Amelia Island

12 March 2016

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Lot 180

1968 Chevrolet Sunoco Camaro Trans Am

Sold for $990,000


Please note that this lot is offered on a Bill of Sale.

Est. 420 bhp, 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.

  • 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


THE UNFAIR ADVANTAGE

Mark Donohue’s exploits in the Trans Am racing series during the late 1960s and early 1970s are the grist of legend. Plucked from Ford’s GT40 teams by Roger Penske, Donohue became a centrifugal element of Penske’s Can Am pursuits in a Lola T70, and he was equally significant in the development of Chevy Camaros for Trans Am. Few drivers displayed as much skill in preparing and fine-tuning the engineering aspects of a racecar, and the modifications that Penske’s team undertook eventually earned them a reputation for having an “unfair advantage.”

After shaving close to 250 pounds from their 1967 “lightweight” Camaro, a rule-defying modification that prompted pre-race inspections the following season, the Penske team undertook a different series of alterations for their 1968 cars. While the prior season’s lightweight Camaro was briefly used at the beginning of the 1968 season, a new more heavy-duty car was concurrently engineered to withstand the rigors of the season’s two endurance races, the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Starting with an all-new 1968 body shell, Penske engineer Ron Fournier integrated spherical suspension rod-ends, stronger motor mounts, and aircraft-grade fasteners into the chassis. Despite complaints about their weight-shaving techniques, Penske once again acid-dipped the body and then re-added weight in particular areas of the car to improve its overall balance. A dual four-barrel Cross Ram intake manifold was installed on the 302–cubic inch Traco-tuned Chevy engine. Donohue went on to write, “it was so much faster than the single four [barrel set-up] that we reckoned it was another Unfair Advantage.”

Despite these improvements, the Penske team could only muster a 2nd in class finish at Daytona while chasing several Mustangs much of the way. Recognizing that they were struggling with brake-pad changes (which were required roughly every other fuel stop), Chevrolet’s Bill Howell devised a vacuum-based system that retracted the brake calipers, allowing Penske’s pit mechanics to change the pads far more quickly. “I think we could fuel, change all tires, and change front brake pads in about one minute forty seconds,” recalled Donohue in his book, “while it took the Ford guys about four minutes.” With a little further dialing-in, the Penske Camaros became nearly unbeatable, with Donohue winning 10 of the 1968 season’s 13 races, a record that stood until 1997. Though Driver’s Championships were not yet awarded in Trans Am, Donohue’s dominant season easily propelled Chevrolet to the 1968 manufacturer’s title.

THIS SUNOCO CAMARO

This Sunoco Camaro was the third of six such cars built and the first one prepared specifically for Penske’s 1968 season. Delivered to the team’s Philadelphia garage in November 1967 and completed in January 1968, the car was painted in the trademark Sunoco blue livery and driven by Mark Donohue, Craig Fisher, and Bob Johnson at Daytona as #6, where they finished 12th overall and 2nd in class. While Donohue switched to the 1967 Camaro lightweight for the next few races, this 1968 car received the aforementioned brake upgrades and proved much more competitive when raced at Sebring as #16 by Fisher, Johnson, and Joe Welch, finishing 4th overall.

A second ’68 car was then built that was assumed by Donohue, while this first example was mostly piloted by Sam Posey for the remainder of the season, including three 3rd place finishes (at the Bridgehampton 300, the Meadowdale 250, and the St. Jovite 3 Hours). Posey was leading all drivers at Watkins Glen in August 1968, with the car poised to take the checkered flag before a spin-out on some loose gravel dropped him into 2nd place. As Posey more recently wrote in a personal note to a subsequent owner, “Roger never forgave me for losing that race.”

For the 1969 season, Penske began to develop a new crop of Camaros, but this car was retained and cosmetically made over to match, notably including the addition of a black vinyl roof. By mid-1969, though, it was clear the car would no longer be needed, and it was sold through Penske mechanic Peter Reinhardt to Francis McNamara, a European team owner who commissioned Reinhardt to drive the car in Group 2 events at circuits like Hockenheim and Salzburgring (the car finished 1st at both races).

Later that year, the Camaro was sold to Malcolm Gartland, an English team owner who campaigned the car in British Group 2, where it was driven to four victories and five 2nd place finishes by Brian Muir (including a win at the Tourist Trophy at Silverstone in June 1970). The following season proved just as successful, with Muir using the Camaro to win the large-displacement championships in 1970 and 1971.

In 1972, CAB 24H, as it was registered in Europe, was sold to Terry Sanger for racing by the Research Consultants team in Britain, and it continued to turn in respectable results with several 3rd and 4th place finishes over the 1972 season. The team focused more on international events in 1973, and the car notably finished 11th at the 24 Hours of Spa, completing a second long-distance endurance event five years after its Daytona debut, a remarkable accomplishment.

In 1974, the Camaro was acquired by club racer Doug Emms, and he raced the car over the next four years in several British Special and Super Saloon events in Northern England, wearing a new color scheme of maroon and silver, though retaining the black vinyl roof. By mid-1976, Emms repainted the car in a yellow finish with black side-stripes, and he replaced the rear end with an alloy tail that featured a large spoiler.

The car remained in this appearance when purchased by Brian Morris in 1979, and he campaigned the now somewhat anonymous Chevy through 1981 in the ASCAR and ATAC V8 Series. Following the 1981 season, the Camaro was sold to Henry “Fred” Henderson, who hand-painted the car in white and raced it until early 1987. Opponents during these various periods must have marveled at the impressive performance of the otherwise mundane Camaro, not realizing that they were facing the former Penske 1968 Trans Am Camaro.

By the late 1980s, the car was reimported to the United States, and it was treated to a five-year restoration to original specifications completed in 1994, including a return to the famed Sunoco livery. The car then passed through the collections of Don Lee in 2011 and Bill Bryan in 2013, before being acquired more recently by the consignor, one of America’s most respected collectors of significant race cars.

The Sunoco Camaro is accompanied by a file of documentation that features over 100 pages of carefully culled research. This includes many articles about the Camaro in the British and American motoring press (in titles such as Autosport, Car Life, Hot Rod, Sports Car Graphic, and Road & Track), as well as dyno sheets, histories, and input from former luminaries who were connected with the car (including a note from Sam Posey and a letter of authenticity from Ron Fournier).

Also campaigned in more recent years at numerous vintage racing events, including eight appearances at the Monterey Historic Races between 1999 and 2008, this sublime Camaro is a venerable component of Team Penske’s landslide-winning 1968 season. A successful workhorse for several other teams as well, the car continues to benefit from its meticulous restoration, displaying utmost authenticity in the famed Sunoco livery. Driven by the legendary Mark Donohue, this remarkable Trans Am Camaro would crown any collection of American racecars, notable for its ingenious modifications, important history, and sensational presentation.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alain Squindo


Detroit, Michigan

Alain Squindo joined RM Auctions in 2007, after graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with a degree in History. R... read more

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby's in 2011 as a car specialist, after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born ... read more

Annette Abaci

aabaci@rmsothebys.com

+49 (0) 40 441 95 737
Germany

With post-secondary degrees in Economic Science and Mechanical Engineering, Annette Abaci initially worked part-time at Mercedes-Benz ... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a senior car specialist, after more than a decade in the collector car hobby... read more

Barney Ruprecht

BRuprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Barney Ruprecht graduated from Boston University in 2013 with a degree in Hospitality Administration. In ... read more

Dan Warrener

dwarrener@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Possessing a degree in Economics from Brandon University, Dan Warrener spent the initial stages of his career working around the globe... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a car specialist in May 2015. He is a lifelong automobile enthusiast and g... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don Rose joined RM Auctions in 2006, after many years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputatio... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord joined RM Sotheby's in 1998, initially responsible for the transportation and logistics of the company’s auction and re... read more

Ian Kelleher

ikelleher@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
New York, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College, with a B.A. in Politica... read more

Jack Boxstrom

jboxstrom@rmsothebys.com

+1 818 703 2816
Ontario, Canada

Jack Boxstrom joined RM Sotheby's in late-1996 to assist with the recently acquired, and subsequently record-breaking, auction in ... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 917 213 5672
Ontario, Canada

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Jonathan Sierakowski

JSierakowski@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Jonathan Sierakowski developed a passion for classic cars while working at a restoration shop as a teenag... read more

Kurt Forry

+1 260 927 9797
Indiana, United States

Kurt Forry joins Auctions America with more than a decade of experience on the North American auction scene and a well-rounded knowled... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby's, Mike Fairbairn has a longstanding interest in the classic car industry. Gra... read more

Pete Fisher

PFisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his ho... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007, following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, read more

Rob Myers

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As chairman and founder of the RM Group of Companies, Rob Myers’s entire career has been devoted to the classic car industry. Ro... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

TVanderVelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
Netherlands

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a car specialist. A... read more