Back in ’69 Fred Gibb of Fred Gibb Chevrolet in little LaHarpe, Illinois ordered 50 special COPO (Central Office Purchase Order) ZL1 427/430 horsepower Camaros from Chevrolet. These Camaro ZL1’s were born to go fast in a strigt line, and would become the most celebrated muscle cars of the era. But Gibb had bitten off more than he could chew. With more cars than he had written orders for he had to send some back. This Fathom Green 1969 Camaro COPO ZL1 is one of those that was sent back to the Norwood, Ohio plant for redistribution. It ended up at Alan Green Chevrolet I Seattle, Washington late in ’69. Later it would be owned by baseball’s Mr October, the famous Reggie Jackson who is as famous now as a car collector as he is a baseball player.
The 1969 Camaro COPO ZL1 is now under new ownership, and is currently being offered for sale by Brighton Motorsports of Scottsdale, Arizona. Click the link to view dozens of photos. They have extensive history on the car.
The first owner of this 1969 Camaro COPO ZL1 was Dick Tutino, then service manager at Alan Green Chevrolet. Dick mentioned that this ZL1 ran in the NHRA Super Stock class, sponsored by Alan Green Chevrolet and Boeing Company. The ZL1 ran a best quarter mile time of 11.08 @127 MPH. After the 71’ season, Dick took the car to a race shop to have the rear wheel wells slightly enlarged. The shop ended up removing the entire trunk floor in error. Dick sued the race shop for damages and won. He could not race the ZL1 in this condition, so he found other body parts and put the car back together again. During 1979-1981 the ZL1 won best appearing car at the NHRA events.
In 1982 Dick sold the car to Jim Bruns of Bremerton Washington. They put in a full roll cage and a 9” Ford axle and ran 10.40’s. The car was painted Candy Apple Red with Lemon Yellow Swoosh and Purple highlights. Later the car was treated to a full restoration and brought back to original Fathom Green exterior with black interior.
This Fathom Green ZL1 is 1 of 4 green automatics produced. There were only 22 ZL1’s produced with automatic transmissions out of the 69 total production. This 1969 Fathom Green ZL-1 COPO Camaro came from the factory equipped as follows:
Originating Dealer: Fred Gibb
Chevrolet Order Number: 222032
Dealer Transfer: Allen Green Chevrolet Seattle, WA
Ext Color: Fathom Green
Interior Color: Black
Standard Transmission: Turbo 400 Automatic
Wheels: 14 X 7 steel XT wheels
Tires: F70 X 14 Raised White Lettered Tires
This 1969 Camaro was a limited production vehicle, equipped from factory with COPO 9560, a special performance package including an aluminum ZL1 427-430 HP engine, special ducted hood, transistorized ignition, dual exhaust system, increased cooling capacity, and special front and rear suspension. It was specifically designed for drag racing. The purchase price of the ZL1 Camaro was an additional $4,160 over the base price of a Camaro.
Chevrolet built a total of 69 Camaros equipped with the COPO 9560 ZL1 engine option. Jim Hall’s Chaparral team is credited with developing the idea behind the ZL1. It used similar cylinder heads similar to the ones used in the L88 aluminum head engine, but had an entirely aluminum block with steel liners. It used aluminum in the heads, intake and other items, using steel only for the forged crank, connecting rods, pushrods and camshaft. The ZL1 was a thing of wonder for its time. The ZL1 weighed little more than a cast iron Chevy small block engine but packed more horsepower than a high horsepower Corvette. Even though Chevrolet records rated it at 430 horsepower, the actual power attributed to the aluminum ZL1 was more like 550 horsepower.
GM officials would only allow Chevrolet to sell engines 400 cubic inches and under on passenger cars. So to special order the 427 big blocks dealers would use the Central Office Purchase Order (COPO) process, originally designed to order special colors or options on commercial vehicles. Dealers began using the special order process for what they called “fleet orders.” Gibb had to order 50 cars initially to get the ZL1 Camaros delivered. Roughly about 20 of these cars were prepared for the NHRA Super Stock series drag racing events. It is said that with proper tuning, as when Dick Harrell worked on them, the ZL1 could achieve low tens in the quarter-mile.
You’ll find more classic Camaro investments in the Cars On Line Camaro Section online.