History about the T/A Challenger
(by Tom Quadrini, Chrysler Quarterly, Summer 1995)
Trans Am car, namely the Challenger T/A (and also Plymouth AAR Cuda)
were the result of successful involvement by Chrysler in the Sports Car
Club of America (SCCA) Trans Am auto racing. From small beginnings in
1966 through the spectacular 1970 season, the Trans Am series included
nearly every American auto manufacturer and famous drivers.
Challenger T/A differ from any other standard high performance vehicles
built by Chrysler. They differed simply by the fact they handled curves
as well as went fast in a straight line. Mechanically unique and
distinctive in appearance, the cars definitely were unlike any of the
other E-bodies. Both cars featured a functional fresh air fiberglass
hood, ducktail rear spoiler, trumpet style side exiting exhaust, bias
ply raised white letter Goodyear polyglas GT's, distinctive stripes and
textured black paint treatment on the hoods.
cars provided performance and looks unmatched in the pony car market.
In March of 1970, these cars were introduced to the sport compact (pony
car) market. The Trans Am race Challengers did not have any major
affiliation to be identified with, so a name was needed for the
production Trans Am Challengers. Since Pontiac had already spoken for
the name Trans Am, that name was out of the question. Thus, Challenger
T/A was created, complete with T/A stripes, 340 six pack fender decals
and "Challenger T/A" on the rear spoiler.
T/As could not be ordered from the dealer to suit ones personal taste.
Chrysler informed each eligible dealer of the number of cars each was
to be allotted and asked them to pick the options they wanted on the
cars. Since a car dealer pays interest on his inventory, the lower the
retail value of the car, the less overhead the car is. Consequently,
most AARs and T/As were not heavily optioned. As in the case of the
Superbirds, many of the cars sat in dealer inventories for a long time
and the dealers usually had to sell the cars cheap to move them.
to heavy financial losses in both the racing program and in the
production of the assembly line cars, the Trans Am models were dropped
as quickly as they were introduced. Not enough cars could ever be sold
in order to break even on the cost of research and engineering the
project, let alone make the hassles on the assembly line worthwhile. It
seems that shaker hoods on other E-bodies caused many a confusing
situation on the line, but the Trans Am cars really caused major chaos
since the configuration of a Trans Am car was greatly different than a
The sales code for the Trans Am special group was A53. The following will outline the special features of the Challenger T/A:
Engine (E55): W-1
340 or more commonly known as the 340 Six Pack engine or T/A 340. The
Dodge version was called the 340 Six Pack and the Plymouth version was
called the 340 Six Barrel. Conservatively rated at 290 hp (editor´s
note: commonly believed it was at least 350 hp), the engines were
specifically modified in the following areas: stress relieved with
filled pan rails, additional material added in the main bearing web
area to allow for the use of four bolt main caps. All T/A blocks came
from the factory with two bolt main caps. Cylinder heads (F08) commonly
referred to as T/A heads, had the pushrod holes relocated away from the
ports to allow for better porting capabilities. The rocker arms were
adjustable cast/machined pieces similar in style of the 426 Hemi. The
rocker arm shafts used additional lube spreader grooves. The intake
manifold was an Edelbrock aluminum six pack manifold painted the engine
color (bright orange). The Holley 2300 series carburetors were used
with vacuum operated secondaries. The center carb was the only carb
with a metering block and accelerator pump while the two outboard carbs
were used for idling and opened when they were called for. A large oval
shaped air cleaner that sealed to the hood rested over the top of all
Exhaust (N44): Dual
transverse flow mufflers (the inlet and outlet were on the same end),
located forward of the rear axle. Special straps and hangers were used
to secure the mufflers with side exiting chrome tipped exhaust pipes
completing the system. The cars were shipped with the exhaust tips in
the trunk and installed by the dealer as they would not easily clear
the transport trucks while being loaded and unloaded. High flow cast
iron exhaust manifolds completed the system. These are the same exhaust
manifolds used on 68-70 340 motors. PN2863545 (left) and 2863552
(right) commonly but often mistakenly referred to as T/A exhaust
manifolds. The Challenger T/A were the only cars produced with a black
painted exhaust system which was done to hide the weird configuration
engineered to give side exiting exhaust. All other cars were produced
with unfinished exhaust systems.
pistol grip, close ratio four-speed (D21) was standard with the 727
torqueflite (D32) being optional with either floor shift or column
Rear Axle: 8¾ suregrip (D91) with 3.55:1 (D56) standard, 3.91:1 (D57) optional. The Dana 60 was not available.
Heavy duty shocks (S25), larger .95" diameter front sway bar (S31),
.75" diameter rear sway bar (also found in 71-74 E-bodies), .92"
torsion bars (same as Hemi cars), special rear springs, 150 lbs/inch
with increased arch to give better tire and exhaust clearance.
Brakes: Standard system 11-inch power disc front with semi-metallic linings, 11-inch drum rear. No optional brake system available.
manual steering standard. Options available were (S74) fast ratio 12:1
T/A power steering or 16:1 standard power steering (S77).
Tires (U01): Goodyear
raised white letter polyglas GTs, E60 x 15 front, G60 x 15 rear. (The
first car from Detroit to have different sized front and rear tires).
x 7 silver rallye wheels (W21) standard on AAR's, optional on T/A. 15 x
7 black painted steel wheels with cap and ring were standard on the
T/A. Weight saving collapsible spare (W34) was a required option.
fiberglass fresh air hood (N94) with hood pins (J45) was standard. No
other hood was used. Factory literature states the T/A hood was
optional on the Challenger and that the steel R/T power bulge was
standard with the T/A hood to be introduced at a later date. This plan
never materialized. T/A hoods did appear on other Challenger R/Ts due
to production shortage of the shaker hoods, however they were in
extremely limited numbers. The hood springs are slightly different
being smaller with less tension.
grilles were standard on both T/A's and AAR's, however, textured argent
gray as well as unfinished bright grilles were also used on T/A's.
day/night (G41), and painted drivers side, remote controlled racing
mirror (G34) was standard. Painted manual passenger side mirror (G36)
ABS plastic rear ducktail spoilers (J82) were standard, wing spoilers
were never available. Front spoilers (J78) were optional, shipped in
the trunk and dealer installed. Many variations exist in the mounting
positions of these front spoilers on AAR 'Cuda's due to this.
options were the same as the R/T and 'Cuda. Interior colors: Black,
White, Green, Blue, Burnt Orange and Red, as well as cloth houndstooth
seats. All radio options, light package options available. All
antenna's mounted on the right rear quarter, (first and last time on
any Chrysler Product) (N94), rallye dash (A62) was optional.
Stripes (V6H): Black
side stripes standard on all cars even with black paint (23 T/As and
even fewer AARs produced black with black stripes), 340 six pack fender
decals on Challenger only.
acrylic enamel colors available, same as R/T and 'Cuda. Organsol black
(Ditzler code DDL9355) was used on all hoods, taillight panels, fender
Sheet Metal: AAR
'Cudas and Challenger T/As came with what is known as 15 inch fenders.
The only difference between 14" and 15" fenders is the lip at the top
of the wheel well is rolled in. All other sheet metal is the same as
the standard E-body.
Misc Available Options: Rear window louvers (A67), vinyl roof limited to black (V1X), power windows, rear defogger, wheel lip moldings (M26).
Performance: Figures published in July 1970 Car and Driver:
14.3 seconds at 99.5mph in the ¼ mile
0-60 in 5.8 seconds
0-100 in 14.4 seconds
Estimated top speed of 128 mph
Braking from 80 mph to zero in 220 feet
Curb weight of 3585 lbs.
'Cudas and Challenger have become rare due to low production figures
with a high scrappage rate making it lucrative to create a replica from
parts and sell it as the real thing. Unlike other makes of automobiles,
the VIN number for AARs and T/As is found several places on the car
making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to "create" a Trans
Am Chrysler. The VIN for an AAR 'Cuda will be BS23J0B______ and a
Challenger T/A will be JH23J0B______, the last six spaces representing
the sequence number of the car. The fifth digit "J" represents the
engine code for 340 Six Pack. The sequence or serial number of the car
appears on the cowl and inside the radiator core support preceded by
the letters BO. The full VIN number is stamped on the raised pad on the
right side of the transmission. The letters "OB" followed by the
sequence number of the car will be stamped on a flat pad just above the
oil pan on the right side of the engine. On a completely original car,
all sequence numbers must match. Due to the passage of time and several
owners, many cars are found to have had motor transplants and the
original motor may be gone, but a T/A motor still resides in the engine
compartment. Every T/A motor is easily identified. On the left side of
the engine about two inches below the block deck or head gasket
surface, a seven digit casting number 3577130 followed by TA 340 should
Under the hood on the drivers side of the car
attached to the top of the inner fender should be two ID plates. One
should have stamped on it the VIN number of the car and all its build
codes, and the other one should have Trans Am stamped on it. The second
plates identifies the car as having the A53 Trans Am package. In
addition to all this, the production broadcast sheet can be found under
the rear seat cushion or on top of the cardboard glove box liner. The
sheet is a computer feed code listing all options and equipment on the
car. The VIN is also listed along with the drive train information.
With the increased popularity of Mopar muscle cars that has occurred
over the last few years, the once forgotten Chrysler Trans Am cars are
getting the attention they deserve. Looking back to late 1969 when
Chrysler decided to compete factory backed cars in SCCA Trans Am auto
racing, you still see the lasting effects today of the efforts made.
Cars that are fast and handle equally as well are popular still and
engineered even better today, AAR 'Cudas and Challenger T/As may have
been limited in production but there are a good number left to remind
us of an era where true performance and handling were first
successfully combined in an American muscle car.
Other Car magazines that reviewed the Challenger T/A were Car Craft,
April 1970 and May 1978; Car Exchange, March 1982; High Performance
Cars, June 1970, August 1970, October 1970 and November 1980; Rod and
Custom, October 1970; Science and Mechanics, September 1970; Super
Stock, April 1970 and July 1970.