Those who know muscle cars are well aware of how unlikely it is to find an ultra-rare first-generation Yenko Camaro in a barn. These legendary big-block machines, built in limited numbers by Yenko Chevrolet in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, have been big-time collectibles for decades now; you’d think most of the surviving examples would be accounted for. So, imagine coming across a disassembled low-mileage survivor – in England, of all places!
That’s where this red ’68 – one of just a handful of RS models to get the Yenko treatment – turned up more than a decade ago, nestled next to a lightweight Ford Galaxie in a small garage. The big-block Camaro had been exported some time in 1969, and apparently raced (and street raced) through the early-’70s. It even appeared in a European car magazine in 1972. Legend has it the car was stowed away later that year after evading authorities following a street race, and was later disassembled so its 427c.i. mill could be used in a dragster. There the car languished for decades.
After being discovered and purchased by an enterprising American enthusiast, the Camaro was shipped back to the States and traded ownership several times, eventually ending up in the hands of Phil Mitchell of Puyallup, Washington, who commissioned Colorado’s Level One Restoration to complete a thorough, accurate restoration.
Fortunately, many original components survived. Most of the black vinyl interior is original to the car, requiring only a thorough cleaning and detailing to be show ready. NOS parts were used to replace any damaged or missing pieces. One key missing component – the L72 427c.i. engine – was replaced with a correct service-replacement 427c.i. engine and Muncie M-21 four-speed. The balance of the drivetrain is either restored original or correct NOS, from the 3.73:1-geared 12-bolt Posi rearend, to the 14×6-inch Pontiac rally wheels with Yenko caps and F-70-14 tires.
The car’s original front sheet metal had been removed and stored outside, so much of the front clip consists of NOS or vintage replacement pieces. Finding a replacement for the extremely rare original Yenko fiberglass hood was challenging enough, but then the Level One team had to split it in two and re-form it on a wooden buck to properly match the fender curve. The balance of the body was restored and massaged smooth before being sprayed in the original Matador Red hue using Glasurit single-stage paint.
With the restoration completed in 2016, the Camaro was finally able to rumble down the road again, some 40-plus years and half a world away from going into hiding. And just a couple months after becoming a finalist at the 2017 Pacific Northwest Nationals, this red and rare Camaro was named Goodguys’ 2017 Griot’s Garage Muscle Car of the Year. It’s reassuring to know the performance legacy Don Yenko started decades ago lives on in examples like this, and will undoubtedly be preserved in much better condition for future generations to enjoy.