NOTE: We first featured this car on August 31, 2020, but we love it so much, we couldn’t resist giving it some more time in the limelight when it recently popped up for sale again.
Thanks to Canonsburg, Pennsylvania Chevy dealer Don Yenko - one of America’s premier road racers - the COPO Camaro, Chevelle, and Nova were produced and sold at the height of the American Supercar era. Using Chevrolet’s COPO (Central Office Production Order) system normally utilized for large-scale commercial, police, and taxi fleet orders since the post-WWII years, Yenko and a number of other performance minded Chevrolet dealers were able to circumvent General Motors’ self-enforced racing ban dating back to 1963, as well as its silly corporate policy forbidding the factory installation of engines larger than 400 cubic inches in its wildly popular intermediate models and F-Body Camaro/Firebird pony cars. Vince Piggins, Chevrolet’s head of Product Promotion Engineering, was instrumental in the use of GM’s COPO system with dealers closely associated with the factory, which was unsurprising given his past at Hudson where he helped supply a huge array of heavy duty parts and components to the then dominant Hudson Hornet racing teams in AAA and NASCAR competition.
Suitably equipped with Chevrolet’s wicked L72 iron block/head Mark IV V8 engine or the lightweight all-aluminum ZL-1 mill spearheaded by Fred Gibb Chevrolet in La Harpe, Illinois, Chevrolet stalwarts including Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins took the fight to Chrysler and Ford on the dragstrip and went on to reclaim Chevrolet’s honor in high-profile NHRA Super Stock action during 1969 and 1970, with awesome wheel standing launches and class winning accomplishments. Other Chevy performance dealers got in on the action too, including Long Island’s Baldwin Chevrolet and its next-door neighbor, Motion Performance, plus Detroit’s Berger Chevrolet, Chicago’s Nickey Chevrolet, and many more. In all 1,015 COPO 9561 iron-motor 427ci cars were produced, including 201 ordered by Yenko Chevrolet. All surviving examples of these factory-built supercars continue to rank firmly at the top of the late-1960s muscle car ladder.
Our subject is one of those few legends, being an early COPO 9561 example built in December 1968 and believed to be 1 of just 7 such cars built at GM’s Los Angeles assembly plant in Van Nuys, California. According to paperwork from the original selling dealer, Courtesy Chevrolet in Phoenix, Arizona, this COPO Camaro was the very first produced under the COPO 9561 batch and it was at the dealer when legendary Chevy drag racer Dick “Mr. Chevrolet” Harrell was on hand to celebrate the car’s sale to its first owner in January 1969. More recently, this high specification Camaro was restored and then purchased in 2007 by WWE wrestler and noted car collector John Cena. As offered, this matching numbers iron 427 COPO 9561 example features awesome factory specified Red/Red colors and retains the hardcore, VIN-stamped Muncie M22 “Rock Crusher” 4-speed manual transmission. Other features include the rare optional Chambered Exhaust delivering a positively unholy exhaust note to go with the mechanical music of the Camaro’s solid-lifter valvetrain. Documents include the original and all-important GM-issued Protect-O-Plate and warranty booklet.
As expected, the flashier Yenko Chevrolet-tweaked “SYC” Camaro carries a substantial price bump over a somewhat plainer ’69 COPO Camaro, however, we dig the purity of this car, which is a rarity in itself with its all-Red livery and more businesslike demeanor. According to Hagerty’s optimistic current price data, the 427ci/425hp 1969 COPO 9561 Camaro should bring $84,300 in #4 driver shape, $114k in good #3 condition, $140k in #2 excellent form, and $200k in full #1 concours-worthy glory. Real world auction and straight sales are few and far between for the past year or so, complicating meaningful comparisons a bit. While the restoration is now a bit on the older side, the Camaro looks great and well-preserved with the hard work already done. Sporting excellent colors, the hardcore M22 4-speed manual transmission, chambered exhaust, and the Protect-O-Plate, it represents a lot of quality and a lot of value at the asking price, leading us to call this one fair market.