Spring has finally sprung on the East Coast and we can all start to get officially pumped up about road racing again. To help get in the spirit, I'd like to share with you one of the greatest spectacles I saw last year: the ear-splitting, terrifying, down right nasty Historic Trans Am series cars at Lime Rock.
Lime Rock, Connecticut is home to one of the greatest road courses in the country, a deceptively small and fast 1.5 mile track full of tricky right hand turns and butt-clenching elevation changes. Racing fans from around the world gather every fall for the Vintage Festival, where you can see, hear, and smell priceless Indy cars, Formula racers, and LeMans winners running wheel to wheel at speed. The Vintage Festival is typically a refined affair, a symphony of classic motoring, filled to the brim with prestige, wine, cheese, and leather goggles. But on this day, more than 30 of the most goddamn exciting American race cars ever built rumbled back onto the Sam Posey straight and reclaimed Lime Rock Park as their playground. Nothing can prepare you for the thrilling, chest-rattling roar these late '60s and early '70s Trans Am race cars produce as they come off the Downhill and go full bore down Sam Posey Straight. Forget the symphony. This is AC/DC on a racetrack.
The iconic #16 Ford BOSS 302 Mustang pulls out of the staging area for the Saturday heat race. In 1969 This machine was piloted by the legendary George Follmer to multiple race wins. It's a truly famous car. Saleen released a limited edition run of modern Mustangs with this livery last year. The #16 is now owned by Vic Edelbrock Jr., who is behind the wheel here.
The #16 Follmer Ford rolls past the even more recognizable School Bus Yellow 1970 BOSS Mustangs. These uncorked, high revving 302 motors were reportedly putting out close to 470 horsepower in their day.
Perhaps the most popular car in the entire state of Connecticut on this day. That's Sam Posey's actual 1970 Sublime #77 Dodge Challenger. Sam Posey is racing royalty, and Lime Rock is his home track. He raced this car here to a 3rd place finish in 1970.
Vic Edelbrock, Jr. wheeling the #16 BOSS 302 through West Bend.
The Sam Posey #77 Challenger was capably raced at the Vintage Festival by his son John, with Sam looking on from the pits.
Earlier in the year, Lime Rock honored Sam Posey by naming the front stretch the "Sam Posey Straight", permanently painting the words boldly across the overpass. Seeing his car thunder down his namesake straightaway with his son behind the wheel and that de-stroked Dodge 340 blaring out of the sidepipes was a thrill for everyone in attendance.
One more shot of the big bad Dodge coming through West Bend.
This is one of the four Kar Kraft-built BOSS 302 Mustangs from Bud Moore's team that was campaigned in the 1971 season, and one of two on track this day. These gorgeous Mustangs were very fast and were battling for the lead in every heat.
In 1971, the #16 was driven by Peter Gregg, who replaced Parnelli Jones on the Moore team, and was quick enough to earn Gregg a podium that year as a runner up to George Follmer. How much is one of these cars worth today? This particular BOSS sold last for over $400,000.
The other '70 BOSS on hand was the George Follmer #15. This car, aside from a repaint, is nearly completely original to how Kar Kraft built it. Let that sink in for a minute as you strap in, and then hammer towards Uphill.
Here's the battle for the lead. The two Bud Moore BOSS 302 Mustangs mixing it up with another piece of history, the 1972 #2 AMC Javelin. The AMC was originally built in 1970 by Roger Penske, and later fitted with revised sheetmetal and campaigned by Roy Woods and George Follmer to win the 1972 championship. It was fast then, and its fast today; the little AMC ran away from the field at Lime Rock during the Vintage Festival.
Another pair of bad ass legends. The #16 Camaro on the left is a '68 Z/28, the #15 on the right is a '67. Both were driven by Mark Donahue, and both sporting the familiar Sunoco blue and yellow paint scheme. Penske acid dipped the bodies of these cars for weight savings, as was common practice back then.
Another Penske prepped 1968 Camaro Z/28, the #6 blasts down the Downhill. These trim little first generation Camaros were very competitive and their 302 motors were pushing close to 440 horsepower.
I love this '63 Ford Falcon. It's the only one ever entered in Trans Am history, and was campaigned in 1965 by James Taylor.
Fun fact: when it was raced competitively, the Falcon was street legal with just some bumpers and mufflers, and was driven to and from the race track regularly.
Going through Downhill in one of these beasts must take balls of steel. You're angling for the apex, foot to the floor, gathering momentum like a freight train, and if you misjudge it you're off. Get it right, and you'll carry the speed all the way to the end of Sam Posey Straight and put an inside move on someone entering Big Bend.
I'm not too sure on the history of this Camaro. Anyone know the history?
A Trans-Am trio exiting Downhill and preparing to blast down the straight.
This Mustang notchback coupe was originally a 1964 1/2 6-cylinder that was updated to '66 race specs and has seen a lot of track time, beginning with an enduro at Sebring and campaigned extensively by many drivers and teams into the 1970s. It was the first car entered in the new T/A series in 1966, so it got to wear #1. I love the way the Mustang notchbacks look when they're set up for racing.
But, I'm not gonna lie, when I laid my eyes on the black and gold #11 '69 BOSS 302 Mustang I very nearly peed my pants. Look at that motherfucker. This BOSS was built by Kar Kraft to go T/A racing, but then Smokey Yunick switched it up and entered it in the NASCAR GT Talladega race where it would have won, lapping everyone at 176 miles per hour, until the engine broke.
If I ever turn my 2012 GT into a track-only car, I might just have to add the gold stripes and pay tribute to this BOSS. It's stunning.
Unfortunately you can't hear this picture. Over two dozen Trans Am motors starting at once. It is literally the best sound of all time.
This '69 BOSS 302 was built and campaigned by Paul Pettey and Richard Reventlow originally. Still turns heads.
One more shot of the Trans Am Champion '72 Javelin showing the BOSS Mustangs its taillights.
The crowd around the paddock area swelled for the Trans Am cars.
The 1st generation Camaro looks great in race trim. Dig the Sunoco color-matched lip spoiler; it's is a relatively modest size compared to some of the competition, indicating a stable car to begin with.
John Posey signaling to the track marshal and rest of the field that he's coming into the pits at the end of the race. You've read this far and you haven't gotten enough Historic Trans Am action? Well lucky for all of us, these cars are still racing all over the country this year, too. Check out historictransam.com for the schedule, and a wealth of information on these cars and the current drivers.
Dave Burnett writes for puppyknuckles.com