Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals - Camaro Time Warp
A collection of the rarest Camaros ever converge at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals in Rosemont, Illinois
From the May, 2012 issue of Camaro Performers
By Geoff Stunkard
Photography by The Author
ZL1 Camaros have not been in this sort of abundance since being built at Norwood in batches back in 1969. If you own one and weren’t here … well, sucks to be you, because this was the most important reunion of these cars ever put together. Leading the pack is ZL1 #1 once raced by Dick Harrell, now owned by Joe Zrostlik. And the ZL1 next to it is one that Ken Barnhart bought new, raced, and still owns today!
An idea of just what sort...
An idea of just what sort of thing shows up to the invitation-only MCACN event was this ’68. It was ordered new by Lud Renner (now of San Jose, California) back in 1968 from Baldwin Chevrolet in Long Island. With a Motion Performance-installed L88 Phase III package and raced on occasion, Lud still has it, and it’s unrestored. Mark Hassett owns the similar ’68 Phase III L88 beast behind it.
If you are a fan of super-rare Camaro muscle cars, you often need to search far and wide to view the truly spectacular: the COPOs, the ZL1s, the supercars, and the big-point restored models. However, if you got the memo, the place to be was the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois (just a few minutes from O’Hare Airport in Chicago), for the big MCACN (Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals) event. Held on the third weekend in November, this has become the most important show of the year for the blue jean millionaires of the car hobby, as well as enthusiasts who already know they will always be shocked by what shows up for the two-day temporary 500-plus car museum.
Long-time auto show administrator Bob Ashton is the show’s co-owner, developer, and manager, and he uses a vast network of personal connections and business resources to draw cars from collections nationwide, many of which are rarely, if ever, seen by the public. The show is held indoors on a Saturday and Sunday schedule and harkens back to the glory days of the large new car “auto show” events. Vehicles are creatively displayed in rings, in rows, in single displays, and in small groupings, interspersed with various restoration shops and businesses.
At the other end of this impressive...
At the other end of this impressive collection of Alcoa-engined iron was the result of “some things never change.” GM had the ’12 ZL1 Camaro on display as well.
So, while the focus is on all sorts of muscle cars—a row of Hemi ’Cuda convertibles, a circle of Shelby Cobras and Mustangs, a collection of GTO’s—the 2011 event played host to several groups and single Camaros. Most notable was not one, not 10, but 18 ZL1 Camaros found in the CARS1 Inc-sponsored row, ranging from the first ex-Dick Harrell drag car, now owned by Joe Zrostlik, to versions in every color that was available. Several were on public display for the first time in years, as were a second row of L72 COPO packages nearby.
Then there was the Baldwin-Motion Madness area filled with a variety of authenticated classic Chevrolets from the legendary New York dealership. One ’69 RS Camaro was still sticker-priced at just under 10K (though not for sale today at that amount!), while another was still in the original owner’s possession. Yenko and Nickey models were also on display.
Not everyone has a love affair...
Not everyone has a love affair with cubic inches. If you like your Camaro a little more corner-friendly, we would have to say taking Rich Gregory’s Z/28 would be the way to go. Mr. Gregory’s Daytona Yellow example has the RS package and many other options and was one of the most popular cars at the event.
It was not just first-gen cars, either. An area was set aside for a row of ’70 L78 big-blocks, while scattered around the huge confines of the building were various restorations, modifieds, drag cars, showstoppers, and more. With so much emphasis on the latest Camaros at SEMA this year, several show cars featuring the latest body designs were also on hand.
With final details still in the works for the 2012 show, we do know it will be held on November 17-18. And there’s no doubt it will be a great one, as Ashton and his crew have managed to surpass themselves supremely every season. We have heard some cool stuff will be on hand for the 45th anniversary of the ’67 Camaro. Having now witnessed it firsthand, we can definitely repeat those old race ads from the Chicago AM hit music great WLS… “Be There!”
Noted Sportsman drag racer...
Noted Sportsman drag racer Jeff Dickey of Missouri brought in what he termed was his “COPO daily driver.” This factory L72-powered car was repatriated from Sweden several years ago; it was in rough shape, and the dash was rotted out. However, since the original 427 engine, trans, and body were all intact, GM of Sweden verified it and installed a new, authorized VIN tag inside the door frame prior to its resale. It has been in Sweden since 1976. Due to a scarcity of replacement parts across the pond, many original COPO details remained intact on this car. Jeff admits that it is a lot of fun to have a COPO Camaro he can drive to shows if he wants to.
Perhaps Chevelle expert Chuck...
Perhaps Chevelle expert Chuck Hansen is out of his comfort zone as he examines details on the ’68 Yenko Camaro YS 8011. The car came out of the California desert some years ago. The visible TLC was done by Musclecar Restoration & Design in Pleasant Point, Illinois. The end result was stunning, and the display also portrays the auto show flavor of the event.
Surrounded by a couple of...
Surrounded by a couple of drag car tributes, Bill Jenkins had a line of autograph seekers and well-wishers at his table. When asked if he had seen the string of ZL1s resting close by, he was quick to inform this writer that the ’69 aluminum big-blocks, whether for the ZL1 or Can-Am programs, were “garbage” when it came to racing. When his group of well-poured ’67 aluminum examples were used up, Jenkins made due with some of the later 430 Can-Am engines but finished out the big-block Vega match racing years with a series of good iron blocks; they were from that same 1967-era Can-Am foundry work as well.
The base price on this green...
The base price on this green Camaro from Baldwin Chevrolet was $2,794; by the time Roberto Irigoyen of Mexico’s Chihuahua Province was done having Joel Rosen and the Motion team play with it (adding a full Phase III change plus many factory options), that number had ballooned to $9,330, complete with tow tabs, freewheeling hubs, and special paint. Irigoyen’s wife, the daughter of the province’s governor, was given his ’68 Motion Chevelle, but not until the young man had driven that black 427 beast back to Long Island to flat-tow his new Camaro home! At the 2011 MCACN event, the two (cars, that is) were united for the first time since their glory years, with the Camaro coming from Jim Lynch of Idaho and the Chevelle courtesy of Mark Murphy of Arizona.
This ’69 COPO was not in a...
This ’69 COPO was not in a row with the others; it was up in the car corral area being offered by Patrick Krook and the showyourauto.com vehicle brokerage firm. This is the only known example finished in Daytona Yellow with a white interior color combination. Authenticated by expert Jerry MacNeish, options on the GM of Canada machine include rarities like auxiliary gauges, console, spoiler package, and Rally wheels. We didn’t ask the price.
Second-gen fans were not forgotten,...
Second-gen fans were not forgotten, as this row of ’70 Camaros all share one thing in common: a high-compression L78 396 engine under the hood. Only about 600 were built—reportedly all four-speeds—and filled with some of the best performance hardware available off the assembly line at that time. The package disappeared forever with the ’71 model changes. John Stanton of Maine owns the first machine in the row.
Though scarce, COPO Camaros...
Though scarce, COPO Camaros came in many forms; most were bought to go fast on the dragstrip. These two show some non-1320 variety. The black street machine owned by Andy Meyers features a hood mural from back in the day. The one next to it is a well-optioned RS model. They’re documented.