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1969 Chevy Nova Yenko Clone - Divine Deception

Or Maybe "Imitation is the Sincerest Form..."

Bob McClurg Mar 27, 2007
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According to credible sources within the Yenko Supercar network, there are only nine 1969 Yenko 427 SC Novas known to exist, so it stands to reason that with such an incredibly low production number, it's no surprise that a Yenko enthusiast like Don Colbert of Decatur, Illinois, built himself a 427 SC clone.

These cars started out life as a 375hp, 396-cid COPO Nova converted to 427 SC specs with the installation of a 450hp, 427-cid L-72 Yenko Chevrolet-prepared big-block. They were about as plain Jane as could be, and were delivered to participating Yenko dealers with rubber floor mats, a bench seat, a Delco-manufactured AM radio, and steel 14-inch wheels with pie pan hubcaps. Even Don Yenko admitted this car pushed the limits of liability.

We were standing on the starting line at Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis, Missouri, during the 2006 edition of the Yenko Supercar Reunion, when up rolled this Garnet Red and white-striped '69 Yenko 427 Nova SC. In short order, owner/builder Colbert did a small burnout, knocking the nobbies off a brand-new set of Coker Tire-Goodyear reproduction F70 x 14-inch Polyglas bias-ply tires, staged the car, and was gone.

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Musclecar collector Don Colbert of Decatur, Illinois, warms up the tires on his recently completed '69 Yenko 427 Nova SC clone during the 2006 Yenko Supercar Reunion at Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis, Missouri, where the Nova ran a best of 13.05 on a set of Coker Tire-Goodyear reproduction F70 x 14-inch Polyglas bias-ply tires.

"At over $400,000 a copy, I couldn't afford a real one," said Colbert, who also owns a '69 Yenko 427 Camaro SC clone. "I've always been into musclecars ever since I was a kid. What got me interested in the Yenko 427 SC Nova was a magazine article my friend sent me while I was in the U.S. Air Force in '92. It was a picture of a Garnet Red '69 Yenko Nova owned by Greg Joseph. At that moment, I decided I was going to build a replica of that car, and that's what I did."

Colbert started collecting the right date code GM high-performance parts and did as much research as he could on these cars. "I owe special thanks to SYC member/collector/restorer Mick Price. Mick provided me with most of the information I needed about the car."

In '00, Colbert purchased an excellent-condition one-owner '69 six-cylinder Chevrolet Nova for $3,400 and began the build in earnest. For the next two years, he and friend Bill Zur spent late nights and weekends working on the Nova.

"The car pretty much stayed in the garage until '06, when I decided to do the finishing touches and take it to the Yenko Supercar Reunion, where it definitely turned a LOT of heads."

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From any angle, this is an absolutely beautiful car. "At over $400,000 a copy, I couldn't afford to own a real Yenko, so I built myself a clone," Colbert said.

Credit for all the mechanical work, including building up the correct date code four-bolt-main 450hp/427-cid engine complete with a 396 intake, the correct date code 780-cfm Holley vacuum secondary 4v carburetor, the correct alternator, the Delco ignition system, and even the correct date code spark plug wires, goes to Master Mechanic Jerry Clawson of Shelbyville, Illinois.

That goes double for the factory-issue Muncie M21 four-speed transmission. However, Colbert substituted the Muncie M21 shift linkage for a Hurst setup with the stock Muncie shifter bolted to it.

"The Muncie linkage used to bind up in between shifts, so replacing it with the more reliable Hurst linkage was common practice in those days."

As could be expected, the chassis on Colbert's Yenko 427 SC repop is also textbook GM. That includes the Nova's 4.11:1-geared, 12-bolt Posi-traction rear axle and heavy-duty multi-leaf rear springs, along with its specific-rate, front-coil-spring independent front suspension. The car's brakes are also stock Nova (evidently, Yenko wasn't as worried about stopping his cars as he was about getting them there), as are the 14-inch steel factory rims (with the aforementioned pie pan hubcaps) wrapped with a set of the factory reproduction Goodyear F70 x 14-inch Polyglas bias-ply tires.

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This is the view most folks get to see when Colbert mashes on the throttle and all 450 hp of the big-block Chevrolet responds to his command. "This is a fun car to drive," Colbert said.

Close friend Zur gets the credit for performing all the delicate bodywork on the '69, while Colbert personally sprayed the Nova himself in PPG Garnet Red with clearcoat. Upon completion, the car was treated to a set of traditional white vinyl Yenko SC graphics.

As can be expected, both the black vinyl interior and trunk have both been restored to 100 percent technically correct condition. The interior features the original Yenko Chevrolet-Stewart Warner 8,000-rpm tachometer and three-gauge cluster (oil, water, volt) hanging below the dash, along with the factory AM radio, rubber floormats, etc.

The same thing goes for the Deuce's trunk. It has the factory spare tire, the jack, floor mat, and even the correct jacking instruction stickers. Heck, Colbert's Nova's even got the correct-year IllinoisDealer's plate!

"I've gotten a lot of compliments on the car, and I am very pleased with the finished product," Colbert said. To date, the car has run 13.05 on bias-ply street tires, and 11.05 on slicks with open headers. What more could you ask for?



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