While the Ford Mustang may out-sell it, the Chevrolet Camaro is arguably the better muscle and sports car. Especially the high-power ZL1 and track-focused ZL1 1LE trims. However, in a purely numerical sense, the stock Shelby GT500 out-guns the Camaro. And that’s before tuners like Shelby American or Roush get involved. Luckily, one New Jersey-based shop, Specialty Vehicle Engineering, has a solution. And it comes with a historic name: the Yenko Camaro.
The original Yenko Camaros
Some describe Don Yenko as the Carroll Shelby of Chevrolets, Hemmings reports. And that’s not too far from the truth. Before the Pennsylvania native ran his eponymous dealership, he raced Corvettes. But the rise of Shelby’s Mustangs and Cobras meant the ‘Vette was no longer quite so dominant.
So, in 1965, he persuaded Chevrolet to give him a few Corvairs. He and his dealership staff then modified them into ‘Yenko Stingers,’ with extra power, better suspension, and a more aerodynamic body. It was all to homologate the car for SCCA competition, and it sold well. But that was just a prelude to his most famous project.
Although GM eventually offered performance variants of the Chevrolet Camaro, they didn’t exist at the 1967 launch, CarThrottle reports. And GM limited how big of an engine it offered in the Camaro. You couldn’t even go through COPO, because it didn’t exist at the time, Hagerty explains. But that didn’t stop Yenko.
A Yenko Camaro isn’t just an engine swap, Silodrome, and Hagerty report. The original builds included upgraded suspension, a stronger transmission, a new differential, a new tachometer, a rear spoiler, and a cowl-induction hood. And of course, there’s the Yenko Camaro’s 7.0-liter (427 cubic-inch) V8 with a heavy-duty radiator. Officially, it’s rated at 425 hp. But dyno tests revealed the real figure is closer to 550 hp.
The 1967 and 1968 Yenko Camaros proved popular enough for Yenko to persuade Chevrolet to offer the 427 V8 from the factory. That also meant the tuned Camaros received better brakes, Mecum reports.
The 2021 SVE Chevrolet Yenko/SC Camaro offers 1050 hp
Sadly, Don Yenko passed away in 1982. After that, the dealership was sold, and the Yenko trademark passed to GM for a time.
The previously-introduced SVE Yenko/SC Camaro was already fairly powerful, Road & Track reports. The shop took the SS trim’s 6.2-liter V8, enlarged it to 6.8 liters, and added a supercharger, stainless-steel headers, and high-flow catalytic converters. The engine also received a new crankshaft and new pistons. As a result, it made 1000 hp and 875 lb-ft.
But for 2021, SVE designed new heads for the engine, and upgraded the fuel system, Hagerty reports. So now, it makes 1050 hp.
To manage the heat, the 2021 Yenko/SC Camaro comes with extra coolers for the transmission, engine oil, and differential, Roadshow reports. And to keep that power under control, it has upgraded bushings, springs, and stabilizer bars, Autoblog reports, along with Goodyear Eagle F1 tires. The standard magnetorheological dampers, though, remain stock.
Getting one of your own
Getting one of these 2021 Yenko/SC Camaros won’t be easy or cheap. The package costs $69,995 on top of the donor Camaro 1SS or 1SS 1LE. A base manual-equipped 2020 Chevrolet Camaro 1SS starts at $38,495; the 1LE package adds $7000. Basically, this is a 1050-hp $110,000 Camaro.
However, that’s actually cheaper than buying an original Yenko Camaro. In 2010, a 1969 example sold for $308,000 in an RM Sotheby’s auction. And in 2014, an automatic-equipped example went for $220,000 at a Barrett-Jackson auction. In contrast, in September 2020, a Yenko tribute build sold for $36,666 on Bring a Trailer.
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