In 1967, Roger Penske had recently retired as a driver, and teamed up with driver Mark Donohue to contest the US Road Racing Championship and the Trans-Am, using Chevrolet-powered Lolas and the brand-new Chevrolet Camaros. Donohue’s background as an engineer enabled him to change forever the way that racing cars were developed – and Penske did the same for the art of sponsorship.
Penske got hold of the 14th Z-28 built and asked Donohue to turn it into a race car. His first Camaro efforts were frankly useless – but Chevrolet finally helped unofficially, by producing a single set of ultra-thin steel body panels, after stopping the entire production stamping process to make them. Unfortunately, Donohue destroyed the panels in a practice crash – so he made a second Camaro with an acid-dipped body using the panels from Craig Fisher’s car.
This car, since then forever known as “The Lightweight”, now with sponsorship from Sunoco and engines by Traco Engineering, won two of the last races of the 1967 season. But the car was found to be underweight, and only Penske’s threat of withdrawing Chevrolet from SCCA racing allowed the results to stand.
For 1968, Penske and Donohue fooled the organisers, who were now weighing all cars, by putting a 1968 grille and taillights on the 1967 car and sending a legal 1968 car for tech inspection, with two different racing numbers. The team won 10 out of 13 events in 1968 and claimed the Trans-Am championship for Chevrolet, repeating this feat in 1969. The team built six of these Camaros, and five survive.
Photo courtesy of Peter McFadyen. See his website: http://petermcfadyen.co.uk