The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s (SVRA) Sebring event on March 3-6 will salute the 50th anniversary of Trans-Am competition and include the world’s most valuable racecars of the classic era of the series, 1966-1972. Among others, cars once driven by Parnelli Jones, Mark Donohue, Dan Gurney, Swede Savage and Sam Posey will not just be on display but also driven at high speed in a contest staged by the Historic Trans-Am series.
As announced earlier a host of Trans-Am driving legends such as Bob Tullius, George Follmer, Willy T. Ribbs, David Hobbs and Lyn St. James will be on hand with hundreds of SVRA vintage racers and the current Trans-Am series led by 2015 Champion Amy Ruman as they launch their 2016 season. Joining the drivers with storied careers at Sebring will be 1996 SVRA Driver-of-the-Year Tom Yeager whose two race wins helped Ford bring home the first Trans-Am championship in 1966.
The Historic Trans-Am series is a loose-knit group of enthusiasts protecting the history of the sport’s classic era from 1966 to 1972. Their central credo is to preserve and protect the authenticity of the actual, documented cars once driven by some of the greatest American road racers in history. This was the era of the production-based “pony car,” revered by a wide swath of the American population, both young and old, who celebrate the “muscle car” genre.
“We are so pleased to have such authentic historic Trans-Am racers joining us at Sebring,” said SVRA President and CEO Tony Parella. “Like all American vintage racers the Historic Trans-Am series is very strict about not banging wheels or trading paint. Make no mistake though, these drivers are very competitive and go plenty fast enough to scare themselves. When you consider some of these exquisite machines are worth well north of $1 million anyone can easily see how important it is to be respectful.”
Heading the list is the most dominant car in series history, the Roger Penske 1968 Sunoco Camaro developed and driven by 1972 Indianapolis 500 Champion Mark Donohue. Donohue destroyed his competition, winning 10 of 13 races, falling short only when mechanical issues cropped up – never by being surpassed on the track. Also joining the field will be the Penske-Donohue Camaro entry of the following year in 1969. Both machines won the series championship for Chevrolet for their respective seasons.
Any car the great Parnelli Jones once raced is both hugely valuable and iconic. This is true for the yellow school bus-painted Bud Moore-prepared Mustang Jones drove to three of his five series victories on the way to Ford’s Trans-Am championship in 1970. The car is restored to virtually the exact specs it had on June 7, 1970 when Jones dominated the Mid-Ohio round of the championship.
Another valuable racer from the 1970 season is the All American Racers (AAR) Plymouth Barracuda once driven by Dan Gurney and his protégé, Swede Savage. The car actually used technology AAR developed – such as titanium parts – for Gurney’s Indianapolis 500 and Formula One cars. Savage, a winner in the 1970 Phoenix Indy car race and a two-time starter in the Indianapolis 500, put the pitch-dark blue “Cuda” on the pole at Bryar Motorsports Park in New Hampshire. Gurney raced the car twice, taking second place at Lime Rock.
An eye-catching entry for the Historic Trans-Am race is the lime-green Dodge Challenger driven by Sam Posey to three podium finishes during the 1970 season. The chassis was built by AAR and the car was a Dodge factory entry.
Another Mark Donohue-driven racer entered is the Penske AMC Javelin that dominated the 1971 Trans-Am series championship. The red, white and blue machine won seven of the 11 races contested that year. It is also the last Trans-Am car Donohue ever drove.