Alright, I can hear ya’ thinking right away; “There was no Z/28 in 1975 and 1976, you dolt“, and you’d be perfectly on the mark for this kit is based on the 1976 RS model! But my good grief, the struggle a man has to go through and the sheer wallet emptying a man has to do to merely find a ’74-’77 Camaro to begin with is nothing short of soul destroying.
So I took the best chance I had, and made myself a ’74 Z/28 inspired ’76 RS. Why? Cause the Z/28 editions fit the scheme of my Camaro line up more, to start with. Another good reason is cause the ’75 and ’76 Type LT had no stripes to speak of and the RS had this odd yet interesting black/stripe/body color get up that really wouldn’t fit whatsoever.
So, here we are! An impostor Z/28 from the era where Chevrolet nearly killed off the Z/28 package all together, with the wrong trim levels for its year and coming off the kit that has nothing to do with RS nor Z/28 at all. Allow me to elaborate, short history lesson time!
In 1976 the Pontiac Firebird was kicking serious ass in sales, especially the Trans-Am(half of the sales in ’76 were T/A’s) which was beating the Camaro a fair bit, even with the V8 slaughter cause of the 1973 oil crisis. Even though both Pontiac and Chevrolet are under the same corporation name, the rivalry wasn’t any less fiery cause of it, both were competing to be the winner in the sales figures. And even though the ’77 Camaro brought back the Z/28 to give the customer some power to play with, the ’76 and ’77 models had at best a 350 cubic inch V8 while the Firebird T/A had a 400 cubic inch V8 or the 455 cubic inch V8 which easily outdid the Camaro. Difference for most folks? Price. Getting a Camaro with the 350 ci was a good thousand bucks(1976 money; the RS sat at 3927$ and the T/A 455 was 4985$) cheaper than the 455 package from Pontiac. So getting it taped up over at AHC was still cheaper than a Firebird, hell still a few hundred off from the 400ci T/A even.
So cue the American Hatch Company’s effort at finding middle ground, I suppose. AHC made high quality T-top windows, frames, so on. But they also dabbled with vinyl
kits which were really a hot item in the 1970s, and they figured that the concept of “what if we dress up a Camaro like a Firebird” was worth the effort. It was literally just a package of Firebird ‘inspired’ decals for any Camaro from 1973 through 1977 and all you had to do was ask your local Chevy dealer for more info. I’d say it didn’t pan out for them given no-one can really say they’ve seen this “AHC-100” Camaro drive around, even finding pictures of the real deal is nigh impossible. The most common evidence of it having been legit is that AMT issued this kit, the one I built, in 1977 to join the party and that’s really about it, some Motor Trend ads, the AMT kit and a few posters here and there in Chevy dealers across the USA.
I bought two sets of decals from Keith Marks, one for the ’76 RS, one for the ’74 Z/28 before I was sure on which way to go with the kit; I have some ’69 stripes left that I was going to use but thought, y’know what, screw it, it may be a 1976 Camaro, it may not have an official Z/28 version, but dammit I am building one! So time to talk about the kit, finally eh?
So it’s a 1977 release, based on the mold that AMT’s used since 1974 with their annual releases of Camaro “customizing” kits, and all the seventies goodness that comes with it. No clear headlights, no clear tail lights, ill-fitting parts, hardly a engine bay to speak of, but in a tradition they’ve held since the late sixties: great engine(its got the 350ci V8), great interior and to be fair, the mold quality of whats there is fantastic. Hell, even the decal sheet survived decently and the kit I bought was not new. It was opened in 1981 according to the seller and promptly abandoned for other fun stuff and left on their storage shelf since then and he claims he’s tried to sell it since 2014.
This did do some damage to the kit, the rear window caught some scratches and smudges some time, the plastic turned a rotten yellow and for the most part the tires were unusable, however it didn’t warp and it still was pretty damn good stuff to work with all things considered. The issues I can mention, despite being spoiled by modern tooling and well thought out kit designs by AMT Ertl, Revell, Tamiya and so on of these days, the bodywork is a ill-fitting nightmare. The bumpers, the chassis and the grille all had to be cut, bend and warped to fit, shortened the chassis by half an inch so the rear bumper could get on, it’s pretty much an AMT kit through and through. Hell both the front bumper and rear bumper stick out a few millimeters on the sides cause they’re just too wide, so that’s also something. And another thing to note of the bumpers is that they got a severe case of being droopy, which is especially noticeable on the front.
On top of that, it uses two metal rods to attach the wheels to, which would’ve worked if the rod wasn’t twice the size of the wheels, so I manhandled some toothpicks and it’s now got good ol’ fashioned wooden axles. Though now the wheels sit a tad too far to the inside, but with some work that is… fixable. I haven’t bothered cause every slight touch to the toothpicks will make the wheels fall off unless they sit exactly as they do in the pictures, so… Yup. At least it looks sort of decent in the Polyglas GT tires I took from another AMT kit to replace the thoroughly rotten ones.
Also, like many of that era kits: no rear-view mirror and no door mirrors, sadly. Still looking to find the ones I didn’t put on the ’69 Olds Cutlass, that might make it look a bit more complete.
Though, I should say, those are just the downsides of the kit. It has a fair amount of pluses to balance it all out! It’s still considered a “customizing kit” on all fronts, with ’71/’72 Camaro split bumpers for both the front and rear, front airdam, sportier rally wheels, RS rear wing, the olden-goldie CB radio set, so on. They’re all nice extras to have!
But despite it looking a bit haggard, it’s a T-top Camaro from the mid-seventies. That in itself is rare, it’s even rarer given it’s also a fake on my part by pasting Z/28 decals on a RS model, but there have been one or two moments where I felt like I should’ve just built it as the AHC-100 Camaro cause honestly… It’s just that rare. A slower and thinner wolf in… well, wolves clothing. Maybe one day I’ll shell out another 70 to 100 dollar just to make the Firemaro/Camobird/Trans-28/etc AHC-100 properly.
’76 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28(AHC-100 RS Camaro) specifications:
Skill Level: N/A
Molded in: White