Mike Maez, courtesy of Gooding & Company

In April 1967, Dave Conner placed an order for a new Camaro convertible destined for fame as a Super Stock drag racer. Conner’s order included the L78 big block, M21 Muncie 4-speed gearbox, and Posi rear end with 4.10 gears. Finished in Tuxedo Black over gold, the new car cost $3,761.25.

In 1968, Conner’s Camaro appeared at Raceway Park in New Jersey wearing a new “Batcar” livery inspired by the Batman franchise’s distinctive color scheme. In 1970, Conner sold the Camaro to fellow racer Sherman Gerlach of West Virginia. He continued to race the Camaro — known as Gerlach’s Batcar — through 1975, setting an NHRA record at the Indy Nationals and capturing several class wins in the process.

After it was retired from racing, the car was returned to its original configuration and remained in Gerlach’s ownership until 2009, when it was sold to the current owner.

In the consignor’s care, the Camaro was carefully restored to showroom condition, preserving original details where possible. It has since been shown at the Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals, earning Concours Gold and Outstanding Display awards.

This car was inspected by Jerry MacNeish of Camaro Hi-Performance Inc., who confirmed the car is a real L78.

SCM Analysis

Detailing

Vehicle:1967 Chevrolet Camaro SS 396 convertible
Years Produced:1967–69
Number Produced:136 (1967 L78 convertible, approximate)
Original List Price:$3,761.25
SCM Valuation:$257,600 (this car)
Tune Up Cost:$500-plus (costs multiply for NOS parts)
Chassis Number Location:Driver’s side A-pillar
Engine Number Location:Engine pad ahead of passenger’s side cylinder head
Club Info:Camaro Research Group
Website:http://www.camaros.org
Alternatives:1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda, 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390, 1968 Dodge Dart GTS
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot 23, sold for $257,600, including buyer’s premium, at the Gooding & Company Scottsdale, AZ, sale held on January 18 and 19, 2019.

With the introduction of the new 1965 Ford Mustang, Lee Iacocca and his team at Ford set the stage for one of the most invigorating eras in American automotive history.

Soon, GM, Chrysler and AMC engineers and designers were burning the midnight oil to bite into Ford’s market pie.

Enter the Camaro

In September 1966, the new Chevrolet Camaro hit showroom floors. The game-changer for Chevrolet was the ability for Camaro buyers to order a big-block 396 engine. Up until that time, the Mustang could only be spec’d with the K-code 289, which, while a marvel of high-performance engine technology, was no match for the extra cubic inches of the 396.

With the 396 Camaro, buyers could not only buy a Pony car that was arguably as cool and relevant as the Mustang, but one that could leave a smoky trail out back — and compete on the dragstrip right out of the box.

The big blocks weren’t cheap, however. While the base 327 V8 only ramped up the sticker $92.70, the top-of-the-line big-daddy 396/375 sticker shocked most buyers to the tune of $500.30. Given that, out of 220,906 1967 Camaros sold, only 1,138 buyers decided to set the big-block 375-hp beast between the fenders.

One hell of a rare car

There are no definitive records for how many Camaro convertibles were built with the 396/375 L78 engine, but we can extrapolate based on the data we do have.

We know that 34,411 Super Sport Camaros were built. Of those, 1,138 had the L78. That means that about 3.3% of the total production (SS Camaros) were purchased with the L78 engine option.

The other number we can work with is how many total V8 convertibles were built — which was about 12% of total production. Applying that percentage to SS production suggests that about 4,100 Super Sport convertibles were sold. From there, we can apply the 3.3% (L78 production) and that leaves us with about 136 units.

Gooding suggested in their catalog text an interpolated number of approximately 150 built and sold — which is certainly a safe assumption to use. Personally, I’d consider the number to be much lower, as the odds of guys ordering L78 Super Sport convertible Camaros versus hard-top coupes would be pretty small — especially for a stripped-down car like our subject Camaro.

Be that as it may, it gets even more rare if we start to factor in color and options, especially the optional performance 4.10 Posi axle, which was not a standard regular production option (RPO) offering — meaning a guy had to ask specifically for it to be included. If we continue to make further assumptions about the total produced — such as how many were Tuxedo Black — that number gets pin-point tiny.

Dialing in the numbers

From those numbers, it’s clear our subject car is damn rare. One blog I read described the car as the GM version of the Hemi ’Cuda convertible — that sort of rare. It’s likely more rare than a 1967 Yenko (107 built), or at least very close to it.

But we can keep digging. The car is well documented to have only 1,500 miles on it — presumably one quarter-mile at a time, and the restoration is minty fresh and appears to be very well done.

Noted Camaro/GM authority Jerry MacNeish also blessed the car as an original L78 model. While his report didn’t verify the authenticity or originality of the components or stampings, he did issue a certificate of authenticity that the car left the GM factory as an infinitely rare L78 convertible.

Other documentation includes the full ownership history of the car since it sold new in Worthington, OH. It also includes copies of some of the track time slips, magazine articles, and a national Concours Gold from its somewhat pampered life (if you can consider drag racing a pampered existence). The engine was also reported to be original to the car when it left the GM factory and the sale included a notarized affidavit that the engine is, in fact, original to the car.

Check, please

Some very rare 1967–69 Camaros have rung the bell well into the six figures. Using the ACC Pocket Price Guide, a 1967 Yenko will chime in around $295k under the right circumstances. There are other Camaros, such as COPOS and the ultra-rare ZL1s, that can easily go north or south of that number. These are well-publicized cars that contain a lot of known data — meaning they don’t fly under the radar.

I must admit, at first, this sure seemed like a ton of money for what appeared to be a $150k Camaro. In fact, most of the pre-market buzz was expecting the car to fall flat in the mid-$100k range. But, rule number one prevailed — always do your homework.

By digging deep into the data, the Gooding estimate of $250k–$325k starts to make more sense, and, given the final sale of $257,600, it shines a spotlight on some excellent research by Gooding.

I did my homework — and I assume the buyer did as well. This is one immensely rare, well-documented Camaro with excellent pedigree — and it deserved every penny. Call this a market-correct result.

(Introductory description courtesy of Gooding & Company.)

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