Kevin DeWitte — Chevy Takes the Flag
Chevy’s never ride shotgun with Kevin DeWitte.
The East Valley resident likes them in muscle car attire and new: But, whatever the age, however outfitted, he likes them fast.
He grew up in Kalamazoo, Mich., and later moved to the Detroit area, so the car industry and cars were always part of his life. “I always wanted a car and bought a motorcycle right after my 16th birthday and then soon after my first car,” Kevin says, adding that he purchased his first new car in 1967 as a senior in high school.
Two years later, he visited Berger Chevrolet in Grand Rapids, Mich. — the largest high-performance dealer in the state. Berger often sold parts through “Prescribed Power” performance catalogs.
He bought a ‘69 COPO Camaro. COPO is for Central Office Production Order, a clever way to order around Chevrolet’s performance limits, which at the time was the 396-cubic-inch engine in the pony-sized Camaro.
For 1969, COPO 9561 was the L72 427/425 in both stick and auto. For the racer or deep-pocketed street rodder, the very rare COPO 9560 called for the aluminum -block ZL1 427 Camaro. Only 69 were built by Chevrolet at an almost prohibitive cost of more than $7,200 — $4160.15 for the engine itself, which ripped out 500-plus horsepower and became a track legend.
Kevin’s garage has racks to double stack cars, neon, personal awards and assorted framed pictures on the walls as well as custom banners. All of his and wife Kathy’s cars are stick cars — four speeds for the classics and six speeds for the new cars.
He flexes his automotive muscle:
•1969 Berger COPO Camaro — “This was my first new high-performance car, bought new on my 21st birthday. The car sat at Berger until Dec. 24 because my parents wouldn’t sign for it! It was factory built with the L72 engine, M21 four-speed transmission and a 4.10 ratio posi rear end.
“It was the only white car from Berger, out of 40 COPO Camaros Dale Berger ordered that year. He also sold 10 COPO Chevelles. Only the legendary Yenko Chevrolet in Cannonsberg, Pa., sold more 1969 COPO Chevrolets.
“I bought it because it was fast, sold it in August 1974 to a friend with 33,000 miles and bought it back in June 1994 with 41,000 miles. It had lived in a collector’s museum most of those 20 years. The COPO is all original-numbers matching on everything.”
•2000 Berger SS Camaro — “It belongs to my wife, Kathy, as a special birthday present. I bought it because it was in the first batch of specialty cars built by Berger since the ‘69 COPO car.
“Berger contracted with GMMG of Atlanta, Ga., to upgrade 100 Camaro SS cars from 2000 to 2002. Each car has performance upgrades to the engine, computer, suspension and exhaust. They only did 30 cars in 2000. This is car #1 for the entire run. It has a six-speed transmission, custom wheels, Berger badging and is the only one of the 100 cars to be stripe delete. It has 11,000 miles.”
•2010 Berger SS Camaro — “I bought because it was the return of the Camaro and was built by Berger employees at their dealership. I signed the papers on the 40th anniversary of buying the ‘69 COPO car, and it is white with black stripes to match it.
“This is car #20 of 20 they built on site this year. Supercharged with a six-speed, it develops 642 horses. These 20 cars were modified at the Berger dealership by six hand-picked employees. Upgrades include custom wheels, exhaust, paint scheme, computer system and air intake. It has 2,700 miles.”
•1965 Fuel-Injected Corvette Coupe— “The car is totally original and is the last year for fuel injection: Only 771 were made with this option. Other rare options are the telescoping wheel, TI ignition, 4.11 rear end, power windows, tinted glass and off-road exhaust.
“It’s 100% original including paint, interior, glass and all drivetrain components. And, it’s received the Bloomington Gold Survivor award, and I’m preparing it for NCRS competition. The car has 89k miles on it and is in remarkable original condition.
“The original owners, from Dec. 1964 until 2008, saved every piece of documentation from new as well as three log books with all fuel, lube and repairs done. I continue to log in these books and am in frequent communication with the original owners. In fact, they came over last year to visit their car from Kansas and are great people.”
•1966 427 Corvette Roadster — “I bought it in April 1990 because it is a rare 427/425- horse car with no radio and other rare options. It is Milano Maroon with a black interior and folding top and has an original interior, drive train and glass. I repainted the car and did a light frame-on restoration in 1998.
The 11.5-compression ratio engine was called a L72 by GM — the same engine as the ‘69 COPO car. Rare options include radio delete, power brakes, TI ignition, teak telescoping steering wheel, knock-off wheels, gold lines, off-road exhaust and 4.11 rear-end gears.”
•1966 Impala SS — “It’s a rarity with a 427/425-horse motor and a four speed. Plus, it came from another famous ‘60s dealership, Fred Gibb Chevrolet in La Harpe, Ill. It has all original factory and dealership documents, plus an all original interior.”
•1965 Plymouth Satellite — “This is a one-owner car I bought from the estate of the original owner with 40,000 miles on it. Car has a high-performance engine with a four speed and was totally original.”
•1965 Chevelle Malibu SS — “I have this because it has a very rare L79 engine, 327/350 horse, with a four speed and great documentation. This car just received a frame-off restoration and was awarded “Best Muscle Car” at the Goodguys event at WestWorld in November. It’s a finalist for the ‘2011 Muscle Car of the Year Award.’”
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