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Find out about Trans Am racing historical past with Jay Leno

The SCCA Trans Am collection achieved iconic standing within the late Nineteen Sixties and early ’70s. On this episode of “Jay Leno’s Storage,” Jay Leno, NASCAR commentator Mike Pleasure, and historic racer Ken Epsman have a look at a number of the automobiles that made that period of Trans Am racing so particular. We study fairly a bit in regards to the historical past of Trans Am racing alongside the best way.

Making an attempt to broaden past beginner racing with a professional collection, the SCCA launched Trans Am in 1966. The collection initially featured modified manufacturing automobiles in two courses: these with engines displacing lower than 2.0 liters, and people with engines bigger than 2.0 liters however capped at 5.0 liters or 305 cubic inches.

The latter created a gap for Ford, Basic Motors, Chrysler, and AMC to discipline their pony automobiles, which had been simply hitting the market on the time. The Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, Plymouth ‘Cuda, and AMC Javelin all raced within the Trans Am collection with manufacturing unit assist throughout this golden age, which continued till 1972. After that, modifications to the foundations moved Trans Am from its production-based components.


1971 AMC Javelin Trans Am race car on Jay Leno's Garage

1971 AMC Javelin Trans Am race automotive on Jay Leno’s Storage

Lacking from that checklist is the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, which was named after the collection, however was unable to compete as a result of its engine exceeded the 5.0-liter most displacement set by the foundations. Firebirds did race within the Trans Am, albeit with much less constant manufacturing unit assist than the Camaros, and GM paid the SCCA a $5 payment for every Firebird Trans Am street automotive bought. For a time, that was the SCCA’s greatest supply of revenue, Pleasure notes within the video.

What made Trans Am race automobiles stand out was their similarity to street automobiles. The unique guidelines required inventory physique shells and powertrains, which made the racing attention-grabbing and spawned basic homologation specials just like the Ford Mustang Boss 302 and Chevrolet Camaro Z/28. These automobiles had been raced by well-known drivers corresponding to Dan Gurney and Mark Donohue, making the Trans Am collection a much bigger deal in its day than NASCAR, which was nonetheless largely standard solely within the South, Pleasure says.

The foundations pressured some attention-grabbing workarounds, corresponding to the huge oil sump on the Ford Mustang proven right here (as a result of dry sumps had been unlawful), or using the bottom entrance fascia on the 1970 Camaro racer quite than the fancier Rally Sport model to save lots of weight. Not every part was inventory—the Camaro employed a Chevy Impala rear axle to increase its observe width—however the automobiles did no less than look that approach. 

At a time when “win on Sunday, promote on Monday” was nonetheless a dependable technique, this made Trans Am an necessary advertising instrument for automakers. That was significantly true for AMC, which partnered first with Kaplan Engineering, then Penske Racing, and eventually the Roy Woods crew as an all-in effort to advertise its Javelin as a substitute for the Detroit Three pony automobiles. The hassle netted titles in 1971 and 1972, giving AMC and the Javelin a short second of glory.

The video ends like most of Leno’s video, with a drive in one of many automobiles. On this case, it is the No. 89 1966 Ford Mustang raced initially by Jim Whelan. It is a deal with to listen to the 289 with GT40 heads in motion on the road.

The Trans Am collection nonetheless exists immediately, however the race automobiles do not have a lot in widespread with street automobiles, and the collection has been overshadowed within the U.S. by the likes of NASCAR, Components 1, IndyCar, and IMSA racing. But the automobiles from that 1966-1972 period are nonetheless iconic.

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