Original-Owner 1967 Yenko Camaro Uncovered
Original-owner 1967 Yenko Camaro uncovered
Doug Perry is polite, but not shy. He knocked on the door of a stranger, John L. Weaver, on a Saturday afternoon in 2009 and said, “I understand you have a unique car, and I’d love to see it. Would there be any chance whatsoever it would be for sale?”
To own a 1967 Yenko Camaro would be a dream come true for Perry, who revels in the history of Yenko Chevrolet, that small dealership in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, that has become legendary today. Just standing face-to-face with the original owner of a 1967 Yenko Camaro would be spellbinding for a person with Yenko Camaro fever. Most people would have phoned. Instead, Perry drove 188 miles from his home in Pataskala, Ohio, to Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
Weaver wasn’t ready to sell and wouldn’t take a stranger into his garage to see the Camaro. The men exchanged phone numbers and agreed to talk, which they’ve done for the last nine years.
As much as Perry knew about Yenko history, Weaver, as an original owner, had information that no historian has ever chronicled, until now.
Weaver was a teenager in March 1968 when his dad offered to “buy me something new.” They lived in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and first visited Grabiak Chevrolet “down the road,” where the 19-yearold spotted a black 427 Corvette coupe that he “was interested in getting.” Except, “My God, the insurance was over $1,000 a year,” which was “a fortune” in those days.
“So we went up to Yenko [Chevrolet] to see about getting a Camaro.” They entered a candy land of “at least 50 Z/28s, different colors, different gear ratios—4.10s, 4.56s, 4.88s.” Weaver recalled it like it was yesterday. “I had a 1965 Chevelle with a 327/four-speed, and it was a pretty hot car for the day.”
Yenko advertised 427 conversions in the local newspaper, but to Weaver’s dismay the salesman said they were not “prepping them yet,” referring to 1968 models. “They tried to sell me a Z/28. I had my mind set on a big-block, so Don came out and showed me to the back lot.”
There, parked under a tarp, was a “leftover” but brand-new 1967 Camaro SS396 that Yenko had not converted. “He said, ‘I’ll do the conversion for you and I’ll give you a good price.’”
Weaver favored a red Camaro, but this car was stunning in Nantucket Blue with red deluxe interior, a combination Doug
Perry would later dub Superman. The hood and air cleaner were missing, parts they could easily replace. Weaver wanted a 1968 SS hood, which Don said he could supply at no extra cost.
“He said, ‘We have a fiberglass hood that is like one of those Corvette Stinger hoods.’ He said they were ‘making those things.’ He said ‘You can have this for another $150.’ He said ‘We can put a spoiler on the trunk lid. We have one that’s all one piece, so it’s molded, and that will be another $150.’”
The price to buy and convert this loaded, Rally Sport 1967 Camaro SS396 was already more than $5,000, so Weaver opted out of the fiberglass hood and spoiler. With the Chevelle as a trade-in, the difference to purchase this Yenko Camaro was $3,192.08.
Don told the Weavers to give him “about three weeks” to “get this thing converted and we’ll call you.”
Twelve days later, on Saturday, March 16, 1968, an “older gentle-
“Next thing we’re going 120 miles per hour. Poor dad’s in the back seat.”
man” named Ron Lane phoned the Weavers to come and sign the papers and get their car. When they met Lane he was wearing an I.D. badge that read “High Performance Salesman.”
“It wasn’t there at the dealership. We drove down the road about a mile or so. They had farmed this thing out. I don’t know who did all the work, but I picked this thing up at a Sunoco station, just right outside Interstate 79.”
I-79 was not complete, so the highway was not yet open, but Ron Lane explained they could get the Camaro up on the pavement. Lane was first behind the wheel.
“He says, ‘Yeah, this thing has pretty good pickup.’ Next thing we’re going 120 miles per hour. Poor dad’s in the back seat.”
After a few miles, Weaver got behind the wheel. He had “never driven a car with that much power. You couldn’t pull out without squealing the tires a little bit. That’s just the way it was geared.”
Back at the dealership signing papers, Weaver remembers his dad asking, obviously concerned, “Well, you don’t have to drive it fast like that, do you?” Although Weaver assured his dad the answer was no, he admits today that “the first month I had the car, I was scared of it. If you didn’t watch what you were doing, the thing would fishtail out on you.”
That very first night, on Lloyd Avenue leading to the airport outside Latrobe, with a friend in the passenger seat, Weaver found the police “taking exception” to him “laying rubber,” at which time he “opened up” the 427 and “went away” from the officer like his big Ford Galaxie four-door sedan “was standing still.”
n Weaver is seen here helping clean out his garage to retrieve the Yenko Camaro and parts on June 2, 2018. New caretaker Doug Perry wants to thank Lane Dailey, Dave McGaffee, Matt Barzak, and Frank Arone for “all going with me and working tirelessly for the day to get the car.”
Weaver did not know what top speed he hit in his new 427 Yenko Camaro because “the speedometer only went to 120 miles per hour, and it wound the whole way around and went back to zero.” Weaver “hid the car for a few days.”
That summer of 1968 was a wild time. Keystone Raceway Park had just opened for business. Weaver was a spectator for a few weeks, and then began drag racing his Camaro every weekend, running mid 13s through the mufflers and in the “high 12s” with the headers open.
In the winter of 1968, Weaver met a “fellow where I got my gas that did painting. He said he could paint the car red for me.” Weaver got his red Camaro, but it’s a decision he regrets. Likewise, he regrets removing the engine to install a bigger cam and heads, improving his e.t. at the strip to a best time of 12.12, but which proved “a little too much for the street.”
He did put the car back to stock. In 1973, after his move to Greensburg, Weaver blew the automatic transmission. With a girlfriend occupying most of his time, the Camaro got parked. Years passed. Life got in the way. The red paint started peeling. Weaver pulled the seats and began disassembling the car, but just never had the time to put it back together.
In 2009, he still wanted to hang onto his Yenko Camaro. Doug Perry wasn’t the first collector who had tried to buy the car. The two became friends.
Perry says, “We would exchange phone calls and emails, and when I was driving through the area I would always stop and we’d have lunch.”
Perry honored his friend’s request not to talk about the Yenko Camaro, which was not for sale, anyway. After about four years, Weaver brought up the Camaro and showed Perry the car for the first time.
Finally, in 2018, Weaver decided it was time to sell, and the only person he would consider was Perry. Weaver remembers that day. “Frank Arone came over, too. I kept saying, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this.’ But, I’m at peace because I know Doug is going to take care of it. I think he likes that car more than I do.”
Arone Restoration in Homer City, Pennsylvania, will do the restoration. Arone, in fact, had told his friend Doug Perry about this Yenko in 2009.
Weaver had two preconditions for the sale. The first was to restore the car within two years. The second was for “one last drive.”
Perry agreed to the first, but not the second. He told Weaver, “John, I can’t do that.”
“Because you’re going to have a lot more than one ride. When you come to Ohio, you get your own set of keys. We nicknamed the car Superman. You are Superman. It will always be your car. I’m just a caretaker.
n The garage where John Weaver kept his 1967 Yenko Camaro was cluttered but heated, keeping the historic car rust-free and secure for 45 years.
The original walnut steering wheel is in excellent condition.This is the original Stewart-Warner pedestal tach, found in this box.
n This Yenko Camaro retains its original drivetrain: the 427 conversion engine, automatic transmission, and rearend. Yenko converted this Camaro from a 396 to a 427 in March 1968. This car (YS 760) is the one and only documented 1967 big-block cowl-plenum Yenko Camaro.
n The entire car is rust free due to excellent storage conditions in a heated garage. Just 7,257 miles show on the odometer.
n Arone and Perry solved the riddle of the bronze SS hood. Weaver asked for a 1968 SS hood for the Camaro, as it was without a hood for reasons unknown (maybe theft). Apparently this hood was the stock hood from the prototype 1968 Yenko Camaro, which was Corvette Bronze. Don Yenko put an optional fiberglass hood on that car, which, incredibly, is (as of this writing) in Arone Restoration and will be sideby-side with this last 1967 Yenko Camaro produced, just as they were together in the winter of 1968 at Yenko Chevrolet. The date on the hood is the third week of January 1968. Perry has determined that his 1967 Yenko Camaro and the 1968 Yenko prototype were together at the dealership for four to five weeks.
Other 1967 Yenko Camaros came with 14-inch wheels. This Camaro was unique, mounted new with G70-15 whitewall tires, as verified on original paperwork. This is the original spare from the trunk.
n The 1967 Yenko was loaded with documentation, which Perry laid out on the decklid of his 1969 Yenko Camaro (featured in the Barn Finds display at MCACN 2017; see “Lost and Found,” May 2018; bit. ly/2zOt4FU). Among the paperwork was the original Protect-O-Plate and a handwritten letter on Yenko Chevrolet stationary from Ron Lane to John Weaver. Five pages of Chevrolet order forms list the complete components of the Yenko supercar conversion as well as the options and accessories that add up to $5,242.08, a huge sum for a 1967 Camaro.
n Perry and his crew unloaded the car at Arone Restoration, where the car will be restored to perfection. In addition to the original Yenko drivetrain, YS 760 also retains the original sheetmetal, interior, and glass. Weaver regretted repainting his Camaro red, and was in the process of returning the body to its original Nantucket Blue.