Home » The Hottest Third-Gen Chevy Camaro Was A Hardcore Racer That You Could Only Order Via A ‘Secret’ Code: Holy Grails

The Hottest Third-Gen Chevy Camaro Was A Hardcore Racer That You Could Only Order Via A ‘Secret’ Code: Holy Grails

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For most enthusiasts, the answer to the question “What is the best third-generation Camaro?” is probably the IROC-Z. It’s a good answer, with the IROC-Z laying down up to 245 ponies to its rear wheels from a 350 cubic-inch V8. However, for just a brief moment of the third-gen Camaro’s life, you were able to buy an even hotter Camaro. Well, you were able to so long as you knew the correct boxes to check to trigger a secret trim level. The 1988 to 1992 Chevy Camaro 1LE was a car that tossed creature comforts in the trash for racing parts, and General Motors thought the car was so hardcore that only racing teams should have been able to buy them.

Last time on Holy Grails, we took a look at a rare spec of pickup truck that so many of our readers love. The 2005 to 2009 Dodge Power Wagon took the third-generation Ram and filled it to the brim with awesome off-roading parts. This was a truck that came from the factory on 33-inch tires, had front and rear lockers plus a limited-slip rear, a burly V8 engine, an electronic disconnecting front antiroll bar, a 12,000-pound winch, feet of skid plates, and oh yeah, you could even have it with a manual transmission. This was a truck made to go just about anywhere while still maintaining the capability to drag a house along for the ride.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom
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Volkswagen of Palatine

This week, we are moving away from mouthwatering trucks and back to obscure versions of otherwise common cars. For this one, we’re headed to the 1980s. The decade began with bummers like emissions-choked V8s that struggled to surpass 200 horsepower but ended with some real bangers. The Buick Reatta was originally a product of the late 1980s, as was the Lexus LS 400. We also saw the second-generation Mazda RX-7, the Mazda Miata, and the incredible Porsche 959. Don’t forget other hits such as the AMC Eagle, the AMG Hammer, the BMW M3, and the Audi Quattro.

The Chevrolet Camaro also saw a grand update in the early 1980s. Chevy’s pony car shed its 1970s looks for a sleeker, more aerodynamic figure. This body would later be the home of a hot racing special.

Some Camaro History: Thank You, Ford Mustang

Mustangfair
Ford

In 1964, Ford captured lightning in a bottle when it released the Mustang during the World’s Fair in 1964 (above). The vehicle rolled out to instant critical acclaim and buyers lined up to have their own. Ford expected to sell 100,000 Mustangs in its first year, but the vehicle was such an overnight hit that Ford sold 22,000 units on the very first day. The pony car was born and other automakers were put on notice.

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At first, Chevy’s best opponent to the Mustang was the Corvair, but as Hemmings writes, it didn’t take long for Chevy to figure out the Corvair wasn’t a pony car. In August 1964, word was that General Motors would have a proper Mustang competitor. GM Design Vice President William L. Mitchell oversaw the design, which was worked on by chief designer Henry C. Haga, Dave Holls, and executive designers Charles M. Jordan and Irvin W. Rybicki.

1969 Chevrolet Corvair Front 128
GM

However, since the Camaro would borrow the architecture from the then-upcoming 1968 Chevy II, engineers had to work with some constraints from the Chevy II. After all, the Chevy II was going to be the volume seller of the pair. Sharing tooling with the Chevy II meant the designers of the Camaro had to work with a tall cowl and a short span between the dashboard and the front axle.

Hemmings notes that most of the Camaro’s work from the drawing board to clay model was done at Haga’s Chevrolet Studio Two. This studio was also responsible for works like the 1965 Corvair, the 1968 Corvette, and the Super Nova concept car. These would end up influencing the first Camaro designs. Hemmings also explains that the Camaro was styled using General Motors’ fluid design philosophy. Basically, designers would take heavy wire frame and bend it into the basic shape of the vehicle they were looking to make. Thin canvas would then be draped over the wire frame before compressed air was blown in. The resulting shape was said to be more natural.

Screenshot 20230811 194456
1964 XP-836 CAMARO CONCEPT – GM

According to MotorTrend, when the Camaro was announced in 1966, Chevrolet General Manager Pete Estes called up magazines and newspapers from 14 different markets. A couple hundred journalists joined a conference that was dubbed the first and the last meeting of the “Society for the Eradication of Panthers From the Automotive World.” In this call, Estes finally ended the rumor that Chevy’s Mustang competitor would be called the Panther.

As Automotive News writes, Estes called the new car the Camaro, which was a word reportedly taken from Heath’s French and English Dictionary as a word that translated to “friend” or “comrade.” GM also told reporters that a Camaro was “a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs.” Though, as Car and Driver notes, French friends of the magazine had never heard of the term before. Neither does translation software even today. Car and Driver did find “Camaro” in a Spanish-English dictionary, where it was defined as a “gratuity, a shrimp or something very much like something else.”

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1967 Chevrolet Camaro Rs Ss Preproduction
GM

The Camaro went into production in 1966 as a 1967. It would be available as a coupe or as a convertible and during its first generation, buyers were able to score Camaros with engines as large as 427 cubic inch V8s and with power outputs as high as 430 HP. Hemmings notes that the Camaro’s designers even thought of different variations of the Camaro such as a fastback, a two-seat convertible, and a two-door wagon. Unfortunately, they were limited to just the coupe and four-place convertible body styles. A Camaro wagon? Sign me up!

An American Revolution

1984 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 01
GM

Today’s grail comes from the third generation of the Camaro, launched in 1982. This pony car was a radical departure from its predecessors. The third-gen Camaro ditched the classic European grand tourer-inspired shape and its bulbous headlights for a sleek, aerodynamic body put through wind tunnel testing. The new Camaro looked high-tech and futuristic.

As Hemmings writes, the new Camaro was 10 inches smaller than the second generation and with a coefficient of drag as low as .369. Its Pontiac Firebird Trans Am sibling did even better with a .32 coefficient of drag with optional aluminum wheels or .299 with optional aero wheels. Back then, General Motors claimed the Trans Am was the most slippery car it ever put on the road.

84transamcd
Pontiac

In a press release, Chevrolet notes some of the advancements brought on by the third-generation Camaro. Chevy explains that the low-slung, blocky front end enhances downforce and for the first time, you could buy your Camaro as a hatchback. Also innovative for the time was the car’s ground effects, which Chevy says was the first mass-produced American car to utilize an aero-enhancing body kit. The automaker continues that the third-gen Camaro’s rear window was novel as well, as it utilized new glass production technology to achieve its signature shape.

Chevrolet Camaro 1982 Pictures 1
GM

The third-gen Camaro also brought more advancements under the skin. It rode on a sophisticated coil spring suspension, engines had options for fuel injection, and the vehicle rode on a lighter unibody. Inside, drivers had the option to command their vehicles with futuristic gauges.

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At launch, the Camaro’s base engine was a 2.5-liter Iron Duke four making just 90 ponies. The top engine was a 5.0-liter V8 making 165 HP with GM’s infamous Cross-Fire injection. If you got that same engine with a carburetor, power went down to 145 HP.

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GM

For many people, the best third-generation Camaro was probably the IROC-Z. The International Race of Champions pitted racers of different disciplines against each other and the champion of said racing series was often behind the wheel of a racecar with a NASCAR chassis, a 450 HP V8, and the body of a Camaro.

The IROC-Z, while nowhere near as potent as the real racers, celebrated the Camaro’s prowess at the International Race of Champions and buyers were absolutely enamored. I’m willing to bet more than one teenager had an IROC-Z poster in their bedroom while growing up.

Chevrolet Camaro 1985 Pictures 2
GM

Offered as an option package of the Z/28, the IROC-Z had a lowered suspension, Delco-Bilstein shocks, larger sway bars, and a tubular steering brace that tied the structure of the vehicle together, strengthening the chassis, and took stress off of the steering gearbox’s mount. Power came from a range of engines from a high output 305 cubic inch V8 that made 190 HP to a 305 cubic inch V8 that made 215 HP. Later, the IROC-Z would gain a 350 cubic inch V8 borrowed from the Corvette making up to 245 HP depending on year.

The Grail

1990 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 Iroc Z
Bring a Trailer Seller

Yet, the IROC-Z was not the best third-generation Camaro. That distinction would go to the sort of secret 1LE. This was suggested by Joe The Drummer, who might have given us the longest explanation yet for a Grail nomination:

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I’m sure I’m not the first to submit this one, but I feel like I have to, in praise of my beloved F-body. Apparently back in the 80s, as Tuned Port Injection offered the first rays of performance hope to shine on General Motors since leaded fuel, a team of engineers at Chevy wanted to offer a stout option for SCCA racers and the like, a parts-bin factory racing special the likes of which hadn’t been offered since the fabled COPO cars of the 60s and early 70s. Naturally, Chevy itself didn’t care for the idea, so they buried the option under layers of order form kung fu, meaning that you had to select certain options in order to “fool” the system into building you one, much like an Easter egg in a video game. Why has nothing good ever come easy from GM?

If you ordered a 1988-90 IROC-Z or a 1991-92 Z28 (after Chevrolet’s IROC tie-in had lapsed) and checked RPO G92, you got the “Performance Rear Axle” upgrade, with positraction and taller gears. The secret was to then delete air conditioning, which would literally trick the ordering system into adding the 1LE package, which added:

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Volkswagen of Palatine

– Stiffer springs and struts
– Thicker front and rear sway bars
– Heavy-duty disc brakes, spindles, and wheel bearings
– Aluminum drive shaft
– A baffled fuel tank to prevent fuel starvation under hard cornering

That’s right – to get the hottest Camaro that Chevy would build at the factory, you had to know a secret that would glitch the RPO system into building you one, which was by design. Chevrolet thought this combination was too hairy for the street, and actively discouraged people from buying it – after all, The General gonna General.

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Volkswagen of Palatine

The 1LE package got better each year over the 5 years it was offered, but every year, it required this sort of ridiculous secret handshake to make it happen in the first place; in its first run in 1988, they made only four units. As the secret got out (the Popular Hot Rodding article on the subject around 1990ish that taught me this secret, among other similar articles, probably helped a lot), more people ordered it, and by its final year in 1992, Chevy built 705 of them – which is still more 1LEs than they made in the first four years combined. The total production across its entire run was only 1,360 cars, out of over 400,000 Camaros built across all trim levels.

There’s nothing about a third-gen IROC-Z or Z28 that says “sleeper,” but a 1LE surely would have been, since there would be no way to tell a 1LE car from the outside, unless you looked through the window at the climate controls. If you saw a lack of air conditioning suggested there, then you were looking at the hottest production Camaro that could be had during its third generation. And being a native southerner, I can certainly understand why deleting air conditioning would be too high a price for the added performance, if your Z was your daily driver and not a track toy, so I’m sure that factor alone helped keep production numbers low. Otherwise, other than barely noticeable outside cues such as “fog lamp delete” in later years, the only way to know that’s what you were looking at was to see the build sheet, or have the driver spill the beans – a 1LE Camaro still kept its secrets even after it was built, until it got out on the track.

1990 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 Iroc Z
Bring a Trailer Seller

From what I’ve been able to tell, Joe The Drummer hit the nail on the head. According to MotorTrend, the 1LE was the work of GM engineer John Heinricy, GM brake parts engineer Phil Minch, Camaro chief engineer Chuck Hughes, and powertrain manager Ray Canale. Apparently, the idea of a track-ready Camaro began in Canada in 1985 with the Canadian Players Challenge racing series. Camaros ran all out for 30 to 45 minutes straight without stopping. Aside from wheels, tires, and shocks, those Camaros were stock. Unfortunately, during the series, it was discovered that the Camaro’s brakes couldn’t handle non-stop racing. GM of Canada reportedly began exploring a solution.

Here on our side of the border, the Sports Car Club of America’s Showroom Stock series was gaining popularity and the Camaro was reportedly losing to the competition. Heinricy and crew wanted to show that the Camaro was still competitive in Showroom Stock racing. To achieve this, the engineers created the most hardcore version of the third-generation Camaro.

1989 Chevrolet Camaro Iroc Z 1le
Throttlestop

Minch figured out that the Camaro shared the Caprice’s wheel bearings, and thus could use that car’s 12-inch brakes. Minch, Hughes, and Canale later discovered that the car needed new calipers, so they grabbed some from the Corvette parts bin. The development cars were taken racing, where they began stopping and cornering so well that the cars stalled during braking, so the fuel tank was redesigned as well.

Reportedly, the resulting car was so raucous that General Motors didn’t deem it safe for public consumption. The 1988 Camaro 1LE was meant for the race team looking for something to take to the track, not for daily drivers. Thus, the car was hidden behind what was essentially a secret handshake in the ordering system.

1140297 4
Mecum Auctions

To order a Camaro 1LE, you had to order an IROC-Z with the 305 cubic inch V8 or the 350 cubic inch V8. Next, you had to check the box for RPO G92 Performance Rear Axle. This netted you 3.42:1 rear axle gearing for manual cars and 3.23:1 rear gearing for automatics. This is followed by the G80 Positraction rear end. To trigger the 1LE package, you then had to delete air-conditioning. In 1989, if you worked out your Konami Code correctly, the price of the G92 Performance Rear Axle Package would jump from $466 ($1,181 today) to $675 ($1,711 today). And that’s a big if, as Chevy never marketed the vehicle. You basically had to be a member of the Sports Car Club of America or the International Motor Sports Association and still know the cheat code.

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The price difference covered the 1LE parts thrown into your performance car stew. The 1LE gained those larger brakes from the Caprice, the finned aluminum brake calipers from the Corvette, an aluminum drive shaft, a new proportioning valve, a shorter fifth gear, that baffled fuel tank, jounce bumpers, a stiffer suspension, and a fog light delete. The 1LE even went so far as to mount the spare tire to an aluminum wheel. The great thing about the 1LE is that even though it was meant for racers, the car was still street-legal. However, don’t expect to be coddled as the 1LE’s suspension was reportedly punishing, plus you didn’t get cruise control or T-Tops for your troubles, either. Of course, the lack of air-conditioning probably made the 1LE a non-starter down south. I hope you don’t like listening to the radio, either, because those were deleted in many examples along with power seats, power locks, and power windows.

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Volkswagen of Palatine

Really, the 1LE was a stripper model made to do just one thing: Go fast. In 1990 you got it for the price of $16,000 ($38,559 today) and the lack of those options meant the car weighed just 3,100 pounds. For reference, base Camaros with a V6 were $10,995 ($26,497 today) in 1990. Power was unchanged, with the biggest punch coming from the 350, which made 245 HP at its peak.

While I could not find a period review of the Camaro 1LE, I did find a contemporary review from Road & Track:

Driven today, the 1988 1LE package feels Neolithic, with the suspension compliance of a pool table and a rock crusher of a shift lever. But there’s power, and unmistakable race-car soul. There’s also no denying the benefits aspiring pros saw from the factory fixes. The 1LE Camaros became the hot setup, not only for the Players Challenge and Firehawk championships, but the SCCA’s Showroom Stock GT class as well.

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Volkswagen of Palatine

A total of four 1LEs were sold in 1988. In 1989, the number jumped to 111 units. By 1990, the 350 V8 was making 245 HP and just 62 people bought a 1LE that year. In 1991, the IROC-Z was discontinued after the International Race of Champions moved to the Dodge Daytona. The 1LE became a package offered with the Z/28 with a whole 478 getting delivered that year. During the third-gen Camaro’s final year, the secret was out and Chevy moved 705 1LEs. The numbers vary slightly depending on the source, but the figures usually end up with 1,360 total 1LEs getting sold between 1988 and 1992. In comparison, Chevy moved 460,948 Camaros in the same span of time. The 1LE almost qualifies as a Grail in the literal sense!

Amazingly, I did find one of these for sale. Here’s a 1992 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 1LE for sale at a Volkswagen dealer for $58,994. This car has been around at least four auctions and two dealerships. For that price, you’re getting a 305 V8 with 205 HP, so it’s not the most powerful version. Is it worth that much? I’m not sure, but what I can tell you is if you’re looking for a classic Camaro that could even come close to being called a sleeper, this is the ticket.

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Volkswagen of Palatine

Do you know of or own a car, bus, motorcycle, or something else worthy of being called a ‘holy grail’? Send me an email at mercedes@theautopian.com or drop it down in the comments!

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Turd Ferguson
Turd Ferguson
9 months ago

I drove one back in the early 90’s when I was in high school. It was nearly identical to the one in the pictures. Very fast car for the day. It was owned by a friend’s girlfriends dad who was out of town and had a cool car collection. She showed us where the keys were to all of them and told us we could drive whatever we wanted. It was a great weekend for us!

David Lorengo
David Lorengo
9 months ago

Ashamed to admit that I ordered an 84 Trans Am just like the one in the ad in this article except I had to have T-tops. Was a grand piece of junk that was worn out after just 35k miles when I sold it.
I feel better admitting my mistake after all these years.

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
9 months ago
Reply to  David Lorengo

I feel your pain through association, had a few friends who went that route that were so happy for about a year, then all kinds of headaches started to appear. You’ve absolved yourself by saying it, and I’d bet there’s many of us with similar feelings relative to other models.

Max Headbolts
Max Headbolts
9 months ago

I got to ride in one of the 1992 Big Daddies, a boss had one. it matched his mullet and he absolutely loved the thing. While he would toss me the keys to his Neon at least once a week, he never let me drive his Bitchin’ Camaro. It was the first “Fast” car experience I had.

Toecutter
Toecutter
9 months ago
Reply to  Max Headbolts

The L1E from this Camaro, placed in the more slippery body of the Firebird TransAm, would be such an excellent match. With some gearing changes, 200 mph would be possible in that… GM missed an opportunity to have an affordable supercar on its hands. Ferrari acceleration and top speed, for less than 20% of the price…

Last edited 9 months ago by Toecutter
Max Headbolts
Max Headbolts
9 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I always thought the Trans Am looked better, glad this article confirmed my childhood understanding of aerodynamics.

Stacheface
Stacheface
9 months ago

This article reminded me, I remember hearing that GM wouldn’t pair the 350 with a manual in these because then it would outperform the Corvette at the time, and they didn’t want that. This would have been in the mid 90’s, not sure how much truth there was or just someone making up a story. Seems you could, at least outside the usual ways to order it.

Matt Sexton
Matt Sexton
9 months ago
Reply to  Stacheface

You might have misread the article, because as far as I’m aware the 350 was never offered with a five-speed manual from the factory. The only exception would have been the ’91-’92 Firehawks, which came with a six-speed from the Corvette. Ordering a 1LE with an automatic seems very strange, but according to the above it was possible.

rctothefuture
rctothefuture
9 months ago
Reply to  Stacheface

The problem was that the 5 speed was the Tremec T5, which couldn’t handle the torque behind the 350. Chevy assumed that most customers didn’t want a manual transmission option in the 3rd gen. They also didn’t want to adapt the Nash 4+3 for the Camaro, as that was a Corvette exclusive.

World24
World24
9 months ago

A 3rd gen Camaro without T-Tops?! Screw anything else, that’s the best version of those Camaro’s!
(If you need to know: I’ve been anti T-Top/Sunroof/Moonroof/etc. for a while. I just don’t like them)

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
9 months ago
Reply to  World24

They are one of those things that sounds really cool until you live with them.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
9 months ago
Reply to  TXJeepGuy

That is the truth. I’ve owned multiple T-top cars and they were wildly overrated. They leaked, once you took them off than storage became an issue, and even with the shades your head would feel the heat on sunny days. Two of those three also apply to sunroofs, which is why I dislike them as well.

I had a 4th gen Z28 with all the premium options EXCEPT the T-tops, and I didn’t realize how much more awesome that was until my next F-body when I had to install subframe connectors to get the same level of structural rigidity.

David Lorengo
David Lorengo
9 months ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

On the Trans Am, they had a nice pouch that would hold the tops. The pouch had straps and hooks that would secure it in the back under the hatch.

Mpphoto
Mpphoto
9 months ago
Reply to  TXJeepGuy

In high school I knew a guy who had this generation of Camaro with t-tops. Somehow he managed to flip the car while trying to avoid an animal in the road one night. The glass from the t-tops ended up in his hair and his scalp. I’ve never liked glass roofs or moonroofs, and my friend’s crash is just one more reason to avoid them.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
9 months ago

I’ve always loved these. I found one in reasonable condition but needing a bit of work, with a 6-point roll bar, nearly 20 years ago. It was this same color even. I believe it was $3500.

I’m an idiot. I should have bought it.

HOT_HATCH
HOT_HATCH
9 months ago

It’s not the purchase price that will get you with these. It’s the mandatory cocaine and exotic dancer habits. But you won’t need to worry about your debts after your imprisoned for marrying your sister, so go for it!

El Jefe de Barbacoa
El Jefe de Barbacoa
9 months ago
Reply to  HOT_HATCH

Roll Tide?

JDE
JDE
9 months ago

The real question is which is actually better. This ZL1 or the B4C?

The B4C package was based on the Camaro RS and included a performance exhaust system, four-wheel disc brakes, 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, a heavy-duty battery/electrical system, 3.23 gears, an additional oil cooler, Z28 suspension, an exterior spotlight and a 145-mph speedometer. Law enforcement agencies could also opt for the more potent 350 cubic-inch V8 over the smaller 305 motor and either a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission. Though I think like the regular Iroc, you could not get a 350 with a manual trans, but it was a missed opportunity not to use a ZF6 Speed behind those Tuned Port motors. they were torquey, but ran out of steam way to soon, another OD would have been good there.

Aaron Nichols
Aaron Nichols
9 months ago
Reply to  JDE

I was wondering the same thing. Had an opportunity in 2001 to pick up a B4C with 350/Auto, sometimes wish I had.

Ben
Ben
9 months ago

The 1LE almost qualifies as a Grail in the literal sense!

So it almost bestows eternal life if you drink from it? 😛

/me despairs over the death of the word “literal”, which no longer has any meaning in the English language

Rob
Rob
9 months ago

In 1997, I got a 92 Camaro RS, in that lovely electric blue with gray interior. It was a 5MT, with manual windows and locks and no rear defroster. The V6 wasn’t fast – 145 hp, 190 lb-ft, IIRC, but with no weight in the rear, it got squirrly easily.

I put 100k miles on that car in 4 years. It made weekly trips from LA to Vegas for 6 months. It then drove to Vegas to LA to Seattle, all over Washington and Montana, etc.

It wasn’t a great car, but I loved it. At exactly 100k miles, the water pump exploded all over the freeway. It continued to have little things from that point on – two more alternators, a AC compressor, the heater core went and sprayed coolant everywhere, the ignition lock broke at least once, etc.

I eventually replaced it in 2001 because the monthly repair costs were greater than a car payment.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
9 months ago
Reply to  Rob

At only 9 years old, that’s actually kind of sad that it was that rough already.

Toecutter
Toecutter
9 months ago

Screw air conditioning. I lived through South Texas summers without it. The extra performance is IMO worth the tradeoff. If I were in the market for a car back then, buying the holy grail version of this car would have been a consideration. I’d have gotten a custom vanity plate that says “MY BITCH”. And I’d have hooned the crap out of it.

Last edited 9 months ago by Toecutter
Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
9 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

In 1993, I might have agreed.

In 2023, damn that.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
9 months ago

I almost bought a 1990 IROC-Z back in the late 90s. It was $1200, had the 5.0L TPI and manual transmission, no T-tops, radio blank, and no A/C. Given that I lived in Houston at the time, the lack of A/C was almost a non-starter. I now wonder if that was a 1LE car? It was horribly beaten, and even at only $1200 it was too much money to drop on a car that needed as much work as that one did. I ended up with a 4th gen Z28 with a dead motor that I resurrected and then ultimately sold for a tidy profit, but I still have a bit of nostalgia for the 3rd gen F-body.

MrLM002
MrLM002
9 months ago

Honestly the only 3rd gen Camaro I ever wanted was one with an Iron Duke and a manual trans. They were getting like 40 MPG out of them back in the day.

Maymar
Maymar
9 months ago

Someone’s gone and uploaded a ton of the old Players Challenge races, to see the 1LE in action. It was pretty well reported on in Canadian magazines at the time, so a 3rd gen in a decent livery still stirs something a bit primal in me.

https://www.youtube.com/@playerschallengeseriesplay1411/videos

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
9 months ago

I was such a fanboy when the 3rd gen F body came out: drew it all over my school notebooks, could quote all the specs, etc. Cringeworthy.

I vaguely remember hearing about the 1LE half a decade later, but I had already figured out that a) shitboxes were affordable and b) I could drive them at their limits for attainable laughs

huh. Just looked up the cost of a base RS in ‘91: I’m almost positive that all the cars I bought up until 2019 together cost less than that $12k. I think I made the right choice: depreciation on a $200 car never bothered me much vs the fun I could get out of it

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
9 months ago

Wasn’t the Trans Am also available with the 1LE?

Maymar
Maymar
9 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

In some capacity, yes – Trans Ams were also run in the Players Challenge series (which had decent GM support), and it looks like they were built to similar specs as the Camaros.

http://www.playerschallengeseries.ca/Production_nos.htm

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
9 months ago

245 HP is… not impressive. Which is really just commentary on how ridiculous the HP in today’s cars are.

I mean, the base model Camaro today is 335HP. Top trim is what… 650HP (if you don’t count the COPO that has over 1,000).

And I know the old timers will all swear that the motors from the 70s were underrated by like half (“I swear, Ford only listed it at 325HP because they couldn’t list the true HP which was more like 600hp”) but I’ll believe that as much as their story about walking up hill both ways to school.

Welcome to the age of HP doesn’t matter anymore because everything is too fast for most people to appreciate anyway.

Matt Sexton
Matt Sexton
9 months ago

I’ve gone off on this missive before but the short form is that the current horsepower levels have led to generally poorer track day drivers today. Because power has a way of masking a lot of mistakes, from a lap time perspective. Back In The Day™ you started out at 250hp or so and learned to make that fast; if you wanted more power you had to go seriously aftermarket. But the cost of entry was that you’d typically already had several years of experience before you started asking for more power.

I started in 1990, so I’ve done many days, and sometimes you follow a guy with some latest and greatest new toy and see some interesting technique. But they have 500hp and the lap times are good so they have no idea where they’re slow.

The weaponry available out there now is nuts.

Last edited 9 months ago by Matt Sexton
David Lorengo
David Lorengo
9 months ago

We are living in the golden age of horsepower. The late 60s and early 70s muscle cars were weaklings compared to what you can get today. 45K for a 480hp Mustang. In 20 years we’ll look back from our government mandated electrics and realize this was the real golden age of horsepower.

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
9 months ago
Reply to  David Lorengo

at least ICE horsepower. Electric motors are insanely powerful. Once battery tech can support it you’ll see 1000HP available in every car with simply an upgraded monthly subscription.

El Jefe de Barbacoa
El Jefe de Barbacoa
9 months ago

Charge you for units of horsepower/second.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
9 months ago

You weren’t there.

I was born in 1972. Even after the horsepower Renaissance of the current day, my brain is still hardwired to look to the past for actual performance out of an American car.

If 245hp sounds “unimpressive,” consider that the hottest Corvette available for sale in 1980 was packing about 185 blistering ponies under its hood.

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
9 months ago

The 80s were special. in the 90s I drove an olds custom cruiser from about 1985. It had a 5.0L V8 making…. wait for it… 140HP.

Big ole V8 that couldn’t get out of its own way. Sounded cool though.

David Lorengo
David Lorengo
9 months ago

I was there. Born in 61, got my license in 76. I lived through the tail end of the musclecar era and saw my friends drive many of the hottest cars of the era. 69 hemi chargers, SS 396 chevelles, 428 cobrajet mustangs. My first car was a 67 firebird with a 327 chevy that I built my self. I was there to see the insurance companies, pollution controls and the gas crisis ruin the american muscle car market in 1972. I restored a 70 challenger 440 RT SE in 2000 that would do 100 yard burnouts. Modern muscle is better.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
9 months ago
Reply to  David Lorengo

Oh, I didn’t say it wasn’t. I’m just trying to keep some of these performance figures in historical perspective. What I’m saying is, the threshold for exciting automobiles was pretty much at its lowest point in the US just as I was approaching 16. Any horsepower number with at least a 2 in front of it was a promising trend. My fellow car-guy peers and I lamented that we were born a decade too late. I’m not saying that the past is always better than the present or the future, but it damn sure was then, which coincided with exactly my formative years with regard to my love of cars. I didn’t say it made any sense.

Last edited 9 months ago by Joe The Drummer
Adam EmmKay8 GTI
Adam EmmKay8 GTI
8 months ago

I went back to 245HP car (GTI is rated 241HP at the engine but it makes 240HP at the wheels on dyno) from 415HP (when it was stock) because tires actually have traction to use it on my commute (0 to 40 MPH, merge with traffic at 70MPH).
I never used 415HP to go quicker from 50 MPH to 155 MPH and even then when it downshifted to 2nd it would lose traction
Now I shift GTI at 4000 RPM vs 2250 RPM in the old G8 when driving and boost and torque last to 6750 RPM.

Matt Sexton
Matt Sexton
9 months ago

My Dad’s track car is an ’87 Firebird, and we upgraded his brakes to 1LE-spec. We ordered the spindles from GM, and sourced the Corvette calipers through our store. It was pretty simple, but we also tried to order the 1LE gas tank (his car will starve in the Carousel at Road America at a half tank); unfortunately that was NLA and we received a stock tank instead.

The 1LE brake setup also happened to be used on the 20th Anniversary Turbo Trans Am. But it wasn’t a Caprice front rotor. The front rotor for a 1LE F-body is unique, and currently through my NAPA search I find only 11 available in the entire country.

Curiously, the 1LE brakes were adopted for all ’89 and later F-bodies, on the rear only. I have an ’89 Formula myself so I always thought it was weird to have half a 1LE. I’m not sure why this was done.

The Corvette front brake calipers that were part of the 1LE package were made by a company called PBR, and you will sometimes see them referred to as such. The cool trick for the front PBR calipers was the caliper came free by merely removing a snap ring and a pin. This made endurance racing pad swaps a breeze, and I’ve replaced pads on my Dad’s car at the track a few times to this effect.

Arch Duke Maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko
9 months ago

Here’s a Motorweek 1989 IROC-Z test
https://youtu.be/aCL-odNmuGA?si=gXg0JjXELxniKKJr

ExAutoJourno
ExAutoJourno
9 months ago

I’d throw the Mustang Cobra R (1993) into the Grail Mix. No a/c, no rear seat, no sound deadening…in short, a lot of stuff left out, and a semi-secret tweak here and there. Lots and lots of fun.

IIRC, you had to have your SCCA license to buy one, but there were ways around that. There are ways around everything. Except low production numbers.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
9 months ago
Reply to  ExAutoJourno

Came here for this. The licensing requirement was my favorite part (which I know Ford abandoned for the later Cobra R). I seem to recall they came only in white, right?

ExAutoJourno
ExAutoJourno
9 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

The original “Rs” of ’93 were all red, I think. The one I drove was, and I recall being told that was the only choice.

I like to think I would have bought one if it could be had in Teal, but the plain truth is even if I had tried my Secret Handshake to put in an order and they offered to paint it to suit, I simply couldn’t afford it.

The SN95 Cobra R — also a pretty zippy piece — was a white-only car.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
9 months ago
Reply to  ExAutoJourno

Ha, that’s what I was thinking of – the ’95s. Thanks!

The ’93s really are the grail b/c they were out largely before the internet took off as we know it. So extra under the radar/have to know what you’re seeking.

Ford really did do ’90s Teal quite well.

Automotiveflux
Automotiveflux
9 months ago

With no AC it truly was the hottest Camaro

Kevin B
Kevin B
9 months ago

No independent rear suspension? No A/C? No thanks.

YeahMoto!
YeahMoto!
9 months ago
Reply to  Kevin B

I can hear the sighs of relief as the collector car market learns they won’t have to compete with Kevin B…..

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
9 months ago
Reply to  Kevin B

There still wouldn’t be any IRS available for the Camaro for a long time after this.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
9 months ago

Sounds like the Camaro 1LE wasn’t just blowing hot air.

Scott Ross
Scott Ross
9 months ago

I know the 1LE did continue on into the 4th gen Camaro. While no where near as rare as a 3rd gen they were unique.

Also a good camaro code to look up the B4C if you want your cars setup like a blues brothers vehicle…  It’s got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it’s got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
9 months ago
Reply to  Scott Ross

A factory 440? In a GM? If they went big block it would have a 454, no?

Regardless, I went to do some research on this, and I can’t find anything that says an engine larger than 350 was installed for the B4C package. But it looks ultra rare and by 92 B4C/1LE combo packages seemed to be the true ultimate in Camaro offerings.

Scott Ross
Scott Ross
9 months ago
Reply to  Lockleaf

I struck through the 440 for a reason. Its the actual quote from the movie, they wanted a dodge monoco

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
9 months ago
Reply to  Scott Ross

hahaha, of course. that makes sense. I totally missed it as a movie quote despite your lead in. Well done sir, well done.

C.A.R. Doctor PhD
C.A.R. Doctor PhD
9 months ago

Don’t forget other hits such as the AMC Eagle, the AMG Hammer, the BMW M3, and the Audi Quattro.”

Not arguing, but what a strange statement

C.A.R. Doctor PhD
C.A.R. Doctor PhD
9 months ago

Kinda figured; it just stuck out so much to me I had to stop reading to comment

I guess I should have added a smile at the end =)

Data
Data
9 months ago

One of these things is not like the other.

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