September 2012

1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

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The first of a total of 69 ZL1 Camaros, the Gibb-Harrell car was born of an idea hatched by racer Fred Gibb and Chevrolet Product Promotions Manager Vince Piggins in 1968. Both wanted to run Chevrolet’s new all-aluminum Can-Am 427 engine in NHRA Super Stock drag racing.

Rules required that Chevy build 50 examples for the car to qualify for competition. Gibb committed to taking the entire minimum order of 50 cars. Piggins then activated the COPO ordering process, specifying that COPO 9560 add an all-aluminum 427 engine, cold-air induction, Harrison 4-core radiator, transistorized ignition, multi-leaf rear springs and a heavy-duty 4.10 12-bolt rear end.

The first and second ZL1 Camaros arrived at Fred Gibb Chevrolet covered in snow on New Year’s Eve 1968. The first car was immediately sent to Dick Harrell’s Kansas City, MO, shop, where Harrell readied it for its scheduled debut at the 1969 AHRA Winternationals three weeks later at Phoenix. Piloted by Gibb Chevrolet employee Herb Fox, the car beat the two top qualifiers before losing in the semifinal to eventual winner Arlen Vanke’s Barracuda. The most alarming part of the day for the Mopar contingent came when Fox eliminated Mr. Four-Speed himself, Ronnie Sox, in the Sox & Martin Hemi Barracuda.

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Tom Glatch

Tom Glatch has been contributing stories and photographs to automotive publications since 1983. He is particularly interested in automotive design and history, as well as architecture, music, and computing. He has been assisted by his wife, Kelly, since they met in 1992. Though they live on the "Frozen Tundra" of Elm Grove, Wisconsin, with their two children, son Sean (15) and daughter Keara (19), the top is down on their 2006 Chrysler Sebring convertible from late March through October.