Not their finest hour: Camaro Iron Duke

Celebrating the greatest cock-ups in automotive history. This week we look at Camaro Iron Duke
By Imran Malik, Features Writer
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March 13, 2017
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Your 2015 Camaro's active fuel management system minimises fuel consumption by effectively shutting down four of its eight cylinders when you're merely cruising along. When you hit the loud pedal, all eight become operational again.

It's a clever piece of technology and very welcome, particularly in regions where fuel isn't as cheap as ours. But there was a time when Chevy wasn't as technically advanced and for the sake of fuel efficiency, armed its much-loved muscle car with something even worse than a six-cylinder: a four-pot with just 90bhp. If you never wanted a speeding ticket ever again, the 1982 Camaro with the Iron Duke motor was the model for you.

That 2.5-litre mated to a three-speed automatic was woeful, but made sense in the early Eighties -- a time when jobs were scarce, petrol prices sky high and interest rates outrageous. And when its key rival, the Mustang, also went with a tiny four for the sake of improving fuel economy, you had to shrug your shoulders and get on with it.

Those old performance kings were shadows of their old selves; tightening emissions regulations meant enthusiasts really didn't have much to get excited about in the early part of the decade. When you floored the throttle in the Camaro, you'd age faster than it'd accelerate.

GM hoped its third-gen Chevy would be a hit because of its sleek new body, steeply raked windshield and jet fighter-inspired cockpit. It wanted buyers to think they were about to go for a proper ride. It wasn't long before they figured they'd been taken for one. The Iron Duke was the weakest motor ever installed in the 'Stang-fighter. But GM didn't have to worry much, for the Mustang II was also a weakling. You had an awful decision to make back then; slow or even slower. The Camaro would touch 100kph from rest in around 20 seconds.

Things marginally improved when the 5.0-litre V8 Crossfire Fuel Injection was made available. But with only 165 horses, you had to wait until the 5.7-litre made its way into the line-up before you could light up the rear tyres. It wasn't all bad for Iron Duke equipped Camaros as those third-gens were the most aerodynamic models of the time. It sure helped the gutless Camaro when going downhill...