Of all the great muscle cars of the 1960’s, the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro is one of the most recognizable and highly sought after. While General Motors sold nearly 250,000 models during 1969 there is one particular version that stands head and shoulders above the rest when considering exclusivity and collectability. While some Camaros like the ZL-1 COPO became highly valuable due to their rare list of options, this L78 1969 Camaro SS Convertible isn’t idolized for it’s 375 horse 396 and Turbo 400 transmission. It's what is on the outside of the car that counts. As indicated by the decals on the side panels this car is the actual pace car from the 1969 United States Grand Prix in Watkins Glen, New York. Unlike the Indy Pace Car Edition ’69 Camaros that GM built, there were never any replicas made of this car, making this the only one like it in the world! Undergoing a complete restoration, it still has the original numbers matching engine, trans, and rearend.
The 1969 United States Formula One Grand Prix was held on October 5, 1969 at Watkins Glen International Raceway in New York. It was a race of attrition, beating up cars and drivers, ultimately only 6 of the starting 18 cars finished the race. That also meant that the pace car for that race would get quite a workout. While the vehicle retains all its original parts, it recently received an extremely high quality restoration to correct pace car specifications, and is one of the most historically significant 1969 Camaros ever built.
This pace car is appointed with the code 712 custom black interior, a nice upgrade over the standard buckets. It also includes a lot of realistic looking wood grain details on the console and dashboard and includes a rare RPO N34 rosewood steering wheel. Like the rest of the car, the interior has been restored to an extremely high standard, with virtually every part being new or expertly restored. The gauges have been restored, but the 44,408 miles (71,052km) shown are accurate. Additional options that were probably quite useful in a pace car include the auxiliary gauges on the console and seat belts. A matching black vinyl cover seals the top when it’s stowed. The trunk is equipped with a correct mat, spare tire, and jack assembly. Documentation includes an owner and restoration history as well as a certified letter proving that this is the USGP pace car.
Befitting a car with such a pedigree, the restoration is immaculate in every way. The body has been refinished well beyond factory specification and fits together superbly. Panel gaps and alignment are spot-on, including the hood and deck lid with the optional SS spoiler. The paint is two-stage urethane in place of the original single-stage enamel and is glossy in a way that the original paint could never quite manage. The simple black-and-white graphics package is simple and serious, perhaps gleaming inspiration from the serious business of F1 racing in the late ’60s. The code X22 blacked-out tail panel is a nice finishing touch. Of course, all the chrome and trim on this car has been restored to show condition, including the bumpers and gill trim on the rear quarters. The stainless windshield surround has been professionally polished, and all the emblems and bezels are of a uniformly high quality. The black convertible top has been expertly installed and fits tightly without any wrinkles and sags, along with a crystal clear rear window.
Pacing a Formula One race requires some serious fire-power under the hood, and in this Camaro’s case, it comes in the form of a fire-breathing L78 big block. With a forged rotating assembly, solid lifter cam, 11:1 compression, and rectangular port heads, it made an underrated 375 horsepower. This was enough engine to effortlessly yank the relatively lightweight Camaro to race pace and hold it without strain. Fully rebuilt to stock specifications, the matching-numbers block in this car is now dressed in a proper coat of Chevy Orange paint, along with its bright chrome valve covers and air cleaner atop the big Holley carburetor. Due to the high-winding nature of the solid-lifter engine, A/C and power steering were not available with the L78. However, you will find power brakes, correct hoses and clamps, and production line shift stampings on the firewall. A reproduction Delco battery lives in the tray, and the pristine exhaust manifolds suggest this engine has almost no run time on it since it was restored. For pace car duties, an automatic transmission is a smart choice, and the TH400 behind the 396 is the original piece. In the back, the original 12-bolt remains in place, spinning 3.55 gears on a Posi. Like the engine bay and body, the chassis has been restored to Concours condition, with correct finishes, markings, and materials used throughout. That means satin black floors, brightly plated fasteners, and a correct exhaust system complete with a transverse muffler. Everything has been rebuilt, from the brakes to the fuel system, which features a new reproduction gas tank. Wheels are correct Rallys wearing Goodyear Polyglas bias-ply tires.
There’s a lot of history packed into this Dover White SS. For Camaro fans, it’s another feather in the Camaro cap with the privilege of pacing an F1 race. For F1 fans, it’s a piece of racing history from an era when heroes were made on the track and competition was intense. Beautifully restored to original condition with all matching numbers, it is also quite simply a very rare, correct, concours-quality L78 Camaro convertible. This is a rare opportunity to own a one-of-a-kind collector’s piece.