1966- Storm Clouds and The Rain Starts

 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


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3 Responses to “1966- Storm Clouds and The Rain Starts”

  1. Hot Wheels > 1966 TV Series Batboat Vehicle 1/50 Scale - American doll collectors Barbie dolls clothes & baby gift ideas Says:

    […] 1966- Storm Clouds and The Rain Starts « Americanmusclecar's Blog […]

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  3. kyle Says:

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