Author Topic: 1966: 1st Camaros Ever Seen in Public & RS/SS350 Pace Car for Can Am at Mosport  (Read 961 times)

SMKZ28

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Twelve days after Chevy general manager Pete Estes unveiled the new Camaro to the press at a GM Proving Ground press conference on September 12, 1966, the public got their first sight of Chevy’s entry into the pony car segment at the Canadian Grand Prix for the Pepsi-Cola Trophy.
 
This race was the third event of a total of six for the inaugural Sports Car Club of America’s Canadian-American Challenge Cup (Can-Am) which featured fire breathing V-8 sports racing cars confirming to FIA Group 7 rules.  It was held at the ten turn road course known as Mosport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada on Saturday, September 24, 1966.  Mark Donohue won the race in his Sunoco sponsored Chevy powered Penske Lola T70.  The interesting thing is that this race occurred five days before the Camaro could be seen for the first time at Chevy dealer showrooms on Thursday, September 29, 1966.  As a result, the people who attended the race in Canada must have been the first people, not in the press, to actually see the new Camaro in person!
 
Twenty-five Camaros were provided by General Motors to help promote the new car line to the automotive and motor racing enthusiasts attending the race.  Fifteen of these Camaros were convertibles used during a driver introduction lap of the track prior to the start of the event.  Another was a Granada Gold 1967 RS/SS 350 coupe that was the first Camaro ever to be used as a pace car for a major auto race!  According to Tom McGinnity of the Camaro Pace Car site, this Camaro might have been a pilot car.  In the thread on this car that no longer exists, Tom wrote that, “those tires are NOT production!  It looks to me that the stripe is pre-production and goes deep past the bumper!  I see no engine side emblem on the side of the front fender under the Camaro emblem.”  I certainly am not an expert, so maybe those that are can give their opinions on this subject.
 
I was fortunate enough to have been given the holy grail of documentation for this particular race by Mike Scott, a life-long resident of Ontario, Canada.  Back in 2013 he sent me scans of a little known periodical he has had in his possession since 1966!  Mike is a frequent contributor to the Trans Am section of CRG.

As a back story, Mike told me that in September 1966 he was fifteen years old and he and his father attended the Can Am race at Mosport.  Back then his father was an hourly employee in the Oshawa plant working in Quality Control.  As an employee of General Motors in Canada he received an “official monthly publication of the Communication Section, Public Relations Department, General Motors of Canada, Limited” called GM Topics.  The November 1966 edition of GM Topics (vol. 17, Number 9) features a four page article entitled, “Meet the Camaro,” along with fantastic pictures on the cover.  The article chronicles the FIRST public viewing of the Camaro at Mosport Park during the weekend festivities centered on the Can Am event.  Mike and his father were two of the spectators at this race who were fortunate to see the new Camaro in person before the rest of the world!  The Camaro hobby is fortunate that he kept his issue of GM Topics all these years and that he was kind enough to scan and have it shared with those who are interested in this little known but important part of Camaro history.   

The first attachment shows the cover of the periodical and the following description of it appears on the following page in small print:

“On the cover: Bedecked with flags and strutting its stuff the Camaro SS350 rally sport pace car gets set to lead the racing machines off on the second pace lap of the day at the Grand Prix held at Mosport Park.  The gold pace car with its ‘bumble-bee’ paint striping attracted a lot of attention, not only at the display area and as the pace car but also in the Parade of Champions held prior to the race.  The drivers were taken around the track in 15 Camaro convertibles, two of which are shown in our cover shot.”

So, fifteen new Camaro (non RS and non SS) convertibles were used to chauffeur the drivers around the track prior to the race.  Since there were 30 drivers entered in the race, there must have been two drivers per Camaro in the parade.  In the picture you can see there are two name decals on each car, one on the door and one on the rear quarter panel.  Mike even recalled his Dad “telling me about the cars for the race arriving at the plant in Oshawa.”

SMKZ28

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This is the first page of the article.  You can see the cool tent that Chevy had at the race displaying not only new Camaro convertibles but also the cut-away Camaro.  This must have also been the first time anyone in the public saw this display which would be featured prominently in auto shows across North America over the coming year.  Also check out the women with the guitars.

SMKZ28

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Here is the second page of the article.  Notice the comments from the Can Am drivers and the fact that “25 Camaros of differing models fitted with various options and performance packages available were set up in a display area.”

SMKZ28

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This is the third page of the article.  That is Formula One World Champion and the eventual 1966 Can Am Champion, John Surtees, climbing into the Camaro before he “put the SS350 pace car on the track for a few shakedown laps….”

SMKZ28

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Here is the last page of the article.  I love the comments from the Chevy engined Can Am drivers Jim Hall of Chaparral fame and John Surtees. 

SMKZ28

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These two pictures show the Camaro in front of the field on its "second pace lap of the day."  The race originally began with a standing start.  I’m not sure if the Camaro led the Can Am cars on a recon/warm-up lap before they stopped on the grid for their standing start but in the book entitled Can-Am, author Pete Lyons mentions that a huge accident occurred on the first lap and “after a restart—a rolling one this time, in single file…….” 

The pictures are from the Dave Friedman Collection at The Henry Ford.  They are from a collection that has not been uploaded to their Flickr page, so no larger ones can be seen.  I found them at their previous digital image repository back in 2013.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2018, 08:29:05 PM by SMKZ28 »

SMKZ28

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Two more from the Dave Friedman Collection showing Camaros at Mosport.

bcmiller

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I have not read it all yet, but thanks for posting this!!!!
Bryon / 1968 Camaro SS 396 coupe - now 468 cubic inch BBC/M21
67 RS/SS 396 coupe L35/M40 - 4 generation family project
Looking for 68 Camaro with body # NOR 181016

ZLP955

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Agreed, many thanks for posting the publication and photos!
Tim in Australia.
1969 04A Van Nuys Z/28. Cortez Silver, Dark Blue interior, VE3 bumper, Z21, Z23, D55/U17, D80, flat hood.
Sold at Clippinger Chevrolet in Covina, CA. Ex-E/MP at Lions Dragstrip in Long Beach.

Pacecar

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Thanks for posting. Hope you can find some photos of the 1969 race

SMKZ28

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Thanks for posting. Hope you can find some photos of the 1969 race

Pacecar, I believe that Mosport was using Ford products during the 1969 race season.  I have several pictures showing that a 1969 Ford Torino GT convertible was used as the pace car for the F5000/Continental event, Canadian Touring Trophy race and the Can Am race.   I also have a picture showing that at least one 1969 Mustang convertible was used for the driver introduction lap prior to the Formula One race that year.  I'll keep looking though.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2018, 06:22:49 AM by SMKZ28 »