May
18
1969 Yenko Camaro, 1960s Camaros

Among the “Camaro Museum” exhibits that Chevrolet gathered for the unveiling of the upcoming 6th-generation model was one of the 1969 Yenko Camaros that Pennsylvania racer and Chevy dealer Don Yenko sold with a thumping 427-cid V8 under the hood.

When Chevrolet unveiled the 2016 Camaro in Detroit on May 16, it did more than just call the automotive media in for a look-see and a bite to eat. Instead, it staged a mini celebration of its long-lived “ponycar.”

Chevrolet also invited Camaro enthusiasts from the U.S. and Canada to the reveal of the 6th-generation car. They turned up with more than 300 Camaros of all vintages, examples of everything from loving restorations to hypermodified cars with wild paint jobs and pumped-up performance. Participants started their day on the city’s Belle Isle Park by parading on the racing circuit laid out for the IndyCar-series Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix before setting up a show of row upon row of Camaros. (Those who craved a little more excitement signed up for high-volume hot-lap ride-alongs with professional drivers wheeling 2015 Z28s.)

In a further salute to the car’s history, Chevy put together a “Camaro Museum” stocked with significant vehicles from throughout the nameplate’s years on the market.

Of course, the Camaro story started with the 1967 model year as Chevrolet’s answer to the Ford Mustang and Plymouth Barracuda, and it kept the same basic form through 1969 before ushering in an all-new design. Following is a gallery of some of the 1st-generation cars seen at the event, beginning appropriately enough with Camaro number 1.

Power Play: Camaro Engines Through The Years

 

Prototype 1966 Camaro

The first of 49 hand-built pilot models from mid 1966 starred in Camaro’s public introduction and promotional films. It was sold, turned into a drag car in the 1980s, and eventually restored to its original 6-cylinder form.

 

Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins Super Stock Camaro

Legendary drag racer Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins won the 1967 NHRA Super Stock national championship with this car powered by a 396-cid V8.

 

Penske/Donohue SCCA Camaro

The interior of one of the Roger Penske-backed Camaros that carried road racer Mark Donohue to numerous victories in the SCCA Trans-Am series in 1967-68. The cockpit remains substantially as it was in Donohue’s day.

 

1968 Z28 Convertible

A one-off 1968 Z28 convertible. The car was specially built for Pete Estes, Chevy’s general manager at the time, and previewed the cowl-induction hood that came in for the ’69s.

 

1969 COPO ZL1 Camaro

In 1969, it took the blessing of the division’s central office to allow for the aluminum ZL1 427-cid V8 to be dropped into a Camaro. This is the 66th of 69 “COPO” ZL1 Camaros made that year.

Test Drive: Chevrolet Camaro 1LE V6

 

Many of the invited owners who came to the event made a good showing of late-’60s Camaros, too.

1967 Camaro Rally Sport with Hidden Headlamps

A 1967 convertible with the hidden-headlight Rally Sport option.

 

1967 327-inch V8

The popular 327-cid “small-block” V8 from another ’67.

 

1968 Camaro Convertible

Extra-cost nose stripes dressed up many early examples like this 1968 convertible.

1969 Z/28 with 302-inch V8

A 1969 Z/28 with its special 302-cid V8, a car that owed its existence to the Trans-Am racing series.

Chevrolet Camaro Z/28: A History in Photographs

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