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Meet the Mean One: The Yenko Super Camaro

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On: Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 4:04PM | By: Teddy Field

Meet the Mean One: The Yenko Super Camaro

If you're a Camaro fan, then you've undoubtedly heard of the Yenko Camaro. A tire-melting dragstrip legend that was born at a time when gas was cheap and love was free. Racing driver Carroll Shelby had started turning Ford's little Mustang into a stoplight god, and Chrysler dealers were equally well-armed with the 426 Hemi-powered GTX. These muscle-bound monsters were specifically made for road racing, and came with almost no options to reduce weight. Chevrolet's new Camaro would also get the Skunkwerks treatment in 1967, as SCCA racer and Chevrolet dealer Don Yenko turned the General's little pony into one of the most legendary muscle cars of all time.

Don Yenko was the son of a successful Pennsylvania Chevrolet dealer, who turned his passion for cars into a victorious career on the racing circuit. Starting in 1957, Yenko began racing in the SCCA, and by the early-60s, his Gulf Oil Corvettes dominated the Production Class. By the mid-60s, Yenko wanted something lighter and more agile than the Corvette. So he special-ordered a Corvair Corsa from the family dealership, then he designed an aero-kit and some other mods to make the car more suitable for racing.

According to the SCCA D Production Class rules, Yenko had to produce 100 of his Corvair Stingers in order to qualify for the class. After taking delivery of 100 brand new 1965 Corvair Corsas, he and his staff spent two weeks converting all of the cars into Stingers. The cars were successful on the track, and the Penn State business graduate soon formed a nationwide network of dealers to sell his track-ready Chevys.

Using what he'd learned from the Stinger program, Don Yenko decided to compete in the Trans Am circuit, using a specially modified version of the 1967 Camaro. Although he was a direct competitor, Carroll Shelby influenced Don Yenko, and his first 1967 Yenko Super Camaro 450 was in many ways, patterned after Shelby's big-block powered GT500. Since Yenko's race team was already campaigning the 427-powered Corvette, his new Super Camaro would be powered by the same beast. But the biggest motor available from Chevrolet at the time was a 396ci, so Yenko ordered around 107 copies of the L-78 equipped 1967 Chevrolet Camaro SS, and optioned them with goodies like a Muncie 4-speed 'Rock Crusher' (or TH400 automatic, called 'Super Camaro 410'), a heavy-duty suspension, and a 4.10 twelve-bolt posi rear end. The 396 was swapped for a Corvette 427, with special heads that boosted the 'official' horsepower to 450. Other modifications included Stewart Warner gauges, Traction Master traction bars, a 4-core radiator, and a fiberglass 'stinger' hood. The famous Yenko stripes and 'sYc' embroidered headrests didn't appear until 1969. The first run of 1967 Yenko Camaros were converted by legendary racer/mechanic Dick Harrell, but subsequent models were converted in-house by Yenko Chevrolet.

By 1968, Chevrolet allowed Yenko to order his 427-equipped Camaros right from the factory. Using the Central Office Production Order system, or COPO, Yenko Chevrolet ordered a total of 201 1969 Camaros (171 with the M21 transmission, 30 with the automatic) factory-equipped with a 427, power front disc brakes, heavy-duty Z/28 suspension with a thicker front sway bar, heavy-duty cooling, a 140 mph speedometer, a standard black interior (see: Striped), and 15-inch rally wheels. Yenko Chevrolet then added their appearance package, and sold the monsters with a full factory warranty. Thanks to its newly instated COPO program, Chevrolet also sold a number of 427-powered COPO Camaro's. But most of these 'stripper models' lacked that famous Yenko touch.

High insurance costs and tightening government regulations meant that 1969 was the last year for the Yenko Camaro. Thanks to racing prowess of this Pennsylvania Chevrolet dealer, the Yenko Super Camaro could rocket to 60 mph in around 5.5 seconds, and boogie past the ¼ mile in the low-13s. With only a few hundred copies of the Yenko Camaro to go around, prices start in the six-figure range and escalate from there. But if you've got the dough, a Yenko Super Camaro would be so much cooler than a Bentley or a 'Lambo'.

Special thanks to Yenko.net for all the great original images

Photo Gallery (click a thumbnail to enlarge)


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