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These Two Extremely Rare 1969 Camaro ZL1 COPOs Expected to Sell for $1 Million at Auction

With only 69 units ever produced, even $1 million seems little

With only 69 units produced, 1969 Camaro ZL1 COPO is one of the rarest and most powerful classic American muscle cars. So it’s understandable why one of these crosses an auction block once in a blue moon. Yet, this time we’ll have two – bundled up together in the same lot, no less. The lot R180 of the Mecum auction in Kissimmee, Florida, to be more precise. Number 18 (Dusk Blue) and number 30 (Hugger Orange) original ZL1 Camaros will be the main attraction on January 11th, 2018, when this event takes place.

Every Chevy aficionado probably knows the backstory behind them, but let’s go through it one more time. 427 cu in aluminum big-block V8 developed by Bruce McLaren and Jim Hall for Cam Am racing was way too powerful for general public. At least that was Chevrolet’s narrative at the time. They conservatively rated it at 430 horsepower and offered it exclusively to drag racers. In truth, it made well above 500 ponies. But how did those 69 units end up with the gen pop?

 

This is where La Harpe, Illinois-based Chevrolet dealer Fred Gibb enters the fray. He took advantage of the Central Office Production Order program (COPO) – aimed at commercial fleet vehicles which circumvented the corporate racing ban and horsepower limits – and ordered 50 of the mighty ZL1s. He then tried to sell them for more than $7,200 which was an astronomical price tag back then. Only big-block aluminum engine’s price stood at $4,160. Most were returned to the factory, or sold with smaller engines, but other dealers followed Gibb’s example and their combined effort resulted in total of 69 sold COPO ZL1 Camaros.

 

Both of these 1969 Camaro ZL1 COPOs were, at time, at the Fred Gibb’s dealership. Only number 30 was sold there, however (one of only 13 such units). It was bought by Pizza Hut franchisee Larry Kreigh of Shawnee Mission, Kansas. This Hugger Orange beaut’s odometer shows only 361 original miles. It also boasts a rich racing history as it raced under Pizza Hut sponsorship in Super Stock competition. It was restored twice – once in 1993 and again in 2004. Number 30 is one of only 10 ZL1’s with the factory 4-speed transmission. And number 18 is another.

Speaking of which, Gibb failed to sell the Dusk Blue number 18 Camaro and had to return it to GM. They sent it to Tamson Chevrolet in Danville, Virginia where it finally found its first owner. Ronald Dix of South Boston, Virginia, however, let GMAC repossess the car after it developed engine noise and Chevy refused to honor the warranty. Edward Sanderson of Lynchburg, Virginia next got his hands on it. He raced it for a couple of years, sold it, bought it back and sold it again. Number 18 was first restored in 1988 and raced until 1993 when it was offered by the U.S. Camaro Club as the grand prize at Camaro’s 25th anniversary. Last restoration was completed by Dave Tinnell of Edmonton, Kentucky. This ZL1 retains its concours standards to this day.

It’s not the first time these two had crossed an auction block. Both have reached around $500,000 before, but they failed to sell. Now, they’re offered together. Like conjoined twins, they’re expected to break the $1 million barrier. Considering they’ve kept most of their original parts – including the aluminum big-block 427 ZL1 mill – $1 million seems like a bargain.

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Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much.

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