What should I check for when buying a Camero or Trans AM/Firebird?

I am looking to buy a used Camero or Trans AM/Firebird and I have a few that I have my eye on, but the only problem is that I am a first time buyer and I want to be able to pick out a reliable car that wont brake down on me within a month or so. What are some things I should look out for when I go to look at the cars at the dealer ship and are there questions I should ask them?

Also I found a really nice 89 Camero, but it has a few rust spots around the drivers side door and a spot around the windsheild. Should I be conserned about that? Or will I be able to fix it? Its not that bad, but Im not sure if I should worry about it.


6 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    You mentioned wanting a reliable car, these were not known for being the most reliable cars out there. It is basically a rather crude car wrapped around a large engine (some of the older ones have exposed door hinges), and that is what many people want. Body integrity was not great, there will probably be a lot of squeaks and rattles. They also tend to have been driven hard, so you have the problems associated with that. Unless you can find one owned by an older gentleman that babied it, you will be doing repairs in the near future. Insurance costs would be a very big issue on a newer one, but if you are getting a late 80's model, I am guessing you are not going to get full coverage.

    I would also keep in mind that these cars are not the best daily commuters. They are loud, ride hard, and are hard to see out of. But I imagine the lure of a V8 and a stereo with several thousand watts can drown all that out.

    -if it is a 5sp manual, do the stall test - move it up against and immovable object and in 5th gear slowly disengage the clutch. If it stalls the clutch is still ok. If it slips and makes a horrible sound, you will need a clutch

    -check all fluids you can reach (bring a good flashlight) - no odd smells or water mixed in (may look milky) - be especially certain there is no antifreeze floating on top of the engine oil (greenish). This would indicate a cracked block or leaky head gasket (run away)

    -drive it for a good half hour and be honest, if it has short comings, can you live with it

    -check the tires for even wear, and even if they are the same brand and age - 2-3+ different brands indicates someone has done everything as cheaply as possible and the rest of the car was probably done on the cheap as well

    -push down hard on all 4 corners, if it bounces more than once or twice, the shocks are worn

    -do you test drive during the day, in bright sunlight if possible - look for waves in the paint, colors that don't quite match and panels that line up poorly. This likely signals body work

    -does the automatic shift smoothly

    -know what the car is worth and stay within those numbers

    -walk away from a project car, there will be others out there - chances are whatever work was done it was not done correctly

    -how does the paint look - if it is all cracked and nasty, that is a good indicator that the rest of the car has not been taken care of

    -check the glove box for past inspection slips and see if anything sticks out, any notable rejections

    -note the wear and tear on the seats and pedals. Make sure it really is 60k miles and not 160k miles

    -was the owner a smoker? that smell never really leaves the car

    You will not find a perfect car, it will have a few flaws.

  • 1 decade ago

    The rust spots are fixable. Actually anything is fixable if you have enough cash. The first thing you need to do is test drive it. Pay attention to how the car handle's, if it is shaking and how crisp the tranny shifts. An 89 Camaro with an L-98 engine has an 7004R tranny (if it's an automatic) in it and they are fairly rugged and really not much goes wrong with them. But when it does a good shop will charge you around $2200-$3500 to rebuild it. Ask if the engine or anything has been modified, because alot backyard wrenches like to mess with these cars. If it has, they should have all of the paper work saying what was done to the car, so you know how to approach fixing it if needed. Remember, this is not a new car, and things will and can go wrong with them. On the test drive look for smoke in the exhaust. Better yet start the car and let it idle for a few minutes until it warm, or wait till after the test drive, then put you hand down right into the exhaust gas coming from the tailpipe and smell. If it smells like snowmobile exhaust (real oily) avoid the car. If the smoke coming out is white, the exhaust will have a sweet odor. This is coolant. Avoid at all costs as there is coolant getting into the cylinders. Be careful because there are some real pieces of s**t that should be avoided. Go with your gut feeling, if it doesn't ride right, drive right and feel right, keep looking because these cars are a dime a dozen and you can find anywhere. Good luck..................

  • 1 decade ago

    If you are looking at third generation Camaro's/Firebird's (1982-1992) you may want to look at the rear quarter panels as well as the doors. These cars are famous for rusting in these areas.T-top F-bod's are also known to leak.Once the rust is visable to the naked eye, you can bet there is more rust lurking...especially where the ground effects bolt on to the car.

    These cars are getting rarer by the minute and to find one that is in solid condition is almost impossible.Most of these cars have already been restored from the ground up and will cost you a pretty penny.With that said, if you can find one for under 5000 dollars(CDN) and the body has no major holes, then I would give it a chance.Be sure to have it properly inspected by a mechanic.The body of the car is one thing...the drivetrain is another!

    Good luck with the hunting!

    P.S. I have owned 2 Camaro's in the past and currently own a Trans Am.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    first thing when u buy a used fast car, usually the last person might have raged it out (treating it like crap), the rust spots u do see it spreads and there is problem some under the paint.

    I'm not trying to discourage u from buying one because i own a 79 trans am, but its so much work

    Source(s): good luck, birds rule
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  • 1 decade ago

    if you're a purist, it is all about do the numbers match. or, do you just want a cool car? Don't be afraid to have a local mechanic that you know check out the car before you buy. Bring one with you or take the car to him before you buy. And, pay the guy for his time. If you can do or learn to do or afford the body work, thed rusty '89 sunds good. most im portant is the mechanical part

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Check to see if the previous owner had a Mullet or a Camaro Cut. He could have dogged the car!

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