Following the horrific crash at LeMans in 1955 that killed French racing driver Pierre Levegh, 83 spectators, and injured more than 180 others, the Automobile Manufacturers of America signed an agreement in 1957 stipulating they would no longer engage in nor support competitive motor sports. Then all of the American auto producers promptly went about supplying privateer racers with cars, parts, and support. The old saying, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” had been coined out of truth. In 1963, GM brass would strongly reiterate its ban on racing efforts, and engineers would continue finding ways to go racing “unofficially.” This would be made absolutely clear with the introduction of the 1967 Chevy Camaro Z/28.
In 1966, Vince Piggins was an assistant staff engineer at Chevrolet in charge of product promotion. In the early 1950s, Piggins had spearheaded the NASCAR championship-winning Hudson Hornets. When Chevrolet went stock car racing in the mid-1950s, Piggins was hired to oversee the effort. When Chevy Camaro production began in 1966, Piggins helped develop an option pack that would dominate its class in SCCA racing. In an August 17th, 1966 memo to GM Brass, Piggins detailed a plan that would produce a Camaro with “performance and handling characteristics superior to either Mustang or Barracuda.” Piggins wanted to call it the “Cheetah,” but the package would be known by its RPO designation of Z/28.
SCCA homologation rules dictated the Chevy Camaro Z/28 would have to have a back seat, making it a “sedan,” and a wheelbase no longer than 116 inches. Engine displacement had to be 305 cubic inches or less. The two closest engines in displacement were the Small Block 283 or 327. Wanting to take advantage of every possible cubic inch, Piggins put a 283 crank in a 327, yielding 302 cubes and 290 grossly underrated horsepower. In its review of the 1967 Chevy Camaro Z/28, Car and Driver magazine said, “The 290-horsepower figure quoted for the Z/28 engine seems ridiculously conservative.” C&D added, “It feels at least as strong as the 327, 350-horsepower engine offered in the Corvette.” It is rumored that Traco Engineering managed to get more than 500 ponies from a race-prepped 302 built for the Penske Trans-Am racing team.
The 1969 model year was the third and final for the first-generation Chevy Camaro. Production ran longer than the previous two years, stretching from September 26th, 1968 to February 26th, 1970, with 243,085 units leaving the factory. A number of aesthetic changes set the ’69 Camaro apart, with changes to the front fenders, rear quarters, rear panel, doors, header, and valance. Flattened wheel wells and a sharper grille gave the ’69 a more aggressive appearance. Instrument binnacles were more squared, but the console gauges soldiered on unchanged. Four-wheel disc brakes became an available option on all trim levels.
The Chevy Camaro Z/28 Special Performance package still came with high-revving 302 Small Block of previous years. Dual exhaust, heavy-duty radiator, special front and rear suspension, quick steering, a temperature-controlled fan, four-speed manual transmission, and front- or four-wheel disc brakes, were aesthetically complemented by raised white-letter tires wrapped around fifteen-inch Rally wheels, Z/28 emblems on the rear panel, fenders, grille, bumper guards, hood and rear deck stripes. A/C was not available.
Our feature 1969 Chevy Camaro Z/28 is finished in striking Hugger Orange with black stripes and black vinyl hardtop. It is powered by its original numbers-matching 302 Small Block topped by the correct 4053 DZ Holley carb. The distributor and alternator are also original to the car. It still has the factory smog system. The mouse motor is backed by the original Muncie M22 four-speed manual and twelve-bolt Positraction rear end. The Z/28 is equipped with power disc brakes, center console with gauges, factory tach, jack and spare. It rolls on factory Rally wheels shod in reproduction raised white-letter Goodyear Wide Tread GT Polyglas tires.
This highly original Chevy Camaro Z/28 will cross the Mecum Auctions block at their Las Vegas, Nevada event taking place November 10th through the 12th.