Yenko: the legendary name in Chevrolet tuning that Europeans may not know about
It's the brand that's allergic to pretty much everywhere except North America - but that doesn't make it any less impressive...
With all this EV talk plastered all over DriveTribe lately, I thought it would be appropriate to season all the news with a story that focused on good old gas-guzzling american muscle cars - with Yenko at the heart of the tribute to an end of the engine-powered era.
Yenko has taken center stage when it comes to tuning Chevrolet models, developing a rich history as it rises to the challenge of increasing the performance of every car that the General Motors marque gives birth to.
Most of you will probably recognise the name from watching 2Fast 2Furious, in which a signature blue and white-striped Yenko Camaro starred, in partnership with YearOne Muscle Cars.
1969 Yenko Camaro SYC from 2Fast 2Furious | Credit: Flickr
Starting off as an ordinary Chevrolet dealership in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania in 1949, Yenko Chevrolet gained attention for selling customised vehicles derived from the brand throughout the 60s, and quickly became among the most collectible vehicles during the time, with a focus on power and performance, over aesthetics.
With such a small production headquarters and working with only one brand meant that these cars were far from easy to find once the company closed its doors for good in 1982. Throughout its lifetime, Yenko Chevrolet churned out only a few hundred examples of each of the models they worked their magic on - with just 400 examples of the Chevy Vega sacrificed for the Yenko badge, between 1971 and 1972.
The Vega was the most popular model that was customised by Yenko, with the more commonly recognised Camaro chassis being souped up the second most modified under the Yenko marque - but only 316 examples were released into the wild throughout 1967-1969. Other models produced in relatively low and scarce numbers included the Chevelle, Nova and Corvair.
Yenko Vega Vintage Brochure | Credit: Flickr
1969 was a big year for Americans - and aside from moonwalks, modifications for the Yenko cars often involved a crossover of performance parts, such as engines and exhaust systems. The 1969 Yenko Camaro S/C was treated to a L72 Big Block 427/425hp engine, a special ducted hood, a dual exhaust system, increased cooling capacity and special suspension.
The 427 Big Block that Yenko loved to use | Credit: Flickr
Additionally, the Corvair was laced with a more powerful 140hp engine, upgraded suspension and upgraded brakes to seal the deal.
Yenko Corvair | Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Topping this off was the incredibly sought after Yenko Nova, which, again featured the same L72 427 Big Block as the Camaro - and was equipped with M-21 close-ratio four-speed manual transmission and a 4.10 PosiTraction gear in the 12-bolt differential, along with Atlas wheels and smaller brakes if all this wasn't enough already. And when I say sought after - that automatically points to an extortionate price tag for a well-kept Nova, bearing in mind the last known sale of a Yenko Nova came at a cost of USD$500,000.
If anything, I think Yenko's earn their place under the category of sleeper cars - they may look raw and fairly stock to the untrained eye, but the sheer power these cars are capable of unleashing creates a particularly deceptive persona for something that appears so understated.
And as far as the legacy of Don Yenko and his company is concerned, the future of Yenko is just beginning. Yenko has already aimed down the sights at both the C7 Corvette and 2017 Camaro with its ruthless applications of power, and is continuing to work on a 2021 Yenko Camaro, which will have over 1,000hp once Yenko's mechanics get their hands on one. Oh, and by the way, it's going to cost around USD$115,000 to take ownership of one.
Thank you for reading! Share your thoughts of Yenko in the comments!
| Ollie Funnell, Student Journalist | Coventry University
| Twitter: funnelloo