From the very beginning — March of 1966 to the present day — The Trans-Am series has experienced decades of great races, iconic cars, and some of the most legendary drivers to ever strap in a race car. Names like Dan Gurney, Peter Gregg, George Follmer and Parnelli Jones have all had time their behind the wheel of one of these renowned race cars.
Although these drivers no longer actively participate in the current, present day series, a number of the original cars still exist — thanks to a dedicated group of motorsports enthusiasts — and are currently on a nationwide, coast-to-coast tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the series once billed as the “Trans American Sedan Series.”
The Historic Trans-Am Association (HTA) is the loudest, fastest, motorsport museum found anywhere in North America, and has adopted the simple mission statement of “To preserve and honor the greatest American road racing series ever.” Devoted to the preservation of not just the cars, but to the series itself, and the rich heritage of the sport, the series features original Trans-Am series race cars that have been painstakingly restored to era-correct condition. They are the genuine article, no replicas or clones, producing the same sights, smells, and engine noises direct from the early ‘60s and ‘70s, during what most consider the heyday of the series.
The HTA 50th anniversary tour consists of six events with stops at Sebring International Raceway in Florida, Sonoma Raceway in California, two-stops at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Lime Rock in Connecticut, and Watkins Glen in upstate New York. With more than 70 cars on its current roster, here are a few examples of what you might expect to see at any of these upcoming events.
1967 Penske-Godsall racing Chevrolet Camaro Z/28: This pretty blue Camaro was originally driven by Mark Donahue, Craig Fisher, and Bob Johnson. Patrick Ryan from Fletcher, North Carolina is the current owner and driver of the Sunoco Camaro.
Originally purchased through Gorries Chevrolet-Olds in Toronto, Canada by Terry Godsall, it is the 14th Z/28, with a production date of December 30, 1966. Gorries race-prepped it for fellow-Canadian Fisher to drive at the Trans-Am season opener at Daytona, in February 1967, where he finished second. It was the first Chevrolet to collect Trans-Am series points.
1967 Bud Moore Mercury Cougar: This very unique Cougar was driven by Gurney at the 1967 Trans-Am race at Sebring International Raceway. It is currently owned by Ross Myers of Boyertown, Pennsylvania, and is campaigned by R/T Racing. The Bud Moore-designed and prepared Cougars had different roll cage configurations; some were built with high-mounted rearward bars, some with low-mounted bars off the primary hoop. This car features the low-mounted bars.
At the conclusion of the 1967 Trans-Am season, Moore repainted the Cougar and prepared it for the new NASCAR sanctioned Grand Touring Series. Tiny Lund drove the car to the series championship in 1968. It was eventually sold to Tom “Tiger” Pistone and was restored to the 1967 Trams-Am specs by R/T Racing.
1970 Autodynamics Dodge Challenger: This beautiful “Sublime” Challenger was built in Gurney’s AAR shop, and prepared by noted car builder Ray Caldwell’s Autodynamics. It was one of the factory-backed Dodge entries during the 1970 Trans-Am season, and was driven by Sam Posey. The car finished fourth in points at the end of the 1970 season behind Ford and AMC, but ahead of Chevrolet, Plymouth and Pontiac. Pretty respectable for a first-year team.
In the day, Trans-Am teams would circumvent the rule book by acid dipping the body of the car to reduce the overall weight. This was one of those well-guarded racing secrets – every team, regardless of manufacturer knew about this weight-saving procedure. Everyone thought they were the only one doing it, and all eventually were caught doing it. This Challenger still runs with the acid dipped body, and is currently owned by Richard Goldsmith of Gilroy, California.
1964 Ford Falcon: This relatively unknown segment of Ford’s involvement in the Trans-Am series was originally driven by Pete Cordts during the final race at Riverside, California in 1966. It won the SCCA A-Sedan championship that same year, and was entered at the Trans-Am race at Riverside to help Ford win the manufacturers title that year. This Falcon, and one other, were used for chassis development by Carroll Shelby for his GT350 in exchange for parts. Owned by Mike Eddy from Torrance, California, it represents one of the oldest surviving Trans-Am cars in existence today.
1972 Penske/AMC Javelin: Donahue, George Folder, Roy Woods and Vic Elford have all had a share of seat-time in the No.2 AMC Javelin. It was built by Roger Penske for the 1970 Trans-Am season with Donahue and Peter Revson sharing driving duties throughout the season. Donahue finished the 1970 season as runner-up to series champion Parnelli Jones in his Boss 302 Ford Mustang.
Penske sold the car to Roy Woods racing at the end of the 1970 Trans-Am season, who updated the sheetmetal and repainted the car a bright yellow for the 1971 season. When Penske went NASCAR racing in 1972, Woods inherited the AMC factory backing, and raced the car in the AMC red, white and blue livery for the 1972 Trans-Am season. Follmer and Woods won the manufacturers championship with this car the same season. It is currently restored to the 1972 specifications.
1968 Ford Mustang: This Mustang was prepared and supported by Tasca Ford. Dean Greyson, driver and owner, was the high performance sales manager at Tasca Ford in the late 1960s. For 1968, the car ran several A-Sedan events during which the car was “shaken out” and prepared for the Trans-Am in 1969. All the while, the car was receiving factory help from Ford through Dave Aronson.
It ran several engine configurations, including a prototype Boss 302 T/A “dry deck” engine shipped directly to Tasca Ford by the Ford Factory. This car was also involved in the development of the Boss 302 race engine for Ford. It started the 1969 Trans-Am season at Michigan International Raceway on May 11, 1969 where it finished 26th. Engine troubles prevented it from placing higher as it was only firing on seven cylinders at the finish. The car is owned today by Nick DeVitis out of Sammamish, Washington.
1967 Allen Green Chevrolet Z/28 Camaro: This very pretty green and white race car was originally driven by Gary Gove, Donahue and Skip Scott. It is currently owned by Tony Hart from Moorpark, California. It was one of the first two Z/28s to be delivered into the Pacific Northwest in late January 1967, however prior to customer delivery, the Alan Green Chevrolet race team seized the car and prepared it for the 1967 Sebring 12 Hour race.
Running in a slightly modified, showroom-stock condition, the car competed in the 12 Hour race to a DNF finish. Upon completion of the Sebring event, it was delivered to Bill Ellis Racing in North Wtilkesboro, North Carolina, where it was transformed to the showroom-stock Z/28 into a Trans Am race car. Bill Ellis Racing was heavily involved in NASCAR, preparing the factory Chrysler Plymouths for Jim Paschal. NASCAR’s influence in the roll cage, dash, instrumentation, and some of the suspension features are unique to this Trans Am race car.
1966 Ford Mustang Notchback: Over its lifespan, this little Mustang has had six, very accomplished individuals strapped behind the wheel. Jim Sutter, Dr. Dick Thompson, Ed Loather, Rich Shelly, Rick Mandelson, and early NASCAR star, Wendall Scott have all driven the car. Starting life as a 1964½, six-cylinder base-model, Sutter updated the car in 1966 with sheetmetal and prepared it to meet FIA Group Two specifications.
The FIA documentation is dated in February 1966, and its first race was the Four Hour Governor’s Cup race for sedans at Sebring on March 25, 1966. This first Trans-Am race was a support event to the Sebring 12 Hour race, and Sutter put the famous racing dentist Thompson, behind the wheel for the event. For the new Trans-Am series, this Mustang was the first car entered and was officially issued the No. 1.
The next stop on the Historic Trans-Am series schedule is Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival at Sonoma Raceway, June 2-5, 2016. There has never been a harder fought race series than the Trans-Am series of the early ‘60s and ‘70s. Racing legend Parnelli Jones once said, “The Trans Am was a no-holds-barred, highly competitive series. We had the best American drivers, we ran on the best North American circuits, and we drove cars that were spectacular to watch the fans could easily identify with. The Trans Am was the greatest road racing series that has ever been run here in North America.”
Thankfully, it still is.
For additional information on the Historic Trans-Am series, visit www.historictransam.com