Photos & text courtesy of Mecum Auctions
Even back in the day, few people understood that Chevrolet had built quantities of L72 427/425 HP-powered Camaros (and Chevelles) during the 1969 model year. That was because this availability was not among the regular production options listed in factory paperwork. Rather, Vince Piggins, who was in charge of Production Promotions for the company, had pulled some strings to use a Central Office Production Order (COPO) code to get these installs done on the assembly line. In the summer of 1968, Don Yenko, a dealership owner and noted road racer from Pennsylvania, had convinced Piggins to make this happen for the 1969 model year, as Yenko had previously used the COPO process in both his Stinger Corvair program in 1966 and for special sports equipment on his dealership-converted 427 CI Yenko Super Camaros. Piggins had also recently pushed through a special batch of L78 396/automatic Novas in 1968 for dealer Fred Gibb of Illinois, whose focus was more on drag racing. Gibb now wanted the aluminum ZL1 427 CI engine installed in a batch of drag-racing cars for 1969, and Piggins used COPO 9560 for this. With that, COPO 9561 for the iron-block L72 was a simple step forward. What may not have been as easily justified had corporate caught flak for it, was that most of Yenko’s cars were street cars, not stripped-down drag racers, and the COPO code also deleted all the SS dress-up trim on the big-block body. At the same time, Piggins could not make this engine possibility exclusive to these dealers. He didn’t; you simply had to know either the right person to call or the right codes to fill in. Most buyers, dealers included, did not.
So here is a unique and very desirable example of the process—a non-Yenko, double-COPO package Camaro. While the aforementioned COPO 9561 code meant the L72 427/425 HP and associated driveline/body changes were done, COPO 9737 Sports Car Conversion was considered to be done especially for Yenko to dress up his packages. Its biggest visual benefit was the 140-MPH speedometer. This was actually the same code the dealership had used for 1968 when they had swapped new 427 CI short-blocks in standard big-block Camaros, but COPO 9737 could be ordered by anyone who filled in the right spaces on the paperwork. Moreover, this special car also benefits from the Z21 Bright Exterior Trim option, as well as the extra-cost 15x7-inch YH Rally Wheels with Goodyear Wide Track GT white-letter tires.
This Hugger Orange beauty comes with provenance—it is Camaro Hi-Performance documented, has an NCRS shipping verification and is listed in the SYC Supercar Registry. Beautifully refinished thanks to a rotisserie restoration by Mike Angelo of North Canton, Ohio, this is a COPO 9561 BA to be exact, as the correctly date-coded MN-suffix L72 427/425 HP big block V-8 engine is backed by the M21 close-ratio 4-speed transmission with Hurst shifter. Like all COPO packages, a 12-bolt differential is in back, with a 4.10:1 Positraction BE-coded rear end. Typically removed to help the L72 breathe, the rarely-seen-today smog equipment is present and accounted for. The interior is standard Black and accented by a Black vinyl top, but the execution is spectacular. Not surprisingly, this 1969 COPO Camaro was featured in the showcase display at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals in 2014 and scored 998 of 1,000 points to earn the Concours Gold Award in addition to taking home the Judge’s Choice Platinum Best Stock Chevrolet Award.