The Best 1980s Chevrolet Camaro Trim

The Chevrolet Camaro wore a lot of uniforms in the 1980s. Customers could choose from multiple trims, ranging from the base RS up to the short-lived and superb IROC-Z. Chevrolet kept this process going, as even today, there are several different trims to choose from . If you’re shopping for a third-generation Chevrolet Camaro, chances are the number of options can get overwhelming. Through all of its variations, customers could depend on the Camaro for a few constants. All Camaros between 1982-1992 used iron-block, overhead valve engines, and front disc brakes. From there, the options fan out and become more intricate. Here are the Chevrolet Camaro trims from the 1980s, and there’s a clear winner.

The base sport coupe/RS at least got a V8

1992 Chevrolet Camaro RS Coupe
1992 Chevrolet Camaro RS Coupe | Chevrolet

From 1982 the base Camaro was called the Sport Coupe. It came with the “Iron Duke” 2.5-liter inline-four. Although it only made 90 horsepower, the Iron Duke was a tried and true workhorse that wouldn’t go down without a fight. Customers could also get a Sport Coupe with the 2.8-liter V6 or the carbureted 5.0-liter V8. The four-cylinder dropped in 1985. The RS model debuted in California in 1987 and eventually replaced the Sport Coupe. In 1987 and 1988, it got the Z28 ground effects and rear disc brakes. Like most cars, newer is better, but for the Camaro, we’re going to keep looking.

Berlinetta: a luxury Chevrolet Camaro trim?

1982 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta
1982 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta | Chevrolet

The Berlinetta is seemingly a less popular variant. Chevrolet intended the Berlinetta as a pseudo luxury mediator between the Sport Coupe and the high-performance trims. It got two engines, the 2.8-liter V6, the 5.0-liter V8, soft suspension, and a more comfortable, accommodating interior. The Berlinetta also got a “Starship” edition, with a part-digital dashboard and various interior differences like control pods and a swiveling radio face. The Berlinetta only lasted until 1986 due to low volume sales. After all, if a customer is looking for a luxurious coupe, why would they turn to the Camaro? We’ll move on from the Berlinetta. 

The Z28 Chevrolet Camaro trim brought the horsepower

1982 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
1982 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Things get spicy with the Z28. It was an instant classic, and although it no longer exists, it will always hold a certain respect from Camaro enthusiasts. At first, third-generation Camaros with the Z28 trim got two different V8s, one with fuel injection and the other with a 4-barrel carburetor. In 1983 the carbureted V8 got more horsepower, a 3.73 axle, and a five-speed transmission. Chevrolet’s fickle nature came to fruition when the Z28 disappeared in 1988 but came back in 1991. The Z28 was almost the best Chevrolet Camaro trim but fell short of the superior IROC-Z.

IROC-Z: better in every way

1987 Chevrolet Camaro Iroc-Z
1987 Chevrolet Camaro Iroc-Z | Denver Post via Getty Images

The Z28 strutted around unchallenged until 1985 when the International Race of Champions (IROC)-Z debuted as a performance package for the Z28. It included lowered suspension, Bilstein rear shocks, and a beefier chassis, according to MotorTrend. It also got aluminum wheels and a more powerful V8 producing 215 horsepower with tuned port injection. The IROC-Z replaced the Z28 in 1988, and with it came fuel injection for all V8s. The IROC-Z trim dropped in 1991 when the Z28 came back to replace it. Although the IROC-Z was undoubtedly one of the best third-generation Camaros, there was one trim level higher left that cemented it as the best from that era.

The best Chevrolet Camaro trim: IROC-Z 1LE

1988 Chevrolet Camaro IROC Z
1988 Chevrolet Camaro IROC Z | Chevrolet

The 1LE was a hidden trim from Chevrolet. Customers had to select the G92 rear axle ratio to trigger the 1LE. It had four-wheel disc brakes, an aluminum driveshaft, an oil cooler, and a more robust suspension, all with either the 230-hp 5.0-liter or the 5.7 Corvette engine making 240 horsepower. However, the 5.7 only had a four-speed automatic. The IROC-Z 1LE was far and away the best trim to come out of the third-generation Camaro. We’d choose the 5.0-liter V8, if only for the manual transmission. They’re scarce but can be found with some due diligence.

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