Only 69 made.
Overshadowing these dealer modified Camaros was the factory Camaro ZL1. Specially designed to compete in the NHRA Super Stock drag classes, Chevrolet made it an option under the COPO system (code 9560). The cars began as SS396/375bhp Camaros with the F41 suspension.
Developed from a power unit used in Can-Am racing, the ZL-1 engine was built of cast aluminum to reduce overall weight by more than 100 pounds. Installed in just 69 Camaros, the optional engine added a staggering $4,160 to the $2,726 base price of the car and was available on special order only. This is one of two ZL-1s equipped with the COPO Yenko Sports Car Conversion, which included a front anti-sway bar, special wheels and a 140-mile per hour speedometer and other performance enhancements. With fewer than 24,000 miles on the odometer, this rare Camaro survives in unrestored condition. Price when new: $6,866. (from the collection of Dr. Greg Joseph and Family).
The SS trim and engine were deleted, and the 427 engine, cowl-induction hood, front disc brakes, a choice of heavy duty 4 speed transmissions or Turbo Hydra-matic, and a 4:10 posi axle were added. But instead of the regular iron-block and head L72 found in the dealer installed Camaros, the ZL1 sported aluminum heads and the first aluminum block ever made by Chevrolet. It shared the L88 aluminum head/iron block's engine rating of 430 bhp but made closer to 500 bhp -- making it probably the most powerful engine Chevrolet ever offered to the public. And the engine weighed just 500 pounds, the same as Chevy's 327 small block.
The car was blessed with a 5 year/50,000 mile warranty and was fully street legal. With factory exhausts and tires, it turned low 13s; with headers and slicks, it could turn 11.6s @ 122mph. This was the fastest car ever produced by Chevrolet. Performance had its price - $4,160 for the ZL1 engine alone pushing the price of the Camaro ZL1 to an unbelieveable $7,200 (about double the price for a SS396 Camaro).
Chevy needed to build 50 to qualify the car for racing, and in the end built 69 Camaros and 2 Corvettes with the ZL-1 engine. Their high price made them difficult to sell and at least 12 engines were removed and about 30 cars were returned back to Chevrolet.
It took until the early 1970s to sell them all. One can only wonder what they are worth today.
(COPO 9560) 427/430bhp: 0-60 in 5.3 sec, 1/4 mile in 13.16 sec @ 110 mph.
"Built by Dick Harrell" badge located in the glovebox. Denoting the Gibb-prepped and tuned by Dick Harrell who was known as "Mr. Chevrolet"
The original ZL1 Camaro was brainstormed by Chevy dealer Fred Gibbs. In 1969, Fred Gibb Chevrolet contacted the General Motors factory to produce the Camaro with the ZL1 all-aluminum 427 engine. The factory would agree to do it if Gibb placed a minumum order of 50 cars. Gibb initiated the order and this was the beginning of the COPO 9560 Camaro.
The first two ZL1 Camaros arrived at Gibb's dealership on a snowy evening in the last days of December 1968. The agreement GM made with Gibb was to have ZL1 cars available for sale prior to the end of 1968. The GM factory delivered as promised.
Unfortunately, Gibb had neglected to ask about the cost of these cars. The window sticker price was over $7,200. Needless to say, not many Camaro enthusiasts were eager to step up and pay a price that was almost twice the cost of the COPO 9561 cast iron 427. Due to this "sticker shock", negotiations transpired between Fred Gibb and the Chevrolet factory managers. It was agreed that Gibb could return most of the cars. It was the first time in history that the factory took back cars from a dealership. The unsold cars were re-invoiced at the factory and redistributed to other high-performance Chevrolet dealerships.
In addition to the original 50 ZL1 Camaros shipped to Gibb Chevrolet, an additional 19 ZL1's were ordered through the 1969 production year by various other high-performance Chevrolet dealerships. This ended the 1969 ZL1 Camaro production run at a total of 69 cars. Fred Gibb Chevrolet did manage to sell 13 of the original 50 that he ordered. (source: Kevin Suydam Collection)
2002 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 badge. #49 of 69 built (August, 2002).
Owner's manual for a 1969 Camaro, Chevelle and Nova.
Artwork of a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro. (source: Legacy Motors Automotive Art).
Restored engine from ZL1 #26. How much real power? Although rated at 430 horsepower by the old method, Chevrolet never released actual power figures for the as-installed production ZL-1 engine. Numbers were tossed around for years until Bill Porterfield decided to find out. Bill had acquired an original block from one of the cars and enough NOS parts to complete another engine. The engine was subjected to 5 levels of test. RPM was limited to 6750. The ZL-1 was a legitimate 500+ horsepower engine.