By on November 14, 2013

Luke, also known as “pharmer” here at TTAC, has a story to tell about his ’94 Camaro. Give him a warm welcome! — JB

Let’s get something straight before we even get into this little story: I don’t live in a trailer, rock a mullet, work the swing shift at Burger King, or street race on the weekends. These are the ugly stereotypes applied to owners of Camaros and Firebirds, and they are not fair, true, or particularly funny. Nevertheless, I have heard these stereotypes thrown out as jokes from a lot of different people, and I am none of them.

I am, however, in a long term relationship with a 1994 Camaro Z28.

My inclination for such impractical affairs started early. There has been never been a time in my life when I was not a car guy, and specifically a Chevy guy. I was brought home from the hospital in a Camaro, and slept in my crib cuddled up with a stuffed dog and a stuffed Corvette. My parents bribed me through doctor visits, church services, family events, and several years of school with Hot Wheels cars. I lost two baby teeth to the unyielding dash of my great-grandfather’s 1963 Impala during a panic stop, and could tell you the model year of any Chevy from 1930 through 1975 before I understood simple math. I am a Chevy guy.

My love for the 4th-generation Camaro started like many great relationships: through my family, specifically my Grandpa Wally. He loved cars and subscribed to literally all of the major buff books, and one day I spotted the January 1993 issue of Motor Trend sitting on his coffee table. In blazing bold yellow text it said: FIRST FULL TEST: ALL-NEW CAMARO! And there was a HOLOGRAM of the car too! I sat down, started reading, and was hooked.

Inside were many pages of detailed information about the new Camaro Z28. It was a big deal — the last time the Camaro was new was over a decade prior, in 1982. It was also the beginning of Detroit’s long era of ever-escalating cheap speed, and the new 4th generation F-body was widely viewed as the first “real muscle car” that GM had made since their heyday in the late 1960s. The technical specifications were certainly exciting — the LT1 engine from the Corvette, a 6 (!!!) speed manual, 4 wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and 50-series Goodyear GS-Cs.

But what really struck me was the styling. It was just SO COOL: dart-shaped, clean, with recessed headlights, a dramatically sloped windshield, a beautifully integrated rear spoiler in the rear deck, and the Z28-only black roof that balanced everything out so nicely. The design was so cohesive and smooth; it looked like a fighter jet – athletic, powerful, and elegant all at once. I don’t think I put that magazine down for 2 solid months. David Kimble’s beautiful fold out illustrations rivaled Elle MacPherson’s swimsuit issue in its ability to hold my attention. I burned for that car, and promised myself that when I was an adult I would certainly have one.

I grew up, left home, and turned my attention to the things that all young men love; specifically college, co-eds, and Coors Light. But I did work hard and committed myself to a path that led to a career that I love, a beautiful woman that could put up with me, and enough financial stability to buy myself some toys. A beautiful red Camaro Z28 would eventually come into my life and make me complete, but I had to make a few mistakes first. We’ll leave that for part 2…

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46 Comments on “Luke’s Camaro, Part One...”


  • avatar
    GiddyHitch

    Nothing insightful to add except that this is my favorite Camaro design of all time and I strongly lusted after one in high school. Those feelings eventually faded but I did end up purchasing my own dream car (see avatar) after depreciation had its way with her. I highly recommend that everyone do it at least once.

  • avatar
    shipping96

    Great starter article, looking forward to part II. My very first car was a brand new 1996 Z28, Bose stereo, black with black leather, six speed manual. Loved that car. I bought it after my college graduation and a month after being commisioned as an ensign. I unfortunately totalled it in an accident in 2000. Then I bought my friend’s 1998 convertible Z28. It was fun too but just wasn’t as special. There are certainly wiser things I could’ve done with my money but I’m glad I was able to have those cars when I was young enough and dumb enough to enjoy them. Now I drive a minivan…

    • 0 avatar
      PonchoIndian

      “Iím glad I was able to have those cars when I was young enough and dumb enough to enjoy them.”

      And here is a shining example of the kind of BS that gets posted in comment sections and what is wrong with the world today.

      • 0 avatar
        shipping96

        Wow my first comment and I get flamed right away. Way to go ponchoindian, I guess it’s true that the internet brings out the worst in people.

        Let’s talk about how buying a new car wasn’t smart:
        1) New car depreciation
        2) Time/value of money, what it would have done for retirement
        3) A young man with a powerful car, I did my share of speeding which is associated with car accidents and tickets. Was it fun, sure. Was it smart?

        You’re going to tell me that people buy these cars and carefully watch their speed (as I do now)?

        So what about my post was BS smart guy.

        • 0 avatar
          PonchoIndian

          Well shipping96, the first post made it sound like owning one at all was only something someone young and dumb would do.

          Sure, buying a new car might not have been smart. Of course nothing in the first post said anything like that. Buying that minivan might not have been smart either, who is to say.

          The car has nothing to do with the speed, the person has everything to do with the speed.

          I truly hope you live long enough and are healthy enough to enjoy the money you’ve put away for your retirement. Sure doesn’t sound like you’re enjoying it now.

          Welcome to TTAC. Don’t take anything too seriously, especially posts from people like me :)

          • 0 avatar
            shipping96

            Well Poncho you’re right that I’m not enjoying it much now. Wife put us on the Dave Ramsey plan and it feels just like put your head down and work hard right now. A means to an end if you will. I sneak in a little fun now and then when she’s not watching!
            I think the Camaro in 96 had about the best bang for the buck that you could get in a new car. I grew up in a relatively poor household and worked my butt off in college for my engineering degree, the car was my reward. My father, instead of chiding me for buying a new car (though he’d warned me against it) said “well I guess I did the same thing”. He had purchased a 68 Firebird upon getting his first real job.

        • 0 avatar
          Reino

          I am a prime example of the ‘young and dumb’ Camaro owner. I had a 1996 Z28 when I was 20. That thing just had way too much power for a kid my age. I ended up totalling mine as well.

          Two years ago at an auto show I was looking at the 5th gen SS, and a 16 year old kid was telling his friend that this would be his first car. It sent shivers down my spine. Hope the kid is still alive.

        • 0 avatar
          PonchoIndian

          I’m sure there is a light at the end of that tunnel.

          Sorry if I got on your comment like that, but maybe you can see why?

          I highly admire how you worked for your car. I too did the same thing. Only way to respect a purchase. I still have my 02 Hawk, my first new car fresh out of college. Might hit 8k miles next spring.

          Maybe I’m the dumb one. I should probably plan for retirement more, put away more blah blah. I’ve unfortunately seen too many people in my life die before or very very shortly after retirement, which has given me a “live for now” outlook.

          • 0 avatar
            shipping96

            I won’t throw any stones regarding planning/not planning for retirement. My beloved father passed away at age 55 in an accident. He used to say “don’t wait for retirement to take your vacations, you never know what will happen of if your health will hold up”; it gave me some measure of comfort after he passed.

            I was young and had a hot new car once, that was a good check mark to have in this life.

            I like the current generation Camaro much better. But the blind spot got even worse! Go to a body shop, plenty of blind spot accident new gen camaros in there getting fixed.

        • 0 avatar
          Matt Fink

          Keep up the Dave Ramsey stuff shipping96, it will definitely pay off in the long run. Having no car payments and only paying cash for cars is pretty awesome.

    • 0 avatar
      rofergZ28

      Why not have the best of both worlds? I have a 1995 Z28 convertible *and* a 2006 Grand Caravan. The Z28 hides in the underground garage when the weather isn’t suitable for top-down driving, but it’s always there and waiting for me… :D

  • avatar
    beefmalone

    20 years later I still have my camaro from high school. Looking forward to the rest of the story.

  • avatar
    PonchoIndian

    Sounds very similar to my coming to own a Firebird(s). Some people just don’t get “it”, and I’m sure you’ll catch some flack (the same guys who are taking Caroline’s story personally because they feel like they fit into the stereotypes).

    I get it brother…I get it.

  • avatar
    NN

    I could have written this story, save for the fact that a) I don’t have my 1994 Z-28 yet, and b) I didn’t come home from the hospital in one. But otherwise I share the sentiment for the vehicle.

  • avatar
    Ion

    The victor always gets to rewrite history. The F-body gets little love these days. Sure the Mustang “won” but the LT1 and LS1’s had the Mustang beat on everything save interior and price.

    • 0 avatar
      Reino

      The Mustang only ‘won’ because they domesticate the pony car into a daily-driving coupe with ergonomics favorable to the mainstream (especially women). The Camaro remained rugged and raw, but with a more angled windshield, lower driving position, and worse blind spots. This did not sell well to the mainstream.

  • avatar
    Chopsui

    Well, I guess if you like how a catfish looks.

    Full disclosure, I’m a Ford guy, but that doesn’t make the front and rear overhang on these any smaller. It must be hell owning one of these if you have an inclined driveway.

    But hey, it takes all kinds. Let your freak flag fly, man. I really mean that.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Worst overhangs on a RWD car? Early 80s Panther based Mark VI. Different wheelbase than Town Car Coupe achieved by tucking the wheels in further both front and rear.

    • 0 avatar
      Reino

      1994 did not have the ‘catfish’ front end. It had recessed headlights carried over from the 3rd gen, but with a shorter hood deck.

      1998 is when they went to the ‘catfish’ or ‘Chrysler Sebring’ front end.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I too have noticed that the 4th-gen F-bodies are very polarizing. I happen to not find them all that attractive, but I love the 1st-3rd gens. But I work with a guy who had one and confessed that he thought it was tbe best looking muscle car design ever, exactly what a muscle car “should look like” is how he put it.

      I think it depends on when you grew up. I was in high school in the 80s and the 3rd gen Camaro and Trans Am was the sh!t then. Older guys I know think they were crap and only like the 70s muscle cars, and even older guys think there is nothing more perfect than a Tri-5 Chevy, etc. My work friend is a little younger and hates Mustangs, so I guess the 90s Camaro is perfect to him. Funny thing is he just bought a brand new F150.

      • 0 avatar
        Willyam

        “I was in high school in the 80s and the 3rd gen Camaro and Trans Am was the sh!t then.”

        Yes they were! Around about ’87 (IIRC) you could start to get the 5.7 in the Camaro/Bird. That finally got it on a more even playing field with the 5.0 Mustang, both of which were about the only thing in my little town that could scare the actual 60’s muscle cars (still driven on the street by hoonigans without trust funds).

        I was always very close to owning one after my second-gen, but never quite hit the right time…

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I’ve had a few F-bodies over the years including some 4th gens, a 1995 TA and a 1995 Z28.

    The TA I only had for a short while, fixed some things then flipped it. The real story was the Z28. Every option (including the Monsoon stero), in arctic white, ultra clean. I installed Lloyd Elliot stage2 ported heads, port matched intake, double roller 1.7:1 rockers and deleted the rear muffler.

    Unlike you, I did street race it on the weekends. During the week it was the girlfriend’s daily driver. I had it for about a year, then sold it to a buddy who wanted a “sporty car”. Buddy wasn’t all that great or experienced of a driver, but wanted to look cool and be able to say he had the big engine to back it up. He drove it for 6 months then one day fish-tailed the car down the street and into a parked car destroying the entire driver side. Being drunk, the insurance company didn’t pay him a dime so the car sat in it’s destroyed state for a few years.

    Every so often I’d ask him if he was ready to sell it back to me for a part-out, each time wanting too much for his pile of parts. Eventually, he lost his storage spot and called me up asking if my offer still stood. It did, so I went and picked it up, brought it home and stripped her down to a bare shell.

    The LT1 and ajoined 4L60 with the entire powertrain harness is in the corner of the shop, awaiting some engineless roller to come by and accept it. When the right ride comes along, it’ll burn the streets again.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    No matter how stupid of an idea it is, I am buying an old IROC-Z, because ever since I learned what an IROC-Z was as a kid, I’ve wanted to own one.

    At least F-bodies have a huge aftermarket so you can tighten up an old IROC into a mad street machine.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    A good friend of mine got a 94 Z-28 for his high school car. This was the early 00’s, so it was a decent used car by then. Didn’t look bad at first, but the car just completely fell apart during the few years he had it. Transmission mounts, interior pieces, O’2 sensors. After graduation he put a giant sound system, some cheap performance mods, and got the car painted from white to black, with Corvette wheels, a bigger spoiler, and SS hood.

    It was fairly fast, more so than most cars of the era, but I think my new V6 Mustang could take it these days. Beyond that though, it was a pretty awful car. Cramped, uncomfortable, and the cheapest of cheap interiors…. and pretty much everything else outside of the drivetrain.

    It was his baby, will, besides the horribly underage girl he was head over heels for at the time, but one day it was T-Boned and that was the end of that car. He really loved that car; I never understood it.

  • avatar
    david42

    This is a fantastic design. I wish they stuck with this concept instead of going retro.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    The car that ignites the car-guy (or gal) fire is indeed a special one.

    The red Z you’ve been chasing in your dreams was match soaked in lighter fluid. We were mightily impressed with its handling and power – and style – when it came out. It wears its sheet metal well today and the performance is still great.

    As one old car collector I know once put it (and he’s had some very cool and original cars in his collection): “Life’s too short to not have had a cool car at some point.”

    He’s right. Everyone should go find that car that first lit the passion. I went out and found mine. My wife shakes her head. And I’m sure others are convinced it’s a midlife crisis thing. But it isn’t. It’s a reconnection with my love of cars and car culture. Glad you found yours. And welcome to TTAC.

  • avatar
    AllThumbs

    Hold on; I’m still trying to get something straight.

    So you don’t “live in a trailer, rock a mullet, work the swing shift at Burger King, or street race on the weekends.”

    I’m trying to get my head around that.

    Joke, joke, joke…

  • avatar
    ajla

    I got rid of my Firebird Formula for a Buick Lucerne CXL.

    Probably wasn’t my best move.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Yeah but you’ve got a Buick V6 obsession. A strange obsession.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Did someone say supercharged 3.8 Firebird as a fourth gen version of the third gen Turbo Trans Am?

        • 0 avatar
          PonchoIndian

          nice thought, but isn’t worth it. The LS1 is lighter than the 3800 and the packaging would be extremely difficult.

          There were some supercharged 3800 Trans Ams running around in the early 90’s as an engineering study. Over an LT1 it might have made some sense…but the LS1 was already part of the plan so…

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Screw being worthwhile, why not do something just to prove it can be done?

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            I have no doubt it can be done, I’ve seen it. There’s really nothing to prove so the efford might as well be put toward something that performs better for the investment.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I planned to replace the Firebird with a G8.

        But the Lucerne was there for less money, less miles, wood on the steering wheel, factory chrome wheels, had better space utilization, and I’m not really a racer anyway.

        Then I see that 3800 under the hood and it’s so comfortable and familiar. Like walking into grandma’s house while she’s baking cookies. Sold.

        Unfortunately, turns out that even though I’m no Jack Baruth, I still need at least a little driving excitement in my life.

  • avatar
    Luke

    You guys are way too much fun. I need to come on here more often. Seriously, thanks for all the jokes, comments, and kudos. I’m really glad I took Jack up on his offer and started telling my story.

    If Jack puts up with it, this will be a 4 part series. The young and dumb part of my story starts in Part 2, and as you’ll see, I was really dumb.

  • avatar
    old5.0

    When I was a junior in high school, the father of the girl I was dating showed up with a brand new 93 Z, the first of the new fourth-gens in town. We’d all read about it, and seeing one in person caused a bit of an uproar among the local young gearheads. A red six-speed, it looked tough as hell sitting there on it’s massive Eagle GS-Cs.

    The next Saturday night, he brings the beast out to mix it up with the whippersnappers. My 89 Mustang LX was worked (10 minute tune-up, long tubes, shifter, 4.30 gears, 8-inch ETStreets on Draglites) and we all knew that the result of that race would have been a resounding, multiple car length curb stomping of the ‘Maro, so his first victim was another kid’s still-basically-new (and stock) black 92 Heritage Z with TPI 350, true dual exhaust, and 3.42 Posi.

    The result? The TPI car in three straight. The “underwhelmed” was palpable, although in fairness to the 93, it was a stick and the old man wasn’t exactly Ronnie Sox on the third pedal.


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