FAST AND BEAUTIFUL
But a Disappointment to Its Original Owner
But a disappointment to its original owner
Mike Stivison wanted to go racing, so he went to Merollis Chevrolet, the popular Detroit-area dealer, and worked the Central Office Production Order form to build a 1969 Camaro that would be fast
The fast would come from checking off the ZL1 engine option, 427 ci of alloy goodness very conservatively rated at 430 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. Behind it would be the heavy-duty Muncie M22 four-speed gearbox, the whine from the straight-cut gears earning it the Rock Crusher nickname.
As for the beauty, Mike ordered the Camaro with the Z22 Rally Sport package, its signature headlight doors now restyled with three slits as part of the Camaro’s 1969 redesign. The new headlight doors and RS grille were complemented by an Endura front bumper which, like the rest of the car, was painted a rich Burnished Brown.
In terms of creature comforts Mike went for the Deluxe interior and tinted glass, but passed on a console and anything fancier than the simple pushbutton AM radio. Most likely to keep the car’s weight down, he ticked off a space-saver spare for the trunk.
You can imagine the anticipation the young man felt as he waited for his street warrior to arrive at the dealership. You can also imagine the disappointment he felt when the car was delivered not with the ZL1 but an iron L72—still a stout engine to be sure, but not the race motor he was expecting.
Mike was so dissatisfied with the
Camaro, in fact, that he kept it for just two months before selling it to his friend Ken Ivinson. Ken then followed through on Mike’s original plan: He raced it. Along the way the original 427 was lost, as was the original M22. In 1978, Ken took the car off the road, the odometer showing fewer than 11,000 miles.
Three and a half decades later, Glen Spielberg caught wind of a COPO Camaro for sale thanks to a tip from a friend of his. The paint was an immediate draw. Glen says he loves Burnished Brown Camaros and already had in his stable a 1969 Z/28 in the same color. When he saw the COPO he realized “it had great potential. It was run down and had been beat to death racing, but it had great options, factory paperwork—which is unheard of—and it had a completely original interior that was absolutely perfect.”
Glen runs a collision repair business on Long Island, so he launched his own rotisserie restoration. Stripping the body revealed very little rust, other than around the right quarter-panel. It had been replaced in 1973 when the car was side-swiped. “The door wasn’t touched” in the accident, he says. “It and the decklid still had the original paint. But they did a horrible job replacing the quarter, so I put an N.O.S. quarter on.” He also straightened the wheelwell lips that had been banged up to fit street-race rubber. Glen filled the empty engine bay with a date-code-correct 427 that was machined 0.030 over by his friend Lee Bandrow at Lab Machine in Lindenhurst, New York. Check out the photos to see
Glen’s attention to period detail,
“It’s missing one key component”
down to the correct wires and clamps.
The only update the engine received was a roller valvetrain “just for maintenance’s sake,” he says.
There’s an M22 behind the motor again, a lucky find thanks to Camaro guru Ian Johnston, a friend who lives in Florida. “It matches my Protect-O-Plate,” says Glen. “It was built on the same day as the original transmission, for a car 40 VINs away from my car. It was an original, low-mileage case that had never been take apart. What are the chances?”
Unlike the front of the drivetrain, the BEcode rearend was original to the Camaro. That fact was confirmed not only by the factory documents but also when Glen spotted a decade-old post on the Yenko. net forum from Ken Ivinson’s son, who at the time was looking for the car. One of the identifying features he mentioned as a clue to the car’s identity was the welded axle tubes, still evident when Glen bought the car. “I left it that way,” he says. “It tells the story of the car.”
The restoration took Glen about a year and a half. The once-unwanted COPO Camaro is a showpiece now, though it’s missing one key component: a replacement for the space-saver spare. “It’s tough,” he says. “I’m still looking for a date-correct one.” Any leads will be greatly appreciated and passed on to Glen.
“It was run down and had been beat to death racing”
n “It was all there, but it was run down,” says Glen Spielberg of this COPO Camaro’s condition when he found it in 2012. It’s the second Burnished Brown Camaro he has owned. The other, a 1969 Z/28, has since been sold, “but I’ll likely get it back.”
n The original COPO 427 fell victim to the Camaro’s racing past. Glen replaced it with a datecode-correct 427 that’s restored to stock spec except for a 0.030 overbore and roller valvetrain.