In an unmarked warehouse somewhere in Tennessee is one of the most impressive car collections in the world. Fans of our magazine might remember my interview with Cliff Ernst from our February 2012 issue. We heard he had a few muscle cars, but what we found was nothing short of Smithsonian.
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What immediately got our attention, is that in some cases he has multiple examples of rare & early performance cars. If you like factory supercharged Thunderbirds, he has a few to choose from. If you prefer Pontiac power, two 1962 Super Duty Catalinas are ready to race. But if Camaros are your calling, the end of the room has something you might like. Don Yenko’s prototype 1969 Camaro sits among several other Yenko Camaros, and two Yenko Novas.
The Ernst Collection
Don Yenko was a drag racer who took over his father’s Chevrolet dealership in 1957. His passion for building fast Chevys transformed it into a dealership where there were no limits on performance. Due to decisions from GM’s upper management, their highest performing engines were not offered in a Camaro for fear of losing a Corvette customer. In 1967 and ’68, he overcame this obstacle by ordering the 427 Big Block (7.0L) through his service department and installing them into a limited number of Camaros. Racers came from across the country to buy their own Yenko Supercar. In 1969 he was able to convince GM’s management to build a few Camaros with the L-72 Big Block at the factory. These cars had to be ordered from the central office, which is why they are known as COPO (Central Office Production Order). COPO #9561 is the option code every Camaro owner dreams of. Cliff likes them so much, that over a period of two decades he came to own at least one example of the original six colors, plus a few duplicates.
Mr. Ernst rarely sells, so we jumped at the opportunity to showcase these rare cars. If you dream in Daytona Yellow, both of these cars are fully documented 427 powered 1969 Yenko Camaros. Both cars have four-speed manual transmissions, and they are probably capable of 10-second runs down the quarter mile. Cars such as these are what Yenko replicas are based on, but here is your chance at the real thing.