Although the Camaro had a brief hiatus from 2003–09, it has been half a century since Chevrolet offered the first model in 1967. The new Camaro was GM’s pony-car challenger to Ford’s wildly successful Mustang, and it spawned six generations and became one of the most popular collector cars in America.
While the Camaro offers high performance and good looks at a reasonable price, naturally some special models and historically-significant examples have risen to the top of collectors’ must-have lists. These are the five most expensive Camaros to have ever changed hands at auction:
Sold for $990,000 at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island 2016
Team owner Roger Penske and engineer/driver Mark Donohue were always a force to be reckoned with in American road racing, and one of their most successful exploits was in the SCCA’s Trans-Am series, in which the Penske team ran Camaros in 1968 and ’69 and played a major part in Chevrolet winning the manufacturers’ championship both years. Donohue won 10 of 13 races in 1968, the kind of success that gave the Z/28 name such cachet.
The car sold by RM Sotheby’s at Amelia Island last year was driven by Donohue to a second-in-class finish at the Daytona 24 Hours in ’68, but it spent most of the rest of the season driven by Sam Posey, who had several podium finishes that year. With this kind of history, there’s no arguing with the price it brought, and only a Penske car with a stronger Donohue connection could be expected to bring more money.
GM policy basically forbade installing big-block engines in the Camaro, but dealers and racers found a way around the rules by using the Central Office Production Order (COPO) program. The most desirable of these big-block Camaros is the ZL1, which featured an all-aluminum, hand-built 427 with roots in Can-Am racing. Just 69 ZL1 Camaros were produced, and the one sold by Mecum in 2008 was even more remarkable in that it was unrestored, had only 7,700 original miles at the time of the sale, and was one of two ZL1s equipped with the Rally Sport package.
3. 1969 Camaro ZL1
Sold for $715,000 at Worldwide Houston 2015
Muscle car values in general took a huge hit after the 2008 financial crisis. First-generation Camaros were not immune, and in many cases values still haven’t come back to pre-recession levels. The $650,000-$850,000 presale estimate on the automatic-equipped ZL1 consigned by Worldwide Auctioneers in 2015 therefore seemed ambitious at the time, but ZL1 examples rarely come up for sale, and this one was highly sought after. It brought serious bidding and defied many expectations enroute to becoming one of the most expensive Camaros in the world.
Sold for $700,000 at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2014 (charity sale)
As a bit of an homage to those old big-block ZL1s of 1969, Chevrolet introduced a special “COPO” model in 2013 and also limited production to 69 examples. Built with NHRA Stock Eliminator-class drag racing in mind, each was sold without a VIN and couldn’t be registered for the street. Barrett-Jackson offered the very first example in Scottsdale, with all proceeds going to charity. That combination proved to be the perfect recipe for enthusiastic bidding. For reference, the official starting price for these cars was less than $100,000.
Sold for $650,000 at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2014 (charity sale)
This first production example of the new Z/28, in which the fifth-gen Camaro returned the Z/28 nameplate to its original roots, was in the same auction as the 2014 COPO and was also sold for charity. The new Z/28 was a track-oriented special with 505-hp 7.0-liter engine, trick shocks, and huge tires. The car’s MSRP was about $75,000, but this one came with bragging rights as the first built, along with the satisfaction of knowing the proceeds went to charity.