The 1969 Camaro ZL1 is clearly the undisputed king of all first generation Camaro’s. With an all aluminum 427 engine that was Can-Am race inspired, these purpose built cars are among the most sought after muscle cars ever built. And the story of how these cars came to be makes them even more interesting.
A small town dealer in LaHarpe, Ill., Fred Gibb Chevrolet knew that if he could get the powers to be to put the ZL1 engine into the Camaro, GM would certainly dominate the NHRA Super Stock ranks. By working directly with Vince Piggins, often referred to as “The Father of the Camaro,” Gibb made a huge commitment and placed an order for 50 Camaros with the 9560 COPO (Central Office Production Order) option. This met the minimum requirement from NHRA to factor these (barely) street legal terrors as productions cars, thus legal for NHRA Super Stock racing.
With a whopping option price of $4,160.50 added to the base price of $2,727 for a V8 model, Gibb found himself in quite a predicament, ending with an agreement to send back 37 of the 50 $7,000+ ZL1 Camaro’s, something GM had never allowed. Of the 13 that Gibb kept, it would be mid 1972 before the last new ZL1 Camaro would leave the Gibb dealership. A mere 69 were produced, and many languished on dealer lots literally, for years.
One of the ZL1’s was sold to a local racer, Ken Barnhart, who had his eyes set on putting Grumpy Jenkins on the trailer. After interrogation from Fred Gibb, ZL1 #16, with an M21 four-speed, was sold to Barnhart. He immediately took it to the track, establishing records and yes…eventually putting Mr. Jenkins on the trailer. This car, still owned and raced by Barnhart, will be the centerpiece of an incredible gathering of ZL1 Camaros for the 2011 FNBNY Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals show, Nov. 19-20.
In addition to this remarkable car, at least one example of all eight of the available color ZL1’s will be on display. This includes several that will be shown, freshly restored for the very first time, and several from very prominent collections that are rarely shown.
“We are thrilled to be able to host a gathering of this magnitude,” stated MCACN managing member Bob Ashton. “In 2010, we showcased four ZL1 Camaros, and that was quite a sight to see. Having upwards of a dozen of them under one roof is nothing short of amazing, and once again, shows our commitment to continually raising the bar.” These ZL1’s will join other Chevrolet COPO cars, including Helen (Mrs. Fred) Gibbs own #50 of 50 Gibb Nova, and various examples of prime COPO Chevelles and Camaros.
The First National Bank of New York Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals is an all makes indoor show that provides the ultimate gathering place for enthusiasts, young and old, who have a passion for horsepower. For more information visit www.mcacn.com, email email@example.com, or call (586) 549-5291.
Like Camaros? Check out Camaro and Firebird: GM’s Power Twins