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The ZL-1

A factory-designed drag-race Camaro.
Monday, October 1, 2007 - 00:00

A factory-designed drag-race Camaro.

Practically everyone's jaw dropped at the 2006 Yenko Super Car Reunion when Eddie Martin, a dairy farmer from Tipton, California, rolled his fully restored Dusk Blue 1969 ZL-1 engine COPO Camaro out of the trailer, motored up to the Gateway International Raceway starting line, did a few dry hops to knock the tits off the newly installed set of Coker Tire-Goodyear Polyglas F70-14 tires, and motored off to a 13.24-second quarter-mile with a trap speed of 110 mph. Back on the starting line, Martin declared, "I've been waiting a long, long time to do that!"

Perhaps the State of California vanity plate says it best. The letters read, "ZL-1 12." That's right. Martin's car is the 12th 1969 ZL-1 engine big-block Camaro ever produced. It's a real museum piece and probably worth more than a cool quarter-million dollars.

The all-aluminum 427/430-hp "Can Am" engine ZL-1 Camaro, a.k.a. "COPO 9560," is the rarest of all Camaros built in 1969. These cars were primarily built to compete in the NHRA and AHRA Super Stock classes (and homologate the aluminum big-block engine for Can Am racing), with the most famous example being Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins, who built and drove "Grumpy's Toy VII," which competed as both an NHRA-legal SS/B and NHRA/AHRA Pro Stock car during its brief and storied career.

"I purchased this car in 1976 from a guy named Fredrick Tucci in New York State. At the time, the car was painted black and had 7,000 miles on the odometer. Once I learned how to read the Protect-O-Plate, I discovered that the car came from the factory painted my favorite color, Code #51 Dusk Blue," said Martin.

For the next couple of years, Martin drove the Camaro around Central California, street racing it on occasion. However, as Martin motored into the fuel-conscious '70s, the prospect of driving a ZL-1 engine Camaro on the street started to look a little dismal. Eventually, Martin parked the ZL-1 and life went on.

"I got married in 1983. Had a family and didn't drive the ZL-1 again until my son Josh was two years old. But by then, the condition of the Camaro had seriously deteriorated to the point that I decided I was not going to drive it again until I had the time and the wherewithal to fully restore it," said Martin.

Now, fast-forward 15 years. The new millennium has just cranked into high gear. Son Josh is now 17, and Eddie Martin has finally restored his prized Camaro. He and Josh celebrate the occasion by retracing the same route they took 15 years earlier.

THE BUILD UP

Starting with the ZL-1 engine, Martin shipped the block and rotating assembly over to Ron Blades at Tulare, California's RPM Auto Machine, where the engine was bored .030 inches and all its rotating components were fully balanced. Once back at Martin's shop, he and friends Carlos Pamariz, Neil Westbrook, and Jerry McNish re-assembled the Can Am block and installed a set of 12:1 compression GM forged-aluminum pistons, along with the original ZL-1 nodular iron crank and connecting rods. Also on board is the original ZL-1 flat tappet cam. The Code O74 ZL-1 heads, along with its Code 198 four-barrel intake and Code 800-cfm Holley carburetor and cowl induction air cleaner (used in conjunction with the ZL2 cowl induction hood), have also been restored back to better-than-new condition. The engine makes use of the factory K66 A.C. Delco transistorized ignition system. However, the exhaust system has been updated to a set of Hooker Super Comp headers spinning the spent exhaust gases back through a three-inch Flowmaster-equipped cross-flow exhaust system. A Code V01 heavy-duty radiator handles the engine cooling.

Backing up this potent big block is the correct date code "S" Muncie M-21 four-speed transmission, sending the power back to a Code #80 4 GM 12-bolt Posi-Traction rear end with 4.10:1 final drive and utilizing a set of Lakewood slapper traction bars.

The remainder of the Camaro's suspension consists of the heavy-duty F41 suspension package (the same suspension used on the big-block Chevelles that year), along with power-assist disc front/rear-drum brakes. The wheels on Martin's mean machine are factory 14x7-inch, two-piece steel safety rims fitted with stamped aluminum bow tie pie plate hubcaps. Tires are the Coker Tire-Goodyear F70 x 14-inch Polyglas reproductions.

So much for the "steak," now for the "sizzle." Martin commissioned Tulare's Dan's Custom Painting to smooth out the ZL-1 sheet metal and re-paint the car in the correct PPG Code # 51 Dusk Blue. Upon re-assembly, all-new old stock (NOS) exterior trim was used.

On the inside, the car utilizes the original factory black vinyl bucket seat interior, along with a rare Stahl mechanical tachometer. Weighing in at 3290 lbs., Martin's ZL-1 is a rolling piece of muscle-car history—unmolested and uncut. However, by now, it should also be obvious this is no show-bound hound. In fact, since restoration, Martin has logged an additional 7,000 miles on the odometer, and most of it, a quarter-mile at a time.

SOURCES

ACDelco (800) 223-3526 www.acdelco.com

Coker Tire (800) 251-6336 www.cokertire.com

Flowmaster, Inc. (800) 544-4761 www.flowmastermufflers.com

Goodyear (330) 796-2121 www.goodyear.com

Holley (270) 782-2900 www.holley.com

Hooker Headers (207) 781-9741 www.holley.com

Lakewood Industries www.lakewood-industries.com

RPM Auto Machine (877) 354-3812 www.rpmmachine.com

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