The Harrell Camaro wasn't cheap; the bottom line on the window sticker read $5,071.05. The MSRP was $4,430.95, which included Camaro's base price and the COPO 9561 and Dick Harrell packages. The list of options was brief: Tach ($68), AM radio ($61.10), Spoiler Equipment ($48), Special 7x15 Sprint mags ($185), Hi Performance traction tires ($175), and Special Exhaust system ($28).
Like any gearhead back then, Randy yanked the performance-choking emissions equipment off the 427 when he got the car home. He did some minor engine tweaks, and with the stock 4.10 gears, he'd run the car at U.S. 30 and Oswego dragstrips, turning a best time of 14 flat at 140 mph. Randy also did some street racing in Plainfield and nearby Aurora. "I had my share of tickets," he laughed.
While he was at the 1970 Indy Nationals, Randy spotted a chopped Riviera sporting a supercharger and towing a funny car. "I thought that was so cool," Randy said. "I decided that I had to have one of them."
Randy returned home and began working on bolting a GMC 6-71 blower to the 427 in his Harrell Camaro. "I took off the cowl induction hood," Randy said, "and put it away. I installed a regular Camaro hood. I put in lower-compression pistons and changed the valves and valve springs. A friend of mine fabricated all the parts needed to mate the 6-71 blower to a big-block street engine. I used a pair of Holley 660s. Later on, I slipped in a Crane roller cam. That cam made the engine bark like a dog!"
Randy never had the chance to run the blown Harrell Camaro on the track. "I put a set of 4.88 gears in it," Randy said, "and took it to U.S. 30. I was sitting in the staging lanes when I was called to the tower. When I got up there, I was told I wouldn't be able to run. They said their insurance for supercharged streetcars was cancelled, so I never got to run with the supercharger."
Eventually, the huffer came off, and Randy sold the Camaro in 1974 to his brother-in-law's cousin in neighboring Big Rock. In the course of a couple years, the Camaro passed through several local hands, all within the local farming community, where it was street raced, never wrecked, and always stored indoors for the winter months. It was sold again in 1978, and once more in 1982 to Jim Thurow. Jim kept the Harrell Camaro for 24 years until he passed away. That's when Rod Bushnell of nearby Naperville, Illinois, entered the picture.
Second Time Around
Rod purchased the Harrell Camaro from the estate with just 36,000 miles on the clock. Buying the car had extra meaning from Rod. "I rode in this car in 1978 when I was 8 years old," Rod said. "It's a local legend. For a car that was always driven and raced hard, it was in remarkably good shape."
Rod contacted each of the owners and got as much information as he could about the car's history. His big surprise was when he talked to Randy, who had found the original window sticker that he had tucked away years earlier in a dresser drawer and gave it to Rod. "Valerie Harrell was also a great help in gathering information about the car from her dad's records," Rod said.
To handle the restoration, Rod commissioned Perfection Autosport in Grafton, Wisconsin. The car was stripped and the body placed on a rotisserie. "The body panels were all original and in good overall condition," Rod said. "We were able to use the original metal, bumpers, trim and the same badges that Dick Harrell had installed on the car himself in 1969."
Steve Grafton in Butler, Wisconsin, did the rebuild on the vintage 427. He gave it a clean-up bore, and matched it to the stock crank to get 433 total cubes, and then balanced the assembly. Most of the internals are stock components; however, Steve chose a set of 11.25:1 Speed-Pro pistons to give the big Chevy some extra bite. To put some extra twist in the venerable Rat, Steve installed an Iskendarian .530-inch lift mechanical stick with ?-inch Crane pushrods. The iron heads were modified for 2.25-inch intake valves and 1.88-inch exhausts, and then port-matched with the intake manifold.
The remainder of the restoration brought the Camaro back to its original form as it rolled out of Harrell's Performance Center in 1969. Having the opportunity to trace the car's lineage back to the first owner has given Rod a sense of the Harrell Camaro's legacy and how it touched so many people in the community. "This car never left a 15-square mile farming community," Rod said. "Over the years, two of its owners parked the Harrell Camaro in the same student parking lot at Hinckley-Big Rock High School. Can you image this big 427 Camaro in a tiny farm town? Car guys in ten surrounding towns feared this car!"
There's a sense of continuity here; a thread that connects six young men, the heartland of America, and a very unique car together. And while the young men have aged and the farms have given way to suburbia, the car remains as it did in 1969-a thundering testament to the handiwork of Dick Harrell. "It was a car they'd go out and drag race on a Saturday night," Rod said. "Everyone called it the 'Dickie Harrell Camaro,' and they still remember the car today. It was built to go down the track. There were no frills; it just went fast."