Muscle cars have defined America’s love for cars. Between the ’60s and ’70s, they were very popular. But today, the old-school muscle is on the verge of extinction, with just the Ford Mustang slated to carry the mantle. And this has shot the classic muscle car value through the roof. When we talk about these cars, there are a few iconic names that helped fuse “performance” into classic muscle. And one such big name in muscle car history is Don Yenko.
He is the one who took cool Chevrolet cars and made them cooler. With him, the Chevy Corvair became “The Stinger”, and the Camaro became the legendary Yenko Camaro, with tons of different versions, one more desirable than the other. Unfortunately, the iconic Don Yenko transformations have faded away today. Nevertheless, the Chevy cars that Yenko transformed into beasts are some of the most sought-after American classic cars out there. And we remind you of the most iconic of them all.
The 1966 Chevy Corvair Became The Yenko Stinger
Don Yenko grew up in Pennsylvania, where he made a name for himself in “circles” at the university and the United States Air Force. He was a skilled plane pilot, and this passion followed him to the end of his days. But along with that, Don Yenko was a car enthusiast. Between 1950 and 1970, he participated in several racing events with his Corvette. He even competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The real turning point of his career came in the mid-60s when he began working at the family Chevrolet Dealership. Here, he decided to put his signature on the cars that came in. At that time, Chevrolet. at the time, created the Corvair as a befitting reply to the classic Volkswagen Beetle. This was a quirky compact car that wasn’t anything about performance. But Don Yenko decided he would change the destiny of this car and make it more powerful. It was then that The Yenko Stinger was born from the Corvair.
Yenko replaced the 6-cylinder engine with a 5.4L V8 engine, capable of delivering up to 240 horsepower. The car featured high-performance suspension, a self-locking differential, and four-piston disc brakes. Its top speed was 130 mph, and it was able to reach 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds. And that was the first-ever taste of the Yenko treatment that the world got.
Legacy Of The Iconic Yenko Camaro Muscle Car
In 1967, things changed for Don Yenko and muscle cars. In response to the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet decided to launch the Camaro. Don Yenko immediately realized that this new car could be beefed-up to take on the Mustang Shelby GT350.
So, once again, he decided to make it more competitive. At that moment, a true muscle car icon was born with the Camaro Yenko. And this is the most popular car that enthusiasts remember, connected to the “Yenko” nameplate.
The Camaro Yenko had more power and was a notch above the Yenko Stinger. The car had a 5.0-liter Chevrolet V8 engine that generated 290 horsepower. There was also a version with a 7.0-liter V8 engine capable of delivering an outstanding 425 horsepower.
The Camaro Yenko could reach a top speed of 142 mph and accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds. The most famous model of this car dates back to 1969: only 64 units were produced. The original Camaro Yenko sells for an average of $400,000 today and is the most desirable bunch of classic muscle cars from the late 1960s.
1981 Chevrolet Turbo Z Camaro: The Final Chapter Of Yenko
Unfortunately, in the 1970s, muscle cars began to fall out of favor and started to become less prevalent. This contributed to changing the fate of Don Yenko, who stopped producing cars for a few years. However, his business did not come to a complete halt.
In his garage, Yenko offered his customers aesthetic modifications and engine upgrades. The ZL-1 engine, produced with Chevrolet’s approval, is one of his most famous creations.
Then, in 1981, Don Yenko finally decided to return to the market with a last high-performance modified car. It was the famous Turbo Z Camaro Yenko. With a Garrett turbocharger attached to its 5.7-liter Chevrolet V8 engine, this car was able to generate 250 horsepower. The Turbo Z Camaro could do 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and had a top speed of 142 mph.
The car featured special body modifications such as a front air dam and a rear spoiler. It also utilized four-wheel disc brakes sourced from the Chevrolet Corvette. This red-hot Yenko creation is now a very desirable muscle car. Today depending on its condition, history, and rarity, a Camaro Yenko Turbo Z is worth between $50,000 and $100,000.
Unfortunately, this was the last vehicle to get the Yenko magic from the man himself. In 1987 Don Yenko passed away while piloting his airplane due to a difficult landing. What remains of him is the memory of fans and the legend of Yenko-branded Chevy performance cars. They will continue to captivate muscle car enthusiasts around the world.
Source: Classic.com, Mecum