Joey Kelly Finally Realized His Dream With This ’69 Camaro Pace Car

oey Kelly with his dream 1969 Camaro RS/SS Z11 Pace Car in front of the Indianapolis Museum. Images courtesy Joey Kelly.

Joey Kelly with his dream 1969 Camaro RS/SS Z11 Pace Car in front of the Indianapolis Museum.

Joey Kelly is, in his own words, “a Bow Tie guy.” If the car doesn’t have a Chevrolet emblem on it, he will not own it. To date, he’s owned two ‘64 Impalas, a ’68 Chevelle, and several Camaros. However, his most recent Camaro is a car that he had been dreaming about for decades. This dream-fulfilling car is this 1969 Chevy Camaro RS/SS pace car.

This original photo shows all of the Pace Cars that were produced for the race. The "giveaway" cars are on the right.

This original photo shows the pace cars that were produced for Indy.

The original owner of this original Indianapolis 500 pace car (number 29), took ownership from Bob Baker Chevrolet. In 1999, he traded it to an Illinois dealership for a 1967 Corvette. It was then sent to Mecum Actions, where the second owner acquired it. The second owner eventually flipped it to the third owner, who took it home to Shawnee, Oklahoma. The year 2016 is when Joey comes into the picture, as he found it there in January of that year, and bought it. Along with the car, Joey also received the factory Protecto Plate, specifying that the car came with factory air conditioning, push-button AM radio, power steering, and power-assisted disc brakes.

The original and numbers-matching 300 HP 350.

The original and numbers-matching 300 horsepower 350ci engine.

Joey tells us that his pace car is one of those that was in the photograph taken on the track that day, and everything about it has been restored to original condition. The car and its previous owner even participated in the 2005 Hot Rod Power Tour. We can only guess why, but shortly thereafter, a Vintage Air A/C system was installed to replace the factory unit.

The complete restoration was actually done in 2006, and the engine was bored .030-inch over, and uses standard replacement parts such as a Speed Pro camshaft and pistons, Hastings rings, and Clevite rod, camshaft, and main bearings. A Pertronix ignition upgrade was installed to eleiminate the points in the distributor.

In 2011, owner number three had the Turbo 350 rebuilt, and had a TransGo shift kit installed to firm p the gear changes. In 2012 the front suspension was rebuilt, and the brakes were also rebuilt at this time.

The all-original interior.

When it comes to convertibles, the interior usually takes a beating, as the sun has direct access. But, this car’s interior is all original. The bucket seats with orange hounds tooth interior are standard for the pace car. The year 2016 was a big year for the Camaro, as just before Joey took ownership, it received a repaint with three coats of color and four coats of clear, making this one great-looking ride.

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A week before the 2016 Indianapolis 500, the Brickyard played host to a special event, the Indy 500 Pace Car Reunion. This congregation was held in the parking lot of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, and 250 pace cars participated in this special event. The oldest of these was a 1914 Packard, and Joey and his car were one of eight of the original 1969 track cars that participated. After taking a lap through the parking lot, the procession of pace cars was led onto the track so the owners could have the honor of taking a ceremonial lap around the famous track.

Closeup of the glovebox that Mario Andretti autographed for Joey at this year's Reunion.

Closeup of the glove box that Mario Andretti autographed for Joey at this year’s Reunion.

Joey tells us, “Being able to take part in the reunion was an honor, but the highlight of the day was when I got to meet Mario Andretti and have him sign my car’s glove box door.”

About the author

Mike Aguilar

Mike has been wrenching on cars since the early 1970s when he worked at his dad's auto repair shop. By the age of 14 Mike had built his first performance suspension, and by 16 he had built, and was racing cars in several sanctioned events in the San Francisco bay area.
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