The very first generation of the Chevy Camaro was seen in Chevrolet dealerships on September 29, 1966. These initial Camaros were manufactured for the 1967 model year. They highlighted a completely new rear-wheel drive General Motors F-body platform. This first generation model would be available as a convertible, coupe, two plus two seat, or two door with a choice of either a V8 or a six cylinder engine. The first generation Camaro lasted all the way through the 1969 model year.
The Camaro’s standard drivetrain was a 230 cubic inch straight six power plant rated at 140 horsepower. This engine was backed by a Saginaw three speed manual transmission. There were several different transmissions available for the first generation Camaros. For the 1969 Chevy Camaro, there were twelve diverse motors available. The car came equipped with a three speed manual transmission, but a four speed tranny was an available alternative.
For the 1969 model, the three speed “Turbo Hydra-Matic 350” supplanted the two speed “Powerglide” automatic transmission as the most popular transmission option. Then there was the larger Turbo 400 automatic three speed that was an option on the SS 396 Camaros.
There was a variety of additional selections obtainable for all three model years, most notably three predominant bundles:
- The RS (Rally Sport) package was an aesthetics arrangement that incorporated concealed headlights, modified taillights along with back-up lamps underneath the back bumper, RS badging, and outer vibrant trim. The RS package was obtainable on any model.
- The SS performance arrangement consisted of a 350 or 396 cubic inch V8 power plant as well as chassis enhancements for improved handling and to cope with the increased power. Non-functional air inlets were placed on the hood. The SS featured SS badging and special striping.
- The Z28 high performance package was developed (with additional improvements) to compete in the SCCA Trans-Am series. It had two wide sport stripes down the hood and decklid. It also featured power disc brakes and was powered by a solid lifter 302 cubic inch V8 with a four speed transmission.
Almost all of the Camaros built form 1967 through 1969 were manufactured in either Van Nuys, California or Norwood, Ohio.
For the 1969 year model, Camaro retained the drivetrain and primary mechanical elements from prior years. The trunk lid and hood also remained the same, but the rest of the car received a sheet metal makeover. The new sheet metal provided the car with a significantly sportier appearance. The grill was designed with a V-shaped angle and the headlights were inset. Completely new rear quarter panels, rear valance panel, and door skins all provided the 1969 Camaro with a broader, lower, considerably more aggressive appearance. This design was for the 1969 model only.
The RS (Rally Sport) alternative featured:
- Hidden headlights
- Headlight washers
- An ebony colored grille
- Sport striping on the fenders
- Simulated louvers on the back fenders
- Black body sill
- RS insignias on the rear panel, grille, and steering wheel
- Front and rear wheel opening moldings
- Back-up lamps underneath the rear bumper
- Bright accented taillights
- Rally Sport front fender insignia plates
- Bright roof drip moldings on the Sport Coupe
In addition to the Rally Sport, the Z28 configuration was also still obtainable for 1969 with the 302 cubic inch small block engine. It was also equipped with a Muncie four speed transmission and a Hurst shifter. The 302 cubic inch small block power plant boasted an 11:1 compression ratio and featured a forged steel crank shaft and connecting rods, a solid lifter cam shaft, forged pistons, and a Holley carburetor mounted on a dual-plane intake manifold. The dealer could also install a dual four barrel crossram intake manifold at the customer’s request.
General Motors employed a policy that prohibited Chevrolet from installing engines larger than 400 cubic inches. Some dealers were installing 427 cubic inch power plants in the Camaro, and these dealers began requesting that Chevrolet do the same. Chevrolet used a special ordering process to circumvent the GM policy and began offering Camaros equipped with 427 engines.
One of the engines used in these Camaros was the L72 which produced 425 horsepower. Chevrolet dealer Don Yenko bought 201 of these cars to produce the legendary Yenko Camaro. Several other dealers also ordered the Camaro with this engine package, and around 1000 Camaros were equipped with the L72 engine.
The other engine used was an all aluminum 427 cubic inch power plant known as the ZL-1. This engine was designed exclusively for drag racing, and was a concept of drag racer Dick Harrell. Only 69 Camaros were equipped with this engine as the cost of the engine alone was over $4000. The ZL-1 was capable of producing more than 500 horsepower. The engines were assembled by hand and took 16 hours each to put together. They were assembled in a “clean room,” meaning that the room was surgically clean.
The 1969 Chevy Camaro is a widely sought-after classic car. As of this writing, typical V8 models might sell for anywhere from $21,000 for the base package with the smaller engine up to $86,000 for the Z28 package. Some of the models that were equipped with the L72 427 cubic inch engines sell for much higher prices, anywhere from $130,000 to about $200,000. The models equipped with the ZL-1 racing enging now sell for $325,000 to $350,000.