It all began with the awkward mid-engine powered Chevrolet Corvair Stinger in 1966. Don Yenko — whose father founded Yenko Chevrolet began selling performance upgrades (parts and service) for what had become known as the Yenko Stinger with a primary focus on SCCA road racing. The introduction of the Camaro, Chevelle, and Nova quickly caught the attention of the innovative hot-rodder and soon Canonsburg, Pennsylvania (home of Yenko Chevrolet) became the Mecca for Chevrolet driving enthusiasts from all walks of life. Eventually demand for the Yenko Camaro grew so strong that Chevrolet was cut in with the addition of its own “Central Office Production Order” (COPO) package. Today, Yenko and COPO Chevrolets are some of the most sought after among collectors because of their outstanding performance capabilities, as well as their paucity.
Known for its extraordinary performance prowess, the legendary Yenko Camaro came into existence in 1967 as the brain child of Don Yenko. The Camaro is probably the most popular and certainly the most widely recognized of the Yenko cars. The 1967 model Yenko Camaro was manufactured by Chevrolet, then transported to Yenko Chevrolet for a high-performance makeover. The Camaro, which began as a SS car with a 6.0-liter V8 and a 4.10:1 geared rear differential with heavy-duty suspension, was outfitted with an all aluminum 7.0-liter L-72 V8. The L-72 engine was used extensively in the Chevrolet Corvette and was conservatively rated at 450-horsepower. In 1967 Yenko replaced the factory hood with a fiberglass “Stinger” hood similar to the one used on the ’67 Big-Block ‘Vette.
Since Chevrolet did not offer the L-72 equipped Camaro, Yenkos were not allowed to race under provisions of the stock class. Chevrolet would later correct this error with the COPO cars.
When all was finished, Yenko had produced 107 of the 1967 Yenko Camaros.
For the 1968 model year Yenko replaced the “clunky” fiberglass hood with a more distinguished design. It featured two large scoops. Additionally, Yenko and 427 badges were added to the body sides and tail light plates. Seventy-1968 Chevy COPO cars (65 of which were upgraded by Yenko) were sold with upgraded suspension systems, a 140-mph speedometer, upgraded engine cooling, an all business black cockpit, improved brakes, and M-21 close ratio four-speed manual transmission. However, they did not list the 7.0-liter engine but chose to use the 6.0-liter again. This makes the 1968 model the rarest of the Yenko Camaros.
Yenko technicians began by removing the L78 6.0-liter engine and replacing it with the L72 7.0-liter short-block. The cylinder heads, aluminum intake, and carburetor were reinstalled on the L72 engine. A set of Pontiac Firebird 14 X 6 JA wheels were wrapped in wide oval red stripe tires and finished-off with a unique “Y” center caps and a full compliment of Stewart Warner liquid-filled gauges was added to the cockpit.
In 1969 Chevrolet began offering the COPC Camaro with the 7.0-liter engine but without the Yenko badging. Despite this fact, Yenko continued building the Yenko Camaro for 1969, turning out 198 units.
NOTE: In summary, Yenko built the Corvair from 1966 until 1969 and the Camaro from 1967 until 1969, then a single unimpressive unit in 1981 and a 2010 version with much more potential. The 2010 Yenko Camaro was dubbed “Stage 1”, indicating that two more stages may come into fruition in years to come. Yenko also modified the Chevrolet Chevelle, Chevrolet Nova, and the Chevrolet Vega.