The Fred Gibb/Dick Harrell ZL-1 Race Car
The cars nearly bankrupted him, but if Fred Gibb is known
for anything among Chevrolet performance enthusiasts, it’s for convincing
Chevrolet to fit the storied all-aluminum ZL1 427-cu.in. V-8 into a handful of
Camaros, thus creating one of the fiercest and fastest cars on the dragstrip.
In 2012, the first of those cars hammered at Mecum’s Spring Classic
auction in Indianapolis for $400,000, a figure some are already calling the deal of a lifetime.
Gibb, who had
been selling Chevrolets in the town of LaHarpe, Illinois, since 1948, didn’t
embrace racing as a means to selling more cars until Herb Fox, one of his
salesmen, bought a 1967 Camaro Z/28 and introduced Gibb to Dick Harrell.
The next year, Gibb began to use his contacts at Chevrolet to order special
cars through the Central Office Production Order system, starting with a small
fleet of L78/TH400-powered Chevy IIs. Those sold well, so the next year, Gibb
went all-out and pulled some strings at Chevrolet to have the ZL1 – developed
for Can-Am racing and not slated for production use – installed in 50 1969 Camaros.
The first of those 50 Gibb
reserved for Fox to race with the Gibb and Harrell names lettered across the
sides. According to Mecum’s description:
The first and second ZL1 Camaros arrived at Fred Gibb
Chevrolet covered in snow on New Year’s Eve, 1968. It was so cold the cars
would not start and had to be towed off the transporter. The first car was
immediately sent to Dick Harrell’s Kansas City, Missouri, shop, where Harrell
readied it for its scheduled debut at the 1969 AHRA Winternationals three weeks
later at Phoenix. Piloted by Gibb Chevrolet employee Herb Fox, the car served
notice on its competitors that trouble lay on the horizon when it beat the two
top qualifiers before losing in the semi-final to eventual winner Arlen Vanke’s
Barracuda. The most alarming part of the day for the Mopar contingent came when
Fox eliminated Mr. Four-Speed himself, Ronnie Sox, in the Sox & Martin Hemi
Harrell demonstrated the car’s performance for Super Stock
magazine in February 1969, turning 10.41 at 128.10 MPH with the stock Holley
850, and 10.29 with dual 660 Holleys on a Weiand tunnel-ram. The Gibb-Harrell
ZL1 Camaro then barnstormed the country, racking up victories in both AHRA and
NHRA competition. In 1971, the car was converted to the new AHRA Pro Stock
rules and driven by Jim Hayter, who set the AHRA Pro Stock record of 9.63 at
143 MPH and won the AHRA Championship in both Super Stock and Pro Stock.
by Daniel Strohl
YOU ARE NOT JUST BUYING PARTS – YOU ARE GETTING OUR CAMARO EXPERTISE
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