1967 Chevrolet Camaro
Year of manufacture1967
By the early 1960s, Roger Penske had gone from a recent college student competing in occasional hill climb events to one of the country’s top racing drivers, having won the 1961 US Sports Car Driver of the Year award from Sports Illustrated, among other accolades. Two years after taking a job at a car dealer in 1963, he was given the opportunity to take over a Chevrolet dealership in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was a deal with a single caveat: that he would stop racing. Penske agreed, and the start of what would become his formidable business empire was born.
Before long, Penske started his own racing team and found a kindred spirit in his first driver, Mark Donohue. Donohue, almost as much as Roger himself, would become the driving force behind Penske’s racing efforts through the 1960s and early 1970s. Having earned an engineering degree at Brown University, Donohue’s intellectual approach to driving was unlike any of his contemporaries, and his abilities shone during his illustrious career.
For the 1967 season, Penske collaborated with Chevrolet for the entry of its new Camaro in SCCA’s Trans Am series. A specific Camaro named the Z/28 was developed for homologation and featured the required five-liter engine, codenamed the DZ-302. The Z/28 would become Camaro’s performance production model and 602 examples were built in 1967. Vince Piggins, known as the father of the Camaro, insisted that the first 25 Z/28s off the assembly line were sent to racers, and on December 29, 1966, the first day of production, the fourteenth Z/28 was produced for Roger Penske. That car, chassis 7N163378, would become the first of just six Penske Camaros built between 1967 and 1969 – and it is offered here.
Roughly a month after it was built, the Z/28 was turned into a race car at Penske’s facility and competed at Daytona in the 300-mile Trans Am race and the 24 Hours of Daytona, freshly painted in its iconic Sunoco livery. The Camaro failed to finish either event due to trouble with a clogged fuel system. Donohue would go on to drive the Z/28 to a 2nd Place finish at the Sebring 400 Trans Am and 4th Place at Green Valley. The car would place 3rd again at Mid-Ohio, piloted by George Follmer, while Donohue was at Le Mans. For the next race at Bryar Motorsport Park, Chevrolet supplied Penske with lightweight inner and outer steel body panels, allowing Penske to legally reduce the weight of the car. Unfortunately, an accident in qualifying damaged the new panels and brought an early end to the weekend.
The team then tested the car extensively with General Motors before the next race in Marlboro, Maryland, and Donohue was finally satisfied with the handling. To add stiffness, a full NASCAR-style roll cage had been installed, and the spring rates were softened dramatically. Canadian Craig Fisher co-drove with Donohue to a dominant win, lapping the entire field twice in the six-hour race. This important victory was the first ever for a Camaro, the first for Chevrolet in Trans Am competition, and the first of many for the Penske Sunoco Camaro team.
The first Sunoco Camaro completed two more races in 1967, to 8th Place at Continental Divide in Colorado, and to 4th at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Washington. While only placing 3rd in 1967, the stage was set, and Sunoco-sponsored Penske Camaros would go on to win the Trans Am series championship in 1968 and 1969, winning 18 of 25 races.
After the 1967 season came to a close, Penske refurbished the first Sunoco Camaro, which had been damaged in a towing accident, and sold it to McNamara Racing, which took it to Germany to race in FIA sedan races. They won almost every race entered in 1968. In 1969, the McNamara team won almost every race again, with Peter Reinhart driving a 1968 Sunoco Camaro and Dr. Helmut Marko (of Red Bull Formula 1 fame) driving this car. This Camaro was then sold to Franz Albert, who raced it from 1970 to 1974, and on to Klaus Pfannschmidt, who retired the car in 1979.
The consignor, who owned and raced the second Sunoco Camaro for over 30 years, spent 25 years looking for Sunoco Camaro number one. Finally, in 2015, he made contact with a gentleman who had purchased a used Camaro race car in 1980 while living in Vienna, Austria. It had subsequently been disassembled with eyes toward restoration, but the project lay abandoned in his garage for almost 35 years. Log books from Franz Albert’s races were with it, but it still was not perfectly clear whether this was actually the first Penske Camaro. The consignor was accompanied on a trip to Austria by Chevrolet historian Jon Mello, who had access to the original list of the first 25 Z/28 chassis numbers along with purchasing records. Only after Mello personally witnessed the chassis number did he reveal to the consignor that the car was the genuine article. Additionally, there were other specific details of the Camaro that bore out its identity, including a specific dash design, all but one original gauge, the majority of the original roll cage, and blue and yellow overspray on some of the body panels. A letter from Mr. Mello in the car’s file documents the inspection process.
Upon its arrival in the US, the owner’s mechanic began reassembly, a job that was expertly completed by restorer Kevin McKay. McKay has restored some of the most important Corvettes in the world along with two Sunoco Camaros, and he is considered among America’s foremost specialists on the marque. The incredible restoration was done to the exact specification from the Camaro’s first win in Marlboro, with details such as Donohue’s wood steering wheel engraved on the hub with the word “THINK” expertly recrafted. Sparing no expense to make sure the work was done correctly, in all more than $330,000 was spent to exhaustively restore this iconic car.
The five remaining Sunoco Camaros gathered at the 2020 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance as part of the festivities honoring Roger Penske. Freshly restored, Sunoco Camaro number one was given an Amelia Award and was greatly admired by all in attendance, including Roger Penske himself.
Accompanied at auction by an extensive history file documenting the car’s amazing racing career along with photos of its discovery and subsequent restoration, this American icon stands in rare company. It is not only among the finest of the 1960s Trans Am racers, but it could also be considered one of the most important Chevrolets in existence. Whether judged as the fourteenth Z/28, the first Camaro to win a race, the first Sunoco- Penske Trans Am Camaro, or a car that was extensively campaigned by two titans of American motor sports – Roger Penske and Mark Donohue – it is fair to say that there are few, if any, cars of its type more deserving of your undivided attention.
*Please note that this vehicle is sold on a Bill of Sale.