(Editor’s note: Cutaway cars prepared by automakers offer an under-the-skin look at a vehicle’s mechanical components. They are expensive to create and often are retained for the automaker’s archival collection. Sometimes, however, they are sold off and offered up for bidding at auctions, such as 1969 Chevrolet Camaro cutaway display vehicle that’s on the docket for Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction in January. This story was written for Barrett-Jackson by David C. Neyens, an independent automotive journalist.)
Long before General Motors’ lavish Motorama traveling roadshows were established in 1949, the giant corporation gave visitors to its displays a glimpse into a wide array of futuristic design and technical advancements under development at its studios and laboratories.
While the famed Motorama concept was a thing of the past by 1961, GM continued to consistently dazzle auto-show visitors throughout America with fresh automobile designs and a tidal wave of engineering breakthroughs — a tradition of industry leadership that continues today. In the never-ending quest for buyer attention, showroom sales and market share, GM’s glitzy auto-show displays were, and continue to be, far more than “build it and they will come” affairs. In fact, while the cars have always been the stars, sometimes the displays themselves were so innovative and interesting, they upstaged the actual products on display.
One outstanding case in point from General Motors is this fascinating 1969 Chevrolet Camaro “cutaway” display car — one of just two known to have been used by Chevrolet in late 1968 and early 1969 on the auto-show circuit to promote the upcoming and handsomely updated 1969 Camaro.
Best known as the “Double Header Car,” and available with no reserve at Barrett-Jackson’s 2022 Scottsdale Auction, this unforgettable display piece includes a Camaro body shell, complete with optional black and white houndstooth upholstery, plus a 6-cylinder base model front end and an RS/SS 350 version.
All three pieces were placed onto individual turntables which could be interchanged to display either the standard, or RS/SS versions of the car with just the push of a button. A symphony of electric motors and controls raised the Camaro body and the turntables with each frontal arrangement rotated, giving showgoers the opportunity to visualize the car in both base and upmarket RS/SS forms.
The Camaro’s body is understood to be a “first day of production” unit and just 2.4 documented miles are accumulated, likely immediately after assembly and prior to its extensive conversion for show display.
Among the Camaro’s many special features and details, it was prepared for shows without doors, allowing viewers to admire the well-appointed interior without obstruction. The trunk floor is heavily reinforced with steel angle iron, ensuring the body shell’s integrity while it was repeatedly raised on the show stand via a sprocket at the differential yoke and chain-driven electric motor as the front ends were switched.
The Camaro’s display engines — a 350cid V8 and straight-6 — featured numerous cut-away components, often delineated for ease of viewing by use of contrasting paint colors and black painted outlines. Clear covers also allowed glimpses into the intricate internal workings and design highlights of each engine, with internal components beautifully chromed for extra glamor.
Reciprocating assemblies and valve trains were fitted with special nylon bushings allowing free motion and they rotated with the assistance of an electric motor, allowing the internal functions of the engine to be viewed with ease; however, the display rests in static condition as offered.
Following service in high-profile auto shows, this “Double Header” Camaro display was kept privately away from public view for the past 52 years. Upon acquisition, the consignor performed an exacting preservation consistent with the display’s originality. Only those parts unavoidably requiring restoration or replacement were altered.
Since the original 6-cylinder front end was discarded by a prior owner several years ago, an exact duplicate was built using original and NOS GM parts to complete the “Double Header” Camaro display. After a 10-year search, one of the original GM straight-6 cutaway show engines was located, restored, installed and hooked to a GM Powerglide automatic transmission, making the 6-cylinder nose authentic in detail.
As offered, the Camaro’s body remains in highly original condition from the time it was first modified for display. While some age-appropriate imperfections are present, many of which obviously due to the rigors of constant transportation, assembly, and teardown between shows, the seller has thankfully preserved this compelling ensemble, rather than subjecting it to full restoration.
Even much of the control circuitry for the display still remains mounted inside the trunk and behind the front valance panel. The original heavy cover, used to protect the display during transportation, is included, along with a selection of original blueprints and wiring schematics.
The original title, documenting the Camaro’s 2.4 actual miles, is included, as is a Certificate of Authenticity from Camaro expert Jerry MacNeish.
The “Cutaway” Coupe, offered at no reserve, is Scottsdale Lot 1369. The auction is scheduled for January 22-30.