What the OPTIMA Search for the Ultimate Street Car is Really About

It all began at the SEMA show in 2004 or 2005.  OPTIMA’s Director of Product Development and Marketing, Cam Douglass, was in awe of all of the pro-built cars being shown, and couldn’t help but wonder if there was more to these cars than just having brand name parts and looking cool.

It took him a few years of talking to people and a whole lot of planning, but then Douglass met Jimi Day, and the idea became a reality.  It went from the SEMA show floor to the nearby track, Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch.

As expected, Pro-Touring cars were all over the headlines.  I mean, how could they not be when iconic cars like RJ Gottlieb’s Big Red Camaro and Steven Rupp’s Bad Penny Camaro were competing?  In fact, they continued to grab headlines because Gottlieb and Rupp were more than willing to push both themselves and their cars to the absolute limit.

In the first year alone of OUSCI (OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational), there were some well-performing cars in the field.  There was a 2004 Porsche 911, a brand-new Pontiac G8, a Lincoln MKX of all things, a new Dodge Challenger, and several late-model Corvettes.

Why such a diverse field of cars?  Because otherwise, how would you determine what the “ultimate” street car really was?  The whole point of OUSCI is to see if SEMA show cars could perform as well on the track as they could look good at a show.  There never were, and never will be limitations on the year, make, model, or build style of the cars. Otherwise there would be no real valid way to determine whether the winner was the ultimate street car.

The OUSCI field is the most diverse it has ever been, with cars like Jonathan Ward’s 1948 Buick ICON Special to Dieter Heinz-Kijora’s 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, and more than 100 cars in between those extremes.  Yes, Pro-Touring cars are still a big part of the mix, but anybody who owns a street-legal car or truck has a chance at getting to the invitational.  Just ask Thomas Smith about his 120,000 mile daily-driven 2005 Subaru WRX STI.

If you’re interested in going to a qualifying event to just watch, or to try and get to the invitational, they happen all over the country.  I’ve attached a link for you, where you can register for a qualifying event if you’re interested at http://driveusca.com/events/

Every vehicle that makes the cut is placed on display at SEMA for a week, before heading out to the OUSCI at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

This is 2010 OUSCI competitor Mike Musto's 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona replica.  He's a host for the /DRIVE network on YouTube, which I highly recommend, and this is one of the coolest cars I've ever seen.
This is 2010 OUSCI competitor Mike Musto’s 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona replica. He’s a host for the /DRIVE network on YouTube, which I highly recommend, and this is one of the coolest cars I’ve ever seen.
This is just a beautiful picture from Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  It was taken at the end of the 2014 OUSCI.
This is just a beautiful picture from Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was taken at the end of the 2014 OUSCI.
This is Bob Benson's totally cool 1972 De Tomaso Pantera from the  2013 OUSCI.  It's just epic looking, isn't it?
This is Bob Benson’s totally cool 1972 De Tomaso Pantera from the 2013 OUSCI. It’s just epic looking, isn’t it?

 

The Evolution of Crazy

Pro Street is a popular form of hot rodding nowadays.  It’s also incredibly easy to define, unlike rat rods or Pro Touring.  Pro Street is classic cars with the rear wheeltubs dramatically enlarged for insanely wide tires.  However, defining Pro Street gets a bit more difficult from there.  Is it a fairgrounds car with big dirt tires?  A street-optimized race car? A race-optimized street car?  Or is it a full-on race car?  It can be any and all of those.  Pro Street has evolved throughout the years from essentially fairgrounds cars to street-optimized race cars.  I’ve taken the pleasure of outlining important years and cars in the evolution of Pro Street.  While your idea of Pro Street might differ, or not be there, I hope this helps.

1972: Grumpy Jenkins Pro Stock Vega:  Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins essentially ushered in Pro Street with the advent of his groundbreaking NHRA Pro Stock tube-chassis Chevy Vega in 1972.  Nobody had ever seen massive tires tucked under a production body before. Yes, the extreme Funny Cars had been using the look for a few years prior, but they had fiberglass body shells, so let’s not count those.  Grumpy went all-out groundbreaking by using a completely tubular frame, which allowed him to run those massive 14-inch-wide and 32-inch-tall drag slicks previously reserved for Top Fuel.  Every single Pro Stock car borrows heavily from that groundbreaking Vega in 1972.

Grumpy Jenkins Chevy Vega

1979: Scott Sullivan’s 1967 Chevy Nova:  No, this beautiful 1967 Chevy Nova was not the first Pro Street car.  Not by a long shot.  However, it was the first car to get massive attention past a small magazine feature on it.  It thundered onto the scene in 1979, just a year after the Car Craft Street Machine Nationals were launched to tire-burning success.  It created the perfect test-and-tune environment for Pro Street.  Sullivan has been known for setting hot rodding trends with just about every car that he builds.  His 1967 Nova was no exception.  It may not have been as innovative as his other cars, but it doesn’t make it any less beautiful, thanks to it’s highlight stripe and color-matched bumpers.  It even had the perfect stance.  Sullivan sold the car in 1984 to Pro Mod racer Ron Iannotti.

Scott Sullivan 1967 Chey Nova

1980: Some Tubbed Street Machines: Many street rod builders of the late 1970s became brainwashed by Scott Sullivan’s beautiful 1967 Chevy Nova (see above), and completely redid their cars.  Just about every car from this era had the back half of their chassis tubbed, and many builders simply moved the leaf springs far inside the chassis to fit the massive drag slicks.  Seeing a car with a Roots blower sticking out of the hood was a must well into the 1990s.

Pro Street Pontiac GTO

1985: Fully Tubbed Street Rods: The cover of the July 1985 ‘Hot Rod’ magazine announced the “Fat Attack” of fully tubbed street rods.  One of the cars on the cover was “Fat Jack” Robinson’s 1946 Ford coupe, painted in a vivid Coast Guard orange.  The car was tubbed like a true Pro Street car, but it was intended to thunder down the drag strips of America.  His car was the result of the first round of the nostalgia drag racing scene of the time.  His car inspired several other pre-1948 fully-tubbed cars.  Those cars on the cover of ‘Hot Rod’ showed how the Pro Street look merging into the vast world of street rods.  It wasn’t long before you’d look around at a hot rod show and see a bunch of 1940s Ford coupes sporting massive rubber.  Unfortunately for Fat Jack Robinson, his car ended up being totaled in a crash at Fremont Drag Strip.

Fat Jack Robinson 1946 Ford Coupe

1992: Trailer/Fairgrounds Queens: Dick Dobbertin’s nutso Pontiac J2000 Pro Street car arrived on the scene in 1986.  You’re probably wondering why I said 1992.  That’s because the trend of taking a lowly late-model FWD car being converted to a fully-tubbed, RWD car started then.  It made it OK to build an over-the-top Pro Street car that only looked good, which have now been dubbed Pro Fairgrounds.  Why Pro Fairgrounds?  The show venue was the only place where these cars could really shine.  I mean, who would really want to drive a car with more than 1,000 horsepower and a short wheelbase down a dragstrip?  If you want that kind of crazy, buy a vintage Fuel Altered car.  This radical Pontiac J2000 started the Dare to be Different movement in the automotive world, by starting battles to see who was able to build a bonkers Pro Fairgrounds car that nobody else had built yet.  Soon thereafter, builders came to their senses and started the Dare to be the Same movement, which leads us to our next section.

Dick Dobbertin Pontiac J2000

1992: C.A.R.S. Camaro: Many of the builders of Pro Fairgrounds resented building cars they couldn’t drive.  They wanted truly functional rides, not simple street rods with a big block, but cars that had gigantic rubber, big wheelies, and low drag strip times.  Detroit and Ohio even started a large movement to build cars that were all-steel-bodied, fully tubbed, go eight seconds in the quarter mile, dress them up with bumpers and various trim pieces, cruise them up and down the iconic Woodward Avenue in Detroit with license plates, and then race them head-to-head all weekend.  One of the first cars featured in magazines was the C.A.R.S. Inc.-sponsored Chevy Camaro of Rick Dyer and Danny Scott.  That iconic Camaro served as the main inspiration for the ‘Hot Rod’ 1992 Fastest Street Car Shootout.

Rick Dyer Chevy Camaro

1993: Mark Tate’s Chevy Camaro: That little Fastest Street Car Shootout gained so much popularity so quickly that it couldn’t sustain itself.  The heavyweight champs, the Pro Street cars, were losing to flat-out Pro Stock-chassis cars.  Those Pro Stock chassis cars were never meant to be driven on the street, unlike the Pro Street cars.  Mark Tate joined the fray in 1993 with his stock-bodied Pro Stock-chassis 1967 Chevy Camaro.  Then it was Tony Christian’s 1957 Chevy 210.  After Christian, it was Bob Reiger and his radical Pro Stock Chevy S-10.  Appeal for Pro Stock/Pro Street cars started to wane.  These weren’t cars you could build in the garage for $10,000 anymore.  These were cars racking up bills well over $100,000.  People wanted fast cars that they could drive on the street for not much money.

Mark Tate 1967 Chevy Camaro

2011: “Modern Pro Street:” This is a total niche created in the Pro Street world by those wanting a fast car with all of the modern mechanicals.  Cars of this look have a Pro Fairgrounds look, street machine behavior, and sometimes a late-model body.  These cars usually have the newest engines, turbos, EFI, and the wheels are usually gigantic with incredible tread.  The beautiful Mustang shown here is the 2007 Ford Mustang from Fastlane Motorsports.  It has a 2010 5.4-liter V-8 with an old-school Weiand 6-71 blower showing out of the hood.

Fastlane Motorsports 2007 Mustang

2012:  Larry Larson’s Chevy Nova: This is where Pro Street is now.  Larry Larson owns a stunning 1966 Chevrolet Nova that has truly incredible performance.  He’s run 6.90 seconds at well over 200 mph in the quarter mile after driving 80 mph on the highway all day.  How does he do it?  Modern technology.  He’s got a bored and stroked Chevy big-block motor with twin turbochargers, EFI, and lots of other amazing technology.  He’s able to drive it all day to a drag strip, run incredible times, turn around and go home without killing his car.  He’s had a LOT of experience in the drag racing world, so he only uses the best parts.  If Grumpy Jenkins were alive today, his mind would be absolutely blown.  Mine is.

Larry Larson 1966 Chevy Nova

That’s where Pro Street is, and where it’s come from.  These cars have state-of-the-art technology, and they are actually quite streetable cars.

Why You Should Buy a Classic Station Wagon

Most Americans over the age of 40 grew up waging hell in the backseat of a station wagon. Most of those station wagons were Buicks, Fords, Oldsmobiles, Chevys, and Mercurys. Some might have even been Pontiacs.  Here’s why they could turn into the next collector cars.  Those Americans who grew up turning the backseat into a war zone fondly remember them.  That same generation fondly remembers the Smokey and the Bandit Pontiac Firebirds (the one with the “screaming chicken” on the hood), so they buy them.  Station wagons from the 1970s and 1980s are now being bought more.  Prices are going up for these massive beasts.

The collector car market is going crazy right now.  People have more money to spend, and they want to enjoy an older car with their family.  They tend to buy cars that they remember fondly.  That’s why Chevy Blazers, “screaming chicken” Firebirds, and station wagons are starting to creep up in price.  Now is the time to buy them.

For all those people who say that station wagons are dorky and stupid, here’s a response:  station wagons have as much, if not more utility than most modern crossovers, and some SUVs, look better, and are far more fuel efficient.

Some station wagons are already highly sought-after collector cars.  They include the Chevrolet Nomad, antique woodies, and high-performance Pontiacs from the 1960s. However, there are still plenty of station wagons that can be enjoyed.  Here are some classic, and new wagons that you should consider buying.

  • 1991 Audi 200 20V Turbo Quattro Avant:  There is no point in going into the details of the 1986 60 Minutes debacle that came close to killing Audi.  There were some good cars that came out in the company’s darkest days, and one of them is the marvelous 1991 200 20V Turbo Quattro Avant.  This one-year-only package is incredibly rare.  Only 1,000 four-door sedans and about 200 station wagons got this package, and it was standard equipment on the two-door hatchback.  It’s a close cousin to the 1986 sedans that Audi used to dominate SCCA Trans-Am racing.  The twin-cam, 20-valve engine has five cylinders and goes through a five-speed manual to all four BBS wheels.  Maintenance is going to be a wee bit tricky, but enjoying this car won’t.
  • 1950-1991 Ford Country Squire:  This behemoth of a station wagon is what many Americans grew up in.  Early Country Squires are the expensive, sought-after woodies from the early 1950s.  Avoid them unless you have serious money and plans to upgrade just about everything on them.  However, starting in 1960, the Country Squire became the familiar family hauler.  They’ve covered millions of miles, millions of Americans remember them fondly, and they have starred in multiple movies.  They came with a Ford small-block V-8 (usually the 351 Windsor V-8 found in most Fords of the 1970s through the 1990s) and a mushy automatic transmission.  If you get a pre-1976 model in California, you can upgrade it to make the ultimate family hauler.  Just put in a modern Ford Coyote motor (the same engine as the Mustang), a Ford T-5 five-speed manual transmission, and some better suspension pieces and you’ll have the ultimate road trip/family hauler.  They are fairly reliable cars to begin with, and Ford made a lot of them, so finding one isn’t the challenge of the century like the Audi mentioned above.
  • Volvo V60 Polestar:  OK, who wouldn’t want a 345-horsepower station wagon that looks really cool?  Speak now or forever hold your peace.  While a mere 120 cars scheduled to come to the US over this summer isn’t a lot, it’s enough to make it a true collector car.  It’s a fast car, and Volvo has a rich history of deceptively fast station wagons.  It looks really cool with the big wheels, low-profile tires, blue paint, and it’s somewhat-bulbous styling.  Get one while you can, and enjoy it!  This is a car that’s meant to be driven, so drive the wheels off of it.
  • Saab 9-2X:  Why buy a re-badged Subaru WRX because GM said so?  Because it’s a more comfortable, tame early Subaru WRX.  For Saab faithful, it was too Subaru, even though it wasn’t nearly as blasphemous as the 9-7X “Trollbazer” which was just a Chevrolet Trailblazer with different wheels and badges.  For the rest of us automotive folks, it’s a more refined version of the spunky Subaru WRX.  Unlike the WRX, it doesn’t turn the wheels 90 degrees when you floor it.  Unlike other Saabs, you can get same-day service on it by simply going to a Subaru dealer.  It’s a far better car than the sales charts show.  Owners love it, and others snap them up.  They aren’t very big, and are more of a hatchback than a station wagon, but they are fun, reliable little cars that can really take a beating.  That’s something that most other Saabs can’t claim.
  • Morris Minor Traveller:  This cute little station wagon is based off of the popular Morris Minor.  Sir Alec Issigonis started his automotive success career with this car. The Morris Minor coupe and convertible debuted in 1948, and the Traveller station wagon followed suit in 1953.  It came to our shores through 1967. When other station wagons were ditching real wood for fiberglass and vinyl, the Traveller had real ash wood from the tailgate all the way to the B-pillars.  Not only does it look great, but it’s also the superstructure for the back half of the car.  That means you’ll have to sand and re-varnish periodically, but that’s going to be the extent of your automotive woes with this car.  Parts are cheap and easily sourced, and it’s an incredibly reliable car.  Not something you can say about most British cars.
  • Buick Roadmaster/Chevy Caprice:  Yes, they may have been the final gasp of GM’s RWD land barges, but who doesn’t want something that seats eight people, has a (slightly detuned) Corvette engine, and is gigantic?  These behemoths were the final iterations of the big American station wagons that so many Americans grew up in. They are still available and cheap for us to thrash around and haul kids around with.  You don’t need to do much to unlock the true potential of these engines – you just get the Corvette’s ECU, as the engines in these cars were the same as the Corvette’s LT1.
  • Cadillac CTS-V:  OK, most of us would LOVE to own a 556-horsepower station wagon that comes with a six-speed manual.  Look no further than the previous-generation Cadillac CTS-V wagon.  I know that this implies that there is another one coming, which we can only hope for, but this is probably the ultimate family burnout/drift/autocross/trackday/hoonmobile.  Period.  My friend Jonny Lieberman of Motor Trend had one as a long-term car for a year, and I’m still feeling the pangs of jealousy.  It has a detuned Corvette engine, but 556 horsepower is still plenty to rage through the quarter mile.  It would make the ultimate backup car for your local autocross/track day, and it would be a fun daily driver to boot.

I’m sure that many of my readers have some fun memories of being in station wagons as kids…let’s here them!

 

 

1991 Audi 200 Avant

 

1967 Ford Country SquireVolvo V60 PolestarSaab 9-2XMorris Minor Traveller1992 Buick Roadmaster WagonChevy Caprice WagonCadillac CTS-V Wagon Drifting

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Older Muscle Car Engines Ever!

The best engine ever would be free, make gobs of horsepower and torque on demand, be the easiest thing in the world to work on, sound amazing, look good (so good that you’d HAVE to take the hood off), and have a legacy that makes people pray to it for guidance (sorry God!).  Those are some pretty strict criteria, but with those in mind, let’s go into depth of the engines that really are just THAT good.  Since everybody has their own ideas of which engine goes where on the list, I’m simply going to do them as bullet points and let you all squabble in the comment section as to what engine goes where.  Have fun!

This is going to be the first in a series of blog posts for different types of cars:  Economy cars, trucks, vans, etc.  This post is dedicated to the cars that just begged us to floor it – muscle cars!  In all of these posts, I will have a YouTube video of these engines revving for pure aural trauma.

  • 1961-1980 BOP General Motors V-8 (215 c.i., 300 c.i., 340 c.i., 350 c.i.):  BOP stands for Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac.  GM originally invented this small-block all-aluminum V8 for their “advanced” line of “compact” vehicles for 1961- the Buick Special/Skylark, the Oldsmobile F-85/Cutlass, and the Pontiac Tempest.  That path went off of a cliff in 1963, but the tiny 215 c.i. engine soldiered on to become the cast-iron 300, 340, and 350 c.i. V-8 engines that powered the full-size Buick’s until 1980.  England’s Rover bought the rights to manufacture the engine in 1966, and mass-produced it as an aluminum engine until 2005.  Today, the lightweight 215 c.i. V8 is a popular engine swap for small British sports cars, flatfender Jeeps, Chevrolet Vegas, and other small, lightweight vehicles.  It’s light, reliable, fuel-efficient, and can take one hell of a beating.  Oh, and Sir Jack Brabham won the 1966 Formula 1 world title with a Repco-modified BOP V-8; the only American V-8 to ever accomplish that title!  It’s got some performance potential, it’s somewhat historically significant, it looks halfway decent, it’s something that can be built on something of a budget, it’s relatively easy to work on, and it’s pretty cool.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VxYcT1lZzc
  • 1968-1984 Cadillac 3rd-Generation V-8 (368 c.i., 425 c.i., 472 c.i., 500 c.i.):  When Cadillac’s redesigned V-8 arrived on the market in 1968, it was America’s largest engine displacement at 472 c.i., yet was somehow overlooked by hot rodders.  Why?  Ford, other GM manufacturers, and Chrysler all offered smaller, less expensive V-8’s with more performance potential.  The big-block Cadillac V8 was largely overlooked until the mid-late 1980’s, when budget-minded hot rodders saw the big-inch V-8’s sitting in junkyards.  As the age of the big Cadillac’s declined through the early 1980’s, so did the displacement.  It shrunk from a whopping 500 cubic inches to a still-gigantic 368 cubic inches.  Some cool facts:  Cadillac apparently wasn’t content with a big ol’ V-8, so they were developing a V-16 for what would become the Eldorado.  Alas, cooler heads at Cadillac management prevailed.  The 500 c.i. V8 remains to this day the largest-displacement, production-line, passenger-car V-8 ever.  What about the Chevy/GMC 502 c.i. V-8 of the early 2000’s?  That was trucks only.  It’s got some performance potential, it’s got some historic significance, it looks decent enough, it’s somewhat affordable, it’s easy enough to work on, and all you need to know is that Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top built CadZZilla in 1989 with a Cadillac 500 c.i. V-8!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZvRrO_KF7o
  • 1949-1964 Oldsmobile Rocket V-8 (303 c.i., 324 c.i., 371 c.i., 394 c.i.):  Introduced alongside the Cadillac “nailhead” V-8 in 1949, Oldsmobile’s “Rocket” high-compression V-8 took advantage of the high-octane fuel refining technology developed during WWII.  In 1957, the legendary 370-371 (it depends on who you ask – a hot rodder or a mathematician) cubic inch J-2 V-8 debuted with 312 horsepower, three vacuum-operated, two-barrel carburetors, and quickly became a legend in NASCAR and the gasser wars.  We often think of this engine as a show-car engine, but it was definitely a show-stopper engine when an old 1941 Willys gasser idled up next to you.  It’s got some performance potential, it’s fairly historically significant, it looks nice, it’s something you can build on a large enough budget, it’s easy enough to work on, and beware of it if you see a gasser!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adRWaLKkpL8
  • 1953-1966 Buick “Nailhead” V-8 (264 c.i., 322 c.i., 364 c.i., 401 c.i., 425 c.i.):  “Nailhead” was never an official factory designation for Buick’s first in-house V8, but it certainly stuck like the first nail in the coffin.  It’s got one of the most recognizable engine shapes ever, thanks to it’s completely vertical valve covers, and quickly became one of the most popular engine swap choices ever.  It offers plenty of cubed inches in a somewhat light, narrow package.  Power was somewhat limited due to the flimsy valves that had a tendency to break apart, and a rather unusual valvetrain placement, but that certainly didn’t stop drag racing legend TV Tommy Ivo and road racing legend Max Balchowsky from being the winners multiple times.  Because of the valve problems, you can’t get that much power from the engine, it’s got a lot of historical significance, it looks really cool, it’s pretty affordable to work on with a normal budget, and it won’t cause wrench throwing and cussing – at least not THAT much…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQPKBnS0rOE
  • 1965-1990 Oldsmobile V-8 (260 c.i., 307 c.i., 330 c.i., 350 c.i., 400 c.i., 403 c.i., 425 c.i., 455 c.i.):  One of the most legendary engines from the muscle car era was the 455 “Rocket.”  The smog-happy 307 cubic inch V8 was introduced in 1973, and stayed in production until 1990.  Chances are, if you had an Oldsmobile sedan or station wagon, or even a Buick, it had a 307.  When this whole series of engines was introduced in 1965, it used the latest thin-wall casting techniques, as well as the somewhat revolutionary saddle-style rocker arms.  These V-8’s were used by every GM division except for Chevrolet during GM’s corporate V-8 period, during which time the Pontiac Trans Am used an Olds 403 cubic inch V-8.  Wanna know a cool song fact?  Kathy Mattea wrote a song called “455 Rocket,” which sung the praises of a 455-equipped Oldsmobile.  It’s got a great deal of performance potential, it’s got some historical significance, it looks like a big-block V8, you can build a good one on a budget, it will cause some wrench throwing and cussing, but so does every engine.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQ29D-Zlpok
  • 1964-2003 Chrysler LA Series V-8 (273 c.i., 318 c.i., 340 c.i., 360 c.i.):  Very loosely based on the LA Series (LA stands for Light A in Mopar lore), the LA V-8 displaced a somewhat skimpy 273 cubic inches when it debuted in the Dodge Dart in 1964.  However, stroked versions of this V-8 followed.  This engine was used in everything from trucks, vans, cars, and motorhomes.  It can be found in many Chrysler, Dodge, or Plymouth products from 1964-2003.   It’s one of the longest-lived American V-8’s ever, having lived a couple of years into the 21st century as the slightly revised 5.2 and 5.9-liter Magnum V-8’s.   The most famous cars to utilize the LA V-8’s?  Undoubtedly the Dodge Challenger T/A and the Plymouth Barracuda AAR.  They both used a 340 cubic inch LA V8 with three two-barrel carburetors (hence the Six Pack moniker).  It became wildly popular among street and strip enthusiasts, thanks to the largest cylinder bore of the engine group.  It’s got lots of performance potential, some historical significance, looks OK, it’s relatively affordable to build, any gearhead can work on it, and it offers muscle-car power in a small, convenient package.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfmClbUX4fM
  • 1967-1976 Buick Big-Block V-8 (400 c.i., 430 c.i., 455 c.i.):  Buick’s big-block V8 shares essentially a basic engine block shape with a Chevy big-block V-8, but that’s where the similarities to any Chevy big-block V-8 end.  It first appeared in 1967 as the successor to the “nailhead” V-8 that had enjoyed hot-rodding success for many years.  Designed to give lots of lugging torque on demand, not high revs, this engine showed little to no performance potential until the 455 c.i. Stage I and II muscle car versions arrived in the Skylark packages in 1970, surprising just about everybody.  This engine has been shown to keep up with the legendary 426 HEMI in match races that began in the 1980’s and continue today.  It makes 510 lb-ft of torque at about 3500 RPM, which means that you really don’t need to floor it to get power.  It’s got a lot of performance potential, some historic significance, it looks like another big engine, you can build one on a budget today, and yeah, you’ll probably wreck a few tools as you scream at it.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgH1BwMPqZI
  • 1968-1997 Ford 385 Series V-8 (370 c.i., 429 c.i., 460 c.i.):  This big-block Ford engine was designed for three things in mind:  1) Beat the 426 HEMI in NASCAR and drag racing 2) Be easy to stroke out 3) Be easy to work on.  This short-skirt, thin-wall engine design V-8 moved in to replace the legendary FE and MEL series V-8’s of the early-mid 1960’s.  Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln land yachts used the gigantic 460 c.i. V-8 throughout the 1970’s, before being replaced with the smaller, more fuel-efficient 370 cubic inch V-8.  The 460 Ford V-8 was used in trucks and vans through 1997, so finding engine cores is relatively easy.  These under appreciated engines can easily be stroked out to 514 cubic inches.  The biggest 385 series V-8 one can get is 828 cubic inches, which is popular in Top Fuel drag racing.  They can make cheap, easy power.  The best of this engine series?  Unarguably the Boss 429, which powered the Ford Mustang Boss 429, and was a hemi-headed design based on the 385 series engine architecture was Ford’s big-block warrior during the NASCAR wars of the 1970’s.  It’s got so much performance potential I don’t know where to start, it’s got some historical significance, it looks like yeah, another big engine, it’s somewhat affordable to work on, and you’ll probably bust a few knuckles working on it.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9ZGx4YtYf0
  • 1997-Present Chevrolet LS Series V-8 (4.8L, 5.3L, 5.7L, 6.0L, 6.2L, 7.0L):  In much the same way that the original Chevrolet small-block V-8 turned the performance industry on it’s head in 1955, the LS Series V-8’s that replaced the old small-block revolutionized the affordable performance industry.  In 1997, one could easily believe that the American V-8 had reached it’s maximum performance potential.  Had it?  Not even close.  The LS Series engines redefined the words state-of-the-art for pushrod V-8 engines.  It’s been shown time and time again that an LS V-8 is the go-to choice for most hot rodders.  It’s got a lot of performance potential right out of the crate, it’s got some historical significance, it looks like a new V-8, it’s affordable enough to work on, and you don’t need to do much to it to get performance right out of the wood crate it comes in.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpQlD-FLZMU
  • 1970-1982 Ford 335 Series V-8 (302 c.i., 351 c.i., 400 c.i.):  While this engine series shares the same bore and head-bolt patterns with the much-loved Windsor V-8 that it replaced, but that’s where any similarities between the two engines end.  The key difference is that the Cleveland V-8, as the engine is known as, has specially canted valve covers.  While production of the most coveted Cleveland V-8 ended in 1974, two much less popular variants (the 351M and the 400 c.i.) stayed in production until 1982.  Australia built a 302 c.i. version of this V-8 that is rarely seen here.  It’s got a lot of performance potential, some historic significance, it looks good enough, it’s relatively affordable to work on, and it’s going to cause wrench throwing and cussing.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX_lVHoBnh8
  • 1932-1953 Ford Flathead V-8 (221 c.i., 239 c.i., 255 c.i.):  This is the one that started it all.  John Lennon once said, “If you wanted to give rock and roll a name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.'”  If you wanted to give hot rodding a name, it might be Ford flathead V-8.  Henry Ford’s L-head V-8 was the engine that started the 1940’s hot rodding frenzy.  Flathead experts like to differentiate the engines by the 21-head stud 1932-1937 flathead V-8’s from the 1938-1953 24-head stud flathead V-8’s.  These engines use two water pumps, which were located in the cylinder heads until 1936, when they were moved into the V of the engine block.  It became obsolete in the early 1950’s with the advent of overhead-valve engines from GM and the early hemi engines from Mopar, but it is still the go-to choice for many classic Ford enthusiasts.  It’s got some performance potential, it’s one of the most historically significant engines around, it looks really cool, anybody can build one on a budget, and it’s going to bust a few knuckles.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-IevaW2lLY
  • 1958-1976 Ford FE Series V-8 (332 c.i., 352 c.i., 360 c.i., 361 c.i., 390 c.i., 406 c.i., 427 c.i., 428 c.i.):  Ford’s legendary FE Series V-8 made it’s debut in 1958 as the 332 c.i. V-8 found in the 1958 Ford Fairlane.  Some oddball FE engines included the 361 c.i. V-8 found in the Edsel and the 410 c.i. V-8 found in fullsize Mercury’s from 1966-1967.  Undeniably king of the hill was the 427 cubic inch single overhead cam engine introduced for NASCAR in 1964, and known as the S.O.H.C. (sock) or Cammer.  However, the most famous FE engine was the 427 Carroll Shelby stuffed into the Shelby Cobra in 1964-1965.  One version of the Cammer had a 6-foot-long timing chain and hemispherical combustion chambers, and was outlawed from NASCAR, but became a big winner in drag racing in the late 1960’s.  It’s got gobs of performance potential, almost as much historical significance, it looks pretty darn cool, it’s going to need a big budget to build up, and it’s somewhat of a knuckle-buster.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-Q8PBknCDc
  • 1955-1981 Pontiac V-8 (265 c.i., 287 c.i., 301 c.i., 303 c.i., 316 c.i., 326 c.i., 347 c.i., 350 c.i., 370 c.i., 389 c.i., 400 c.i., 421 c.i., 428 c.i., 455 c.i.):  This gigantic series of V-8’s from Pontiac might just be the most versatile V-8 to ever come from GM.  It was produced in even more displacements than the small-block Chevy V-8!  Other manufacturers have based their engines off of multiple “small-block” and “big-block” platforms, but all of these Pontiac V-8’s have the same 4.62-inch cylinder bore, meaning that finding speed parts for any one of these engines is not going to be a massive headache (hem, hem 1996 GMC Yukon).  The cars that carried these engines are the ones that made them famous – the Super Duty factory drag cars of the early 1960’s, the Pontiac GTO, and the Bandit-era Pontiac Trans Am.  Talk about performance potential to the nines!  These engines can be built any way you like them, they are pretty historically significant, they look nice, you can build one on a decent budget, and it’s somewhat of a wrench-thrower.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e26LT5DkGeQ
  • 1951-1958 Chrysler/Dodge/DeSoto Hemi V-8 (331 c.i., 354 c.i., 392 c.i.):  The 331 cubic-inch Hemi-headed V-8 Chrysler introduced in 1951 was their first overhead-valve V-8 engine.  This was the original Mopar Hemi.  The Hemi name came from the hemispherical shape of the combustion chambers.  The trade name was FirePower.  I’m going to avoid any Buzz Lightyear jokes.  After a few years, drag racers found out that these engines worked really well huffing nitrous oxide and burning nitromethane.  A new kind of drag racing sprang into being.  It’s hard to imagine Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars without a Chrysler Hemi V-8.  These engines have remarkable performance potential, you’ll be hard-pressed to find other engines that radically changed drag racing so much, it looks really, really cool, you can build one on a small enough budget, and they are easy enough to work on.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGXMh_8p3n8
  • 1958-1965 Chevrolet W Series V-8 (348 c.i., 409 c.i., 427 c.i.):  These Chevy V-8’s are more of a historical footnote than anything else, but they have three good things going for them:  1) Their cool valve covers that form a shape somewhat resembling a W 2) The song that immortalized this engine, 409, by the Beach Boys.  Once you listen to it, you’ll never get it out of your head.  For those of you who have watched the Nicholas Cage movie, Bringing Out the Dead, remember that scene when he had the paradoxical reaction to the “Red Death” drug?  That’s gonna be you…3) The W Chevy motor could really make a car haul, especially with the 409/409 horsepower mill.  It had a four-speed manual, dual four-barrel carburetors (dual quads), a Posi-traction rear end, and a good, big engine.  The 1963 Chevrolet Z-11 Impala with the 427 cubic inch V-8 that pumped out a massively underrated 430 horsepower as a drag-strip special didn’t hurt either.  These engines were technological dead ends for Chevy, but they are forever immortalized by the Beach Boys.  Nowadays, there is a lot of power you can squeeze out of them, they are almost too historically significant (thank you Beach Boys!), they look really cool, you can build one on a budget in your garage, and they are definitely not the easiest engines to work on.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLkMMkK_a1s
  • 1958-1977 Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth B/RB V-8 (350 c.i., 383 c.i., 400 c.i., 413 c.i., 426 c.i., 440 c.i.):  Chrysler’s first entry in the big-block muscle car wars was a 350 cubic inch V-8 in 1958.  Of course, the best-known Chrysler big-blocks are the 383 c.i. and 440 c.i. V-8’s, as well as the 426 c.i. Max Wedge HEMI engines that ruled NASCAR and the drag strips well into the 1970’s.  The Max Wedge HEMI is so easy to squeeze power out of that it’s not uncommon to see them make 900 horsepower with mostly stock internals.  Check them out on YouTube.  These days, the smog-era 400 c.i. V-8 is the most prized engine, thanks to it having the largest cylinder bore of the group (4.340 inches) and their low deck height.  This means that these engines can be easily stroked out to 500 c.i. and above.  The engine one step below the 426 HEMI “Elephant Motor” is the 440 Six-Pack V-8, which has three two-barrel Holley carburetors, an Edelbrock intake manifold, and other speed goodies from the factory.  These engines have some of the biggest performance potential out there, they have almost as much historical significance as the 409 Chevy, they look really cool, they can be built on a budget, and wrench throwing will ensue.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGLkn66h66U
  • 1962-2001 Ford 90-Degree V-8 (221 c.i., 255 c.i., 260 c.i., 289 c.i., 302/5.0L c.i., 351 c.i.):  Better known to hot rodders and Ford enthusiasts as the Windsor V-8, the 90-degree V-8 is the blue oval’s most popular small-block engine offering.  The K-Code High Performance 289 c.i. engine (1963-1967) was the first of these engines to really make a dent in the high-performance world.  The first Shelby Cobra’s first used Ford 260 c.i. V-8’s and then 289 c.i. V-8’s.  Today, these engines are nearly as common as a small-block Chevy V-8 on the street-rod scene.  However, it was the advent of the fuel-injected 302 c.i. Mustang that really got the attention of enthusiasts and hot rodders worldwide in 1986.  Those Fox-Body Mustang’s created one of the biggest marketplaces for performance parts, and Fox-Body Mustangs always seem to make up at least a third of the field at any given drag strip weekend or autocross event.  There are so many performance parts for these engines that you could spend months picking out what parts you want!  So, they have lots of performance potential, they are almost as historically significant, they look like another small-block engine, you can build one up for some money, and they are pretty easy to work on.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfcuyUpI0W8
  • 1964-1971 Dodge/Plymouth 426 HEMI (426 c.i.):  Among enthusiasts, it’s known as the “Elephant Motor.”  Dodge and Plymouth engineers were searching for a way to produce more horsepower during the NASCAR and drag racing wars of the 1960’s, Dodge and Plymouth’s engineers decided to update the original Hemi head design from earlier in 1964 and update it to the short-block Max Wedge V-8 engine.  This is how the 426 HEMI was born.  It was the most powerful engine of the muscle car era, dominating the tracks and the streets until 1971, when rising gas and insurance prices shot the elephant dead.  I definitely think it’s the best looking engine of the muscle car era – nothing looks quite like it.  It’s defining moment was it’s 1-2-3 finish at the 1964 Daytona 500, with Richard starting 2nd and coming in 1st.  It’s got probably as much, if not more performance potential as a big-block Chevy V-8, it’s probably the most significant engine of the muscle car era, it looks drop-dead-gorgeous, it’s not at all affordable to build (not only due to it’s rarity, but due to the fact that too much power makes it go boom), and it’s nowhere nearly as easy to work on as a Chevy V-8.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9JiN6qlcnw
  • 1965-2009 Chevrolet Big-Block V-8 (366 c.i., 396 c.i., 402 c.i., 427 c.i., 430 c.i., 454 c.i., 496 c.i., 502 c.i.):  While people often call Chevy’s W-Series motors talked about earlier here the first big-block Chevy V-8’s, but the big-block Chevy (BBC) as we know it first appeared as a 396 c.i. V-8 in the 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle.  It appeared in various Chevelles and Corvettes that same year, but my personal favorite is the 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396.  It’s got an understated elegance to it, and it’s really muscular at the same time.  Yes, I’m still a fan of the 1970 El Camino SS454, LS6.  Chevy’s official name for the engine was the Mark IV V-8, but it quickly picked up nicknames like Porcupine, Rat, semi-hemi, or big-block.  I like Rat.  Ever since it’s inception, it’s been a fan favorite of the go-big-or-go-home crowd.  If you’re going to build a super-powerful 454, look for one that was based off of a truck 454 – it’s made out of forged steel, so it’s better than bulletproof.  It’s got nearly as much performance potential as the 426 HEMI, it’s almost as historically significant, it looks almost as cool (talk about a show engine – for looks, quality, and affordable performance), you can build one for a few grand, and it’s extremely easy to work on.  If you want to build one on a budget, go to a junkyard and look for a heavy-duty Chevy truck or van.  It might have a 454 in it, and you can take it home, rip the smog stuff off of it, and buy quality parts for it, and make whatever car you have waiting for it a total sleeper.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIJstg1Jwx4
  • 1955-2003 Chevrolet Small-Block V-8 (262 c.i., 265 c.i., 267 c.i., 283 c.i., 302 c.i., 305 c.i., 327 c.i., 350 c.i., 400 c.i.):  Affectionately known as the “Mouse” motor (I prefer to call it the rat baby!) among enthusiasts, the Chevrolet small-block V-8 is probably the most versatile engine in hot-rodding.  It’s been said by many that it’s been produced in greater numbers than any other V-8 in history, and it’s been raced everywhere from the high banks of Talladega to the Brooklands corner of Le Mans to the rectangular shape of Indy.  While it’s just a legendary V-8 today, the small-block Chevy was ground-breaking when it was introduced in 1955 in the Corvette, Bel Air, and the Cameo/Apache pickups in Chevrolet’s lineup.  Why?  It was cast upside-down, and it’s rocker arms were made out of sheetmetal.  The last production version of this engine rolled off of the production line in a Chevrolet cargo van in 2003.  That same engine will undoubtedly power a street rod sometime in the 22nd century.  The fastest V-8 in the world is a heavily-modified Chevrolet small-block!  The king of the hill for production small-blocks is certainly the 327 c.i./375 horsepower L-84 with Rochester mechanical fuel injection offered in the 1964-1965 Chevrolet Corvette.  However, many say that the 1970 LT1 with 350 c.i., 11.0:1 compression, 370 horsepower in the Corvette, as the best.  I think both are great.  My personal favorite Chevy with a small-block V-8 is the 1967-1969 Camaro Z/28 with the 302 c.i. V-8.  It blends power with style, light weight with muscle car 1/4 mile numbers, and it’s still a formidable car on the race track in stock form.  It’s got tons of performance potential, almost as much historical significance as the 426 HEMI, it can look pretty good, it’s incredibly affordable to build today, thanks to masses of cars/trucks/vans all over the place, and it’s something that anybody can work on.  I have a 1996 GMC Yukon with a 350 c.i. V-8 that’s blown.  How much does an engine cost, one might wonder?  About $1,500.  If I had a Dodge Polara with a 426 HEMI, it would be about $16,000.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZDAHMPmIAk

If your favorite muscle car engine from this era wasn’t mentioned here, tell me what it is.  I’d love to know, and I would be happy to do a Part 2, if needed!  The next in this series will be diesel engines!  They are built to take more than a huge beating, so you can tune one to within an inch of it’s life without worry.  Remember that the Forum is coming up on Friday!  Come up with some questions!

 

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 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

 

Coverage from the 11th Annual Peggy Sue All-American Cruise!

Every year, the Peggy Sue All-American Cruise and its related events take over sunny Santa Rosa, CA.  Restored cars, hot rods, low riders, raised Jeeps, and antique American cars are all part of the mix.  We have entered our 1950 GMC 100, “Betsy” twice.  It’s always been a lot of fun for me to see all of the classic cars in the parade or the massive parking lot where they are displayed!  This year, one of my good friends joined me in watching the classic American cars cruise around downtown Santa Rosa.  Revving engines?  Check.  Drunk people yelling at drivers to “Step it up, dude!”?  Check.  Squealing tires?  Check?  The smell of burnt brakes?  Check.  Annoyed and overworked event staff?  Right on.  I know that you are getting bored reading my words about what was going on.  I’ll cut to the chase:  It was a LOT of fun, and you should join me next year.  Enjoy the pictures.

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I don’t know what this Chevy Nova had under the hood, but it sounded NASTY!  Many of the cars at the parade were either restored to Concours-levels or were built for the drag strip.  This one was built to rule the streets.   DSCN1921

This 1959 Chevrolet Corvette is a rare “Fuelie.”  Instead of a carburetor, it has a primitive version of fuel injection.  This particular example was restored to a “Level 1.”  Level 1 means that it is virtually perfect.  That it is.

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This 1966 Chevrolet Biscayne is a powerful, efficient, and stylish family sedan from the muscle car era.  It has a 327 cubic-inch V8 engine and a two-speed automatic Powerglide transmission.  It’s lovely.

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I find it nice that the interior of the same Biscayne matches the exterior of the car.  Even the steering wheel has chrome on it!

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Same car.  This is the model designation.  The car is a barn find from somewhere around Redwood City, according to the owner.  He restored it himself, and he did a very good job of it!

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For those of you old enough, you should remember the aero-wars days, when big engines and aerodynamics were all the rage.  The 1971 Plymouth Roadrunners and Superbirds were the car of choice for many famous NASCAR drivers.  Richard Petty left Ford in 1969 to go to Plymouth.   He did so much better in a Plymouth Superbird that Ford built the Torino Talladega as a response.  This particular Roadrunner has the 440 Six Pack (a 440 cubic-inch V8 with THREE two-barrel carburetors!), which was just one step below the mighty 426 Hemi engine.  It is painted in the iconic Lime Green that is popular with automotive restorers.

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This Corvette is one of the nicest Corvettes that I’ve seen in a LONG time!  It is painted Aqua Blue and Snow White, with a matching interior.  It has the 283 cubic-inch V8 and a four-speed manual.  It is a 1956 Corvette.  The only shame?  That it’s far too nice to tour Route 66 in.

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Sorry about the fingertip on the top of the camera view.  The sun was shining and I REALLY wanted to tell you about this truck!  It’s a 1965 Chevy K10 with the optional 327 cubic-inch engine and a three-speed manual.  It is built to tackle any trail, and take anything that you want with it.  It may not be stock, but it looks like it will outrun just about any Jeep from the same era off-road.

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Remember the Chevy Vega?  If you don’t, it’s okay.  The Vega was powered by a 305 cubic-inch V8.  It was relatively powerful and fast, but it was a minor disaster for Chevy.  This Vega is a 1974 model.  It wasn’t the nicest car there, but it was one of the newer cars there.

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The best part about this 1969 Chevrolet C30 is that it is used a lot.  I don’t know how much, but I have seen it at Sonoma Raceway’s Wednesday Night Drags as a tow vehicle.  It’s the perfect tow vehicle.  It’s got a 350 cubic-inch engine that’s all-original.  So is most of the truck.

DSCN1930This rare 1971 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am is one speedy car.  It’s all stock, and plenty fast that way.  It’s got the 350 cubic-inch V8 engine found in many GM vehicles from 1969-1999.  The top speed is 130 mph.  This car means business.  The lucky driver had to keep the car in first gear.  he also kept touching the brakes because the car wants to leap forward.  Lucky him.

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I’m going to apologize in advance for the direction of the photo.  This 1951 Dodge cab-over semi has been so heavily customized that the only thing original about it is the cab.  That’s it.  The rest of it is custom-built.  The truck is a heavy-duty car-hauler with three axles.  The engine is a brand-new 6.7-liter Cummins Diesel engine that has two turbos instead of one.  Wow!

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While motorcycles aren’t as common in the parade as cars, there were still a good three or four.  This 1946 Indian Roadmaster has the iconic “shovelhead” engine that many motorcycle enthusiasts favor.  This Indian Roadmaster is banana yellow with the “caramel cream” seat.  I like old motorcycles like this.  Maybe some readers will buy me one…

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The Indian logo is still in the original chrome, almost 65 years later.  The gas tank can hold 10 gallons.  It says that on the chrome gas cap.

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I like the way that Indian made the front wheel cover so stylish.  I was talking to the owner for a minute, and I found out that he drove it all the way down to Santa Rosa from Healdsburg.  That’s not a lot of fun on an old motorcycle, yet Indian motorcycles are built to cruise.  I’m guessing that it was probably a comfortable ride down to Santa Rosa.

DSCN1937This 1932 Ford Roadster is a sick hot rod.  The lady standing by the car is the owner.  The car has a Ford 351 Windsor V8 engine.  It has a Jaguar rear end, and a five-speed manual.  This car means business.  I don’t know what I like more:  The mechanical parts of the car, or the exterior?  That’s a decision that YOU will let me know in the comments section…

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This Ford Bronco looks like it came out of some post-apocalyptic movie.  It’s got aggressive tires, a six-inch lift kit, and a 302 cubic inch V8.  I don’t know the exact year, but it looks like it’s from around 1967-8.  This is one nice Bronco.

DSCN1940This is one of the coolest, most amazing Jeep CJs that I’ve ever seen.  And that’s saying a lot.  This CJ is stock, and is a 1947 model.  Between the drivers seat and the passengers seat, there is a metal rifle/shotgun holder for two high-powered guns.  Not that it would be used for that!

DSCN1942How often do you see a stock 1932 Ford roadster?  Not at all often!  This is a stock 1932 Ford roadster that could sell for upwards of $150,000 in its current condition.  It even has the rumble seat and the original interior!  It’s beautiful!

That’s all, folks!

If you would like to check out the Peggy Sue’s Cruise website, it is http://www.peggysuescruise.com/home/

Out ‘N About!

As I promised, here are two classic rides from my neck of the woods:

I know that the Pontiac convertible is a 1962 Tempest Convertible.  It has the big ol’ 389 cubic-inch V8 and the automatic slushbox transmission.

I do not know what year the lovely Ford F1 is, but I do know that it is the first generation of the Ford F-Series.