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Zero Frills: This 1983 Camaro Is One Of The Basiest Base Models We’ve Ever Seen!

Zero Frills: This 1983 Camaro Is One Of The Basiest Base Models We’ve Ever Seen!

A car that really needs no introduction to all of you BangShift readers is the 3rd Generation Chevrolet Camaro. As I’m sure you are all aware of by now, these cars were built from 1982 until 1992, and could be had in a variety of flavors from mild to wild. Growing up as a child of the 1980’s, these cars were not only everywhere; they were coveted by me personally as one of the coolest rides in an endless sea of malaise. As a kid, I had both family and friends who were “Camaro Cool”, and I spent some time getting ferried around in the back of both a black 1982 Z28 and a blue 1988 IROC 350. I also had a cousin who had a red IROC with T-Tops, and man, there was nothing cooler. As a young child, I once rode from my suburban Boston childhood home to the old defunct Rocky Point Park in Warwick, RI in the HATCH of that blue IROC 350, when some family friends who were a bit on the irresponsible side took my sister, their daughter, and I there for the day. The pounding of the crossflow muffler belting out that V8 soundtrack probably melted my brain a little, and needless to say, that was the last time they babysat me as a kid.  I even briefly owned a 1983 Z28, and would love to track down another one someday.

But for every sweet Z28 and IROC prowling around with the T-Tops off blasting Dokken out of the ERS Sound System, there were many more mundane cars serving as regular, albeit sporty, transportation for the masses. Most of these plebeian examples were powered by the 2.8L V6, but if you were super, ultra, mega cheap, you could opt for the good ol’ Iron Duke. Yup, the very same 2.5L four cylinder engine that could be had in everything from AMC Spirits to front wheel drive Grand Ams to even the Grumman LLV mail trucks that still cockroach around today were offered with this lump. The Camaro you are about to see is remarkable, for not only is it powered (and I use the word “Powered” loosely) by the Iron Duke, but it seems to be devoid of any options. With just a hair under 10k miles on the odometer, it has to be the nicest base model Camaro left in existence. You have to see this thing to believe it!

Those deeply entrenched in the world of 3rd Gen Camaros will look at this nose and feel like there’s something missing. The Z28 had a different nose entirely, and the base model nose can be spotted by the three vents in the center and the lack of a chin spoiler. I haven’t seen one of these noses in what seems to be like 20 years in person.

When was the last time you saw one of these sans ground effects or a body kit of any kind? Looking at this car is like looking at a Z28/IROC completely naked. This is what the designers intended you to see. Compared to the 1970-81 cars, it was truly a styling coup. Back then, even the lower end cars were striking. I say it still looks great, even like this.

Again, no ground effects, no side trim, no T-Tops, no graphics, and no spoiler makes this car look funny in my eyes, which are used to seeing the higher end models. Note the tiny single outlet exhaust; more on this later.

This car is also sporting steel 14″ wheels, hubcaps, and white wall tires, which again looks strange on one of these cars. Note how high that front end is sitting; it looks like it’s in the middle of an engine swap! Maybe it’s because it’s just missing 2-4 cylinders up there? Maybe it’s the 195/75/14 tires not filling out the wheel wells like the 15-16″ wheels wrapped in fatter rubber do? I don’t know, but it just looks wrong!

Back when I had my Camaro, I would peruse the local pick-and-pull junkyards looking for 3rd Gen treasure. Upon popping the hood, first I’d look to see if it had the tell-tale 2.8/3.1 intake. If I was lucky enough to find one with a V8, I’d look directly down at the core support to see one of these catalyst stickers to see if I struck gold with a TPI 350 or not. In the upper left of this one, only 2.5 Liters of pure GM disappointment are displayed.

And there it is… the infamous 2.5L Iron Duke four cylinder! Designed by the Pontiac Motor Division sometime in the 70’s as a stopgap to fill the engine compartments of various cheap GM vehicles, they were available in everything from Citations to S10’s and beyond. As said earlier, you could also find this motor under the hoods of some AMC’s and other vehicles as well.  As disappointing as it is to see this lump in there, it’s also cool in a weird way. We are all so used to seeing a SBC saddled in between the shock towers of 3rd Gen cars that we often forget that these could have been had with a four cylinder engine. Making just 92hp, the driving experience is more agricultural than sporty, and we’re being generous there. Piloting one of these must have been absolutely miserable with the automatic, but the original buyer of this car was far too thrifty for such luxuries, so at least this one has a 4-speed manual transmission. To date, I have only seen one of these in between the fenders of a 3rd gen in person, and that was years ago in a junkyard. The take rate had to have been very low compared to the V6 and V8 cars.

Inside, it’s typical early 3rd Gen fare, and since this one has just under 10k miles, it’s not as thrashed as most survivors are today. Note that weird early non-Z28 wheel with the giant rectangular horn button, coming from a time where ergonomics were brushed aside for the sake of looking “futuristic”. Also note the three pedals and ultra long throw shifter protruding from the center console. You’re gonna have to work to make this thing move!

If you’ve ever been in a cheap GM car from the 80’s you know exactly what that seat material feels like. And for those who don’t, it’s a combination of tweed, 80-grit sandpaper, and a used SOS pad. You could probably use it as an abrasive to remove paint or rust from metal surfaces! I’m not sure what’s worse, this or the sticky, unbreathable vinyl from the era. Higher end cars got nicer materials, but not by much.

The only flaw I can find inside this car is the cracked dash. 9 times out of 10, if you see a 3rd Gen, it’s going to have these same dash cracks, so I can’t really fault it. At least the car comes with a fuzzy dash cover son you don’t have to stare at that.  Also note the extremely basic blower fan controls and the ultra-base AM/FM-only Delco radio. When was the last time you saw one of those?

Early 3rd Gen Camaros had some of the coolest gauges of the era, with that wacky double-ender speedometer. While most cars received a tachometer on the right as well as a number of other auxiliary gauges in the other pods, this one left the factory with “simulated” center gauges surrounding warning lights and a double-ender fuel gauge that displays BOTH gallons AND Litres! I have never seen such an elaborate, huge fuel gauge in all my years of gawking at cars.

This car also somehow retains it’s original rubber floor mats. They might very well be the only option the car has.

Underneath the car, you can see how incredibly clean it is. No Rusty Jones treatment on this one; it’s all original GM paint as applied on the assembly line. It even retains it’s puny stock exhaust with the pellet-style catalytic converter. This is as painfully bone stock as it could get! Something else of note: this car was also equipped with a 3.42 ratio open rear end, which is probably the only way they could get this thing to move around under its own power. It was likely added to the base package out of sympathy.

This thing even comes with much of the original paperwork, including the RPO sheet (top right). I’ve seen many of these over the years, and I have never seen one so devoid of text! I would LOVE to get a close-up of that sheet and compare it to, say, a Z28 from the same year.

I know, I know… why is this on BangShift, right? Because in some weird, bizzaro-land sort of way, it’s cool. It’s as plain vanilla as any Camaro ever was, and a stripped, honest depiction of what the 3rd Gen designers had in mind when they were still modelling the things out of clay in the studio. You just don’t see them in this flavor at all! It’s as basic as they ever got, and seeing one of these bottom of the barrel Iron Duke cars is a rarity in any condition, let alone a sub-10k mile all-original cream puff like this one. It would almost be a crime to modify it in any way. Almost.

That said… all I can think about is modifying this car! And I want to keep it as base model fresh as possible, so I’d source some of those old Super Duty 4 parts and go to town. Back in the 80’s, GM had made available performance parts for these engines through dealership parts counters, and with some work, you could make somewhere north of 300hp out of one. They were popular in various forms of racing, as well as with Fiero guys looking for power to match the racy looks of the car. I’ve read that these parts are still popular today with some racing circles, and you can still get new Super Duty 4 parts from various vendors. 15 Years ago when I was working for a GM dealer in college, I even remembered seeing some factory literature in the “pro shop” talking about the potential of these turds, and I’ve always wanted to plop one in between the fenders of something like this Camaro. Dare to be different, as the old saying goes.

If you are some kind of masochist and have money burning a hole in your pocket, or just a fan of clean 3rd Gen F-Body cars, you can bid on this thing right now on eBay by clicking HERE!

And of course, here’s the ad text:

Up for auction is a 1983 Camaro – Own your own time capsule. This was purchased by from a Wisconsin Farmer and is in the original condition and paint.  I was the first person to get a new title on this car.  This car runs and drives great, it is in very good condition inside and out for a car that is 35 years old.  It was stored indoors for many years. 

There is a crack in the dash pad. The paint is original and looks good although not perfect.  There are some minor swirl marks in the paint and a few dings.  This beauty could use a good buffing.  Please view pictures and ask questions prior to bidding. 

  • ·                       <9900 Original Miles
  • ·         Original Paint
  • ·         Original Build Sheet
  • ·         Owner’s Manual
  • ·         Copy of Original Title
  • ·         Misc. Factory Literature

Equipped with:

  • ·                2.5 4 Cylinder (Iron Duke) Engine

  • ·         342 Rear differentials

  • ·         4 speed manual transmission

  • ·         Power Steering

  • ·         Power front disc brakes

  • ·         AM-FM Stereo

  • ·         Original Rubber Floor Mats



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7 thoughts on “Zero Frills: This 1983 Camaro Is One Of The Basiest Base Models We’ve Ever Seen!

  1. Piston Pete

    This would make a great driver for under 10K. I had one (for about 3 days) with an automatic and it was miserable and dangerous to drive. Mine was worn so probably way less than 92 HP. I didn’t even realize it was a banger until I decided to change the plugs (third day) and then it went straight back to the Indy BHPH lot it came from. Kinda made me feel stupid but who knew they even put a 4 cylinder in a Camaro? It looked good though.

  2. Matt Cramer

    Makes me wonder if he was trying to preserve the car or was just really disappointed at how it drove with an Iron Duke. I’m thinking it would be amusing to swap in an Ecotec from a sixth generation Camaro.

  3. RK - no relation

    The Great Debate is raging again, leave this time capsule unmolested or go crazy. It is a great candidate either way. It is shocking that they put that turd of an engine in these.

    Those wheel covers! It is a beautiful example of an ugly car. My sister had the same car, same engine with automatic. When you stepped on the gas, it just made more noise, and it was only 5 years old!

  4. Loren

    I went to Sears for a Die-Hard around ’83 and there was a gal there all dressed/done-up looking like money, with a brand-new Firebird with t-tops, A/C and every possible option including auto trans, and one of those tiny little Iron Dukes hiding under the hood among the wires and hoses. I remember wondering how that could possibly work. GM f’d up major by even offering a dumb deal like that, you know that once they discovered they couldn’t get up a freeway onramp in their “sporty” American coupe, such a customer has probably been in BMWs ever since.

  5. tw

    Putting an iron puke in this type of car is beyond pathetic , they should not be allowed on highways for safety reasons .

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