Every Camaro lover knows the story of the phenomenal 1969 ZL1. Born out of the success of Jim Hall’s Chaparral/Chevrolet aluminum big-blocks in the Can Am series, the all-aluminum 1969 ZL1 was based on the legendary Corvette iron block/iron heads L88, but updated with goodies like open chamber heads that moved cubic tons of volume and made enormous horsepower and torque.
It was the dominance of the Cam Am engine that inspired Fred Gibb Chevrolet to suggest to Chevrolet that they develop a package for the Camaro that would accommodate the 427 ZL1 for drag racing. Chevrolet had long been out of “officially” supporting drag racing, leaving only stalwarts like Dick “Mr. Chevrolet” Harrell and Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins to carry the Bow Tie banner down the professional quarter-mile. Gibb and Harrell had an eye toward the upcoming Pro Stock class that would begin with the 1970 NHRA season, and felt a ZL1-equipped Camaro could win big over the Hemi, especially since the 500-pound ZL1 would enjoy a 150-pound advantage over the Elephant engine.
Although 50 of the first 52 ZL1 Camaros made were shipped to Gibb Chevrolet, the dealer was ultimately only able to sell 13, with the rest being returned to Chevrolet or exchanged with other dealers. After being prepped by Gibb Chevrolet, the ZL1s were tuned by Dick Harrell. The dealership sold their last ZL1 in 1972, although it was actually repossessed and returned to them a year later. Some of the other dealerships who ended up with the now legendary cars pulled the ZL1s and replaced them with less expensive engines in order to sell the cars.