The third-generation Chevrolet Camaro was introduced for the 1982 model year. It continued to use General Motors' F-body platform and would produce a "20th Anniversary Commemorative Edition" for 1987 and "25th Anniversary Heritage Edition" for 1992. These were also the first Camaros with factory fuel injection, four-speed automatic transmissions, five-speed manual transmissions, four-cylinder engines, 16-inch wheels, and hatchback bodies.
The third-gen Camaros would continue through the 1992 model year.
The Third-Generation Camaro was released for sale in January 1982. The 1982 model introduced the first Camaros with factory fuel injection, a hatchback body style, and a four-cylinder engine (due to concerns over fuel economy in the wake of the 1979 energy crisis). The Camaro Z28 was Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year for 1982. Three models were available: Sport Coupe, Berlinetta, and Z28. Third generation Camaros also had a suspension system that was much more capable in corners than the previous generation.
The Sport Coupe came standard with the 2.5 L 151 cid LQ9 four cylinder engine. The 2.8 L 173 LC1 V6 and 5.0 L 305 LG4 V8 were optional. Dog dish-style hub caps were standard; wheel covers were optional as were steel, five-spoke 14x7 body-colored rally wheels.
The Berlinetta came standard with the 2.8 LC1 V6 or the optional 5.0 LG4 V8. The Berlinetta came standard with its own unique 14x7 finned aluminum wheel with gold accenting and `Berlinetta' center cap. Its own lower body pinstriping, gold "Berlinetta" badging, and headlamp pockets were painted in an accent color. The tail lights got a gold and black horizontal divider bar. The interior came standard with custom cloth interior, a rear storage well cover and additional carpeting on rear wheelhouses. It also came standard with additional body insulation and full instrumentation.
The Z28 came standard with the 5.0 LG4 4bbl V8 or the optional LU5 twin TBI `Cross Fire Injection' 5.0 L. The carbureted engine was available with either a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission and put out a , while the optional Cross Fire Injection 305 was rated at . Performance enthusiasts of the day gave the new Camaro rave reviews for its styling and handling, but also made critical remarks about the relatively low power ratings and lackluster performance compared to Ford's Mustang GT, with the High Output 5.0 Litre(302 cubic-inch) V8 and Top-Loader four-speed manual transmission.
All Z28s came with lightweight fiberglass SMC hoods with functional hood air induction flaps on RPO LU5 cars. The Z28 had a different nose, a three-piece rear spoiler and front, side, and rear lower body valances in silver or gold. Just above the valance was a two-color lower body stripe that encircled the car. Headlamp pockets on the Z28 were black. Standard were new 15x7 cast-aluminum five-spoke wheels accented with silver or gold. Z28 badges appeared on the right rear bumper, and on the side valances.
The Camaro Z28 paced the Indianapolis 500 in 1982, and over 6000 replicas were sold through Chevy dealers. The pace car edition featured special two-tone silver/blue paint and special striping, orange pin-striping on 15-inch Z28 wheels, and a silver/blue interior with six-way Lear-Seigler manually-adjustable seating. Engine choices in the pace cars were the same as the regular Z28. However, the car that actually paced the event was equipped with a highly modified all aluminum 5.7 L V8 not offered publicly, although there are rumors that four were actually produced.
The Camaro had a significant change in the Z28 engine lineup: the lackluster and trouble-prone LU5 Crossfire 305 V8 was supplanted in April 1983 by an all-new simpler 5.0 L L69 4 bbl High-Output (HO) V8, giving the Z28 a much-needed power boost to be competitive with the 5.0 Mustang GT. This engine was only available with manual transmission in 1983. Due to the late introduction, only 3,223 L69 V8s were sold this year, making one in good condition a rare find today.
Transmissions were also improved for 1983. A 5-speed manual transmission replaced the previous 4-speed. The 3-speed automatic transmission in the Z28 was replaced by a 4-speed unit with overdrive. The automatic overdrive was also available on the base coupe and Berlinetta, but was not available with the L69 H.O. engine in the Z28 for 1983. Aside from the new transmissions, base coupe and Berlinetta carried on as in 1982 with very little change other than newly available colors.
The dashboard features becomes smaller and sharper because of complaints about the design quality and look. In the Berlinetta, the basic design was replaced with 'Star Wars-style' electronic instrumentation, including bar-graph tachometer and digital speedometer. The car has an overhead console and pod-mounted controls for turn signals, cruise-control, HVAC, windshield wiper and headlights. The radio was mounted inside a pod on the console, which could swivel toward the driver or passenger.
Drivetrain changes included the discontinuation of the LU5 305 Cross Fire V-8, and the addition of a hydraulic clutch linkage on manual cars. The L69 H.O. Z28 became available with automatic transmission for the first time.
Road & Track selected the 1984 Camaro/Firebird as one of twelve best cars in the world and in the Best Sports GT category in the $11,000 to $14,000 range. Car and Driver picked the '84 Camaro Z28 as the best handling car built in the United States.
For 1985, Chevrolet introduced a new Camaro model — the famous IROC-Z, named after the popular competition International Race of Champions. The Camaro IROC-Z featured an upgraded suspension with lowered springs, specially valved shocks, larger diameter sway bars, a special decal package, and an optional Tuned Port Injection system taken from the Corvette. It also shared the Corvette's 245/50ZR16 tires and new aluminum 5-spoke 16" wheels. The Camaro IROC-Z was on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1985. The 305 was the only engine to receive Tuned Port Injection considering the L98 350 was not available until mid-year 1986; rated at 215 hp, it was available only on the IROC-Z model with the 700-R4 automatic transmission. Also new for 1985, all Camaros featured refreshed noses and new, deeper valances and front spoiler for the Z28 and the newly introduced IROC-Z28. The speedometers no longer had the unique double-pointed needle that simultaneously read mph and km/h: they were replaced by conventional single-pointer units. The 2.8 V6 became fuel-injected, raising power from to . This would also be the final year for the less popular base-model 2.5 L 151 cid 4-cyl engine.
A newly required Center High Mounted Stop Lamp (CHMSL) was installed on the Camaro. 1986 was the only year to see this attached to the hatchback glass on base model Sport Coupes, Z28s and IROC-Zs; In following years it was implemented in the rear decklid spoiler, except for 1987 base models that did not have a spoiler. This was the final year for the L69 5.0 305 HO 4bbl option, and the 2.8 L V6 was now the standard engine in the base model - no more 4-bangers. The TPI 305 horsepower rating dropped from to in the Iroc-Z models. Chevrolet did build 75 IROC-Zs with the L98 5.7 L 350 TPI engines, but these cars were not equipped with A/C and not believed to be sold to the general public because they were test vehicles.
The 350 TPI and 5 Speed 305 TPI combinations were finally available on the IROC-Z28 after a lot of testing although the 350 was only available in the IROC-Z and only with an automatic transmission, testing had proven that the 5 speed couldn't handle the greater power output of the TPI 350. The TPI 350 motor was not visually distinguishable from the TPI 305. Automatic and Manual 305 TPI got a rating. Roller lifters and new valve cover/head design on V-8 Camaros. Valve covers featured new sealing and center bolts in the valve covers. Heads featured new raised lip for improved valve cover sealing. G92 and L98 (B2L) cars finally got the Borg-Warner HD 7.75 inch four pinion rear end, produced for GM Holden's Limited of Australia (Firebird WS6 cars went to this unit in 1986). These units can be identified by their 9 bolt (rather than 10) differential cover that has a rubber plug. The Borg-Warner logo is also cast into the bottom of the differential case. This rear axle came with tapered rather than straight roller bearings and a cone-clutch rather than disc-clutch limited slip unit. These units came painted black from the factory while most others were bare metal. All 1987 350 TPI (B2L) IROC-Z's required J65 rear disc brakes, G80 limited slip differential, and KC4 engine oil cooler. The largest visual change this year was the CHMSL was now mounted on the rear spoiler instead of atop the rear hatch (unless it was a base coupe without the spoiler option - on those it remained atop the hatch like last year). The Berlinettas were no longer available this year, replaced (ironically) with a new LT model, but the base and Z28s continued as before. speedometers became standard in the IROC-Zs and Z28s, the base and LTs got a new unit. The 2.8 V6 and 5.0 carbureted V8s carried on with no changes.
Other big Camaro news was a Camaro convertible that was introduced for the first time since 1969 as a regular production option. Available on the Sport Coupe and IROC-Z, the conversion was performed on t-top equipped (t-top models have extra bracing) Camaros by ASC. Only 1,007 were produced in the first year of production. 1987 marked the 20th anniversary of the Camaro and the convertibles were considered the anniversary editions and were signified by a special dash badge that read "20th Anniversary Commemorative Edition". Some 1987 T-Top models were made into convertibles by ASC after the customer took delivery. This is why there are some convertibles with the body VIN code of 2, meaning they were coupes, not convertibles (which have a body VIN code of 3). This was also the last year of production at GM's Norwood, OH facility as sales continued to decline therefore resulting in production reduced to the Van Nuys assembly plant located in Southern California.
1989 signified the return of the RS designation (last used in 1980). The Rally Sport was now the base model featuring body ground effects mimicking the IROC and the previous Z28. They had the 2.8 V6 fuel injected motor as standard with the 5.0 305 as an option. The raised rear spoiler that became available in 1988 on the base coupes was short-lived and done away with for this year. The IROC-Zs were still available with the TBI 305, the TPI 305, or the TPI 350. IROC-Z coupes had a new dual-converter exhaust option that boosted hp to 230 on the TPI 305/manual transmission cars, and 240 on the TPI 350 (and mandatory 700-R4 automatic). Also during this year all Camaros were outfitted with the VATS/PassKey security system and back seats received 3-point safety belts.
IROC-Zs with the TPI 350 had the 2.77 rear axle ratio as in the previous year, but the optional RPO G92 Performance Axle package modified the ratio to 3.27 for the TPI 350, and 3.45 for the TPI 305 with manual transmission. RPO G92 also included the aforementioned dual-converter exhaust; 4-wheel disc brakes (RPO J65); engine oil cooler; P245/50ZR16 Goodyear Eagle unidirectional tires; a 145-mph speedometer; and a tachometer with a 5,500-RPM redline. Only 1,426 IROC-Z coupes were equipped with the Performance Axle package in 1989.
To take an IROC-Z coupe to the maximum performance extreme in 1989, when G92 Performance Axle was ordered with no air conditioning (C41), RPO code 1LE was automatically triggered. This included extra equipment intended to make the IROC-Z more competitive in SCCA Showroom Stock road racing events: larger 11.65-inch rotors with 2-piston aluminium calipers from PBR; an aluminum driveshaft; a special baffled fuel tank; specific shock absorbers; and stiffer suspension bushings. The fog lamps were also deleted. Since the 1LE was simply an option combination, not a separate package or model which was promoted, very few customers or even Chevrolet dealers were aware of its existence. As a result, only 111 Camaros were built with the 1LE equipment in 1989.
1990 was the year with the lowest production to date (35,048), due to a truncated 1990 model run followed by early introduction of the facelifted 1991 models. 1990 also marked the final year for the IROC-Z. Chevrolet had decided not to renew their contract with the International Race of Champions, which was later renewed by Chrysler's Dodge Daytona. This year was the first year for an airbag to be offered in any F-body. The 2.8 L V6 was upgraded to the 3.1 L V6. Also, this was the first year for the updated "half-moon" gauge cluster that was offered only in 1990-1992 Camaros. That would make 1990 a distinguishable year by the fact it was the only 3rd gen Camaro that didn't feature the "aero" GFX but did feature the half-moon cluster.
The RPO code 1LE was again available in 1990, triggered as in the previous year by RPO G92 Performance Axle combined with no air conditioning on the IROC-Z coupe. Only 62 Camaros were built with 1LE equipment in 1990.
Early in 1990, the 1991 Camaros debuted. Big changes occurred, as all Camaros received a facelift in the form of a ground effects package for both the RS and Z28 models, while the IROC-Z was no longer offered. The Z28 also featured a high rise spoiler and non-functional hood "blisters". The 1991 Z28 also received a new wheel design to accent the new body accents. This was the first year that the B4C "Special Service" option was made available to law enforcement, the government, and military agencies. The B4C amounted to little more than a Z28 powertrain and suspension in the RS. (Car Craft Magazine refers to the B4C as a 1LE equipped with air conditioning; although this is slightly erroneous because in 1991, the large brakes with PBR calipers from the 1LE package were not included with B4C.) Just under 600 B4C Camaros were sold for 1991. 1991 was also the first year that Z28 Camaros equipped with the 305 TPI motor and a manual transmission had the same roller cam profile as the 350 TPI motor. Power ratings on the 350 TPI were as follows; @4400 rpm and @3200 rpm. Power rating on the 305 TPI motor were as follows; @4200 rpm and @3200 rpm. Rumors say that these numbers were slightly underrated by GM, but this has not been investigated.
Beginning with the 1991 model year, GM pioneered some modified assembly techniques with the F-body Camaro and Firebird which would be carried forward into the fourth generation. Different seam sealers, structural adhesives and body assembly techniques were employed in key areas, in an effort to reduce squeaks and rattles and improve the perception of quality.
The SCCA Showroom-Stock-ready 1LE package continued with similar equipment to previous years, and was again triggered automatically by the G92 Performance Axle option combined with C41 basic ventilation system (no air conditioning) on the Z28 coupe. Enthusiasts and dealers were becoming more aware of the 1LE, as production increased to 478 units.
1992 was the final year of the third generation Camaro. A "25th Anniversary Heritage Edition" option had been planned with Corvette aluminum cylinder heads, tubular exhaust headers, and 6-speed manual transmission, but this was scrapped in favor of a "Heritage Package" option (RPO Z03) which amounted to nothing more than a graphics package of badges and rally stripes. All 1992 Camaros received a "25th Anniversary" badge on the dashboard. The 1992 version of the Camaro B4C (Special Service Package) got the addition of 1LE brakes and suspension, making it perhaps the best performing third generation Camaro available with air conditioning. Just under 500 B4Cs were sold. The B4C option was also deemed popular enough to be carried on to the fourth generation model.
1992 Z28s received some of the "leftovers" from its Corvette cousin, which switched from Tuned Port Injection to the updated LT1 engine series in 1992. Some Z28s received the cast aluminum style intake runners from the TPI Corvette instead of the regular Camaro smooth tube ones. Most of the 1992 Z28s also received some 1LE components as well, like the popular polyurethane bushings instead of the standard rubber ones, as well as polyurethane transmission mounts.
The RPO 1LE option combination, identical to the previous year in specification and option requirements, had its highest production year of the third generation Camaro, with 705 cars so equipped.
It should be noted that the vast majority of the 1LE cars built during the 1989-1992 period were very sparsely equipped vehicles. Since they were intended for racing, where extra weight is a disadvantage and interiors are often gutted after purchase, most were very lightly optioned. The majority of 1LE Camaros had the base interior, with no power options, cruise control, or even floor mats. Some were even built without radios (201 cars were built as "radio delete" in 1992). For structural rigidity reasons, the popular Hatch Roofs (T-Tops) were not available with RPO 1LE. An "oddball" Camaro equipped with a combination of both RPO 1LE and luxury or appearance options, such as a deluxe leather interior or the Z03 Heritage Package, is therefore a rare and potentially collectible vehicle.