As much as Trans-Am cars get the credit for being a driving force behind the creation of the whole “pro touring” scene, we’d like to throw another idea at you. While the T/A machines certainly had everyone revved up, there was another racing series that used commonly seen American cars on road courses for many years after the Trans-Am had gone off the reservation. This was the IMSA Kelly American Challenge Series. It ran between 1977 and 1989 and you’d see Camaros, G-body Chevrolets, Pontiacs, and even AMC products, along with other V6 powered cars like Buicks. Some pretty big time racers would participate in the series which was typically run as a support series to the other big boy IMSA competition of the time.

As you will see in this video, basically you had big heavy cars with rumbling engines banging fenders and racing like stock cars on road courses. People loved it during its heyday and if you really want to read a good accounting of what it was like to race in it, pick up the book, “Rich Guys, Fast Guys, and Idiots”. This book tells the story of a journalist turned race car driver who was competing and having both the time of his life and incredible frustration in the American Challenge.

This race was the 1981 Lime Rock contest and it rules for the fact that it was broadcast on the then very new ESPN channel with legitimately no budget. The announcers are just standing outside, there are a few cameras, and the whole thing is just totally awesome. Hey, George Follmer is one of the guys calling the deal!

A fun look back at a decade long, sheetmetal killing series that people identified with.

Press play below to see this 1981 IMSA Kelly American Challenge Series at Lime Rock

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