AMC Javelin Trans-Am Race Car

One of the biggest surprises of the 1970 motorsports season was the announcement that Penske Racing had taken over the AMC Javelin program, thus leaving the Camaro Trans-Am program to Jim Hall. American Motors hired Roger Penske and driver Mark Donohue to seriously campaign Javelins in SCCA Trans-Am Series. This coincided with the change in the Trans-Am rulebook allowing manufacturers to de-stroke preexisting corporate engines, so AMC's 390 cu in (6.4 L) was used as the starting point to meet the 5 L (305 cu in) displacement rule that was still in place. The team included former Shelby chassis engineer Chuck Cantwell and a clockwork pit crew. The two-car Javelin effort provided the Budd Moore Ford Boss 302 Mustangs their "closest competition." AMC finished in second place in the Over 2-liter class of the 1970 series. Capitalizing on the Javelin's successes on the race track, AMC began advertising and promoting special models.

Among these was the "Mark Donohue Javelin SST". A total of 2,501 were built to homologate the Donohue-designed rear ducktail spoiler and were emblazoned with his signature on the right hand side. Designed for Trans Am racing, the rules required factory production of 2,500 spoiler equipped cars. The original plan was to have all Donohue Javelins built in SST trim with the special spoiler, as well as the "Go Package" with Ram Air hood, a choice of a four-speed or automatic transmission on the floor, and a 360 cu in (5.9 L) engine with thicker webbing that allowed it to have four bolt mains. The cars could be ordered in any color (including "Big Bad" exteriors) and upholstery, as well as with any combination of extra cost options.
American Motors did not include any specific identification (VIN code, door tag, etc.) and some "Mark Donohue Signature Edition" cars came through with significant differences in equipment from the factory. This makes it easy to replicate, yet difficult to authenticate a "real" Mark Donohue Javelin.

An estimated 100 "Trans-Am" Javelins replicating Ronnie Kaplan's race cars were also produced. All cars included the 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 engine with heavy-duty and performance features along with the front and rear spoilers, and were also painted in AMC racing team's distinctive Matador Red, Frost White, and Commodore Blue "hash" paint scheme. Designed to commemorate AMC's entry into SCCA racing, the Trans-Am Javelin's retail price was $3,995.

The strong participation by AMC in Trans-Am and drag racing served to enhance its image, and notable was that its motorsports efforts were achieved on a shoestring budget with the automaker racking up a respectable number of points against its giant competitors. For example, with an estimated 4.5 million participants and six million spectators, drag racing was the fastest growing segment of motorsport in the U.S. The marketing strategy was to appeal to buyers who otherwise would not give AMC a second glance.

Source: Wikipedia, 2013
Photo Credit: Canepa-Collection

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