Of all first and second generation Camaros, the 1969 model stands alone as the most unique of the bunch. Except for the hood, roof and deck lid, no sheet metal carried over from 1968. Neither did the instrument panel, which was completely new for 1969 and would change again in 1970.
Why did Chevrolet go to all the trouble and expense to freshen the Camaro with a deeply recessed grille and scalloped wheel openings for 1969 when an all-new replacement was due one year later? Truth be known, Chevrolet was locked in a knock-down, drag-out battle for the number –one sales position with Ford in the late 1960s and a three year old Camaro needed help if it was to gain any ground on archrival Mustang, which was all new inside and out for 1969.
Other elements set the 1969 Camaro apart from all the others. A few hundred 1969 Camaros were factory equipped with a 427 cu-in. V8, either the all-aluminum ZL-1 or iron-block L-72. While the 427 V8 option never appeared on the dealer order forms, these could be special-ordered under codes COPO 9560 and COPO 9561. The resulting COPO rat-motor Camaros (COPO standing for Central Office Production Order) are valuable collector items today. Along with the COPO Camaros was an electrically operated, cowl induction hood, with a ram air set-up, which could also be ordered on SS and Z/28 models. Also 4-wheel disc brakes (adapted from the Corvette) could be factory ordered as options on the Z/28 and SS. Headlamp washers made their first appearance in 1969, standard on the RS and optional on all other models.
Various under the skin improvements made their debut in 1969. Single-piston, floating caliper front disc brakes replaced the corrosion-prone four piston design of 1967-68. Also new was a steering column mounted ignition lock, variable ratio power steering and a medium duty, 3 speed Turbo Hydra-matic 350 transmission option for all applications except Z/28 (4 speed manual mandatory) and SS396 (which got the heavy-duty Turbo Hydra-matic 400 when an automatic transmission was specified). Under the hood, the 230 cu-in inline-6 and venerable 327 V8 made their last appearances and a new low compression 307 cu-in, 2 bbl V8 was introduced. And the gas filler neck was moved to a concealed location behind the license plate and beneath the rear bumper.
The ever popular Rally Sport option continued to use vacuum operated hideaway headlamps, but for 1969, new louvered “see-through” headlamp doors were used to permit night driving in the event the doors became stuck in the closed position. For the second time in three years, Camaro was named as the Official Pace Car for the 1969 Indianapolis 500, and Chevrolet commemorated the event by producing 3675 Pace Car replicas. Sold under the RPO code Z11, all were orange-on-white SS/RS convertibles. Model year 1969 also marked the last time a convertible would be offered in the Camaro line until 1986.
A total of 243,085 1969 Camaros were produced during its extended model year, which ran 18 months- well into the 1970 calendar year.
by Tom Currao & Ron Sessions (From Camaro Restoration Handbook)
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