In 1967, protests about the war in Vietnam began, three American astronauts died in Apollo 1, and President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not seek reelection. The Mustang was completely redesigned, and Ford won its second manufacturer's title in two years within the burgeoning SCCA Trans-Am series. While the passage of 36 years has erased many of those recollections, others lay dormant in yellowed newspaper clippings and faded pictures. Mike Akers of Lebanon, Virginia, has brought some of the memories back to life with his stunning Trans Am replica Mustang.
While there may be many reasons why Mike remembers 1967, car enthusiasts remember it as a time when the Trans Am ponycar wars began to heat up. Names like Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, Mark Donohue, and Peter Revson were regulars on the circuit that year. NASCAR drivers like Cale Yarborough and David Pearson made appearances too. At the center of Ford's championship efforts that year, however, was a young driver named Jerry Titus, who had made his first start at the end of the '66 season. Titus won that race and went on to win four more in 1967. After starting the next season with an overall win at the 24 Hours of Daytona, Titus got behind the wheel of a Pontiac Firebird, but would never enjoy victory again. He was killed during a race in 1970 after his steering failed.
"There were a couple of reasons why I decided to build the car," Mike says. "I was looking at the Shelby American Registry when I read an article about the Terlingua Racing team. There was something that kept me going back and reading it over and over. About a year before, I had purchased a nice notchback. Then a friend of a friend called saying that he'd heard I was thinking about building an SCCA notchback race replica. The gentleman said he had some old pistons, heads, intake, and valve covers from an old Trans Am race car. I was later able to determine that the parts were authentic and came from a car Parnelli Jones drove in 1970."
Mike built his car with a six-point rollcage that ties the front and rear subframes together while also providing protection for the driver. Stewart-Warner gauges fill the basically stock driver's compartment. The car was painted in the Terlingua paint scheme with Jamaican Yellow and black accents.
Improvements to the suspension include relocated A-arms, revised spring rates, and a 1-inch sway bar. Traction Master traction bars help secure the Detroit Locker rear, which houses 3.70 gears and 31-spline axles. American Racing 15x7 rims hold Goodyear rubbers with 205/60R15s on the front and 235/60R15s on the rear.
S&G Machine in Bristol, Tennessee, put together the engine, which uses a 302 R-block from Bud Moore's shop in South Carolina. The bottom end uses an Eagle crank with H-beam rods mounted with 13:1 Roush pistons. Valley Head Service prepped the vintage Boss 302 heads with valves that are orchestrated by a Crane flat tappet cam. Topping off the assembly is an aluminum intake with a single Holley 650-cfm carburetor.
"As I was building the car, I went back to different books to learn all I could," Mike continues. "The Trans-Am race at Green Valley really stood out in my mind. Titus rolled the car during practice the day before the race, and it appeared to be a total loss. That night, the team worked on the car at a local Ford dealership's body shop, and they were ready to race the next day. During the race, the side vent window had not been replaced, and as a result, Titus suffered terribly from the heat throughout the day. At one point, Titus came into the pits so one of the crew could throw a bucket of water on him. He came back in again, and the crew cut a hole in the car's roof to act as a vent. Later on, Titus came in a third time and passed out completely from the heat. Another driver took over and finished Fifth. What a fierce competitor! This is when I made the decision to build this car. It's a tribute to a great driver."
We think Jerry would have approved.