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The Yenko 1: A Top Gun 1970 Camaro Dirt Late Model

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 2017-02-15 Bill Holder
YENKO-0001.jpg The Yenko 1: A Top Gun 1970 Camaro Dirt Late Model

Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, many dirt stock cars looked very similar to their counterparts on the highway. Fans loved that stock look at the time, and even today, there is a desire to bring it back to dirt racing. 

The main reason it won’t happen is an economic situation. Buying factory replacement parts with their curves and angles is really hard on the billfold. For that reason, Dirt Late Model sent to using square body designs. Should a car get hit, all that is required is to cut a piece off the roll of aluminum and rivet it in place.

That is now, but with this ‘70 Camaro-bodied machine, there is no doubt to its make and model. And with its classy looks is a record on the track just as classy. This particular car was driven in this configuration for two seasons, 1979 and 1980 on dirt by National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame Inductee Bob Wearing Sr. During those two years, there were some three dozen wins.

1970-Camaro-Dirt-late-model-YENKO-0004.jpg © Hot Rod Network Staff 1970-Camaro-Dirt-late-model-YENKO-0004.jpg

The PA driver did well in his home state winning over three dozen races. In 1979, he won every late model race at Lernerville Speedway. It was also during that season that he ran a NASCAR Modified race and was nearly killed. That was it, and he returned to his beloved dirt late models for the rest of his career.

This car was the so-called Gen 4 model that was built by the top late model builder of the period, Ed Howe. There were a number of interesting features that the model carried. The car weighed about 2,800 pounds which is considerably more than the 2,400-pound dirt rockets of today. To maintain that factory look, the steel body carries a General Motors color and it’s in stock condition including the molded-in rear deck spoiler. The stock appearing fiberglass front is an HRP Howe piece and the front fenders are fabricated in fiberglass.

1970-Camaro-Dirt-late-model-YENKO-0013.jpg © Hot Rod Network Staff 1970-Camaro-Dirt-late-model-YENKO-0013.jpg

It should be noted that this car would be shorter than many of the full-body cars it raced against, but it was required to have the same wheelbase. The chassis featured an X-frame underneath and a second one topside that reached from the rear of the roof to the rear bumper for added strength. The frame was fabricated by three-inch tubular cold steel bars. All of the cage used two-inch round stock. 

The suspension was state-of-the-art and beyond for the time period. The front set-up featured advanced coil-over shocks which set the ride height. The more-conventional rear arrangement featured parallel leaf springs and standard gas shocks.

The engine was a 454 cubic inch Chevy big block with numerous aftermarket race parts and an estimated horsepower of 450-500. It carries a double-pumper Holley carburetor and a high-riser Edelbrock intake. Then, there’s the 180 degree headers that come over the top of the engine and exit at the bottom of the right side of the car. The tranny is a Hurst-shifted three-speed hooked to a period Winters quick-change rear end.

The interior is a work-of-art with the open areas nicely covered with aluminum. The cage members were then fed through the pre-cut holes for that perfect look.

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