Tonawanda, New York is home of the big-block Chevrolet, that hallowed piece of iron (and, in some cases, aluminum) that has powered Chevys since 1965. Some big-blocks were regular stump-pullers, like the first-year 396/325, but there also was the race-inspired ZL1 427 from 1969 that cost more than the car that it came in. Judging by this ZL1 bare block on eBay, it still holds true.
The ZL1 was basically an aluminum version of the L88, itself a 430-horse (on paper) racing motor in street clothing. Chevrolet never really meant for them to be driven on the street (no radio or heater) but they were equipped with regular exhaust manifolds that were supposed to be replaced by headers by the owner. As equipped, they’re rumored to put out 560 gross horsepower.
Interestingly, Chevrolet offered one engine with a higher horsepower rating − the L71 with 435 horses − but it wasn’t more powerful than the L88/ZL1 duo. Rumor passed along over the years was that the L88/ZL1 were purposely rated less than the L71 so people would not indiscriminately think, “Oh, I want the most powerful Corvette!” and then get stuck with a car that was not comfortable going to Woolworth’s.
So you can imagine a bare ZL1 block could serve as a nice conversation piece in your living room. Or, for the die-hard masochist, it could be used to build an extra-special 427 racer. But this one has Yenko engraved on it, aka Yenko Chevrolet, the hi-po dealership outside of Pittsburgh that launched a couple hundred dealer-modded cars over the years, from Corvairs to Camaros, Novas to Vegas. Seller claims Don Yenko cast them at Tonawanda with the engineering staff as a joint project in 1972-74, tweaked them with several improvements, then installed them in cars at owners’ requests. This one was never built. Seller wants $23,140, which is a little less than the cost of a brand-new Camaro, but add all the other special items that make a ZL1 a ZL1 and it might feel like 1969 all over again.