Stinger. That vehicle name has special meaning to most supercar performance historians. It was the moniker selected by Don Yenko to create a batch of SCCA-legal road racing Corvairs in late 1965 for the 1966 season. With Kasey Vandenberg's rare '67 example of COPO/Stinger technology now restored to its prime, the time has come to shed some light on a very rare Chevrolet package.
Yenko, who had established himself as one of the best semi-pro sports car drivers of the early '60s in Corvettes, used his connections with Detroit to get his special batch of the little compact Corsas built for delivery to his family dealership in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania; he needed to build 100 of them to be legal for competition.
While some of the conversion work to make the Stingers into legal Sports Production class entries was done on-site, Yenko's friends at GM used the Central Office Production Order (COPO) system to get some unique items put on these cars that did not go on any other assembly-line Corvairs. This included COPO 9513A, the 3.89:1-gear differential, which was otherwise only an over-the-counter option, and COPO 9861E, a dual-reservoir master cylinder that is now believed to have come out of the Cadillac parts book. This was the first dual master cylinder in any Chevrolet ever.
All the '66 cars were delivered in Ermine White paint-this and an optional blue stripe were mandated as the U.S. manufacturer color combination by the SCCA sanctioning body (which is why R-code Shelbys came the same way), and the stripes were added after delivery. Also, since the rules said any four-seat car would be classified as a sedan, all '66 Stingers were delivered to their owners with a carpeted board in place of the backseat so they would be ruled as true Sports Production models.
Other custom mods to the '66s included fiberglass rear landau window inserts, fiberglass rear decklid over the engine with fresh air scoops, Stinger logos and trim, and engine upgrades including headers and internal pieces. Other standard parts from the factory included the 140-horse flat-six engine, four-speed transmission, fast-ratio steering, and suspension upgrades. In its mildest form, the Stinger offered 160 hp at the flywheel in an approximately 2,200-pound package.
Delivered in December 1965, Yenko had but a month to get the 100 cars prepared, but his dealership did it. Yenko also established a network of associated dealers that April to help with nationwide distribution. Though up against the dominant Triumphs in the D class, seasoned drivers in the hot Vairs were good enough to take home several big season-long Regional titles. One of them, Jerry Thompson, would go on to win the 1967 SP championship in the Stinger brand's final year of production.
And that brings us to the car seen here. With the new Camaro and Trans-Am racing in the spotlight, the Stinger Sports Production program was scaled back in 1967 by Yenko. After all, the Z/28 was a race-ready package (though availability was an issue that first year), and he was laying the groundwork for 427-inch L72-engined Camaros. One of the dealerships that Yenko was associated with was Dana Chevrolet in South Gate, California, as Don occasionally drove as a substitute for manager Dick Guldstrand, another noted Corvette pilot.
The sands of time get a little misty here. No one has been able to verify for certain by whom and how those first 427 Camaros for resale were formulated; what can be stated for certain is that Dana was involved in that process at least as early as the Yenko and Nickey franchises. But we are focused on the Stinger; here is what happened to that.