In the late 1960s, the Camaro Z28 and SS were the go-to trims for top-shelf performance, or so most people thought. However, buried within GM’s Central Office Production Order catalog were all the ingredients needed to make a spicy road-going dish, the 1969 Camaro ZL1. With a monstrous engine derived from the legendary L88 Corvette and plenty of other enhancements, this Camaro encapsulated speed, power and thanks to its low production numbers, exclusivity.
On the outside, the Camaro ZL1, also known as COPO 9560, doesn’t look like much. In fact, it looks about as plain as any base Camaro of the time, despite using the SS 396 body as a starting point. There are no snazzy badges or special features that help it stand out, aside from the curiously large “power dome” on the hood. Inside, the ZL1 is equally Spartan; unlike the SS or Z28, its interior is devoid of any special trim.
The difference between the ZL1 and other Camaros lies underneath the hood. Under the “power dome” lurks a 427 cubic-inch “L88” eight-cylinder engine, conservatively rated at 430 horsepower yet capable of producing over 500 horsepower. Buyers could choose from several heavy-duty four-speed manual transmissions or a three-speed Turbo Hydra-matic, backed by a 4:10.1 positraction differential. Ordering the ZL1 through COPO meant getting around Chevrolet’s restrictions on offering engines larger than 400 cubic-inches.
The ZL1 was the brainchild of Chevy dealer Fred Gibb, who wanted a more powerful option for competition in NHRA drag racing. Gibb bought a mandatory minimum of 50 ZL1s, but the all-aluminum L88 represented a steep $4,160 premium, pushing the price of this powerful contender to an eye-watering $7,200. Nevertheless, 69 examples were built, with 50 being sold to Gibb’s dealership. Of those 50, Gibb managed to sell 13 while the remainder were bought back and resold at other Chevy dealerships.
In 1967 Chevrolet released their new Camaro, a baby brother to the already popular Chevy Corvette. As part of the first generation, this vehicle came off the production floor with a standard 3.8 L straight-6 engine, a Saginaw three speed manual transmission, and a GM body. Making their way to dealers across America, Camaros became popular and sold quickly. At the time Nickey Chevrolet of Chicago, owned by Jack and Ed Stephani, was one of the biggest and most successful Chevrolet dealers in the country. With their racing background and extensive knowledge of cars, it was only fitting that they convert the car to what is now known as the 1967 Chevrolet Nickey Camaro SS. Although the Camaro sold with performance upgrades, none was as outstanding as the Camaro created at Nickey Chevrolet.
With their racing experience and passion, Nickey transformed the Camaro and created a 427 big-block conversion through collaboration with the famous racer Bill Thomas from California. There are an estimated 14 1967 Nickey Camaro SSs that were built at the time with one becoming what is best known as the Stage III Nickey Camaro. This particular car received the all aluminum 427 ci L89 Tri-Power engine that was rated at 435 horse power. Also, it was the only Nickey Camaro to be built with the distinct color of Tahoe Turquoise. Featured in many magazines and ads, the 1967 Chevrolet Nickey Camaro SS is a muscle car that will forever live on as a legend in car history.
The RCR Series 3 Camaro was a joint venture between RCR and Total Performance Incorporated of Wìchita, Kansas. The “Intimidator” serial number 3 of the 5 which were produced and the only car of the series to carry the “Intimidator” name is equipped with the actual engine block and other engine components that powered Earnhardt and the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet Monte Carlo at several NASCAR tracks. The inspiration for RCR Series 3 Camaro came from the famous No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet race cars. Most significantly, the RCR Series 3 Camaro includes two engines, one of which is a Chevrolet SB2 block race engine built and tuned at RCR engine shop especially for this project. The other engine is an all-aluminum 427cid small block Chevy. RCR opted for Dynacorn’s beautiful body shells, licensed by GM. Beyond the body shell is an array of ZFX aircraft composite/carbon fiber body panels, including a special one-piece hood, other extreme pieces include special rocker panels, a front fascia with an integral spoiler, shaved drip rails and door locks, a rear rolled pan, custom bumpers and a NASCAR Car of Tomorrow (COT) rear wing.
Add to this flush mounted glass in back, a matching windshield with a custom logo and black Planet Color paint accented with red outlines around silver panels laid down by TPI. Other features include, Chassis Works G-Machine bolt-in frame clip with sub-frame connectors that tie to the mini-tubbed rear frame rails. This greatly improves rigidity to the unibody structure, allowing the triangulated 4-link, Hypercoil springs and Bilstein shocks to maintain the Chassis Works FAB 9 Direct Fit 9″ axle with Eaton Detroit’s Truetrac 3.55:1 gearing. Rear wheels are huge 18×12″ HRE competition wheels and BFGoodrich g-Force T/A’s, up front 18×10″ rims. As for braking, Baer’s Track System with PBR 2-piston calipers and 13×1.1″ rotors. A spectacular tribute to the Legend of Dale Earnhardt.