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I posted this over at .org at the request of another Viper owner. I had a chance to check out a 2002 ZL1 Camaro producing some 700 rwhp - as sold by the Chevrolet dealerships. Many don't know about this awesome car, so I thought I would write up a some stuff for your information. Hope you like...

A little background first for the uninitiated. Fred Gibbs was a drag racer in the AHRA in the late '60's and also happened to own a Chevrolet dealership in La Harpe, IL. His top salesman, Herb Fox, was the AHRA World Champion in 1968 driving one of Fred's cars. In order to race in the stocker class, at least 50 cars must be built by the factory. In 1968, Fred ordered 50 Chevy Novas equipped with 396/375 HP engines which he promptly started racing. He ordered this through the Central Office Production Order (COPO) program which was largely intended for special paint or equipment for commercial vehicles such as taxicabs, etc. Another Chevrolet dealer out east had a similar idea, and his name was Don Yenko (ring any bells?). Pictured below is Dick Harrell, who was a Chevy dealer himself and won AHRA Driver of the Year with his COPO Nova.

[image]http://home.kc.rr.com/viperdiecast/harrellgibb.jpg[/image]

In 1969, Fred Gibbs wanted to run the Camaro on the drag racing circuit. Chevrolet had a strict policy that nothing larger than 400 cubic inches would be in any car other than the Corvette. Once again, Fred ordered 50 specially equipped Camaro's through the COPO program, thereby avoiding the scrutiny of the Chevy brass. He checked off the newest engine available, the ZL1 motor: An all-aluminum 427 rated at 430 horsepower (and rumored to be closer to 550). The motor was derived from the NASCAR motor of the day (cast iron) and then lightened (all-aluminum) for use in the Can-Am series which Chevrolet wanted to win. That motor was slated to appear in the 1969 Corvette, yet was more of an "experimental" racing engine and only appeared in three Corvettes ever made - and only one is documented to this day:

[image]http://home.kc.rr.com/viperdiecast/zl1vette.jpg[/image]

Fortunately for Fred, all 50 of his cars were approved for production. But unlike the Nova, other Chevy dealers were watching and wanted a piece of the action. One of those dealers was Berger Chevrolet out of Grand Rapids, MI. In the end, 69 of the ZL1 Camaro's were built, with 50 going to Fred Gibb and one going to Berger Chevrolet - the #3 car. Others found a home in other dealerships like Yenko Chevrolet. Ironically, the car was a sales dud. Originally targeted at $4,900 for the sticker price, Chevrolet was determined to charge for actual production costs. In this case, the "high performance" option chosen by Gibb added a whopping $4160 to the sticker and brought the total to some $7300. This was more expensive than even the 1969 Corvette and was equivalent to paying $50,000 for a Camaro in today's dollars. Oh, and these cars ran an 11.64 @ 122 MPH with open headers and small (6.5 inch) slicks.

[image]http://home.kc.rr.com/viperdiecast/69zl1camaro.jpg[/image]

So, fast forward to 2000. Berger Chevrolet, who had gotten one of the original 1969 Camaro ZL1's, thought it would be neat to commemorate the end of production of the Camaro with a special edition of some sort. They contacted GMMG, a company which builds special order cars between Chevrolet and the dealerships. After a Chevrolet department head had a heated conversation with a rival Ford performance manager, they gave GMMG the green light to use the ZL1 name and to produce 69 cars - identical to the number produced in 1969. Most would be produced with the Corvette Z06 motor producing 405 horsepower. Others would get the special treatment: A Corvette C5R block mated with LS6 heads. The target horsepower would be 600. Berger ordered 69 cars with the first one being retained by Chevrolet. All were equipped with Corvette brakes and many of the Corvette suspension goodies.

[image]http://home.kc.rr.com/viperdiecast/zl7.jpg[/image]

The "Phase III" cars equipped with the C5R motor have been dyno'ed as high as 700 rwhp, despite being targeted at "only" 600. Not unlike the 430 HP target of the 1969 ZL1.

[image]http://home.kc.rr.com/viperdiecast/zl3.jpg[/image]

In addition to the standard Corvette upgrades, all were equipped with special paint, with many buyers ordering theirs to match 1969 colors. The cars were ordered once again through the COPO office, this time as B4C Police Cars. The cars were then shipped to GMMG for other upgrades including custom badging, etc. All of the factory hoods were replaced with the Camaro SS forced induction hoods. The 427 cars received a special "hocky stick" stripe with the classic GM "427" at the front. Like this:

[image]http://home.kc.rr.com/viperdiecast/zl1.jpg[/image]

Other goodies on the 427 cars included a 4" electronically controlled (from the dash) exhaust cutout to bypass the chambered exhaust:

[image]http://home.kc.rr.com/viperdiecast/zl4.jpg[/image]

Also included were Penske double-adjustable race shocks, a 6-speed transmission with a 4:10 rear end, and the car production number stamped into the manifold and also put on the inside mirror and windshield. The car I drove was #55 of 69 (and it is for sale). The original sticker price from the dealer was $85,295.00. Yep, it may not corner or brake like a Viper, and it certainly doesn't look like a Viper by any means. But let me tell you this: If it can hook up (which I personally doubt), there is not a stock Viper or anything close that can stay with it. That cam will give you the ride of your life. Open up the exhaust and you will set off car alarms all over the place and probably be able to clock a sub-11 second 1/4 mile run while you are doing it. And besides that "427" on the sides (and the 600 HP on the hood), only the shake of the car at the lights will give any clue to your opponent that he (or she) is about to get annihilated.

Whew! Enough of the chat. Here are some more pictures of this awesome car:

[image]http://home.kc.rr.com/viperdiecast/zl2.jpg[/image]

[image]http://home.kc.rr.com/viperdiecast/zl6.jpg[/image]

[image]http://home.kc.rr.com/viperdiecast/zl5.jpg[/image]

[image]http://home.kc.rr.com/viperdiecast/zl8.jpg[/image]

[image]http://home.kc.rr.com/viperdiecast/zl9.jpg[/image]

[image]http://home.kc.rr.com/viperdiecast/zl10.jpg[/image]

[image]http://home.kc.rr.com/viperdiecast/zl11.jpg[/image]

Oh, and before anybody says it: Would I take this car over my Viper? Strangely enough, that exact question was posed to me when I was checking it out (Viper parked outside). My answer? As a muscle car sleeper, you bet. The way this car loped at idle was literally enough to send chills down your spine. It was like sitting in a Winston Cup car or a Pro Stock dragster. On the other hand, I like the attention the Viper gets from everybody, including those that aren't into speed. That Camaro is an awesome car and would be a blast to own. But in my case it would still be the Viper if I had to choose between the two.

Hope this was an informative read and that like me, many folks appreciate a great car regardless of the manufacturer.

Chris
 

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Great write up, as usual Chris.
I'd have to think that one of these would be worth a boatload of money some day. Also a blast to drive on occasion in the interum!
Wonder what the 1969 COPO Camaros go for now....
Congrats on your new part-time job. Seems like a perfect fit!
M
 

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VERY, VERY Nice C :thumb:ar
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
XS TORQ said:
Great write up, as usual Chris.
I'd have to think that one of these would be worth a boatload of money some day. Also a blast to drive on occasion in the interum!
Wonder what the 1969 COPO Camaros go for now....
Congrats on your new part-time job. Seems like a perfect fit!
M
I was told that a pristine '69 ZL1 recently sold for around $500,000(!!). They tell me that this 2002 ZL1 has already hit $125,000 for a Phase III version. Thanks for taking the time to read this and for the comments!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Jerome said:
I would love to have one, but at $85,000+ you would atleast think that they could do away with the orange peel paint job. :doh:
I think GM is pretty famous for doing this on the lower body of their cars. Above the side moldings it is pretty smooth (check out the hood photo). In this car's case, it definitely needs a wax job or something. Still pretty slick!
 

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why cant they just put a 427 c5r in a Z06? instantly they would have a car desired by everyone in the world. there would only be two or three cars north of $500k that would be able to outperform it. GM is, in a word, frustrating.

i wonder if i could get a dealer to order a Z06 with this package?
 

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Lawboy said:
why cant they just put a 427 c5r in a Z06? instantly they would have a car desired by everyone in the world. there would only be two or three cars north of $500k that would be able to outperform it. GM is, in a word, frustrating.

i wonder if i could get a dealer to order a Z06 with this package?
It would be powerfull, but it would still be ugly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
BigCarrot said:
It's just an aftermarket package like Callaway. It will never be worth what a 69' COPO is. Never.
I agree that it won't be worth as much as the '69. However it is different than a Callaway in that it had to go through Chevrolet in order to be built. The cars were ordered through today's COPO program and "final assembly" done by GMMG as listed on the manufacturers documentation. The "ZL1" name is also owned by Chevrolet. I don't recall Callaway ever using a registered Chevrolet name for an aftermarket package, nor do I think Chevy would allow it. You might also note that Callaway, like Hennessey and other aftermarket tuners, will gladly modify your existing car to their specs. GMMG sells only brand-new GM cars (F-bodies) through authorized GM dealerships. Of course now that the F-body is history, you have to wonder what they will do next...

Oh, and referring to the COPO Camaros of the '60's, did you know that the Yenko Camaro (which is probably one of the most desired Camaro's ever made) were NOT final-assembled by Chevrolet? Nope, Yenko sent them to various shops to get the special emblems, stripes, and other ordered options. They also added the "sYc" embroidering to the headrests at a local shop. They then replaced the factory window sticker with the updated Yenko window sticker. According to Edmunds.com: "Most of the 1,015 COPO 9561s were delivered to Pennsylvania's Yenko Chevrolet for conversion into that dealership's signature Camaro." Once again, this is a conversion done outside the factory on brand new car - not unlike the 2002 ZL1.

I could be all washed up on this, but this is what I have found in my research.
 

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A great read Chris and testament to the fact that a big car maker and an entreprenuer can work together for a win win. Those C5 Camaros could have been made a lot prettier but they'll be collctors pieces for sure in a few years - maybe not like the older ones - but that is only because they were not marketed and raced with the profile the earlier ones were. Maybe GM decided that pushing it would hurt Vette sales or make Ford reincarnate that monster Boss 600 cube Hemi Mustang they built a few years back - that ripped off 10's at 130's in full street trim.
 

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Very nice. I was sad to see the them go. But the ZL1 seem like a great sleeper, espicaly because you could say it was stock.

"But I bought it off the showroom new this way." hehehe cool.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Gerald said:
would love to see pics but all I see is Red X's...
Geez, this post was from over eight months ago! No worries, I went ahead and uploaded all the pictures again. Glad I saved them! /images/graemlins/wink

It will be interesting to see what that one on eBay does, as it is not a 427 car. I guess that $100K for the 600HP version wasn't too bad!
 
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