Home » Iconic Rides Of The 1980s: 1988 Chevy Camaro vs 1987 BMW L7

Iconic Rides Of The 1980s: 1988 Chevy Camaro vs 1987 BMW L7

Sbsd 2 22 2024
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Good morning! Today we’re sticking in the decade of my formative years, the 1980s. I guess I’m just in that sort of mood; it may be that the soundtrack to my commute for the past few days has been the brilliant ’80s throwback band The Night Flight Orchestra. Seriously, just listen to these guys, and tell me that wasn’t recorded during the Reagan administration. (It wasn’t – 2018.) But we’re not here to talk about music, though I could do that all day too; we’re here to talk about cars.

Yesterday we were talking a little bit about movies, but mostly cars, as we looked at two of the cars featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. To my great surprise, despite the wild price disparity, the voting ended up in a virtual tie – just two votes separated the Chrysler Town & Country from the Pontiac Fiero. I imagine if the prices had been closer, the Fiero would have run away with it.

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And no, this matchup wasn’t just a clever ploy to get you all to vote for a K-car. That was just a happy coincidence. Personally, I’d love to have either of these, but yeah, I’m not paying eleven grand for a four-cylinder Fiero either.

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So let’s take one last look at the ’80s for this week. We’ve got a shabby muscle-ish car and a rather nice yuppie-mobile. They were miles apart in price and demographic back then, but thanks to the magic of depreciation, they’re almost the same price, so we’re going to cross-shop them.

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1988 Chevrolet Camaro – $3,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.8 liter overhead valve V6, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: Austin, TX

Odometer reading: 86,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives great

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Here once again is that whipping-boy of 1980s sports coupes: the third-generation Camaro. Dismissed and derided by “serious enthusiasts,” mercilessly thrashed by more than one generation of owners, the “third gen” nevertheless provided style, fun, and surprisingly good handling for a decade. The available power ran the gamut from “does this thing even have an engine?” to “you don’t know what I got.” This 1988 base model is no tire-shredder, with a 135 horsepower V6, but at least it has a stick.

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Some engine bays are so tight you can’t reach anything without taking a bunch of stuff apart. This is not one of them. With a 60-degree V6 in a spot designed to hold a 90-degree V8, there’s room on all sides of the engine to get to stuff. The only downside is that it’s a long and wide engine bay, so getting to anything is a long reach. And while the photos in the ad don’t show it, I guarantee that the hood is held open by a length of broomstick, because they all are. The gas cylinders provided to hold up that long heavy hood last about a week.

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It runs and drives great, according to the seller, and has only 86,000 miles on it. This is probably the reason that the interior is far less trashed than most third-gens. It is missing some trim, though it looks like some of it is in the trunk, and I think I see a crack in the windshield. I’ve never understood the steering wheel in these Camaros; it’s just so weird-looking. Maybe that’s why so many of them get replaced by aftermarket wheels.

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Outside, it’s got some bumps and bruises, but it doesn’t look terrible. I do prefer the earliest iterations of this style Camaro, with no lower body cladding or spoilers, mostly because the cladding is always banged-up on lower-priced examples. You may have noticed that I didn’t include a photo of the rear of the car; that’s because this car wears a bumper sticker that, well, makes a statement. Whether it’s a statement you agree with, or want on the back of your car, I leave up to you to decide.

1987 BMW L7 – $3,650

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.4 liter overhead cam inline 6, four-speed automatic, RWD

Location: San Marcos, CA

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Odometer reading: 188,000 miles

Operational status: “Gets up and goes”

The 1980s was a good decade for BMW. Its cars were “in,” and they were excellent. The classic M30 six-cylinder engine was king – smooth, powerful, and not insanely complicated like BMW engines of today. The styling was all ship’s prows, Hofmeister kinks, and quad round headlights. And the important decisions were still made by the engineers, not the accountants or the marketing department. They were too good for the yuppie bankers and lawyers that bought them as status symbols.

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If you don’t remember, or have never heard of, the L7 model, I understand. It was a US-only luxury version of the flagship 7-series, based on the 735i, with the same 3.4 liter engine, though only available with an automatic. This one is in fine mechanical shape, according to the seller, and all the electrical gadgets work.

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You could almost say the “L” in L7 stands for “leather.” The entire interior is swathed in it, including the door panels and dash. For some reason, someone decided to cover up this one’s leather dash with one of those dumb carpet covers, hopefully just to keep it out of the San Diego sun. The rest of the interior is in good condition, but could use a good cleaning.

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Outside, it’s decent, but not great. The clearcoat is flaking off, and it suffered a minor fender-bender on the left front corner. The fender has been replaced, but it’s still in black primer. A paint job would be in order to really make this car look its best, but for a classic BMW that costs less than four grand, it looks pretty good.

So, they’re both six-cylinders, they’re both rear-wheel-drive, and they both run fine. Basically, it comes down to style. Are you more the hair-metal type, or the wannabe-yuppie type?

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(Before I go: I’m going to leave you with just one more song by The Night Flight Orchestra. This one is the second-best music video ever to feature a square-body Ford Panther-chassis car. I’m sure some of you know what the best one is; feel free to enlighten others in the comments.)

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
1 month ago

Normally I’m afraid of anything German, especially old German. In this case there are mitigating circumstances. One, I’m almost as afraid of 80s GM “quality”. Two, the Camaro is the crappy version of itself (yes, I’m aware of the iron Duke version), while the BMW is the special top trim of their top model. It was about as full zoom as you could buy in its day. The Camaro is a sad husk of untapped performance potential. And it certainly isn’t nice enough to warrant a V8 swap, while the BMW, as noted, might be worth that paint job.

Stephen Reed
Stephen Reed
1 month ago

If the Camaro were a V8, it might have been a tougher choice for me. But that Camaro… Specifically THAT Camaro along with having a V6 just doesn’t give me much hope. Toss in that bumper sticker and I have a feeling that car might have been closer to rental Mustang treatment over its lifetime.

CivoLee
CivoLee
1 month ago

I’m a little disappointed that yesterday didn’t end up as a tie; because when I voted late last night, it WAS a tie, and it was my Fiero vote that made it a tie. Sure, as a gigging musician the LeBaron wagon would be a far more practical choice, but I loved the Fiero as a kid and I couldn’t betray 6-year-old me the way GM did. Anyway, I had visions of Mark saying it was the first ever tie on Shitbox Showdown and laying claim to having cast the tying vote and solidifying my username in Autopian history. I guess some other night owls/overseas readers managed to get in a couple extra under the wire. Ah well.

I remember talking to my manager and a teenage coworker at my old job about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He hadn’t seen it, and I recommended it only if he were able to tolerate a movie absolutely slathered in 80s. Everything about it screams 80s, from the editing to the soundtrack (not just “Oh Yeah”), but the real thing that makes it a perfect framing of the mindset of the time is that it makes someone who if you met them in real life they’d be the most punchable douche you’ve ever interacted with into some kind of hero for the downtrodden.

I voted BMW, but if had been a Firebird it’d be a different story.

Last edited 1 month ago by CivoLee
Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
1 month ago

I’ll take the Bimmer…but that doesn’t mean I don’t love vagina

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  Freelivin1327

What

Here4thecars
Here4thecars
1 month ago

I know everyone says the same thing about cheap old German cars being actually really expensive, but in this case I really have to go with BMW. I just have no desire to drive a Camaro.

Master P
Master P
1 month ago

Given how worn the pedals and interior are, and the shape of the engine bay, there isn’t a chance in hell that Camaro has 86k on it. 186k is far more believable.

Last edited 1 month ago by Master P
Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago

The BMW is a prime candidate for restoration.
That’s the one I choose.

Gene1969
Gene1969
1 month ago

I am working on a German engine. I’ll take that GM 2.8 any day over it.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago

Camaro for me. With the stick and the FI version of the 2.8, that thing still did 0-60 in around 10 seconds which isn’t bad… only slightly slower than my Honda Fit.

Plus I’m sure the maintenance and repair costs will be way lower

Incidentally, that BMW is only a half a second faster. No doubt the slushbox saps a lot of power.

JDE
JDE
1 month ago

Can a clapped out 2.8 even do a donut on a lawn?

The L7 is definitely scarier for the whole wallet at BMW stood for Break My Wallet back then as much as today, but I would still rather drive and automatic four door Bavarian missile over a poser mullet mobile with and I Heart Vagina Sticker on the bumper….do they really though? or is that just to cover up homo-erotic tendencies.

JDE
JDE
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

But that is a little truck with no weight out back and gearing that makes up for the enemic B2000 motor, at least off the line.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago
Reply to  JDE

Does it matter?

What’s important is the sticker and the car let the world know that a mouth breathing basement dweller is lurking inside.

Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
1 month ago

As much as I love and can appreciate an F-body, I don’t love this one. I’ll take the car from the brand that I hated during the 80’s simply because of the douchie tools that were typically behind the wheel.

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