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CRG Research Report

Missing Camaros
Part 1: The Yutivo Production Line

© 1998-2011, Camaro Research Group

Primary Author -
Reviewed by the CRG
Last Edit: 20-Jun-1999
Previous Edit: 26-May-1999
Original Release: 10-Nov-1998

Yutivo Assembly Plant, Philippines

The author would appreciate being contacted by anyone with personal knowledge of Yutivo operations or of Camaros built at Yutivo (or anyone with knowledge of Camaros built in any of the other four non-US assembly plants for the companion article, Foreign Assembly Plants).


I must express my great appreciation to Yu Beng Tek of the Yutivo family, former Import and Distribution Manager of the Yutivo production facility, who tells the bulk of this story and pulled 30-year old facts from his memory with amazing ease. I am largely an editor for his words. I would also to express my appreciation to Mike Gomez, who helped me locate Mr. Yu. Also thanks to Santiago "Susing" Ricardo, friend of Mr. Yu and Yutivo Plant Manager during the Camaro years, for supplying the plant layouts. And, of course, to the other members of the Camaro Research Group, who helped proof-read and critique this article.


Chevrolet lists total production of the 1967 Camaro at 220,906 units. Based on factory VIN records, Norwood production is listed by the United States Camaro Club as 154,698 and LA production at 65008, or a total production of 219706, exactly 1200 units shy of the Chevrolet figures. Why the difference? Was Chevrolet incapable of counting the vehicles that it built?

In a related issue, Chevrolet's 1967 engine and vehicle counts total to the same number, but the 602 302ci engines are not included in that engine count. Are there another 602 missing vehicles, for a potential total of 1802 missing 1967 Camaros? 1968 and 1969 production totals are similarly at odds with US factory vehicle ID numbers.

Perhaps there are rational explanations for these missing vehicles. This is the first of what will hopefully be a series of articles on previously uncounted sources of first-generation Camaro production.


Many Americans have forgotten that GM manufactured and sold a number of predominately U.S. models outside of North America. European operations were centered at GM Continental in Antwerp, Belgium, and infrequent references to this factory as a producer of Camaros will occasionally be found (this factory will be the focus of a future article). However, there was another manufacturing site that is even more neglected in the history of the Camaro. This is the story of GM operations in the Philippines; assembly plant for approximately 900 first-generation Camaros.

This story comes directly from Yu Beng Tek, great-grandson of the founder of the Philippine operation. At the start of Camaro production in 1966, Mr. Yu was the 21-year-old Import Manager for Yutivo Corporation's Automotive Division at their Manila assembly plant. Mr. Yu was responsible for managing parts flow from GM factories in the US to the Yutivo operation.

Yutivo Corporation, GM Operations - Philippines

Following World War II, Yutivo Corporation became the franchised assembler and distributor for General Motors in the Philippines. Assembly operations began in 1953 at a factory located in Penafrancia Extension, Paco, Manila. Yutivo assembled both cars and trucks and had a total production capacity of 18 trucks and 15 cars per day (2 shifts). The Yutivo operation stayed in the Yutivo family until 1976, when the facility was leased (and then sold) to GM and the Yutivo family left the day-to-day operations.

GM later moth-balled the factory, and, as best as we can reconstruct, eventually sold the facility to Isuzu Motors in 1994. The property on the which the Yutivo plant was located was sold by Yutivo Investments to Metro Bank circa 1995. During this same time frame, Isuzu re-located their vehicle assembly operations to another site, due to city zoning and by-laws. According to 1998 press reports, GM is now considering re-entering the Philippines with new manufacturing operations.

Yutivo Corporation car lines, at one time or another, included:

 Chevrolet: Bel-Air 4Dr, Impala 4Dr, Malibu 2Dr/4Dr, Camaro
 Buick:     Electra 225 and Pontiac Parisienne 4 Dr. (Canadian version
            of the Pontiac Bonneville)
 Vauxhall:  (GM UK) Victor, VX4/90, Viva 2Dr/4Dr
 Opel:      (GM Germany) Rekord 2Dr/4Dr, Rekord Wagon 5Dr, Ascona 4Dr,
            Manta 2Dr, Kadett 2Dr/4Dr
 Holden:    (GM Australia) Model EH-4Dr, Wagon 5Dr, Premier 4Dr

Truck lines covered the full range of Chevrolet and Bedford trucks (pick-ups, chassis-cab, chassis-cowl, school bus and tractor models).

Yutivo Camaros

Camaros were built at Yutivo starting with initial 1966 release for the 1967 model year. Because of Philippine government restrictions on engine size, the Camaros were imported and assembled only with a special low-compression version of the US RPO L22 250ci in-line 6-cylinder engine, known as RPO L90. Except for unusual vehicles specially assembled for those with close contacts with production supervision, there was essentially no hardware variation in the Yutivo Camaro options. The only factory option Yutivo offered was choice of the standard M15 3-speed manual or the M35 2-speed automatic Powerglide transmission. C60 air-conditioning and other various options like radios were dealer installed for tax purposes. (The Yutivo family also owned the majority of the 2 dealership network: Northern Motors covering Luzon and Southern Motors for Visayas and Mindanao.)

Yutivo Camaros were outfitted in a standard configuration that consisted of:

A01 tinted windows
D55 console with floor shifter
L90 250ci L6 engine (low-compression export)
N40 power steering
Z22 Rallysport

In 1969 the F90 export front and rear HD suspension was added. Axle ratios were 3.08 and 3.36 for automatic and 3-speed manual transmissions, respectively.

Besides the L90 engine, a number of other export-only options applied to Yutivo units. Since Mr. Yu was the Import and Distribution Manager, the following RPOs, found in the assembly manuals, but not applied to US production, were familiar to him:

A17 export glass (67-68)
D28 export mirror, outside rear view (67)
F40 export front and rear HD suspension (69)
G92 export axle, 3.08 ratio (67-68)
L90 export low-compression L6
T70 export headlamp
U18 export speedometer
V48 export maximum engine coolant
V78 export compliance plate delete (68-69)

One of the exceptions to this standard 6-cylinder configuration is described by Mr Yu:

"Exceptions to the standard configuration were made only for privileged staff. As an example, my older brother's '68 Camaro RS was initially assembled with a 350ci V8 rated at 350 HP (which we imported separately as spare parts), coupled with a Muncie 4-speed transmission and a 3.55 positraction rear axle. Sometime later, we dropped in a 427ci engine rated at 425HP with a Muncie HD 4-speed close-ratio tranny and a 4.88 rear axle ratio for the drags. The car was a beast painted in black with bold gold stripes painted on the hood and trunk lid. Chromed 15x8 Hurst mags with wide performance tires were installed. Actually, the car was painted to look like the Hurst Camaro (or was it Mr. Gasket?)."

"We organized everything beforehand with the help of cousin Alex who ordered all the necessary stuff (engine/transmission/suspension components/radiator and other related components/axle) thru RPO lists. He took out all the part numbers appearing in each of the RPOs we wanted straight out of the production/ordering manuals and inserted them into the ordering system. They were all sourced as production replacement parts which normally would be next to impossible to do through the spare parts department. Alex ordered everything down to the last clamp/special screws and bolts. That was how we got the special 350ci engine rated at 350HP (hydraulic valve lifters) which nobody had even seen at that time. That also included the LT1/L72 350s and 396/427s we eventually ordered."

Yutivo CKD Production Methods

Yutivo was the first GM CKD (completely knocked down) assembly plant in the Far East after World War II. Until Yutivo began production, GM vehicles were imported either completely built-up or SKD (semi-knocked down), which is basically a completely built-up unit with the doors, hood, trunk, wheels and other minor items removed to qualify for lower import duties/taxes.

In a CKD operation all components arrive in pieces except engine, transmission and rear axle which come as assemblies. Carburetors, starters, alternators, pulleys and belts, fuel lines, oil filters, etc. all have to be attached on the engines during assembly.

Each batch of Yutivo vehicle parts was ordered from GM and identified by XCO/OCO/VXO/HXO numbers:

l. US/Canadian        - XCO (Export Car Order) of 24 units
2. German (Adam Opel) - OCO (Opel Car Order) of 24 units
3. English (Vauxhall) - VXO (Vauxhall Export Order) of 24 units
                            or Bedford Trucks of 12 units
4. Australian         - HXO (GM Holden) of 24 units

The XCO numbers were the ones that applied to the Camaro.

VIN and cowl tags were stamped at Yutivo using a Yutivo specific system. Mr. Yu initially didn't recall every detail. He remembered that the Yutivo VIN plate was gold-colored with a Yutivo symbol, and included both the VIN and the Yutivo logo, and he recalled that the VIN format was basically modeled after the US factory identification system and included the XCO number plus a character to identify the unit of that particular XCO. Subsquent to this several Yutivo VINs have been documented; a photo of a cowl tag for a 1969 model is located below and it agrees with Mr. Yu's memory. Seeing an example VIN was enough to complete the recollection for Mr. Yu, and the explanation follows. Click on the small image to exand it to full-size. The actual size of the plate measures 6.25 inches by 1.875 inches.

Yutivo Trim Tag

Looking at the above Yutivo cowl tag, one first notices that it combines elements of both the U.S. VIN plate as well as the Fisher Body cowl tag. It is easy to see that the first seven characters of the Yutivo VIN, "123379Y" followed the U.S. model. "12337" is the style for a Chevrolet Camaro 6-cylinder coupe. The "9" that follows represents the model year, 1969. And the "Y" represents the Yutivo assembly plant. The next seven digits, "184019Y", are Yutivo specific. 184019 is the XCO number, and "Y" indicates the 23rd unit within the XCO set of 24 units (Mr. Yu recalls that "I" and "O" were not used, leaving 24 letters, one per unit). Below the VIN are the codes for the exterior paint (917 is "Champagne" as used by the U.S. window sticker paint codes) and the interior trim (719 is Red Custom).

Another Yutivo Camaro has been found, a 1967 model, and is owned by Manuel A. Quizon. The VIN on this vehicle is 123377Y-150044Q. Manuel reports a dash being used in front of the XCO code, which was apparently later deleted and by 1969 no longer used.

Each kit of 24 Camaros consisted of the same model. Mr. Yu's most challenging task as Import Manager for CKD assembly was dealing with incorrect, shorted, damaged, or pilfered shipments. The key to keeping the lines moving was ordering and scheduling to enable forward-robbing or "cannibalizing" the needed parts from inventory. The Production Department had the responsibility of assuring that at least one XCO was completed, once a model run of one to three XCOs began assembly. As part of this, the Warehouse Manager spot-checked "questionable-looking" crates that may have been pilfered; any losses were immediately tallied and reported.

As soon as Production reported the known "shortages," existing inventory was checked to see if replacements were on-hand. From experience in replacing losses, this was usually the case. However, for any urgently needed replacements not in stock, GM Overseas Operations was telexed and the replacements were airfreighted to Yutivo. Less urgent replacements, to replenish stock, were shipped less expensively by water.

A CKD body comes completely in pieces. Major body sub-assemblies (floorpan, LH/RH side panels, front and rear ends) are built, and then those are finally joined together in a master jig where the car starts to take shape. Next it goes into the solder and metal finishing stage where the gaps (such as those on the rear quarter panels, windshield perimeter where the roof joins the two body sides and front assembly, etc.) are filled and other reinforcing welds (via gas, MIG, and/or TIG welding) are added.

The resulting bodies in white are pushed to the paint shop where they are completely de-rusted and cleaned in preparation for the primer coats. The body is wet-sanded and anti-rust coats are added. Next, the body enters the paint (color) spray booth. Usually, any imperfections are again wet-sanded and repainted before going to the next stage, the trim line, where the interior, glass, electrical harnesses, dashboard, steering wheels, doors, and deck lid (but not the hood) are installed.

While all of this is going on, in another line the wheel and tires are mounted together and balanced. The engine, transmission, rear axle are mated and held on a rolling jig. Finally the body-drop happens (where the painted and trimmed body is mated to the drive line. The resulting vehicle is rolled to the finishing line where the bumpers and hood are installed, and initial engine start-up is conducted, plus any catch-up installations.

Quality inspections are done all along the different stages of assembly and the units are then sent over to final inspection/road test, where wheels are aligned, water leak tests performed, and paint is re-touched/polished. Finally, finished units are organized for delivery to the dealers.

Production Scheduling

Production schedule was decided primarily from:

  1. Dealer vehicle requirement/sales projections.

    Demand for Camaro in the Philippines was highest between December to June (dry season) than during the rainy season (the rest of the year). Not only did sunny weather loosen tight pocketbooks, but the streets of Manila can flood after heavy downpours, often causing traffic to be at a standstill for hours, tending to discourage car purchases.

  2. Available CKD complete inventory not "crippled" by wrong/short/damage/pilfer.

    Parts availability issues are discussed further below.

The plant normally operated 6 days per week. Usually a second shift (and on occasion, even a third shift) operated at the body build-up line, depending on work load/problems (for example, paint rejects and other quality problems) and production output required to meet dealer orders.

Scheduled production for the Camaros was normally staggered every other month; October/December/February/April/June. Once assembly of an XCO commenced, all 24 were built together, though not necessarily all finished at the same time. If a major component was found missing at the chassis line after production had started, the bodies would still be built and pushed aside. There were so many problem scenarios that there had to be a large amount of flexibility, imagination and resourcefulness to keep the line moving.

Usually, the body build-up of cars started 3-4 days before the chassis due to the lead-time required to complete body built/paint/trim before body drop.

Mr. Yu remembers the Warehouse Manager, "Siang-ai," as simply a remarkable person.

"He was a short, bald and stocky person and a 'black belter' - so nobody messed with him. He remembered all the bolts, nuts and whatever you needed, he knew where to find them; if you needed something you went to no one but him. He would know what items were inside each crate and where the crates of each XCO were in the warehouse. My God, he was a walking computer if there was ever one."

From experience, the Yutivo managers knew what items to stock in inventory to reduce the downtime waiting for replacement parts found missing/damaged. These most often included starter motors, alternators, carburetors, radiators, brake components, and wheels. These parts were most often lost thru pilferage at the pier. The thieves knew what crates to look for, and ingeniously opened only these crates and re-sealed them well enough to pass inspection by the custom brokers/adjusters. The "syndicate" would try to sell the parts back, but Yutivo didn't buy so as not to encourage the practice. The stolen parts often ended up at parts bins of wholesaler/retailers.

As discussed previously, missing parts were re-ordered from GM and shipped by either air or ocean freight, depending on how critical the need for the parts. One of the major keys in a successful CKD operation in the presence of part-loss is being able to forward-rob from another XCO that is ordered with production scheduling in mind.

During the Camaro years, annual Camaro production at Yutivo totaled approximately 288 units (based on an average of one XCO kit per month, 12 months/year). Actual production quantities are being researched, but it is believed that no records survived to this day.

Production of the Camaro stopped at Yutivo after the end of the l969 model run because the Philippine government wanted to reverse its classification of the Camaro from a 2-dr coupe passenger car to a sports car, which would have raised the duty to an unrealistic 250%, thereby shooting the retail price through the roof.

Mr. Yu notes,

"We had a celebrated tax case running along the same line when the Philippine Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) re-assessed the import duty of all the Chevy Carry-all/Suburbans we had in inventory including those that we had assembled and sold since day one, based on their re-interpretation that this model was actually a passenger car, not a truck! Imagine what a mess that was. Not even the Chevy truck data book could convince them!"

Yutivo Assembly Line

During Camaro production the Yutivo assembly plant ran on basically 3 production lines, one for body assembly and two for chassis assembly. Cars and trucks shared the body build-up line. Chassis lines for cars and trucks were separate (consisting of wheel/tire assembly and mounting/balancing, engine/transmission, front sub-assembly/suspension and rear axle/suspension build-up). The body build-up and chassis lines converged at the body-drop area and thereafter to the completion/inspection stages.

The Camaros (and other vehicles having a "unitized" body, no chassis) have the engine/transmission installed on the front sub-frame consisting of crossmember, suspension, brakes and wheels. The rear axle with the leaf spring is bolted into a temporary fixture (tubular chassis with center crossmember to support the rear transmission). This provides a rolling platform that can be moved along to the drop area. The drive shaft is mounted at the body drop area after the drop is completed, along with the shock absorbers and rear leaf springs. The drop area had stand-up pits for the crew to do the underchassis work.

Santiago "Susing" Ricardo was Yutivo Assembly Plant Production Manager during Camaro production years from 1967 to 1969, and provided the plant layout schematic shown at the top of this article (click on the layout for an expanded view). Mr. Ricardo worked at the factory from start-up in 1953/54 until the very end.

Prior to the implementation of the Philippine government Progressive Car Manufacturing Program (PCMP), every component was imported and included by GM in a CKD (completely knocked down) kit, with the exception of tires and batteries. The front sub-frame came in one piece, but the suspension components (control arms, springs, shocks, front disc brakes, etc.) had to be bolted on.

The PCMP was implemented by the Philippine government primarily to conserve US$ reserves. The quality and reliability of the locally manufactured parts were questionable at best. The cost of these local parts far exceeded the deletion cost allowance received from GM (adding to costs, and raising the vehicle prices). Although the final selection of the Progressive Car Manufacturing Program (PCMP) by the Philippine Board of Investments (BOI) was made in 1972, the first elements of the PCMP were launched in the late 1960's, aimed at reducing the import content of CKD operations by having more components sourced locally. Up to that point, only tires, batteries and windshields of certain truck models were supplied locally. This program also required the participation of the foreign companies (in the Philippines for GM this was GM Overseas Operations - GMOO) by way of personnel and capital up to 49% equity. The following special GM RPOs were applied to the Yutivo assembled Camaro orders to allow inclusion of local material content:

A48 export seatbelt delete (68-69)
B38 export carpet delete (68)
T64 export battery delete (67-68)
ZD6 export sunshade delete (68)
Z09 export chassis and body items, misc, delete (68)

Post-Camaro Production

In the '60's, all assembly work was done at the main building in the center of the complex, but some production flow changes were made in the early '70s. The plant layout schematic at the top of this article shows the plant in its final expansion form circa 1973. By this time the PCMP program was in effect (note "GM Filipinas" in the layout title) and the Annex buildings at the left serviced the bonded warehouse and truck assembly line. The main Annex building was added to the original plant layout circa 1962 and, at the time of Camaro production, was used primarily for Final Conditioning/Final Painting and storage.

The addition of the on-site bonded warehouse reduced the problem of pilferage at the pier. For the PCMP program, Yutivo managed to convince Customs to allow for a Yutivo bonded warehouse for more security, instead of leaving the CKD shipments exposed in the pier. Also, it gave Yutivo the flexibility of paying the import duties only upon withdrawal of the CKD material from the bonded warehouse as needed.

CKD kits went into the Bonded Warehouse, while Local Content first went to Receiving and Inspection (at the right end of Main building), then to the Supply Warehouse in the Annex. After release from the Bonded Warehouse, CKD kits were opened in the Unboxing section of the Main building, inspected, and then distributed to the appropriate shops.

The post-Camaro plant layout (under GM Filipinas, not Yutivo) shows the body line (BODY SHOP II/METAL FINISH II) for passenger cars and commercial vehicles (CVs - light commercial vans and pick-ups, but not heavy commercial trucks) in an adjacent building separate from the truck body line line (BODY SHOP I). Supporting metalwork for trucks was performed in the METAL FINISH I section of the adjacent building. The truck bodies were assembled, metal finished and painted in the Main building and truck body drop/chassis build-up was done at the Annex. The car/CV bodies were moved into the main building for paint and trim, and body drop and final assembly. The Annex handled Final Conditioning and Paint for all vehicles.

Mr. Yu explains:

"I believe the reasons for splitting the car/CV body line from the truck body line were because of the increased production and material handling (quality inspections and testing) of the locally manufactured parts and assemblies. The plant started as a single line of mixed cars and trucks and eventually expanded as production volume increased. The 1973 factory layout shows a main building that had been expanded three times thru the years. Before the final layout as shown (prior to 1973), there were two chassis lines in the building (one for cars and one for CV/trucks). Body/Metal Finishing/Painting/Trim was a single line shared by both cars and trucks until the body drop. There were two pits at the body drop section (again one for cars the other for trucks and CV). After that the two lines continued towards the Final Assembly. Vehicles were then driven from Final Assembly to the Annex for Final Conditioning (wheel alignment, water leak tests, brake and road tests, paint re-touch, etc.)."

The Paint Shop is where the "body in white" is primered and painted. Final Paint is the section which does paint polishing, re-touching or complete re-painting (if required due to major paint defects) after assembly has been completed.

Yutivo Family Background and Origins of the GM Facility

Yutivo Son Hardware Company was founded in 1911 by Yu Beng Tek's great-grandfather, Jose Yutivo Palanca. Jose was originally a blacksmith by trade. He had 13 children, including Yu Beng Tek's grandfather, Yu Tiong Yee, who, with two other brothers, took turns running the hardware business. Before 1940, the family actually lived in Gulangzu (now known as Xiamen), so the 3 brothers took turns living in Manila and running the hardware business every 3 years.

It was after the Liberation in 1945 that Yutivo made it really big through the help of Bill Detzler. Oddly enough, the relationship began in a prison. Yu Beng Tek's father, Yu Khe Jin, saved Bill Detzler's life by providing food while the American was held by the Japanese at the University of St. Tomas. Yu Khe Jin shared with him the food he brought each day for uncle Yu Khe Thai (Yu Khe Jin's eldest brother, a political prisoner of the Japanese), and this this extra food was enough to keep Detzler alive through the end of the war.

Bill Detzler happened to be the VP-Pacific Division of Bethlehem Steel, and with his connections at the US Embassy, Yutivo orders for construction materials from Bethlehem Steel and other major suppliers were expedited. Basically, Yutivo had priority over others in getting orders filled during the years following the end of World War II.

Lidell Motors (partly owned by Yutivo) used to import cars in a completely built-up SUP (single unit pack) on an indent basis from GM prior to 1953 (when the Yutivo assembly plant was built). It was Yu Beng Tek's father who negotiated the assembly/sales franchise with General Motors. Yu Beng Tek remembers the trips as a young boy to the US in 1951, 1952 and 1953; staying at the Essex House fronting Central Park and the GM-FDD offices in New York.

When the PCMP program was fully implemented in 1972 (GM bought the maximum of 49% holding of the assembly operation - according to PCMP guidelines), GM shipped in an "international staff" to handle the different departments. Mr. Yu recalls,

"The new GM managers were accustomed to operations with deep pockets, and were spending money left and right. Not to mention the personality conflicts experienced between the managers. Just imagine the Supply Manager (English from Vauxhall) arguing with the Production Manager (German from Opel). We got a real kick out of watching the fireworks! While the GM idea of an international staff to bring different ideas and experience together was a good idea in principle, it was something different in practical application."

"Knowing that our market could not possibly absorb these expenditures that GM was used to making (probably just a write-off in their normal corporate balance sheet), the 'old man' was smart enough to negotiate with GM to buy Yutivo out in 3 years. In retrospect, it was a very smart move because GM operated in the red shortly after they took over."

Mr. Yu left the plant in 1972 and started his own performance auto dealership, Autohaus Motor Center. He was actively racing and promoting the Opel Manta/Ascona and eventually the Holden Torana in Philippine Motorsports. He was awarded the 1971/72 Driver of the Year by the Automobile Racing Association of the Philippines (ARAP), and at one point won 11 out of 12 races in the Open Class autocross event on a Mini Cooper S with 1293 cc 8-port cross-flow cylinder head.

By 1976, the Yutivo family no longer took active participation of the assembly plant but most of the staff stayed on. Yutivo leased the property and plant equipment to GM. GM eventually moth-balled the plant until they sold the operation to Isuzu Motors.


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