Pocket Aces: The 1970 Chrysler Trans Am A-Bodies
Musclecar Masterpieces by Geoff Stunkard
They were called pony cars, models that fit a small but sporty segment between economy models and midsize cars. Named for the sales niche that Mustang had established in 1964, all the major manufacturers were making offerings to this marketplace by 1970. Prior to that, Plymouth had used their A-body platform to release the first Barracudas, but sales proved that it and the Dart from the Dodge Division was not quite what the public wanted. For 1970, it was the new Duster 340 aimed at the economy muscle market, because now Chrysler had released a completely new design, designated as the E-body, to meet the desires for ‘pony’ muscle.
These new models, Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Barracuda (that was called ‘cuda in performance trim), could be had with any engine in the Chrysler line-up, right up to the 426 Hemi. Though based on the B-body platform, big blocks in the E-bodies tended to be nose heavy. When it came to handling prowess, the refined 340 small-block ended up being the best overall choice, and you could get the four-barrel version in the both the coupe or convertible E-body styles. For hardcore fans, you could also get a very special E-body with a Holley six-barrel layout, which arrived in the special A53-coded Trans Am models that came off the line in March.
The Sports Car Club of America’s Trans-Am racing series had become a big deal for the manufacturers, and 1970 was by far the most visible year the SCCA ever had. Dodge hired Sam Posey to direct their Challenger program, while Dan Gurney’s All American Racers oversaw the Plymouth ‘cuda development. Part of the SCCA rules required that race-engineered equipment needed to be available on production examples. Thus the Cuda AAR (named after Gurney’s company) and the Challenger T/A (named after the racing series) were born, to homologate that hardware for the racetrack and promote the factory’s involvement in the series.