Validating Your Camaro

How to tell if your car is original

This is one of the most common questions I am asked about Camaros, and there are actually two different questions here. The first question is how you identify the different models and options on a particular car. The second question is how you can tell if the car is genuine and not a plain Camaro disguised as a Pace Car or a Z/28.
To get an idea of what to look for in each particular model you should visit that particular section of this web site. You will get a complete description of the options and identifying characteristics of each model. 

Once you have explored the pages concerning your particular car you will have an idea if the car is question matches the requirements, as well as learning the story behind the popular options such as the Z/28 and SS. The section on the COPO (Corporate Office Production Order) cars and rare Camaros includes descriptions of Yenkos, Nickeys, Danas, and ZL1s.
You should also become familiar with the various codes and date stamps on the engine and drivetrain, as well as how to decode the Trim Tag, Protect-o-Plate, and VIN tag. If you are uncertain how to do this, you should visit the appropriate section of this site for more information.

You should now have the information you need to locate the relevant codes, and you have satisfied yourself that the car has all the required options to qualify as a particular model. The question now is, did the car leave the factory this way or did someone build it like this? There are a few things you can check quickly that will go a long way towards verifying the originality of the car.
First, you should attempt to determine if the engine is original. Check the VIN stamped on the engine against the one on the VIN plate on the dash and see if they match. If they do, it means that you have the original engine, assuming that no one restamped the numbers.
GM didn't start stamping the VIN on all engines until sometime in 1968, so your '67 or early '68 6-cylinder may not have a VIN stamp. 

1967 - All final assembly plants stamped the assembly plant designation and
continuous sequence number portion of the VIN on all 327,350, 396, and 427
cubic inch engines, except for Corvette. On Corvettes only the continuous
sequence number was stamped on the engine.
1968 on - All final assembly plants stamped the Chevrolet division, model
year, plant designation, and continuous sequence number portion of the
Vehicle Identification Number on all engines.

Without the VIN stamp it is impossible to prove that the engine is original, but you can prove that it isn't. The first way is by the suffix code, which describes the specific application the engine was originally intended for, and helps distinguish among otherwise identical blocks. For example, the #3970010 block with a four inch bore could be configured as a 302, a 327, or a 350 cubic inch engine, and was used through 1975 for several different applications including truck usage. If it has a DZ suffix code, however, it was originally intended to be a 1969 302 Z/28 engine, and you know you probably have a real Z/28. If the suffix code is DA, you have a 307 engine originally used with a manual transmission. A DC code indicates the same engine with a Powerglide. Either one is incorrect for a Z/28.
Again, the number could have been restamped, so the next thing to check is the date casting. Engines were generally built about a month before the car was built, so a car built the first week of May, 1969, should have a block with a casting date around the first week of April, and possibly as early as the first part of March. If the block has a date later than the first week of May, it can't be original, and it's pretty much impossible to change a date casting.
Generally speaking, the build date on the trim tag should be the latest date stamped on any part of the car. Obviously, any part that was manufactured after the build date of the car can't be original. You can buy fake trim tags, so the date coding is a valuable means of checking authenticity.

Engines can be restamped and trim tags can be switched into a base car, so another thing to check for is a match between the VIN and the date code. The factory built a certain number of cars per month, so there is a correlation between these two codes.
Here is a list of approximate numbers.
To give you an example of how this works, I saw a post on the newsgroup from someone who had found a 1969 Camaro and was wondering what it was and if he should buy it. He said the front of the car was disassembled, but that it appeared to have some kind of hidden headlight system. The car didn't appear to have any rust, the engine ran, and the owner wanted $1200 for it.
Right off the bat we know we have a possible Rally Sport here, because of the hidden headlights. I told him that any Camaro that runs is worth $1200, but to send me more information. He responded with the trim tag information, which showed the code X55. This indicates that the car is an SS350, but couldn't be a Rally Sport. An X11 code would have signified an SS350 with Style Trim. Since Style Trim was part of the Rally Sport option, all Rally Sports had Style Trim, although not all Style Trim cars were Rally Sports.
The next day he sent me the VIN and engine codes, which indicated that the engine was an original L48 350, and the VIN and date codes matched. Based on this I concluded that the car was an original, except for the RS equipment. This is unusual because it cost's around $1,200 to assemble the RS headlight assembly alone.
Another time I spotted what appeared to be a 1969 Z/28 on a dealer's lot. I stopped and checked it out, and it didn't take long to find several discrepancies. The trim tag read X44, which denotes a base car. The engine suffix was CHH, denoting a 1973 307 with Powerglide transmission. Even worse, the build date was 05A, denoting the first week of May, 1969, while the VIN was around 570,000, indicating that the car had been built in January. The trim tag also showed a Garnet Red car (code 52) with an Ivory interior (code 727) yet the car was Hugger Orange with a black interior.
I located a salesman and asked about the car. He enthusiastically claimed the car was a Z/28, pointing out the emblems and stripes. I asked about the trim tag code of X44, when a real Z/28 should have been X77, whereupon he produced the title to the car, showing the make as "Camaro" and the model as "Z/28." Wrong, wrong, wrong! The make is Chevrolet, and the model is Camaro. Z/28 is an option, and shouldn't be listed on any title. I pointed this out, as well as the other problems, and the salesman turned cold and said I didn't haveto buy it if I didn't want it, but that someone would. Sure enough, it was sold 2 days later for about three or four times what it was worth.
Another time I spotted what looked like a '67 SS convertible and a '69 Z/28 at a car lot. I didn't get a good look from the road, so I turned around and went back.

I hadn't even gotten out of the truck when I saw that both cars were fakes, although the convertible was the only one deliberately misrepresented. The '69 had Z/28 stripes, which only came stock on the Z/28 and pace car. It had been quartered, and the paint job was first class. The car had all the style trim options, but the trim tag had an X44 code, indicating a base car. It had the standard base car emblems, a stock 327, and a powerglide. I suppose the owner painted it that way because he liked it, and wasn't representing it as something it wasn't. Nothing wrong with that! All in all, a nice Camaro, but the asking price of $9,100 seemed a little steep to me.
The '67 was another story. It had SS emblems and an SS paint job. The engine emblem, however, showed a 327, and as we all know, there was no such thing as an SS 327. At first glance, it appeared to be much like the '69 - a nice car that someone painted that way because they liked it that way. Closer inspection revealed a deliberate attempt to build a fake SS.
The trim tag showed 4P in the option group, meaning an SS 350. The series code was 12437, an 8 cylinder convertible with standard interior. The rivets holding the trim tag on were not original though, and I smelled a rat. I checked the VIN inside the door jam, and it read 12367. This decodes as a 6 cylinder convertible! Obviously, someone had swapped in a trim tag from a real SS.
About this time the salesman appeared. My first question, obviously, was "Is this a real SS?" Naturally, he claimed it was. I peeked under the hood to check one more thing while the salesman raved on about what a good deal the car was at $10,800.
The suffix code on the block read FY. Whoa! This 327/235hp engine was originally installed in a 1969 taxicab! The windshield sign claimed it was a 327/300. I told the guy I had never heard of an SS327 before, and he told me how rare it was. Less than 100 built. Corvette engine. Incredible car.
I went back a week or so later and took a few pictures. A different salesman came out, and seemed suspicious of my camera. I asked him if the car was a real SS, and he wanted to know why I was asking. In short, he knew quite well that the car was a fake. Sure, it was a nice fake, but better, correct cars can be found for a lot less money. Example, from the February '96 issue of Camaro Enthusiast:
1967 Camaro Convertible, matching numbers, 327/210, powerglide, console, power tilt steering, disc brakes, factory air, power top, speed warning indicator, auxiliary lighting, solid original floors and trunk, fresh Matador Red paint, black top and interior. $9,000.
Here is an almost identical car, except it's not a fake, has the original engine, and is priced almost $2,000 less, even though it's worth more than the fake.

If you find a car you are interested in, copy down all the numbers, visit this site, and decode them. Then you will know if it's the real thing or not.