6 of our favorite all-American brutes at Mecum’s Muscle Car City Auction
As sad as Rick Treworgy is about selling off his lifelong collection of muscle cars, there are plenty of prospective buyers out there who are thrilled with the opportunity to own one. Treworgy, who purchased his first car at age 14 and spent nearly six decades buying the best muscle machines that he could find, announced just prior to Christmas that he was closing his 60,000-square-foot Muscle Car City Museum in Punta Gorda, Florida.
Only one month later, Mecum is auctioning off Treworgy’s massive collection of nearly 200 cars and trucks, along with hundreds of pieces of art and automobilia, January 22–23. The sale, which will be held at the museum, comes on the heels of Mecum’s annual Kissimmee auction.
Treworgy, 72, opened Muscle Car City in Punta Gorda 14 years ago, and it represents more than 80 years of American automotive history. In a Facebook post on December 22, Treworgy said he will lease the museum space, but he plans to keep the facility’s restaurant open. “After it all settles, [we] will possibly do [car] shows and swap meets,” he wrote.
In-person attendance at the Mecum Muscle Car City Auction is limited to registered bidders only, which automatically includes those registered for Mecum’s 2021 Kissimmee auction. The museum will remain open to the public through January 17, then it will re-open for an auction preview on January 21.
With so many fabulous muscle cars available—all offered without reserve—it’s difficult to pick favorites, but we put our heads together and did our best. Among those we considered is Treworgy’s rare 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Z16, but—believe it or not—it is one of three Crocus Yellow Z16s crossing the Mecum block in Florida this month, and we already wrote about the other two.
No matter. With this group there are no poor choices. Here are our six favorites.
Everyone loves a tri-power GTO, and no list of muscle cars is ever complete without one, so let’s get it to it. Although this is a “standard” GTO, the ’66 Poncho convertible possesses a menacing black-over-black color scheme, numbers-matching 389-cubic-inch/360-horsepower V-8 engine, and M20 four-speed transmission—a desirable combo that any muscle car enthusiast would be proud to own.
When GMMG rolled out its upgraded Camaro SS ZL1 in 2002, let’s just say that it surprised some people—in a good way. SuperChevy.com called it “a throw-back to the big-block-powered machines of the late-’60s … a perfect mix of raw performance and hot-rodding ingenuity.” Today, Hagerty valuation analyst Greg Ingold, associate editor of the Hagerty Price Guide, uses fewer words: “This thing is super badass.”
Treworgy’s Navy Blue example is no. 21 of 69 ZL1 Super Cars, one of 30 with the 600-hp engine, one of 28 with a rollcage, and one of two with an automatic transmission. Plus, it has only 640 miles on the clock.
Along with additional styling touches, the Impala SS 427 package offered a hydraulic-lifter L36 V-8 rated at 385 hp. This one is powered by a special-order L72 rated at 425 hp. “It was an extremely rare option,” Ingold says, “especially in a convertible.” Only 1778 SS 427s were built, and fewer than 200 of them were convertibles.
In addition to its rare engine, this one has benefited from a body-off restoration. It wears factory-correct Matador Red paint and red interior, has power everything, and features factory gauges, tachometer, and a wood-rimmed steering wheel.
The only known example of seven produced in 1968 with this configuration, this Chevelle SS packs a matching-numbers 396-cu-in L89 V-8 engine with aluminum heads that produces 375 hp. Painted Matador Red, it has a close-ratio four-speed manual transmission, F40 suspension, Positraction, special instrumentation, a tinted windshield, and rally wheels.
The subject of cover articles in The Chevelle World, and Muscle Car Review, this SS L89 is among the rarest-spec Chevelles built. Simply put, Ingold says, “This car is a very big deal.” We’ll be watching this one closely.
Like the Chevelle SS above, this restored C3 Corvette is a rare breed. It’s one of only 624 Vettes powered by an L89 with aluminum heads and built for the 1968 model year. Produced in November 1967, it is one of 708 Tuxedo Black ’68 Corvettes, and it carries its original engine and transmission—a matching-numbers (IU-suffix) 427/435-hp V-8 with tri-power carburetion and an M21 four-speed manual.
“It is about as rare as an L88,” Ingold says, “but the L88 is a race-spec engine that’s valuable because of its massive power and race history.”
If this were a true ZL1 car, it would be worth seven figures, since Chevy built only two. It isn’t. However, the Corvette carries an original ZL1 427 engine, which by itself is likely worth six figures and makes this Vette a star.
The reason Chevy built only two ZL1 Corvettes is because they were outrageously expensive. According to CorvSport.com (and other sources), the ZL1 option alone cost $4718, which was only $63 less than the base price of a 1969 Corvette coupe ($4781). In addition, Corvettes equipped with the ZL1 option required a handful of other mandatory options, including special front and rear suspension, a Positraction rear axle, heavy duty brakes, and a special ignition. All told, the purchase price of a 1969 ZL1 Corvette was a shade over $10,000—more than $70,000 in today’s economy.
Records indicate that 94 all-aluminum ZL1 engines with Corvette prefixes were built in 1969, 80 for manual transmissions like this four-speed. While some were likely retained by the Chevrolet Engineering Department, historians agree that the majority were sold to the public.
Treworgy’s Lemans Blue Corvette likely rolled out of the factory with an L88 engine, which was then swapped for a ZL1 427. The engine carries casting no. 3946052 and a casting date of 4-11-1969.
Is the car’s rare ZL1 engine enough to spark a bidding war? Time will tell.