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Bob Sharp Datsun Z Camel GT Pace Car

Community, Motorsports  /   /  By CarCast with Adam Carolla

One of the cars in my collection that I haven’t given much attention to yet is the Bob Sharp-built pace car that was used the Camel GT series starting in the mid-1970s.

Bob Sharp was building a Z car to run in the IMSA GTU class in 1975 and was also hired to make the pace car for the series. Made from two 260Z chassis with what amounts to 240Z bodywork, Sharp’s IMSA car and the pace car were essentially given the same set up. They got the same wing, huge flairs and G nose, along with a roll cage and fuel cell. The main difference was the pace car got a passenger seat for ride-alongs and they didn’t use race bushings on the suspension, so it would have a little smoother ride. Both cars were powered by a Nissan overhead cam 2.8L straight six with three Mikuni carburetors that is supposed to make over 300hp. The transmission is a 5-speed Nissan Comp Option 2 direct drive.

Datsun 240Z/260Z Bob Sharp IMSA Camel GT Pace Car

The pace car was used in the Camel GT series for years. After its career as a pace car ended, some reports say it was used for racing lessons at Road Atlanta. Eventually, it was just left on the grounds of the track, neglected and rotting. I’ve seen photos of it from 1986 with its wheels off, hood askew, just sitting in the dirt. It’s a shame that it fell into such sorry shape. But at the time, well, it was a Datsun, which was one strike against it. And the parts weren’t really worth anything. It wouldn’t have made a good race car, since it was too dated to compete anymore and it wasn’t old enough to be “vintage” yet. So, there it sat.

It changed hands a few times and finally was redone in the Bob Sharp red, white and blue livery, as a clone of Sharp’s competition version of this car. (That car had been wrecked at Road Atlanta in 1976.) As a part of that refurb, the fenders were shaved down to match the flairs on the IMSA car. It was run in VARA and SVRA vintage races for 12 years with this setup.

Datsun 240Z/260Z Bob Sharp IMSA Camel GT Pace Car

I bought it about three years ago. It was agreed by all (including Bob Sharp) that it needed to be put back into the Camel livery. It was a painstaking process, since we were working mainly from pictures. In addition to matching the original paint job and graphics, we had to build the flairs back up to their original width.The rims were originally almost as deep as they are tall—14” x 15”.

You can’t go wrong with the Bob Sharp livery, but brown, burnt orange and yellow is the way this car was meant to be. With those colors, plus the impossibly wide flairs and a cigarette company logo, this car is a perfect snapshot of racing in the ‘70s. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder with this car.

It’s interesting how all of this peripheral stuff is entering the vintage racing hobby. Before, all anyone cared about were the actual race cars. Now, if you get your hands on a transporter and restore that, it’s a big deal. Some of those go for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Pace cars are kind of an extension of that. I mean, this is a race car. It’s one of one ever built and it led the field at a ton of races. Yet, in terms of competing, it has no race history whatsoever.

Datsun 240Z/260Z Bob Sharp IMSA Camel GT Pace Car

What’s this car worth? What will it ever be worth? I really couldn’t tell you one way or the other. Out of every car in my collection, that’s the only car that I don’t think I could guess the value of. I really have no idea. Luckily, I didn’t buy it to flip it, or as an investment of any kind. I just got it because it’s a cool piece.

The Sharp cars and the Newmans are pretty well respected now, but their genius hasn’t been fully recognized yet. They’re really going to go down as pioneers some day. Race history or not, the fact that it’s Bob Sharp-built and one of one makes it really cool.

I have no particular plans for it, aside from it being a cool conversation piece. It’s probably eligible for vintage racing, but I doubt it would be let into Monterey. Even if it did, there’s no good category for us Z guys anyway. We wind up getting lumped in with way faster cars. So, if I’m going to have a 935 or a Dekon Monza blowing past me all day, I’ve got other Z cars I’d rather beat on. I have no desire to see those huge fenders get all chipped up.

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  1. Geo May 10, 2013 at 10:51 am Reply

    It’s a nice piece Adam. Love the wide fender look for the cars of this era.
    What car events do you take this to? Would love to see it up close.

  2. rosemary May 10, 2013 at 10:56 am Reply

    bad ass car. Not crazy about the colors but what the heck. Its back to its original. Good on ya. I had a 240 z when they first came out. I loved that car.

  3. Heath Warren May 10, 2013 at 10:59 am Reply

    It makes you want to smoke.

  4. Keith webb May 10, 2013 at 11:12 am Reply

    Way Cool Aceman!! My only question……do you now say, “oh, she’s a rescue”?

  5. Richard N May 10, 2013 at 11:30 am Reply

    Makes me want to finish up ours so we can recreate a real vintage race – IMSA GT!
    Our car has the same flairs, but last unchecked the weeks were only 15×13, which explains the fender gap.
    The only difference between the two is the spoiler – ours is a whale tail instead.
    I hope to see yours in person someday, maybe at Laguna. It wasn’t so bad a couple years ago when they let the Sharp car and the celebrity driver (???) Beer car run.
    Will you ever post a resto blog post? I’d love to see the details to compare Seventies technology. Haha!
    Thanks for keeping the Datsuns alive!

    • SiKniSS May 10, 2013 at 11:34 am Reply

      That is gorgeous, colors and all.

    • Carl Beck May 11, 2013 at 1:13 am Reply

      “Beer Car” – James Brolin/Clint Eastwood & “The Pro-Celebrity Natural Light Z”, – that was previously Walt Maas’s Giant Killer! Dan Parkinson also drove the Beer Car. Really great history with that Z.

  6. Nick May 10, 2013 at 12:28 pm Reply

    Please bring it to ZCON next year in San Diego

  7. Steve Parmley May 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm Reply

    Thanks for restoring the Z to it’s original livery! I was so influenced by the IMSA GTu Zs as a teenager that I own 3 Zs with one being converted to IMSA flares as we speak. Here’s more pics of your car on my IMSA Z tribute site. (There is even one of your car in it’s disheveled low point in life). I think this Z is bad ass and you should really enter this for the Historics. It would mean alot to us old guys.

  8. Herodias May 10, 2013 at 1:43 pm Reply

    Why couldn’t you roll the car out and take some better pictures? Good article, but let us have a decent look at what your talking about.

  9. Keith mitten May 10, 2013 at 3:59 pm Reply

    Does it run on Mangria now?

  10. John K. May 10, 2013 at 4:11 pm Reply

    I’d love to see a side by side comparison of the Bob Sharp 510 and the BRE 510. It would be interesting to see what they did differently. I’ve got a Sharp 510. It’s build was documented in the book “How to Hodrod and Race Your Datsun”. I Raced it back in the 1990’s. Now it sits waiting for me to restore it back to it’s glory.

  11. Carl Beck May 10, 2013 at 7:02 pm Reply

    Why would anyone want one of the many IMSA GT-U cars that ran in the series – when they could have “The One” that represented the entire era ? A beautiful visual icon that brings so many associated memories immediately to mind.

    I agree with others – really nice to see it put back in its Camel GT Livery. Personally I always thought that was a stunning graphic design, that really highlighted the lines of the car. You can just see the air flowing over the body. It would be an eye catcher and stand out in anyone’s collection.

    What is it worth? If Frisselle’s IMSA GT-U car was worth the $275K price tag that Bruce put on it, then the Camel GT Z has to be worth at least that much or more. Like you said; “who ever heard of Brad Frisselle?”. LOL

  12. Jeremy May 10, 2013 at 8:34 pm Reply

    Good lord! That is a beautiful car! Thank you for sharing it.

  13. Warren May 10, 2013 at 8:52 pm Reply

    I was at the Phil Remington memorial service recently, not surprisingly, Pete Brock and his wife were there. I spoke to them very, very briefly and I tilted the conversation towards you, Ace man. I believe Mrs. Brock called you a genius for picking up these particular cars. She might have also said they would be worth a fortune some day….. good on yuh! 😉

  14. Rick Bolus May 11, 2013 at 4:33 am Reply

    I agree on the bob sharp work being underststed/valuable, one of my 72 street cars with a racer brown cam and chromodora wheels was done by sharps shop, one of its subtle details include it having twin oil filters and the best is the charge for a “long distance telephone call to racer brown” on one invoice. Looking forward to seeing more of the camel, i saw it run at pocono back in the day, thanks

  15. Pete May 11, 2013 at 7:59 am Reply

    Come to ZCON this year and meet Bob. There will be a few BSR cars there including the 1200HP twin turbo 280ZX Paul Newman raced.

  16. tom May 11, 2013 at 3:55 pm Reply

    great car! pls let me know if you want to sell it one day! cheers tom

  17. Peter May 13, 2013 at 4:57 pm Reply

    I saw this car in the 70s at Laguna Seca, nice job!

  18. L. May 16, 2013 at 7:32 pm Reply

    Car porn. Wow!

  19. Sam Miller May 22, 2013 at 5:20 am Reply

    Saw ‘Smoky Joe Camel’ sitting in garage at Road Atlanta for years when previous owner had track…Wondered what happened to the Datsun…Thx

  20. petey May 22, 2013 at 4:16 pm Reply

    veeeryyy cool love the flares we did that to a 913 when we were kids back then the color hot blue now kawasaki blue,the stripes are awsome,,now you have me thinking about my mild custom tr6 hmmm, flares wide ovals hope you laughin,now mickeys wide,lolpump the six banger to 250 and add a turbo .bang pete,s customs new jersey

  21. James February 3, 2015 at 9:04 pm Reply

    Way way groovey.

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