Volume II, Issue 5, Page 25


Guys like Don Yenko and Dick Harrell ignored GM’s notorious “under 400-cid” rule to make 427 beasts out of Camaros, Chevelles and Novas. Bill Thomas, who spearheaded Nickey Chevrolet’s supercar program on the west coast, laid hands on the car you see here, but curiously it isn’t a 427.

In last month’s MaxChevy, we recounted Tom Billigen’s unconverted COPO 9737 Yenko Camaro. Unlike Billigen’s Camaro, this car was sold new with an L35 396 (325-hp), to a Long Beach, CA, couple. The husband was a performance enthusiast with a small-block road-racing Corvette. The Camaro was for his wife, who really dug the Seafrost Green factory paint.

Bill Thomas Race Cars (BTRC), in Anaheim, CA, was one builder who’d stuck around following the GM racing ban of 1963. He built and marketed his nasty, flyweight, Corvette-powered Cheetah competition sports cars, partnered with Dick Harrell on several mid-1960s racecars, and was known as one of the masters of performance during this era.

After the wife’s new Camaro was soundly beaten in a street race by a 390 Mustang, they asked Thomas about a solution. The obvious would have been the full-tilt Nickey-style treatment by BTRC, with a crate-fresh 427, but the budget wasn’t hefty enough to make that happen. Thomas agreed to increase the capabilities of the month-old 396ci F-body with the idea of beating any other “stock” street car. He began with a solid-lifter cam, 3.73:1 gears, and a tachometer. Out on the boulevard, though, it wasn’t quite enough grunt, so back to Thomas it went.

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