10 Things Gearheads Forgot About The Yenko Camaro

After serving in the Air Force and acquiring a Business Administration degree, Don Yenko moved back to Pennsylvania and set up a performance shop at the family-owned Yenko Chevrolet dealership. Don also took an interest in a racing career, building a resume of successes in Group A and B Production Class racing, SCCA Trans-Am racing, and a few drag events. But since he wanted a legacy beyond racing, Don Yenko borrowed a page from Carroll Shelby’s playbook and created a brand of race-engineered Chevrolets.

Related: These Are The 10 Coolest Yenko Camaros Ever Made

Don Yenko famously tuned Corvairs, Chevelles, and Novas, but he left an indelible mark on the auto industry through the Yenko Super Camaro. The Camaro debuted when GM had a 6.6-liter (400 ci) internal edict on intermediate and compact-bodied models, putting them at a distinct power disadvantage to the Ford Mustang, Dodge Dart, and Plymouth Barracuda. However, Don discovered a workaround and created a high-performance muscle car that earned loyal cult status. It has been over five decades since its debut, so read on to discover the ten things gearheads forgot about the Yenko Camaro.

10 Every Yenko Camaro Packed A 427 Short Block

Yenko Chevrolet started with L78-equipped SS Camaros, swapping the 396 for the 427 short blocks mounted directly to the stock engine mounts. The conversions utilized the original aluminum intake, big-port-and-valve 396 heads, and the same Holley four-barrel carburetors used on the Z/28 Camaro.

The Yenko Camaro was available with two transmissions; a Muncie M21 close-ratio four-speed manual or the Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 three-speed automatic. As a result, horsepower variations were 450hp and 410hp, respectively.

9 The Yenko Camaro Boasted Several Performance Add-Ons

Besides engine conversions, Yenko Chevrolet also fitted its Camaros with several performance upgrades. The options list included Posi-Traction rear diff with heat-treated gears, heavy-duty 4-core radiators, power brakes with front discs, heavy-duty clutch, high-capacity cooling systems, and suspension upgrades.

Related: We Can’t Stop Staring At These Awesomely Modified 2nd-Gen Camaros

Other upgrades included special spark traction plug wires, Traction Master bars, Stewart Warner tach, tuned headers, and instrument packages. In addition to the performance parts, the Yenko Camaro featured add-ons like a scatter shield, N34 teakwood steering wheel, spoilers, and a lightweight fiberglass hood. The latter was a double scoop style for ’67, a Corvette “stinger” style for ’68 and a cowl induction style for ’69.

8th Yenko Camaro’s Distinctively Feature SYC Graphics And Badging

Yenko Chevrolet rounded out the visual package with distinctive stripes and badging on specific parts all-around. On the ’69 Yenko Camaro, a graphics package comprising large stripes and sYc lettering complemented the hood, while special 427 emblems characterized both sides of the hood bulge and the tail lamp panel.

On those ’69s, there are also side stripes that run nearly the length of the car. A Yenko SC decal dominates the top of the fan shroud, while the interior boasts sYc letters on the headrests.

7 Don Yenko Took Advantage Of The COPO System

After great success with the 1967 Camaro, Don Yenko convinced Chevrolet to create unique internal production numbers under the Central Office Production Order Code. Yenko ordered the 1968 Camaros with different COPO codes, which saw them arrive with a larger front sway bay, 140mph speedometer, and special trim tags.

Relying on his strong relationship with Chevrolet marketing manager Vince Piggins, Yenko found a workaround with the COPO system that saw Chevrolet build a limited run of L72 427-equipped Camaros from the factory assembly lines. The orders included a bigger front sway bar, 4.10 Positraction rear end, power disc brakes, cowl-induction hood, spoilers, and 4-core radiators.

6 Yenko Chevrolet Sold Over 300 Yenko Camaro Units

In 1967, computers did not exist, meaning pen and paper were the only available form of record keeping. Although there is no accurate record of how many ’67 Yenko Camaros were made, Yenko Chevrolet mechanic Warren Dernoshek confirmed that he only had the complete record for 53 of them.

Related: Here’s What Makes The COPO Camaro So Awesome

Dernoshek also intimated that all ’68 models were tagged before leaving the shop, with dealer records indicating that Yenko built 64 cars that year. Since Chevrolet was heavily involved in building the 1969 Yenko Camaro, production records revealed 201 units, 171 with manual transmissions and 30 with automatic.

5 Jack Douglass Chevrolet Sold Some Yenko Camaros

Although Chevrolet records show that 201 Yenko Camaro units left the assembly lines in 1969, 25 cars went to the Jack Douglass Chevrolet dealership in Chicago. Jack Douglass Chevrolet struck a deal with Yenko Camaro to add several modifications to these muscle cars and sell them as Douglass-Yenko Camaros under license from Yenko.

The Douglass-Yenko Camaros were available with the X11 Style Trim, which included simulated wood-grain interior trims, dash-mounted passenger grab handle, Soft Ray-tinted glass, polished stainless wheel arch, drip rail, and side louver trim. They also featured Jack Douglass Chevrolet stickers, front and rear-mounted Blue Bowtie badges, and optional RPO VE3 Special Body Color front bumpers.

4 The Yenko Camaro Got Choked By Regulations

The 1960s muscle car era saw American automakers engage in a glorious horsepower, allowing enthusiasts to own impressive cars with loads of power and acres of styling at reasonable prices. Unfortunately for the Yenko Camaro, the government launched a beatdown of muscle cars just as it began to ramp up production numbers.

Heavy government regulations such as the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Corporate Average Fuel Economy Regulations severely affected any plans for high-performance supremacy. As if that was not enough, skyrocketing insurance costs added more nails to the muscle car era coffin.

3 A Yenko Camaro Prototype Debuted At SEMA 2009

The famous Yenko nameplate reappeared with the introduction of a Yenko Camaro Prototype at SEMA 2009. Based on a 2010 Camaro SS, the Yenko Camaro Phase I concept featured a 600hp supercharged and intercooled V-8 paired to a Tremec six-speed manual with Hurst short -throw shifter.

Related: The Real Story Behind Gas Monkey Garage’s SEMA 1972 Buick Riviera

Designers included throwback stripes, vintage-styled billet-aluminum wheels, Yenko Super Car logos, and badges honoring the legends of the ’60s. The leather interior featured sYc headrest embroidery and YENKO/SC emblems on the door sills and floor mats.

2 The Yenko Camaro Got Resurrected In 2015

May 14, 2015, was proclaimed ‘Yenko Day’ as the first production Yenko/SC Camaro signaled the revival of the iconic Yenko Camaro. Special Vehicle Engineering, licensed by General Marketing Capital Inc., offered Yenko fans an opportunity to make history while at the same time honoring the Yenko legacy.

The 2015 model was based on the 2015 ZL1 Camaro, boasting a cold-air-fed 700hp supercharged LS7 V-8 engine under the hood. Additional features included YENKO/SC graphics, Yenko stripes, Yenko emblems, 427 badges, and numbered Yenko underhood and dash plaques. The SVE Yenko/SC Camaro is available in 2022 in either Stage I or Stage II trim levels.

1 The Yenko Camaro Is A Highly Coveted Muscle Car

The Yenko Camaro is arguably one of the rarest muscle cars from the 1960s, making it a highly coveted collectible with undeniable cult status. A lucky enthusiast bought a restored, and mostly spotless Daytona Yellow 1969 Yenko Camaro at Mecum Kissimmee 2022 for a whopping $368,500.

Hemmings featured one of the 64 1968 Yenko Camaros in 2017, a well-maintained example that sold for a then record-setting $600,000. In 2022, a Fathom Blue 1967 Yenko Super Camaro crossed the block for a jaw-dropping $632,500 at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction to become the most expensive Yenko Camaro ever sold at auction.

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