Q: Greg, my friend Lou Tecco sent us the article you did on Yenko, Gibb and other Camaro greats (in the GateHouse Media papers). You missed a very important factor on an otherwise good story. Dick Harrell built the first 427 conversions for Nickey (Chicago), and he also did most of the first 25, including the very first for Don Yenko (Pennsylvania).
Q: Greg, my friend Lou Tecco sent us the article you did on Yenko, Gibb and other Camaro greats (in the GateHouse Media papers). You missed a very important factor on an otherwise good story. That is how history gets re-written, right?
Dick Harrell built the first 427 conversions for Nickey (Chicago), and he also did most of the first 25, including the very first for Don Yenko (Pennsylvania).
Dick Harrell also put Fred Gibb on the map. I am not sure of when Dana did the cars, but I could ask Dale Armstrong as he is a knowledgeable Dana guy. I do know that Bill Thomas got a Camaro in early to mid-1966, and that is how all the mounts and headers were formulated (for the 427).
Dick went to Nickey to run the performance part and convert the Camaros. The reason for this was to have a dealership sell 50 of the 427 Camaros and make them legal for a class in AHRA racing.
Thanks, Dale Pulde, Los Angeles.
A: Nothing better than getting a letter from a nationally respected nitro funny car racer! Of note is the fact that Dale and Harrell's daughter, Valerie, have been together for years, so the info we received is without question correct.
First and foremost, Valerie Harrell receives kudos from this scribe for her unending efforts in keeping the Dick Harrell name alive after his untimely passing in a nitro funny car accident in Canada back in 1971.
Pulde helps explain that the late Dick Harrell, known as "Mr. Chevrolet," was the major mover behind the 427 Camaro engine swaps, be it Nickey, Yenko, Gibb or whatever before or after the General Motors COPO blessing. Harrell also branched out on his own with a Kansas City based performance center (see ad). Had we not lost Harrell in that racing accident, there's a good chance today he'd be in the John Force class or racer with countless championships under his belt.
Additionally, it is Harrell that many drag racing historians give credit to as the founder of Pro Stock racing. Harrell convinced then AHRA President Jim Tice to form a new class of heads up, dual-carburetor and gasoline-powered "super stockers" that grew into the Pro Stock division.
Pulde goes on to explain that it was Harrell who actually did the very first 427 swap for Don Yenko, so my thanks to Pulde for his interesting and factual updates to a column that just might be one of the most popular, reader wise, that I've done in my 40-plus years writing. Pulde also mentions Bill Thomas, who offered the Harrell 427 cars out on the west coast and Dale Armstrong, driver, mechanical high-tech genius and crew chief extraordinaire.
Thanks again to Dale Pulde and Valerie Harrell for assisting in this interesting update to the 427 COPO Camaro articles. For more on Dick Harrell, see www.dickharrell.com.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for GateHouse Media and welcomes reader input at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.