A 729-mile 1987 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z just set a new record for a 3rd generation Camaro with a winning bid of $64,575 after fees. That’s 46 percent over Hagerty #1 condition value for a 1987 IROC-Z at $44,300. That might seem like a lot for a Camaro from a generation that has lived in the shadow of earlier, more desirable Camaros. But, let’s take a look at what makes the IROC-Z, and more specifically the 1987 model year, a worthy candidate for a big price.
Produced from 1985 to 1990, the IROC-Z was an options package named after the “International Race of Champions,” a race series which featured drivers from several different disciplines. The IROC-Z came standard with a variety of performance upgrades including an upgraded suspension with a lower ride height and a “wonder bar” steering brace, and Goodyear Gatorback tires. These Camaros also had something earlier third-gen Camaro’s sorely lacked: power. An optional 5.7-liter V-8 from the Corvette, which is in the Bring a Trailer car, finally gave Chevy guys a response to those pesky 5.0 Mustangs.
If we’re being honest, though, the IROC-Z is most memorable for its looks. Decals? You bet it has decals, not to mention unique aluminum wheels. It was the baddest, flashiest Camaro you could buy in the 1980s.
Which is why Gen–X loves them. It was an aspirational car of their youth (yes, people can aspire to grow mullets). Nearly every Gen–Xer has a story about someone in their high school who had an IROC-Z and how cool it was. More than a few were that person.
Gen–X loves all third-gen Camaros, accounting for more than a third of the people who insure them with Hagerty. But they absolutely love IROC-Zs—owning nearly half of the ones we insure. Their share is growing every year. Gen–X can take most of the credit for values increasing.
What's really surprising is how IROC-Z values have managed to leave the contemporary Corvette in the dust. At one time the IROC-Z was a bargain sports car, even trailing a similar year Corvette by nearly 40-percent. But then, in 2014 when most of Gen–X entered their "mid-life-classic-sportscar-buying-years", the IROC-Z took off. C4 Corvette values stagnated, and now the IROC-Z is worth nearly double that of a Corvette from the same year.
You might be wondering what makes the 1987 model year, in particular, so special. Would it surprise you to learn it has something to do with T-tops?
As it happens, 1987 was the introductory year for that 5.7-liter, fuel-injected V-8. With 225 hp at 4,400 rpm and an impressive 330 ft-lb of torque at 2,800 rpm, it was the largest engine offered from factory for the 3rd generation Camaro. In 1987, Chevy paired that engine with a 3.27 rear end. From 1988 and on, a taller-geared 2.77 rear end became standard, while the 3.27 final drive ratio was only available with the RPO G92 Performance Axle package, an option no longer offered on with T-tops.
So, there you have it. If you want an IROC-Z with the best engine, the short final drive, and T-tops it has to be an '87. This is why the 3rd generation Camaro record is almost always held by a 1987 IROC-Z, and why someone paid nearly $65k for this practically new example.
Third-gen Camaros don't represent a high-point in General Motors build quality and reliability, and they generally weren't given white-glove treatment, especially as they passed through decades as one of the cheaper ways to get a V-8 and rear-drive. Yet a subset of owners knew they were special cars when they were new and treated them as such. And so, like Buick Grand Nationals of the same era, well-treated examples aren't particularly rare. Several third-gens with under 5000 miles have been sold in the last year alone. Still, this car is exceptionally clean and had all the options that would help it become a record. 350 TPI? Check. 3.27 final drive? Check. T-Tops? Double check. It even has the Bose stereo with graphic equalizer.
The car is nearly flawless, having only covered 729 miles in it's one-family-owned 35-year existence. Even the elastic in the overhead console looks new. The styling has aged very well and the Dark Red Metallic paint with silver IROC-Z graphics over a light-black cloth interior is an excellent combination.
Sixty-five grand is a lot for a third-gen Camaro, but is actually lower than many expected. This sale was only bid $1000 over the previous record, a 1700-mile 1987 IROC-Z. That sale was back in July 2021. As we all know, since then, gasoline was thrown on the classic car market fire. But unlike other segments of the market, the IROC-Z high watermark has moved very little. Many, myself included, thought this car would break $70k. So while it set a new record, you could argue the new owner got a deal.