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Rare 1969 Camaro ZL1

Rare 1969 Camaro ZL1

I have spent a lof of time lately covering rare cars. This has included a rare 428 CJ Mustang and a 1969 ZL1 Corvette, so now another rare muscle car deserves some screen time.  The Rare 1969 Camaro ZL1 is one of the most legendary vehicles GM created during the Muscle Car era. This car was created specifically to compete head to head with the fabled Mustang GT500 on the drag strip. What they ended up creating was nothing short of spectacular.

1969 Camaro ZL1

Special Purpose Cars

During the 1960s and early 1970s, buyers were able to walk into the dealerships and order a factory race car to be delivered at the dealership. They could either professionally drag race it or street drive it. These cars did have a license plate, and were street legal, but they were not intended for street use. The reason most people did not buy these for street use was a matter of practicality and money. The average 1969  Camaro, off the showroom floor, cost between $2,881 – $3,539. If someone wanted a nice car, that was about the average price at the time.

1969 Camaro ZL1 – A Race car with a license plate

This car, however, was different. The ZL1 was literally built for one purpose – to go fast in a straight line. The price of this car was over $7,200 new. That made it prohibitive for most people to justify, unless they were competing in NHRA and AHRA Super Stock Drag Racing competitions.

These cars were produced for that very purpose – drag racing. However, there were a few restrictions before these factory cars would be allowed to race professionally. At least 50 of these had to leave the factory in order for them to qualify as ‘production cars’. The car had to be offered to the public to purchase as well.. The entire car also had to carry the full 5-year/50,000-mile warranty, and be fully street-legal.

ZL1 ? Yes, Please!

The ZL1 option was created by simply choosing the Central Office Production Order (COPO) number 9560 option on the order form. Chevrolet made certain the car was street legal, honored the warranty, put the COPO 9560 option on the order form, and held their breath. Luckily, 69 people chose that option and paid the roughly $7,200 price, which made them qualified for NHRA drag racing. This made the boys at Chevy very happy…and other race teams very, very nervous. This meant there was a new competitor in town, and its name was ZL1. Ask any drag racer from that era, and the name ZL1 will still cause them to wince.

Rarest 1969 Camaro

Fire Breathing Monsters

The ZL1 engine was a fire-breathing, snorting, beast of an engine. It was an all aluminum 427 big block racing engine developed for the drag strip. The ZL1 option included aluminum block, aluminum heads and intake, as well as a few other pieces in aluminum where possible. It also had a steel forged crank, a 3/4 race cam, and 850-cfm double-pumper Holley carburetor on an open plenum high-rise intake manifold.

In addition, buyers were given options of choosing the M40 Turbo Hydra Matic, M20 wide ratio four-speed, M21 close ratio or M22 “Rockcrusher” close ratio four-speed transmission. The only rear end option was the 4.10 gear set. This ridiculous set of  go fast goodies was available right from the factory with a 5 year warranty! If you want these types of goodies for your Camaro now, you have to buy the parts aftermarket!

 ZL1 427 Engine

Additional features on the Rare 1969 Camaro ZL1 included heavy duty springs with five leafs out back, heavy duty radiator, transistorized ignition, power front disc brakes and white lettered tires. This combination resulted in an incredibly scary combination of power and torque, The 427 was legendary for producing over 550 hp and 450 lb ft of torque right from the dealership. This was good for low 13 second 1./4 mile passes on street tires with pump gas.  This meant easy 11 second passes with some modifications.

Drag Racing Teams Loved Them

Drag racing teams noticed this mean machine quickly. Those teams that did own the ZL1 owned the track, plain and simple, Since they were factory race cars, they did not include options such as radios, heaters, air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, or other creature comfort options. These extra options increased the weight of the car, which meant slower times at the track.

This lack of driver friendly options made them unpopular with the general public, and very popular with race teams. This car was a built to be a race car, not a grocery getter. It was designed to have all 4 barrels open, its massive cam snarling and open headers screaming an angry growl as it barrels its way toward the 1320 foot mark on the track, bound and determined to arrive there first.

69 Camaro Interior

Not Suited For The Average Consumer

The Rare 1969 Camaro ZL1 did not sell in mass quantities while new, as only 69 of them were ever built. This special order monster was a beast on the track, but was not really well suited to the streets. It overheated in stop-and-go traffic and had no creature comfort options. With the large cam, it had difficulty idling at low RPMs for long periods of time. It needed constant attention by someone with mechanical aptitude to ensure it kept running when used as a daily driver.

Since it was never intended to be a street car, the 1969 Camaro ZL1 was not designed for fuel economy. This car would pass anything on the road – except a gas station. Fuel economy was, as you would imagine, in the single digits in the city and barely double digits on the highway. Those numbers only applied IF someone kept their foot ouf of the back barrels of the 850 double pumper. If you owned a car like this, you probably kept your foot on the floor, so most of these cars averaged around  7 MPG. The owners of these cars also found themselves on a first name basis with the owner of the local tire shop, without a doubt.

The Rare 1969 Camaro ZL1 is Highly Desirable Now

This car being as rare as it is means it is now a highly desired collectible. When they manage to make their way to auction, which isn’t very often, they fetch well into the 6 figures. Some with  particularly rare option combinations approach the 7 figure mark. Due to the fact that most of them were used as professional race cars, not many of these behemoth beasts survived. Only a small portion of these rare ZL1 Camaros are still around today. Most of them lived hard and died young, leaving a legacy that lives on nearly 50 years later in the current ZL1. The Rare 1969 ZL1 Camaro made a real name for itself in drag racing history, but most didn’t live to tell the tale. This makes these fabled fire breathing monsters one of the rarest and most desirable Camaros in existence today. By the way, there was also a Corvette ZL1  created, with many of the same options!

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