JJ" as being one of his all time heroes. From 1966 to 1970, Liberman campaigned a series of Chevrolet-powered Nova-bodied funny cars (Jungle is shown here racing another Chevy FC proponent, Randy Walls "Super Nova" at OCIR on the way to winning the Manufacturer's Funny Car Team Championships,) and in fact was one of the first funny car drivers to field a two-car team in '69. Jungle's other Nova, driven by Clare Sanders won the very first Funny Car eliminator NHRA ever had at the '69 NHRA Winternationals. Both cars routinely ran low 7s at 197.00. In 1970, Liberman would switch to Chrysler power in order to remain competitive, and would go on to become one drag racing's all time funny car legends.--Bob McClurg
Bernie Agaman's Bayonne Missile Corvette:
While Corvette's aren't exactly known for being drag cars, this racer from North Jersey found a favorable combination in Super Stock/C Automatic and ended up winning the '75 NHRA Super Stock world championship. The Truppi-Kling-powered 454-powered '71 was a dominant force in Super Stock that year, running mid-10s.
It was the first of what would become a long line of great cars. After GM founder William C. Durant was ousted from that company, he partnered with Buick race car driver Louis Chevrolet to found the Chevrolet Motor Car Company. Before the decade ended, Chevrolet had become strong enough to allow Durant to buy back control of General Motors and make Chevrolet its mainstay brand. Louis Chevrolet had left the company in 1915, but his name remained. The 1911 Chevrolet featured a 299-cubic inch "T Head" six cylinder engine with dual camshafts and rated at 40 horsepower.
1994-'96 Impala SS:
Fans of big-car performance rejoiced when Chevy unleashed the LT1-powered Impala SS. With a 260-horse V-8, Police Package suspension, reworked Caprice body and gorgeous five-spoke wheels, it inspired mania from day one. A center console-mounter shifter and analog tach were added in '96. Sixty mph came up in 7.1-seconds, with quarter-mile times in the 15.1-15.4 range at about 91 mph. It's a cult classic today.
This was the modern era's first muscle truck. The throttle-body injected 454 made a stump-pulling 385 lb-ft of torque and 230 horsepower. Thanks to its prodigious torque and 3.73:1 rear gears, punching the loud pedal was enough to throw your head into the pickup bed. It could also empty the fuel tank in short order (no overdrive was available). High 15-second quarter-mile times were the norm and it inspired Ford's Special Vehicle Team to create the F-150 Lightning in '93.
The most technologically advanced Chevy ever is perhaps its most important. Only on the market for a few months, it is stealing customers from Toyota and Nissan. It's also showing GM has the know-how to not only lead the auto industry into an uncertain 21st century, but to meet the government's daunting, near-term fuel economy standards.
First Gen Corvair/Monza/Spyder:
The Corvair hit Chevy showrooms in the fall of 1959, a time when seemingly all cars were growing bigger and had fins that would make a shark jealous. The only American made, rear engined car ever produced, its all aluminum, air cooled flat-six engine was another first for an American car. With the debut of the Monza edition in early 1960, the Corvair was also a legit performance car, nicknamed "a poor man's Porsche" by many. Chevrolet sold over 200,000 Corvairs for every model year of the first generation, and held its own against Chevrolet's other small car offering that debuted in 1962, the Nova/Chevy II.
Race on Sunday/Sell in Monday was still in effect during the '70s, and the NASCAR inspired Laguna was a direct result. Designed to be more aerodynamic and give Chevrolet an edge at Daytona, these cars were the symbol of a time when NASCAR teams were building on the previous work done by Smokey Yunick and really beginning to understand the importance of aerodynamics, along with the ever increasing speeds of the Cup cars.
1986-'87 Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe:
Along with its cousin, the Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2, the Aerocoupe was the last production car built to homologate a special body for use in NASCAR's Winston Cup series. Back before NASCAR essentially became a spec series, the introduction of Ford's slippery new '83 Thunderbird gave the Blue Oval teams a decided advantage on the track. It also sent the Chevy race teams scrambling. The result was 200 production cars in '86 and 6,052 in '87; more importantly, it kept the Chevys competitive in NASCAR against the aero Thunderbirds, winning the Winston Cup championship in '86 and '87.
Buoyed by the success of the Chrysler PT Cruiser and VW's New Beetle, Chevrolet brought its own retro-inspired hot rod, the SSR. With its trick retractable hardtop, 5.7-liter LS engine and styling that was a nod to Chevy trucks from 1947-'53, the SSR answered critics who claimed the folks at modern GM lacked guts. In 2005, it received a 6.0-liter, 390-horse V-8 and available six-speed manual trans. As different as it was, it was doomed by its high price tag and near useless carrying capacity. Only about 25,000 were made.
1975-'76 Cosworth Vega:
This was supposedly John DeLorean's attempt to create a modern version of the GTO. The ingredients were there--dual overhead cam EFI engine, a robust suspension and a decent power-to-weight ratio. It was the first Chevy with electronic fuel injection, a five-speed transmission, and aluminum wheels as standard equipment. Unfortunately, by the time it came out the Vega's reputation was that of an unreliable rust-bucket and the Cosworth cost almost as much as a Corvette. That doomed it in the marketplace. Still, it had more modern technology in it than a Vette of the same vintage and proved there were still people at Chevy in the mid-'70s who cared about performance.