1988 Chevrolet Camaro

1988 Chevrolet Camaro

1988 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z

The International Race of Champions, or IROC-series, pitted race drivers against one another in identical cars, as a pure test of drivers’ skills, rather than the budget of the team owner. From 1985 through 1990, that car was the Chevrolet Camaro. In 1985, it started out as the Camaro Z/28 IROC-Z, which was a option package on the Z/28, RPO B4Z, the IROC Sport Equipment Pakcage. This means that from 1985 through 1987, there were Z/28s and IROCs, and while every IROC was in fact a Z/28, every Z/28 was not an IROC. For 1988, they dropped the Z/28-part, and just started calling it a Camaro IROC-Z. This continued through the 1990 model year, when the racing series switched over to another car (the front-wheel-drive Dodge Daytona Turbo). At that point, Chevrolet lost the rights to use the name and went back to calling them Z/28s starting with the 1991 model year.

ABOVE: All 1985-1990 Z/28s and/or IROC-Zs had this louvered hood. Introduced on the 1985 Z/28, they didn’t actually work, they were purely for looks.
BELOW: The 16-inch IROC rim, standard on all 1985-1990 IROC-Zs, and optional on 1985-1986 Z/28s. The offsets were different, front-to-back (the rims are marked “front” or “rear” on the inside of each wheel). They came shod in 245/50-16 Goodyear Eagles.

1988 Chevrolet Camaro INTERIORS

There were three basic interiors available on the 1988 Chevrolet Camaro. The standard or base interior was a simple cloth, on the seats and door panels, and the carpet and sound-deadening were of a lower quality. The deluxe interior, shown above and below, featured a much higher-grade fabric with a tweed pattern and vinyl piping on seats and door panels, along with a higher-grade of carpet and sound deadening, and a few convenience features as standard. Lastly, the leather interior added leather seats and leather-trimmed door panels to the deluxe interior. The leather interior was a fairly rare option, with the premium interior, pictured here being the most common. And for good reason. They looked great, especially in either light gray (as pictured here) or charcoal, and they held up well to years of use. However, typically the drivers’ seat left-side bolster would always wear out first from countless entries-and-exits. The Build Sheet, showing all the vital info on the car, including every option that was ordered on it, is located inside the console on all 1988 Chevrolet Camaros.

1988 Chevrolet Camaro ENGINES

The base Camaro engine was a horrible little 2.8-liter V6. Based on the old 2.5, it had been punched out, and given modern EFI and ignition for Camaro duty. With 135 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque, it was no powerhouse, mated to either a 5-speed manual or a 700R4 automatic. But the real news wasn’t about wheezing V6s. It was all about the V8 lineup. At the bottom of the heap was the 5.0 TBI (RPO# L03), a 170-horse version of the venerable 305 small block V8. When GM nixed carburetors in the mid-80s, they needed a simple, low-cost fuel injection system for its pedestrian V8s. This became TBI, short for Throttle Body Injection. It wasn’t a bad system for the time, just not meant to make much power. The real action started with the two TPI engines. TPI stands for Tuned Port Injection and it was worlds ahead of the TBI. TPI set a new standard for American V8 performance, pushing the 5.0L V8 to 195 horses (RPO# LB9), and they looked great too. It could be hooked to either a 5-speed or an automatic (700R4). At the top of the heap was the mighty 5.7 (350) with TPI (RPO# B2L). This was essentially a Corvette engine with cast iron heads instead of aluminum. They were screamers and put the world on notice that GM was back! Rated at 230hp, with the optional G92 package (which included a dual-cat exhaust system) made 245hp, same as the ’88 Corvette. The 5.7 TPI V8 could only be ordered with a 700R4 automatic transmission. No 5-speed option was offered. The reason is that GM did not have a suitable 5-speed tranny in its entire parts bin that could handle the torque of the mighty 5.7. Think about it: Corvette never had a 5-speed. They went from the 4+3 in the 80s right to the 6-speed in 1993. The reason was that they never developed or procured a 5-speed with enough strength to hold up to all that power. So, any 3rd-gen Camaro that is supposed to have a 5.7 should have an automatic. Sometimes people will put a 5.7 emblem (called an engine callout) on the back bumper, but they really have a 5.0 TPI. If it has a 5-speed, that should be a dead giveaway that its a 5.0 and not a 5.7.

I owned a classic car dealership called Camaro Headquarters for 5 years during which time I sold nearly 500 3rd-gen Camaros and Firebirds over that time. I learned a lot about 3rd-gen F-bodies. One thing that a lot of people may not know is that the black plastic ‘spoiler’ under the nose of the car is critical to the cooling system. Over the years, many have gotten knocked off, or removed by owners who were sick of dragging them on speed bumps. What they didn’t realize is that in so doing, they upset the delicate airflow of this ‘bottom-breather’. The grille on a 3rd-gen Camaro doesn’t feed air to the radiator, it feeds the engine. The radiator cooling air is all drawn from underneath the car, and that black plastic piece, which GM called an ‘air diverter’, but most carguys called a ‘chin spoiler’, was what directed the air through the radiator. Without it, the air goes right under the car and never cools the radiator down. If you’ve had overheating problems in your 3rd-gen F-body, get on all fours and look under the nose. Is the chin spoiler still there? If not, you’d better get one.

1988 Chevrolet Camaro SPECIFICATIONS


Camaro RS Coupe

Camaro RS Convertible

IROC-Z Coupe

IROC-Z Coupe





Track, front

Track, rear



305ci / 5.0L V8 w/TBI

305ci / 5.0L V8 w/TPI

350ci / 5.7L V8 TPI




Top speed





101.0 in / 2565 mm

192.0 in / 4877 mm

72.8 in / 1849 mm

50.3 in / 1278 mm

60.0 in / 1524 mm

60.9 in / 1547 mm

3,230 lbs / 1465 kg

170 hp @ 4200 rpm

195 hp @ 4800 rpm

230 hp @ 4000 rpm

7.4 sec

15.8 sec @ 87 mph

138 mph / 222 km/h





255 lb/ft @ 2400 rpm

240 lb/ft @ 3200 rpm

285 lb/ft @ 2800 rpm