The second generation Camaro was produced from (late) 1970 to 1980 making it the most popular generation of Camaros. In the beginning, Camaro was the epitome of the muscle car but as the years progressed, so did stricter Federal and California automobile regulations.
The 70’s model was still based on the Chevy Nova but 2inches longer. It got a longer, wider F-body and maintained its unibody structure, front subframe, A-arm front suspension and leaf springs on the rear axle - similar to the previous generation - but with lots of cosmetic upgrades and increased noise reduction. It’s proposed 454 engine never came to fruition so only the 350 and 396 engines were available. Oddly enough, 396 was actually a label for a 402 CID engine. Chevy kept the 396 label due to its widely recognized name.
The SS option included engine trim, black grille, hide-away wipers, power brakes, dual chrome exhaust, and white-lettered tires while the ss396 option was a small step up that only included black trunk panels and special suspension. Only the Z28 realized the most significant change: A LT-1 350 CID engine with 360 horsepower rating and optional automatic transmission.
1971 to 1980 saw the downhill slide to degraded performance. While the Camaro’s exterior looked great, performance gradually decreased over the years. This was due to the switch to unleaded gasoline in 1971; lower emissions and less power on cars going to California buyers; and stricter federal and California state regulations in 1975. And let’s not forget the OPEC oil embargo in 1973 that made gasoline in the US scarce. The Z28 disappeared in 1975 only to return in 1977 when sales exceeded those of the Ford Mustang for the first time in history.
Horsepower ratings continually declined during the 70’s, replaced with improved fuel economy, lighter body weight, and lower emissions, making the Camaro less of a muscle car and more of a “remember when” legend by 1981.