• Highly modified 351-ci V8 built by Jack Roush
  • Close-ratio 4-speed with Hurst shifter
  • 4.11 locked rear end
  • Originally sold unfinished to Ed Hinchliff, who assembled the car to Kar-Kraft blueprints with the help of former Kar-Kraft chassis engineers Lee Dykstra and Mitch Marchi
  • Campaigned in period; accompanied by SCCA logbooks

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1973 Ford Mustang Trans Am
Years Produced:1971
Number Produced:Two
Original List Price:N/A
SCM Valuation:$49,500 (this car)
Tune Up Cost:$300 (estimated)
Chassis Number Location:Driver’s side door A-pillar
Engine Number Location:N/A
Alternatives:1969 Chevrolet Camaro Trans Am, 1970 AMC Javelin Trans Am, 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 5078, sold for $49,500, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s auction in Auburn, IN, held from May 29 to June 1, 2019.

The golden age of Trans Am fell between the years 1968 and 1972. Some die-hards say it ended in 1970, citing the loss of Ford and Chrysler factory-sponsored teams in 1971. Whichever year you choose, seeing factory-style Pony cars battle it out wheel to wheel made it a time like no other for American race fans.

After the mid 1970s, the SCCA changed the direction of their Trans Am series, emulating an IMSA GT race-car profile with a budget to match. Factory sponsorship in racing affected SCCA racing early on, with the 1969 competitors notably more professional and faster compared to their 1966 brethren. By 1977, if you wanted to watch new Mustangs and Camaros compete fender to fender, IROC racing was the way to go.

A mid-pack runner

Among SCCA buffs, Ed Hinchliff is well known. He hailed from Ypsilanti, MI, and entered the Trans Am series in 1968 running a Ford Mustang coupe as a privateer.

Hinchliff was an engineer at Ford. That allowed him an edge — he could run experimental parts, and since it wasn’t a factory effort, Ford didn’t have to worry about costly public-relations damage.

The 1968 Hinchliff/Ross Mustang ran a Tunnel Port 302, which meant unusually high revs and engines grenading on tracks across America. After the bugs were sorted out, the Mustang did well.

This valuable experience allowed Ford to get the drop on Chevy for 1970, with the result being the Follmer-Jones Trans Am championship. By 1970, Hinchliff had access to Kar-Kraft, Bud Moore Engineering and racing parts from his day job as a Ford engineer.

Hinchliff also ran a blue Trans Am Mustang that season. It was quite successful right up to when he sold it at the end of 1972. Then Hinchliff picked up one of two 1971 Mustang body-in-white cars from Bud Moore Engineering — this car. He finished the build just in time for the 1977 season.

Hinchliff took on Corvettes and Porsches, doing the best he could. His Mustang was reliable, always finished and never crashed. There was just one roof chop to stay competitive. The SCCA ruled it illegal, so it had to be put back to original. Unfortunately, however, the car remained a mid-pack runner. The SCCA rule updates favored much lighter cars with inherent structural rigidity and high-revving engines over large V8s.

East or west?

There are two active schools of retro Trans Am racing: The West Coast boys are represented by Historical Trans Am (HTA), and they’re into survivor period race cars, preferably with original team colors and period equipment, if not the original hardware. They don’t run as fast, but the cars are closer to 1970s Trans Am cars.

The East Coast boys usually run in the Sportscar Vintage Race Association (SVRA) and favor a vintage appearance with modern or notably upgraded drivetrain and suspension. The drivers make the car as competitive as possible.

This car was bought cheap enough to go either way. Racing it in SVRA would hurt the value in the short term, but winning with modern hardware is a thrill.

Putting it back to its original blue, in combination with the race log history and pallet of vintage parts, might be smart for the new owner. The vintage-race community is tightly knit, and there would be a lot of support for running it as a period-correct racer.

A rare deal

Before valuing this car, you have to toss everything you’ve learned about classic cars out the window.

What matters with vintage racers is provenance, victories with known drivers and eligibility status for vintage racing. A crash-free body and original parts are just nice bonuses.

Was this a foolish or wise buy? Well, not many of the 1970s American Trans Am race cars are around. Many were changed to IMSA GTO spec to stay competitive. Pre-1977 Trans Am race cars are scarce and expensive when they come up for sale. For example, a leftover 1970 Trans Am Boss 302 from BME finished to 1971 specs sold for $200,000 at RM Sotheby’s January 2015 venue in Phoenix (ACC# 261979). It had no period racing history, but was a real-deal body-in-white car and qualifies for vintage racing.

Once you gather all the pieces — factory car, name driver and race history — value adds up fast. Most of the 427 Corvettes that raced with Hinchliff back then are gone. A replica 1968 Penske Camaro Trans Am car sold for $71,500, but it isn’t eligible for vintage racing. Any of the winning Porsches are huge money if you can shake one loose from a collector. The Hurley Haywood Porsche IMSA GT race car (Lot 128) sold for $550,000 at RM Sotheby’s 2013 Monterey venue. Compare these figures to our subject car and it starts looking good at the price paid.

A no-hit vintage race-eligible factory body-in-white car with period parts for less than 50 big ones? Try duplicating that deal. I’d say the buyer did well. Get that car ready and go racing.

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Auctions.)

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