The IROC-Z: Future Collector

Hard to believe I remember the day the IROC rolled into the show room floors. I was ready to trade in my 78 Pontiac Formula for the new style Camaro. The one inspired by racing. With its sleek lines and stance. Oh it ran chills down my spine. So how did the IROC-Z make a mark in collector history?

The IROC-Z Camaro was built in 1985 to celebrate the International Race of Champions. It first appeared as alternative to the Mustang SVR, with a V8 iron-block engine, lowered ride height, special decals, and an upgraded suspension from the regular Camaro, plus an altered front nose and fascia. And it shared some then-revolutionary fuel injection technology and tires with the Corvette, which only added to the allure.

Car and Driver called the IROC Camaro one of the best cars of the year for 1985: “The Camaro looks like a hundred-thousand-dollar car, and if we saw Camaros as seldom as we see Ferraris, we’d probably pay that for it.” Motor Trend called it precise, powerful, and a better-looking car than the Mustang.

IROC-Z Camaros are extremely recognizable by almost all Camaro and general car enthusiasts alike. Back in 1984, Chevrolet wanted to produce a Camaro that would closely mimic the Camaros that were being used to race in the IROC (International Racing of Championship) series. So in turn, Chevrolet would sign on to be the official sponsor of the racing series, giving them permission to use the name, which in turn spawned the birth of the IROC-Z. Starting in 1985, the new IROC-Z became available to the public and would be produced and available to the public up until 1990. This is when Chevrolet's licensing agreement with the IROC racing series would be up for renewal. Chevrolet had other plans for the future of the Camaro and decided not to renew sponsorship of the race series and dropped the IROC-Z from production.

There was even bigger news from GM for '85: Chevy's Tuned Port Injection (TPI) system debuted, and on the Camaro's 305 it rang out 215 hp; Ford's 302 output increased to 210. Ford added its own port fuel injection for '86, finally prompting Chevy mid-season to do what everyone had been waiting for: Install the Corvette's 230-hp, 350-cu.in. TPI engine into the IROC-Z28.

The 350 TPI wasn't totally new to Chevy. Introduced to the Corvette in 1985, the core of the system was the Bosch "hot-wire" mass airflow sensor that worked in conjunction with an electronic engine control module. In a nutshell, it measured air flowing into the throttle body, helping the computer determine how much fuel the injectors required. The "Tuned" part of TPI was the intake runner lengths, designed to take advantage of ram tuning to build extra mid-range torque, which proved superb for an era where extra horsepower was hard to come by.

What a lot of people don't know about the Camaro is that the Z-28 would be dropped from the production line-up for the years of '88, '89 and ‘90 the IROC-Z would be your only high performance option until Chevrolet halted its production and reintroduction the Z-28 in 1991. What mostly stood out about the IROC-Z is its 5.7/350 TPI motor, which was bigger than its sister motor -- the 5.0/305. The 350 TPI came with a four-speed 700R4 automatic transmission and could be ordered with a special suspension package better known as the 1LE package that included: 4 wheel disk brakes, a 3.42 posi rear end, an aluminum drive shaft, large 12" front rotors, aluminum calipers, engine oil cooler, larger anti-roll bars, gas tank baffles and there were also numerous spring rates available giving it a much more aggressive look by lowering it by .05 inches. The special Camaro would also get 16-inch rims, an upgrade from the smaller 15-inch rims, more aggressive body kit skirts, large IROC-Z decals on the doors and special trim.

Top speed on the five-speed manual version was 138 mph, with a respectable sprint time of 7.5 seconds for initial models. Power on the IROC-Z topped out at 215 horsepower, depending on the exact model, performance package, and year. (A 190- or 155-hp engine was also available.) You could choose yours in yellow, blue metallic, black, silver metallic or, naturally, red.

Although throughout the years there were different options released from the factory like t-tops, 5-speed transmission and other trim options, the most common option are mentioned above. It also should be noted, that even though 5.7/350 is the most common and sought after IROC-Z, if you are looking to buy a '85, you should know that you can find them with 5.7/350 motors, but they will not be original, because in '85 they only came available with the smaller 5.0/305 motors.

Although the IROC-Z was produced in a time when power was not a priority and the horsepower and torque numbers it boasted back in the mid-to-late '80s would get laughed off the race track with today's technology putting it to shame. The reason why the IROC-Z is a collector car and will stay a collector car is not because of its power outputs but because of its limited production and the reasons Chevrolet put it into production in the first place.

If you're searching for an IROC-Z, you must be careful for there are a lot imposters out there. A lot of the exterior IROC-Z options such as the vented hood, front spiller and ground effect options where available for order on regular Camaro's and Z28 as well. So check the VIN numbers and do some research on the Internet so you don't get screwed. If you already own one, I would suggest saving it and passing it on to someone in your family, because in time they will be just as valuable as a '69 Camaro SS.

So let’s take a look at these future collectors through the years:

1985 - Total Production: 21,177 The IROC (International Race Of Champions) began using the Camaro as the official vehicle. To commemorate this, Chevy made an IROC model for the Camaro. The IROC-Z was option B4Z on the option sheet and could only be ordered with the Z28 option package. The ride height was lower than a standard Z28, and featured performance-calibrated front struts and springs, Bilstein rear shocks and 16 inch aluminum wheels with Goodyear Eagle 245/50/16 tires. This new performance icon boasted skidpad numbers within the range of .90 g. The top offering under the hood was the brand new TPI 305 which boasted 215 horsepower and 275 ft/lbs of torque. This was the most powerful 305 automatic ever offered in the IROC. The 190 horsepower HO 4bbl 305 and the standard output 155 horse LG4 were the other available motors.