Camaro IROC-Z is the ‘Ugly Cool’ King of the F-Bodies

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Regular Car Reviews takes a look back on the 1987 Camaro IROC-Z, one of the Eighties’ best muscle cars.

The third-gen Camaro is one of the best platforms for an LS upgrade, thanks to the vast space under the hood, and tons of aftermarket support to make it all work out. The fact there are plenty of Camaros (and its Pontiac siblings, the Firebird and Trans Am) around to build, as well as the low cost of admission, means it won’t hurt your wallet, or purists’ hearts, when it comes to building a third-gen Camaro.

Though some of those Camaros may be off-limits for the wildest builds. Case in point is the IROC-Z, like the lovely red example reviewed by Mr. Regular of Regular Car Reviews. As Mr. Regular explains, there may not be many of these around, but those still with us continue evoke the dream of the Eighties to this day

Owing its existence to Roger Penske, the IROC-Z takes its name from both the International Race of Champions (a series founded by Penske in the 1970s, and one famous for its identically prepared 12-pack of Camaros) and the trim level it would ultimately replace for the rest of the Eighties, the Z28. The car itself lasted in the IROC until the Dodge Daytona stepped in, from 1990-onwards. Still, the IROC-Z had a solid six-year grasp on the series, and 170,000 examples produced prior to the switch.


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The IROC-Z could be had with a 350 cubic-inch small block with tuned port injection under the hood, but only the automatic could handle the 320 lb-ft of torque the engine produced; the manual IROC-Zs were stuck with the old 305. Of course, that issue today could be fixed with both a new manual transmission, followed by the LS of your choice.

Though General Motors had finally built a muscle car “that could out maneuver the Fox-body Mustang,” the IROC-Z is seen by some as a “trash class” ride. Its owner told Mr. Regular the well-moneyed Chicago neighborhoods hate seeing (and hearing) the car “disturbing their Michael W. Smith CD music and corrupting their stiff-backed children’s minds.”

Yet, Camaros like the IROC-Z are beloved because they represent “desirable ugliness,” and that it’s not difficult to feel “ugly cool” in one. It definitely is one of the most Eighties machines ever made, one we’re happy to see on the road today.

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Since launching her professional writing career nearly a decade ago as a fashion blogger, Cameron Aubernon has written for a handful of online and print publications on a wide variety of subjects, including expat issues, fashion, music, and, of course, the automotive industry. The automotive expert was even the editor-in-chief of a popular online lifestyle publication, where she reviewed luxury cars and interviewed fellow automotive enthusiasts.

A graduate of The Evergreen State College Class of 2005 with a bachelor's in liberal arts, Aubernon took a left turn from fashion writing into the automotive realm when she asked a fellow writer via Facebook if she could write for their site. Following an internship, stints with a couple of hyper-local online publications, and a move to Seattle, she made her then-biggest impact with The Truth About Cars, writing full-time for the publication from 2013 to 2015.

Currently, the highly-regarded automotive journalist is a frequent contributor to the high-traffic Internet Brands Auto Group websites Rennlist, Club Lexus, LS1Tech and Mustang Forums, among others.

Aubernon’s expert knowledge of all things Ford trucks has also made her a mainstay as one of the most prolific writers on Ford Truck Enthusiasts and F-150 Online.

Aubernon can be contacted via email at [email protected].

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