From Steve Sandlin's trio of rare big-block '69s to the slew of C5-R-based small-blocks in the "new" ZL-1s, it seemed that just about every Camaro at the recent Camaro SuperFest, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, had a 427-cube engine under its hood.
That goes for Danny Janke's '69 Yenko clone, too. He built as close to the original Yenkos as possible; he even located a correct S-shape upper radiator hose to connect to the 427 engine.
"I've always like the uniqueness of the Yenkos," said Janke. "The car is a frame-off restoration, and doing it this way allowed me to build the exact car I wanted."
Some of the '02 ZL-1 Camaros, which were built by GMMG and sold through Berger Chevrolet, also feature post-factory 427s, but the engines are built from overbored versions of the Corvette C5-R aluminum racing block.
Compared to the LS1 version of the Gen III engine, the C5-R blocks have revised coolant passages and different cylinder bank inserts, allowing them to be bored. These new ZL1s are good for about 650 horses.
Dennis Barker of Berger Chevrolet, and Matt Murphy of GMMG, were on hand to discuss what will undoubtedly be red-hot future collectibles. (Actually, go to the forum at www.yenko.net and you'll get an idea of how hot they are currently.)
Certainly, one of the highlights of the SuperFest was Sandlin's 427 trifecta, which included a COPO 9561 (iron block), a ZL1 (COPO 9560), and a perfect Baldwin-Motion Phase III Camaro. The Baldwin-Motion car began life as an L-78 396 when it was delivered to Baldwin Chevrolet; the Phase III 427 was swapped in at Motion Performance and was rated at 500 hp.
Of course, it wouldn't be a true Michigan event without a little rain. At the SuperFest, the skies were timed perfectly to dump on participants as they entered Michigan International Speedway for a specially arranged lap session on the two-mile oval. Pace car owners felt right at home on the D-shape, high-bank oval, which hosts two NASCAR Cup races and an Indy Car race each year.
The latest SuperFest was the twelfth, and as SUPER CHEVY has covered the event for at least half of those years, we can say it has grown into probably the country's premier Camaro event-a record.
From the laid-back atmosphere and acceptance of everything from concours restos to modifieds to six-cylinder daily drivers, it's easy to see why so many Chevy F-car enthusiasts return to Ann Arbor each year. The 2003 turnout was right around 500 cars.
We're already planning on the 2004 event; always held on the July 4 weekend.
"I come every year," says Janke, while polishing his Yenko clone. "I wouldn't miss it."
For information on the 2004 event, go to www.camarosuperfest.com.
Modern Rarity: The Brickyard CamaroFor our trip to the SuperFest, we borrowed one of the few remaining Camaros in GM's pool of test cars: a '02 Brickyard 400 festival car.
Camaros have a long tradition as Indy pace cars, as well as serving as the Brickyard 400 pace car, too, in 1996. But during the last few years, a quantity of Camaro convertibles has been decked out in Brickyard graphics and served as official track cars during the race and surrounding festivities.
There's nothing extraordinary about the cars from a production standpoint, save their unique graphics treatment, but they're very interesting from a collector's point of view: Most of the vehicles were sold to dealers after the race, mostly to stores in the Midwest (much like the '67 pace cars).
The cars are individually numbered and have genuine Indianapolis pedigrees. The cars were not offered for sale to the general public with prior orders-if your local dealer got one after the race and you bought it, count yourself lucky. The cars were made in small quantities-less than 100 each year. The '02 cars were the only versions with a GM dealer order code: Z7D.
Here's another wrinkle: Numbering of the '02 cars doesn't match the number of cars built. Fifty-seven Z7D SS cars were built, with 44 of them going to the Indy speedway. Chevy apparently kept car #1 and Indy got cars #2-45. The last 12 were numbered 51-62 and kept by GM; it seems none were numbered 46-50. Forty-three of the cars were sent to dealers after the race.
There is speculation that some cars also were used as Indy 500 festival cars a few months earlier, and their graphics were changed for the Brickyard race. They were just Z28s, however, not SSs.
Add these facts up and you end up with some rare Camaros that have all the makings of future collectibles.
With much time behind the wheel, we can attest to their popularity. Put the top down, and you're an instant parade. Pull into a cruise night and people stop, point and wander up to the car to ask about it. And once you drop on them the car's genuine Indy history, you'll get uniform, "Mmmmms" from the onlookers.
Our SS test car carried #62; it was apparently part of the Camaro Legends Tour, too.
So if you're looking for an easy, everyday cruiser with a bright future as a collectible, keep your eyes peeled for one of the few Brickyard 400 Camaros out there...and send us a thank-you note in 20 years. -BK