A Chance to Buy Rare Muscle Cars from America’s Fastest Decade!

Owners of any given car can auction their car(s) off for any given reason.  You can auction the car off to get profit from an investment, to raise funds for another car, health reasons, etc.  Sometimes, however, it’s not the owner’s choice for the cars to be auctioned off.  Especially if the cars were purchased through illegal means.  David Nicoll amassed some very rare classic American muscle cars during his time as president of New Jersey’s Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services (BLS for short).  Now, Nicoll is facing somewhere between 17-22 years in federal prison for bribery charges.  His small collection of classic American muscle cars will be crossing the auction block on September 12 at a U.S. Marshal’s Service public auction in Lodi, New Jersey.

David Nicoll purchased his car collection literally through the blood of hours.  During his time as president of BLS, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office say that Nicoll received $33 million dollars in payments from a medical blood test bribery scheme that he personally oversaw for 7 years, and which netted well over $100 million dollars in total revenue.  Per the prosecution, BLS would bribe physicians to send their patients for medical tests which were often unnecessary, to be paid for by insurers.  Not one to be sly and frugal with his illegal gains, Nicoll was an extravagant spender.  It’s on FBI and IRS record that he spent $154,000 at a gentlemen’s club, over $400,000 in sports tickets, $700,000 on an apartment for his “female companion,” and over $5 million dollars in cars.

But, we’re not here to discuss fraud and extravagant spending on things like housing, clubs, and sports.  We are here, my friends, to talk about his fabulous taste in classic American iron.

Nicoll did not spend those ill-gotten $5 million dollars on chrome-clad Lamborghini Aventador’s or diamond-enrusted Rolls-Royce Ghosts.  His collection did, however, include a few Ferrari’s.  Instead, the bulk of that money was spent on some of the finest, rarest, and most expensive classic muscle cars ever created.  The inventory list of the A.J. Willner auction looks like a “best of 1967-1970.”  For sale are a:  1967 Shelby GT500, a 1969 Chevrolet Yenko Nova, a 1969 Chevrolet Yenko Camaro, a 1969 Chevrolet Yenko Chevelle, a 1970 Plymouth HEMI Superbird, a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 L78/L89 Convertible, and a 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 429.  Here’s the scoop on these cars:

  • 1969 Chevrolet Yenko Nova.  This is quite possibly one of the most coveted and valuable cars to be crossing the block.  It is a Rally Green 1969 Chevrolet Yenko Nova.  One of only 37 ever produced and believed to be only one of seven original Yenko-built Nova’s remaining, the Yenko Nova was said to be the fastest of the Yenko supercar trio because of it’s light weight.  It was able to get to 60 mph in just 4 seconds.  That’s about how long it takes a modern Porsche Boxster to get to 60.  Just like the other two Yenko supercars, the Nova is powered by Chevrolet’s answer to the 426 HEMI – the powerful L72 427 cubic-inch (7.0 liters) V8 Chevrolet big-block V8.  Nicoll purchased the car for $580,000, but classic coveted muscle car sales have been a series of peaks and valleys for the past few years.  The pre-auction estimate is about $475,000 or so, as another Yenko Nova sold for that in 2012 at the Indianapolis Mecum auction.  We shall see what the car will fetch at auction.
  • 1969 Chevrolet Yenko Camaro:  While “mass market” is a relative term for classic Yenko supercars, the Yenko Camaro and Chevelle were produced in slightly higher quantities.  Yenko only produced 201 Camaros and 99 Chevelles.  FBI records show that Nicoll spent about $365,000 on his Le Mans Blue Chevelle.  The amount spent on his Camaro was not disclosed.
  • 1970 Plymouth HEMI Superbird:  Nicoll didn’t limit his purchases to just Chevy’s – he bought a Tor Red 1970 Plymouth HEMI Superbird.  He bought the most valuable cars from the Big 3 (sorry, AMC!).  On the Mopar front is an extremely rare 1970 Plymouth Superbird with the 426 HEMI dressed in a stunning coat of Tor Red.  Plymouth only produced 135 Superbird’s with the 426 HEMI, and this car is one of even fewer HEMI ‘Bird’s with the 4-speed manual.
  • 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500:  I’m not exactly sure of what the color is, but it looks like it is Lime Gold Poly.  Even if it’s a different color, it doesn’t make it any less stunning.  The GT500 is powered by Ford’s powerful 428 cubic-inch Police Interceptor V8 (7.0 liters) putting power down to the wheels through a Ford C4 3-speed automatic transmission.
  • 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 429:  This particular Boss 429 is finished in Grabber Green.  It is powered by Ford’s NASCAR-intended 429 cubic-inch V8 (7.0 liters) “semi-hemi” engine.  It puts the power down through a four-speed manual transmission.  It is quite possibly the most valuable Mustang ever created, with only 859 ever produced.

Those with a good deal of money wanting a bone-stock, amazing muscle car will almost certainly want to be in Lodi, New Jersey on September 12, 2014, for the U.S. Marshal’s Service Auction through A.J. Willner Auctions.  You can view the cars at A.J. Willner’s website at http://www.ajwillnerauctions.com/auctions/us-marshals-seized-vehicle-collection

 

The Most Underrated Muscle Cars Ever

Muscle cars get a bad rap for being fast in a straight line, uncomfortable, pig-like vehicles.  It’s deservedly so for some of them.  Some of them are just so good at what they do that you can’t help but love them, faults and all.  Then, there are the good ones that are underrated.  Some of the overrated ones are the modern Camaro ZL1, Mustang GT500, and the modern Dodge Charger.  Here are the muscle cars that should be overlooked less:

  • 1970 AMC Rebel Muscle Machine:  How can you not love a car that is called the “muscle machine,” has a red, white, and blue paint job, and a 390 cubic-inch V8 (6.3 liters)?  It was a seriously fast car, and it’s sister car, the Javelin wore the same paint scheme in the Trans-Am racing series of the 1970’s for a few years with some success.  However, picking a fight with the Rebel Muscle Machine meant that you’d better have a stonking fast car to beat it.  It was relatively light, made a lot of horsepower (340 stock, but could easily get boosted to well over 450), and looked like nothing else on the road.  Some people bought the car, painted it it all white, and simply wreaked havoc on the streets of America in a car that looked unassuming.
  • Ford Torino GT:  Ford took their full-size Torino, stuffed their biggest motor available into it, and turned it into what may be one of the best cars for cruising on the highway or up and down a drag strip.  The big Ford Torino was one seriously fast car that could take the family in comfort.  While it wasn’t exactly a looker, it came with a big black hood with a functional air scoop.  It also came with a four-barrel Holley carburetor, an Edelbrock air intake, a BorgWarner four-speed overdrive transmission, and Ford’s legendary 9-inch rear end with 4:11 gears.
  • Jensen Interceptor:  Ok, maybe it’s not a true muscle car because it was marketed as a GT car, but it’s the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law for this blog post.  It’s timeless Carrozzeria Touring design makes it look Italian.  Plus, you could get it with a Dodge 440 cubic-inch V8 and a Chrysler Torqueflite 4-speed automatic.  That definitely makes it a British muscle car in my eyes.
  • 1991 GMC Syclone:  It should have been called the Psyclone, not the Syclone.  This turbocharged mini truck was a force of nature.  For just $26,000 in 1991, you could easily embarrass a Ferrari 348, a car that commanded a price of almost $180,000.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t very truck-like, even with a bed, as it was only rated to carry and tow 500 pounds.
  • AMC Gremlin Randall 401-XR:  While the AMC Gremlin may have been a terrible economy car designed on an airline barf bag, it sold in droves.  But, when you turned some over to Randall Engineering, magic happened.  Randall Engineering ripped out the turdy big inline-six-cylinder engine, and stuffed a massive 401 cubic-inch V8 (6.5 liters) into the tiny engine bay.  The car ran high-13-second 1/4 mile times at about 90 mph.  And, you could get the car for just $2,995 in 1972.  And that included a donor car.  Options included a four-speed manual transmission or a Chrysler Torqueflite 4-speed automatic transmission, stainless steel headers, a “Twin Grip” differential (a fancy name for a limited-slip differential), four-wheel power disc brakes, a cam kit, and a high-rise intake manifold with a four-barrel Holley carburetor.
  • Shelby Ford Maverick:  This is quite possibly the rarest Shelby ever.  Only 300 were ever sold in Mexico only.  There are only a handful of pictures of the car, all of which can be viewed at http://www.maverick.to/shelbydemexico.php.  They were Brazilian-made Ford Mavericks with Mustang 302 cubic-inch V8’s (5.0 liters), cool paint, and some extra Shelby odds and ends.
  • Studebaker Super Lark:  Studebaker supercharged their 302 cubic-inch V8 (5.0 liters), and put it into their stunning Lark coupe.  The car made an impressive 335 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque way back in 1963.  The car weighed in right around 3,000 pounds, so it was fast.  It was luxurious enough that it was called the “businessman’s hot rod.”  I agree.  It was also one of the first true muscle cars.  It came out in 1963, about a year before the much-loved Pontiac GTO.
  • Mercury Cyclone:  While nobody will ever really lose sleep over the Ford Fairlane, it will be harder to lose sleep over it’s interestingly-styled brother, the Mercury Cyclone.  It came with Ford’s high-performance 428 cubic-inch (7.0 liters) Cobra Jet V8, and it took a mere 5.5 seconds to hit 60 mph.
  • Dodge Demon/Plymouth Duster:  While the Dodge Demon and Plymouth Duster were certainly not the fastest nor most powerful muscle cars of the early 1970’s, they were plenty capable of smoking a larger muscle car.  They were powered by Dodge’s 340 cubic-inch V8 (5.6 liters), which was a mid-lineup engine in the larger Challenger and Barracuda.  That, coupled with their relative light weight, meant that they were able to be pretty darn quick in the quarter mile.
  • Buick GS 455 Stage 1:  510 pound-feet of torque.  That’s all you need to know.  Not really, but this was the most powerful motor sold in America for a few years.  It was big, big, big, but very fast.  It was also really comfortable.  This is one of the best cars in the world for cruising the interstates.  I want one.

And, then there’s this…

 

The Crash That Changed NASCAR Forever

At Talladega International Superspeedway in 1973, Bobby Allison heard voices telling him to pull over.  It wasn’t his crew chief, it wasn’t his spotter, but he said that it was a supernatural voice.  Nothing at all was wrong with his car.  But, he got spooked by the voices and quit racing on the spot.  He pulled into pit row, turned the car off, got out, and never set foot in a race car again.

Odd things happen at Talladega all the time.  Fans and drivers joke around casually about the “Talladega Jinx.”  The Jinx itself is standard issue – every track has it in some form or another.  People say that Talladega was once a Native American burial ground and the spirits haunt the track to this day.  As silly as those stories may seem, Talladega has been a haven for mishaps since Day 1.  Larry Smith lost his life there because of a minor-yet-deadly accident.  Davey Allison lost his life there in a helicopter crash.  Side-view mirrors have killed drivers there.  There have been so many infield accidents that I can’t even count how many there are.

But, it was Bobby Allison’s near-fatal crash there in a Grand National-series Buick LeSabre in 1987 that changed NASCAR superspeedway racing forever.  There were no murderous mirrors or supernatural voices.  Instead, a blown tire at 200+ mph sent Allison’s number 22 Buick LeSabre stock car into the air.

The result was sickening.  His car was moving with such momentum that it literally vaporized the catch fence and sprayed the crowd with debris.  Thankfully, two well-placed and tightly-wound cables kept most of the car from landing in the crowd.  The only serious injury was a spectator who lost an eye – sad but not deadly.  Bobby Allison continued to race after the crash at Talladega until the next year, when a career-ending crash at Pocono Speedway in 1988 caused him to hang his helmet up for good.  However, Jinx conspiracy theorists will happily point out to you that his family didn’t escape the Talladega Jinx until 1993, when Bobby’s eldest son, Davey Allison, lost his life in a helicopter crash there, just 11 months after Bobby’s youngest son, Clifford, perished in a massive crash at Michigan International Superspeedway.

In Bobby Allison’s crash, speed was what nearly killed him.  Just a day prior to the race, Junior Johnson, a notoriously reckless driver back in his day, voiced his concerns to NASCAR officials.  They should have listened to him.  Junior Johnson is still one of the most respected figures in NASCAR public circles.  NASCAR executives put on the headphones to ignore the thundering engine of Junior Johnson.  Why?  Because Bill Elliott had just put his car in first place at a screaming 212.8 mph.  Big numbers look good in newspapers.  To put that into perspective, the fastest speed at the Indy 500 the next week was 216.6 mph.  Indy cars are light, small, and maneuverable.  Stock cars are like automotive battleships.  When Bobby Allison hit the fence, NASCAR officials could have faced an accident that could have played out like the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans disaster.  Crazy speeds or not, something had to be done quickly.

To reduce top speeds, the stopgap measure was to implement smaller carburetors.  Teams hated it, not only speed-wise, but because it also hindered the car’s performance in many other ways.  It took a full season to reach an agreement, but when the green flag dropped at the 1988 Daytona 500, each car in the field had a restrictor plate bolted to the intake manifold.  The restrictor plate is still mandatory at superspeedways like Daytona and Talladega, as it greatly restricts the airflow going into the engine.  The result is a significant reduction in top speed.  A restrictor plate is simply a piece of metal with four holes in the center for the air to go through.

Restrictor plates didn’t cure the jinx.  Crowd injuries at Talladega are still far too common.  In that case, why install a restrictor plate at all?  Until his death, NASCAR CEO Bill France, Jr. always said that the restrictor plates were bolted on to improve the show.  To this day, it’s hard to find something more spectacular than NASCAR.  The restrictor plate greatly reduces the airflow going into the engine, so, if there is an accident, the car will not be traveling over 200 mph.  Superspeedways are the only NASCAR tracks that allow the cars to get up to speeds like that.  Plus, there’s no denying the spectator appeal of “The Big One,” the gigantic crashes at restrictor plate events that fans have come to expect and see as for-granted.

Is the Talladega Jinx real?  Um, no.  There’s no supernatural entity plotting over what will happen next at Talladega.  But, the Jinx is well-planted into the minds of drivers and fans.  Either way, restrictor plates are still for this world for a while – superstition or not.

 

 

Blancfleet Hopes to Be the Supercar Version of ZipCar!

Blancfleet, a New York City-based supercar-rental company, is really, really cool.  While most of us can’t afford to buy a supercar, let alone drive one for a day or more, Blancfleet makes driving one for an extended period of time possible by using a timeshare program very much like ZipCar.  Blancfleet founder Charles Polanco says that “Blancfleet aims to become the next ZipCar,” though your average ZipCar drop-off point likely won’t have a Nissan GT-R, Pagani Huayra, or Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse.  Many supercar rental companies charge fees that would give even Bill Gates a nightmare.  Blancfleet, however, uses crowdfunding to get the large fees one normally sees down to (relatively) sane levels.  As Blancfleet stated in May, the company actually BUYS the cars, rather than leasing the cars from the automaker for a certain period of time.  Most other supercar rental companies lease the cars for three years so they can get the new versions when they come out.  Blancfleet allows each car a certain amount of rental hours per year, and money made from these hourly rental periods is used to pay for the cars (just like ZipCar).

ZipCar has become wildly popular with urbanites who don’t want the hassle of having to own a car.  With ZipCar, you rent a car for a certain amount of hours, go to a designated drop-off and pick-up point, and the car is waiting for you.  ZipCar users pay the fee either electronically or on-site through a ZipCar representative.  Paperwork is filled out online once unless something personal changes.  ZipCar is marginally more expensive than renting a car through, say, Hertz, because the insurance costs are built into the rental fee.

Back to Blancfleet.  Blancfleet knows that it can be extremely difficult to obtain insurance to rent a supercar.  The potential damage that could happen to any given supercar in the Blancfleet fleet could easily eclipse the average price of a house or condominium.  For the renter of the car, liability insurance can only cover so much, except in rare instances.  The massive deposits required by many other supercar rental firms mean that even a scratch on a given rented supercar could cost the renter thousands of dollars.  To make the rental process more attractive, Blancfleet self-insures all of it’s cars – all costs are mushed into the rental fee, and the risk of damage is spread through the hundreds of people who have crowdfuned Blancfleet.  This means that renting a supercar through Blancfleet is far less expensive than renting it through the Hertz Dream Car fleet.

Of course, renting a supercar and cheap don’t exactly rhyme.  If you want to drive around New York City in a Bugatti Veyron or cruise the streets of Fort Lauderdale in a Pagani Huayra, you’ll have to cough up $1,325 and $1,040 an hour, respectively.  That is, once enough people pledge enough hours to afford the car’s $1 million+ dollar price tags.  However, you could have a LOT of time in a $83-an-hour Nissan GT-R, or even a $204-an-hour Ferrari 458 Italia.  Both the GT-R and the Ferrari are already in Blancfleet’s fleet.  But, the important thing is that you’ll be able to rent a Pagani Huayra or Bugatti Veyron – that is, if you skip the bills for a month (or three).  Plus, you’ll feel like a million bucks driving it around!  Or, you could just stop daydreaming and head over to Blancfleet’s website at https://blancfleet.com/Home.aspx and sign yourself up for a rental period.  Just let me know when you do.  Sign-up looks to be pretty straightforward and quick, so do it NOW!

The current Blancfleet fleet includes:  Mercedes-Benz S550, Tesla Model S, Lamborghini Gallardo, Mercedes-Benz G550, Land Rover Range Rover Sport, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, Porsche 911, and a Nissan GT-R.  Prices for the cheapest vehicle – the GT-R start at $83 an hour.  Blancfleet has not yet bought the Veyron or the Huayra, but is planning to do so soon.  Until then, you’ll have to settle for something equally as cool – the Tesla Model S.

Blancfleet is currently only based in New York City, but is currently building a Blancfleet drop-off and pick-up office in Fort Lauderdale.

 

 

The 100 Most Significant and Influential Chevrolet’s of All Time Part 1!

  1. 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air:  Some 59 years after it was introduced to the American public, the 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air is often overlooked for it’s revolutionary parts and price.  The body was all-new, and is still breathtaking 59 years later.  Just on appearance, the car was (and still is!) absolutely stunning.  It looked like it could have come from Cadillac or Mercedes-Benz.  Even the lower-priced models were stunning.  The interior was equally beautiful.  Then, there was the all-new chassis that had revolutionary suspension parts borrowed from the Corvette.  The 1955 Chevrolet could keep pace with a Jaguar XK120 on a canyon road without trying hard.  Of course, Chevrolet’s all-new small-block V8 was what enthusiasts still love.  It was Chevrolet’s first all-new V8 since 1917.  It displaced 265 cubic inches (4.3 liters), and it introduced Chevrolet owners to a whole new side of performance.  I consider it to be one of the cars that kicked off the muscle car craze.  The ’55 Chevy was Chevrolet’s best-selling car up till the 1960’s, but that’s another story for another car on this list…For all of these reasons, it is my Most Significant Chevrolet ever.
  2. 1969 Chevrolet Camaro:  The 1969 Chevrolet Camaro was the last update for the legendary first-generation Camaro.  Many amazing Camaro’s came out in 1969.  The legendary COPO Camaro with the Corvette 427 cubic-inch V8 came out in 1969.  Chevrolet also introduced new, better styling for 1969.  The 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 remains one of the most legendary Camaro’s ever, thanks to it’s success on the racetrack and streets.  This, and the multitude of engine, transmission, paint, and other such options, puts the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro as the second-most influential Chevrolet ever.
  3. 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 LS6:  The Chevelle was Chevrolet’s full-size sports coupe.  It was popular as was, but it wasn’t very fast.  The SS 396 of 1967 was fast and became a small legend, so it was no wonder that Chevrolet put their 396 cubic-inch (6.5-liter) V8 into the Chevelle to create the first of the new body-style Chevelle SS.  It was fast, but the 396 wasn’t the most powerful engine.  Enter the 454.  The 454 came in two very powerful forms – the 360-horsepower LS5 or the earth-shaking 450-horsepower LS6.  The fastest 1/4 mile time that anybody got out of a stock Chevelle SS 454 LS6 was a 13.2-second time at 106 horsepower.  That’s still fast and relevant today.   Easy tuning tricks like bigger carburetors, drag slicks, and open headers could get you into the mid-12-second range easily.  This made the 1970 Chevelle SS 454 LS6 one of the most legendary cars ever.  Enthusiasts still are in awe of it.  This is why it is my number 3.
  4. 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air:  The 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air was hardly the first car to have one horsepower per cubic inch, but it was the first one to offer it at an affordable price.  The 283-horsepower, 283 cubic-inch (4.6 liter) V8 came with Rochester fuel injection, a solid-lifter Iskendarian cam (Isky for short), and a great engine note.  A fuel-injected 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air was the car that put blistering performance in the hands of the average working Joe.  The body was perhaps the finest of the Tri Five Chevrolet’s (1955-1957), and it’s looks are some of my favorites.  It set many speed records in the day, and the fuel-injected cars are rare and desirable today.
  5. 1963 Chevrolet Corvette:  The first of the second-generation Corvette (C2) is now one of the most collectible Chevrolet’s ever.  The story behind the 1963 Corvette is an interesting one.  Here goes:  GM design chief Bill Mitchell dictated that the C2 Corvette Stingray look like the 1959 Corvette race car designed by legendary designer Peter Brock.  Also-legendary designer Larry Shinoda designed the iconic 1963 Corvette Stingray.  While the convertible version of the car was drool-worthy, the coupe was the one that still turns heads right off of their axis (including owls!).  Zora Arkus-Duntov was strongly opposed to the split rear-window design, as it greatly hampered rear vision.  Bill Mitchell won – for a year.  The 1964 Corvette came with a single piece of glass.  The fuel-injected Stingray’s were the cars to beat for 1963.  But, Chrysler’s introduction of the 426 HEMI in the Dodge Polara and Plymouth Savoy in 1964 gave the fuelie Vette a serious run for it’s money.
  6. 1962-1964 Chevrolet Impala/Biscayne:  In the early 1960’s, Chevrolet performance technology was advancing at a rate never seen before.  While Chevrolet’s legendary 409 cubic-inch V8 (6.7 liters) was a technological dead end after 1964, it was an amazing engine for drag racing.  In 1962, the 409 made 1 horsepower per cubic inch, but later in the year, the Z-11 code-name engine breathed better thanks to better heads, a bigger cam, and a cold-air intake.  Thanks to the Beach Boys using the 409 for two of their biggest hits – “Surfin’ Safari” and “409,” Chevy had all the publicity it could want.  In 1963, prospective buyers could get three 409’s – a 340-horsepower 409, a 400-horsepower 409, and a thundering 425-horsepower 409.  All three of these powerful 409’s were dwarfed by the thundering, massively-underrated 430-horsepower 427 cubic-inch (7.0 liters) Magical Mystery engine only available for drag racing and NASCAR.  The Magical Mystery 427 actually made closer to 560 horsepower!  Once Chevy pulled out of racing in 1963, the Magical Mystery engine made it’s way into the Corvette and next-generation Impala, Caprice, and Biscayne.  In 1964, much of the Impala’s street cred was gone, thanks in no small part to the Pontiac GTO.
  7. 1967 Chevrolet Camaro SS350:  The first-generation Camaro SS came with a 295-horsepower 350 cubic-inch V8 (5.7 liters).  This engine would power many Chevrolet’s until around 2000.  The 350 was standard, and a 396 cubic-inch V8 (6.5 liters) was optional with the RS/SS package.  The 350 was a Camaro exclusive at the time, and it was a legitimate performance vehicle for under $2,800.  It would send a 271-horsepower, 289-cubic-inch V8 (4.7 liters) Mustang running for cover in a straight line.  The same went for the legendary Mustang Shelby GT350.  It would also take down quite a few big-block Fords, Chevys, Pontiacs, and Buicks.
  8. 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray:  Much to the dismay of Zora Arkus-Duntov, the new 1968 Corvette was little more than a rebodied 1963 Corvette with a new interior, the relatively new 350 cubic-inch V8 (5.7 liters), and a reworked suspension.  He was in the minority.  The public literally went bananas over the new Corvette, which was based off of Bill Mitchell’s Mako Shark II concept car of 1966.  Sales of the 1968 Corvette exceeded any sales of the Corvette from 1963-1967, and only went up from there.  It was the longest-running series of Corvette ever (1968-1972), and sales increased as performance decreased.  Corvette annual sales peaked in 1979 at 53,807, which is still a Corvette sales record to this day.  In the mid-1970’s, the Corvette went from a street brawler to more of a luxury Grand Touring car.
  9. 1967 Chevrolet II L-79/Nova:  Pontiac may have created the midsize muscle car with the GTO in 1964, but Chevrolet took it a very large step further with the 1967 Chevy II with the L-79 350 cubic-inch V8 (5.7 liters).  It was a compact muscle car, with a screaming engine and attitude.  It didn’t look like much, so it was a sleeper.  Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins became well-known with the car on the drag strip after a few years of embarrassing Dodge/Plymouth 426 HEMI-engine cars in the A/Stock NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) class with his 1966 “Black Arrow” L-79 Nova.  This car, surprisingly, was not a big seller.  Only 5,481 were built in 1966.  In 1967, it is believed that only 6 were built, as Chevrolet stopped taking orders for the car after the first day of orders from dealers were taken.  Nobody knows for sure what Chevrolet’s reason was to cancel the car.  Maybe they needed the extra people to market the Camaro.  The bottom line is that this car still makes it’s presence known on the street and drag strip 47 years later.
  10. 2010-Present Chevrolet Camaro:  As the modern muscle car era started to heat up with supercharged Mustangs, Hemi-powered Chargers and Challengers, and a host of other monsters, Chevy only watched from 2003-2009 on the sidelines.  Sure, there were plenty of Corvettes that could pummel any one of those given muscle cars, but some people needed the backseat, or didn’t want to have a fiberglass car.  The 2010 Camaro returned with styling that looked similar to that of the 1969 Camaro, yet didn’t look exactly like it.  It has outsold the Mustang every month (save two) since it’s 2010 reintroduction.  It has exceeded all of it’s internal sales goals (129,000+ in 2010), and remains the only Chevrolet sold without rebates.  Many Camaro’s are fully optioned by customers, and the sales revenue generated by the Camaro helped GM claw it’s way out of bankruptcy.  It literally helped save GM.  2011 saw the reintroduction of the Camaro convertible, 2012 saw the return of the snorting ZL1, and 2014 saw the return of the hallowed Z/28.
  11. 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396:  While it is true that the 1965 Z16 Chevelle was the first Chevelle to pack Chevrolet big-block “rat motor” V8 power in the form of the 396 cubic-inch V8 (6.5 liters), the 1966 Chevelle put the power in the hands of the people.  With a stylish, sleeker new body and interior, the 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396 was just the car that Chevrolet had ordered up to embarrass their internal rival, Pontiac.  It especially embarrassed any Pontiac in it’s 375-horsepower 396 cubic-inch V8 version.  While production of the Z16 Chevelle was a tiny 201, the 1966 Chevelle SS396 sold 72,272 of them.
  12. 2009-2013 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1:  Code-named the “Blue Devil” inside of GM in honor of ex-GM Chairman Rick Wagoner’s alma mater (Duke University), the 638-horsepower, supercharged, 6.2-liter (378 cubic inch) V8-powered Corvette is the fastest, most powerful car ever sold by GM.  Ever.  It’s top speed is 205 mph, and Chevrolet poured everything that they knew about going fast into this car.  Having gone for a ride (in the passenger seat!) in a 2013 ZR1, I can attest to the fact that this car is a monster!  In testing at the Nurburgring in Germany in 2009, the ZR1 set a lap record for a production car that was soon eclipsed by the Cadillac CTS-V.  In 2011, Chevrolet engineers went back with the new tire/wheel package and shaved well over 7 seconds from it’s previous lap time, nearly making a new lap record!
  13. 1969 Yenko Camaro:  The legendary SYC Yenko-tuned 1969 Chevrolet COPO Code 9561 Camaro received special graphics, gauges, and many go-fast goodies from Don Yenko’s mechanics before they were sold to buyers from his dealer lot in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, or sent to one of his other dealers across America.  They came with a tuned L-72 427 cubic-inch V8 (7.0 liters) that made well over 600 horsepower at the crank.  They were available in only six colors:  LeMans Blue, Rally Green, Fathom Green, Daytona Yellow, Hugger Orange, and Olympic Gold.  Today, they are likely some of the most recognized and sought-after cars of the muscle car era in America’s fastest decade.  They easily fetch well over $100,000 at auctions.
  14. 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air “Old Reliable II”:  It had a Bill Jenkins-built 409-horsepower 409 cubic-inch V8 (6.7 liters), a Borg-Warner four-speed manual transmission, and 4.56:1 gears in the rear end.  Dave Strickler drove Old Reliable II to many a victory in the 1962 NHRA drag racing season.  Bill Jenkins added 9 station wagon springs to the front, stiffer springs to the rear, and relocated the frame mounts about an inch behind the stock location.  All of this was done in the name of improved traction.  The car won the Super Stock title at the 1962 U.S. Nationals, and won the Pomona, CA Winternationals the following year.  It was later equipped with an aluminum nose for lighter weight.  Old Reliable II became the first B/FX Stocker to run 11-second quarter mile times.
  15. 1968-1970 Chevrolet Nova L-78:  If there was any such thing as overkill in the Chevrolet lineup at the time, the 1968-1970 Nova L-78 would have fit the bill.  It had a 375-horsepower, 396 cubic-inch V8 (6.5 liters), a Borg-Warner four-speed overdrive manual transmission, and menacing, sleek looks.  While the freshly-redesigned 1968 Nova may have gained some weight over the previous generation, the L-78 engine made it downright terrifying.  On the skinny stock tires, the car ran low 14-second quarter mile times at 100 mph, but with open headers, drag slicks, and other traction aids, the car easily went into the 12-second quarter mile club.
  16. 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air:  While the 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air line was sporty, especially with it’s Ferrari-inspired egg-crate grille, the 1956 Chevy was more formal-looking.  Still, the tagline in advertisements for the car read, “The Hot One’s Even Hotter.”  The base engine was the Super Turbo-Fire (NOT turbocharged) 265 cubic-inch (4.3 liter) V8 that produced 205 horsepower.  The optional engine was the Corvette’s 225-horsepower dual-quad-version of the same engine.   Style-wise, a four-door sedan was added to the lineup, and perhaps, the coolest feature was the gas cap hidden behind the left taillight.
  17. 1955 Chevrolet Cameo Carrier Pickup:  Not only was Chevrolet leading the way in styling for 1955 with it’s passenger cars, but it took their once-lowly pickup to new, unprecedented heights.  It had a unique flush-side fiberglass bed, and was full of car-like features (a two-tone interior, chrome bumpers, air conditioning, and an optional V8).  This was a truck that was at least 30 years ahead of it’s time.
  18. 1959 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Race Car:  While Chevrolet may have been out of racing in 1959, that didn’t stop GM design chief Bill Mitchell from buying a leftover Corvette SS race car chassis and putting Peter Brock’s stunning Stingray race car body over it.  Mitchell then hired Dr. Dick Thompson, “The Flying Dentist” to campaign it in sports car events across the country.  Thompson won the SCCA’s C/Modified National Championship in 1960.  The car was clocked at 145 mph on the back straight of Road America, and the top speed was believed to be about 160+ mph.  The production 1963 Stingray’s styling was based on this car’s.
  19. 1961 409 Biscayne:  While Motor Trend called the 1961 Impala SS409 “A family car that is really a racing machine,” the bottom line was that you didn’t have to buy an upscale Impala to get the 360-horsepower 409 cubic-inch V8 (6.7 liters).  You could get it in a Biscayne without any options, and you could shame just about any sedan out there.  The 11.25:1 compression-ratio 409 was a screaming engine, and according to Motor Trend, could run the 1/4 mile in just 14.02 seconds at 98.14 mph.  How’s that for fast in 1961?
  20. 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Z16:  Rounding out the top 20 most influential and significant Chevrolet’s is the 1965 Chevelle Z16.  Chevy was blindsided by Pontiac and the GTO in 1964, and they didn’t have an engine over 400 cubic inches, so the Chevelle Z16 was Chevy’s very overdue answer to the Goat.  It was essentially a limited-edition car because 201 cars were only ever sold.  It came with a 160-mph speedometer, a 6,000 RPM tachometer mounted on the dashboard, and a 375-horsepower version of the new 396 cubic-inch V8 (6.5 liters).  This engine put the Chevelle Z16’s performance right on par with any stock GTO.

That’s all for part 1!  Look for part 2 soon!

The Greatest American Turbocharged Cars

Many people think that turbochargers belong in heavily modified import cars.  Well, that’s partially true.  Europe has turned out some impressive turbocharged cars, as well as the US of A.  Here are America’s greatest turbocharged cars.

  • Ford Mustang SVO:  The 2015 Ford Mustang has a 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, just like the SVO Mustangs of the 1980’s.  The first turbocharged Ford Mustang showed up in 1979 with a 135-horsepower, turbocharged, 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine.  It was an alternative to the downsized 4.2-liter V8 found in the Mustang GT.  But, it wasn’t until Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO, now known as Special Vehicle Tuning or SVT) got their hands on one that it became anything noteworthy.  It came with a factory-installed Hurst short-throw shifter, revolutionary Koni adjustable shocks, ABS disc brakes at all four corners, a limited-slip differential, and a screaming, turbocharged 205 horsepower.  Drivers even had the cool option of flicking a dash-mounted switch that allowed the car to run on lower-grade fuel for a certain amount of time.  When it ended it’s production run in the late 1980’s, it was something to be feared.  It looked especially menacing in grey.
  • 1965 Chevrolet Corvair:  Believe it or not, the Corvair actually had a go-fast option.  It had two, in fact.  One was the Crown Corvair, which used a mid-mounted 283-cubic-inch Corvette V8, and the other was a turbocharger bolted onto the engine.  From the factory.  It made 150 horsepower initially, but by the time the Corvair died, it made 180 horsepower.  Unlike many other turbocharged cars, the turbocharged Corvair did not use a wastegate, the internal exhaust flap that opens at higher engine speeds to prevent over-spinning the turbine.  Instead, Chevy engineers simply built enough backpressure into the exhaust system to prevent overboost and serious engine damage.  Very few Corvairs with the turbocharged engine were ever made.
  • Oldsmobile F85 Jetfire:  Oldsmobile was one of the early adopters of turbocharging technology.  It released the powerful F85 Jetfire in April of 1962, and the car was something of a small success.  It took the fabled 3.5-liter high-compression “Rocket” V8, cranked up the boost, and let it rev.  It made a screaming 215 horsepower, and it was easily quicker than many naturally aspirated cars of 1962.  Plus, owners got an ashtray-sized boost gauge in front of the shifter.  The engine had problems with detonation, which is the process where the hot air-fuel mixture under pressure spontaneously ignites before the spark plug has a chance to ignite it.  So, the Turbo-Rocket engine was fed a mixture of methanol alcohol and water (the same stuff fed to dragsters).  This allowed the mixture to not ignite as quickly and get a higher octane level.  Today, water/alcohol injection is commonplace in high-performance tuner car applications, but isn’t it cool that F85 Jetfire owners had to periodically fill their “Turbo Rocket Fluid” reservoir?
  • Buick GNX:  If there’s a poster-child for American turbocharged cars, the Buick GNX wins, hands-down.  The all-black, tire-smoking, Ferrari Testarossa-beating, quarter-mile waltzing Buick GNX was and still is a force of nature.  Buick initially started turbocharging it’s anemic 3.8-liter V6 in 1978 for the Regal and the LeSabre, introducing the fast Regal Grand National line in 1982.  It culminated with 1987 with the GNX.  Buick purposefully underrated the crank horsepower at 276 horsepower, but dyno tests showed that the car made at least 315 horsepower at the wheels.  This means that the car made somewhere close to 360-370 horsepower at the crank.  It even beat the twin-turbo Callaway Corvette that I featured on my blog a couple of months ago in the quarter mile.  The GNX would go through the quarter mile in the low 13-second range at around 125-130 mph.  Just 547 GNX’s were built in 1987, each specially massaged by AMC/McLaren.  Today, the turbo Buick’s are something of a legend, and many go for upwards of $30,000.  The car was so successful on the street the Buick entered a naturally-aspirated V8 version of the car in NASCAR’s Grand National series (now known as the Nationwide Series), where it was extremely competitive.
  • 1989 Pontiac 20th Anniversary Turbo Trans Am:  The all-white Pontiac Trans Am picked to be the pace car for the 73rd annual Indy 500 was completely different than the first turbocharged Trans Am, which was all mustache and no Burt.  This 1989 force-fed pony car was something completely different.  I liken it as the Pontiac storm trooper to the Buick GNX Darth Vader.  Pontiac subcontracted an engineering firm to swap Buick GNX engines (made by Buick for Pontiac) into the Trans Am.  But, the story doesn’t (and shouldn’t) end there.  Anniversary-edition Trans Am’s got better-flowing heads than the GNX, stainless-steel headers, GNX-sized Eaton intercoolers, a cross-drilled Comp Cams crankshaft, and their own engine tuning higher up in the powerband.  The net result was a car that officially produced 250 horsepower at the crank, but made closer to 320 horsepower at the crank.  This marked a return to the horsepower-underrating days of the muscle car, started by, you guessed it, Pontiac.  It was the fastest pace car ever in the history of the Indy 500, which is impressive, given the fact that many fast cars have been chosen since then.
  • Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe:  The Beach Boys made the T-Bird famous with the line, “fun, fun, fun, until her daddy takes it away.”  The T-Bird was fun until Daddy (the EPA) introduced emissions regulations that took the fun out of the T-Bird.  By 1982, the T-Bird was a horrible, anemic shoebox of a car.  Happily, 1983 saw the rising of the phoenix.  It’s beak-like hood had twin nostrils that meant that there was a turbocharged engine underneath that pointy hood.  Other than the amazingly 1980’s-FILA edition, the T-Bird Turbo Coupe was at it’s peak in 1987 and 1988.  That was when stick-shifted version of the Fox-bodied T-Bird came equipped with a whistling 190 horsepower, four-wheel ABS disc brakes, and a limited-slip differential.  Those nostrils on the hood, by the way, are functional, as they feed air directly to the top-mounted intercooler.
  • Shelby GLHS:  It’s hard to find a car that has a shape that’s more square than the Dodge Omni.  The blocky Omni had all of the sporting pretensions of a worn-out water shoe.  Then, you hand the Omni over to Carroll Shelby.  Early Omni GLH (unofficially Goes Like Hell) cars weren’t turbocharged, but by the mid-1980’s, America was becoming obsessed with the turbocharger.  So, by the mid-1980’s, the Omni GLH had enough punch to beat any VW GTI of the era.  For the 1986 model year only, 500 cars were further tweaked by Shelby to become the Omni GLHS (Goes Like Hell S’More), which was a 175-horsepower breadbox with more boost, better suspension, and factory options like a roll cage and heavy-duty oil cooler borrowed from the Ram 250 with the Cummins Diesel.  Quite possibly the best part of the GLHS:  The uprated top speed of the GLHS was too much for the regular 85 mph speedometer of the Omni, so Shelby simply added a sticker to the bottom of the gauge with increments up to 135 mph.
  • Shelby CSX-VNT:  Another Shelby creation was the CSX-VNT, which was based off of the homely Plymouth Sundance and Dodge Shadow.  Initially, the CSX-VNT packed 175 horsepower, and like the earlier GLHS, went like a bat out of hell.  Shelby built a small run of 1,001 cars for the Thrifty rental car company with slightly less power.  In the final year of CSX-VNT production, 1989, the CSX-VNT included some new, unique technology previously only seen on race cars – variable turbine geometry.  Computer-controlled vanes moved to direct the hot exhaust gas stream to improve spool-up time.  While it’s power rating remained the same at 175 horsepower, it had dramatically better response time in the low end, virtually eliminating turbo lag.  The next time this technology would show up in the U.S. market would be in 2011, with the 997-generation Porsche 911 Turbo.  That was more than 15 years later.
  • GMC Syclone:  In 1990, Gale Banks Engineering cracked the 200-mph mark at the Bonneville Salt Flats in a compact GMC pickup truck with no turbocharger or supercharger.  In 1991, the streetable version of that high-powered pickup showed up on dealer lots.  It’s 4.3-liter Vortec V6 engine was turbocharged with the help of Gale Banks himself.  It came standard with ABS and AWD, neither of which were options on the S15 Sonoma.  You couldn’t haul much with the Syclone, unfortunately, as it was only rated to haul 500 pounds.  Too bad, but you could still fill the bed with the egos of every single Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati driver on the road.  This all-black, one-year-only mini-truck was the fastest-accelerating production vehicle in America for a few years, easily getting off of the line, thanks to the torque-rich engine and AWD.  It got to 60 mph somewhere in the low 4-second range.
  • GMC Typhoon:  A spin-off of the one-year-only Syclone, the Jimmy-bodied Typhoon was officially rated at 280 horsepower, though dyno tests showed that it made at least that at the wheels, meaning that it made somewhere around 320 horsepower at the crank.  It could easily beat a Ferrari 348 off of the line and up to about 70 mph, when the 348 really got into the powerband.  Just under 5,000 Typhoons were made between 1992-1993, and unlike the black-only Syclone, could be bought in a variety of colors.  In fact, Clint Eastwood used to drive a Forest Green Typhoon around in his Dirty Harry days, where he would pull up to a stoplight and ask punks if they felt lucky. Most thought they were going to beat some middle-aged guy in his SUV with their Mustang or import car.
  • Dodge Neon SRT4:  In 2003, Chrysler/Dodge’s Street Racing Technology (SRT) team got hold of the friendly-faced Neon subcompact car, and built what is still the car to beat for bang-for-your-buck performance.  A frog-eyed four-door sedan with a functional front-mounted intercooler peeking out of the grille, the tiny Neon made mincemeat out of everything from a Porsche Boxster to a Nissan 350Z.  Dodge claimed 230 horsepower, though dyno testing showed that the car made at least that much, if not more at the wheels.  This means that the engine was making close to 280 horsepower at the crank.  Something else that is cool about the Neon SRT4 is the fact that it doesn’t have a muffler on it.  This allows it to have vastly better turbo flow.  Resonators keep the volume semi-sane, but the Neon really makes a lot of noise when you give it some go-juice.
  • Chevrolet SS Turbocharged:  Initially available only as a supercharged coupe, the Cobalt SS was always OK in performance testing, but it wasn’t going to set any records.  Starting in 2009, the Cobalt SS came as either a sedan or coupe with a turbocharger bolted onto a small four-cylinder engine.  It made 260 horsepower.  Should you want a cool sleeper, if you aren’t afraid of the ignition recall, you can get a Cobalt SS, take the badges off, swap the big chrome rims for something more discreet (like the regular Cobalt rims), and you’d have the makings of a good sleeper.  It had a no-lift-shift system – just keep your right foot floored so that you don’t loose boost – and you’ll see the quarter mile fly by in under 13 seconds, and will keep up with a Porsche 911 on a road course.  Take it out to the twisties out on the road, and you’ll be able to keep up with a motorcycle, thanks to the tiny size of the Cobalt.

1986 Ford Mustang SVO 1986 Shelby Omni GLHS 1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

1989 Shelby CSX-VNT 2004 Dodge Neon SRT4

 

1962 Oldsmobile F85 Jetfire 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Spyder Turbo

1987 Buick GNX

1989 Pontiac Trans Am 20th Anniversary Edition

1991 GMC Syclone 1992 GMC Typhoon

 

The Twenty Best Cars for Summer!

Summer is a great time of the year.  Should you happen to live near the beach or somewhere where you can cool off, go there!  Enjoy summer!  That’s what I’ve been doing! Have fun!  Anyhow, I have compiled a list of the top twenty cars for summer.  Some of these cars are great for tearing up your favorite isolated canyon road.  Others are great for getting to that one remote spot that your Porsche 911 just can’t go.  Others are great for driving long distances.  Some of those cruisers have big, loud V8’s so you can take opportunity of every inch of open highway and tunnel.  Some of these cars are convertibles, others are, well, I shouldn’t spoil it for you!

  1. Jeep Wrangler:  The Jeep Wrangler is a staple of summer.  Should you live near a beach where you can drive on the beach, nothing beats driving a Jeep with the top down, the windows down, and listening to your favorite music.  Nothing, absolutely nothing can beat the feel of a Jeep in it’s environment.  The Wrangler can be ordered as a two-door Jeep, or a four-door Jeep, if you need that extra space.  It’s got truly staggering off-road capability, timeless looks, and a thriving aftermarket.  Plus, there are many models of the Wrangler with varying price ranges for everybody!  Plus, you can’t buy a Jeep and leave it stock.  It’s just not what the Wrangler was intended for.
  2. Buick Enclave/Chevy Traverse/GMC Acadia:  Either of these three GM Lambda-class crossovers is an amazing SUV for a family.  They get decent mileage considering their intended function, have plenty of space for everybody, have one of the best rides out there, and have powerful engines!  We own a 2013 Enclave, and, man, I LOVE it!  It’s got all of the bells and whistles that I could ever imagine, and then some!  It’s spectacular on long road trips or doing light off-roading.  It just soaks up the bumps and is unfazed by anything.  It’s got superb visibility, and a bunch of safety nannies like blind-spot monitoring for those times when you just can’t see in that one spot, and got plenty of space and gadgets for every single person inside it’s sumptuous cabin.  I just can’t say enough good things about the Enclave!  If you’re on more of a budget, look at the Chevy Traverse.  The Acadia has much more truck-like looks, and is thus more intimidating when it comes up on your six.  That’s not to say that the Enclave isn’t.  It’s got a big ol’ honkin’ chrome grille that looks like it’s itching to eat small animals.  The one caveat that my dad has about it so far is the fact that a panel on the door gets dented easily on long road trips.  Other than that, I couldn’t want anything more out of the Enclave.  A job well done, GM.
  3. Dodge Challenger/Dodge Charger/Chrysler 300:  Chrysler/Dodge’s fullsize sedans and coupe are big, cushy cars that have been substantially updated.  The Challenger is great for those who want classic American looks, and a bunch of street appeal.  The Charger is good for those who need the extra rear seat space.  The 300 is good for those who crave that extra bit of luxury.  If you opt for the Challenger, any of the available models are fun cars, but if you road trip a lot, get the Challenger R/T with the 5.7 liter HEMI V8 and the six-speed manual.  If you don’t drive stick, don’t worry – the superb 8-speed automatic is there for you!  With the Charger, get the Charger SRT8 – it’s a sleeper!  It does look intimidating, but the SRT8 model can scoot on the straightaways and the corners!  None of the Chrysler/Dodge cars are battleships in the corners, but the SRT8 models have a tweaked suspension and a potent 392 cubic-inch HEMI V8 (6.4 liters).  Get the Chrysler 300S for looks and comfort.  It gets rid of or blacks out most of the chrome that the 300 is known for, which makes it absolutely intimidating and beautiful. The white paint is the best option for the 300S – it makes the blacked-out chrome stand out!  Plus, it comes with the powerful 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and the sweet 8-speed automatic.  Even the Challenger is able to swallow two large coolers, a duffel bag, and at least one small suitcase.  The backseat is large enough to take two full-size adults with ease, with three in a pinch.
  4. Ram 1500 EcoDiesel:  As if the Ram 1500 wasn’t a good enough truck to start off with, Ram decided to put a small diesel engine into the popular Ram 1500.  Not only is this a good idea, but it’s a good choice for those who haul or tow a lot, but don’t want to have to step up to a massive 2500-series pickup.  Plus, diesel engines are great for road tripping.  The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is the only half-ton pickup on the market with a diesel engine.  There are plenty of options available for the Ram 1500, many of which can send the price rocketing up well past $50,000.  It only comes as a crew cab with a six-foot bed or a five-foot bed, with 2WD or 4WD.  It comes with an 8-speed automatic standard, so you never have to worry about surfing that tsunami of torque.  If all of that wasn’t good enough for you, think about this – the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel was Motor Trend’s 2014 Truck of the Year.  It’s a repeat winner, as it won the 2013 TOTY as well.
  5. Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG:  AMG is and always has been known for making radically fast, fun cars with gobs of power.  With emissions regulations tightening every year, automakers are increasingly turning to turbochargers for performance and fuel economy.  The SL63 AMG has two massive turbochargers that make it an absolutely fun monster to drive, according to the grapevine.  Plus, who wouldn’t want to be swaddled in some of the finest leather on the market, along with the latest technology?  The SL63 looks absolutely evil and menacing in the triple black color, especially after sunset.  Even though it only seats two people, why not take a friend or the spouse, or even one of your kids (or your kid) out on a long, scenic drive.  The SL63 is great for high-speed cruising, but it can hold it’s own in the twisties.
  6. Ford F150 SVT Raptor:  If you’re an outdoorsy person who likes to take a lot of stuff with you when you go camping.  The Raptor is basically an off-road racing machine for the street.  It’s a big truck, though, but that doesn’t diminish the amount of fun you can have with this truck.  It’s the vehicle that I would take to get to my beach house right on the beach in Hawaii!  Or anywhere, for that matter.  It seats six, so it’s perfect to take the family or a few friends anywhere you want to go.  Think of it as a Jeep for those who need space.
  7. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray:  The Corvette Stingray is one of the most praised new sports cars out on the market.  It’s finally America’s sports car.  It’s also finally a true sports car.  It has a seven-speed manual, and for 2015, an 8-speed automatic.  It comes as either a convertible or a coupe with a targa top.  It may only seat two people, but that’s what a sports car is supposed to seat!  It’s got an engine note somewhere in between the thumping roar of a diesel V8 and the shriek of a NASCAR V8.  It’s beautiful sounding.  Plus, it comes in many beautiful colors, and the green color makes it look like it came from Italy.  It’s a good car to take a road trip in, especially with the comfortable sport seats.  You no longer are uncomfortable when you get out of a Corvette.
  8. Ram 2500 Power Wagon:  The Ram 2500 Power Wagon is basically the pickup that Jeep should have built.  It may be big, but that just means that you can take more stuff!  It’s got the burly 392 HEMI V8 (a slightly detuned version, but the same engine in all of the SRT products), 4WD, a beefy Aisin 6-speed automatic, and Dana-style locking axles front and rear.  Oh, and it’s got a pretty nice interior for a truck that is meant to take you dirty places.  This is the truck that I would use as a getaway truck when the apocalypse hits.  It also comes in some pretty cool colors like red with cool white graphics.  Think of it as a heavier-duty Ford F150 SVT Raptor.
  9. Jeep Grand Cherokee:  Any version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee is amazing, but the version with the EcoDiesel V6 or the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 is amazing.  Either of these engines are great for highway cruising, and both get decent, if not good fuel economy.  It’s got a bladder-busting 700+ miles of range with the diesel, which more than makes up for the high cost of diesel today.  The SRT8 version has the 392 HEMI V8, AWD, sport seats, and handles like a barrel full of fun.  It’s also passed Jeep’s rigorous off-road tests with flying colors, thanks to the standard air suspension.  Well, maybe not flying colors, but it passed.
  10. Cadillac CTS VSport:  It’s got an efficient, yet quick twin-turbocharged engine, a 6-speed automatic transmission, available AWD for those who need the grip in the snowbelt, heated/cooled/ventilated leather seats, amazing color choices, and, is, quite simply, one of the best cars that one can buy.  While it may be a couple of years before we see a 3rd-generation CTS-V, the CTS VSport will easily tide us over.  Plus, it looks absolutely gorgeous in any color or setting.
  11. Ford F350 Platinum:  This is probably one of the most luxurious trucks that one can go out and buy.  It comes standard with leather, navigation, heated front seats, mirrors, and even optional heated rear seats!  It comes with either a powerful 6.2-liter V8 or a thundering 6.7-liter “Scorpion” diesel V8 making 800 pound-feet of torque!  My dream F350 Platinum would be a 4X4 Crew Cab in red with the diesel, and just about every option available!  Why sacrifice for less luxury?  Plus, you can tow up to 30,000 pounds in sumptuous comfort!
  12. Ford Mustang Shelby GT500:  With a howling, screaming, yelling 662 horsepower out of an amazing-sounding 5.8-liter supercharged V8, the Shelby GT500 is the S197-generation Mustang to get.  Ford claims a top speed of 200+ mph, Motor Trend has seen 197 mph and still pulling, so I see no better way to find out the top speed than to take the GT500 to the Autobahn and see what it can really do!  Or, take it to legendary NASCAR superspeedways like Daytona International Speedway or Talladega International Superspeedway.  Or, take it to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and check it out there.  Better yet, take it to all three!  Or, you can simply tour Route 66 in it.
  13. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter:  I recently had the chance to drive a Sprinter, and, surprisingly, it was astonishingly easy and fun to drive!  It was a 12-seater van with a big air-conditioning unit on top, and the smaller 2.1-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel.  Truth be told, I’d get it the same way, as there really isn’t any need for the bigger 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6.  The four-cylinder engine gives it plenty of oomph, and according to the owner, it gets up to speed quickly, even with a bunch of people in the back.  The smaller engine gets up to 25 mpg on the highway, as well, so fill-ups are far and few between.  It’s got amazing visibility, thanks to the short, sloping hood and the gigantic greenhouse.  The one downside is that the sliding door is on the passenger side only, and looks like a guillotine coming towards you when it’s going downhill.
  14. Mazda MX-5 Miata:  The Mazda Miata is a cute little roadster meant to put the biggest smile ever on the driver and passenger!  It’s formula is simple and has been proven true for decades.  It’s got a manual transmission, light weight, a fuel-efficient, relatively powerful four-cylinder engine, two seats, and enough bells and whistles to keep you satisfied.  Plus it gives you and everybody who sees one a big, goofy grin.  You can’t beat that!  The Miata is just instantly likeable and fun.  It’s a hoot to drive on a track, but driving it hard on a road with a lot of straight areas will not get you up to 150 mph.  It’s the curvy parts of the road where the Miata will embarrass many cars triple it’s price.  Plus, it’s extremely affordable, comes with a lot of inexpensive options, and is reliable.  Why mess with that?  British roadsters from the 1960’s and 1970’s had that formula except for reliability in spades.  It’s what made them so popular.
  15. Cadillac ATS:  The Cadillac ATS isn’t Cadillac’s flagship.  It doesn’t need to be.  But, it was Cadillac’s second best-selling car last year to the Escalade.  It’s the most affordable new Cadillac, and to this day, driving a Cadillac means success.  It starts off at around $34,000, so it’s in reach of a lot of folks.  The model that I would want is a 2.0T with the Technology and Luxury packages.  That’s all that I would really need.  Should you want more, Cadillac is more than happy to sell you more expensive options.
  16. Ferrari FF:  It’s the first Ferrari ever with AWD, so you can travel in the snow, do light off-roading (gravel roads and the like), and take three passengers in comfort and beauty.  It’s got a V12 making 651 horsepower, a quick-shifting 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, and Ferrari’s Haldex-based AWD system.  One of the few downsides is that you are heading into unknown territory because of the AWD system.  Another downside is that the infotainment system is based off of an already-dated Chrysler system from circa 2011.  If you can live with the FF’s faults, it’s a great car.  But, that’s true about any car.
  17. Dodge Durango:  This midsize SUV is quite possibly one of the best vehicles ever for a road trip.  It simply pushes any road imperfection back down into the road.  It can seat up to 8 people comfortably and still carry a good deal of luggage.  It comes with two powerful engines; a 3.6-liter “Pentastar” V6 or a 5.7-liter HEMI V8.  Either of these engines are extremely good, reliable, economical engines, but I think that the best engine is the Pentastar V6, as it provides enough power for freeway driving, city driving, hilly driving, and towing.  If you tow a lot, go with the 5.7-liter HEMI V8, otherwise, stick with the Pentastar V6.
  18. Bentley Continental GT V8 S:  Bentley made a massive resurgence in 2006 with the new Continental GT.  Since then, it has morphed into the Toyota Camry of Beverly Hills.  It now has a powerful W12 engine or a powerful V8 engine.  The W12 engine is great, but it adds a lot of weight to the front, and drinks gas like beer on a Friday night.  The V8 is a fabulous engine that doesn’t sacrifice too much performance getting the 5,000+ pound Continental GT V8 S up to speed.  Plus, it comes with an amazing 8-speed automatic.  Since the V8 is far lighter than the W12, it makes the car handle much better.  It shaves almost 250 pounds from the engine difference alone.  Overall, weight savings are close to 500 pounds, so the Continental GT V8 S is obviously the weapon of choice for track days or windy roads.  It’s got a cushy ride when cruising, so you’ll get there in comfort.  Then, you can unleash the twin-turbocharged fury that is the GT V8 S.
  19. Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible:  This is the most powerful Chevrolet Camaro convertible ever.  It makes 580 horsepower from it’s supercharged LSA engine, which is just a detuned version of the 638-horsepower LS9 motor found in the beastly C6 Corvette ZR1.  It’s got either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.  Getting the convertible eliminates the bunker-like visibility that the Camaro coupe is known for, plus you get a nice tan driving a convertible.  It has some pretty big, cool wheels, an exhaust note that sounds like it belongs to a Top Fuel Funny Car, and looks that are pretty amazing, if I say so myself.
  20. Honda Accord Hybrid:  This is Honda’s second attempt at building an Accord Hybrid.  So far, it seems to be more successful than Honda’s first attempt from 2005-2006.  It’s got decent power, plenty of inexpensive, good options, and a base price that is affordable to many.  I’m sure that it is a good interstate cruiser because it has a powerful four-cylinder engine with Honda’s VTEC technology, a CVT, and an electric motor that helps boost power when the gas pedal gets pushed in more than 50%.  I’m also positive that it’s good around town, because the gas engine doesn’t kick in until you’re going above 35 mph.  It’s got a range close to 650 miles, so you’ll have to go to the bathroom before the car needs to get filled up.