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Dick Harrell Camaro: A 427-Powered Masterpiece Built by "Mr. Chevrolet"


For enthusiasts, a car's story can be just as important as the car itself. Whether it’s spending memorable moments in the garage with dad, date nights and cruise-ins with that special someone, or highly-embellished tales of well-earned race victories, a car with a unique history becomes much more than mere transportation. It becomes the main character in its own story. This unique 1969 Camaro was built by one of the greatest legends in drag racing, Dick "Mr. Chevrolet" Harrell, and the story of its development is fascinating. Read on as we take a look back at the history of the Dick Harrell Camaro, and examine how this rare vehicle became part of the Classic Industries collection.

Dick Harrell a.k.a. "Mr. Chevrolet"


Born in October of 1932, Dick Harrell grew up in Carlsbad, New Mexico, where his family owned a dairy farm. In his early teens, he took an interest in racing sprint cars, learning to tune them as well as drive them. By age 17, he had already graduated to racing stock cars on a local dirt track, but this hobby would be put on hold when he enlisted in the U.S. Army as an aircraft mechanic. During down time, he continued wrenching on cars, and eventually dove into the sport of drag racing with a '56 Chevy.

After his honorable discharge from the Army, Harrell's passion for drag racing occupied most of his spare time, and his considerable talent quickly earned him fame throughout the Southwest. His commitment to racing and modifying Chevy vehicles, even after GM discontinued its racing support in the 1960s, led to the nickname "Mr. Chevrolet."


Naturally, Harrell wanted to use the most powerful engine available to enhance the performance of his Camaro, but GM didn't want to risk dethroning the Corvette by officially offering its 427ci V8 in the Camaro. So, Harrell used the Central Office Production Order (COPO) process to obtain 427ci engines, and did the swap himself at the Harrell Performance Center. The result was a brand-new Dick Harrell Camaro that could be purchased at the dealer with a 427 installed under the hood.

For more information on the legacy of Dick Harrell, check out our tribute video below:

Classic Industries' 1969 Dick Harrell Camaro


The story of our 1969 Dick Harrell Camaro begins with John Penso, part of the Flying Dutchman funny car crew and close friend of drag racing legend “Mr. Chevrolet” Dick Harrell. When Penso wanted a fast car for the street, but couldn’t find anything fast enough, he knew Harrell was the man to see. Penso made arrangements to fly to the Dick Harrell Performance Center in Kansas City, Missouri and drive a 427-powered 1969 Camaro back to his home in California.


In addition to Dick Harrell’s signature tweaks, this Camaro contained a handful of parts in the trunk for Penso to install after the trip back to California, including a set of 4.56 gears, slapper bars, and a camshaft from the legendary ZL1 which Harrell had a hand in co-developing with GM. The Dick Harrell badges were placed in the glove box to prevent other racers from figuring out what might be under the hood.

Over the years, this Camaro’s documentation had been lost and its pedigree had come into question until it crossed paths with Dick Harrell’s daughter, Valerie. As the architect of the modern Dick Harrell Performance Center, Valerie Harrell had painstakingly organized her late father’s original records and was able to prove that this Camaro, VIN# 124379N580930, was indeed the car that her father built for John Penso.

"Mr. October" Reggie Jackson, friend of CEO Jeff Leonard, performed the inaugural burnout after the car was unloaded from its transporter.


Eventually, the car was treated to a professional restoration that included a variety of reproduction parts, including many offered in Classic Industries’ own Camaro catalog. When this Camaro finally crossed the block in Scottsdale, Arizona at the Barrett-Jackson auctions in early 2013, Classic Industries founder and CEO, Jeff Leonard bid on, and went on to win this extraordinary part of muscle car history. Leonard, who currently owns a variety of low-production classic vehicles, isn’t one to be impressed easily.


This 1-of-10 Camaro is part of a rotation of cars on display in the Classic Industries Retail Showroom.

“When I first came across this rare 1-of-10 Dick Harrell 427 Camaro at Barrett Jackson, I knew it was a unique opportunity,” Leonard said of the car. "This Camaro is one of the most recognizable and sought after vehicles from the golden era of muscle cars. Having been built by one of the foremost innovators of his day, this Dick Harrell supercar is surely one that any hobbyist would want to see. It will take its place as one of the most distinctive vehicles within the Classic Industries collection.”


Need Camaro Restoration Parts?

If you have a Camaro project car of your own, whether it's an incredibly rare collector car or an inexpensive fixer-upper, Classic Industries can help you restore it and keep it looking and running great. Check out our Camaro parts web store or click the button below for a free full-color restoration parts catalog.