November 29, 2023
Classic Wax Challenger
In 1966, SCCA president John Bishop founded the Trans-American Championship, introducing a groundbreaking racing series that featured vehicles from around the world competing on some of the United States' most iconic race tracks. Notable champions in its early years under the below 2.5-litre class included Porsche, Alfa-Romeo, and Datsun. However, another class garnered significant attention – the above 2.5-litre race cars, featuring American icons like Mustangs, Camaros, and Cudas. This marked the onset of the first-ever "Pony Car Wars" among major North American manufacturers. While the Trans-American series boasts a rich history, today, our focus is on a specific contender: Sam Posey's number Classic Wax Challenger.
Front of the Classic Wax Challenger
In 1970, the only official Dodge Challenger entry for the stock class was crafted by Dan Gurney's AAR Shop and Ray Caldwell's Autodynamics. This striking car donned a factory Sublime Green and gloss black livery, adorned with the renowned Classic Wax sponsorship, a distinctive number 77 race identifier, and the iconic R/T Challenger stripe elegantly draping across its side. Notably, the hood scoop and rear ducktail spoiler were factory options specifically designed for the 1970 Challenger T/A, essential elements for meeting the racing homologation requirements necessary to participate in the series.
Rear of the Classic Wax Challenger
The Classic Wax Challenger is equipped with a potent 304 cubic inch engine, once a 340 cubic inch engine that had been strategically destroked in compliance with the Trans-American Racing's 5-litre maximum displacement requirement. To enhance structural integrity during races and potential incidents, an elaborate roll cage was meticulously installed throughout the vehicle. This cage extends not only into the engine compartment but also spans across the passenger seating area, reinforcing the body's rigidity and ensuring optimal safety measures.
Head on shot of the menacing Challenger
The Challenger enjoyed a fair share of success on the racing circuit, securing numerous podium finishes in its inaugural year, even though a first-place finish remained elusive. An iconic tale emerged during a tech inspection at Laguna Seca in 1970. Many racing teams had resorted to acid dipping their cars to shed excess weight. However, this weight reduction tactic presented unforeseen challenges.
The sponsorships on the Challenger were plentiful, covering a large portion of the front fenders
Following a successful tech inspection, the team managing the Classic Wax Challenger extended a friendly gesture to the inspector by offering him a beer. Grateful for the refreshment, he casually rested his elbow on the roof. To everyone's surprise, the acid dip, left in for an extended period, had caused the car's original roof to easily dimple. Swiftly, the inspector declared that the car couldn't race until the roof was replaced. In response, the team sprang into action, securing approval from Dodge to swiftly torch the roof off a nearby showroom Challenger.
The incredible roll cage design kept the acid dipped race car extremely rigid during race events
In a remarkable display of efficiency, within an hour, the team successfully grafted the new roof onto the number 77 Challenger, earning the green light to continue its pursuit on the racetrack.
The infamous number 77 adorned on the door
This iconic race car continues to make history, gracing historic racing events even after more than 50 years since its debut. It proudly takes its place alongside other historic Trans-American race cars, participating in races that echo the legacy of its past glories. My personal encounter with the Classic Wax Challenger occurred during a road trip across America at Trans Am Speedfest 2023 at Laguna Seca. Despite a protective tarp draped over it to shield against the rain, the distinctive silhouette teased me, and a rush of excitement enveloped my inner child. Having harboured the desire to witness this legendary car in person for over two decades, the moment was nothing short of thrilling.
The destroked 304 cubic inch powerhouse had some ingenious parts to keep the engine healthy during its hard runs around the track
The Classic Wax Challenger stands as a time capsule on wheels, a racing relic with captivating tales to share with everyone it encounters. Remarkably, even after half a century since its inception, this car continues to thunder down the racetrack, participating in historic series events that allow super fans to marvel at its enduring glory alongside a fleet of other vintage race cars. For those fortunate enough to attend contemporary Trans Am series events, there's a chance to witness this living legend back on the track, proving that its racing spirit remains undiminished.
Photograph by Adam Swank
Till next time, keep it off the streets and get behind the wheel on a track!
- Kyle Hanger of Searching for Classics