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Javelin SST 'Trans-Am'
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  AMC Javelin SST 'Trans-Am'
 

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Country of origin:United States
Produced in:1970
Numbers built:100
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:November 27, 2006
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Click here to download printer friendly versionWhen Ford started its Le Mans campaign late in 1963, the company effectively terminated the gentleman's agreement to stay of out motor racing. This agreement was reached at a 1957 meeting of the Automobile Manufacturer Association. In those seven years none of the major American manufacturers entered in motor racing, but all of them supplied back-door support to 'independent' specialist racing car constructors. Ford for example had found a good friend in Carroll Shelby and General Motors supplied 'experimental' engines and gearboxes to Jim Hall's Chaparral team. Following in Ford's footsteps the others quickly took a more active approach to racing.

A big reason to go racing is marketing and the Trans-Am Championship, started in 1966, perfectly suited the manufacturers needs. It formed a platform for the 'pony-cars' to race each other. Created by the introduction of the Ford Mustang in 1966, this was a highly popular segment as it offered good performance for a reasonable price. Other manufacturers quickly followed suit with cars like the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird. Trans-Am was open to these pony-cars with a displacement limit of 305 ci or five litres, a maximum wheelbase of 116 inches and a minimum weight of 2800 pounds. From 1970, the minimum weight was raised to 3200 pounds. Other than safety equipment, the cars could not sport any parts that were not available on the road cars either.

In the first years, Trans-Am was also open to 'under two litre' cars like the Alfa Romeo GTA and the Lotus Cortina, which frequently beat the V8-engined machines. The most potent American machines were the Ford/Shelby Mustangs and the Plymouth Barracudas with Ford taking the first two manufacturer's titles. There was quite a landslide in the 1968 championship, which saw Mark Donohue dominate with the Roger Penske prepared Chevrolet Camaro Z-28s. Chevrolet won by a very large margin. The nation's fourth major manufacturer, American Motors had also joined in with the Javelin, but could never challenge the Penske team. Donohue, Chevrolet and Penske matched their 1968 performance in the following season, although the margin to Ford was slightly smaller. American Motors again was not a force, so it was quite a surprise when Penske announced at the end of the season that he would enter Javelins for 1970.

It must have caused quite a few raised eyebrows when the local American Motors dealers received news that Porsche 917 disc brakes were a new option for the Javelin. This was part of Penske's grand scheme to turn the lackluster Javelin into a regular winner. To homologate the many other detail changes carried out by Penske, AMC manufactured a limited run of 100 'ssT' Javelins. Later in the year the rules were changed, requiring a 2500 production run, which was fulfilled by the less extreme Mark Donohue version of the Javelin. Penske's hard work quickly brought victories to AMC. In 1970 the manufacturer still had to bow to Ford and their new 302 Boss Mustangs, but in 1971 and 1972, the red-white-blue Javelins were the crème of the crop. High profile drivers like Mark Donohue, George Follmer, Vic Elford and Peter Revson were among the successful drivers.

Pictured is one of the 100 Javelin ssT homologation specials. They were unofficially known as 'Trans-Am', but that name could not be used because Pontiac already had the rights to it. The featured is unusual in that it has survived its first years completely undamaged and is still in original condition. It was offered at the 2005 RM Monterey Sport & Classic Car Auction where it found a new owner for almost $55,000.

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