The First COPO 427 Camaro

Greg Zyla
Q: Greg, I read your article titled “Remember those model building days,” which brought back many memories of building models in the mid-to-late 1960s.

I am now 56 years old, and bought many models weekly with the money I earned from my newspaper route. All my money went to two things at that age - candy and models.

Unfortunately I do not have a single example today of any models I made and I would have loved to have at least one model to look at in my office. I have been a “car guy” from when I was nine years old and heavily influenced by my older sister’s boyfriend. He was a Hot Rodder from Clelum, WA, and owned many cars. One in particular was a 1948 Plymouth 2-door that was heavily chopped with a Cadillac engine and 4-speed. I made him take me for a ride each weekend before he took my sister out on a date and I always asked him to spin the tires and “get on it.” The sound and smell still lingers today, and I am convinced his influence is why I am a dedicated car guy today. This experience led to model building and drawing cars, and eventually owning numerous cars when I got back into the hobby 10 years ago.
Dana 427 COPO Camaro 
Attached are a few pictures of my full restoration 1968 427 Dana Camaro, produced by Dana Chevrolet in Southgate, Los Angeles. The car is a very accurate reproduction, and not a documented original. There are only six or so documented 1967 and 1968 427 Dana Camaros that exist today out of the 50 or so that were built. A restored real Dana car is worth $400 to $500K. Dana cars are the least known out of the various Chevrolet dealers that did engine swaps in ‘67 and ‘68 like Nickey, Baldwin Motion and Yenko.

This is a good example of model builders like me that graduated to assembling real cars. The car turned out very nice and was professionally built by me and with the help of friends. It took a five year commitment which required a lot of research as well organizing the limited information on Dana Camaros. I had to build the hood and Dana letters from scratch as they are not reproductions.

Your article on model cars brought back a lot of fond memories. Thanks, Gary Keyes, Spokane, Washington.

A: Gary, thank you so much for this great letter and photos. I am going to have more on your car in a future column and want everyone to know that the Dana Camaro was indeed the first COPO 427 Camaro, while Yenko, Baldwin Motion and Nickey were east coast representations that soon followed. Stay tuned for more on the Keyes' Dana Camaro, which will also be featured in several national magazines.
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