1989 CHEVROLET CAMARO RS, WHAT’S IN A NAME?
RS of course stands for ‘Rally Sport’, a hallowed name in Camaro lore. The first RSs were an optional appearance package on first-gen Camaros (1967-69) which included hide-away headlights and special front and rear facias. Starting with the 2nd-generation in 1970-1/2, the RS package was back, and again it was an appearance package only, meaning no high-performance hardware. This time, the RS option package graced the already-lovely front end of the new 1970 Camaro with an elegantly marginal split front bumper, new grille and front and rear facias. By the late 2nd-gen, it was nothing more than a stripe package. When the 3rd-gen Camaro launched in 1982, there was not RS option. Starting in 1988, the RS was an optional appearance package again that only found 7,038 takers. Starting with the 1989 Chevrolet Camaro, every non-IROC Camaro was now called an RS. This would continue through the final year of the 3rd-gen, 1992.
1989 Chevrolet Camaro RS CONVERTIBLE
ABOVE: The convertible top setup used on 3rd-gen Camaros and Firebirds starting in 1987 was actually very well-designed and well-made. It was a manual top that disappeared under a hard boot ahead of the trunk lid. They generally worked well in about a 3-step process that took only seconds to complete.
BELOW: This was the standard 15″ alloy wheel used on nearly every 3rd-gen Camaro that didn’t come with 16″ IROC or 25th Anniversary rims. They were quite popular with hotrodders for years until the larger-diameter wheels and tires started to come in.
1989 Chevrolet Camaro RS INTERIORS
1989 CHEVROLET CAMARO INTERIOR
There were three basic interiors available on the 1989 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, which is shown here. The deluxe interior 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 1989 Chevrolet Camaros.
1989 Chevrolet Camaro ENGINES
1989 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, but they could only be ordered with the IROC-Z. 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.
A WORD ABOUT CHIN SPOILERS
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.