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This weeks interview is a blast from the past with amazing insight and history on the 60’s and 70’s road racing scene, all from podcast show listener Al Richards. Al has been a long time listener of the show and contacted me a few weeks ago to share his experience of campaigning a ’67 Camaro as an Independent team during the late 1960’s in the Trans Am Series. He’d raced successfully for a few seasons, ran with names like Gurney and Posey, knew how people got creative with the rule book (acid dipped bodies, etc.), and had some great stories to share. Even better, I learned that he’s 72 years young Canadian and was interested in coming onto the show to tell his story in person. Sounds like a podcast-show match made in heaven, right?
As Al shared in the show, his exposure to Trans Am racing came from a series of events working at high performance dealerships in Australia and California. It was in California specifically that he learned about an up and coming Pony Car series of road racing. He would return home to Canada soon after, but the bug had been planted and he decided to put together an Independent team to compete in the series. There were many opportunities to race within five or six hours of his home including Michigan International Speedway, Watkins Glen, and Mid Ohio.
Al started looking through the local ads and found a 67 Camaro “roller” car. They dropped a 302 Z28 engine into it and hopped it up a bit to put out around 400 horsepower. He says he was able to use documents from General Motors to tweak the car even further using many stock parts. Robert Barg, who owned the Camaro previously, contacted Al and talked him into campaigning the car at Sebring, a 12 hour endurance race that was very high level. They got to meet many well know racers like Parnelli Jones, Mark Donohue, and Andretti. He was also able to witness many of the tricks that the high level teams played to gain advantage including acid dipped sheet metal super thin, lead filled display helmets, and over-sized engines disguised as small blocks.
Al and friends started doing well enough for themselves that they were approached by Ford to run in a race they wanted to film for the movie about their racing teams called “Ford Flat Out.” Ford asked Al’s team to do it as the independent racers running Mustangs were having issues, and they needed a team that could qualify for the races reliably. The Camaro was sent to Detroit so that a Ford team could mount the 35mm huge “Gone with the Wind” style cameras on to the Camaro, mounting on on the roof and the other in the trunk shooting out of a tail light. They made the race and did quite well until camera issues caused a 10 minute pit stop and took them out of the running.
Al is an avid Muscle Car Place listener and has been documenting his history in Trans Am Racing on forums around the net. You can contact Al at Satman2@gmail.com He says he is working on some videos and more racing history for people to view.
Thanks for the interview Al, and thanks for listening!
This interview sponsored by our pals at National Parts Depot – your premier source for muscle car restoration parts!