The Yenko S.C. By Tory DiBlasi
I had the privilege to photograph this extremely rare 1968 Yenko Super Camaro at the Good Guys Show held in Rhinebeck, New York in June of 2017. This is Yenko Super Camaro Registry Number 8015. I also had the honor to talk with the original owners, Carol and George Edwards at the show. We talked even more at the Chevrolet Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania later in the month. They were both very excited to tell me the history of their very special Camaro. You could see the gleam of youth in their eyes when they spoke about buying the Yenko Camaro new. It was like they were turning back the clock and taking a drive down Memory Lane. This is a high level restoration of a very special car. What made this experience unique to me is the historical significance of this Yenko Camaro to Camaro enthusiasts and even more importantly, the personal connection to Carol and George. I can relate to this because I own a 1968 Camaro that my Grandfather bought new for my Dad when he came home from Vietnam. My Camaro has been in the family since January 8, 1968 and it never left. Well, enough about my Camaro. I will write about that in a future article.
Carol and George’s 1968 Yenko was purchased new from Roy Stauffer’s Chevrolet in Scranton, Pennsylvania in June 1968. This particular Camaro is equipped with the Close Ratio M-21 Muncie Manual 4 Speed Transmission. Carol and George were married on July 6, 1968, and drove their Yenko Camaro from Scranton to Niagara Falls on their honeymoon. On the way back from Niagara Falls, Carol and George visited the Jersey Shore and made a pit stop at Cecil County Dragway. George recalled beating everything that pulled alongside of him including Hemi Cars, Big Block Corvettes, and GTOs.
This Camaro was raced on the weekends and driven to the grocery store on Mondays. The Camaro did double duty as a weekend drag car and as a daily driver. When the family grew, a 1970 Chevelle became the family car and the Camaro was only raced. In 1972, the Camaro was sold to a local car enthusiast. George would check in on his very unique “Green Machine” Yenko Camaro once in a while. George eventually convinced the owner to sell the Camaro back to him. The Yenko Camaro came “home to where it belongs” in 2005.
However, the Yenko Camaro was worn out and needed a complete restoration. The rear quarter panels and fenders were replaced with Genuine General Motors New Old Stock (NOS) panels. Arone Auto Body in Homer, Pennsylvania, did an amazing job with the metal work. Gaps, lines and fitment are on point. They applied the Rallye Green paint once the body was perfect. After the Camaro was painted, it was taken to Supercar Workshop in Latrobe, Pennsylvania for final assembly. The meticulous restoration took 2 ½ years.
Now let’s go back in history and discuss the original concept for this very special car. Don Yenko started building Yenko Super Camaros at his Yenko Chevrolet Dealership in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania under the name Yenko Sports Cars. The dealership was open from 1949 – 1982. Starting with the 1967 model, Don Yenko ordered some very special L-78 Camaro Super Sports that were manufactured at the Norwood, Ohio Assembly Plant. The COPO 9737 Sports Car Conversion Option was ordered on these cars. This option included a 140 mph speedometer, larger carburetor, and heavy duty suspension. The heavy duty suspension included heavy duty front springs, multi leaf rear springs, matching shock absorbers and a massive 1 1/8’ sway bar to prevent body roll and improve handling. This is crucial, because you need the ability to harness all this power. Front disc brakes was another factory option added to the cars. This was important, since the Super Camaro accelerated from 0-60 in just 5.4 seconds. These special ordered Camaros were modified into Yenko Super Camaros.
The L-78 was the top of the line 396 with a solid cam and lifter set. A Chevrolet Corvette L-72 427 short block was used to replace the L-78 396 short block. A short block is the engine block, crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons and camshaft. The L-78 396 and L-72 427 shared the same solid camshaft and lifter set. The 396 L-78 cylinder heads, part number 3919840, were removed from the L-78 and installed on the L-72. The rectangular port, closed chamber cylinder heads were cast with massive ports and were assembled with the larger 2.19 intake and 1.88 exhaust valves. The closed chamber cylinders had smaller combustion chambers which increased compression ratio. The L-78 aluminum intake and Holley 4 Barrel Carburetor were used on the Yenko Super Camaro. When the conversion was complete, Don Yenko had a brand new L-78 short block in stock to re-sell.
The Yenko Super Camaro was available with very strong transmissions. The Muncie M-21 Close Ratio Four Speed was the manual option and the Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 was the automatic option. These became iconic transmissions. They were tested over time and known for their durability, longevity, and superior performance. Horsepower ratings were 450 for the M-21 and 410 for the Turbo 400. The Saginaw 12 Bolt with a cast iron center and steel axle tubes was the rear differential used. All were equipped with an Eaton Posi Unit. The standard differential ratio was 3.73:1 for the 4 speed and 3.31:1 for the automatic. Other ratios were optional. Available choices were 3.55:1, 4.10:1, 4.56:1 and 4.88:1. These ratios were available from the factory or swapped at Yenko to tailor each build for their customers. The subject car has the factory QD Coded 12 Bolt with an Eaton Posi and 4.10:1 Ring and Pinion.
Instrumentation was upgraded with a Stewart Warner Tachometer and Auxiliary Gauges. Traction bars, headers and unique Yenko 427 badging was added to the conversions. Yenko emblems were added to the front fenders, rear body panel and front grille. The 427 emblems were added to the front fenders and rear body panel. A popular option was the L88 clutch used in the Corvette. Firestone Wide Ovals and Pontiac Rally II 14x7 Rims with special Yenko center caps were part of the package.
Out of the 64 1968 Yenko Camaros built, only 11 were equipped with the Rally Sport option which featured Hide Away Headlights, Rear Backup Lights relocated to under the rear bumper, and deluxe Rally Sport Moldings. Yenko also installed a very unique twin scoop fiberglass hood that was pinned to the radiator support. No other Camaros featured any of these options making them the leaders in the muscle car world.
The Regular Production Order (RPO) codes that Don Yenko used for his Super Camaros were the foundation for the COPO 9650 and 9651 for the 1969 Factory 427 Camaro that was authorized by Chevrolet Product Manager, Vince Piggins. This was a loophole around GM’s performance limits placed on Chevrolet. GM forbade the installation of any engine larger than 400 cubic inches in any non Corvette Chevrolet vehicle that was smaller than the full size cars. Don Yenko was a pioneer who changed the Super Car market with his foresight and ingenuity. No wonder Carol and George enjoyed the power and performance of this vehicle at the time, and now they marvel at its unique and iconic status today.