At least that was the case back in '69.
First thing you need to know about this pair of 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1s is that it's being auctioned as one sale. If you want one, you gotta buy both. Both will cross the stage at the Mecum Auction in Kissimmee, Florida, this January and we have no doubt a buyer will easily be found. That’s because Chevy built only 69 examples. The two you’re looking at are build numbers 18 (Dusk Blue) and 30 (Hugger Orange). Why was the original ZL1, the namesake of today’s track-focused ultimate Camaro, so special and, not to mention, rare?
Because they were borderline illegal for road use. You see, automakers like GM were hesitant to sell anything this powerful for public use, rightly fearing the muscle car craze was already out-of-hand, horsepower wise. The 1969 Camaro ZL1 came powered by a 427 cu in 7.0-liter V8 (developed by Bruce McLaren and Jim Hall for Cam Am racing, no less) with a claimed 430 hp, but, in reality, it was 500 hp. So why did Chevy build them, even just 50, if it was so concerned for public safety? Because dealers took advantage of the Central Office Production Order program (COPO), which was designed to facilitate orders for commercial fleet vehicles like taxis and police cars.
The COPO system, in a nutshell, allowed dealers to circumvent not only GM’s then corporate racing ban but also limits on displacement and horsepower-weight-ratios. This presented the ideal opportunity for Illinois-based Chevrolet dealer Fred Gibb to build and order the ultimate Camaro. Gibb was a huge fan of racing, especially drag racing. He’s the one who commissioned that 427 big block, which GM made him pay for. As such, the resulting sticker price was an insane 65 percent higher than that of the $4,781 Corvette Stingray, totaling $7,324. Gibb, who placed an initial order for 50 examples, couldn’t sell them all, and returned most to the factory.
These two ZL1s, however, were sold. Both have been up for auction at Mecum before, reaching bids of around $500k each, but still failed to sell. They figure selling them as a pair this time, for presumably more than a $1 million, will be an easier sell. Photos courtesy of Mecum Auctions.