1969 Chevy Camaro
Article by Mark Trotta
With the exception of the hood and trunk lid, sheet metal on the 1969 Camaro was all-new. A restyled grille with inset headlamps gave the car a lower, wider look, as did new front and rear bumpers and restyled tail-lamps.
The RS, SS, and Z-28 platforms were all back, and more popular than ever. Like the previous two years, RS and SS options could also be combined. Inside, buyers were greeted with more comfortable seats and a new instrument panel.
Although restyled inside and out, drivetrain and major mechanical components were carried over from the 1968 Camaro. Manual drum brakes remained standard for base models, with optional front disc-brakes switching to a single-piston caliper design, replacing the earlier and more expensive-to-manufacture double-piston style. The two-speed Powerglide transmission was replaced by the three-speed TH350 automatic.
1969 Camaro Z-28
The Z-28's 302-cid motor achieved a near-perfect combination of horsepower and weight for all-around performance. Originally based on the 327 block, the 4.00-inch bore and 3.00-inch stroke motor was now based on the 350 block, which had larger main journals and four-bolt main caps. Heavy-duty parts included forged steel crankshaft, connecting rods, and pistons, solid-lifter camshaft, and an aluminum dual-plane intake manifold.
Read: Chevy Small-Block History
Unique to the 1969 Z-28 was a rear-facing cowl induction hood. At 80% throttle, an electric valve opened the cowl flap, pulling in cool air from the base of the windshield. Stiffer suspension, quick-ratio steering box, and 15x7-inch wheels all helped improve handling.
Driving the #6 Penske/Sunoco Z-28 Camaro, racing legend Mark Donahue won the SCCA Trans-Am championship two years in a row (1968/1969).
1969 Indy 500 Pace Car
For the second time in three years, the Chevy Camaro was chosen to pace the Indy 500. RS/SS convertibles were given white tops and painted Dover White, with Hugger Orange Z-28 stripes applied on the hood and deck lid.
Although the L89 396ci big-block motor powered the actual pace cars, the base drivetrain on the replica models was a 350ci motor with 3-speed manual transmission. Any engine option could be ordered, including two versions of the 396 motor. Chevrolet sold 3,675 documented 1969 Camaro pace car replicas.
Since the Camaro's front sub-frame had originally been designed to fit the 396ci big-block V8, that also meant that the larger displacement 427-cid V8 engine would also fit. The problem was that GM divisions had agreed not to install engines 400-cid or larger in passenger-designated cars (except Corvettes).
Executives found a loophole to this rule with Chevrolet's Central Office Production Order (COPO) system. Previously, a common use of COPO was to specify paint schemes or other alterations for fleet or municipal vehicles.
By making the 427 big-block engine a COPO option, a 1969 Camaro could be ordered with the solid lifter L-72 big-block engine, which produced an underrated 425 horsepower. Around 1,015 Camaros were ordered with the #9561 option.
The fastest and rarest production Camaro ever produced is the ZL1 427 big-block, COPO #9560. Starting with an SS396/375-hp Camaro, the heavy-duty F41 suspension package was added, as was a cowl-induction hood, front disc brakes, and a choice of either close-ratio 4-speed or Turbo-Hydramatic transmission. The rear axle was upgraded to a 12-bolt positraction unit with 4:10 gearing.
All SS trim was removed from the car, as was the SS-396 big-block. In its place went the aluminum-block, aluminum-head 427 ZL-1 motor, fitted with 12.25:1 compression forged aluminum pistons. Intake manifold and water pump were also aluminum.
All ZL1 engines were balanced and blue-printed before installation, and had a torque rating of 450 foot-pounds at 4,400 rpm. Although advertised horsepower rating was 430, actual power was nearer 550-horsepower.
Chevrolet built just 69 copies of the ZL1, making it legal to run in NHRA SuperStock drag classes. In stock trim, 13-second quarter-mile times were common. Using a stock-parts motor and single four-barrel carburetor, drag-racing legend Bill 'Grumpy' Jenkins clocked a 10.09 second elapsed time in his modified ZL-1 Camaro.
1969 Camaro Production
Facing delays with the second-generation Camaro, due out for the 1970 model year, Chevrolet extended 1969 Camaro production into November. This helped stretch yearly sales to 243,085.
In it's first three years of production, more than 699,000 Camaro's were sold.
Camaro History 1967-1968
Camaro History 1982-1985
Camaro History 1986-1989