“No matter how many ‘hot’ cars you’ve driven, the first time you really uncork a Dana Camaro you’re bound to be awe-stricken if not outright panicked at the sheer magnitude of the forces unleashed. At about T plus 1/2 second you begin to wonder if maybe you hadn’t ought to have done it, a feeling which persists until you either chicken out and get off it or shift into Third gear.”
That’s how Motor Trend’s John Ethridge described being behind the wheel of a brand-new 1967 Camaro that Peyton Cramer and the team at Dana Chevrolet stuffed full of big-block badass-ness.
His write-up in the July 1967 issue described how Cramer, “in his new undertaking, intends to do with the Camaro pretty much what Shelby did with the Mustang. Even the $3,995 base price is same as that of the Shelby GT 350.” (Cramer, a former Ford employee, had been Shelby’s general manager before leaving Ford and co-founding Dana Chevrolet in 1966.)
But while the Shelby Mustang made do (at least at first) with a hi-po small-block, Cramer and company stuffed the 425-horse, L72 version of the 427 “porcupine” big-block into the Camaro—and that was the “standard” configuration. The 435-horse, triple-carbureted L71 was available as a $150 option.
“The car loaned to us had the standard 4-bbl. engine with Muncie 4-speed and several hundred dollars’ worth of Camaro and custom extras, including the $125 fiberglass hood,” Ethridge explained. Other features Dana put on its converted Camaros included “6-inch-wide steel wheels, special springs and shocks, emblems, the SS trim package, 4-speed, nylon red-stripe tires and a heavy-duty radiator.” Stage I and Stage II suspension upgrade packages were available for street use, while the Stage III package, “intended for racing, costs $2,000 and contains among other things a rubberized fuel cell.”
Driving the Dana Camaro required “a restrained throttle foot” on the street or strip, he said. “Too much and the rearend wants to come around.” Ethridge’s test car had 3.73 gears in the rearend; he surmised that 3.31 or 3.07 ratios “would be less touchy in this respect if you could figure out what to do with 146- and 158-mph theoretical top speeds at the 6,200-rpm red line. Top speed on our test car was 130, which it reached with ease.”
At the dragstrip, First gear was “useless” with the stock Goodyear F70-14 tires “because of excessive wheelspin and the consequent difficulty of keeping the car pointed where we wanted to go.” Starting in Second netted him a 14.2-second e.t. at 105 mph. “Starting in Third produced an identical time!”
Putting “more rubber on the ground” in the form of 9.00/9.50-14 Goodyear slicks, “the absolute maximum size that could be stuffed into the wheel wells without raising the body,” lowered the e.t. to 13.3 seconds and raised the mph to 107.
Dana had already equipped the 427 with headers; Ethridge’s next step at the strip was to uncork the “low restriction pipes and mufflers that were about as noisy as the law would allow.” The car then dipped into the 12s: 12.75 at “a shade over” 110 mph.
“This was as far as we went in trying to extract more performance, but we are convinced we are nowhere near the limit,” Ethridge said. Still bigger tires would help, as would replacing the balky Muncie shift linkage.
“To be perfectly frank, the Dana Camaro is not everyone’s motor car, and it was never intended to be,” he wrote. “But to the enthusiast who can afford it, it offers a combination of the highest order of performance and utility value that is hard to match.”
Photos by Randy Holt, Gerry Stiles, and Petersen Publishing Co. Archives