Archive for February, 2011

1964 Pontiac Banshee Prototype

February 20, 2011

 The Prototype cars built as design exercise’s or as show cars were a way to gauge public appeal for upcoming models and ideas for all auto manufacturers.  One of the 1964 models was the Pontiac Banshee. There were to be an ongoing series of cars for the Banshee design, but the start was this vehicle.  Pontiac envisioned this as a Mustang Fighter and two versions were built.  The first had a straight 6 cylinder motor and the second had a V8.

Because of the success of the Pontiac GTO, General Motors execs at the time were worried that the Banshee would not only beat the Mustang, but also their beloved Corvette.  Judging from John DeLorean’s success with the GTO, they were probably right in their assumption.  After all the steel body Banshee weighed 500 pounds less than the Corvette.

The model was cancelled from further developement in 1966 and Pontiac was instructed to make a version of the upcoming Camaro model for 1967.

Judging from the look of the Banshee, we all know what the next Corvette design would have been based on.  The Banshee not only got cancelled but Chevrolet “borrowed” it’s styling for their own use.  Despite it never getting made as DeLorean had wanted he once again got the attention of the Corporate bigwigs.

Despite losing out on the production of the Banshee concept, Pontiac did get the tail light design for the second generation Trans Am from the effort.  Not much of a consolation prize, but sometimes it is small victories that add up.

Final thought, Oldsmobile must have benefitted as well, because the 1966 Toronado looks suspiciously similar from the rear view.

Davey Boy

Full Disclosure- Mercury had Performance Cars As Well

February 17, 2011

 I have received a couple of complaints and rightly so.  It seems that I have left out a portion of the history up to now regarding the developement of the Muscle Car Era.  What has been pointed out to me is that for every vehicle Ford came up with, they also had a Mercury division companion vehicle.  True and I thought I had mentioned that fact, but I did not mention model names nor did I show photos of these cars.

  This post will correct my omissions up to the point we are at, namely through the 1966 models.  The main point for talking about the Galaxie with its 427 CID engine was because of its sucess in NASCAR and how some of this trickled into other models and became part of the Muscle Car models.  Since the Galaxie was a full size car it technically was not a Muscle Car and neither were the full size Mercury’s shown here.  This is the 1963 Mercury Monterey S-55 convertible. Under the hood was a big block with a tri-power setup.   Mercury was a conflicted division during the 1960’s.  They wanted to be a luxury brand, yet wanted to be a full line manufacturer with the performance models just like it’s parent…..Ford.

For 1964 Mercury came up with a Montclair Marauder and then further upped the ante with the Super Marauder shown here with its 427 pushing out a factory claimed 425 horsepower.  Remember that unlike today, when the factory made a horsepower claim it was almost always under-rated.  People at the track and the “car magazine” reporters were figuring close to 475-500 horsepower was actual.  Remember that in the 1960’s they used “gross” horsepower not “net” as is used today.  Gross horsepower is rated at the flywheel, whereas net is at the rear wheels (or today possibly front wheels for front wheel drive vehicles).

 The obvious difference between the Marauder and the Super Marauder was that the Super used multi-carb setups such as this ones dual four barrel intake system.

  Unless you are very gifted as a mechanic, or know someone else who is multi-carb engines are very difficult to keep properly tuned and running.  Stick with a single 4 barrel engine if you want something to drive and enjoy rather than something you want to work on for weekend fun.  Just my opinion, of course, but that’s the only one that counts since I am the author of this post.

One of the nicest things about some of the full-size vehicles was the fact that because they cost more than most intermediates, they also had nicer interiors and used better materials where they did not need to cut corners to save money and hold costs down.

 This is the Interior photo for the Super Marauder.

 Full gauge instrumentation was also a benefit of full size cars and for any vehicle that had a performance image, idiot lights were not an option for high-end buyers.

Chrome trim was used inside and out on most cars from the era as well.  And it was real metal, not chrome plated plastic as is common today.  Sometimes old school is the best.

 For 1966, the Super Marauder got the 428 engine like the Galaxie and the 7 Litre model at Ford did.  The 428 delivered smoother power and could actually idle without shaking the car.  It was a perfect match for the image Mercury wanted to portray when compared to the bare knuckle attitude of the old 427 which was a race engine being used in a street car.

 As I pointed out Mercury also had the Caliente and Cyclone models which were based on the Comet model.  Check past posts for those photos.  That’s the update to include Mercury in the timeline I have been doing.

Any other suggestions let me hear from you, otherwise be posting the 1967 model lineups soon.

Davey Boy

1966- The Dodge Charger Is Born

February 13, 2011

 The Plymouth Barracuda with its 273 cubic inch V8 was the Mopar answer to the Ford Mustang.  And technically it was the answer before anyone asked the question, since it came out 2 weeks before the Mustang.  But unlike the Mustang it did not come in coupe, convertible and fastback styles.  Only a fastback was used.  That combined with what was considered a less than attractive fastback body did not help it achieve domination in the area of sales.

It was of course based on the Valiant chassis and as such had limited choices as far as available power.  The Dodge division also wanted a fastback Muscle Car of their own, but Plymouth would not allow them to have one based on the Valiant/Dart chassis because it would be competing with the Barracuda.

The Belvedere for 1966 got fresh sheet metal and the big news was that the 426 Hemi engine had been tamed for street duty and was now available for purchase as an option.  The previous engines used in limited production and full size cars was now suitable for everyday use by anyone who wanted one.

The top of the Belvedere line was the Satellite and it got the Hemi as an option as well.  The 426 with its rated 425 horsepower was the most in a production engine for the 1966 model year.  And it was considered about 50 horsepower underrated.

During the Muscle Car Era this was a common occurrence due to manufacturers wanting to downplay their advantages over one another.  And to keep the watchful eye of Washington regulators off of them as well.  Car manufacturers were not supposed to be involved directly with racing and while GM did a good job of honoring the rule, Ford and Chrysler were still supplying engines and parts to NASCAR race teams as well as other venues such as SCCA.

The Dodge Coronet was the choice for its sponsored teams running NASCAR, but that was to change with the introduction of their newest model.  The new model was the Charger and it was based on the midsize Coronet platform and since the Hemi was available for the Coronet, it was available as an option in the Charger as well.

The Charger had a similar style to the AMC Marlin, but although the Marlin was a new model for 1965, the 1966 Charger was the first Muscle Car created as an actual Muscle Car.  Every previous model in Detroit had been either an option for an existing model or was already a model being produced.  The Marlin was a new model, but lacked the big block engine to claim itself a legitimate Muscle Car.  The Charger was created with the 318 as a base engine and then you could get a 383 big block or the new 1966 street Hemi 426.

While Dodge wanted a competitor for the Mustang, they had went to the far side of the scale and came up with a vehicle that was going to stake a serious claim as the King of Muscle.  The interior offered such options as a full length console which essentially gave you four bucket seats in the interior.  The rear armrest shown was an option and what you see is the “Deluxe” vinyl seating option here.

 The 426 Hemi gave new meaning to the term “big block” as it was the heaviest engine produced at the time or even since as far as gasoline engines are concerned.  The lightest engine was the Ford 427 which tipped the scales at around 650 pounds.  The Chevrolet big block rang up about 685 as a 396 engine.  And the 426 Hemi was overkill at an amazing 843 pounds.  It was called the “elephant” motor not just because of its weight but its size.  The heads were the widest ever seen due to the dual set of rockers for the valvetrain.  And the trademark giveaway and what makes it a hemi; the spark plugs are in the middle of the valve cover as you see in the photo.

Some of the styling similarity with the Marlin can be seen from the rear view of the Charger here.  The full width tail light lens had the “CHARGER” name across the full width lest someone think it was something else.

  The front view however would never remind anyone of the AMC Marlin or any other car.  Not even the Coronet that shared the underneath could match the Charger in the style department.  The grill look has been called the “electric shaver” grill.  Kind of looks like an older model Remington doesn’t it?

  Well, that’s the deal with the 1966 models.  See you soon for more.

 Davey Boy

1966- Ford Raises The Stakes

February 13, 2011

  Ford felt that the success of the Mustang was their claim to fame with the Muscle Car crowd.  But they also knew that in the world of cars you are either leading or you are just in the way.  The real hardcore performance cars were the European models coming out of Italy and Henry wanted to put them in his pocket.  When he flew to Italy to talk with Ferrari about buying them up he was laughed out of the room.  He made it his mission to beat Ferrari at their own game and the Ford GT40 was the result of that mission.  It was top to bottom built as a race car to beat the dominance of Ferrari and to prove that Ford knew how to build a world-class race car.  He succeeded.  Even with its original 289 it outright beat everything in its class and when Henry’s engineers upped the ante to its race proven 427 they were in a class by themselves. 

The number 40 in its name comes from the fact that the car was 40 inches tall at the roof.  Although not a Muscle Car by anyone’s imagination, it proved that the American Car Companies were the leaders in performance.

The 1966 Mustang GT with its 289 was selling well as all Mustangs were, and with the Shelby 350 and now Shelby 500 versions coming out the image at Ford was getting a boost.  Other car makers were copying the Mustang Fastback style.

  While not a particular good-looking car in my opinion, the Fastback was gaining acceptance as a good performer.  But it needed more power and that meant bigger engines.  Ford was working on the next generation Mustang with that goal in mind.

The midsize Ford Fairlane received a GT option for 1966.  The engine choice was Fords new 390 cubic inch engine and a model known as the GTA was also added which designated an automatic transmission added to the GT.  Some of the GT and GTA’s received a dealer installed 428 Police Interceptor engine to further enhance the available power.  The 428 was a new engine for 1966 that had been created to smooth out the radical behavior of the race created 427.  Everyone who drove the two engines agreed that the 428 had similar power, without the aggressive power band of the 427, in short, a streetable race engine.  It was further enhanced with heavy-duty cooling and oiling for use as a Police Interceptor engine for the Galaxie Police vehicles.

The Mercury division also got a version of the Fairlane GT package which was called the Mercury Comet Cyclone.  The Cyclone had dual hood scoop cutouts compared with the Fairlane’s single intake.  Some versions used a hood with the intakes at the front edge of the hood as well to catch and force feed more air into the engine.

 Over at American Motors they trudged along with their new for 1965 Marlin with minor styling changes.  They did not have the budget of the Detroit automakers and were not in the position of going toe to toe with them.  But they were paying attention and working on future models to make a run at the “Detroit Big Three” meaning General Motors, Ford Motor Corporation and Chrysler Motors.

Davey Boy

1966- Storm Clouds and The Rain Starts

February 12, 2011

 The introduction of the GTO in 1964  had caused enough of a stir in the hallowed halls of General Motors that John Z. DeLorean was promoted to being the head of Pontiac division in 1965.  And nothing creates more of a nervous climate than a hot-shot in the midst of “Corporate America”.  Starting in 1966 every division in GM was copying the formula that had been used to make the GTO a hot commodity.  I am referring to the “Tri-Power” setup involving using 3 dual barrel carburetors.

  The standard for Detroit during the 1960’s was to freshen sheet metal every 2 to 3 years and complete redesigns every 5 years or so.  The GTO got reskinned for 1966, mainly in the rear sections but the biggest news was it got its own body designation instead of being an option on the Tempest/LeMans platform.  It was still on the same platform but now was a stand-alone model- not just an option.

 The Goat was now a cultural icon and the most visible GTO was the “Monkeemobile” seen on television by every kid in America on a weekly basis.  While not a stock appearing vehicle thanks to George Barris who created it…there were styling cues left in it to distinguish that it was indeed a Pontiac.  And in the vein of “customs” for the 1960’s it had the obligatory blower intake which made the impression of being a dragster.

  Oldsmobile now had a tripower option for their 442 model.  The average buyer for Oldsmobile was not as mechanically inclined as other GM buyers and they did not sell many with the multi-carb setup but it was available.

  The multiple carburetors added a claimed 20 horsepower, although that was considered modest as most car magazines figured it was somewhere closer to around 40 or more.

The biggest news from the staid folks over at Oldsmobile was the introduction of the new Oldsmobile Toronado.  It was marketed as a personal luxury coupe but with its fastback styling it was definitely meant to draw attention from the performance crowd.  The Toronado had been in developement for over 2 years due to the fact that it was a front-wheel drive car and Oldsmobile wanted to be sure they had a workable system for it.  The big gain from the developement of the Toronado was the transmission.  It was the now legendary TH400.  The automatic transmission could handle more torque and higher horsepower than any previous design from General Motors and would become a valuable piece going forward with the “Muscle Car”.

The Buick Riviera for 1966 was based on the same body style as it’s Toronado cousin but retained a conventional rear wheel drive layout.  At the time it was believed to be the longest hood on a production car.  I do not believe they were comparing it outside of the 1966 model year since the 1920’s and 1930’s Deusenbergs would have the record with their straight 12 cylinder motors.

The Buick Skylark shown here and the GS400 that was based on it remained mostly unchanged although like the 442, Buick saw fit to make fender vents a styling clue.  Both the Oldsmobile 442 and the Buick Skylark had styling that was similar with its division’s full size vehicles.  Because of this there were plans to change the body designs for the following model year.

  Over at Chevrolet they were still building the Chevy II/Nova model but were realizing that it’s 327 was just not enough for the competition of the “Muscle Cars” even though it was a compact car, Chevrolet wanted it to be a competitor.  So plans were underway to remold the model in line with the other intermediate vehicles while remaining in the compact class.  They wanted a direct competitor for the Ford Mustang and the Plymouth Barracuda and to a lesser degree the Dodge Dart.  This was where the Muscle Car segment was headed in Chevrolet’s opinion.  If America had accepted the mid-size cars with full-size power, then it reasoned that smaller cars would be even more in demand.

The Chevelle SS396 and the entire Chevelle line got new sheet metal for 1966.  The sides were more rounded and the roof became more slanted in the rear.  Overall it was one of the best looking midsize vehicles you could buy in 1966.  While my opinion is just that- an opinion, only the GTO looked better as far as the GM vehicles in 1966.

  One of the by products of the Chevelle was the El Camino, which took on the Chevelle body design and also its option list for 1966.  It was now in the Muscle Car crowd as it could be had with the SS396 option like this one here.  The truck market now had options to join in the fun.  While the El Camino couldn’t haul what a real truck could and it was not a real workhorse, it gave the market a new option for a Utility Muscle Car.

During the 1966 model year, nervous GM executives again tried to slow down the upstart junior executives by decreeing that only the Chevrolet Corvette would be allowed to have a multi-carb option as of the 1967 model year. 

Next up the Ford answer….in the next post.

Davey Boy

Upgrades And Answers For Those Who Have Left Comments

February 5, 2011

 This fine-looking 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air wagon just sold for $24,000 at Kissimmee.  There were many bargains to be had and some very deserving cars brought out the checkbooks for needy collectors.  I deal with the bargains here, because I am trying to show where the average “newbie” can pick something up to make an investment pay off.

 For unknown reasons I am getting a lot of comments on the blog here and I do read them all.  Most get dumped because either the questions or comments are inane or the grammar is hard to follow.  I am deeply sorry if you left a comment and never saw it published it is not that easy to pick the worthy from the unworthy. 

 I was told I was biased.  No explanation over what subject I was biased about.  The entire comment was….”You’re biased”.

 Fact is everyone is biased.  You like chocolate ice cream over vanilla or vice versa you have a bias.  You like corn but not Brussel sprouts you are biased.  So what was meant?  I have no clue other than nothing gets people more defensive than picking on their preferred make of car.  Tell someone a bad thing about a Chevelle and if they are a Chevy guy you nearly come to punches.  Same for the Mustang dudes when you bad mouth them.  And by far the most passionate fans out there are the Mopar people.  They will in the words of Mike Tyson….”Eat your children”.  Not being facetious here, just after spending 40 years around car people has brought some differences to the forefront.  The Hemi guys are the most elitist of the group.  They have the right.  They have earned it.  The Hemi is truly Royalty in collector car circles.

 $8,250 also bought someone this nice 1965 Galaxie 500 convertible with its stock 289 V8 engine.  Putting the big wheels and tires on a classic doesn’t do anything for me but that is the trend today and for the price paid they can afford to put proper tires on the car.  Some kid will buy the rims for something else.  This is tantamount to putting a Chevy mill into a classic Mercury to me and it takes away from what a collector is looking for.

  Another comment tells me I am a “prude”.  Accepted.  I may say I am of my own opinion on many things, but for these Muscle cars I am definitely part of the crowd, because when it comes to maximum return on an investment stock or factory is where the money is. That is the drawback for the custom car guys.  You build a custom for what you like but few people would be of the same mindset as you so your buyer’s pool is smaller and chances of selling at a profit goes down as a result.

Another fine example is this split bumper 1970 Chevrolet Camaro SS350.  It sold for a reasonable $19,000.  The rims are not stock, but at least the seller kept style within the time period as far as appearance.  While the Camaro’s from this generation were rolling around with mainly small block 350 engines, over at Pontiac this chassis found the venerable 400 shoved into the Firebird Formula and the beastly 455 was under hood for the Firebird Trans Am.  And as us prudes will tell you…”There ain’t no substitute for cubic inches”. 

A note for anyone who read my pre-Kissimmee piece and saw the red Mustang station wagon….that vehicle sold for $12,000.  That’s less than the value of the “donor” 1968 Mustang it was built on, and with its Cobra engine dress up parts someone got a real nice deal.

 The heartbreaker for me at the Mecum Auction in Kissimmee was this 1970 GS455 by Buick.  Numbers matching meaning original engine and transmission and a beautiful restoration and the factory bucket seat interior with just 10 miles on what is a better than new car and she sold for $24,000.  These routinely sell for close to $40,000 in my area and are nowhere near as perfect as this one was.

  Maybe it’s another bias but the “gentleman’s” Muscle Car as these were termed were among the prettiest vehicles ever to come out of Detroit. While they were beasts, they played it down with their unassuming exteriors devoid of stripes, spoilers, and badging.  A sleeper from the factory.  NICE.

 While not a Muscle car by any stretch of anyones imagination this 1971 Volkswagen Karman Ghia sold for $5,750 in all it’s pristine “cuteness”.  For some reason a lot of people who visit this blog are fascinated with a lot of the small European cars.  The Vespa 400 that I posted a photo or two of still gets 20-30 hits a week.  The Messerschmitt is another past photo consistently among the most viewed.

This 1979 Porsche European 928 also sold for a nice $6,500 at Kissimmee. While once again not a Muscle Car, it is more of a collector vehicle than a lot of what some auctions sell as collectibles.  And having driven one of these “Lady Porsches” a few times back when they were being sold new, I can tell you that they flat-out fly, and do so without any really loud attention-getting noise or hysterics.  definitely a car that gets respect for being civilized from me and others.

 Not what I would use for a daily driver but more civilized than anything I would consider.

 Keep reading and sending comments.  It gives me something to write about.  I apologise for being MIA for a few weeks but time has been scarce lately.  Hopefully I can get back on track.

 By the way the “Guess The Interior photo…..”

 The seatbelts should have given the clue that it was a GM car, while the steering wheel should have further told you Pontiac or Oldsmobile.  The wing vent windows should have further helped. As well as the window cranks.  Final narrowing it down clue would probably be the round inset triple dash gauges.

 It was a 1968 Oldsmobile 442 Convertible…400 CID and it was a 4 speed floor shift.

Davey Boy

1965- The Calm Before The Storm

February 5, 2011

 Back to the timeline for the Muscle Car Era.  1965 saw the redesign of the Ford Fairlane.  Despite the previous years Thunderbolt model, the bigwigs at Ford were slow to react to the Muscle Car challenge over at General Motors.  The top engine for the Fairlane remained a 289 small block.  Although it was a high performance version it was still a small block.

  While I do not claim to be psychic, my opinion is that Ford had enough success going on with the introduction of the Mustang and the Ford Galaxie was still the top dog on the NASCAR circuit.  They had won more races in NASCAR than their competition, but that was due to General Motors corporate ban on racing as much as anything.  Their 427 powered Galaxie was responsible for 23 wins in 1963, and 30 wins in 1964.  Ford had developed a new version of the 427 to counter the threat of the Mopar camp’s Hemi engine.  It was what is known as the “cammer” engine.  It used a hemi-style head configuration to develop even more power and had dual chain drives to run dual overhead camshafts.  Despite what Ford felt was a reply to the now legendary Hemi that Dodge and Plymouth were using, NASCAR banned the engine from use.  Ford protested since the reason NASCAR balked at the motor was that it was not a production engine.  After all, Mopar (Dodge and Playmouth) had been using the 426 Hemi even though it was never made available in any production car.  The result was that to be fair, NASCAR banned the Hemi as well.  Mopar promptly pulled out of NASCAR for the 1965 season and told all factory sponsored teams not to race.  To make a long story short attendance was down and interest waned so much that NASCAR relented and late July the Mopars returned to the track.  The damage was done and the Galaxie 427 ended up winning 48 out of the 55 races for the year.

The 1965 Galaxie 500 with a 427 R-code is pictured here.  While GM sat on the sidelines again at the race tracks of America, Ford was capitalizing where they could.  They had Carroll Shelby building enhanced versions of the Mustang to sell to the public.  Shelby had made a name in racing as a driver and an engineer, but his first claim to fame was taking the English AC Cobra and putting the 289 engine in it for racing.  His reasoning was that a reliable high performance American engine in the lightweight English bodied car was the secret to winning.  And by all accounts he was correct.  By 1965 he was making a version of the Cobra with the 427 as well.  The Cobra was dominant as one would expect.

  Shelby and Ford set their sights on the endurance races for 1965 and the Shelby Daytona Coupe was created.  It is not a Muscle Car because it was not a factory production car, even though Shelby Motors could be considered a manufacturer.  The reason it is included here is that this particular Daytona Coupe set the record for the highest price paid for an American car when it sold for $7,250,000.  That is 7 and a quarter million dollars.

This is a 1965 Ford Mustang production Fastback 2+2 in a rare “Coral” color. 

Here is a 1965 Shelby 350 with the 289 High Performance engine.  Shelby used additional upgrades to get even more power out of the 289 than the factory did.  After all if you paid extra for the car, buyers wanted more.

This rarely seen beauty….is a 1965 AMC Rambler Marlin with its 327 cubic inch engine.  You don’t find a lot of these around, as they were not big sellers and they were not on par with most of Detroit’s Muscle Cars.  But they do show that even AMC was starting to pay attention to what the performance market wanted.  After all AMC; or Rambler as they were known; was known for their boxy little economy cars.  The Marlin has been given credit for being the first “hatchback” ever made.  This one needs a paint job I would think.

The Marlin also had another first….it had front disc brakes as standard equipment.  A safety feature that all automobiles would have to have in the years ahead. 

Dodge redesigned the Coronet for 1965 and the yellow beauty here has the 440 CID engine. 

But the beast in the Muscle Car wars for 1965 was the Coronet with the 426 “Wedge” motor.  The engine did not like to idle and was not very suitable for everyday street use.  It was probably the thirstiest engine ever produced and getting 10 MPG meant you were probably driving in neutral down a steep hill.  But the Hemi version of the 426 was up to now only a racing engine because of the expense to build it.  That would change as the year went on and even the hemi engine became available in several models at Dodge.

At Plymouth the “sister” car to the Coronet was the Satellite and it was also available with the “Wedge” and later the Hemi.  Most of the Hemi powered vehicles that were produced in 1965 were actually converted by dealers who saw the potential for the performance market, and the resulting profit.  Anybody who has ever been in the New Car business will tell you that sales is not what drives a “Dealership”… it is the Service Department that pays the bills and makes the profit.  Even in 1965 you could buy the same car at another dealer so pricing was very cut-throat.

The 1965 Dodge Coronet also saw the model known as the 990.  This was a factory built race car just like what Ford had done with it’s Thunderbolt project earlier.  The difference was this had the Hemi 426 and was also available in an altered wheelbase which moved the rear axle several inches forward in the body for the drag strip.  It was one of the reasons why “wheelie-bars” are used on drag cars as the rear bumper would actually drag on the pavement when the vehicle launched if you did not back off the throttle to keep the front end on the ground.

So while 1965 may not have added much to the building Muscle Car Era it did set the stage for what would be coming as the Detroit automakers ratcheted up the street performance game.

So stay tuned for more on the next post.

 Davey Boy