There may not be a car person on the planet (much less a muscle car person) that does not agree: vintage racing muscle cars rock! Specifically, 1960’s and 70’s era NASCAR and Trans Am cars. Why? Because these cars were…well, just like the real thing – only race cars.
In the early days of NASCAR, the Stock Cars that ran the track were….stock…cars. Well, technically, they were modified a bit, but they started out as Detroit models and were the same type of car that could be purchased and driven by anyone. By the time of the muscle car era, NASCAR was technically still racing factory models – but they were significantly tweaked. It was common to see Chevelle’s, Torino’s, and Charger’s on track that looked a lot (a whole lot) like the one sitting in the driveway. There was a phrase then that was true for Detroit – “win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” (Did you ever wonder why Dodge built the wild Daytona Charger for the street? It was created to win in NASCAR, pure and simple. The production version was merely a NASCAR mandated requirement to get it on the track. ) It wasn’t until the early 1970’s that custom race chassis with factory style bodies entered in. After that, the NASCAR car and the production model got further and further apart. Today they have absolutely nothing in common except a set of decals that look like production car headlights (and I say that as a fan of NASCAR).
Trans Am racing followed a similar trend to that of NASCAR during the ’60’s and 70’s. The cars used then were Camaro’s, Mustangs, Challengers, AMX’s, Pontiac Trans Am’s (which is where it got it’s name)….and they were all flat out awesome. They looked a LOT like the production cars, but were heavily modified underneath to be competitive racers. Just as in NASCAR, teams played within the rule book to build their cars better than the others. Sometimes they got caught, and sometimes they didn’t. Innovation was almost always the result. Just ask Smokey Yunick.
When the muscle car era ended, racing didn’t….but it did get away from the “factory” style race car. The old cars that were raced were disposed of like any other car, for the most part. Some survived in museums, others in the back of race shops, and a few in barns here and there. Several groups have latched on to these old race cars and are getting them back on the track – where they belong!
In a recent podcast for The MuscleCar Place I interviewed John Linfesty III. He and a group of his friends race these style cars for fun – and the crowds seem to love it (the groups are called Historic Trans Am and Historic Grand National). The cars they race are not replica’s or tribute cars at all….they are the real thing! There really is something magical about seeing the same Torino that Darrell Waltrip drove nearly 40 years ago still on the track.
Take a while to look through the respective websites of these groups….and I think you’ll agree – vintage racing muscle cars rock! Be warned….you’re going to spend a lot of time looking through their pictures. After that, you may wish to rescue an old race car from a museum and get it back to the track. Go for it! Also, with the number of suspension options available now in the pro-touring movement you’re probably going to want to build up your muscle car into a fun driving racer. Don’t have a muscle car yet? Find one here at The MuscleCar Place. As long as the end result is a happy person with a happy muscle car, everyone wins!
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