Undoubtedly, the '69 Camaro has become one of the most popular, coveted, singled-out, hands-down favorite hot rods of all time, right up there with the Deuce coupe and Tri-Five Chevy, and as such it represents the core of many aftermarket businesses. Nobody knows this stuff better than Darryl and Peggy Nance, owners of D&P Classic Chevy in Huntington Beach, California.
Darryl is old enough to remember the original F-body and all the smoke and glory that went with it. He loved the Yenko COPO 9561 (L72 427 rated at 425 hp). Forty years hence, he's created a Yenko tribute car without using a single original part. The aftermarket had everything he needed to make this project come alive, hence everything is as new as it would have been from the assembly line, including the body itself. But it just didn't fall together.
"Our goal was to build a car that could be used daily. The theme was if Don Yenko was building a car today, what parts would he use? That meant a contemporary engine, an LS iteration not a carbureted big-block that was never certified in anything. On top of that, we wanted a mid 11-second potential and road-course handling married to at least 20 miles per gallon. We wanted to use the best stuff in every area of the car.
"We got a Dynacorn body from major project partner Classic Industries for this build after the donor we had originally showed way too much monkey business once we'd stripped it down. The Dynacorn is in the neighborhood as far as fit and finish is concerned but we needed to tidy it up before going further. Our other primary partner in this venture is Original Equipment Reproduction (OER) in Westminster. They supplied all the trim and functional equipment we needed to complete the car."
Darryl had contemplated an LS9 blower engine but decided that Yenko would have thought it cost-prohibitive. In place of the old iron 427 that the Yenko would have had, he used a 427ci LS7 crate engine for the go-button. That it's normally aspirated fit the image better, too. Since "green" is the watchword these days, the new GM Performance Parts E-ROD engine program was initiated at the '09 SEMA show. The first incarnation is a 430hp/376ci LS3 crate accompanied by all emissions controls and calibration ECU for retrofit. It has been certified by the toughies at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for use in any car, regardless of year. Until now, the recipient had to be at least 30 years old to avoid the mandatory 2-year emissions certification. Without question, GMPP will provide similar equipment for other LS engines as well, including the LS7.
What else would Yenko have included? Since Don was a road-racer, he'd have insisted on a completely modern suspension system, perhaps one centered on the produce of Detroit Speed, Inc. Bigger brakes would be a natural, as big as could fit behind those 18-inch hoops and outsized, high-traction rubber. Though you could order a COPO Camaro with a Turbo 400 automatic, Yenko would have demanded a manual transmission for its overall flexibility and gear ratios to make the most of that 4.10:1 ring-and-pinion.
"The other twist on this is that GM used our tribute Camaro as their poster car at SEMA," said Darryl. "It was the only muscle car that they invited and became the roll-out car for the GMPP E-ROD program. If you use all the parts and components in the kit you can get a smog certification. It's good for me and for the guy who's got an '85 Monte Carlo who was basically screwed before. If you follow these criteria you're guaranteed to have a smog-legal car that far exceeds the emissions and the power of what the car came with originally. Even though our car has an LS7, it meets the criteria and GMPP will roll that complete package out very shortly."