The Best Chevrolet Camaro For Sale This Weekend Is $1 Million And Worth Every Penny
Photography Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
Depending on whom you ask, the Penske team was either one of the greatest cheaters in motorsport history or the cleverest. Either way, its race car-prep tactics are the stuff of legend. For the Trans Am series, the team acid dipped ’67 Camaro shells to shave every ounce possible. Mark Donohue and the team won three of the 12 races in the “Lightweight” Penske Camaro—including the Trans-Am class win at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
For the ’67 Camaros, Donohue and the group of manic-mechanics and engineers began preparation by acid dipping the bodies to add lightness. The acid bath would eat away at the steel ever so slightly, effectively thinning the entire body and chassis, shaving significant overall weight—violating the 2,800-pound weight minimum requirement, certainly an unfair advantage.
At Pacific Raceways, the final race of the ’68 season, Donohue finished the final lap—after lapping the entire field of cars—an act that stirred serious suspicion. A post-race inspection revealed what the pesky Penske team was up too. Overwhelmingly underweight, the race officials were going to de-crown Donohue of his victory. It’s said Roger Penske threatened to pull General Motors completely out of the Trans-Am series if the win wasn’t honored, despite the obvious un-sportsman-like edge.
Penske and Donohue kept their win, but their swindling called for 1968 season guideline alterations, lending another opportunity for ingenuity. With fresh platforms delivered—this 1968 Chevrolet Sunoco Camaro being one of them—the team once again acid dipped the shells to shave weight. Knowing it wouldn’t get away with the old scheme again, the Penske team added weights to the car in order to meet the weight rule—they just took the opportunity to redistribute the pounds.
Weights were strategically placed throughout the chassis to give the Camaro better balance—another impressive strategy. The Traco 302 eight-cylinder received a dual four-barrel Cross Ram intake manifold. With full power unrestricted, Donohue joked that the new carburetor setup alone was an unfair advantage. The car was fast and quite the all-around performer, but the team couldn’t best greater than 2nd place—those Ford ponies galloped just a smidge quicker.
Realizing its Camaro was tapped, the team sought to save time in a different manner—pit stops. The Camaro was chewing through brake pads that needed replacing almost every other refueling. So, Penske engineer Bill Howell created a brilliant vacuum-actuated caliper retraction system that made brake jobs significantly faster.
The Ford pit times were averaging around four minutes. Thanks to the brake innovation, Penske’s averaged a one minute and forty second pit stop! The time saved in the pits equated to 10 out of 13 race victories for the 1968 Trans Am—a series record that held for nearly 30 years! The series dominance earned the Penske team the 1968 Manufacturer’s Title—and it didn’t really cheat this time around!
This Sunoco Camaro is the third six such Penske Camaros built in total, and the first of two built for 1968. Finished in the famous blue Sunoco livery, it was driven by Craig Fisher, Bob Johnson, and Mark Donohue throughout the season. After being retired in 1969, the racer was sold to European team runner Francis McNamara. Needing a wheelman who knew the Camaro, McNamara hired Penske mechanic Peter Reinhardt as driver for Group 2 events. Reinhardt proved choice after coming in first place at both Hockenheim and Salzburgring.
The car continued in Group 2 and several other smaller series throughout the ’70s. By the end of the ’80s, the Sunoco Camaro was brought back to U.S. soil and underwent a lengthy five-year restoration. After nearly 20 years, the restoration presents in great shape—given its competition history—and is being offered for sale at Amelia Island.
Included in the sale is a large 100-page file documenting the car’s impressive racing history, to include dyno sheets, a letter of authenticity, and more. There have been countless F-body Camaros raced over the decades, but none quite as remarkable as the Penske cars. Buy it, race it, and win.
– The first of two examples built for the 1968 season
– Raced in 1968 by Mark Donohue and Sam Posey
– Numerous podium finishes, with many years of successful club racing in Europe
– Comprehensive restoration to 1968 specifications and livery
– Raced and shown at many events, including eight appearances at the – Monterey Historics
– Well documented, including letter of authenticity from Penske engineer Ron Fournier
~420 horsepower, 302 cu. in. OHV Traco-Chevrolet V-8 engine with dual four-barrel Cross-Ram intake manifold, four-speed M-22 “Rockcrusher” manual transmission, front independent suspension with coil springs and adjustable Koni shock absorbers, rear floating-axle suspension with leaf springs and adjustable Koni shock absorbers, and four-wheel Corvette JR8 disc brakes. Wheelbase: 108 in.