By, Bob McClurg
From 1968 to 1972, League City, Texas, resident Melvin “Mel” Bogus served as Yenko Sportscars’ sales manager, and sold more Yenko Chevrolet specialty cars than all the other Yenko sales representatives combined. I first met Mel at the 10th annual (sYc) Supercar Reunion X where he spoke about his “Yenko Days” in front of a standing-room-only crowd. However, what made this occasion all the more significant was the fact that Mel was reunited with his Olympic Gold 1969 Yenko/SC 427 Camaro Demo Car—rumored to be Mel’s favorite—currently owned by Midlothian, Virginia’s Tony Lucas, and recently restored by Super Car Workshop’s (Latrobe, Pennsylvania) Joe Swezey and Brian Henderson. As you no doubt can surmise, the reunion was an auspicious occasion. After the smoke had cleared we sat down with my trusty tape recorder and got Mel’s impressions:
“Over the four-year period I was employed by Don Yenko, I think I had about eight demonstrator cars in all, but I had my Olympic Gold 1969 Yenko/SC 427 Camaro about the longest; I would say for at least six months. For warranty reasons we would customarily rotate these cars about every 6,000 or 7,000 miles. Man, that thing was fast. It was a lot of fun to drive, particularly for me, because it was free!
“I used that car for everything. I drove it to the store. I drove it to the races—particularly at Mid America Raceways, Wentzville, Missouri—where it was used as a pace car several times. I drove it to all the Chevrolet dealerships I was trying to sign up. You’ve got to remember that in those days gasoline was 25 cents a gallon. It didn’t matter whether the thing got four miles per gallon or 10. When you filled up the tank it cost you five bucks and you were done.
“Within reason I would do anything I could do to promote the Yenko name. Some ventures were more successful than others. For example, I remember I tried to autocross and gymkhana the ’69 a couple of times. But with that much horsepower I would burn up a set of those butyl rubber Goodyears in one afternoon! I made a lot of noise and everybody loved the tire smoke but I didn’t do very well.
“Obviously, tire wear was always a problem. You could smoke the tires in every gear with that car. I don’t exactly know how much those Camaros weighed at the time. I’m going to guess about 2,500 pounds, but with 450 hp those things were what you would call a ‘pure’ hot rod. I think I only got about 1,000 to 1,500 miles out to a set of tires; but luckily for me Yenko supplied them, and Dickie (Harrell) was nearby in Kansas City, Missouri, so I was able to ‘re-tire’ whenever I needed them.
“You could have a lot of fun with that car, and I did. Out on the open road I would always get challenged.
I got challenged by every type of car you could imagine, from Porsches to Corvettes to Chrysler products, and I would beat most all of them.
“I remember getting stopped on the Pennsylvania Turnpike one time for doing 111 mph! The trooper asked, ‘What in the world are you driving?’ Of course, being in Pennsylvania everybody knew who Don Yenko was. The trooper and I talked cars for about 15 minutes and then he said, ‘I’ve got a buddy up the road who takes his job pretty seriously. With him it doesn’t
matter what kind of car you’re driving so you better be careful,’ and he let me go!
“Being reunited with my old Olympic Gold demonstrator car was great. I was happy to see that the old girl was still around. Yes, I would have loved to have driven her one more time. It’s kind of hard to believe that these cars are worth over $400,000 today; which is quite a
fitting testimony to the Yenko’s lasting popularity!”
Taken from Bob McClurg's Yenko: The Man, The Machines, The Legend (published 2010)