To follow suit with the Plymouth AAR Barracuda, Dodge decided to create the Challenger T/A (Trans Am) for 1970, and unfortunately, for ONLY 1970. To do this, they needed to create a track star but in the process, build at least 2500 production cars – per Trans Am rules.
2539 were built.
Style and Purpose
To start with the car received the biggest tires that Dodge could offer. The rear was raised so that they would fit properly and so the large megaphone side exhaust tips would clear the ground with ease. Heavy duty rallye suspension was added as was better brakes and, for those with deep pockets, power steering.
From there, the body was enhanced to give more of a race car look. Additions included: bold T/A stripes, semi-gloss rear fin, semi-gloss fiberglass chin spoiler, and a semi-gloss fiberglass hood with hood scoop. The hood was not only lighter than the stock steel but it also added to the dramatic look of the car – one many hot rodders have copied over the next many decades.
Small But Menacing
There still wasn’t enough to differentiate the car from the norm, so the engine gurus were up. Instead of a 440, or 426, they augmented the 340 with triple two-barrel carbs. Why? As the Trans Am series had rules, the 340 was used in racing – destroked to a mere 303ci. You can bet 500hp or so from that engine, but that is another story. In any case, the 340 six-pack would create a 290hp catastrophe on any pavement it was on.
More than the power, it was lighter than any big-block motor and would let the Challenger be a much better handler in the corners. It was also less thirsty at the gas pumps, was easier to maintain, and would shock anyone thinking it was a mere small block to be pushed around.
The street version wasn’t to be underestimated. Through the low restricted exhaust, the engine would scream through 60mph in a tick over 6 seconds and through the ¼mile in about 14.5 seconds at near the 100mph threshold. With all the torque produced, the car would be lightning-fast at speed and would likely spin the tires if not careful.
1970 Dodge Challenger T/A Quick Specs
1970 Dodge Challenger T/A
5.5 Liter, 340ci SIX-PACK V8
290 @ 5000
340 @ 3200
Pistol-grip Hurst 4-speed manual
3400 lbs. est
14.4 @ 98 mph
Baddest Small Block?
Sadly, this show stopper in looks was still second fiddle to the 440 six-pack and 426 Hemi-powered Challengers. Unfortunately, the adage about “no substitute for cubic inches” wins out here. The 340ci engine was just not stout enough to outrun the big block motors.
These 340 six-packs would, however, outrun almost all of the small block cars from Chevrolet and Ford and would even put some of their big-block brethren to shame. All but the highest-powered Mustangs of the era would be in the rear-view and those bad-boys would be trying to catch the big-block Challengers to no avail.
None of that mattered when looking out over the long fiberglass hood with the giant hood scoop on top. The T/A would be better in everyday use and through the corners, would leave the big blocks flailing for traction. That pistol grip shifter and purposeful instrument cluster gave confidence that this car was meant to run with any car on the road.
Color options were as broad as non-T/A Challengers and that meant plenty of choices. With that, you would get a black T/A stripe to go along with any of the vibrant colors. And, yes, they carried the fun-filled names – like Vitamin-C, Hemi Orange, and Ultra Violet.
Over Before it Started
For 1971, the Challenger bowed out of the Trans Am series, and therefore the need for a T/A model came to an end. The start of the gas crunch strangled out any re-birth of the namesake as well. The T/A would last one glorious year and because of this, would keep out of everyday muscle car enthusiasts’ clutches. With prices hitting $70-$90,000, all but the most avid collectors could pay the premium for this small-block warrior.
At just a shade over 2500 of these built, and fewer still on the road today, the T/A has become not only one of the most coveted and expensive Challengers out there but one of the most bold-looking muscle cars of the era. The car looks fast and capable from any angle, and pushed hard enough, will back it up with a ferver.