If you are in the market for the world’s rarest Camaro, Mecum’s Kissimmee Auction is the place to be. If you wanted a fast Camaro in 1968, you could order it with the massive 396 big block. Chevy’s management would not allow the Corvette’s L88 427 engine into the Camaro to protect the potency of the plastic-fantastic. But a few dealers like Don Yenko and others decided to order Corvette engines and swap them out to build the ultimate Camaro.
Chevy realized they were missing out on the profits, so the 427 became available on the assembly line in 1969. The big blocks made big power, but their cast iron block and heads added several hundred pounds of weight. Road racing teams like Jim Hall’s Chapparal cars and many Can-Am cars would not accept the massive weight disadvantage, so engineers decided to develop an all-aluminum version. A small fortune and many late nights resulted in the ZL1 427. The block and heads are 356 T6 alloy with cast iron cylinder liners. The oil gallery was moved from the pan rail to the cam tunnel and provisions were added for a dry-sump system. It all added up to only 100 lbs in lost weight, but every 100 lbs equals a tenth of a second in the quarter mile.
Two Corvettes were built with the ZL1 engine, and Chevrolet dealer Fred Gibb ordered 50 Camaros. The problem is that GM passed the cost of engine development down to their dealers, which pushed the base price of a 1969 Camaro ZL1 to more than $7,200 (the base Camaro price was $2,726). Needless to say, dealers had a hard time selling them. Chevrolet only built 69 Camaro ZL1s, and many collected dust before being relegated to Super Stock drag racing. Of the cars that remain today, only a handful retain their original engines.
You probably won’t see one at shows or even in person, because Camaro comrades consider it the Holy Grail. But Mecum has a pair of 1969 Camaro ZL1s that will be sold as one lot. Car #18 is Dusk Blue and it failed to attract a buyer at Gibb Chevrolet. GM bought it back and landed at Tamson Chevy in South Boston, VA. It sold for $7,345.35 and hit the drag strip.
The other car is #30, and it has only been driven 361 original miles, 1/4 mile at a time. This car was one of the only 13 examples Gibb Chevrolet was able to sell. It was owned by Pizza Hut franchisee Larry Kreigh, who secured corporate sponsorship at the races. Setting the record for top-stock B Class, it ran 11.0 at 123 mph…on 7-inch wide tires! Only 15 ZL1s were painted Hugger Orange, and only 10 cars were 4-speed manuals. Included is the original MSO and the Protect-O-Plate.
These cars only appear every few years, and they cause a commotion in the Camaro world. Two of the 10 four-speed cars, and two from Fred Gibb’s original order, both on original engines- an unprecedented offering. The hammer price of this pair will set the tone for muscle cars in 2018, so stay with us for complete coverage of the event.