1965- The Calm Before The Storm


 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

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One Response to “1965- The Calm Before The Storm”

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