I’ve seen a number of factory pace cars replicas over the years, but it’s pretty rare to see an actual Indianapolis 500 pace car outside of a museum. Talk about an amazing piece of Camaro and Indy 500 history – set to cross the block at Mecum’s Indy 500 sale on May 20th is the official unrestored, 1967 Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS Convertible Indianapolis 500 Pace Car No. 1.
Driven by 3-time Indy 500 winner Mauri Rose on race day, it was then used throughout the 1967 season as a USAC pace car. Why was this particular pace car given extra duty and utilized through the remainder of the season? Well, as was custom at the time, the winner of the race was presented with the car as an additional prize. That year’s winner, A.J. Foyt, supposedly turned it down because it lacked air conditioning and a power top (although Foyt’s sponsor was Ford Motor Company, so that might have had something to do with it). It is said that Chevrolet later built another car for Foyt that included those options.
The last time that Chevrolet had supplied the Indy 500 pace car was 1955, when a Bel Air convertible handled the duties. Now back at Indy for the first time in 12 years, 1967 was the year for Chevrolet to showcase their brand new Camaro at the 42nd annual Indianapolis 500.
Chevrolet’s Experimental Department was tasked with the preparation of three pace cars in Ermine White with a clear coat, bright blue interior, RS and SS equipment, and blue pin stripes and nose stripe. The cars were modified by the Experimental Department to include 396 V8s with 375 horsepower, turbo-Hydramatic automatic transmissions, and 3.07 ration Poistraction real axle assemblies. Although the original plan was to build the pace car, a back up, and a third with a show quality finish (to be presented to the winner), many believe the third car was never built.
To make sure the Camaros performed their duties flawlessly on race day, the engines were disassembled, visually inspected, and reassembled with tighter clearances. The transmissions and rear axles were also disassembled, qualified, and reassembled. Maximum cooling capacity radiators, heavy duty batteries, and larger capacity alternators were installed and the electrical systems were rechecked. Heavy duty service metallic type brakes were installed. All chassis safety items such as front suspension, steering linkage, etc. were magnafluxed.
After the 1967 season, Pace Car No. 1 was sold by Chevrolet Motor Division to Dan Young Chevrolet, where it was displayed on its showroom or at the Indianapolis Speedway Museum for many years. According to Mecum, the Camaro is in a highly original, unrestored condition, with its original paint, interior, and convertible top intact.
The paperwork this car has leaves no doubt as to its provenance. In addition to the Protect-O-Plate showing the original as-built L78 engine and original GM Engineering paperwork documenting the work performed on the car, including Chevrolet Build Order No. 98168, which detailed the L35/M40 conversion prior to the race, this car also comes with its original title, issued in 1967 to Chevrolet Motor Division.Mecum Auctions
Check out the Mecum Indy 500 sale on May 20th for results.