• 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

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1968 Chevrolet Sunoco Camaro Trans-AM
Years Produced:1968
Number Produced:Six
Original List Price:N/A
SCM Valuation:Median: $990,000 (this is the only Sunoco Camaro sold recently)
Tune Up Cost:$500
Chassis Number Location:N/A
Engine Number Location:N/A
Club Info:Historic Trans Am
Alternatives:Any in-period Trans-Am racer, including Ford Mustang Boss 302, AMC Javelin, and Dodge Challenger T/A
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 180, sold for $990,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island, FL, sale held on March 12, 2016.

In 1974, Mark Donohue took a year off from his storied racing career to write The Unfair Advantage, a candid look inside the world of professional auto racing. It’s a great read — very revealing — and allows the reader to reminisce about the high-octane world of auto racing during the raucous 1960s and early 1970s. First published in 1975, the new edition (2000) adds 60 additional photos and commentary from those who worked and raced with Donohue. It relates to this car and this profile and is a must-have for your automotive library.

Trans-Am racing transforms America

In 1966, the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) formed the Trans-Am series of auto racing. From its humble beginnings, the series transformed quickly as it began to zero in on the aggressive new pony cars coming out of Detroit. This led to one of the most storied road-racing eras in American history — from 1968 to 1972.

The list of hall of fame racing teams and drivers is staggering and includes Mark Donohue, Roger Penske, Bud Moore, Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, Sam Posey and Jerry Titus (to name a few). These names are legendary among most gearheads because these guys raced hard and played hard — and they did it for keeps.

All of the American auto manufacturers were in the game, including AMC. The stock-appearing cars were aggressive, fast, loud and literally incited guys to cut a check for a Boss 302, Z/28, AMX, AAR ’Cuda or T/A Challenger from their local dealership. It was the type of race-inspired marketing boom that fueled an incredibly cool and very enthusiastic era for auto racing — and for performance-car sales.

From spectator to scribe

When Editor Jim Pickering tapped me for this profile, I was immediately smitten with the car. It brought me back to my childhood and helps explain (at least partially) my frothy love of old cars, especially those from this era.

As luck would have it, I lived in Sebring, FL, around 1968 — the birthplace of Trans-Am racing in 1966. Going to the 12-hour race was my annual birthday present. While I was too young to have specific memories burned into my brain, I can recall sitting on the top of a motor home on one of the precarious turns, literally right next to the track, with a fried corn dog in one hand and an icy cold RC Cola in the other. And given that explosion of memories, I was likely watching our subject car thrash about with all the other American Iron on the track. I think it had a lasting effect on me.

The hierarchy of race cars

Race cars of this era are very special machines. But, given that statement, they are most certainly not all created equal.

Imagine 100 Trans-Am race cars from the 1960s and 1970s in a warehouse. All genuine cars. Now imagine organizing them into a pyramid. With that, there can only be one top-tier choice, the best one in the building. And, at the bottom of our fantasy experiment, there is a row of cars that are less desirable. As you can see (in our mind game), there is no “worst” car in the bunch, just a lower tier of cars based on all sorts of valuation criteria.

Among authentic race cars, there are those that rise to the absolute top, there are second-tier cars, and then there are all the others. So how do we to classify the best?

First and foremost, the car will be a part of top-tier automotive racing history on the most admired racing circuits. It will be a winning car piloted by a world-class driver and uncompromising team owner. It will evoke strong emotions, and the owner of the car will know that he is only the steward of its care.

The car will be incontestably documented, and not by faded copies of copies, but real paperwork. Experts will have personally examined the car and signed off on its legitimacy. When possible, one of the actual team members will go over the car in great detail. While the parts that make up the car will have been altered over time, the car will be bought back to “as-raced” specifications with exacting detail. And, most importantly, the chassis of the car will be incontrovertibly the chassis the car was born with.

With over 100 pages of documentation, a traced history, great condition, and notes from both Sam Posey and Ron Fournier, this Sunoco Camaro is in top-tier territory.

An exclusive club, an unlucky crash

Owning a car like this takes a special person. Not only will that buyer have the financial means to easily acquire the car, he or she will be passionate about what it means to own it. Occasionally, some will actually use the car in historic racing events to get behind the wheel, and perpetuate the history of the machine. Try doing that with your Picasso.

One of the past owners of the Sunoco Camaro #16 was just that. He raced the car with unbridled enthusiasm and passion and exercised a great deal of care with it. And, unfortunately, he lost control of the car in wet-track conditions at Watkins Glen in 2013. The car was badly damaged and the driver (owner) was injured. It was an unfortunate and perhaps even unavoidable mishap. But, that said, this is a real race car, built for that specific purpose — not to crash but to be pushed to its limits. And, like all dutiful stewards of the Sunoco Penske Camaro, he rebuilt the car to exacting specifications. No harm, no foul.

Sifting through the data

Most Trans-Am cars have simply disappeared into the ghosts of automotive things past. A surviving, documented top-tier example like this one is undoubtedly the exception.

You can see a very good example of perhaps a third-tier Trans-Am racer (using the pyramid analogy) by dissecting the 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A that sold for $170,500 at Hollywood Wheels in March 2015 at Amelia Island (ACC# 264418, profiled in the July/August 2015 issue of ACC, p. 52).

As you climb up our imaginary Trans-Am pyramid, finding a storied car that pushes all the buttons becomes extraordinarily difficult — and a lot more expensive. The pre-sale estimate on the car was pegged at $900,000 to $1,200,000.

While the car sold at the low end of the estimate, so did much of the inventory at Amelia Island this year. While I can’t call this car well bought, it certainly was a fair deal for both parties, even at close to seven figures. It’s a part of automotive history and one of only a handful of Trans-Am race cars with this sort of pedigree, and for the buyer hunting for the real thing, I’m sure it was worth every penny.

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.

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