Photos & text courtesy of Mecum Auctions
It looks rather unassuming at first glance, but this 1968 Camaro has a fascinating history that begins with the fact that it is one of 64 modified by Don Yenko in 1968. Significantly, it is one of the first group of 20 cars, as documented in a June 5, 1968 memo from Donna Mae Mims of Yenko Chevrolet to Vince Piggins. These first 20 cars were built without the COPO 9737 designation that included heavier-duty cooling systems, suspension and brake upgrades.
Sold new through Branine Chevrolet in Mulvane, Kansas, it was originally purchased by one Miles Pleasant. In 1970 it was sold to drag racer and Memphis Rodders club member A.J. Lancaster, who then prepared it for competition in the NHRA’s new Pro Stock class. A period photo of the car shows that it deceptively displayed “396 Cu. In.” lettering on the front fenders, causing more than one competitor to wonder why they could never catch it. What they did not know was that Lancaster had removed and stored the Yenko engine and replaced it with a specially built dual tunnel-ram 427 CI unit for competition. Lancaster showed great foresight in also removing and storing the original interior components for posterity. He also left the original body essentially stock, making the car’s restoration a relatively straightforward affair. That task was taken up by its present owner, Dr. Vance Shappley, who after acquiring it in 1991 refinished the car in its original Sequoia Green and reassembled it to its original configuration.
It is once again as ordered with a Muncie M21 4-speed manual transmission, 3.73 Positraction rear end, Black Z23 Special Interior Group, AM push-button radio and Redline tires. It retains the dash-mounted tachometer Stewart-Warner tachometer and original 427 CI engine installed by Yenko, which has been freshly detailed. This is among the most significant Yenkos today, having acquired a documented racing pedigree. Adding to its rarity is the fact that it accumulated most of its 1,304 miles a quarter mile at a time, making it one of the lowest mileage Yenko Camaros in existence. The car’s documentation includes the original Tennessee historic title, notes of a conversation between Dr. Shappley and noted Yenko historian Vince Emme and the aforementioned period photograph of the late A.J. Lancaster at the wheel of the car in Pro Stock configuration at Lakeland International Raceway in Lakeland, Tennessee.