Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion

| 29 Aug 2018
Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion

When the appeal of cleaning tyre treads with a toothbrush and counting rivets wears off, there’s no better antidote to Monterey Car Week than a trip out to Laguna Seca for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.

Highlights of this year’s event, which took place on 25 August, included a mouth-watering assortment of Trans-Am machines and several rare racing pioneers.

Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Leading the pack was a 1971 AMC Javelin prepared by Penske Racing – the solo Javelin campaigned by the team that season – as Mark Donohue believed that the car was so strong only one was needed to win the championship.

The car swept away the competition, comfortably winning the series. It went on to take victory in the ’76 SCCA Championship at the hands of Jocko Maggiacomo.

Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion

A 1966 Shelby GT350 that started life as a Hertz ‘rent-a-racer’ returned to Laguna Seca, site of its last Trans-Am race in 1979.

The car was bought by a local SCCA racer in ’66, when it was painted green (from its original white), fitted with a number of parts from a crashed ‘R’ model, and taken racing.

Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion

The GT350 was joined by a 1970 Boss Mustang, finished in school bus yellow and driven to victory in that year’s Trans-Am Championship by Parnelli Jones.

The racer was originally meant to drive a more advanced three-link suspension model, but set faster times with ‘777’.

The car remained competitive until 1975, and was eventually reunited with Jones at the Motorsports Reunion in 1997. It is presented in the same configuration as it appeared at Mid-Ohio in 1970.

Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Trans-Am teams became known for acid-dipping body shells to reduce their weight, and one such example was the 1970 Autodynamics Dodge Challenger, driven by Sam Posey and backed by the factory.

During the first race of the season, at Laguna Seca, chief technical inspector John Timanus rested his elbow on the roof, denting it – too much time in the acid bath.

The team was ordered to replace the roof, and within an hour the team had torched the roof off a Challenger from a showroom floor in Monterey.

Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion
Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Karman Cusack from Colorado brought along his 1968 Mustang, originally driven by Bill Maier.

“I’ve had the car for four years,” says Cusack. “I bought it from the gentleman that restored it, he had it for 11. This is one of the lightest cars in the group, so it’s very competitive.

"Typically we’re running up in the top 10 and it’s very easy to drive; it’s slick out on the track today, but it’s a very forgiving car. But I also drive a tube-frame car, and when you get out of that and into this it seems like a farm tractor!”

Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion
Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion
Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Perhaps the most interesting car in the paddock belonged to Pete Whitehead. His Iso Rivolta combined Italian style with American muscle, being powered by a 327cu in, 450bhp.

“It was originally delivered to California, and spent its early life in SCCA club races,” says Whitehead.

“It was then taken to Australia and campaigned in historic racing, which is where I bought it 15 years ago. It was set up exactly as it is now, and I’ve been racing it ever since.”

Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Visitors went from one end of the performance spectrum to the other after entering Pre-War Alley, a paddock dedicated exclusively to early sporting pioneers.

Pride of place was occupied by an artillery-wheeled 1915 Ford Model T racer belonging to Ed and Karen Archer.

The car was discovered in Long Beach, California in the 1950s and was faithfully restored, still wearing its original coachwork and fitted with period modifications.

No show queen, the Model T has been driven across the United States by its owners.

Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion

The pair also displayed their 1924 Chevrolet Model H race car hauler, with a one-ton capacity and fitted with a three-speed gearbox and three-speed auxiliary Rocky Mountain transmission.

A 1911 National Speedway Roadster owned by Charles D Test, great-grandson of the founder of the National Car Company, was also on show in the paddock.

A celebration of the stripped-down stock road cars that had such success in period, the Roadsters benefited from a large 450cu in four-cylinder engine, good reliability and extensive testing at their home race circuit – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Shown alongside was a 1905 National Model C – the oldest of its type in existence.

The model rose to fame after setting an endurance world record, covering 1094 miles in a 24-hour period at an average speed of 52mph.

WF Clemens and Charlie Merz also drove a National in the first Indy 500 race, finishing seventh.

Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Also drawing a great deal of attention was a spectacular display of BRE-backed racers that included one of three 1969 Baja 510s built by the factory following the model’s outing at the African Safari Rally.

The well-worn right-hand-drive example driven by Peter Brock was presented in original condition.

Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion
Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Tucked behind the BRE display were two significant cars brought to Laguna Seca by Nissan – the Bob Sharp-built 300ZX campaigned by Paul Newman in the SCCA’s Trans-Am series, and Sharp’s 300bhp 1971 BSR Datsun 260Z Camel GT pace car.

Classic & Sports Car – Trans-Ams take star turn at Monterey Motorsports Reunion