Some of the Most Amazing American Race Cars

Racing is in America’s blood. We started off racing horses, which is still one of the most profitable forms of betting to this day. We also love boat racing, whether it be sailboats or motor boats. We also love racing planes. It should only seem logical that we decided to race cars when they came out.

Our country has created some of the boldest, most successful and boldest racecars in history. These cars are some of my personal favorites, and they only scratch the surface of America’s storied racing heritage.

  • Chaparral 2E: Chaparral’s 2D was a very successful racing chassis, the 2J earned immortality thanks to it’s snowmobile-engine-driven suction fans. The 2D was better than both combined. It ushered in the aerodynamics era thanks to it’s driver-adjustable rear wing (which was adjusted via a pedal in the cockpit) and it’s side-pod mounted water cooling system. It was pure Texan ingenuity. Every modern race car owes at least something to the Chaparral 2E.chaparral-2e-03
  • 1967 Gurney Eagle-Weslake Mk. 1: Dan Gurney was a true American racing pioneer. This is what I view to be his masterpiece. He also won a Formula 1 race in this car. That’s about as good as it gets, but I still love this car to pieces. The tiny 11,000 RPM V12 and styling that looks like a shark and torpedo are just icing on the cake.gurneyeagleweslakemk1
  • Lotus 56: It’s not just another turbine-powered IndyCar. It was a car that solidified the basic shape of most high-level race cars from 1967 on out. It sent the cigar shape packing. It also had a one-speed automatic and AWD. While turbines and AWD would be banned from future IndyCar seasons, the shape remained and evolved. Even though it’s got a Lotus name and Peter Chapman modifications, it’s still basically an all-American STP-Paxon car.lotus56
  • 2016 Ford GT GTE: There was no doubt in any car or race fan’s mind when this car rained on every other car’s parade at the Detroit Auto Show this year. It’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 has been proven in the TUDOR Championship series, Chip Ganassi Racing has had lots of success racing Fords and is ready for a new challenge, and what might be most important to those automotive fans who like to cook (like me) is the fact that the rear diffuser is big enough to chiffonade an acre of potatoes without trying. The fact that it is dressed up in a very patriotic livery makes it just that much more amazing.fordgtgte
  • Dodge Viper GTS-R Mk. 1: The original Dodge Viper GTS-R immediately proved that a big V10 is an essential asset in endurance racing. On it’s third outing at Le Mans, the SRT Motorsports team took a class win in 1998. Again in 1999 and 2000. You can’t forget the overall wins at the Nurburgring, Daytona, Spa, and the five (yes, five) FIA GT and two ALMS championships. Plus, the fact that it was incredibly intimidating helped.dodgevipergtsrmk1
  • Corvette Racing’s C5.R, C6.R, and C7.R: For 17 years, The Corvette Racing team has put three generations of increasingly amazing Corvette race cars on the track. All have had an “.R” designation, except the first, which was a “-R.” They have proved themselves multiple times. 1999 marked the first year of the C5-R, which snatched three class wins at Le Mans (among many other wins). The C6.R took seven thundering liters of American muscle around the world, and won many races. The C7.R just grabbed the GTE Pro class win at Le Mans, and that was one of it’s first races!corvettec5-rcorvettec6.rcorvettec7.r
  • Panoz LMP-1 and LMP07: Many, many years before Nissan’s GT-R LM caused folks to scratch their heads as to why a front-engine endurance race car is a good idea, Panoz’s LMP-1 Roadster S and it’s less successful sibling LMP07 proved to the world that an endurance racing prototype does not need to carry their engine behind the driver. Neither car was wildly successful, but the LMP-1 certainly got into a few good battles with the BMW V12 LMRs and Ferrari 333 SPs to snag the 1999 ALMS team championship.panozlmp-1panozlmp07
  • Ford 999: Henry Ford should go down in the history books as a stark raving lunatic (for several reasons) because he took the crude, incredibly dangerous 18.9-liter Ford 999 racecar to 92 mph (the equivalent of somebody taking a car to 300 mph today) – a world record – on a frozen lake. The frozen lake was the only place large enough to get the car up to that speed. It made a whopping 80 horsepower, a lot of noise, and had killed a man a year before. It was a brutish, outrageous car that put Ford on the map, even if he became known for utilitarian and economical Model T’s and the now-legendary 1932 Ford.ford999
  • DeltaWing: No other American creation has so upset the normality of what race cars should look like as the Ben Bowlby-designed, Panoz-managed, Gurney’s All-American Racers-built DeltaWing. The car drastically reduced frontal area to reduce drag and fuel consumption. It worked, and even sparked a copycat (the Nissan ZEOD RC), even though it didn’t achieve any incredible success.deltawing
  • Cadillac ATS-V.R: Cadillac attained massive success for ten years with the CTS-V.R in the Pirelli World Championship Series. Now it’s the turn for the ATS-V.R to take the reins. It’s got some big shoes to fill. It’s got a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V6 making somewhere around 600 horsepower that sits somewhere between the massive fender flares and the huge extractor hood. Between this car and the Ford GT GTE, it looks like most, if not all, future American race cars will have forced induction engines.cadillacats-v.r
  • Swift 007.i: The year 1997 was a lucky year. The team owned by Paul Newman and Carl Haas stopped running a Lola chassis, and switched to a chassis made by the American company Swift. The car had a Ford Cosworth engine, Goodyear tires, and an all-American driver in Michael Andretti. I should probably mention that it won it’s first-ever race outing. Talk about coming in with style. Oh, and I was born that year.swift007.1
  • Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe: This is quite possibly one of the most beautiful cars ever made, as well as one of the most successful. Carroll Shelby needed to make the already-successful Cobra 427 faster, but that meant he needed a more aerodynamic body. He brought on legendary designer Peter Brock, who helped design the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Brock designed a flowing, muscular body that still looks like nothing else on the track. The result was a smashing success. The car won the 24 Hours of Daytona, Le Mans, Spa, and countless other races.shelbycobradaytonacoupe
  • Dodge Daytona/Plymouth Superbird: Mopar’s “Winged Warriors” made aero cars illegal in NASCAR. That should be telling as to how good those cars were. They packed quite the punch with their 426 HEMI engines and special aerodynamics packages. NASCAR outlawed aero cars after 1970. Buddy Baker campaigned a Daytona through 1970, and Richard Petty had one of his most dominant years in 1970 with his Superbird. It’s also one of the most iconic race cars ever.dodgedaytonaplymouthsuperbird
  • 1966 Chevrolet Corvette: The 1966 Chevrolet Corvette is one of the best race cars Chevrolet ever had. It had a walloping punch with it’s 427 cubic-inch big block V8, with the code-name L-88. This engine made any car it was in a true monster. It’s still fast enough to show a modern NASCAR stock car how it’s done on a road course. It’s like carving a statue with a hydraulic shovel. 1966chevroletcorvettel88

The Vehicles That Forever Changed the Automotive Landscape

These are not the best cars ever made.  Rather, they are the cars that have shaped modern cars.  I hope that you enjoy my list.  Please share any corrections if you feel necessary.

  • Ford Model T:  This was the car that made the production line possible.  It was also the car that made cars affordable to the American public.  Ford produced well over 15 million of them before production ended in 1927.  They are fairly simple to own, and they can keep up with city traffic if you want.  With so many built, there are many clubs and associations for the Model T all over the country.  Just look up “Ford Model T club <insert your area here>” on Google.  I can practically guarantee you that there is at least one club that you can join if you are the new owner of a Model T.  People drive them all over the place on tours.  You can take one into Alaska if you so please.  There are always plenty for sale anywhere between $10,000-40,000.  If you want to daily drive one, all you need is a good arm to crank-start it, and some adjustments to the timing.  Just retard the timing a big, be gentle with the gas, and you’ll have a car that gets up to 35 mph.  That’s plenty good for most city driving.
  • 1916 Cadillac Type 53:  Every single modern car owes a lot to this Caddy.  It was the first car EVER to come from the factory with an electric starter and a modern control layout, both of which we take for granted today.  The Type 53 wasn’t popular with Americans or the world, mostly because of it’s price (about $3,000).  However, the Austin Seven copied the Caddy and set the die for all cars to come.  Yet, I still credit the Cadillac.
  • 1932 Ford:  This was the first affordable car available to the American public with a V-8 engine.  It had a flathead V-8 making a whopping 85 horsepower.  Today, that’s comparable to a car making 500 horsepower from a V-6 (not unheard of).  Anyhow, it was affordable to some Americans.  It became known as “The Deuce,” as did the third-generation Chevrolet Nova.  It was the fastest affordable car of it’s day, which is why it was the escape vehicle of choice for Bonnie and Clyde.  It’s unclear how many were made, but it’s estimated that well over 1.5 million were sold.  Remember that Ford was selling these cars in 1932, right before the peak of the Great Depression!  It became one of the most popular cars to hot rod.  I want one, and we can call ourselves lucky that there are reproduction steel bodies, chassis (yes, that is plural and singular), and used engines aplenty.  How’s that for cool?  You can build your very own reproduction Deuce for about $20,000.  It’s going to be so much more fun than that Corolla you’ve had your eye on.
  • Willys/Bantam/Ford Jeep:  WWII veterans say that the Jeep was the vehicle that won WWII.  They are right.  It can still embarrass most purpose-built vehicles on a dirt road or in mud.  It was the first 4X4 to be sold to the American public en masse, and it proved to be popular.  After WWII, Willys decided to market the Jeep as an alternative to a tractor for farmers.  Chrysler still rakes in hundreds of millions on new Jeep Wranglers every year.  It’s truly an iconic vehicle.
  • 1948 MG TC:  This little wood-framed British roadster is what allowed such amazing cars as the Lotus Elise, Mazda Miata, and even the mighty Shelby Cobra to be.  Every single great American racing legend – Carroll Shelby, Phil Hill, Richie Ginther, and many others got their start in an MG TC.  On a winding road, this little car that only made 55 horsepower and 64 lb-ft of torque would simply run away from any American car, regardless of power output.  Much of what we hold dear as an automotive enthusiast was started by this little car.  It’s influence on every single sports car from 1948 on is immeasurable.  It’s still fast enough to embarrass a modern Chevy Camaro Z/28 on a windy road.  That’s pretty damn fast for a car that makes 450 less horsepower.
  • VW Beetle Type 1:  It’s the single most-produced car in history.  It’s an elegantly simple design that has stood the test of time better than most cars produced at the same time.  It was the foundation for the legendary Porsche 356, Meyers Manx dune buggy, and VW Transporter bus.  It was FWD, came as either a convertible or a coupe, had a tiny rear-mounted four-cylinder engine, and cost far less than any new American car on the road.  It became extremely popular with people of all ages and demographics.  Many new parents went out and bought a Beetle, and it would serve millions of families around the world faithfully for 20 years or more without major problems.  Most new cars can’t say that.  In the hippie movement, it became extremely popular.  Once the off-roading community got their hands on one, the legendary Baja Bug was born.  It is still fast enough to keep pace with a modern Trophy Truck in the horrible dirt roads of Baja, or the sand dunes of Pismo Beach.  Almost every desert town in the world will have at least several Baja Bugs running around.  It’s fast, sturdy, and capable, yet can be driven around town without complaining.  And the best part is you can build yourself one for about $5,000!  That’s not including a starter vehicle, by the way!  My grandparents owned one.  You probably know somebody who’s owned one.
  • Toyota 2000GT:  This was the car that put the Japanese automotive industry on notice with the world.  It was a more expensive alternative to the Jaguar E-Type, Chevrolet Corvette, Ford Thunderbird, Porsche 911, and the like.  It’s achingly gorgeous, and only a handful were built.  It’s also achingly expensive.  Toyota proved that they could hang with whatever Europe happened to build.  James Bond drove one.
  • Lamborghini Miura:  It’s not the quintessential Lamborghini – that goes to the equally-amazing Countach, but it set the standard for supercars.  It came around because Ferrucio Lamborghini wanted to build a better Ferrari.  When Lamborghini was going to debut the Miura concept car at the Geneva Motor Show in 1965, they didn’t even have a body!  They had a chassis with a V-12, a transmission, and wheels.  That was it.  However, the Miura looks absolutely stunning.  It’s one of the most beautiful cars ever built, and every single supercar owes a lot to the Lamborghini Miura.
  • Citroen DS:  When it debuted in 1955, it was the most technologically-advanced car in the world.  It had hydraulic suspension, a streamlined fiberglass body shell, four wheel disc brakes, a twin-cam V6, and many other technological innovations.  It was one of the first truly modern cars.  One can compare it to the Tesla Model S.  That’s how revolutionary it was.
  • 1955-1957 Chevrolet 210/Bel Air:  The Tri-Five Chevrolet’s are some of the most beautiful cars ever produced.  My personal favorite is the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air coupe.  The 1955 Chevy became forever immortalized with Two Lane Blacktop and American Graffiti.  Yes, the sinister ’55 is the same car in both movies!  The 1955 Chevrolet introduced the revolutionary Chevrolet small-block (Mouse motor) V-8 to the world.  The 1957 Chevy Bel Air with the 283 cubic-inch V-8 and Rochester mechanical fuel injection became legendary on NASCAR tracks and dragstrips around the country.  It was as fast the Jaguar E-Type 10 years later.  I’m still wanting one!
  • Austin Mini:  Alec Issigonis sketched it on a bar napkin.  He never knew that it would become one of the most popular vehicles of the 20th century.  Let’s forget that it’s a cultural icon for a moment.  It was the first FWD car to come with a transversely-mounted engine (the engine was mounted sideways), which means that it’s the template for most FWD cars on the road today.  It became a motorsports icon in everything from endurance racing to rally racing.  It also became iconic in several movies – The Italian Job, The Bourne Identity, Mr. Bean, and Goldmember.  It’s also a major cultural icon.
  • Ford Explorer:  This was the vehicle that kicked off the SUV craze of the 1990s-today.  It was based off of the lowly Ranger pickup, but had a comfortable interior and the second generation had good looks.  It’s still a best-seller today.  It’s popular with the off-road community because it’s a Ranger with more space for people.  My parents owned one.  You probably know somebody who’s owned one.
  • Shelby Cobra:  Yeah it’s an obvious one for this list.  Carroll Shelby took a British roadster, and put a small-block Ford motor from the Mustang into it.  Then, he went hog-wild and put a big-block Ford into it.  That catapulted the Shelby Cobra into automotive fame.  Anybody who knows something about cars knows of the Shelby Cobra.  It could hang with anything.  It could beat a Chevrolet Corvette with the coveted L88 big-block V-8 in the curves and straightaways.  It dominated endurance and road racing for a glorious 3 years before Shelby stopped production of it.  It also dominated the NHRA Pro Stock drag racing class for a few years.  Today, there are at least 20 different companies who will sell you a Cobra replica.  Get a Factory Five replica.  It’s Shelby of North America licensed, and it comes with modern mechanical parts, yet can still hang with a modern hypercar.  
  • Chevrolet El Camino:  In it’s first generation, it was quite a looker.  Chevy didn’t sell too terribly many of the Impala-based ute, but you’ve probably seen a few driving around your town/city.  The second generation proved to be much more popular.  It was based off of the massively popular Chevelle, and you could get one with the rare, coveted LS6 V-8.  I remember reading an article about an owner of an LS6 Elco (a nickname for the El Camino), and he said that he has to drive it around with sandbags in the bed to keep it from spinning out.  That’s what happens when you have a massively-underrated 450 horsepower and no weight over the rear tires.  If you could get it to hook up, it would go through the 1/4 mile in 13 seconds flat at 125 mph.  That’s about as fast as a modern sports car.  I’ve heard driving one isn’t any different than driving a Chevelle, except for throttle modulation.  Flooring it from a stop, even with the still-powerful 327 cubic-inch V-8 will give a glorious burnout.  I want one.
  • 1968-1970 Dodge Charger/Charger 500/Daytona:  The second-generation Dodge Charger is one of the most beautiful cars ever built.  It’s got muscular elegance.  It had curvy “Coke Bottle” styling, and a plethora of engine choices.  The base engine was the “poly” 318 cubic-inch small-block V-8 that stayed in production in one form or another from 1959-2004.  The next step up was the 383 cubic-inch “Commando” big-block V-8.  After that, it was the 440 “Super Commando” big-block V-8.  One rung above that was the 440 Six Pack – a 440 with three two-barrel Holley carburetors.  The top of the ladder was the mighty 426 HEMI “Elephant Motor” big-block V-8.  The Charger 500 was designed for NASCAR, so it had a rear window flush with the body, along with other small aero modifications.  The Daytona was truly legendary.  Only 503 were sold to the general public, only 70 of which had the 426 HEMI.  The rest had the 440 Six Pack.  It was designed for NASCAR superspeedways, and it truly dominated.  It looked comical with it’s 19-inch long nose cone and nearly two-foot tall rear wing.  The only reason the wing was so high is that anything shorter and the trunk wouldn’t close! The Charger was catapulted into fame by The Dukes of Hazzard for one generation, and for the millenials, they were captivated by the supercharged 1968 Charger used in Fast & Furious.
  • Datsun 240Z:  This little Japanese sports car wasn’t a smashing success, but it certainly left it’s mark on sports cars.  It was light, looked drop-dead gorgeous, had a reliable, powerful engine, and a five-speed manual transmission.  Very few cars at the time had a five-speed.  All of that combined meant that it was a serious threat on a windy road.  Today, they are becoming collector cars, which is a shame, as they are built to be driven.  That’s not to be said that you can’t find a cheap one – you still can.  Hot rodders who are enamored by Japanese cars, but love the power of an American V-8 put a Chevy small-block V-8 and some suspension bits in, and have one hell of a ride.  My grandparents and dad owned one.
  • Audi Quattro:  This AWD notchback with a turbocharged 5-cylinder engine was so successful on the rally circuit that AWD was banned from the sport for about 10 years.  Stock, it’s not at all reliable (except for the first two years of production), but upgrading the engine internals will give you a strong, reliable, fast, and cool daily driver.  It’s truly an all-weather car.  I chose this car because of the impact that it had on rallycross and rally racing.  Any car with AWD past 1985 would have been much worse if it weren’t for the Audi Quattro.  My uncle owned one.  He should have kept it and given it to me.
  • Ford Mustang:  This was the car that started the ponycar craze.  No matter how much Ford hypes it as a muscle car (and Chevy with the Camaro), it IS NOT and never will be.  It is a pony car.  The Dodge Challenger is a muscle car.  Sorry Ford, but I’m just stating the truth.  Don’t shoot the messenger.  That being said, Ford introduced a whole new type of car to America.  Buying a Mustang with the base six-cylinder engine meant that you were carefree but had to watch your cash.  Getting it with the V-8 meant that you were carefree, but who cared about money – you only live once!  Getting it as a convertible only reinforced that.  The Shelby GT350 Mustang of 1965 was part of a deal with Hertz where you could rent the car on Friday, drive it to the racetrack on Saturday, race and win, go again on Sunday and win, and then drive it back to the rental lot.  It was somewhat streetable, but it really did well on the racetrack.  Carroll Shelby originally didn’t want to do it – he told Lee Iaccoca that “Lee, you can’t make a racehorse out of a mule.”  Yet that so-called mule became a massive racing success.  It’s still in production 50 years later.  Many American moms went from a station wagon to a Mustang and never looked back.
  • Pontiac GTO:  Originally offered as a package on the mid-size Tempest in 1963, the GTO took the thundering 389 cubic-inch V-8 from the Le Mans and shoved it into the considerably smaller Tempest.  It was a smashing success, so Pontiac decided to turn it into it’s own model in 1964.  It was much more popular that way, and the ultimate model was the 1969 Judge Ram Air IV.  It came with the then-new 455 cubic-inch V-8 and a functional Ram Air hood (the Ram Air package came in four stages), a Muncie M-22 “Rock Crusher” transmission, and bodywork that let you know that you really were king of the street.  It was truly stunning, especially in green.  It went dormant for 20+ years before appearing as a rebadged Holden Monaro in the US.  It wasn’t very popular.  It’s probably because Ford launched the retro-styled S197-generation Mustang right around the same time.  The 2004-2006 GTO looked nothing at all like any other GTO.  It didn’t look very good.  Nowadays, the modern “Goat” is popular with hot rodders who want to have all of the modern conveniences and glorious power.  Some even take the body off of the GTO and put on a classic car’s body.  Voila, you have a car that looks like a classic, but handles and drives like a new car.  Plus, they are easy to put bigger engines in.  Drifters are starting to find them.  Beware.
  • Lexus LS400:  This big Lexus was the car that sent Germany scrambling back to the drawing board.  The LS400 competed with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series.  The German cars were stodgy cruisers that were heavy, large beasts on the street, but smooth on the highway.  The Lexus took that trademark Japanese agility and feeling of being a smaller car, threw in a buttery-smooth engine and transmission (the ads showed a champagne flute on the hood while the engine revved.  The champagne never overflowed – or came close to that!), a sumptuous leather interior, and made it a fun car to drive.  Lexus kept it in production from 1989-2000 in one basic form or another.  It sold well, and is a completely bulletproof car in terms of reliability.
  • Chevrolet S-10:  OK, I am a bit biased on this, but hear me out.  The Chevrolet S-10 replaced the dismal LUV pickups of the 1970s in 1982.  It came with an underpowered 4-cylinder engine or a more powerful 2.8-liter V-6.  In 1988, Chevy added their new 4.3-liter V-6 to the S-10.  It literally doubled the towing and hauling capacity, as well as making it a far more enjoyable truck to drive.  My S-10 is a 1989 Tahoe model.  That means that it was top of the line.  It has a cloth interior, an AM/FM radio, air conditioning, and it has fuel injection (the 1988 model had a carburetor).  You could get it as a regular cab or an extended cab.  Bed sizes were a 5-foot bed or a 6.5-foot bed. That’s not huge, but for somebody in a crowded city who needs a pickup, it’s perfect.  You could get it in 2WD or 4WD.  Mine is 2WD.  It was wildly successful, and you can still see a lot on the road.  Some people are taking modern Chevy LS3 E-Rod engines (smog-legal V-8’s) and stuffing them into an S-10.  They’re quite the sleeper.
  • Porsche 911 Turbo:  When it first debuted in 1975, it was a total animal of a car.  Lift off of the gas going into a corner, and you’d hit the guardrail with the backside of the car.  You had to keep your foot in it.  It made an underrated 276 horsepower (think closer to 350), had no ABS, a clutch that was so stiff that some had to literally push their leg down to depress the clutch, and a 5-speed manual transmission.  It was a total monster of a car that dominated the racing circuits, but was completely and totally unstreetable.  But, put one on a windy canyon road, modulate the throttle, and you had a recipe for speed.  Porsche still makes it.  However, it now makes a ridiculous 520 horsepower, and is truly the ultimate all-weather supercar.
  • Ford GT40:  This was the car that dominated endurance racing during the 1960’s.  It was the result of Enzo Ferrari refusing to sell his company to Ford in 1964.  Henry Ford II decided to beat Enzo Ferrari at his own game on his own turf.  Talk about owning a bully.  The GT40 was aerodynamic, muscular-looking, and was built for racing.  Ford built about 20-40 for the street (it’s unclear how many).  The first models came with a Shelby-tuned 289 cubic-inch V-8 that made 300 horsepower via a tri-power (three two-barrel carburetor) setup and forged internals and an Isky cam.  This engine was so durable that when Ford disassembled the engine after the season was over, it looked brand-new.  Later models came with Ford’s mighty 427 cubic-inch FE-Series “Cammer” engine.  This engine was the same one in the Shelby Cobra.  It made about 500 horsepower.  Both engines were mated to a four-speed manual.  The GT40 simply dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 24 Hours of Nurburgring.  It was insanely fast, and it could be heard from over a mile away.  It beat Ferrari at their own game for years, before the FIA changed the rules, and both Ferrari and Ford had to comply.  Ford pulled out of Le Mans endurance racing for 20+ years and let Ferrari dominate.

 

 

 

Yes, that is a young Harrison Ford standing next to one of the most iconic hot rods ever.  It’s a 1932 Ford Hi-Boy (the body was lifted off of the frame so the frame could be tweaked).  It has a Chevy 283 cubic-inch small-block V-8 with crackling sidepipes.  This was the car that made me appreciate the little deuce coupe.

This is a fuelie 1957 Chevy Bel Air.  It became known as the “Black Widow” because it only came in black with white tape stripes, a black-and-white interior, and the red center caps on the wheels.

This is a gasser.  Gassers got their name because of the drag racing class they were in (B/Gas or blown/gas).  They had big engines with no supercharger, or smaller supercharged engines.  Look up “Roadkill Blasphemi” on YouTube for the build and cross-country blitz of one of my favorite cars – “Blasphemi.”

This is probably the ultimate Shelby Cobra.  It’s called the “Super Snake” because it has twin superchargers on top of an already-powerful engine.  Bill Cosby almost bought one, but took it on a test drive and thought he was going to die.  Carroll Shelby bought it.  Only two were made, but it was incredibly fast.  It’s rumored that in testing the car hit 210 mph – in 1966!  To me, it’s the ultimate factory hot rod.

This is a 1969 Dodge Daytona replica made by a host of the /DRIVE Network, Mike Musto.  It’s one of my favorite cars ever.  He took a 1969 Charger and turned it into a Daytona.  It’s the ultimate cross-country cruiser.  Just looking at it sends shivers down my spine.

The only stock part about this Mustang is the roof, A-pillar, and C-pillar.  It’s the latest creation from the brilliantly mad folks at RTR and Hoonigan.  Ken Block had it built.  It’s got a stroked NASCAR-spec engine that makes 850 horsepower that goes to all four wheels.  That’s right, this car is AWD.  You need to watch “Gymkhana 7” if you haven’t already.  It’s simply amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Was Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins?

For those of us who grew up watching drag races in the 1960’s-early 1980’s, the name Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins should sound more than familiar to you.  It would be like asking a politics addict who was the president at the time of the Watergate scandal.  Grumpy Jenkins is just that legendary.

While Grumpy Jenkins may have won ONLY 13 NHRA titles as a driver during his lengthy, legendary career, you’ll be hard-pressed to find somebody who had a more lasting impact on Super Stock and Pro Stock drag racing.  He was voted the 8th-best driver in the NHRA’s Top 50 list, because “no other individual has contributed more to the advancement of normally aspirated engines for quarter mile competition.”

William Jenkins was born in Philadelphia on December 30, 1930.  Bill quickly got his start turning wrenches on a neighbor’s tractor after his family moved to the more bucolic city of Downingtown, Pennsylvania.  By the time he reached high school, he was running the occasional drag race at the local drag strip, but it was more pastime than passion for him.  After graduation, Jenkins studied mechanical engineering at Cornell University, but dropped out after only 3 years in a 4 year program, after his father died.  By his own admission, he wasn’t much of a student.

While he may have lacked an aptitude for test-taking, it is eminently clear that he learned quite a bit during his time at Cornell.  When the Chevy small-block V8 debuted in 1955, it didn’t take long for Bill to realize that the engine had tons of potential for drag racing.  By the early 1960’s, he’d developed something of a cult following back east.  East coast drag racers knew that a Jenkins-built car with a Jenkins-built engine practically guaranteed you going home with a big, nice, shiny trophy strapped into the seat next to you.

His talents weren’t overlooked by GM, either.  In 1963, Bill and his partner, Dave Strickler, received the first factory lightweight Z-11 427 cubic-inch V8 Chevrolet Impala.  Carrying the same Old Reliable nickname worn proudly by the team’s previous Ammon Smith Auto Company-sponsored Chevrolet, the Jenkins-tuned Impala helped deliver a big, shiny trophy home in the Little Eliminator class at the 1963 NHRA Nationals.  The team’s relationship with Chevrolet likely would have given Chevrolet more trophies if it weren’t for the 1963 corporate ban on motorsports.  That ended what likely would have been an extremely-promising career with GM for Bill Jenkins and Dave Strickler.

In 1964 with GM out of the picture, Jenkins and Strickler turned to Dodge and their newly-released 426 HEMI.  They delivered Dodge a win at the 1964 Nationals at the A/FX class.  Jenkins then backed this up with an S/SA class win of his own at the 1965 Winternationals, behind the wheel of the Black Arrow, a 1965 Dodge that marked his transition from tuner to driver.  When he approached Chrysler in 1966 to extend the deal, neither party could come to terms with each other on a deal, so he returned to drag racing a Chevrolet (specifically a 1966 Chevrolet II) for the 1966 season.

Since GM still wasn’t sanctioning motorsports, Jenkins funded the effort on his own, via whatever sponsorships he could scrounge up.  The car was the first to carry the Grumpy’s Toy moniker.  It wasn’t long before his efforts came to the attention of Chevrolet’s Vince Piggens, then the head of Chevrolet’s performance efforts.  Racing was still forbidden fruit, but nothing in the company’s rulebook prohibited Piggens from financially assisting Jenkins in the name of “Product Promotions Engineering.”

His Chevy II was a four-speed manual car, which meant that Jenkins had to turn his engineering prowess towards improving shifting and getting the power to the ground.  As he explained to the audience at his Top 50 induction, “We applied a lot of slick-shift technology to the transmissions and made good use of the slapper bar style of traction device originally used by Stahl and Frank Sanders. By the end of the year, I could dump the clutch at 6,000 RPM when most of the other guys had to feather the throttle on the seven-inch tires that we were restricted to.”

Such innovation became a hallmark of Jenkins-built cars and engines, and it was often said that he was happier winning races as a constructor and tuner than as a driver.  By the late 1960’s, he was active on both fronts, fielding as many as four team cars while driving a car of his own (usually a Camaro), and heads-up match races against drivers like Ronnie Sox and Don Nicholson became so popular with spectators that the NHRA created the Pro Stock category for the 1970 season.  Out of the gate, Jenkins won against Sox at the Winternationals and Gatornationals, but Chrysler closed the gap and became the brand to beat in the 1/4 mile.

When rule changes in 1972 allowed cars with small-block wedge engines to run at far lower weights than before, Jenkins was the first embrace the rule change.  He built his first Pro Stock Chevrolet Vega, which turned out to be the car to beat.  By the end of the 1972 season, Jenkins had won 6 out of 8 NHRA national events.  Factoring in race winnings and sponsorships, Jenkins earned $250,000 in income that year, rivaled only by NBA star Wilt Chamberlain.  This feat was good enough to earn Jenkins coverage in Time magazine, and suddenly the sport of NHRA drag racing had gone mainstream.

His second Vega, a 1974 Vega, dubbed Grumpy’s Toy XI, didn’t enjoy nearly the same success as his previous Vega, but went on to have a far more lasting impression on drag racing.  It featured Pro Stock firsts such as a full tube chassis, a dry sump oiling system, rack and pinion steering, and a MacPherson strut front suspension that added weight transfer to the rear tires, and it became the car that most Pro Stock cars are based off of today.

Accepting that he gained greater satisfaction as a constructor than as a driver, Jenkins hung up his Nomex in 1976 to focus on research and development. He remained a team owner through the 1983 season, but then shifted his attention to his Jenkins Competition business full-time, where he and his crew built engines for motorsports ranging from drag racing through stock car racing. Even into his mid-70s, Jenkins was said to be active building engines, undoubtedly running younger employees ragged with his focus and determination to address every detail, no matter how small. Eventually, even Jenkins’s tank ran dry, and he died of heart failure in March 2012 at the age of 81.  The nickname “Grumpy” came from a summer intern who called him the nickname because of his all-work, no-play attitude.

For me, it’s hard to imagine somebody who’s more legendary in that area of drag racing.

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

 

Out and About in Sonoma County and Oregon!

It’s been a while since I published an Out and About in Sonoma County.  However, that’s because I got some great pictures from Oregon AND Sonoma County!  I hope you enjoy them!  I will provide commentary on ALL of the cars – basically fun facts on them!  I also got some pictures from Mother’s Day Weekend up in Redding, CA.  Those are included as well.

This is my 300th post, so next week, I am doing a giveaway of a Roadkill hat!  Every reader or subscriber MUST leave a comment saying that they wish to be entered in the giveaway.  Remember, leave a comment to get a chance to win!

Oregon:  

The Ashland, Oregon ACE hardware store has this simply stunning 1950-52? Chevrolet 3100.  It's absolutely stunning.
The Ashland, Oregon ACE hardware store has this simply stunning 1950-52? Chevrolet 3100. It’s absolutely stunning.  The thing popping up right in front of the windshield is for the air conditioner.  It’s like the air grabber hoods on the hi-performance 1960’s Mopars – it pulls air in when the switch is flipped on.
I'm simply in love with the Harley-Davidson themed paint!  It really helps accentuate the beautiful lines on these old trucks.
I’m simply in love with the Harley-Davidson themed paint! It really helps accentuate the beautiful lines on these old trucks.
Are you a fan of a classic Vespa?  This stunning 1968 Vespa was for sale for a meager $6,000!  I was working on going 50/50 on it with my sister.  It didn't work.  It  has a 1971 engine for a bit more poewr and reliability.  The sidecar gives it a practical side...
Are you a fan of a classic Vespa? This stunning 1968 Vespa was for sale for a meager $6,000! I was working on going 50/50 on it with my sister. It didn’t work. It has a 1971 engine for a bit more poewr and reliability. The sidecar gives it a practical side…

20140606_123559

This is probably the best Jeep badge that the world has ever seen.  It may be a direct BMW rip-off, but whatever!
This is probably the best Jeep badge that the world has ever seen. It may be a direct BMW rip-off, but whatever!
This simply amazing Jeep Jeepster Commando was probably the nicest Jeep that I have ever seen - I don't care if it's 2WD or not!
This simply amazing Jeep Jeepster Commando was probably the nicest Jeep that I have ever seen – I don’t care if it’s 2WD or not!
How's this for cool?  I've never really seen a '32 Ford dirt track racer before, so this was a cool first for me!  I wasn't able to get closer to it, otherwise I would have done a separate blog post on it!  It was a very cool '32 Ford, though!
How’s this for cool? I’ve never really seen a ’32 Ford dirt track racer before, so this was a cool first for me! I wasn’t able to get closer to it, otherwise I would have done a separate blog post on it! It was a very cool ’32 Ford, though!

Sonoma County:  

 

How'd you like this to be in your rearview mirror?  Sorry if I just gave you nightmares...This 1971 Dodge Charger R/T is equipped with the 426 HEMI.  It doesn't get much better than that!
How’d you like this to be in your rearview mirror? Sorry if I just gave you nightmares…This 1971 Dodge Charger R/T is equipped with the 426 HEMI. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Man, this is just one of THE best engines in the world!  Let me tell you a funny story about this car and another car.  Somebody in a 1949 Chevy lowrider tried to do a burnout.  All he did was send a bunch of smoke out of his tailpipes.  The owner of this fine triple-black '71 Charger proceeded to do a burnout without really having to try too terribly hard right through an empty intersection!
Man, this is just one of THE best engines in the world! Let me tell you a funny story about this car and another car. Somebody in a 1949 Chevy lowrider tried to do a burnout. All he did was send a bunch of smoke out of his tailpipes. The owner of this fine triple-black ’71 Charger proceeded to do a burnout without really having to try too terribly hard right through an empty intersection!
If this doesn't make you drool, then I don't know what will!  This stunning 1970 Plymouth Superbird was SOOOOO cool!  It was in the Limelight Green color, along with the Super Commando 440 cubic-inch V8.  More to come on this iconic car.
If this doesn’t make you drool, then I don’t know what will! This stunning 1970 Plymouth Superbird was SOOOOO cool! It was in the Limelight Green color, along with the Super Commando 440 cubic-inch V8. More to come on this iconic car.
Yes, the Superbird really does make the iconic "meep-meep" from Looney Tunes - as does the Plymouth Roadrunner that the Superbird is based off of!
Yes, the Superbird really does make the iconic “meep-meep” from Looney Tunes – as does the Plymouth Roadrunner that the Superbird is based off of!

Redding, CA:  

How's this for nice?  This is probably one of THE nicest Corvettes that i have ever seen!  It was all-original, so it has the punchy 283 cubic-inch V8 and a four-speed manual.  Plus, it's got absolutely amazing looks.  The only thing that isn't original is the wheels, but they went perfectly with the car.  This would be an excellent car for touring the country with.  One of these days I will do that in a classic car - I promise!
How’s this for nice? This is probably one of THE nicest Corvettes that i have ever seen! It was all-original, so it has the punchy 283 cubic-inch V8 and a four-speed manual. Plus, it’s got absolutely amazing looks. The only thing that isn’t original is the wheels, but they went perfectly with the car. This would be an excellent car for touring the country with. One of these days I will do that in a classic car – I promise!

The Seven Most Significant Carroll Shelby Cars Ever!

Carroll Shelby was a guy who built cars the way that they should be built.  This meant that every single Shelby creation was a masterpiece.  He is best remembered for the 1963-1966 Cobra, but he also built many more cars that are noteworthy.  The racer-turned-chicken-farmer-turned-respected-tuner was an amazing guy who did much, much more than make fast cars go faster.  After his heart transplant, he started a foundation.  His foundation, Carroll Shelby Foundation helps fund heart surgeries for children.

  1. 1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-350.  The Ford Mustang was an affordable musclecar.  It was fast in a straight line, but it wasn’t meant to go around corners.  When Lee Iaccoca called Carroll Shelby in 1965, Carroll Shelby told Iaccoca, “Lee, you can’t make a racehorse out of a mule.”  Yet, the 1965 Shelby Mustang GT-350 was one of the fastest cars of the decade.  It used Ford’s all-aluminum 289 cubic-inch V8, a Muncie M-22 “Rock Crusher” transmission, and tons of suspension and chassis modifications.  It was available through a “Get it Friday, Race it Saturday and Sunday, and Drive it Back Monday” program through Hertz.  The GT-350K was the highly successful racing version.
  2. 1965 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe.  The Shelby Cobra is one of the world’s most iconic cars, let alone America’s.  It used a stylish, lightweight British AC Ace body and chhassis, a Ford V8, and way too much fun for one person.  The most iconic Cobra was the 427 Cobra, which utilized Ford’s new, all-aluminum 427 cubic-inch V8 that was designed to compete with the 426 Hemi (the engine Shelby originally wanted for the Cobra).  That turned it into one of the fastest cars ever.  In late 1964, the 427 Cobra enjoyed massive racing success, but it didn’t have enough aerodynamic oomph for the long straights at Le Mans.  So, Carroll Shelby had Peter Brock design the Cobra Daytona Coupe.  The Daytona Coupe made a 1-2-3 finish at Sebring International Raceway, and it then went on to win the same finish at Le Mans, putting it 4th overall behind three Ferrari prototypes.
  3. 1965 Shelby Cobra 427.  Arguably the most iconic Shelby ever built, the 427 Cobra was a monster.  It used Ford’s race-proven 427 cubic-inch V8, and your Pontiac GTO or Chevrolet Camaro RS would run for mommy.  The 427 Cobra was a fairly neutral car in terms of handling, even when you got your foot into it.  Even then, it was predictable. Yet, when those 480 pound-feet of torque kicked in at 6,000 RPM, you’d better be holding onto something and have a lot of road ahead of you.  It tipped the scales at just over 2,700 pounds, and the big Ford V8 made a beautiful sound when you nailed it.
  4. 1968 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR.  The GT500KR used Ford’s all-new 428 Cobra Jet engine, which was kind of a loud, torquey boat anchor in stock form, but Shelby had a few tricks up his sleeve.  He took the cylinder heads and manifolds from the 427 racing engine, and raised the redline by 1,000 RPM.  This engine gained almost 30 horsepower just by that.  Car Life said of the car in 1968, “At 6000 RPM, the Cobra Jet will pull a semi trailer up Pikes Peak.  At less than 2000, it wouldn’t pull the petals off of a daisy.”  People still rave over the engine almost 50 years later.  It was docile under 2,000 RPM, but it came alive above that.
  5. 1986 Dodge Omni Shelby GLH-S.  The little Dodge Omni was a pretty decent little car, but Carroll Shelby slapped a turbocharger and suspension upgrades onto this little car.  It started the hot-hatch craze, and it still shames many hot hatches today.  It was a sleeper.  Many automotive magazines said that it would leave two very skinny, long tire marks through third gear.  If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is.
  6. 2002 Shelby Series 1.  The Shelby Series 1 was the last Shelby to actually be built from the ground up by Shelby.  It used an Oldsmobile Aurora V8, a GM 700R4 transmission, and a Ford 9-inch rear-end.  Many people complained about the fact that it felt like an unfinished car.  You know what?  Let them yammer.  it was fast, fun, and stylish.
  7. 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500.  This Mustang deserves to be on this list.  It was the last car to have personal oversight by Carroll Shelby, and it shows.  Shelby took the supercharged 5.4-liter V8 found in the 2012 GT500, and stroked it out to 5.8 liters. It gained 112 horsepower with the stroking of the engine and other tricks.  It uses Mahle pistons, a Tremec TKO600 transmission, a single-overhead-cam, a special Comp Cams valvetrain, and a big 2.3-liter Eaton supercharger.  The engine only gained about 50 pounds, thanks to extensive use of aluminum and titanium.  Ford claims that it will go 200+ miles an hour.  Motor Trend got one up to 197 mph, but I bet that if it was given enough open road, they would see at least 200.  When it was dyoned, it topped the dyno out at 211 mph, and it was still pulling.