Trans Am racing on a budget

I was into Trans Am racing almost from the start

Laguna Seca poster hanging next to my slot car track

Being raised in a car family how couldn’t I be? I wasn’t there at the start on March 25, 1966 when the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) kicked it off at Sebring International Raceway but picked it up a couple of years later when American Motors started racing Javelins against the Mustangs, Cameros, Challengers, and Barracudas. There were some great racers like A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Peter Reveson, George Follmer, Swede Savage (no relation to Mark), and Mark Donohue. Since AMC was backing Donohue I got to see and meet him a couple of times when he raced at Road America. Fun times! And then it all sort of went away.

Gone but not forgotten

While many of the drivers are gone from that era, those cars can still be seen racing. This year there will be a five-race schedule hosted by Historic Trans Am, three in California, one in Canada, and one at my favorite track, Road America in July.  These cars have all been restored they same condition they raced in during the series big years and raced just as hard.

Like me you probably have other things on your plate, like car payments, a mortgage, and kids in college. Sure I can go to the races but driving is way out of reach.  As an example, this 1971 Bud Moore Mustang  was sold in 2015 for $200,000. I found more “affordable” cars on BringATrailer.com for around $50,000. This site is one of my favorites.

However, just plopping down enough cash to buy a nice vacation home in northern Wisconsin won’t get you to the races. There’s a trailer, with lots and lots of tools, and lots and lots of spare parts. Toss in tires, gas getting to and from the races, gas at the races, and your now spending enough to start living really large, like house on the beach type large. However, there are lesser expensive options.

Small scale, big fun!

Starting in 2010 and meant to give a shot in the arm to lagging radio

Photo: Action R/C Au

control the U.S. Vintage R/C Racing Association was formed. How did I find out about it? Blogging partner Mark Savage gave me an old Tamiya chassis he had lying around his office. I remember running it way back when we worked together at the same publisher and the car screamed. Well what the heck, let’s blow the dust off it! I had the chassis but needed a body and what have we here? A 1/10th scale ’71 Trans Am Javelin just like Donohue raced “back in the day.” PROTOform.com sells this body along with some others. My first lexan paint job and not too bad. I’m thinking they have to be racing stuff like this. Not.

My car would not be qualified to race in the series because it doesn’t meet the competition rules. To give every racer and even advantage,

Photo: RCtech.net

there are strict guidelines on everything from the chassis, to the motor, wheels, and bodies. Hey it’s not like most guys don’t want to make their cars faster, right?  So what will this segment of racing cost you? Chassis is around $150, body, $30, paint, $25, tires (4) $30, motor, $100, and a radio, around $50. So you’re looking at 385 bucks. Add in a battery, you’ll need a couple, and it will take something in the $500 neighborhood to get started. Hey that’s not a ton of money when you look at the big radio control trucks which I’ve seen for $1,500!

Races, hosted mostly by hobby shops, take place all over the county and are even big in Australia.

Trans Am on yet a smaller scale

One of my money-sucking hobbies is slot car racing thanks to blogging partner Mark Savage who hooked me in to it. A bunch of us race once a month at each other’s tracks. Mine is a replica of Road America about 90 minutes north of where Mark and I live. When I host a race night I always include a Trans Am race among the others like Indy, Sebring and Nascar. Of course I love Trans Am racing since I have one of the fastest cars among the guys, this Dan Gurney Mustang but I recently added two other Trans Am cars, this ’71 Javelin that Donohue campaigned and won the manufactures’ championship in 1971 along with this privateer Javelin. I also have a ’68. The other guys have Mustangs, Cameros and Challengers. The cars are all 1/32 scale and are powered by an electric transformer. This is really cheap fun. The cars usually cost under 50 bucks and are sold by manufacturers like Scalextric. Of course we hop them up! Everybody wants to win! Unlike the real deal where engines can cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, most motors are around ten bucks while more grippy tires are around seven bucks.

So there you have it, three kinds of Trans Am fun. All you need to do now is see how deep your wallet is, find some friends, and go racing.

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