This is a good year for automotive trivia buffs. Memorial Day weekend marks the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, and 2016 is also the 50th anniversary of the Chevrolet Camaro’s launch (as a 1967 model). So naturally, a Camaro will once again pace the Indy 500 next month.
Specifically, it will be a 2017 50th Anniversary Camaro SS special edition, driven by Indy legend Roger Penske. You’ve probably seen this guy’s yellow rental trucks around, but what you may not know is that Penske is also the winningest team owner in Indy 500 history, with 16 wins, including last year’s 500. Penske currently uses Chevy engines in his cars, of course. This is an example of what marketing people call “synergy.”
If Penske is the most appropriate driver, then the Camaro is likely the most appropriate car to kick off the 100th Indy 500. The pace car leads racers on a formation lap so they can get a rolling start before the checkered flag drops, and the Camaro has had that honor eight other times in the past, going all the way back to 1967. Chevy-produced replicas of that RS/SS convertible have become collectors’ items.
We’ll have to wait a few decades to see if the 50th Anniversary model that will pace this year’s Indy 500 becomes valuable. It’s primarily cosmetic, including a special graphics package, model-specific 20-inch alloy wheels, orange brake calipers, and other tweaks. The special edition is available as either a coupe or convertible, with the 2LT or SS trim levels.
The 2LT version comes standard with the new 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which produces 275 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. A 3.6-liter naturally-aspirated V6 is also available, with 335 hp and 284 lb-ft. The car pacing the Indy 500 will be an SS model, with the 6.2-liter LT1 V8 borrowed from the Corvette Stingray producing a stout 455 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque.
That’s not bad, but it’s nothing compared to the V8 engines from Chevy and Honda powering the IndyCars that will be in the Camaro’s rearview mirror. They produce up to 700 hp, allowing for speeds of up to 235 mph on the Indy oval track. Check them out May 29, when the 100th Indianapolis 500 gets underway.