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Dodge Challenger T/A born 51 years ago today, with a memo

by David Zatz on

Today marks the birthday of the Dodge Challenger T/A, as measured from its conception in Product Planning Letter #A340, dated May 13, 1969.

The goal was to “create a modified Challenger which will be merchandised as a ‘Trans-Am’ package.” The mandatory options would include heavy duty suspension, power disc brakes, Sure-Grip axle, and special-build 340 cubic inch  V8, with optional 440 Six-Pack and Hemi engines. The 340 would include Westlake heads and a special intake manifold. Numerous other changes would be made to differentiate the car in both performance and appearance. (In the end, only one engine was sold in the T/A: a 290-horsepower version of the 340, with three two-barrel carburetors. The four-barrel was planned for 1971—as shown above—but the Challenger T/A was dropped before the 1971 model year; it made it into advertising, and the four-barrel made it into parts books, but it was never made.)

Sam Posey drove the lone Trans Am racing Challenger in 1970; drag races Dick Landy and Ted Spehar campaigned other Challengers in the National Hot Rod Association’s new Pro Stock class. The racing cars used a vinyl top to keep structural integrity, since the racing cars’ body-in-white was acid dipped to reduce weight. The engine on Posey’s car was a Keith Black-build 303.8 cubic inch LA type, rather than the street car’s 340. The acid dipping turned out to be a step too far; and Posey ended up using an “undipped” car for some races.  Dodge did not do too well in Trans Am racing, and in any case GM, Ford, and Chrysler all ended their official Trans Am efforts at the end of the 1970 season.

The company made just over 1,000 of the street T/As. The original goal was for the car to last for two years. (The typical Challenger buyer went for the smallest V8 engine and an automatic transmission.)

The actual letter is reproduced on our Challenger R/T and T/A page.

The street version of the Challenger T/A was road-tested by magazine writers, who found the assembly quality to be poor; it did handle better than the typical “E-body.”

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