Today, vintage racing is more popular than ever before and with packed fields of historic cars from virtually all eras competing at top events and venues worldwide, it’s easy to see why. Of all, the Historic Trans-Am Group delivers what arguably has to be considered one of today’s very best historic racing series, with all the excitement of the original 1966-1972 “glory years.” Featuring real cars with real racing histories that were driven in period by some of the top names including Mark Donohue, George Follmer, Parnelli Jones, Sam Posey, Jerry Titus, and many more, the 2016 Historic Trans-Am series now celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the inaugural season of the SCCA’s original Trans-American Sedan Championship.
During the first season, the under 2.0-liter cars, including Porsche 911s and Alfa Romeo GTAs, captured the majority of spectator attention while the larger under 5.0-liter cars struggled to be reliable and competitive. By the second season in 1967, however, American ‘ponycars’ including Mustangs, Camaros, and even Mercury Cougars took center stage and raced with increasing levels of factory support – both overt and covert. While the professional factory-backed racing teams run by Roger Penske, Bud Moore, and Holman-Moody dominated Trans-Am until the end of 1972, when America’s major manufacturers withdrew from high-profile racing involvement, skilled and committed privateers could still mount a serious challenge, finish well, and sometimes win in Trans-Am. Among them was Warren Tope, the popular and hard-charging SCCA A/Sedan and Trans-Am competitor from Troy, Michigan, who originally campaigned the ’69 Boss 302 Mustang now owned and raced in Historic Trans-Am Group events by Drew Alcazar, co-founder of Scottsdale, Arizona’s Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auctions.
Although not as well-known as the more prominent, factory-backed Shelby, Bud Moore, and Penske team cars of the original Trans-Am era, the Warren Tope Boss 302 carries equally rich history….
According to factory Build Sheets and Original Invoices, the Tope Racing Boss 302 was plucked from Ford’s production lines and sold via inter-company transfer to Ford’s Transmission and Chassis Division, which was headed by Warren’s father, Donald Tope. The Mustang was modified for the 1969 SCCA A/Sedan racing season, and then updated for 1970 Trans-Am competition at Ford’s famous racing contractor Kar Kraft in Brighton, Michigan, and at Tope’s shop, which he shared with Ed Hinchcliff, a fellow independent Mustang racer. Likely due to the senior Tope’s Ford ties, Warren’s Boss 302 car also spent some time at Bud Moore Engineering, the legendary Ford shop that built and campaigned the 1970 Trans-Am championship-winning Boss 302s driven by Parnelli Jones and George Follmer. Warren Tope entered his Boss 302 in five Trans-Am races during 1970, with his best finish that year a creditable ninth at St. Jovite, Quebec.
As Warren Tope’s racing career progressed, he acquired George Follmer’s 1970 Trans-Am Boss 302 Mustang, driving it for much of the 1971-1972 seasons and winning the SCCA A/Sedan championship. Interestingly, this championship win came after Warren switched back to this earlier ’69 car. Later, Tope stripped the ex-Follmer Boss 302 car and swapped its racing parts into a “Wide-Body” ’73 Boss 302 Mustang, one of only two reported cars ever raced in Trans-Am and IMSA circles. He also campaigned a Pantera during 1974 and tragically, his promising career ended in a July 1975 crash with a McLaren Can-Am car as the defending winner at the last formula libre-style Wide-Track street-circuit race held in Pontiac, Michigan.
Drew Alcazar purchased the ex-Warren Tope ’69 Boss in 2004 from John McClintock, a well-known fellow vintage racer who restored and prepared the car for its return to competition in vintage events. Many of the vintage racing parts used in period remain with the car, an important characteristic of all Historic Trans-Am Group cars, which are required to have actually competed in the original series during the 1960s and early 1970s. All proposed entries are exhaustively reviewed and vetted before they are accepted into the modern series and must use actual parts and components that made them so special. Documentation is also reviewed, including photographs to ensure authenticity, and the cars are even required to use period-style racing decals! Only Goodyear racing tires are used, modifications to cars must be the same as those in the original series, and driving from the green flag is intended to provide a competitive, safe, and mutually satisfying experience for all.
Possessing all the required elements for participation in Historic Trans-Am regardless of cost and effort, the Tope Boss 302 is an excellent case in point, down to the original build documents and many special components that were created for these cars by Kar Kraft and Bud Moore Engineering nearly five decades ago. While raced during its early years by a privateer, the Warren Tope Boss 302 is particularly fascinating and unusual as an independent Trans-Am car with an uncommon level of direct and “back-door” factory support lavished on it. Today, in the hands of Drew Alcazar, it represents a true piece of living racing history wherever it appears and a great surviving example of Ford Motor Company’s all-out “Total Performance” corporate racing program of the 1960s, when winning races on Sundays drove showroom sales the rest of the week.
Today, the ex-Warren Tope Boss 302 can be found on a succession of Historic Trans-Am Group starting grids, with Alcazar entering his Mustang into some “eight to ten” events annually, where he applies the same “full-throttle” approach to racing as he does at each one of Russo and Steele’s highly popular collector-car auctions. For 2016, the Historic Trans-Am Group celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the original Trans-Am series back in 1966. While the Sebring, Florida Spring Classic is now in the rear-view mirror, upcoming Historic Trans-Am events will take place at the Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival June 2-5, and the Monterey Pre-Reunion and Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion in August, before moving to the East Coast for the 34th Lime Rock Historic Festival September 1-5 and then the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix at Watkins Glen September 8-11. Be sure to visit the Historic Trans-Am Group’s website at www.historictransam.com for the full roster of races and events for the remainder of 2016, along with driver profiles and car histories. If you’re even a mild racing fan, you owe it to yourself to attend at least one of these events to experience the glory of Trans-Am racing during the landmark 50th Anniversary season. While you’re there, be sure to look for Drew Alcazar and the Russo and Steele team and share in the excitement as the ex-Warren Tope Boss 302 Mustang runs hard against a packed field of thundering Historic Trans-Am cars, celebrating what must be considered the “Golden Age” of North American road racing.