7. Camaro and Corvette ZL-1
Back in the late ’60s, Chevrolet was under the racing ban General Motors proposed. This meant that no official Chevrolet product could race and Chevrolet manufacturers couldn’t participate in racing. But, nobody stopped Chevrolet help racing teams through its “backdoor” program, where they developed special engines and components. In the late ’60s, the Can-Am was a popular racing series. It featured prototype-class cars with V8 engines.
Chevrolet wanted to build a power plant for this championship so they produced an all-aluminum 427 big block they called the ZL-1 in 1969. It was a high-revving, 7.0-liter V8 engine with up to 550 HP in mild tune. This monster of an engine was far more powerful than anything Mopar or Ford had in production at the time.
Chevrolet produced around 200 of those engines. While most of them went to Can-Am racing teams, 69 of ZL-1s were installed in C.O.P.O Camaros and sold to drag racing teams. The Camaro ZL-1 was the same on the outside as a regular 1969 Camaro. But it was so fast, it was barely street-legal. However, the most interesting story is about the Corvette ZL-1. Allegedly, Chevrolet built 12 Corvettes with the ZL-1 engine but destroyed all but two, a yellow and a white one.
The ZL-1 engine in Corvette received special tuning, had over 600 HP and had an insane performance. Chevrolet considered the Corvette ZL-1 a pre-production example or prototype. This meant it was slated for destruction but, two examples made it through and are prized pieces of Corvette history.