The Yenko that Harrell BuiltPatrick Krook Posted on 2013-05-10
Super Chevy Magazine called this car, YS-739, "one of the rarest and most valuable Yenko Super Camaros in existence."
Much has been written about this Yenko. Super Chevy Magazine called this car, YS-739, "one of the rarest and most valuable Yenko Super Camaros in existence." The car is published in 11 other nationally circulated magazines; most recently featured in the book "Camaro" by David Newhardt, released January 2013. According to Don Yenko's wife, Hope, "Carroll Shelby was on person Don really looked up to. In fact, Don wanted to become the Carroll Shelby of General Motors products." Carroll had first approached Chevrolet about building a special edition Corvette in the early 1950's, but he just didn't speak their language. Don had witnessed the success with the Shelby Cobra and the Shelby GT350 Mustang. Learning of the upcoming big block powered '67 Shelby GT500, Don figured he could do the same, albeit on a smaller scale.
"Imagine if Jimi Hendrix designed a guitar for you and Leo Fender built it. What could beat that?"
'67 Yenko and the '67 Shelby GT500 share some significant parallels. Both were upfitted by the tuner with performance engines not normally available on the model. Each was hand converted and race prepped by racing legends. While Mustang was on its first refresh, Camaro was an entirely new model in 1967. Don Yenko had already been tuning street cars and begun racing 427 powered Corvettes by 1967. He enlisted the help of "Mr. Chevrolet" himself, Dick Harrell, to convert the first 20 or so 396 equipped Camaros into Corvette 427 powered fire-breathing "Super Camaro 450's". When Don received an order from western area of his network of authorized Chevy dealerships, he would then order all the parts necessary for the up fit through his own dealership and have them sent to the Dick Harrell Speed Shop for installation. This one was ordered through Burt Chevrolet in Englewood, CO.
Before the speed shop got their hands on it, this Camaro started life as an "SS " packaged, 396/375hp (4K- code), 4spd Muncie M21, 12 bolt posi (4.10), Butternut Yellow, Black standard interior. The Harrell paperwork shows the labor for converting the car to a 450 Super Camaro installing: L72 427c.i. engine assembly, Stewart Warner gauges, M/T headers, R/C bell housing, Autolite spark plug wires, and the Traction Master Traction bars. So, if the car was a 427 Corvette powered pony car, why was it called the "Super Camaro 450"? Well, 450's were manual shift cars (automatics received the "410" moniker) to denoting the NHRA horsepower rating for each model. Actual horsepower was on the order of 500+ horsepower.
Like the early rear trunk battery '65 Shelby GT350's, the early Yenko Camaros were setup by professional racers for the general public to go racing right out of the box. Dick Harrell spent the 1960's taking the NHRA & AHRA by storm, not just as a driver, but also as mechanic and crew chief. In early 1967 when you bought a Yenko Super Camaro 450, you were getting "Mr. Chevrolet" as your personal mechanic. Imagine if Jimi Hendrix designed a guitar for you and Leo Fender built it. What could beat that?
Changes in 1968 production moved exclusively to Yenko's dealerships. In many ways, '68 was a simplified product, a cost cutting effort much the same as the AO Smith built '68 Shelby GT500 was as compared to the '67 hand built in California by Shelby American. Yenko would order L78 396 equipped cars, then the dealership would simply substitute the 396 for the 427 short block, swapping over the original heads, intake manifold, carb, and accessories. Harrell was no longer part of the organization and dealership mechanics were paid $140 for each conversion, working as quickly as possible to complete one per day. In addition to the Corvette L72 Motor, also gone for '68 was the fiberglass "stinger" hood.
"This car is extremely rare with very few, less than 20, known to exist. Of those only 4 are documented to be converted by Dick "Mr. Chevrolet" Harrell."
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