By on March 7, 2012

In January 1980, Jimmy Carter was in his last year as President, the Soviets had just invaded Afghanistan, and this Camaro was born. A few months later, in April 1980, Robert Mugabe became the leader of Zimbabwe and Alan Kay walked into his local GM dealer to buy this car off the showroom floor.

There were two things that remained constant from early 1980 – Mugabe still runs Zimbabwe and Alan still runs his 1980 Camaro.

Some scenarios work out much better than others…

Actually, Alan has only owned 2 cars in his whole life – a 71 Camaro and this one. He discovered this car when somebody told him, “you’ll love that new Camaro at the Chevy dealer”. Indeed he did because he drove it constantly for the next 12 years with no fear thanks to the bulletproof 305 under the hood.

The 305 was a low compression 80s grade, and so far it’s clocked 175,000 miles with little or no effort- if you don’t count the impeccable maintenance program since Day 1.

Alan admits that performance has always been a little tepid with the 80s mandated regulations, but the longevity outweighs any performance issues.

Alan decided to paint the car in 1993 when it became a 2nd stringer daily driver. At that point, a truck made more sense in his daily world, so Alan decided to give the old Camaro new paint. Alan sanded down the peeling factory finish and discovered that he had kept the Chevy rust free thanks to his high standards of maintenance.

He painted the Camaro in his garage and the only setbacks were a few door dings, enabling his backyard paint booth to lay down a nice finish.

The other upgrade was a flattop piston set to upgrade the compression in the old 305. At this point, Alan wanted a little more punch in his former driver. Other than that the only mechanical issues with the Camaro were a heater core, 2 radiator rebuilds and a master cylinder. That’s a decent record for a 32-year-old car.

Clearly, Alan has babied this Chevy since his first day and the end result is a show car. According to Alan, he “wins at least one trophy a year”. He still has most of the initial paperwork for the car with the exception of the first window sticker – clearly, Alan didn’t think 31 years ahead of his new Camaro.

The car endured some real life experience when a misguided thief broke in to steal his then-new sound system, but the Camaro looks better than Cher did in 1980 or 2012, with remarkably less bodywork.

At this point Alan had owned 5 vehicles-2 Camaros and 3 trucks but there is no way he’s interested in replacing his 1980 car buddy.

That would be like selling your car soul.

For more of J Sutherland’s work go to mystarcollectorcar.com

 

 

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

39 Comments on “Car Collector’s Corner: 1980 Camaro, A Mint, One Owner Berlinetta...”


  • avatar
    BMWnut

    Robert Mugabe is still the leader of Zimbabwe. Although a bit worse for wear, he is still going strong.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    I’ve never been a fan of the nose on this one, but overall it is a very clean and pleasing design.

  • avatar
    Dawnrazor

    Great story. I think the most important take-away point is the fact that most ANY vehicle can live a long and mostly trouble-free life when properly cared for.

    It’s really great to see a survivor like this. By the mid-late 80s when I was in HS, most of the Camaros of this era were already well clapped-out, so this is probably a rare bird indeed.

    Looks like he did great work with the paint job, and I admire his restraint with the engine mods.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    This Alan Kay?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Kay

  • avatar
    gmrn

    Dusting off my brain cobwebs here. I thought the Berlinetta wheels were a turbine-like design. Those wheels appear to be from the Z-28. Were they optional on the Berlinetta?

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Nice car; nice story.

    That’s an amazing repair record for any car.

    Just think, Cubans are forced to live this way; he does it by choice.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      When you find something that suits you, why not keep it?

      I’ve had my Spitfire nearly 20 years now, assuming I make it that far I fully expect to still own it in another 20. Once a car is no longer a daily driver, it cost nearly nothing to keep it.

  • avatar
    skor

    Nice car. I like this body style Camaro, as well as the first gen. Everything since then? Not so much. The current version looks plain idiotic.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Remember this car?
    I do.

    I think it is great that he still has it in such a fine condition. Mine rusted apart, stalled, dashboard curled like bacon in the sun, ran like crap, squeaked and rattled like a buckboard, and was a complete pain in the backside with nearly everything that needed to be serviced.

    But whenever I drove it I got lots of looks. I called it my “bimbo car” because it was good for nothin’, but looking sweet.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    For a guy who has given this car so much attention to the point of repainting it himself, why didn’t he put the “Berlinetta” script back on in the right place on the B pillar? It’s a little too high.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    Nice story and very nice car. It’s kinda sad but I find this car to look rather good and it may end up on my short list of “crap I could afford to race” as it seems decent ones from that generation and the one directly after that are in a decent price range and are competitive.

    • 0 avatar
      noxioux

      . . . And can be stupid fast without breaking the bank. A friend used to have one with a 400 small block. It was like riding in the millenium falcon when he punched it. The exhaust note would make the fillings in your teeth ache.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Nice car, too bad about the 305. A no-brainer to drop a 350 in it but I suppose he wants to keep it original for a number of reason. More partial to the Pontiacs of that era having owned a ’79 TA, w/400 Pontiac engine and a 4 speed w/factory Hurst shift. Black on Black, a sexy beast but plagued with awful build quality. Not so much the engine/drive train but more the body and interior parts.

    • 0 avatar
      Lokki

      The front engine rwd auto transmission cars of this era are the ones that gave rise to the old folk-wisdom that:

      “GM cars run bad longer than most cars run at all”

      A friend had one of these and I watch everything on it gradually (well relatively gradually) crumble away till there wasn’t much left beyond a gutless engine with a smooth shifting automatic transmission.

  • avatar
    srogers

    No mention of the mileage?
    Or am I just selectively blind? If this is some low mileage garage queen, what’s the accomplishment – dragging out the life span of what is properly crusher fodder.
    If it has racked up amazing mileage, then it can be proudly displayed as a survivor.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      “The 305 was a low compression 80s grade, and so far it’s clocked 175,000 miles with little or no effort- if you don’t count the impeccable maintenance program since Day 1.”

      175,000 miles is less than 6000 miles/year. Makes me wonder if the car is in that sweet spot where it doesn’t develop gremlins from underuse, but also isn’t worn out.

    • 0 avatar
      rentonben

      According to the article, he drove it for thirteen years as a daily driver and racked up 170K . Impressive for the era.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      Sorry, so much for my reading comprehension.

  • avatar
    mzr

    Bitchin’ Camaro. Although if he changed the heater core himself, that is a hell of a job on that generation of F-body. I changed one in a ’80 Firebird, the easiest way is to take the fender off.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I remember test driving a 1979 Camaro when it was just a few years old – even with a 6 and 3-speed it was a class act, and contributed to my later decision to buy a 1979 Firebird Formula that I enjoyed for several years.

  • avatar
    J Sutherland

    good point about that Berlinetta script-he seemed like the kind of guy who wouldn’t miss a detail like that.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Its so true….”Look after your car, and it will look after you”

    Great story.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Unsure what years that body style offered various paint offerings but always like the mostly white colored ones with the blue trim.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    A girl on my floor in college had a 79 Camaro, given to her by her father as a high school graduation gift. Total crush on the girl, but not her ride. I liked driving it, as it handled better than anything I had driven to date. She didn’t have any trouble with it for the four years I knew her but the workmanship was abysmal. From thirty feet in the sun you could see how bad the paint was. The fit of the hood had pie shaped hood to fender lines. I pointed that out to her and the local dealer realigned the front sheetmetal and made a big difference in the fit of the whole front clip. No way around it; these are the years that gave America a bad rap.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    He really had to baby that 305 to get that kind of mileage out of it. They had a low nickel conetnt in the block, and were known for burning oil anywhere between 80-100k. They were very famous for eating cams, due to poor metallurgy and narrow lobes that didn’t have alot of contact surface. They were also famous for wearing out valve guides and cracked heads, the heads on all small block chevies from 79-up had thin decks.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      The cam and valve guide wear issues seem to stem more in the 70′s 305′s. Most of the numerous 80′s 305′s I have encountered easily were able to rack up 100-200K with proper maintenance with but a new timing chain and valve cover reseals being the only bothers. My next door neighbor had a 1983 Caprice with the 305 4BBL and that car had 150K miles and still ran well and only needed a half quart of oil between 3000 mile changes. His VW consumed 3 times that amount in the same mileage.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        Dude you don’t know what you are talking about. I bet you don’t even know how to read the code on a chevy block to see how much nickel the block contains. Some blocks in the 80′s were mexican castings that were made of a very low grade cast iron and are not even recommeneded for a stock rebuild, can you identify those blocks? I can. And yeah, the 79-up heads on all small blocks are prone to cracking due to the thin decks, so much so that world products crate engines in the 80′s -90′s didn’t even come with factory heads because they didn’t want to bother with them because most that they came across were cracked. It’s easy to identify the 79-later heads by the two scallops along the lower edge. The small block chevy interchange manual, which was written in the early 90′s shows which parts to avoid. From pages 64-67 they show which heads to avoid. From oage 13-19 they show which blocks to avoid.
        All years and sizes of the small block chevy were famous for premature cam wear before they switched to rollers in 87. The cam wear problem is emphasized several times in the book by David Vizard “How to rebuild your small block chevy” written around 1980. He doesn’t need to tell me that, tho, I already knew.
        Before I became a mopar guy I worked on small block chevies of all sizes, and rebuilt many. Based on my experience with them, and just from reading articles on them by engine builders and in books and such is what made me a chrysler guy. The funny thing is I know more about chevies than many “chevy guys” and can identify engines and parts that they can’t.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Nice car, never been a fan of the 305 though. My 79 Pontiac TA was one of the few built with the 400 Ponitac motor and 4 speed factory Hurst shifter. For the time, it handled pretty damn good with the quick ratio steering and WS6 handling package. Black on black she was a sexy beast but alas as mentioned the build quality left a lot to be desired. Not so much the motor, drivetrain, and chassis but more the body and interior. Lots of issues there.

  • avatar
    John

    A labor of love. If only Robert Mugabe had taken as good care of The Breadbasket of Africa.

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    Is this guy single? Must be.

    If he was married, that Camaro would have been traded in on a luxury SUV or hocked for a new dining room set years ago!

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Not all women are like that, I had one like that and moron that I am it took me 10 years to figure out that wasn’t what I wanted (and she was like that from day one but I was young and stupid.) New one isn’t like that(and if it wasn’t for the debt from the first one I’d be sitting pretty.)

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        You’re right about getting the right woman. Mine likes fast drives around curvy two lane roads. I dated a woman who told me that you were supposed to slow down for curves, not speed up…that relationship didn’t last…she bought an Explorer and then a Sonata…

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “You felt the need to rub it in by posting about it twice?”

    Whoops – I saw that. I did the first post earlier in the day and my computer locked when I hit “Submit Comment” so I was sure it didn’t go through. Should have checked I guess. Just disregard either or both comments!…….LOL


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India