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1970-1974 Dodge Challenger

1970 Dodge Challenger T/A

The scene of the 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A's entry was complex. There was an arena for showcasing performance abilities, though it was having troubles of its own by 1970: the Sports Car Club of America's Trans-American road racing series. The Trans-Am had been the battleground for ponycar manufacturers since 1966, and competition had heated up as the market expanded.

By 1969, the series had spurred development of the Camaro Z-28 and Mustang Boss 302, highly specialized machines sold to the public in limited numbers solely to legalize their racing counterparts -- which were theoretically streetable "sedans." Dodge jumped on the Trans-Am bandwagon for the 1970 season along with AMC and Plymouth, but the "White Hats" were again late on the draw.

1970 Dodge Challenger T/A
Sam Posey’s Trans-Am team car in action.

Running under the colors of Dan Gurney's All-American Racers, a Challenger was prepared by Ray Caldwell's Auto-dynamics firm for driver Sam Posey, and was ready in time for that year's curtain-raiser at Laguna Seca. But Posey managed only a sixth-place finish, complaining of suspension problems that would never be successfully overcome.

Meantime, Dodge was readying a street version of its Trans-Am racer per SCCA rules, and it arrived in the spring of 1970 as the Challenger T/A, a name chosen because Pontiac had already grabbed the full title for its hottest Firebird. This new competition-inspired Dodge looked -- and ran -- like every 15-year-old's ideal automotive fantasy.

Often dressed in one of the High-Impact colors, the T/A was distinguished by a lift-off fiberglass hood with a serious scoop and liberally applied matte-black paint, and sported a noticeable front-end rake thanks to larger rear tires (G60 X 15s versus E60 X 15 at the front).

Under the funky hood was the 340 small-block V-8 with a beefier bottom end and a trio of two-barrel carburetors, plus appropriate exhaust manifolding that terminated in chrome "megaphone" side-exit pipes protruding from below the rockers ahead of the rear wheels.

Horsepower was 290 on paper, but the actual gross figure was surely well above 300. The 340 engine wasn't legal for racing because of the SCCA's 305-cid size limit, but the street T/A could reel off 14.5-second quarter-miles at better than 95 mph.

Only 2,142 of these cars were built before Dodge scrapped its Trans-Am effort after a single season, thus ending the need for the T/A. Posey and company tried hard, but the new team was simply no match for the experienced Mustangs or Roger Penske's Javelins, both of which dominated the 1970 series.

Racing apart, the Challenger did fairly well for a newcomer trying to stake out territory in an already crowded field. Sales topped 83,000 units for 1970, far behind the league-leading Mustang's total but, interestingly enough, ahead of Cougar's count, which was a bit more than 72,000. The Challenger had beaten the cat that had inspired it.

Let's move on to the 1971 Dodge Challenger on the next page.

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