Over the last 40 years, the 1969 Camaro has evolved into one of the most popular Chevys ever made. Experts agree that it had more options and colors available for one’s personal customization than any other Chevrolet—before or since. Mention the ’69 Camaro to any longtime Chevy enthusiast and you’re apt to hear incredible-for-their-time key options like: RPO Z28 302, COPO 9561 L72 427, COPO 9560 ZL1 427, RPO L78/L89 aluminum head, 375-hp 396 (402), RPO Z22 Rally Sport, RPO Z27 Super Sport, RPO Z87 custom interior including white, yellow, orange, or black houndstooth designs, RPO Z11 Indy 500 Replica Pace Car, RPO Z10 Pace Car hardtop, RPO JL8 four-wheel disc brakes—plus the performance upgraded examples built one-at-a-time by dealerships including Yenko, Baldwin-Motion, Dana, Nickey, Berger and others.
Due to an extended production period, a whopping 243,085 Camaros were sold in 1969. Just about everything ever done in the 1969 calendar year has already been printed in magazines and books−except one thing−what owners have done to personalize their own 1969 Camaros since Day-Two (the second day after individual purchase). From 1969 through 1980 there were no show events to attend. Other than the professional I.S.C.A. indoor shows, car shows as we know them today had not been invented. But, from 1981 to present, Camaros have led the way in the show car wars at the Super Chevy Sunday events. It didn’t take long for a plethora of club events and other regional shows to take shape.
Because the 1969 Camaro had such powerful optional engines (created and relegated to best the competition in drag racing) much of its historic wins are known. One of the first 427 Camaro wins in A/Stock came via Wendell Stockey at Ware Shoals, South Carolina. Bill Jenkins’ ZL1 was the first nine-second Camaro–per Hooker Headers ads. In early 1970 Ed Hedrick’s Yenko-sponsored 427 ran low 11s in SS/E at Altoona, Pennsylvania, and bested Bill Stiles’ SS/BA Plymouth in the S/S Eliminator final. In August of 1970, Fred Gibb Chevrolet won the S/S Eliminator at the AHRA World Championships at Green Valley Raceway in Hurst, Texas with a 10.51 seconds et at 130 mph in a ZL1.
During a big Detroit S/S meet that same weekend, Dave Strickler went 10.39 at 130 and Bill Jenkins went 10.12 sec. at 134 mph–both in ZL1s. At Cecil County, Maryland, Bill Jenkins bested Ronnie Sox’s Mopar with a 9.89 sec. at 137 mph to a 9.93 sec. at 137 mph. Jenkins later laid down a 9.77 sec. at 139 mph. He also won three awards at the 1970 Car Craft Banquet at the U.S. Nationals: Stock and Super Stock Engine Builder of the Year, and Super Stock Driver of the Year. Jenkins was “da man” but “thank you” ZL1.
The images for this story were selected from over 1000 1969 Camaro photos in order to celebrate the last 40 years of what many believe to be the most resilient piece of American automotive iron of all-time.
Look for part two of this story in the next issue of Camaro Performers magazine.