17 November 2016

Win, place or SHOW

These Trans Am Ponies Are Race Cars For The Street

Race on Sunday, sell on Monday. That’s always been the mantra that connects automobiles and automobile racing. Nowhere was this better illustrated than during the heyday of the Trans Am series, from 1968 to ’72. For the class above two liters, it was the perfect home for the pony car.

Nearly every domestic manufacturer homologated a car for entry, and you know the names: Ford Mustang Boss 302, Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, Dodge Challenger T/A, Plymouth AAR ’Cuda, AMC Javelin, Mercury Cougar and Pontiac Firebird Trans Am (though tomfoolery with the rules meant they came from Canada with Z/28 engines). None of these cars were marketed as a practical choice, but they were high-revving good fun and different beasts from their big-block brothers. Here are some pony car street machines worth noting.

In Scottsdale last January, Russo and Steele offered a bright yellow 1970 Boss 302, with a black interior, black front and rear spoilers, and rear window slats. Said to have had only one repaint, it was also equipped with 3.91 traction lock differential, deluxe interior with wood grain trim, Comfort Weave upholstery, console, fold-down rear seat and a bunch more. The big news was the 11,000 claimed original miles. Even so, it was a slight bargain at $89,100.

Across town, Barrett-Jackson sold a lime green 1970 AAR ’Cuda (for All American Racers) with a black top and black interior, for $93,500. These special cars were only built from March 10 to April 17, 1970 — a total of 2,724. This one had a four-speed manual and was said to be numbers matching and restored in the original color combination. Like all AARs, it had a 340-cid V-8 and six-barrel carburetor, along with a flat black fresh-air fiberglass hood unique to the AAR. This was a serious pony car racer that made correct money.

You can’t talk about Trans Am cars without talking about the Pontiac Trans Am, in this case a 1969 Trans Am Ram Air III, which sold at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale for a strong $176,000. Striking in Polar White with blue stripes and interior, and powered by a correct Code YW Ram Air III 400-cid V-8, it was claimed to be only one of nine produced with air-conditioning and a three-speed automatic transmission. This Trans Am scored 384 out of 400 points at the 2012 Pontiac Oakland Club Grand National Convention and received a Concours Gold award, so the big price was justified.

Mecum, meanwhile, had a 1970 AMC Javelin SST at its Indianapolis sale in May — a 390-cid, four-speed example in green with a black vinyl top and black interior. Equipped with power steering, power brakes, twin-grip differential and factory tach, it also had the Mark Donohue ducktail spoilers and trim. Part of the Ray Skillman Collection, it sold for $36,300. It was a bargain in this company but good money for an SST.

Finally, you can’t overlook the 1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator, and Mecum sold an orange-over-black example at Indy. This one was equipped with a replacement-block 428-cid Ram Air Cobra Jet engine mated to a C6 Cruise-O-Matic transmission and was said to be one of seven built with air conditioning. Also equipped with a sports console, power steering and power front disc brakes, it sold for $51,700 — a discount perhaps because of the engine. And yes, that badass look came standard with the Eliminator package.

Trans Am was one of the most thrilling wheel-to-wheel racing series in America, and it’s still a huge fan favorite today on the vintage circuit. But even if motorsport isn’t in the cards for you, it’s nice to know these race cars for the street are out there, waiting for a place in your garage.

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