Dana Chevrolet was the first dealership on the West Coast to install a 427ci big-block in a Camaro, which could be purchased as a new car. In fact, it was arguably the first dealership in the country to do the engine swap—we’re talking before Nickey, Yenko, or Gibbs. Dana had multiple locations, with one being their Hi-Performance Center in Long Beach, California, where they worked on performance cars. From bolting on high-performance parts to building full-on race cars, and of course, this is where they performed their famous 427ci big-block Chevy conversions.
Being Dana Chevrolet was in the performance business for a much shorter time than many of the other performance Chevrolet dealerships there’s very little information out there regarding these supercars. Most historic Dana vehicle records were lost way before people thought about the valuable information they would hold today. Speculation and research points to less than 100 Camaros converted to 427s—possibly even less than 50. These facts make Dana Camaros very rare, so any related history gets our engines revving.
While cruising through the Motor Trend/TEN photo archive, we uncovered some historical vintage images of a Dana Camaro that happened to get the best of us. We couldn’t just look at these great vintage photos and move on. Nope, we had to investigate. While doing research on this specific Dana 427 Camaro, we found that it was built by Dana for Bardahl lubricants and was meant to be used for promoting their products. It turns out that it was used for testing in which those articles appeared in a couple of West Coast-based magazines at the time.
We found Bardahl’s 427 Camaro in a special edition “Camaro” magazine between late 1966 and early 1967. This could have been the first outing of the car. Every photo in that article shows the car with Dana Chevrolet paper license plates and temporary registration in the window. The telling evidence of the timeline is the lack of the signature twin-scooped Dana Camaro hood throughout the article. It had 14x6 Cragar GT wheels wearing little Goodyear Wide Tread F70-14 whitewall tires on all four corners. The only Bardahl branding on the car was their sticker on the fan shroud (not shown in this article).
The same Camaro was also featured in the April 1967 issue of a magazine titled Car Life. Shadows and the photo shoot location show that all of the photos from the Car Life magazine are from the same shoot as the previous article in the Camaro magazine.
The next article to be printed with Bardahl’s Dana Camaro was in the July 1967 issue of Motor Trend. Visible markings under the hood show that this is the same car used in the other magazines. This time it was wearing stamped black and yellow California “dealer” plates and the addition of the signature Dana hood, which was produced and sold to Dana (and to the public) by a company named Berry Plasti-Glass (The Dana hood was an additional cost option and did not appear on all Dana-converted Camaros).
The next obvious test session photos, if our investigative skills are correct, show the Camaro with standard-issue California black and yellow license plates, which is interesting because Bardahl is a Seattle, Washington-based company. The other new identifying markers are the addition of the Bardahl logo and “Test Car” script on the Camaro’s doors.
The Dana Chevrolet and Bardahl Relationship
The Car Life article states, “The particular car [same as the one in our article] tested was built by Dana for the Bardahl Oil Co., which plans to use it for show and as a high-speed test vehicle for numerous lubricant products.”
Some vintage photos of the Dana Chevrolet sponsored Trans-Am series ’67 Camaro, raced by the late Dick Guldstrand, show the Bardahl decals on the front fenders. Also in an article printed in August 1967 about the Dana Chevrolet Hi-Performance Center you can clearly see large Bardahl, Champion, Goodyear, and Union 76 flags flying at full attention. With all the Bardahl presence, it’s obvious that the Dana Hi-Performance center and Bardahl had a working relationship going.
It would be interesting to find out what happened to the Bardahl Camaro. Did it ever make it to Bardahl in Seattle, Washington? Is it hidden in some private collection? Did someone remove the hood, the only distinguishable Dana clue, and sell the car off as if it was just another Camaro?
Special Thanks to Jon Mello, Dave Fillion, and yenko.net