The Trans-AM 2.5 Challenge and B-Sedan Series
By Steve Bonk
The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) created the Pro Trans-AM Series in 1966. The original Trans-AM series was divided into 2 classes: The Over 2.0 Liter (O-2), in which Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro flexed their muscles, and the Under 2.0 Liter (U-2), in which Alfa and Porsche 911's duked it out. Both classes ran in a single run group. In this article, however, I will be discussing the much loved and raced, but under appreciated, small sedans.
In the first year of the Trans-AM Series in 1966, the Alfas were the dominate Marque. The Under 2.0 (U-2) was pretty much B-Sedan with one notable exception, the Porsche 911. For reasons that aren't clear, the 911 was classified by both the SCCA and the FIA as both a sports car and a sedan. The 911 dominated the series in 1967 and 1968.
In 1970 the American car manufacturers made a big push into Trans-AM (O-2). The years 1969 and 1970 proved to be the best years of the O-2 series with great racing and large amounts of factory sponsorship. By now the U-2 cars were running by themselves for safety and other reasons. The year 1970 also saw the beginnings of great sedan racing in the U-2 series with battles between Alfas, BMWs. Ford Escorts, Mini Coopers, Volvos and Datsuns, among others.
The stage was set for the SCCA 2.5 Challenge to start in 1971. Rule changes allowed larger motors up to 2500 cc, and new cars would come into the series during the year that would make for an exciting points race. The SCCA had put together a weight to cc formula based on engine type (Push rod, twin cam, Rotary) that made for some of the best-prepared cars and some of the closest racing ever seen.
The big three players in 1971 were Alfa Romeo, BMW and Datsun. Alfa, having been in the series for four years already, had much experience to draw on. Herb Wetson of the Wetson Hamburger chain was the team sponsor; plus, there was some factory technical assistance from Alfa in Europe. BMW Privateer teams like Gregory and Hyde Park had to go it alone. New to the series was Pete Brock's BRE factory-backed Datsun race team. With only five weeks to build a car, they joined the series at the second race in New Hampshire. Alfa Romeo had many cars and quite a few good drivers. The most notable driver was the Australian Horst Kwech, team leader of Wetson racing. John Morton was the #1 driver, with Mike Downs backing him up at BRE.
The ‘71 season went down to the last race at Laguna Seca. The victor would win the manufacturer’s championship. The race is a fantastic one to watch. Go to my web site at www.transam-bsedan.com
to watch it. The race looks more like NASCAR, with all the rubbing and bumping going on. Unfortunately, Alfa was disqualified for having a oversized fuel cell that allowed them not to make a pit stop. John Morton of BRE and Datsun won the 1971 season.
In 1972 the same main players were back at it again. This time BRE added a third car for Guest racers. Some of the drivers that got to race in it included Peter Gregg of Porsche fame, Bobby Allison, Hershel McGriff of NASCAR, Bob Sharp, and Sam Posey. Horst Kwech and the Wetson team plus many privateer Alfas are back to do battle. More Privateer Teams join in the action, bringing in Ford Pintos V.W Beetles, and a Triumph Vitesse. This time it is a runaway train for Datsun, winning 6 out of 10 races entered. The BRE Datsun team is so good that the new rules (Alfa gets less weight per cc) aren't enough to make it even close. Datsun's success basically kills the series.
By 2011 forty years have gone by, and Datsuns Alfas BMWs are still doing battle on race tracks all over the U.S. in vintage racing. I have created a series here in the Midwest for Trans Am 2.5 and B- Sedan cars. While the SCCA 2.5 Challenge basically ended in 1972, B-sedan continued onward until 1979 with SCCA in the National and Regional classes. By 1979 many cars were allowed to race in B-sedan, such as Chevy Vega, Chrysler Colt, Ford Fiesta, Honda Civic, Subaru, Toyota, and VW Rabbit. So if you the want to get out and race and you have access to an old VW Rabbit race car or Ford Fiesta, VSCDA has a group for you to race in and have fun with.
This year the Trans Am B-Sedan race group, in conjunction with VSCDA, has three great races on its schedule: Black Hawk Farms in June, Grattan Raceway in August and the Grand Finale at Road America's ELVF. While all the races are great fun, the finale at Road America is quite special. Two- time Trans Am Champion John Morton will be the Grand Marshall and will be also on track in a BRE Datsun 510. This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity not to be missed; we are expecting many original Trans Am cars from “the day” to participate. John will also be the guest speaker at the Saturday night ELVF dinner.
Want more information? Go to www.transam-bsedan.com
and send me a picture and information on your car; I will post it on the site. The site also will host regular updates on the Trans Am B-sedan series.
Want more information on VSCDA’s races at Blackhawk, Grattan and ELVF? Go to VSCDA.org.