From the September 2021 issue of Car and Driver.
For 10 years, the fourth-generation Chevrolet Camaro dominated Mustangs on the street and the strip as it bridged the gap between GM’s legacy-small-block era and its LS-powered future. The last Camaro to offer T-tops, the fourth gen paid tribute to the windblown, big-hair ’80s while its sleek and stylized body looked forward to the wind-tunnel-optimized days ahead. As ’90s cars become collectible, this Camaro’s aero emphasis and V-8 options make it both a fun driver and a worthy investment that (we think) hasn’t quite reached its potential.
Muscle-car fans in search of a good deal should focus on the initial Z28 with the 275-hp LT1 or the SS model with the 305-hp V-8 that came out three years later. For those with a bigger budget, the 1998–2002 Camaros borrow the Corvette’s aluminum-block 5.7-liter LS1, rated at up to 325 horsepower. All V-8 cars could be had with either a six-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. A six-speed plus some suspension upgrades and a set of sticky tires will net you a canyon carver that can hang with sports cars while leaving you enough money for the nostalgic purchase of a Warrant cassette.
Spend a little more for a low-mileage car. Values for Camaros in excellent condition range from $12,000 for a first-year Z28 to $24,000 for a last-year LS1-powered SS, with special-edition cars commanding higher prices. If you’re picking cherries, 1997’s 330-hp SS LT4 30th Anniversary cars are among the rarest; those in great condition nudge up against $40,000. Don’t be afraid of a well-kept modified car losing its value, as this era’s Camaro hasn’t reached the “keep it stock” stage of collecting. The later LS cars can deliver a significant boost in output with camshaft, cylinder-head, intake, and exhaust upgrades. So get out there and hot-rod your Camaro as nature intended.
The interiors, especially on the T-top and convertible cars, hold up with typical ’90s-plastic durability, which is to say not so well. Watch out for delamination on the doors and exterior roof caps too.
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