Saturday, March 9, 2019

Finding a 1974 Camaro Z28 LT on the way to the Rose Bowl

Found in California while in town for Alabama vs UCLA football game in 2000.

Gold in California. Gerald Davis climbed aboard a plane to go watch football in California. He came home with a 1974 Camaro Z28 LT. Fate? Hardly. Davis had his sights set on southern California Camaros before he left Alabama. His target, the early second gen variety. The same cars that filled his high school parking lot. 

Reason to hunt
  Locating rust-free 1970-1974 Camaros, even in Alabama, is tough. Once you subtract the demolition derby remnants left by decades of anxious teens the challenge is severe. More so when you prefer budget-friendly finds like Davis.

Gold with black interior.
Climb in a 1974 Chevy Camaro Z28 Type LT 4-speed with light gold paint. 

Bible of cars
  Davis scanned the latest Hemmings Motor News ads with his final destination of Pasadena, California in mind. He would be staying with family in El Cajon, near San Diego, and any southern California Z28 would be within driving and car hunting range. As luck would have it a 1974 Z28 was listed for sale in Palmdale, a 30-minute drive north of Pasadena.

What game?
  Davis tackled the California Camaro opportunity head on after he landed in the golden state. Before he drove to Pasadena to watch Alabama face UCLA at the Rose Bowl Stadium he contacted the owner of the ’74 Camaro. The ad stated it was a true 1974 Z28. ’74 was the last year of the small back window second gen Camaro. And the last year before the Z28 took a two year hiatus. 
  In 1974 the Z28 package included a 350 V8 with 4-barrel, dual exhaust, sport suspension, Positraction rear axle (4-speed manual Z28s came with 3.73 rear gears), sport mirrors. Front and rear spoilers and hood and deck stripes were optional.

As had most of the front sheet metal after a front end collision.
The grill on the 1974 Camaro Z28 had been changed. As had most of the front sheet metal after a front end collision.

First look
  Uh oh! The Camaro was parked outside in the elements. Blowing desert sand had created a haze on the glass and the original Light Gold (53) paint was burned by the harsh sun. But those weren’t the first areas of concern for Davis.
  “When I first saw the nose, I thought that’s not a Z-28,” Davis said. “It had the wrong grill and header panel.”
  For 1974 the Z28 came with a blacked out grill that featured the red, white and blue Camaro emblem in the center. This Camaro has a silver grill and the emblem is centered on the header panel. Something was amiss.
  “The second owner (in Palmdale) told me the car had been involved in a front end collision.” 
  As luck would have it, junkyard parts from a Light Gold ’74 Camaro were found. The crunched black grill, header panel, and hood featuring the optional Z28 stripes were replaced with base model parts by the previous owner.

Z28 stripes were optional across hood and rear deck lid. No stripes on hood since it had been replaced.

Deal is done
  A four-speed and hot rod rumble made the decision easy. The stack of receipts, an L.A. Southwest College sticker on the bumper along with California plates confirmed the history of the Camaro. It was rust-free (compared to what we see in the southeast U.S.) and would be coming back to Alabama a few weeks later on a car hauler. 

Dual snorkel air cleaner with chrome lid was standard on 1974 Z28s. 

  1974 was the last year of the Z28 built without a catalytic converter and it did not go quietly. It went out with a bang. Davis’ Camaro had around 100k miles when he bought it in 2000. Now at 117k (in 2019) and still packing a punch when he nails the go pedal on the gold beast. Here’s what’s powering his stock Z28.

  • Engine: 350-V8 rated at 245 hp
  • Transmission: Muncie 4-speed
  • Factory hot rod parts: 4-bolt main caps. Forged steel crankshaft, heat-treated and shot-peened connecting rods, impact extruded aluminum pistons. Screw in studs. Big valve cylinder heads (2.02-inch intake/1.60-inch exhaust), 76cc combustion chambers with high-speed valve train. Oil pan windage tray and high-speed crankshaft damper. Dual snorkel air cleaner.

Light gold (code 53) paint is almost a perfect match on the replacement front end body panels on the ’74 Z28.

Type LT
  Camaro-speak for "Luxury Touring." Consider the Type LT the Lexus of 1974 Camaros. More insulation, more sound deadener, the lighting group, cushier seats, better stereo system and ribbed cloth on the door panels with map pockets. This gold Z28 has the "Type LT" emblems along with proof in the cushy inserts on the door panels. This was no cheapo Camaro with a 4-gear. 

Type LT emblems featured on the sail panel.
Type LT emblems featured on the sail panel and right rear next to tail light.

Lost the game but…
  Alabama, ranked #3 to start the 2000 college football season, fell to UCLA 24-35. The game, tickets and plane ride are a distant memory for Davis – much like the money spent on them. But all was not lost on that trip to California. The Z28, with Davis behind the wheel, still roams the streets of Alabama when he gets the urge to relive the glory days.
  Money well spent.

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

Steel 15x7 five-spoke Rally wheels were made to accommodate specific thin trim rings. The wheels resembled Torq-Thrust mags.

Davis keeps his trim rings tucked away for fear of losing one on a bumpy road or sharp curve. He snapped one in place for a photo.

Surround panel for gauge cluster was pulled out during repair work. Note the "TYPE LT" horn button on steering wheel.

HEI distributors were installed after January.
Points type distributor was available through January 1974 on Camaros. The HEI air cleaner base will have a noticeable indention at rear.

L82 engines in 1974 Camaros received the finned aluminum valve covers with Corvette cross flags.

1974 Camaros were once scorned but are now earning respect for their place in muscle car history.

In 1974 the dual snorkel on L82 engines was smaller than previous years.

1974 Camaro advertisement: "Hidden windshield wipers tuck down for an uninterrupted body flow." Not sure if that was enough to offset the "Improved bumper system."

A 130-mph speedo and 6-grand tach in the 1974 Z28 gauge cluster.

Front view of replaced grill and header panel on 1974 Z28. 

The aluminum bumpers are stout with heavy steel inner support structure that help meet the new for 1974 5-mph bumper guidelines.

Side view of 1974 Camaro Z28 without rear or front spoilers.

Shifter that stirs gears in the Z28's 4-speed Muncie transmission.

Smog pump on 1974 Camaro Z28 350-V8. Even the clamps are date coded.

Most people ditched these smog pump systems when making performance mods trying to compete with higher compression foes.

Type LT emblem on tail panel.

Spotted in the wild, this 1974 Camaro Z28 was found parked at the local hamburger stand.

Camaro's gas tank straps look rust-free as do the sway bar and rest of underside.

Decoding VIN on a 1974 Z28 LT. 2nd digit "S" for LT, 5th digit "T" for Z28 350-V8 (L82).

1974 Camaro Z28 survivor of sorts from California to Alabama.

L.A. Southwest College bumper sticker remains from California days.

Ribbed cloth on door panel inserts were part of Type LT package.

Small back window made final appearance on second generation Camaro and Firebird in 1974.

California license plate stashed in back seat parts collection.

Unusual seat adjuster next to console on 1974 Camaro Z28 Type LT.

Driver door sticker looks original with no signs of respray.

Always a treat to see how good the paint looks under the trunk lid. Imagine if this Z28 had been kept in a garage all its life?

Look ma! No spoiler. The look is distinctive on a Z28. 

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at

Stay tuned and be sure to CHECK OUT JUNKYARD LIFE ON YOUTUBE.

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