Throughout the 1960s, Chevrolet did a very nice job of giving its high-performance customers what they wanted: many different RPO sheetmetal choices. But Chevrolet Engineering's Product Promotion office, led by manager Vince Piggins and some of his staff, including Bill Howell and Paul Prior, had other serious thoughts. It was late in the decade-late 1968 / early 1969. Piggins, with the concurrence of drag racer Dick Harrell and dealership owner Fred Gibb, had already created the 1969 ZL1 Aluminum 427 Camaro for competition in the two SS/B classes (stock and automatic) and the iron L72 427 '69 Camaro into the pair of SS/C classes.
What to do for NHRA's SS/D manual and automatic transmission classes? Piggins, Howell, Prior and others collectively thought that the Chevelle sport coupe with the L72 427 engine would fit perfectly. So they began talking to many people in the know, including dealerships nationwide. In short order, the necessary Central Office Production Order (COPO) system for the SS/D '69 Chevelle sport coupe commenced. It really got carried away-in a good way. (See the COPO breakdown sidebar.) In the next few months, dealerships ordered somewhere between 350 and 375.
Enter Don Yenko
A stellar Corvette road racer in his youth, Don Yenko followed in his father's footsteps in running the family dealership in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania-a town of 8,000 south of the "Steel City," Pittsburgh. Yenko also did his math and felt that the corporate COPO system, which he'd begun using in 1967 for some 427 Camaros, would benefit him greatly in 1969. Yenko told Piggins that the COPO 427 Chevelle was a winner, but he wanted around 100 of them to further modify into "Yenko SC 427 Chevelles." He'd already done so with the Camaro for two years in 1967 and 1968. The Chevrolet Product Promotion department was struttin' its stuff!
Of the 350 +/- COPO 1969 Chevelles produced, Don Yenko ordered 99 of them. The remaining 251 +/- Chevelles were ordered and sold through other Chevrolet dealers nationwide.
Today, these Chevys are considered "real estate" due to what they once represented back in the day. No one knows if every COPO performance car was indeed drag raced, as intended, against Fords and Mopars. Those COPO cars that remain today and have paperwork to prove authenticity are generally considered museum pieces.
How did COPO L72 427 Chevelles with various options come about?
Chevrolet, via Vince Piggins' Product Promotion department, decided to assign at least 12 different COPO numbers and letters to Chevelles with different transmissions, suspension components, tires, brakes, and bucket seats.
COPO Chevelle Special Features:
- Super Sport blackout grille with bow tie emblem
- Super Sport hood
- Black rear cove panel
- 12-bolt differential with 4.10:1 gearing (code KQ)
- Standard Malibu interior
- Either SS emblem or Bow Tie emblem on steering wheel
- L72 425hp 427 (code MQ with four-speed transmission or code MP with TH400 automatic transmission).
- Optional: Side body stripes, RPO NC8 chambered exhaust.
1969 Yenko Chevelle Breakdown
Of the 99 built, 55 had a four-speed manual transmission, bench seat and standard steering. Six of these had a vinyl roof. Thirty-seven more were TH400 automatics with power steering, rear radio antenna and a vinyl top. One automatic transmission car had no vinyl top. Body colors included: Le Mans blue -20, Fathom green -18, Butternut yellow -16, Hugger orange -14, Garnet red -12, Daytona yellow -12, Dover white -5 and Olympic gold -5.
Every year, the Yenko Sports Car Club hosts a Super Car Reunion in the St. Louis suburb of Collinsville. Every COPO and dealer-built car is invited. A show /display, drag races and seminars are included.