As a young man back in the torrid 1950s and 1960s, Don Yenko learned the Chevrolet car and truck industry from his father, a very successful man in the industry. Both Yenkos liked Chevrolet performance, and roadracing was Don's forte. Knowing how to manipulate the almost unknown factory "Central Office Production Order" (COPO) program, he first ordered some special '65 Corvairs, named them Yenko Stingers, and went roadracing with customers and friends alike. Today, they are legendary.
His name is also legendary in Camaro, Chevelle, and Nova camps. In 1969, Yenko Jr. decided to build some SYC (Yenko Super Car) Super Novas in-house. A grand total of 37 ground-pounders were sold. All were originally L78 396 Novas. Twenty-eight had a transplanted 425hp 427. The remaining eight were still factory real-deal RPO L78 375hp 396s. Yenko knew from his first road test that the 427 Super Novas were lethal (that's a politically correct word for brutally fast and potentially dangerous). This is actually the terminology he used. And riding shotgun was not an especially fun experience. To say they were a "handful" like the '69 L72 427 Camaro would be a minimal definition.
Some magazines have even quoted Don Yenko as saying he probably shouldn't have built the '69 SYC 427 Super Novas. Well, he did. And as far as we know, everyone involved has lived happily ever after, change of underwear notwithstanding. Can you imagine going 0-60 mph in under 4 seconds? 0-100 mph probably came in at about 10 seconds, and 0-120 mph in perhaps 11 seconds. This was indeed REAL Chevrolet performance!
We believe that all through this time period Yenko was fighting with insurance agents who may have balked at insuring such blazingly fast Chevrolet Novas, Camaros, and Chevelles. Then, in 1970, he saw the proverbial writing on the wall. It was called the Clean Air Act of 1970. This new national legislation- combined with ultra-high-cost performance car insurance woes-made Don Yenko counter with the '70 LT1/Z28 350-powered Yenko Deuce Nova. It was a COPO, and it was advertised as a "mini musclecar." It supposedly flew under the performance car insurance premium radar.
Total '70 Yenko Deuce sales were said to be 175. The gem featured a Z28 Camaro/LT1 Corvette 350 engine, a Muncie four-speed manual or a Turbo 400 automatic transmission, F41 sport suspension, and a 12-bolt differential with a 4.10:1 Posi-traction. Rally wheels without trim rings were also part of the base package.
A total of eight exterior colors were offered: Gobi beige, Fathom blue, Citrus green, Forest green, Hugger orange, Cranberry red, Cortez silver, and Sunflower yellow. The only interior offered was a standard bench seat in black vinyl.
The Yenko Deuce was a blast to drive. It ran easy low 13s with headers and slicks. This was plenty quick.
It should be stated in this historical story that many Chevy enthusiasts then could not afford a '69 Yenko 427 Super Nova or even a '70 350 Yenko Deuce. But this is nothing new then or today.
Many enthusiasts today have wondered why sales of all these special Chevys weren't higher. The truth is that many of us didn't know of their availability. Somehow magazine ads and word of mouth didn't reach everyone. Simple as that. As a direct result, many performance enthusiasts simply built their own. Almost all of us were out of the beaten path of magazine editors and savvy freelance contributors. We just built our Chevys and raced them at the dragstrip and elsewhere. None of this made for exciting magazine reading, per se. Guys bought wrecked, stripped, or even six-cylinder Novas, then built them up. For every Yenko Nova there were probably at least 250 homebuilt, nondescript sleepers in towns all across America.
According to research compiled at Ed Cunneen's COPO Connection, Chevrolet brass assigned Yenko its COPO number 9010 for the Camaro Z28/Corvette LT1 engine and COPO number 9737 for its little-known Sports Car Conversion Package. The latter included similar chassis components that Yenko's '69 SC 427 Camaro received: F40 heavy-duty suspension with a 13/16-inch-diameter front antiroll bar and a slightly smaller rear antiroll bar, as well as larger valving shock absorbers and stouter springs.
Yenko and his crew were geniuses at subtle exterior and interior styling. No bold "SS" stripes for his cars. He instead went with a distinctive vinyl die-cut arrangement. All 175 Deuces had a domed tachometer on the driver-side hood and tasteful Magnum 500 wheels. Other Yenko Deuce base equipment included an AM radio, black standard bench seat, black rubber floor covering, power front disc brakes (drum brakes aft), and a special interior lighting group. On the interior was "Deuce" lettering on the upper middle of the door panels.
For optional equipment, you could order just about anything you wanted that was dealer-available. Yenko readily offered a nice wheel update-four 14x7 Atlas aluminum wheels with a Yenko decal on each center cap. The spare tire was the car's original painted steel wheel. The tire size was E70x14. Cunneen's research indicates that both raised white lettered or whitewall tires were available.
In all, 173 of the 175 COPO LT1 350 Novas ordered went directly to Yenko Chevrolet. The remaining two were said to have been shipped to Canada. 122 of the 175 were four-speeds. The other 53 were TH400 automatics.
Long live the '70 Yenko 350 Deuce and the '69 Yenko 427 Super Nova.