Chevy Muscle Car - Top Ten

Big-Block Production Cars

Dakota Wentz Jul 1, 2006 0 Comment(s)
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'69 Camaro ZL1
When it comes to Camaros, everyone has their own opinions and favorites. But we don't think there's a Chevy fan out there who won't say the ZL1 is at the top of their list. Legendary Chevy dealer, Fred Gibb, originally concocted the car. Big in the racing scene, he wanted a Camaro that was bigger and badder than the rest that could compete in the NHRA Super Stock drag classes.

What exactly did Gibb envision? He wanted General Motors to suit up the new '69 Camaros with their all aluminum 427 big-block. Fred Gibb and Vince Piggins at GM developed the plans for the car, and eventually GM gave it their stamp of approval. GM agreed to build what they dubbed the COPO 9560 option, but there was one glitch to fill. In order for the car to legally compete in the NHRA class, GM had to build at least 50 cars that would be made available to the public. Without hesitation, Gibb bought 50 of them! On December 31, 1968, 22 degrees below zero, the first two ZL1 Camaros arrived. It was so cold that neither car would start! Some would say this was only a sign of things to come. The other 48 arrived in March of 1969 at Fred Gibb Chevrolet.

The problem now was that GM originally estimated the stripped-down Camaro packin' 427 ci to cost around $4,900, which turned out not to be the case. When the first cars arrived the sticker price was $7,269, nearly three times as much as a stock V-8 '69 Camaro! The motor alone was $4,160. As you can imagine, not many people were capable of bustin' out the checkbook and buying one of the ultra-rare ZL1s. In fact, the cars were practically impossible to sell because of the asking price. Fred Gibb pleaded this case with GM until they agreed to take back some of the cars and redistribute them to other dealerships. In the meantime, other dealerships around the country put in orders for ZL1 Camaros. Those dealerships too soon found out what Fred Gibb already knew, the cars are "sale proof." Because the cars were pretty much "off limits" many ZL1 cars got there hearts, the aluminum 427, ripped out and replaced.

Dealerships dropped in cheaper 396s and iron block 427s. And since the cars were completely stripped, ZL1 cars were as stock as stock gets, dealerships added graphics and mag wheels to the cars just to get them to appeal to the public! In total, 69 ZL1s were built; 50 of them for creator, Fred Gibb, and 19 were ordered throughout the '69 production year through other high-performance dealers. The ironic part of the story is the fact that in its day the ZL1 wasn't a big seller, yet in today's market it is the most sought after Camaro.

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'66 Chevelle L78
In 1966, the Chevelle was redesigned and reconfigured. The boxed look of the '64-'65 was thrown out, and the new body saw a more rounded and aerodynamic shape take form. After the shock and awe that the '65 Chevelle Z-16 left floating in the air, a redesigned body wasn't all that was on the list for the '66 model. The 283 and 327 motors that resided between the '64-'65 framerails were still an option, but now anyone who wanted a 396 motor in their Chevelle could have one.

GM offered several 396hp options with the L78 396 at the top of the performance ladder in an ROP Chevelle. Every SS396 Chevelle was given a stacked badge that read SS396 to show off the rat power underneath the hood. All in all, 74,137 (IS THIS THE CORRECT NUMBER?) Rat-powered Chevelles were sold in 1966; 3,099 of them had L78 power.

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'69 COPO Camaro
The best-known '69 COPO 9561 Camaros were sold by Yenko Chevrolet in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Don Yenko made a name for himself in previous years by taking GM production cars, such as Corvettes and Corvairs, and building them up. But when the '67 Camaro was unveiled, Yenko made his mark by dropping in iron block 427s in the F-body's and labeling them as "Yenko Super Cars," each one better known as an "SYC Camaro." Due to the time and resources it took to do the swaps, Yenko couldn't keep up with the demands. In 1969, Yenko convinced Chevy to do a production run of iron block 427 Camaros that cranked out 435 hp.

Chevy didn't list 427 motors under its dealership production order (RPO), but you could find the 427 under Chevy's COPO (Central Office Production Order) roof. Chevy labeled the '69 Camaros equipped with a 427 the COPO 9561. With the exception of the engine, ignition system, and front springs, the mechanics of the 9561 are the same as the 9560 ZL1 cars. Originally, Yenko placed the order, but other dealerships soon caught on. Unlike the ZL1 cars, the Yenko COPO 9561 Camaros were not only sold with the 427 engine, but a cosmetic package, as well. Yenko had special badges, trim, and a scooped hood that made his cars real eye catchers.

It's not exactly known what the production on the COPO 9561 Camaros is, but 201 cars were delivered to Yenko and sold with his package. There were other COPO 9561 cars built that went to other dealerships that were built without the Yenko package, but the quantity is uncertain.


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