Ultra-Rare 1969 Chevrolet COPO Camaro ZL1 Looks Brand-New, Racing V8 Still Screams

1969 Chevrolet COPO Camaro ZL1 6 photos
Photo: Lou Costabile/YouTube
1969 Chevrolet COPO Camaro ZL11969 Chevrolet COPO Camaro ZL11969 Chevrolet COPO Camaro ZL11969 Chevrolet COPO Camaro ZL11969 Chevrolet COPO Camaro ZL1
The first-generation Chevrolet Camaro spawned a few iconic and rare muscle cars, but none is as desirable as the ZL1. Part of two COPO-ordered cars in 1969, it left the factory in only 69 units, all fitted with all-aluminum, drag-spec 427-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) V8 engines.
Come 2022, and the Camaro ZL1 is one of the most desirable vehicles from the golden muscle car era. Granted, it's not as expensive as a 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible or a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88, both valued at more than $3 million, but the ZL1 also stepped into seven-figure territory when a Hugger Orange example crossed the block for almost $1.1 million in early 2020.

This Cortez Silver version that stole the show at the 2021 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals is not for sale, but it's one of the finest examples out there. Amazingly enough, the COPO ZL1 is flawless inside and out, as well as under the hood, just like the day it left the showroom.

The car was obviously restored, but it's also been maintained properly. And if the reading on the instrument cluster is accurate, this drag-ready Camaro has only 26,632 miles (42,860 km) on the odometer. That means it's been driven only 500 miles (805 km) per year on average.

Making things that much more impressive, this COPO ZL1 has been with the same owner for 46 years. Don Martens Jr. purchased the car in 1976, unaware that it was a 1-of-only-69 gem. And get this, the ZL1 was his very first car!

The COPO ZL1 was born while GM's corporate edict that forbade Chevrolet from installing engines larger than 400 cubic inches (6.6 liters) in midsize and small cars was still in place. Following requests from certain dealers that were installing bigger V8s in the Camaro, Chevy began using its Central Office Production Orders (COPO) process to meet demand.

Two COPO numbers were issued in 1969. COPO 9561 was used for the solid-lifter L72 big-block engine, which was originally ordered by Yenko Chevrolet, while COPO 9560 was issued for the ZL1.

The latter was fitted with an all-aluminum 427 V8 engine developed specifically for drag racing. The package was designed by drag racer Dick Harrell and ordered through Fred Gibb Chevrolet of Illinois. Officially rated at 430 horsepower, the ZL1 was priced at a whopping $4,000, more than the cost of a base Camaro. That would be more than $30,000 in 2022!

When tuned for the race track and fitted with a high-performance exhaust, the ZL1 was capable of more than 500 horsepower. The mill also found its way into the Corvette in 1969. Since only two were built, you might not see a Corvette ZL1, so you might as well enjoy the sight of this incredible COPO Camaro in the video below.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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