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Thread: A Few Old Riverside Trans-Am Photos

  1. #1

    A Few Old Riverside Trans-Am Photos

    These pics were given to me by Daniel Mensinger. Daniel and his father John have amassed quite a collection of photos taken at Riverside Raceway, from 1963, through 1981. The great Riverside venue, which hosted all the important US championships, including Trans-Am and Can-Am, eventually went the way of many race tracks as its land value exceeded that of its worth as a race track, and it was bulldozed.

    I'm hoping I might eventually get to run a full thread on Daniel's collection at a later date. For now, here are some cool Trans-Am pics from the 1969 Riverside round, which was the final round that season.

    First up, this is Jon Hall in his independent Mustang coupe.

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  2. #2
    This is Jerry Grant in one of the Ronnie Kaplan run AMC Javelins. American Motors entered the Trans-Am in 1968, with Kaplan running the team, and marketing guy Jim Jeffords overseeing the operation. The company were probably a bit naive to think they could just jump in and compete with Ford and Chevrolet, given they had no engineering background in motorsport, but Kaplan did a great job, and the AMC Javelins came oh-so close to beating Ford for second in the championship. 1969 turned out to be a bit of a disaster. Jeffords had fired one of the 1968 drivers, Peter Revson, while the other, George Follmer, switched to Ford. Kaplan didn't like Jeffords, and the pair didn't get along. The Javelins didn't make the great leap that the other factory cars did in 1969, and suffered.

    Ronnie Kaplan passed away just a few days ago. RIP.

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  3. #3
    This is Jerry Titus in the T/G Racing Firebird. Pontiac entered the Trans-Am, sort of, in 1968, through a converted Camaro driven by Craig Fisher, and financed by Terry Godsall. Since Pontiac didn't have a suitable engine to fit the 5 litre maximum rule, Godsall (a Canadian) convinced the Sports Car Club of America that Firebirds were sold in Canada fitted with small block Chevys. The SCCA bought it, and thus the Chevy powered Pontiac ran the Trans-Am.

    Fisher did really well, notching up several top 3 and 4 positions, and, having seen this, and having become increasingly frustrated by his chronically unreliable Shelby Mustang, Jerry Titus quit the Ford factory team with one race to run, and entered a second Godsall Firebird in the final race. Again, this was a converted Camaro (owned by Jon Ward) switched to Firebird sheet metal. Titus rightly figured the Firebird was just a Camaro anyway, and Mark Donohue had been winning everything in a Camaro that year, so he should be instantly competitive. And he was right. He took pole position, and led the early laps before the Firebird broke.

    For 1969, Titus and Godsall formed T/G Racing, and ran a full-blown factory Firebird team. Initial plan was to run a Pontiac motor, but when this proved too troublesome, they switched back to the Chevys. But as a result, the SCCA made them fit 1968 Firebird front sheet metal to the cars, which made them look a bit awkward.

    They never did manage to win a Trans-Am race in 1969, but the Firebirds were a great addition. Titus finished third here at Riverside behind the two Penske Camaros.

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  4. #4
    This is Australian born Horst Kwech in one of the Shelby factory Mustangs. Shelby had won the Trans-Am in 1967, but struggled in 1968, with the ill-fated tunnel-port motor. For 1969, Ford entered two Mustang teams, for Shelby and Bud Moore. Bud Moore had come from Nascar, and he really did his homework. He ran the factory Mercury Cougars in the 1967 Trans-Am, and almost won the series.

    Ford decided it didn't want two brands competing against each other in the one series, so Moore helped convince Nascar to create a Trans-Am rival, run mostly on oval tracks, which they called Nascar Grand Touring. The first year of Nascar GT was 1968, and Moore ran a team of factory Cougars in it. Incidentally, Nascar Grand Touring evolved into Nascar Grand American, and eventually, Nascar Nationwide, which continues today as the second-tier class to the Sprint Cup.

    Anyway, Ford brought back Bud Moore to the Trans-Am in 1969, for a two-pronged effort to trounce Chevrolet. They failed, but not because the magnificent Kar-Kraft built Mustangs weren't fast enough, but because the Fords actually tripped over themselves way too often. Parnelli Jones was invariably the fastest Mustang driver of the four cars entered at each round, but he also got hot under the collar.

    Of the two factory Ford teams, Bud Moore was invariably faster than Shelby, and when Ford decided to make drastic cut-backs to its racing programs for 1970, they dropped Shelby in favour of Bud Moore. At that, Shelby shut-up shop, and quit the racing game.

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  5. #5
    Wow ! I always enjoy your historical articles Steve, because you research well and you don't bullshit. But I never knew that was why or when Shelby packed in the racing. Always learning !

    Keep it coming mate, it's like opening a new magazine ever day !

    Regards GD

  6. #6
    Last one. This is Parnelli Jones in one of the Bud Moore Mustangs. Bud Moore first entered the Trans-Am series in 1967, running the factory Mercury Cougars. The Cougars might have actually won the Trans-Am series that year but for a couple of mistakes in the final race. Certainly, the Cougars were quicker than the Shelby Mustangs in several races.

    Ford moved Bud Moore across to the Nascar Grant Touring series in 1968, but after a disastrous Trans-Am season with the tunnel-port motors which saw the two Shelby Mustangs fail at several rounds, Ford upped their stakes for 1969, by bringing Bud Moore back.

    Kar-Kraft built all the factory Mustangs to a point, then the teams added their personal touches, and ran the cars. Of the four factory Mustangs racing in 1969, Parnelli was usually the fastest driver. But he let Mark Donohue get under his skin a little bit too. Here in the final race, Parnelli took pole position, and was chasing Donohue in the early laps when he went running into the back of the Camaro driver and spun off the road. Frustrated, he waited a lap for Donohue to come around again, then he pulled out in front of him, slammed on the brakes, and both cars went skating off into the scenery. However, Donohue recovered, and went on to win the race. Parnelli took his battered Mustang back to the pits and retired.

    Bud Moore actually entered 3 cars in this race, bringing along an extra car for Al Under. While the 1968 Trans-Am was bad for Ford, in some ways, 1969 was just as bad, as although fast and usually reliable, the four factory Mustangs were STILL beaten by the two car Penske Camaro effort.

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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by GD66 View Post
    Wow ! I always enjoy your historical articles Steve, because you research well and you don't bullshit. But I never knew that was why or when Shelby packed in the racing. Always learning !

    Keep it coming mate, it's like opening a new magazine ever day !

    Regards GD
    Thanks for that! Glad you enjoyed it. I just wish there were more photos to share.

    Incidentally, after Shelby had shut up shop, it was Kiwi Paul Fahey who went through the workshop in 1970 and bought up most of what remained. The race cars were all gone (bar a single Kar-Kraft acid-dipped body with rollcage inside), but there were loads of parts, and he loaded them up and took them home to New Zealand.

    On the same trip, he'd bought a stolen and recovered Boss 429 Mustang at a theft recovery auction (for $500), which was missing its motor and front seats. He sent this home to NZ, and built it into a race car using many of the parts he'd bought from the defunct Shelby workshop.

  8. #8
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    This Mustang still exists. It was found and restored, and races with the Historic Trans-Am series: http://www.historictransam.com/Drive...Mustang82.html

  9. #9
    What a great era - thanks for the article and images Steve.

    If you come across any Cheetah images in the collection, I'd obviously be very keen to see them. A few Cheetahs raced at Riverside in 1964/65. If it help you find any images, here are the dates, events and race numbers...

    1964
    1 February - Riverside Cal Club - Jerry Titus - #58
    26 April - Riverside Grand Prix - Jerry Titus - #58
    26 April - Riverside Grand Prix - Don Jensen - #8
    11 October - Riverside 200 (Times GP) - Allen Grant - #81
    11 October - Riverside 200 (Times GP) - Billy Cantrell - #58
    11 October - Riverside 200 (Times GP) - Don Jensen & Jerry Titus - #36
    11 October - Riverside 200 (Times GP) - Mike Jones - #33
    15 November - Riverside ARRC (SCCA R/O) - Ralph Salyer - #32

    1965
    26 September - Riverside Divisionals - Rolf Picard - #33
    31 October - 200 Mile Riverside (Times GP) - Rolf Picard & Jack Goodman - #33
    31 October - 200 Mile Riverside (Times GP) - Jerry Entin - #55
    31 October - 200 Mile Riverside (Times GP) - Mike Jones

    Cheers, John

  10. #10
    Semi-Pro Racer kiwi285's Avatar
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    Another great article built around some historic images from a long gone track.

    Would certainly like to see a thread on the images that Daniel and his Dad amassed.

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    Have you seen this?

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Holmes View Post
    This is Australian born Horst Kwech in one of the Shelby factory Mustangs. Shelby had won the Trans-Am in 1967, but struggled in 1968, with the ill-fated tunnel-port motor. For 1969, Ford entered two Mustang teams, for Shelby and Bud Moore. Bud Moore had come from Nascar, and he really did his homework. He ran the factory Mercury Cougars in the 1967 Trans-Am, and almost won the series.

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    Steve, just a small correction. Horst Kwech was born in Austria in 1938. His family (mother and sister) escaped Austria during the war and made it to Italy before migrating to Australia after the war. He grew up in Cooma but never worked on the Snowy Mountains scheme, despite what some believe. He raced in New South Wales from the late 50s until 1961 with his last car being the RM (for Region Motors) Spyder a Holden engine Buchanan body special. He left Australia in 1962 to travel to Europe (his wife was English and his brother-in-law would eventually work for Williams GP Engineering) but stopped over in the the USA where he remains to this day in Chicago.

    It took me two years, countless emails and the assistance of an American collector, but I finally managed to interview Horst back in 2012 for Australian Muscle Car Magazine. I believe the first Australian to do so. Lovely guy, we spoke for nearly two hours. He still has an Aussie accent. Those Trans Am students out there will recall he had a shocking 1969 season with the Shelby team and I believe was happy to be back in a class Alfa Romeo GTV for 1970. Mind you he did race a Lola T300 in the 1972 L&M F5000 series and of course the DeKon Chevrolet Monzas that he co-developed later on.

    Paul

  13. #13
    Many thanks Paul, thats great info.

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