The word Yenko evokes a sort of glassy-eyed reverence among muscle car aficionados, even those who otherwise can’t stand Chevrolets. The Pennsylvania dealer configured production cars for ultra-high performance—quite a statement for a time defined as the muscle car era. And the king of that heap were the 316 Camaros the dealer prepped from 1967 to 1969. A Yenko was the gun you brought to the knife fight.
Roy and Lisa Kampen bought a 1968 Yenko Camaro at a Toronto auction. Well, to be fair they bought a Yenko clone, but what beyond provenance is the difference between a faithful rendition and the real thing? A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, and life was indeed sweet for the Kampens.
You could call it exuberance that made Roy choose off against a friend’s “ordinary” Mustang. But the sight of said pony galloping off into the distance sort of caused Roy’s love for his supercar to wilt on the vine. “Something had to be done,” he says.
The first step of his resolution was to transport the ’68 to Hot Rods By Dean (HRBD) in Phoenix. We’ll spare you the details of the teardown in lieu of the much more interesting rebuild.
The stock front clip remains but a Detroit Speed Inc. Speed Kit 3 replaces the steering and suspension components. It includes tubular arms, antiroll bar, and springs; however, this particular one has double-adjustable QA1 Proma Star coilovers and 2-inch dropped knuckles.
One of DSE’s QUADRALink rear suspensions follows suit. It has the 9-inch-style housing with 4.11:1 gears on a Truetrac limited-slip carrier and 31-spline shafts. A set of DSE subframe connectors fortifies the body between the ends.
Big-block power is fine for going in a straight line but the weight it imposes on the nose sort of negates the benefits lavished on the new front suspension. So Roy went with LS 376 power. It’s a combination that not only sheds a ton of weight by dint of its all-aluminum small-block construction but also churns out 489 lb-ft torque at 4,400 rpm and 525 hp at 6,300 rpm—figures that even GM’s strongest 427s could only aspire to.
From front to back, the engine sports a Vintage Air Front Runner, a Spectre filter on a bespoke intake tube, and shorty-style Sanderson 1 5/8-inch-diameter headers. Those lead to a 2 1/2-inch-diameter exhaust system that passes a 4L70E automatic on its way back to 50-series Flowmasters. Transmission, Axle, and Driveline in Phoenix built the driveshaft.
The body remains largely stock. The only significant visible changes come from a stock-style Goodmark cowl-induction hood, Ringbrothers door handles, Eddie Motorsports hood hinges, and a 1969-style valance. But looks can be deceiving on such a low-contrast machine. Case in point, the bumpers, which HRBD narrowed, thinned, and tucked closer to the body. Oh yeah, and the spoilers. The shop built those specifically for the car.
The DSE suspension makes a promise that the body can’t quite keep, at least in the rear. A 5.5-inch backspace on 17x8 Schott Mach V wheels lets Nitto NT555 245/45s fit perfectly on the front. The same offset but on an 18x10 wheel with a 295/45 Nitto made the rear tire look perfectly centered at the opening, but it took a set of DSE mini tubs for the tire to squeeze into the wheelwell. With the majority of the metal prep work finished, Sean Rosic worked the body then Frank Gracia laid down the charcoal two-stage urethane.
The interior runs a Billet Specialties D-shaped Camber steering wheel atop an ididit column. A set of Auto Meter Carbon Fiber Ultra-Lite gauges mount in a Classic Dash insert. The HRBD crew installed a Vintage Air climate-control system, wired the car with an American Autowire harness, and built panels to install an elaborate JVC/Rockford Fosgate audio system.
From there Glenn Kramer at Hot Rod Interiors by Glenn in Glendale, Arizona, fabricated the center console, modified a pair of ’00 Firebird seats, and trimmed everything in black and gray leather and suede.
Roy and Lisa Kampen’s Camaro is a far cry from what it started as, even if that baseline was considerably higher than a muscle car. But in the end, what they got wasn’t imaginable even a few years ago. “We wanted it to handle and perform like a Trans-Am racer yet still have all the comforts of a modern luxury sports coupe,” Roy says. “Dean Livermore and crew at Hot Rods By Dean transformed the Camaro into the car we wanted all along.”
The car may be done but Roy isn’t quite finished. There’s one last thing, a sort of score to settle with a certain Mustang.
|Owner:||Roy and Lisa Kampen, Alberta, Canada|
|Cylinder Heads:||L92-style with 68cc chambers|
|Valvetrain:||2.165/1.590 valves, OEM roller rockers|
|Camshaft:||Chevrolet Performance hydraulic PN 88958770 (226/236-deg. duration at 0.050, 0.525/0.525-inch lift, 110-deg. LSA)|
|Induction:||Chevrolet Performance LS3 manifold, Spectre filter|
|Exhaust:||Sanderson 1 5/8-inch shorty to 2 1/2-inch pipes, 50-series Flowmaster mufflers|
|Ancillaries:||Narrowed Rock Valley stainless-steel fuel tank|
|Output:||525 hp at 6,300 rpm, 489 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm|
|Driveshaft:||Transmission, Axle, and Driveline (Phoenix, AZ)|
|Rear Axle:||9-inch-style housing, 4.11:1 gears, Truetrac limited-slip, Detroit Speed Inc. 31-spline axles|
|Steering:||Saginaw 600-style quick-ratio box|
|Front Suspension:||Detroit Speed Inc. control arms, springs, and 2-inch dropped knuckles. QA1 Proma Star double-adjustable dampers|
|Rear Suspension:||Detroit Speed Inc. QUADRALink, dampers, and subframe connectors|
|Brakes:||ABS electric-assist master cylinder with Wilwood 12.19-inch rotors and Dynalite four-piston calipers|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels:||Schott Mach V 17x8 front, 18x10 rear (5.5-inch backspace front and rear)|
|Tires:||Nitto NT555 245/45 front, 295/45 rear|
|Seats:||2000 Firebird modified by Glenn Kramer, Hot Rod Interiors (Glendale, AZ)|
|Upholstery:||Black and gray leather and suede by Glenn Kramer, Hot Rod Interiors|
|Instrumentation:||Classic Dash insert from Fast Lane West, Auto Meter Carbon Fiber Ultra-Lite gauges|
|Steering:||Ididit column, Billet Specialties Camber wheel|
|Shifter:||Hurst Comp Stick handle on Lokar assembly|
|Wiring Harness:||American Autowire|
|Audio:||JVC KW-V40BT head unit with Rockford Fosgate amplifiers and 5 1/4-inch (staging), 6x9-inch (fill), and 12-inch (subwoofer) by HRBD|
|Bodywork/Paint:||Sean Rosic (body), Frank Gracia (paint)|
|Hood Hinges:||Eddie Motorsports|