Tag Archives: Trans Am

Changing The Numbers Around Again – Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

In 1968 Roger Penske’s Trans Am team turned up at the Sebring 12 hours with two Trans Am spec Z/28 Camaro’s one a lightweight car that had been very successful in 1967, and the other a new car that had not had a weight saving acid bath.

Mark Donohue is reported as saying the Penske Team put the heavy #15 car through tech inspection first and then went back to their garage and swapped the #15 decals for #16 decals on the heavy car and put the car through tech inspection again.

Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, Concours on the Avenue, Carmel By The Sea

Having successfully pulled off this stunt for tech inspection Mark says the process was successfully repeated again during qualifying so that both the Penske driving crews qualified using the single lightweight car, which allegedly never went through tech inspection.

I believe Mark and Canadian Craig Fisher then drove the lightweight #15 Penske Godsall Camaro to a third place finish from 13th on the grid 6 laps behind two works prototype Porsche 907’s while the heavy #16 Penske Hilton Camaro driven by Joe Welch and Bob Johnson with Craig also taking a stint behind the wheel finished 4th from 17th on the grid 10 laps down.

Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, RMMR, Laguna Seca

Penske pulled off a remarkable feat and the SCCA deserved their comeuppance because as can be clearly seen from this linked period photo showing the Penske team cars bore different logo’s on the front wing panels Penske Hilton Racing for the #15 and Penske Godsall Racing for the #16 as seen in this photo.

It should also be noted that the acid dipped lightweight car can be distinguished by the absence of side marker lights which were mandated for US road vehicles in 1968 as described in paragraph six of this linked article.

Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, Concours on the Avenue, Carmel By The Sea

Evidence that the race numbers were swapped between the subtly different cars during the meeting is confirmed by this linked photograph from the Revs Institute showing the #15 running with Penske Godsall sponsorship on the front wing and without the side marker lights, and in this second linked photo from Car and Driver clearly showing a #16 during a pit stop with the ’68 side marker lights.

Today’s featured Camaro is believed by the owner to have been the 14th Z/28 to have been built, rolling off the assembly line on December 30th 1966 and into the Gorries Chevrolet-Olds, LTD dealership in Toronto where, the son of the GM-Euclid distributor for eastern Canada, Terry Godsall purchased it.

Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, Concours on the Avenue, Carmel By The Sea

The owner believes this car was raced for Terry Godsall by Craig Fisher and followed Craig to the Penske Team mid way through 1967, he also believes this is the lightweight car Craig and Mark Donohue drove to 3rd place overall and a well deserved class win at Sebring in 1968.

After Sebring the car returned to Godsall in Canada is believed to have appeared in Trans Am events up until 1972, the current owner identified the car as the much raced lightweight Camaro by an obviously acid dipped wing / fender, an unusual rear axle housing which turned out to be one of only 22 and a one off brake master cylinder that had been shipped by GM to Penske for the Penske Godsall Racing Camaro.

Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, Concours on the Avenue, Carmel By The Sea

My thanks to Geoffrey Horton for sharing his photo’s taken at Carmel by the Sea Concours on the Avenue and the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion a couple of years ago, note the engine shown is not in the same car as seen at Carmel by the Sea.

Thanks for joining me on this “Changing The Numbers Around Again” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow for FIAT Friday. Don’t forget to come back now !

PS I hope you will join me in wishing Geoffrey Best Wishes and a Happy Birthday today !


Video Equipped Interceptor – Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

In 1993 Pontiac launched the 4th generation Firebird with an even more radically aerodynamic styled body than the third generation Firebirds built from 1982 to 1992.

Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, Summer Classics, Easter Compton

The 1997 LT1 Trans Am package includes 5.7 litre / 347 cui V8, fitted with dual catalytic converters, which produces 285 hp, enough to take the car from rest to 60 mph in 6 seconds and an electronically controlled 155 mph.

Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, Summer Classics, Easter Compton

General Motors have paid the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), who own the Trans Am name, $5 for every vehicle sold since 1969.

Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, Summer Classics, Easter Compton

This particular Trans Am, seen at the Summer Classics Show in Easter Compton, is described as being “fully kitted out as a California Highway Patrol Police Interceptor” with out being specifically described as being an ex service car, a sticker on the back bumper even suggests this is an ex drug dealers car !

Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, Summer Classics, Easter Compton

Alongside the California Highway Patrol livery and police lights this vehicle is fitted with; Carson sirens, police radio, cb radio, drugs weighing equipment, breathalyser, full video recording front and rear, central laptop loaded with CHP incident logs, handcuffs and American police baton.

Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, Summer Classics, Easter Compton

On the UK highway the police lights and siren must be electrically isolated to be legal.

Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, Summer Classics, Easter Compton

The owner, who has had Firebirds for 30 years since he was twenty does not believe he will ever be parted from this car with which he has a lot of fun at show’s, sounds like the ultimate Christmas present for someone.

Thanks for joining me on this “Video Equipped Interceptor” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”. I hope you will join me again for Ferrari Friday tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !

Wishing all ‘Psycho On Tyres’ readers and contributors a Happy New Year !


A53 For Civilians – Dodge Challenger T/A

Back at the end of the 1960’s and early 1970’s in order to compete in the SCCA sanctioned Trans Am series of road races potential entrants had to show that they had manufactured, or in the case of the Challeger T/A Dodge had to show they intended to manufacture 2,400 similar units for ‘civilian’ use.

Dodge Challenger T/A, Goodwood Festival of Speed

In May 1969 a Chrysler product planner conceived the Dodge Challenger T/A as an option pack that could be fitted in the build of new cars or retro fitted by dealers to existing 1970 Challengers which had a new second generation body designed by Carl Cameron.

Dodge Challenger T/A, Goodwood Festival of Speed

The T/A spec, also known internally at Dodge as the A53, was first seen in February 1970 by which time Pontiac has launched the “Trans Am” forcing Dodge to opt for the T/A abbreviation. The T/A spec featured a pair of front spoilers which were optional unlike the rear fibreglass spoiler on the boot / trunk lid.

Dodge Challenger T/A, Goodwood Festival of Speed

The, matt black only, T/A bonnet / hood was also made from fibre glass and was fitted with lighter hinge springs and pins at the front to keep it shut at speed. The large airscoop only directed air into the engine bay unlike the shaker hood on the 395hp six pack 440 Magnum which was attached to the 3 twin barrel carburetors and fed air directly into the throttle bodies.

04 Dodge Challenger T/A_8008sc

Trans Am regulations mandated a maximum engine size of 5 litres / 305 cui and Dodge had Power Boat legend and Drag race engine Keith Black prepare small block 303 cui motors for the Classic Wax sponsored Challenger race cars, but the SCCA appear to have been happy to see the T/A spec civilian cars run with small block 340 cui / 5,571cc motors fitted with 3 Holley twin barrel carburetors which combined to produce between 290 and 320 hp depending on whom one was talking to and to what purpose.

Dodge Challenger T/A, Goodwood Festival of Speed

The Challenger T/A had an unusual stance thanks to the 15 inch front wheels being fitted with F60 size tyres at the front and wider taller G60 tyres at the rear. This was the first US car for civilian use to be fitted with different size tyres front and rear and is said by some to have contributed to the cars tendency to understeer / push.

Dodge Challenger T/A, Goodwood Festival of Speed

A53 cars ran a normal exhaust to the silencer muffler but it then curved round to exit through “low restriction” megaphones ahead of the rear wheels instead of running to the rear as per all other 1970 Challengers.

Dodge Challenger T/A, Goodwood Festival of Speed

Civilian A53’s were also the only Challengers to have an aerial mounted on the rear passenger side, this was so as to minimise radio interference from the motor which was now running only beneath a fiber glass hood.

Dodge Challenger T/A, Goodwood Festival of Speed

With an other wise stock interior, one T/A also had a sunroof a T/A could cover a 1/4 mile in 14 secs having reached 60 mph in six seconds slower than the big block 440 Magnum and Hemi Challengers but, due to their lighter weight, a little more agile in the corners thanks to a fast ratio steering rack with optional power assistance designed for ‘sports car driving’, improved suspension and all wheel disc brakes, though this was all compromised by the smaller F60 front tyres.

The Challenger T/A was available only in 1970 because Dodge decided to withdraw from Trans Am after Sam Posey finished 4th in the Trans Am championship without scoring any wins.

Some sources say in all from late March 1970 to Mid April 1970 just 1,500 Challenger T/A’s were completed 989 with automatic transmission and the remainder with 4 speed manual while others say 2,399 units were built without splitting the auto and manual transmission numbers. If you know which is correct don’t be afraid to chip in below.

Thanks for joining me on this “A53 For Civilians” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


Balena Close, Poole, Dorset – Penske PC1 #001

After he had finished fabricating the Len Terry designed Eagle monocoques for All American Racers (AAR) in California, John Lambert returned to the Untied Kingdom and started a new business which was located on a small industrial estate outside Poole in Dorset where the rent was cheap. When Len Terry fell out with Frank Nichols they wound up Transatlantic Automotive Consultants based in Hastings where they had designed the AAR Eagle and Terry went to join Lambert, with whom he had worked at Lotus and AAR, in Poole starting a new business together called Design Auto.

In 1969 Len Terry started to design a series of stock block Formula 5000 open wheel cars called Leda’s, John Lambert looked after the construction of them in a facility off Balena Close on the Creekmore Industrial Estate on the outskirts of Poole, Dorset. When Leda Cars ran into financial difficulty they merged into the Malaya Garage Group in 1970. Three years later Malaya Garage Group did a deal with New Zealand racer Graham McRae selling the Leda Cars premises “lock, stock and barrel” with the cars manufactured now rebranded as McRae’s.

At around this time Roger “The Captain” Penske and Mark “Captain Nice” Donohue were experiencing many successes on the US racing scene which included three Trans Am championships, then only for manufacturers, driving the Captains Chevrolet Camaro in 1969 and AMC Javelins in 1970 and ’71.

In 1972 Mark won the Indy 500 in Roger Penske’s McLaren M16 and at the end of the year drove Penske’s McLaren M19 in the Canadian and US Grand Prix finishing a more than credible 3rd in his debut Grand Prix. The following year Mark and Roger won the Can Am championship with the “Turbo Panzer” Porsche 917/30. Having achieved pretty much everything in the US, including a NASCAR Winston Cup win at Riverside driving a Penske AMC Matador to become the last ‘road ringer’ to win a non oval race in that series back in 1973 Mark announced he would hang up his helmet at the end of the season.

Roger Penske made plans for a Formula One team in 1974 and sent Heinz Hofer to look at Graham McRae’s ‘low profile’ premises on the Creekmore Industrial Estate in Poole, Dorset UK as a possible base and concluded a deal for the premises. The Ford Cosworth DFV powered Penske PC1 was built to a design by Geoff Ferris and Mark Donohue was persuaded to come out of retirement to drive the car on it’s debut in the 1974 Canadian Grand Prix where he qualified 24th and finished 12th 2 laps down.

Penske Ford PC1, US Grand Prix, Watkins Glen

At the US Grand Prix, where Mark Donohue and Roger Penske fan, Brian Brown took today’s photograph of Mark in the PC1 at Watkins Glen the car started 14th on the grid, but retired after 27 laps with rear suspension problems. Brian recalls his first visit to a Grand Prix thus :-

“I was of course very excited to be seeing Mark race again, but being that it was my first live Formula One event, I was equally excited to be seeing Mario’s effort with Vel’s Parnelli Jones and the rest of the grid in person. We owned a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona and a 246 GT Dino at the time, so were very supportive of the Ferrari effort too.

My brother, friends and I spent a great deal of down time in the Kendall Garage watching the teams go about their business of working on the cars. One thing that was apparent was the absolutely professional presentation of the Penske team. Everything was spotless, just like their successful Indy Car counterpart that I’d observed in person since 1969 at Indianapolis. I was then, as now, a huge fan of Mark Donohue and Team Penske, but that aside, I always felt that they had too many positive resources not to be successful in Formula One.

I knew racing well enough to understand how tall the task Mark and the Penske team had ahead of them, but I also had the highest faith in their collective talents that I felt, given time, they would come right. I look back now and remember how I’d call in to our local ABC news tv affiliate to get the results of the races in 1975, always asking about the top six finishers along with Mark and Mario’s results.

Then came Austria and it was over for Mark and eventually Penske stopped the project – I was always appreciative that they carried on to get the victory with John Watson in Austria a year after Mark’s accident, something of a vindication for the mighty challenges that Team Penske faced in their Formula One foray. Watkins Glen 1974 was the last I ever saw Mark in person and despite the nearly 40 years that have passed, it seems like yesterday.”

Penske ended up building 3 chassis to the PC1 design chassis #001 seen here achieved a best 5th place finish, from 16th on the grid in the 1975 Swedish Grand Prix. Three races later Penske ditched the PC1 in favour of a March 751 which was raced until a new challenger until the new Penske PC3 was ready. As Brian alluded to above Mark Donohue was killed during practice for the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix after a tyre deflated pitching him off the track in to an accident which killed a marshal. Although Mark initially survived the incident he died the next day from a cerebral hemorrhage.

The debut of the Penske PC3 was delayed until the 1975 US Grand Prix where John Watson drove it in practice. Due to a misfire with the motor in the new car the team elected to wheel out today’s featured chassis one more time, John qualified 12th, finishing the race in 9th.

The following season Penske entered John in the PC3 and later PC4 models. With the latter the team won the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix, despite this success The Captain closed the Formula One program down at the end of 1976, deciding his future lay in the US racing seen where he would become the dominant force in Indy Car racing, with many of his winning cars being built in Poole, Dorset. Penske maintained facilities in Poole Dorset up until 2006. When the factory was closed one employee, Ivor, remained who had been part of the story going back to the Leda days, through the McRae years and into the Penske era.

In 2012 Brad Keslowski won his first NASCAR Championship driving a Penske entered Dodge a hitherto elusive goal on ‘The Captains’ to do list.

My thanks to Brian ‘ B² ‘ Brown for kindly agreeing to share his photograph; to kayemod, Nigel Beresford, Tim Murray, Tony Matthews, Dogearred and Doug Nye at The Nostalgia Forum for their help in piecing together the story behind Roger Penske’s presence in Poole, Dorset and a tenuous connection in the form of Lambert & Terry and their Leda Cars premises between the AAR Eagle and Penske Formula One efforts.

Thanks for joining me on this “Balena Close, Poole, Dorset” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !

PS Shortly before this blog was posted some confusion has come to light about which buildings in Poole Penske and McRae occupied and when, local resident kayemod and Nigel Beresford who worked for Penske have confirmed that Penske took over the Balena premises from McRae, while artist Tony Matthews is sure he visited a second facility a couple of miles away on Factory Road to do cutaway drawings for McRae and Penske is not so sure the Balena Close address is correct. If any further developments come forth I shall post them below, and if you know the answer to the riddle please do not hesitate to chime in.

PPS Nigel Beresford has kindly confirmed with another former Penske employee Nick Goozée that the Balena Close facility is the only one Penske purchased from Graham McRae. My thanks to Nigel and Nick for settling the matter so promptly.


Balena Close, Poole, Dorset

Kayemod Rob from the Nostalgia Forum has kindly sent me this photo showing “how that corner of Balena Close looks today, the small unit to the right is the original Penske UK base, formerly McRae Cars. The three parked cars more or less cover the width of the premises. The ‘Elegance’ unit to the left of Penske was once FKS Fibreglass, later Griffin Design. My ex-Specialised Mouldings chum stylist Jim Clark worked at FKS, and as well as Penske’s stuff, they also did almost everything for the Gulf GT40s and Mirages among others, their unit extended leftwards to fill the corner of the block. Penske later rented an identical unit to the right of the pic, which doubled their floor area, after some of the dividing wall was removed, they used to run their F1 operation out of that.”

Thanks Rob.


Knight Industrues Two Thousand – Pontiac Trans Am

The 1984 Pontiac Trans Am based Knight Industries Two Thousand (K.I.T.T) was developed for the Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG) by Wilton Knight and was essentially an artificially intelligent electronic computer module installed in an advanced, mobile, robotic automobile.

Knight Industies Two Thousand, Rare Breeds, Haynes IMM

The original 1982 K.I.T.T was a hard top, but no doubt in danger of getting a hot head due to his crime fighting success, it was deemed that Micheal Knight be given a Targa Top for the 1985 crime wave. This particular K.I.T.T, thought to be one of thirty built, is operated by rrelite.co.uk.

Knight Industies Two Thousand, Rare Breeds, Haynes IMM

Amongst K.I.T.T.s interesting features are the ability of the vehicle to drive itself, front scanner bar with which to ‘see’, and molecular bonded shell body armor invulnerable to the impact of small objects, small arms fire and even diamond head drilling.

Knight Industies Two Thousand, Rare Breeds, Haynes IMM

The trailer for the original series linked here tells us that the show is a “plank into the shadowy world of a man who does not exist Michael Knight”, a champion of the innocent. One of the myriad of buttons at Michael’s disposal is the Turbo Boost button which when activated give a power boost sufficient to leap over obstacles in the vehicles way.

Knight Industies Two Thousand, Rare Breeds, Haynes IMM

The Knight Industries Turbojet, with afterburners drives the wheels through an 8 speed turbo drive transmission giving the car a rest to 60 mph time of 2 seconds and a standing quarter mile time of 4.286 seconds.

Knight Industies Two Thousand, Rare Breeds, Haynes IMM

One of my favorate features of K.I.T.T. is the money dispenser, nice to know when one does not have time to visit the cash machine crime fighting pays after all.

Thanks for joining me on this “Knight Industrues Two Thousand” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !