A ’79 Z28 That Is A True Survivor Of The ’80s, And Keeps Going

When I am walking around a car show or cruise night, it’s easy to find great looking cars that not only catch my eye, but also get my blood pumping. Unfortunately, some of those cars don’t really have any kind of an interesting story behind them. Many times, I hear how the owner either purchased it from someone else who built it, or they simply had someone build it for them. Either way, they usually do not know much about the car, other than what it cost.

This ’79 Z28 actually fits both categories, as the owner did purchase it from someone else who built it. The owner didn’t have a hand in any of the initial construction, nor did he have any input into how it was assembled. That’s okay, because, in this case, Bill Hickey has owned this car since it was new, and that builder was Chevrolet.

Z28 Turbine wheel

“I purchased this car new in 1979. I had originally ordered a Z in the Carmine color, but due to dealership allocation problems, it did not arrive. Fortunately, the dealer I was working with located this black car in Kingston, New York,” Bill stated.

Things Of Memories

For many young men of the ‘80s, the last of the second-generation Camaro was the car they awoke to each morning. When their eyes first opened and their mom was yelling at them to get ready for school, many had to choose between looking at the poster of a Z28 Camaro, or the one with Farrah Fawcett – you know the one.

Z28 Sales brochure

I had originally ordered a Z in a Carmine color, but due to dealership allocation problems it did not arrive. – Bill Hickey

In the late ‘70s, the Camaro was even the car-of-choice for the IROC (International Race of Champions) Series. Guys like Andretti, Waltrip, Parsons, Petty, Rutherford, and Unser, all piloted an IROC Camaro hoping to be champion.

One of the qualities that surely attracted Bill to the Z28 was that it came standard with a 5.7-liter small-block. Throughout most of the venerable 350’s life span, it was heralded as a performance-delivering engine that could run with anything that Ford or Mopar could build. When the 1979 models were released, that was still the case, but changing times and emissions restrictions meant the four-barrel-equipped V8 was only able to deliver a snooze-inducing 175 horsepower. While that was not a powerhouse by any means, it was however, on par for the times.

That lack of power meant the sport suspension that incorporated special shocks and front and rear sway bars was probably not really taxed very hard when launching. While the Z28 came standard with a close-ratio four-speed transmission with a 2.64 first gear with an 11-inch clutch, Bill’s pony car has the ubiquitous Turbo 350 choosing the gears. But, if you look closely through the opened power windows, you’ll notice that the single-stem, push button shifter has been replaced by a Hurst Dual Gate. That was done some time ago.

Z28 interior

The front seats have been reupholstered, and the tunes have been upgraded with Sony and Jensen components.

“Currently, the car has 179,000 miles on the odometer. Just about all of the parts on the car are original, except the exhaust. I replaced that with a 2-inch stainless steel system with Flowmaster mufflers and two catalytic converters.”


The car has been his daily driver since he first purchased it all those years ago, but he has managed to keep up with the maintenance so that he can enjoy the car that according to the 1979 sales brochure, “delivers sleek road authority that causes talk and creates legends.”

79 Z28

Try to find a factory air intake? That was usually one of the first things removed along with the factory air cleaner to make room for the chrome, open-element set up.

Time For Some Maintenance

In fact, the engine started to burn a little oil at around 100,000 miles, so he gave it a valve job to correct the situation. “In 1988, the Quadrajet carburetor was swapped out and replaced with a Holley. Fast forward 10 years later, and the original Quadrajet was rebuilt and is currently back on the car,” he stated.

As one could imagine, being a daily means of transportation can take its toll. “After 15 years as my daily driver, the car also needed a little rust repair and received a full repaint by John’s Auto Rebuilders in Stratsburg, New York. That was in 1996. Since then, I occasionally find rust in the fenders and the frame, and have it fixed as needed. I continued to use the car through all of the repairs, and now mostly just take it on short trips and car shows.”

Bill made several attempts to get a vanity plate with multiple variations of Z28 or 1979, but all attempts failed. One day his father saw a television commercial for the Renault LeCar, and he mentioned LE Z28 to Bill. It worked. The car has been LE Z28 since 1979.

Bill also told us that the interior is almost all original, except for the carpet and front seat upholstery. The dash, trademark four-spoke steering wheel with simulated string wrapping are just as the factory delivered. Many years ago, Bill did upgrade the radio by adding a Sony stereo with Jensen speakers.

Bill answered most of the tech sheet questions with three letters.

Typically, we expect to see a plethora of information about the parts used to build a car, but in the case of Bill’s Z28, the technical information he supplied was an easy read: OEM. While not the type of car that commands attention among a sea of restored or rebuilt musclecars, Bill’s Camaro is a stand out that brings back memories of wall posters, and iconic musclecars.

The aluminum Turbine wheels are original, and are wrapped Good Year 225/70-15 GT IIs.

When Chevrolet released the Z28, it followed a simple, yet successful performance formula of; if you build a “small” car with a big (albeit in this case, anemic) V8, people will buy it. In fact, Camaro Z28 sales rocketed to a staggering high of 84,877 units in 1979.

Photo gallery


About the author

Randy Bolig

Randy Bolig has been working on cars, and involved in the hobby ever since he bought his first car when he was only 14 years old. His passion got him noticed by many locals, and he began to help them with their own vehicles.
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