Surprising Facts About Muscle Cars – 1969 COPO Camaro

Chevrolet's Central Office Production Order (COPO) system was designed for fleet sales; it was intended to spec out heavy-duty suspensions for cop cars and stain-proof interiors for taxicabs. But enterprising dealers with the right connections, such as Yenko Chevrolet in Pennsylvania, figured out that Camaros could be ordered this way, too. And given the right order codes, the dealer could spec out a fire-breathing monster of a Camaro that Chevy didn't really want you to own.

 

The production order 9561 specified a 427 big-block V-8 rated at 425 hp—just like a Vette. But the even rarer COPO 9560 called for an all-aluminum ZL-1 427 V-8. Though this engine was rated with just 5 more hp, it was widely known that this race-spec engine delivered more like 550 hp. Only 69 ZL-1 Camaros were built, and these cars command prices in the $400,000 range at an auction

 

Little-Known Fact: The aluminum ZL-1 427 V-8 in the 9560 COPO Camaro is essentially a race engine. Chevy originally developed this 427 motor for the Chaparral racing team to use in the Can Am series. There are no external emblems on a ZL-1 Camaro that let you know what's under the hood—only plain-vanilla Camaro badges.

Surprising Facts About Muscle Cars – 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge

Pontiac owned the muscle scene in the early 1960s. In fact, the 1964 Pontiac GTO is widely regarded as the very first of the breed. But by 1968, that car had plenty of competition. The thought within Pontiac was to make a cheaper version of the GTO with a smaller 350-cubic-inch engine called the ET (for "elapsed time") a drag-racing term.

 

Pontiac boss John DeLorean didn't like that idea. To him, no GTO could have an engine that small. Instead, the team built a car one step up from the regular GTO. DeLorean himself named the car after a popular skit on the TV show Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. The Judge featured the 360-hp Ram Air III engine standard, but buyers could also opt for the more hardcore 370-hp Ram Air IV. The rarest of all were the GTO Judge Ram Air IV convertibles—only five were built in 1969.

 

Little-Known Fact: The original TV commercial for the Judge featured the rock band Paul Revere and the Raiders singing about the GTO out on a dry lakebed. According to the book Pontiac Pizazz, by Jim Wangers and Art Fitzpatrick, the lead singer, Mark Lindsay, was a car guy and loved the Judge, so he wrote a song about it. Wangers claims this commercial is considered one of the earliest rock-music videos.

Surprising Facts About Muscle Cars – 1970 Chevy Chevelle LS6

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When GM relaxed its longstanding rule forbidding engines larger than 400 cubic inches to be installed in midsize cars, it set off a muscle frenzy across the company's divisions. Oldsmobile put the huge 455-cubic-inch into its 442, and Chevy installed a unique 454-cubic-inch V-8, the LS6, into its Chevelle SS.

 

A conservative estimate of the LS6's power puts it at 450 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque. But thanks to its high 11.25:1 compression ratio and giant Holley 780 CFM carb, the LS6's real output in the Chevelle SS was closer to 500 hp, many experts claim. Our pals at Car and Driver tested one in 1970 and found it hit 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds, running through the quarter-mile in 13.8 seconds. And that was with the skinny low-grip tires of the day; that same car with modern rubber would be much quicker. The LS6 carries the highest factory horsepower rating of all muscle cars.

 

Little-Known Fact: The Chevrolet Corvette has always been Chevy's top performance car. And up until the LS6, GM wouldn't allow any other Chevy to carry a horsepower rating higher than that of the Corvette. But somehow that stance was relaxed for 1970—the highest horsepower engine you could get in a 1970 Corvette was a 390-hp LS5 454. An LS7 was planned with 465 hp, but it was never officially sold. So why no LS6? An LS6 Corvette was offered for 1971, but its potency slipped (at least officially) to 425 hp.

Surprising Facts About Muscle Cars – 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Nascar was in its golden age. Automakers took the business of stock-car racing seriously and would dream up engines and bodywork for racing that were often too wild for the street. All the automakers needed to do was sell 500 of these radical cars and they could run them in Nascar.

 

The Boss 429 Mustang was just such a beast. Although the Mustang didn't compete in Nascar, the 375-hp 429-cubic-inch V-8 under its hood was designed specifically for racing and built to rev to 6000 rpm. The problem was, this motor did not perform well on the street. It was slower than the other big-block Mustangs at the time. The Nascar-bound V-8 was monstrously large and did not fit in a stock Mustang's engine bay. So Ford contracted Kar Kraft in Brighton, Mich., to handle the job. The company relocated the shock towers, widened the track of the front end using unique componentry, relocated the battery to the trunk, and fitted a smaller brake booster—all to make room for this beastly powerplant to fit in the Mustang. Today, the rarity and mystique behind the Boss 429 has pushed values at auction well beyond $200,000.

 

Little-Known Fact: There were actually three different 429 engines installed in the Boss 429 between '69 and '70. The hardcore "S-Code" was installed in early cars and filled with race-duty parts. But the S-Code had warranty problems, reportedly because of an incorrect assembly process. So the "T-Code" with lighter-duty parts was used in some cars. The later "A-Code" version of the 429, equipped with smog equipment and a new valvetrain, appeared toward the end of production.