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Catfish Camaro – Everything You Need To Know

by Kelvin Yates

In the world of factory performance, the arrival of the 4th generation Catfish Camaro was a turning point. In 1993, the fourth generation of GM’s F-body emerged, bringing a new era of high-tech performance with breakthrough levels of power, performance, price, economy, and security.

While gradual advancements in numerous vehicle benchmarks had occurred during the preceding decade, the 4th generation Catfish Camaro was the first to integrate them collectively in a significant performance coupe, establishing it as the first modern muscle car.

The Camaro name has been attached to numerous amazing and renowned vehicles during the course of its 60-year existence. It’s also been seen on several vehicles with dubious reputations, either to pop culture references or basic prejudice.

People intuitively refer to the third-generation Camaro as the automobile for individuals with mullets, and the fourth generation as the Catfish Camaro due to the dimensions and shape of the front grille.

The Fourth Generation Catfish Camaro Vs. The Old

It’s simple to observe how its predecessors influence the fourth-gen just by looking at it. The third-tall gen’s hood, steeply slanted windscreen, and strong B-pillar were retained, with some typical 1990s rounding and smoothing of the edges. The grille, particularly on the redesigned cars from the 2000s, is reminiscent of early-1970s Camaros. The exhaust roar of its available V8 engines was and will always be classic.

The fourth-generation Catfish Camaro is sometimes referred to as the “F-body” Camaro, similar to how we refer to Mustangs from the 1980s and 1990s as “Fox-Body,” however the GM F-body platform dates back to the first-generation Camaro, which arrived in September 1966. That means the platform was in use for 36 years, starting in 1966 and ending in 2002.

The 350 cu. in. and 427 cu. in. small- and big-block engines, which have become essential power plants for resto-mods and swaps, were available in the first-generation autos with a wide range of inline-6 and V8 engines.

Second-Generation Camaro

The second-generation Camaro appeared in 1970, and it was at this point that Chevy’s design began to diverge significantly from the Mustang’s boxy, short-deck appearance. It had rounded headlights, a more arching and curving roofline, and a larger tail with a raised rear spoiler, all inspired by stock cars.

Used the F-body platform and had both small- and big-block V8 engines. It was the first appearance of the “3800” series 3.8l V6 engine. Which would go on to become one of GM’s most respected and reliable power plants, despite being the Camaro’s entry-level option.

Third-Generation Camaro

The third-generation Camaro is nearly synonymous with American automotive design in the 1980s. The grille, window line, and side profile all have noticeable square sealed-beam headlights, but the wide, rounded back window shape and up-swept rear spoiler retain.

It was also the first Camaro with fuel injection, albeit these somewhat crude systems are frequently replaced with more reliable and maintainable carburetors. It also featured the first and only version of the distinctive IROC-Z trim, which was inspired by the International Race of Champions series.

The fourth-generation Catfish Camaro is a complete update of the third, and its engines were carried over with significantly enhanced electronics. The Camaro SS used the LT1 5.7l (350 cu. in.) V8, as well as the aluminum-block 5.7l LS1 from the Corvette C5.

The Chevy Camaro’s Evolution Into The Catfish

Chevrolet’s premium muscle vehicle, the Camaro, has been around for a long time. Modern Camaros are fantastic cars, with the high-performance versions putting up mind-boggling statistics. That wasn’t always the case, and it took years of experimentation to arrive at the contemporary automobiles we have today.

What was clear was that the cars would immediately attract notice. Chevrolet has produced six iterations of its iconic pony car. Chevrolet came up with the codename “Panther” when designing the Camaro. The company went through almost 2,000 names before settling on the iconic “Camaro.”

Chevrolet’s ambition was to compete with the Ford Mustang, which at the time was the most popular American pony car. The result was a long-running rivalry with devoted fans on both sides. Continue reading if you’re a Catfish Camaro fan. Here’s how the Chevrolet Camaro has changed throughout time.

In 1992, the fourth-generation Camaro debuted with two new engine platforms. The L32 V6 engine was employed with limited success in the Camaro and Firebird F-body automobiles. This engine had 3.4-liter (Gen I) design iron heads with no flared valves and was rated at 160 horsepower.

1994 – The LT1 Era Began

The LT1 was first used in the 1992 Corvette with some success, but the Camaro version had a restricted air cleaner and exhaust system to surpass the Corvette. With the classic 5.7-liter displacement and two-valves per cylinder pushrod layout, LT1 was GM’s wholly new small-block platform.

The cooling system, which chilled the cylinder heads, then the block before returning to the radiator, was the most significant alteration in this engine configuration. The engine could run a greater compression ratio than prior Camaro engines because of the “reverse flow” cooling system.

The LT1 engine was built with a cast-iron block and aluminum heads in the F-body Camaro. For the B-body Caprice and D-body Fleetwood vehicles, LT1 engines with cast-iron heads were also available. The LT1 was available in Y-body Corvettes with four-bolt main caps, making those blocks ideal for replacement.

Instead of a powertrain control module (PCM), which controls all engine functions, the LT1 engine has been controlled by an engine control module (ECM) since 1993. A year later, PCM control would be implemented. The LT1’s fuel was batch-fire injected through the ECM rather than the more cost-effective sequential-port injection.

Due to their fuel rails, the Camaro LT1s feature a unique intake-manifold casting due to batch-fire injection. Overall, the LT1’s arrival into the fourth-generation Catfish Camaro meant a new platform, but one that was superior to the prior engine series.


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Options For A 1993 Camaro:

  • Base Coupe: L32 207 ci
  • Z28 Coupe: LT1 350ci
  • Z28 Pace Car Replica: LT1 350ci

1994 – The PCM Is Introduced

The six-cylinder L32 retained the entry-level Camaro’s base engine, although the LT1 V8 was tweaked slightly. The 4L60E transmission, an electronically controlled variant of the 700R4, was installed in the Camaro LT1 for 1994. With the use of a PCM, fuel management was converted from speed density to the mass airflow sensor (MAF), allowing the engines to begin using successive fuel injection.

The fuel injectors were modified from 22 to 24 pounds per hour. A three-wire heated O2 sensor replaced the earlier single wire sensors, and the EPROM chips were glued to the computer board to prevent their removal. Using the OBD1 diagnostic port, the PCM modules could be programmed.

The 1994 Camaro proved to be more efficient due to EPA rules, but it still lacked the eye-popping power that many personal coupe customers desired. Despite the market’s difficulties, the Camaro persisted.

Options For The 1994 Camaro Include:

  • Base Coupe/Convertible: L32 V6 207ci
  • Z28 Coupe/Convertible: LT1 350ci

1995 – Camaro From California

With the same lineup for 1995, the V6 received a boost in the middle of the year when the Buick 3800 series II engine was introduced into California base versions. Dual catalytic converters gave the California Camaro an additional 10 horsepower boost. California emission standards resulted in an increase in horsepower for the first time.

The 1995 vented Optispark distributors were designed to help remove moisture after the older Optispark distributors faced problems owing to humidity and condensation caused by heat. These vacuum vents can be added to older distributors to help with durability.

Options For The 1995 Camaro Include:

  • Base Coupe/Convertible: L32 V6 207ci
  • Base Coupe/Convertible California models: L36 231ci
  • Z28 Coupe/Convertible: LT1 346ci

1996 – OBD-II Becomes Standard

The new OBD-II standards were adopted by all car manufacturers, which aided auto technicians and engine tuners equally. The success of the dual catalytic converter-equipped California Camaro in 1995 led to the Z28 Camaro gaining dual cats and a redesigned y-pipe with a rear oxygen sensor to evaluate catalyst performance. The LT1’s power rating was also increased to 285 horsepower from 275 hp previously.

The 3.4-liter V6 engine was dropped from the Camaro lineup. There existed a Camaro SS option package, but it was only available in limited quantities. Street Legal Performance (SLP) developed the SS option cars under contract for GM. The SLP Camaro had a hood with a distinctive “ram-air” hood scoop and rated 305 horsepower (315 with optional exhaust). Special badging and better suspension were also included with the SS.

Options For The 1996 Camaro Include:

  • Base Coupe/Convertible: L36 231ci
  • RS Coupe/Convertible: L36 231ci
  • Z28 Coupe/Convertible: LT1 346ci
  • SS Coupe/Convertible: LT1 346ci

1997- The LT1 V8 Engine’s Final Year

Due to the dual catalytic converters, the LT1’s horsepower statistics remained at 285. Despite the fact that it was the Camaro’s 30th anniversary year, the LT1 and L36 remained the standard engines. There was a special anniversary package, although it was more of an appearance package than a performance one.

The package included hugger orange racing stripes, a white houndstooth cloth interior, and five-spoke wheels, as well as “30th Anniversary” seats. A total of 100 of them were powered by the LT4 engine, which was the Corvette Grand Sport engine in 1996.

The 1997 Camaro lineup included three coupes and three convertibles, each available in base, RS, or Z28 trim levels. SLP Engineering produced a customized RPO package (R7T), which was offered through dealers. A 305 horsepower LT1 engine, a unique hood with functional scoop and forced induction, and improved suspension were all included in this package.

Options For The 1997 Camaro Include:

  • Base Coupe/Convertible: L36 231ci
  • RS Coupe/Convertible: L36 231ci
  • Z28 Coupe/Convertible: LT1 346ci
  • SS Coupe/Convertible: LT1 346ci
  • Z28 30th Anniversary Edition Coupe/Convertible: LT1 346ci
  • SS 30th Anniversary Edition Coupe/Convertible: LT1 346ci
  • Z28 1996 Brickyard 400 Pace Car Coupe: LT1 346ci

1998 – The LS1 Is Introduced

The 1998 aluminum block LS1 was the first Camaro to use General Motors’ revolutionary LS-engine architecture. With a 305 horsepower rating, the Gen III small-block superseded the LT1 in the Z28 vehicles.

While the LS1 made its debut for Chevrolet in the 1997 Corvette with 345 rated horsepower, many feel that GM underrated the Camaro’s LS1 in order to make the Corvette look better in the sports car market. The PCM for the 1998 LS1 is only available in 1998 automobiles.

A new aluminum driveshaft was added to the driveline this year, as well as a fully new braking setup to handle the bigger engine. SLP’s exhaust system took the Camaro SS to the next level, putting it at 327 horsepower. The RS Camaro has been discontinued.

Options For The 1998 Camaro Include:

  • Base Coupe/Convertible: L36 231ci
  • Z28 Coupe/Convertible: LS1 346ci
  • SS Coupe/Convertible: LS1 346ci

1999 – V6 Electronic Throttle Control

For the 1999 Camaro, few changes were made, and those that were made were primarily cosmetic rather than performance-related. The 3800 V6’s main feature was electronic throttle control. The standard Camaro with a V6 acquired traction control in addition to the electronic throttle control, while the Z28 and SS models had a limited-slip Torsen differential.

2000 – Cosmetic Updates For The Catfish Camaro

The 2000 Camaro received only cosmetic updates. Instead of the previous black color, the side mirrors were now painted body color, with an optional metallic paint color. In terms of engine packages, the 231ci V6 and 346ci LS1 remained unchanged for the year 2000.

Options For The 2000 Camaro Include:

  • Base Coupe/Convertible: L36 231ci
  • Z28 Coupe/Convertible: LS1 346ci
  • SS Coupe/Convertible: LS1 346ci

2001 – Preparing For The End Of The Catfish Camaro

The Camaro’s usual manufacturing year was cut short in order for the assembly factory to start planning and working on the 35th-anniversary cars in 2002. With only 29,009 cars produced during this shortened production year, the Camaro has the lowest production numbers ever.

The intake manifold from the LS6 engine, which was borrowed from the 2001-2004 Corvette Z06 engine, was fitted to the Z28 and SS Camaros.

A changed camshaft profile and the removal of the EGR system contributed to the enhanced airflow. A new slave cylinder for the clutch assembly, as well as the installation of the LS6 clutch in Camaros with manual transmissions, were two performance enhancements that were not related to the engine.

Options For The 2001 Camaro Include:

  • Base Coupe/Convertible: L36 231ci
  • Z28 Coupe/Convertible: LS1 346ci
  • SS Coupe/Convertible: LS1 346ci
  • RS (SLP) Coupe/Convertible: L36 231ci

2002 – Catfish Camaro’s Long Break

The writing was on the wall: the 2002 model year would be the final year for the fourth-generation Catfish Camaro, as well as the final year for the Camaro as a moniker for an indeterminate period of time.

Knowing that 2002 would be the final year for the Camaro before the model went into a “company determined hiatus,” there were no changes to the engine packages. All other changes were minor, with the majority centered on Camaro’s 35th-anniversary celebration. The 2002 Catfish Camaro was essentially a continuation from the 2001 model year.

It’s been said that a few LS1 Camaros were shipped with LS6 engine blocks, and these “factory freaks” were said to produce 60 horsepower more than stated, for a total of 400 horsepower. The base V6 was available with a five-speed manual transmission with overdrive as standard or a four-speed manual transmission with overdrive as an option for the final model year.

The Z28 came standard with the LS1 engine and a four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive (for further guidance, head over to our guide on the meaning of O/D off). Although special anniversary packages were available, engine platforms and performance remained unchanged.

On August 27, 2002, the St. Therese assembly factory in Canada built the final Catfish Camaro, a red convertible that was immediately donated to the GM Heritage Center. On Thursday, August 29, 2002, the factory was declared permanently shut down.

Options For The 2002 Camaro Include:

  • Base Coupe/Convertible: L36 231ci
  • Z28 Coupe/Convertible: LS1 346ci
  • Z28 SS 35th Anniversary Edition Coupe/Convertible: LS1 346ci
  • SS Coupe/Convertible: LS1 346ci
  • RS (SLP) Coupe/Convertible: L36 231ci

The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Purchasing A Fourth-Generation Catfish Camaro

Although the Camaros of the fourth generation is thought to be reliable, they also have a number of drawbacks.

Pro Of A Catfish Camaro:

Here are some of the pros with owning a Catfish Camaro:

A Variety Of Powerful Engine Options, As Well As A Fast Stock LS1

The fourth-generation Catfish Camaro brings with it more power and speed. A 5.7 liter LS1 V8 small block engine, which produces 305 horsepower in a Z28, was installed in the 1998 model. The output was increased to 325 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque in the 2001 Camaro SS.

The speed of these cars is well-known. With the LS6 powertrain and increased cylinders, the 2001 Z28 can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than 6.5 seconds. The 2002 Camaro Z28 SS can go from zero to sixty miles per hour in 5.2 seconds. If you take good care of it, or go crazy and customize it, you might be able to sell it for much more than you paid for it in a few years.

It’s A Lot Of Fun To Drive, Has A Great Look, And Handles Well

The Catfish Camaro has always been enjoyable to drive, regardless of generation. The models from the fourth generation Catfish Camaro are light and precise. They are capable of handling themselves on the road. They are both precise and practical in their steering. The Camaro is undeniably eye-catching, especially the fourth-generation Catfish Camaro vehicles. During this time, they underwent a major transformation.

The Catfish Camaro was last produced in 2002 before being phased out for a while. The 35th-anniversary package was created to commemorate this. All of the Catfish Camaros in the package were painted Rallye Red with silver stripes. Traction control, a Hurst short-throw shifter, and a few more great goodies are included in a used 2002 Camaro with the 35th package.

With the exception of snow, these fourth-generation Catfish Camaro automobiles perform admirably on a variety of terrain. They don’t expect a lot of upkeep or service. They’re designed to be driven hard, but if you appreciate the power, they’ll outlast the most popular muscle vehicles.

Con Of A Catfish Camaro:

Here are some of the cons with owning a Catfish Camaro:

Gas Mileage & Handling

The Catfish Camaro of the fourth generation is not very fuel-efficient. According to fuel economy, they get 15 to 17 mpg in the city and 20 to 28 mpg on the highway. You may get somewhat better mileage if you drive largely on open, straight roads rather than twisting two-lane highways.

Drivers have complained about several occasions about their vehicles’ high oil consumption, particularly those with V8 engines. This is why the future of the Catfish Camaro is so questionable!

On slick roads, the ride can be a little rough. Despite their lightweight nature, many drivers find them difficult to control. They also don’t perform well in the snow. If you live somewhere where there is snow all year, you might want to consider getting a different vehicle.

Interior Space

There isn’t enough interior space. The front seats are spacious, while the back seats are uncomfortable for adults or those who are taller. Furthermore, the trunk space is limited. If you’ve ever wondered why the Catfish Camaro is losing the muscle car fight, here are a few reasons why. Some owners have also reported that maintenance on the fourth-generation Catfish Camaro is quite tough.

Despite the fact that this data isn’t perfect, it’s impossible to beat at this pricing point. It is not a smart choice if you wish to utilize a 4th generation Catfish Camaro as a family car or for extended drives. This is the car for you if you want to look cool, have fun, indulge in Z28 LS1 or LS6 magic, and feel the mind-boggling speed and power this vehicle possesses.

Facts: The Catfish Camaro – A Surprisingly Underrated Model

  1. The “catfish Camaro” is a nickname for the fourth-generation Chevrolet Camaro, which was produced from 1998 to 2002.
  2. The catfish Camaro got its nickname because of its flush headlights and front grille, which resembled the mouth of a catfish.
  3. The design of the fourth-generation Camaro was rounder and wider than its predecessor, giving it a sleeker look, but many enthusiasts did not agree.
  4. Despite its exterior, the fourth-generation Camaro had the lowest drag coefficient of any other Camaro ever produced, making it more aerodynamic.
  5. The fourth-generation Camaro was powered by a 5.7-liter LS1 V8 engine that produced 325 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque.
  6. With a manual transmission, the fourth-generation Camaro had a 0 to 60 time of 4.9 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 13.9 seconds.
  7. The LS1 engine used in the fourth-generation Camaro was the same engine used in the C5 Chevrolet Corvette, but rated 20 horsepower lower on paper.
  8. The fourth-generation Camaro can now be found for anywhere between $4,000 to $10,000, making it an affordable option for those interested in its performance value.
  9. The interior of the fourth-generation Camaro features cheap plastics, a boring layout, and leather seats that look more like vinyl.
  10. Despite its appearance, the fourth-generation Camaro is considered an underrated model because of its performance value.

Catfish Camaro, Final Verdict:

The fourth-generation Catfish Camaro dominated Mustangs on the street and at the drag strip for ten years, bridging the gap between GM’s legacy small-block period and its LS-powered future.

Fans of muscle cars should look for the original Z28 with the 275-hp LT1 or the SS model with the 305-hp V-8 that came out three years later if they want a good value. The 1998–2002 Catfish Camaro used the aluminum-block 5.7-liter LS1 engine from the Corvette, which produces up to 325 horsepower. All V-8 automobiles were available with a six-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. The Catfish Camaro is a great car in its own right, with plenty of speed.

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