Much has been written about this Yenko. Super Chevy Magazine called this car, YS-739, "one of the rarest and most valuable Yenko Super Camaros in existence." The car is published in 11 other nationally circulated magazines; most recently featured in the book "Camaro" by David Newhardt, released January 2013.
According to Don Yenko's wife, Hope, "Carroll Shelby was on person Don really looked up to. In fact, Don wanted to become the Carroll Shelby of General Motors products." Carroll had first approached Chevrolet about building a special edition Corvette in the early 1950's, but he just didn't speak their language. Don had witnessed the success with the Shelby Cobra and the Shelby GT350 Mustang. Learning of the upcoming big block powered '67 Shelby GT500, Don figured he could do the same, albiet on a smaller scale.
'67 Yenko and the '67 Shelby GT500 share some significant parallels. Both were upfitted by the tuner with performance engines not normally available on the model. Each was hand converted and race prepped by racing legends. While Mustang was on its first refresh, Camaro was an entirely new model in 1967. Don Yenko had already been tuning street cars and begun racing 427 powered Corvettes by 1967. He enlisted the help of "Mr. Chevrolet" himself, Dick Harrell, to convert the first 20 or so 396 equipped Camaros into Corvette 427 powered fire-breathing "Super Camaro 450's". Don would collect an order from his network of authorized Chevy dealerships. This one ordered through Burt Chevrolet in Englewood, CO. Don would then order all the parts neccessary for the upfit through his own dealership and have them sent to the Dick Harrell Speed Shop for installation.
Before the speed shop got their hands on it, this Camaro started life as an "SS " packaged, 396/375hp (4K- code), 4spd Muncie M21, 12 bolt posi (4.10), Butternut Yellow, Black standard interior.
The Harrell paperwork shows the labor for converting the car to a 450 Super Camaro installing: L72 427c.i. engine assembly, Stewart Warner gauges, M/T headers, R/C bell housing, Autolite spark plug wires, and the Traction Master Traction bars. So, if the car was a 427 Corvette powered pony car, why was it called the "Super Camaro 450"? Well, 450's were manual shift cars (automatics received the "410" moniker) to denoting the NHRA horsepower rating for each model. Actual horsepower was on the order of 500+ horsepower.
Like the early rear trunk battery '65 Shelby GT350's, the early Yenko Camaros were setup by professional racers for the general public to go racing right out of the box. Dick Harrell spent the 1960's taking the NHRA & AHRA by storm, not just as a driver, but aslo as mechanic and crew chief. In early 1967 when you bought a Yenko Super Camaro 450, you were getting "Mr. Chevrolet" as your personal mechanic. Imagine if Jimi Hendrix designed a guitar for you and Leo Fender built it. What could beat that?
Changes in 1968 production moved exclusively to Yenko's dealerships. In many ways, '68 was a simplified product, a cost cutting effort much the same as the AO Smith built '68 Shelby GT500 was as compared to the '67 handbuilt in California by Shelby American. Yenko would order L78 396 equipped cars, then the dealership would simply substitute the 396 for the 427 short block, swapingover the original heads, intake manifold, carb, and accessories. Harrell was no longer part of the organization and dealershp mechnics were paid $140 for each conversion, working as quickly as possible to complete one per day. In addition to the Corvette L72 Motor, also gone for '68 was the fiberglass "stinger" hood.
Don Yenko was not as mindful of branding as Carroll Shelby was. For 1967 he did incorporate Corvette styling into the Super Camaro with a specially made fiberglass "stinger" hood found on the 427 big block model along with the appropriate 427 fender callouts and a single "Yenko" sheild floating in the grill. A full compliment of Yenko badges, stripes and head rest decals wouldn't appear until 1969 when the Yenko S/C evolved intoa sticker package for the COPO. While 1969 was the styling nexus for Camaro, the '67 Super Camaro was the most historically signifcant Yenko. Hand built, race bred, and game changing, akin to the coveted '65 GT350R models. Not only did the '67's force GM to re-evaluate their engine offerings, it lead directly to the COPO program that lead to thousands of 427 poweredCamaros to compete on drag strips and the streets all across America. The Yenko S/C went from standing for "Super Camaro" to standing for an enlite class of American muscle, the "Super Car".
YS-739 was purchased by the owner in July 2008 and finished the restoration in June 2009. The work is photo documented, showing she still wears her original quarter panels, roof, and floor pans. NOS sheet metal used where replacement was needed. Any and all components are correct date coded with factory part numbers. The original paperwork documenting the car includes 2 copies of parts order from Yenko, labor invoice from Harrell, and invoice from Yenko selling the car to Burt Chevrolet, Englewood, CO; this is stapled to the yellow and pink Yenko work orders.
This restoration was completed to the highest standards, concours by any measure. Awards include:
• American Camaro Assoc. "Legends Certification"
• MCACN Day Two Concours "Diamond Award" 992-1000 pts.
• "Gold Spinner Concours" 998-1000 pts.
• Good Guys "Muscle Car of the Year Finalist" Kansas City Sept/2009 and Loveland, Co June/2010
• Super Chevy Show /Denver "Gold Class" and "Best Paint" both 2010 and 2011
The car has appeared in 11 different magazine issues and featured in April/2010 issue of "Muscle Car Enthusiast". The car also lends its legacy to David Newhardt's latest hardcover release, "Camaro" on the shelves since January 2013.
If that weren't enough, the car has been "Certified Original" by Larry Christensen, a well-known Camaro judge and restorer, with complete inspection report both before and after restoration. This car is extremely rare with very few, less than 20, known to exist. Of those only 4 are documented to be converted by Dick "Mr. Chevrolet" Harrell. Especially collectible with thedocumentation, restoration quality, and judging credentials this car has. This is one of the most well documented '67 Yenkos known; most others don't have the full complement of paperwork like this, let alone the judging pedigree.
There is no doubt that this Super Camaro has it all, impeccably restored, remarkably rare, and certainly iconic. So what did Carroll Shelby think of Don Yenko? Bob McClurg asked the man himself for his book 'Yenko', "Don Yenko was a damned good race car driver!...I admired Don Yenko...I always enjoyed sitting around and talking with him. It's really sad that the guy dies so early in life because he was sodarned talented."
Photography: Geoff Stunkard / quartermilestones.com?