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The GM-80 Project Almost Became the First FWD Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird
BY ALEX REID | POSTED ON MAY 8, 2022
carscoops.com


By the late 1980s, most of GM’s fleet was front-wheel-drive, and the Chevrolet Camaro/Pontiac Firebird could have been next as shown by an early development project called the GM-80.

Carmakers in the late 80s were eager to capitalize on the transition to newer technologies, with one of the most prominent examples being Ford’s attempt to offer the Mustang with front-wheel drive. Codenamed the ST-16, the project angered long-time Ford fans and was eventually scrapped – although it would live on as the Ford Probe.

During development, the idea of making the third-generation Camaro/Firebird front-wheel drive instead of rear-wheel drive was floated but quickly shelved. When engineers started working on the fourth generation, however, the FWD idea returned. Under the codename GM80, General Motorslaid out a front-wheel-drive platform that it hoped would underpin the upcoming Camaro/Firebird.
In keeping with the muscle car aspect of the Camaro, the GM80 would have to be powered by something spunky. The days of big horsepower V8 powerplants were thought to be over, due to tightening emissions regulations which choked most engines, so something else would have to be used.

GM planned to utilize a 3.4-liter “Quad 4” V6, which in testing was able to pump out 285 horsepower. However, the brand didn’t have a transaxle that could handle that kind of power, so they were forced to detune it to 200 horses. The number was was still higher than the 185 horsepower V8 found in the 1986 Camaro, but with less torque.
In order to regain performance, the GM80 was to be lighter than all previous generations of the Camaro/Firebird thanks to plastic panels that would bolt to a sheet metal space frame, similar to the Fiero. The panels would be cheaper to manufacture and also offer better corrosion resistance than regular steel.

In the end, it wasn’t internal disapproval of the front-wheel-drive platform that killed the project, but testing data. GM80 failed to meet its weight targets and performed poorly in crash tests, and the development costs for the plastic body panels meant that the finished vehicle would be much higher priced than previously thought. The project was put on hold in the summer of 1985 and eventually canceled in October of the following year.

The project was not all for naught however, the “Twin Dual Cam” 3.4-liter V6 would make its way to GM N-Body cars like the Pontiac Grand Prix and Chevrolet Beretta, and the styling of the GM80 would largely make it to production in the fourth-generation Camaro and Firebird.








 

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Cool pictures and story!

Did the Baretta get the 3.4? I remember the Lumina and Grand Prix (I had a '94 Grand Prix GTP with it) with it - I thought they were the only cars to get that engine.

Amazing how similar that last gen F-Body looked like this fwd concept. I think the FWD concept looks a lot better than the actual real life rwd F-Body did with it. I think that's a first where I prefer the looks of a fwd vehicle better!
 

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Cool pictures and story!

Did the Baretta get the 3.4? I remember the Lumina and Grand Prix (I had a '94 Grand Prix GTP with it) with it - I thought they were the only cars to get that engine.

Amazing how similar that last gen F-Body looked like this fwd concept. I think the FWD concept looks a lot better than the actual real life rwd F-Body did with it. I think that's a first where I prefer the looks of a fwd vehicle better!
The article is wrong. As far as I'm aware, the N-bodies got pushrod V6s, not the dohc. The W-bodies got the dual cam 3.4, as most would know. The never was, second gen Fiero was intended to get that motor and be built along side the FWD Camaro/Firebird/potential Olds.
 

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"Twin Dual Cam 3.4L V6 never made it to N Bodies Cars, it did however make it into W Bodied Cars and well, it shouldn't have. The LQ1 wasn't reliable and Torque Steer was Crazy.

I do recall the Concepts coming out when Ford was toying with the Mazda MX6 Based Probe was considered as a Mustang Replacement.
 

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I wish they had built these But as another FWD coupe offering, not as Camaro/Firebird. They looked pretty nice.

Ford had some success with the FWD Probe, which of course was supposed to be the next Mustang until Ford came to its senses. Ten years earlier when coupes were still incredibly popular, it might have worked out. By this time, coupes were starting their death spiral.

It's pretty amazing if you ever look at the coupe sames numbers at GM in the 1970s and into the '80s. Just about everything had a coupe version. They moved over 400K Firebirds/Camaros in 1978 and/or 1979. Sold huge numbers of Cutlass Supremes, Regals, Grand Prix, Monte Carlos. Riviera, Eldorado, Toronado all sold well. Coupe Devilles outsold Sedan Devilles by a good margin.
 

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"Twin Dual Cam 3.4L V6 never made it to N Bodies Cars, it did however make it into W Bodied Cars and well, it shouldn't have. The LQ1 wasn't reliable and Torque Steer was Crazy.

I do recall the Concepts coming out when Ford was toying with the Mazda MX6 Based Probe was considered as a Mustang Replacement.

I had a 1995 Monte Carlo Z-34 with that engine. The car was the most disappointing one I've owned. My fault. I just didn't do an adequate test drive. It was decent looking. But you'd think the Z-34 version would have handled better. It was bad. BUT, the best thing about that car was the 3.4L. It was powerful and had great high RPM power. It could really pull strong at highway speeds. (I bought an '02 Monte Carlo SS and that car handled very well. But the '95 really wallowed through corners.)
 

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I wish they had built these But as another FWD coupe offering, not as Camaro/Firebird. They looked pretty nice.

Ford had some success with the FWD Probe, which of course was supposed to be the next Mustang until Ford came to its senses. Ten years earlier when coupes were still incredibly popular, it might have worked out. By this time, coupes were starting their death spiral.

It's pretty amazing if you ever look at the coupe sames numbers at GM in the 1970s and into the '80s. Just about everything had a coupe version. They moved over 400K Firebirds/Camaros in 1978 and/or 1979. Sold huge numbers of Cutlass Supremes, Regals, Grand Prix, Monte Carlos. Riviera, Eldorado, Toronado all sold well. Coupe Devilles outsold Sedan Devilles by a good margin.
I get an implication that plastic body panels were money losing.
2 doors was partly a child security thing. 80's auto styling was boxy anyway. Select G-bodies may have been helped by going 4 door. Chevy probably had no choice not to build a fwd mid-size sedan. For whatever reason GM's bottom breather fwd's looked better in coupe form.
 

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Death to FWD
It has its uses. Cheap, economy-minded cars at the lower end would never get out of the factory these days if they were RWD (ah....the Chevette.....such fun LOL). FWD for performance cars, well that's a little different. There have been a few that are absolute terrors on the track despite being FWD, but not many. The Mini Cooper S, the MINI Cooper S (two different cars there...), the Volkswagen Golf GTI (Mk1, Mk5-current), Honda Civic Si, Acura Integra Type R, Peugeot 205 GTI and the Focus ST are all really good FWD performers.
 

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"Twin Dual Cam 3.4L V6 never made it to N Bodies Cars, it did however make it into W Bodied Cars and well, it shouldn't have. The LQ1 wasn't reliable and Torque Steer was Crazy.

I do recall the Concepts coming out when Ford was toying with the Mazda MX6 Based Probe was considered as a Mustang Replacement.
Yes - torque steer was really bad in my '94 GTP. One thing I quickly learned was to be gentle on the gas pedal in the rain and both hands on the wheel even on dry pavement. And the car was kind of scary above 90 mph, front end really lightened up. Also the car didn't like to corner.

But the car looked so cool!
 

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I had a 1995 Monte Carlo Z-34 with that engine. The car was the most disappointing one I've owned. My fault. I just didn't do an adequate test drive. It was decent looking. But you'd think the Z-34 version would have handled better. It was bad. BUT, the best thing about that car was the 3.4L. It was powerful and had great high RPM power. It could really pull strong at highway speeds. (I bought an '02 Monte Carlo SS and that car handled very well. But the '95 really wallowed through corners.)
Ha - see my post above (#14) - I made that before reading your comment. I agree with everything you said.

the 3.4 sounded sweet at high RPM, though I was always afraid it would explode at some point (though it never did).
 

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Ha - see my post above (#14) - I made that before reading your comment. I agree with everything you said.

the 3.4 sounded sweet at high RPM, though I was always afraid it would explode at some point (though it never did).
I got the Monte Carlo in late 1994 mainly because it was a brand a new model. I actually kind of regretted not getting the Grand Prix, even though that model had been around for a while. Nice looking car. I've always liked the various Grand Prix over the years, but the timing was never quite right for me. Maybe the Grand Prix would have handled better. Funny how the essentially the same car with a new body, the '02 Monte Carlo that I later had, was really a pretty fair handling car for a fairly large, FWD vehicle. Maybe they did some chassis work on that later W platform. I expected way better out of the "Z-34" package.

But I really liked the 3.4. I'd rather they still offered that in my '02 Monte Carlo rather than the 3.8, though that was still a fine engine.
 
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I got the Monte Carlo in late 1994 mainly because it was a brand a new model. I actually kind of regretted not getting the Grand Prix, even though that model had been around for a while. Nice looking car. I've always liked the various Grand Prix over the years, but the timing was never quite right for me. Maybe the Grand Prix would have handled better. Funny how the essentially the same car with a new body, the '02 Monte Carlo that I later had, was really a pretty fair handling car for a fairly large, FWD vehicle. Maybe they did some chassis work on that later W platform. I expected way better out of the "Z-34" package.

But I really liked the 3.4. I'd rather they still offered that in my '02 Monte Carlo rather than the 3.8, though that was still a fine engine.
My '02 Grand Prix GTP did handle a lot better than my '94 also - they did a lot of work to the W Body chassis vs. my '94. Suspension was more compliant, a lot less torque steer and it could actually corner, but still no Alpha chassis. I kept the stock tires, which at the time GM kept to taller sidewalls and all season sport tires for (I presume) better ride and less flats but at the expense of handling. The '94 was definitely about looks and actual performance wasn't really there.

Pontiac lost me on the final generation of the Grand Prix - it was to big and I wasn't in love with the style. I liked the Grand Am GXP, except for the buck tooth grill and massive wing, neither of which I could get past....

I liked the 3.4 a lot better than the supercharged 3.8 in my '02. The car mags seems to get a kick out of the supercharger sound, but I never cared for it. But I certainly didn't hate it. The '02 was an all around better vehicle than my '94.
 

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It has its uses. Cheap, economy-minded cars at the lower end would never get out of the factory these days if they were RWD (ah....the Chevette.....such fun LOL). FWD for performance cars, well that's a little different. There have been a few that are absolute terrors on the track despite being FWD, but not many. The Mini Cooper S, the MINI Cooper S (two different cars there...), the Volkswagen Golf GTI (Mk1, Mk5-current), Honda Civic Si, Acura Integra Type R, Peugeot 205 GTI and the Focus ST are all really good FWD performers.
Actually, a Chevette with the Camaro 2.8 V6, 5 speed manual, Fiero front brakes, S-10 rear brakes and some fat tires would be a lot of fun. And it all fits, easily.
 
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