The Unexpected Discovery of a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 in Georgia -321

When it comes to the first-generation Chevrolet Camaro, no version is more collectible and valuable than the COPO ZL-1. Fitted with a race-spec 427-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) V8 and built in only 69 units, the COPO 9560 is a million-dollar classic in all-original condition. Some call it the holy-grail Camaro.

While not as rare, the COPO 427 (9561) is next in line regarding desirability. Powered by the solid-lifter L72 V8, it was first ordered by Don Yenko of Yenko Chevrolet. The company shipped 201 examples to Yenko, but Chevrolet ended up making about 1,000 units as other dealers became aware of the package.

But not all Camaro gearheads are crazy about the COPO versions. Some have a thing for the Z/28. Initially created as a homologation special for the SCCA Trans Am series, the Z/28 came with a much smaller engine, but it was loaded with special gear that turned into a track-ready machine.

Chevrolet debuted the Z/28 alongside the regular Camaro for the 1967 model year. Sales were low at 602 units but jumped to 7,199 examples in 1968.

The nameplate became even more popular in 1969, moving 20,302 units or about 8.4% of total Camaro production. A massive figure compared to its main rival, the Ford Mustang Boss 302, which sold only 1,628 examples.

All told, the 1969 Camaro Z/28 is far from rare. But it's a highly desirable classic thanks to its track-bred heritage and the fact that it's based on the coolest and sportiest-looking model year of the pony car.

As classic car prospector Dennis Collins says, "Every Chevrolet guy wants it." And I'm mentioning Mr. Collins because he just unearthed a 1969 Camaro Z/28 that's been sitting for a very long time in a garage in Ephesus, Georgia.

In the same family since 1971, the Z/28 hasn't been driven on public roads for an unspecified number of years. But the license place suggests it was last registered in 2005, so that's about 18 years of retirement.

And surprisingly enough, the pony car is in excellent condition, with no rust issues inside and out and with all its factory features still intact. The list includes desirable features such as the Hurst shifter, the optional console with stacked gauges, and the rear spoiler.

However, it's not one of those all-original survivors that collectors usually throw big money at. That's because the original powerplant is no longer under the hood. It's been replaced with a mill described as a "1973," but our host doesn't provide any info beyond that.

Assuming it was sourced from a 1973 Camaro Z/28, it should be a 350-cubic-inch (5.7-liter) V8 rated at 245 horsepower. But it has nothing in common with what Chevy offered in the early iteration of the car.

That's because the first-gen pony got a unique 302-cubic-inch (4.9-liter) powerplant; the displacement was dictated by SSCA Trans-Am regulations. Fitted with an aluminum intake manifold, a four-barrel carburetor, and a special crankshaft, it generated 290 horsepower and 290 pound-feet (393 Nm) of torque when new.

Well, the lack of an original engine is disappointing, but it's not as bad as it seems. With so many 1969 Z/28s still out there, sourcing a period-correct "heart" shouldn't be a big issue. And knowing Dennis Collins, he'll probably get it sorted out while giving the Chevy a much-needed refresh.

As far as I'm concerned, it's the best kind of Camaro you can find in storage. How about you? Is the Z/28 your holy grail, or are you more into the drag-spec COPO ZL-1? Let me know in the comments.

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