When the Chevrolet Camaro was selected as the “Official Pace Car” for the May 30, 1967 running of the Indianapolis 500, the Bow-Tie boys pulled out all the stops to put their brand-new pony car in the best possible light.
The GM work order originally called for three Pace Cars, but for whatever reason only two were built along with additional replicas and “festival” cars that were used at the race by officials and emissaries.
The replicas and festival cars used both 350 and 396ci engines in various horsepower and transmission combinations, but the two cars that would be doing the pacing honors were much more defined and interesting.
The Pace Cars were specified as RS/SS 396 convertibles. The intriguing fact is that they were built on the assembly line as 375hp four-speed models that were then sent off to be specially prepped, with instructions for the drivelines to be switched to balanced and blueprinted 325hp 396s connected to Turbo 400 automatic transmissions and 3.31:1-geared 12-bolt Posi. But why? No one exactly knows. It could have been that something in the suspension was slightly beefer.
Other Pace Car-only items included a grab handle on the windshield frame and one on each of the rear-inside quarter-panels for parading officials, flags supports off the rear tail panel, and a hood lock to avoid engine tampering which could potentially embarrass GM.
Additionally, the work order called for “show quality paint.” In order to guarantee that the Pace Car would not receive a yellow flag itself, all suspension pieces were magafluxed and the tires were x-rayed to ensure they were defect-free.
After the running of the race the tradition is for the main Pace Car to be presented to the winner. The winner in 1967 was A.J. Foyt, but right away he refused the car. The official excuse was that the car did not have the air conditioning necessary to keep him cool in his Texas climate. The rumored reason was that it wasn’t a good idea for A.J. to be connected to Chevrolet’s hot new pony car when his main sponsor was the Ford Motor Company.
After pacing events for the remainder of the 1967 season, U.S.A.C. offered the dejected drop top, with 12,000-miles showing on the clock, back to the Indianapolis, Indiana dealership which had completed all the final preparation on the vehicle, as well as the prep on all of the festival pace cars. That dealership was Dan Young Chevrolet. After snapping up the rare machine for $2,000 they proudly kept the Camaro on display in their showroom for many years. (Note: some confusion surrounds the fact that at one point “Dan Young Chevrolet” was lettered on the rear of the car for promotion and many pictures of this exist. They removed this lettering when the car was sent to the Indy museum for display a few years ago.)