As the '60s came to an end, all of Detroit's major manufacturers were involved in automobile racing, be it NASCAR, open wheel competition, drag racing, or sports car racing. It wasn't until 1969 that Chrysler began to take the latter seriously. The SCCA's Trans Am series had begun in November 1965 as a professional class for sedan racing, and Chrysler was the only factory actively involved in early 1966, funneling Dodge parts to Bob Tullius and Ron Grable and Plymouth parts to Scott Harvey (Jerry Titus' win at Riverside at the end of the season gave the title to Ford, however). A 5.0-liter limit went into effect in 1967, and Chevrolet, Ford, Mercury, Pontiac, and AMC battled it out from there. Chrysler was involved in the NASCAR "Baby Grand National" program during this time, but returned to the SCCA circuit with the new E-Bodies in 1970.
The truth was, this series had exploded in popularity, and the factory hired Dan Gurney's All-American Racers (Plymouth) and veteran Sam Posey (Dodge) to science out the new Barracuda and Challenger models, with Keith Black Racing Engines massaging new 305-cid mills for competition. Based on the 340, these destroked engines featuring offset rockers in the heads, four-bolt mains, and other special equipment were the first real Chrysler small-blocks specifically designed with racing in mind.
As part of the SCCA rules, a certain number of cars needed to be constructed to legalize the cars. According to Anthony Young's book Dodge, Chrysler & Plymouth Muscle, 2,399 special Challenger T/As and 2,500 special AAR 'Cudas were constructed. Changes included fiberglass hoods and spoilers, special suspensions, custom paint graphics, and a new version of the 340 that used the Six Pack carb setup developed on the 440 in 1969. Roger Huntington later stated in his book American Supercar that they were the best-balanced street ponycar packages built during the era, based on handling and acceleration.
Alas, despite the best efforts of drivers like Swede Savage, Gurney, and Posey, the battle was overwhelming. Parts broke at inopportune times, race strategies proved insufficient, and the changing automotive climate meant it was over when the season ended, and not just for Dodge and Plymouth. Chevy and Pontiac pulled out after 1970 as well, and Ford withdrew soon after.
For Jim Dalton, of Greensboro, North Carolina, the Dodge version was something he had wanted since the car's single year of production. It was 1979 before he got his hands on one, and he paid a big (for that time period) $3,000 for a Challenger T/A that had been modified for the show circuit. This meant custom chrome parts, headers, a different intake, and other changes. Luckily, the owner had kept some of the parts he had replaced, and Jim began hunting down the rest to bring the car back to as-built condition.
That process got underway in earnest in September 1986. The body went to Coachworks in Kernersville, North Carolina, for a cleanup and fresh coat of K2 Go Mango Orange, while the engine was rebuilt by Allen McCloud. The 340 Six Pack is coupled to a stock 727 TorqueFlite and feeds power to the rear wheels via the 3.55 Sure Grip 831/44 differential.
By the end of 1988, the car was back in factory-built shape. Jim, who works as a salesman at Smith Stokes Chrysler/Dodge/ Jeep in Reidsville, North Carolina, has put 11,000 of the car's 62,000 miles on since he bought it 22 years ago, and the car won several awards when he was actively showing it. Today, it shares cruise duties with Dalton's 383 '70 Challenger R/T SE, and remains a tribute to the factory's effort in the ponycar wars.