Capsule Review: 1985-1990 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z

Mike Solowiow
by Mike Solowiow

GM leased the IROC-Z name for the Camaro from the International Race of Champions starting in 1985 thru 1990. To befit this racing pedigree, the Camaro came equipped with the special 305 TPI 5.0L V8 engine coupled with a four-speed automatic fun sponge, as the regular 5-speed manual proved incapable of handling the 215bhp the motor burbled out. The fun didn’t stop there however; the upgrades continued in the form of revised springs, a lowered ride height, Tune Port fuel injection, and a body kit complete with 80’s awesome stickers to remind the SVO Mustang who was boss. The Camaro didn’t need no stinking double wing, a lip spoiler would do just fine.

All these efforts resulted in an incredibly wheel spin happy, hard riding, shaky contraption built to thrill from stoplight to stoplight. Toss the overboosted helm into a turn, and you’ll realize how advanced even the most basic of suspensions are in the 21st century, as the IROC-Z followed the mantra of “harder is better” to an absolute fault. However, the tuned bits from the Corvette helped out where it’s really important: smoky powerslides. Sure the Mustang might possess a bit more technical sophistication, but the Camaro always outran it. The sheer grunt of the engine and the indestructible nature of the 700-R4 tranny made for an easily tuned, reliable drivetrain; shame about the rest of the build quality.

The interior of the Camaro reflected more muscle car than the Mustang, with sport gauges complete with an interesting double-needle speedo showing mph on oneside, kph on the other (in orange). The sporty looks continued on the outside to culminate in one of the meanest looking “folded paper” designs of the 1980’s. White Trash no, future classic, yes.

Mike Solowiow
Mike Solowiow

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  • Agroal Agroal on Sep 19, 2008

    "I grew up in Northern New Jersey and the future “APEX Tech” students were the overwhelming candidates for this car (which their parents paid for in exchange for the lack of healthy parenting)." I remember those "Apex Tech" commercials with the guy who looked like everybodys' shop teacher in HS! I remember one of his ads for the welding school part of Apex Tech. To paraphrase he says "anywhere in the world you find two metals coming together, you'll find a welder". Really? Not a baker?! "And when you leave Apex Tech you'll have your own set of tools! LOL

  • Sammy Hagar Sammy Hagar on Sep 19, 2008

    There was absolutely no reason to Photoshop out the New Jersey license plate. However, I have to admit that as a high school student in the late 80's, I really wanted an IROC. That said, I also wanted things like acid-wash jeans, Big Gulp's and girls w/bangs styled like cockatoos. In the interim, things have changed...and I seldom if ever see a Camaro from that time that has aged well; alas, meth takes another innocent victim. BTW: Can't you just build one of these cars from scratch solely from a J.C. Whitney catalog? I swear you can do it w/a late 60's Mustang...

  • TriShield TriShield on Sep 19, 2008

    Easily the best looking Camaro next to the originals. As a child of the 80s I loved the styling of this car and it's Firebird twin. They were the right size, right proportioned and cool. Then the 90s came around and I entered high school. I remember GM debuting the redesigned Camaro. They basically took this car and inflated it to cartoon proportions. They removed all the style from the interior and made it a overly glossy mess. A friend of mine had an 88 RS with t-tops in high school, this was 1995 or 1996. It was cherry with 30,000 original miles and a 5.0L V8. It was so much fun and everyone had great memories in that car. I had an 80s muscle car in high school myself, by my senior year I had scored an '87 Grand National with 11,000 original miles. Just in time for prom. It's the car that gave me my username, but I guess that's a story for another Capsule Review.

  • Badgerbobby Badgerbobby on Apr 04, 2009

    Strictly for an investment, is $7800 too much for a pristine (and I mean cleaner than clean and totally stock) 1985 gray IROC 305TPI t-top with 61,000 miles a good deal? The guy has 5 other cars and wants to buy an engagement ring and needs cash. I drove it, I am not a motor head by any means, in fact, I am 48 years old and used to drive a 71 Chevelle that would have embarrassed this car, but I have heard that if I garage it for 3-4 years, I can sell it for $11,000 or more in 2012 or so...any thoughts, much appreciated!