Courtesy of Bonhams

  • Presented as delivered when new in Olympic Gold over black interior
  • Shown at The Quail — A Motorsports Gathering on two occasions
  • Desirable Z/28 spec with 4-speed manual transmission
  • Iconic muscle car perfect for rallies or Sunday morning drives

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
Years Produced:1967–69 (first generation)
Number Produced:20,302 (1969)
Original List Price:$3,588
SCM Valuation:Median to date, $57,200; high sale, $450,000
Tune Up Cost:$300
Distributor Caps:$15
Chassis Number Location:Plate at base of windshield, driver’s side
Engine Number Location:Stamped in pad ahead of passenger’s cylinder head
Club Info:American Camaro Association
Alternatives:1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302, 1969 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, 1970 Plymouth AAR ’Cuda
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 1, sold for $57,200, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams Quail Lodge auction in Carmel, CA, on August 19, 2016. It was offered at no reserve.

In the raucous 1960s to early 1970s, American Iron ruled the streets and racetracks of America. Guys like Carroll Shelby, Don Yenko and Norm Krause (aka Mr. Norm) were building, modifying or ordering great street machines. No matter what your budget, Detroit had a blistering machine for you.

All four manufacturers had Trans Am street cars to meet the homologation rules set by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). This meant that each manufacturer had to sell a minimum number of production units to the public to qualify for the popular racing series.

For Chevrolet, the car of choice was the first-generation Camaro. In 1967, Chevrolet introduced the very first Z28 (so named due to the package code on the assembly line). Production was very low in the first year, with only 602 Zs sold. Production increased in 1968 to 7,199 (with the car now known as Z/28, with slash) and then again to 20,302 in 1969. Our subject car is one of 20,302 examples sold in 1969.

Not all Zs are equal

Like any collectible car, no two Z/28s are equal. There will always be one that stands taller than the other even if two guys don’t agree on which car that is.

Our subject car looks reasonably good in the somewhat dark, moody photos shot by Bonhams, but a few issues do pop out, including some aged components and a missing header bolt on the driver’s side. The photographer was somewhat tactical about his approach to the lighting — which isn’t a bad thing, but it tells me that this car needed some artistic images to help make it look its best.

Lot 1, rarely a number one

The Bonhams sale is a small boutique sale, this year offering 115 lots. That’s not a bunch of cars. These are highly specialized upscale auctions — some guys refer to them as the “wine and cheese” sales. Among the high-end imports and pre-war collectibles that Bonhams is known for in Carmel, the Quail Lodge sale included only six U.S.-built performance machines.

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t sell your 1969 Z/28 at a mostly upscale venue, but the pros and cons should be weighed before consignment. From a marketing perspective, you’d probably want a car like this to be in a room filled with muscle car buyers — not high-end sports and exotic buyers — to better the odds of a good outcome. But the flip side to that is selling at a place like this means your car is one of only a few other muscle-style lots at the sale, so it could very well stand out and sell high. I’ve seen both situations work out well.

All that said, being the very first car at this sale was likely not the best move and could have contributed to a low final bid. I know someone has to go first — I just wouldn’t want to be that guy. Why? Because many buyers feel that the first car is not the “best” car in the sale. They may have simply ignored this car.

$70k Z/28 gap

You can find 1969 Z/28s trading as low as the mid-$30k range for a dubious example (meaning it might not even be a real Z/28) to near $100k-plus for a spot-on concours example. There can easily be a $70,000 gap between a sketchy driver and an exceptional, fully documented, no-stories, world-class example. So where do we stack our subject car? At this price, which was dead-on the current ACC median valuation, it might seem well bought. I don’t see it that way.

There are plenty of 1969 Z/28s for sale. Just about any major venue will have at least one up for grabs. If you head to Arizona in January you’ll likely be able to spec out your Z to your liking, as there will be plenty for sale.

But, with that statement, we can add a bunch of asterisks. There will be good examples, horrible examples and pristine examples. Each of those will carry a different valuation spread. Cars with the best restorations and airtight documentation — especially those with Winters cross-rams, factory JL8 brakes and other special options (all documented) — can easily fetch $100,000 or more. But those with less pedigree, questionable colors and inaccurate restorations can fall down the food chain rather quickly.

These cars are also rather easy to fake, and the VIN tells you nothing other than if it was born with six cylinders or a V8. The cowl tag is your only initial indication that it’s an original Z, and those are for sale at swapmeets and eBay all the time. If you know where all the other special parts go, bingo, you got yourself a “real” Z/28.

Our subject car appeared to be a good-but-not-great example. There’s nothing specifically wrong with it — it just doesn’t push some of the Z/28 hot buttons. It would help to have Jerry MacNeish paperwork with it, along with a better exterior color, for starters. A full decoding of the specific OEM Z/28 parts would also help, since based on the Bonhams description, it was a very original example before restoration.

The A to Z conclusion

Overall, this was a good Z/28 in a decent but not sought-after color combination, and it had no mention of specific OEM parts or special options. The 2000s restoration is aging, but the car appears to be a good driver that will stand tall in most casual collections. But as it will require some work for any high-level shows or Chevrolet judging events, I’d consider it a second- or third-tier Z/28, and with that, the final sale amount was neither expensive nor cheap. Call it a fair deal for both parties.

 (Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)

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