AC Cars to Build Nine Cobras to 1962 Specifications!

Are you a car enthusiast who has a lot of money? Do you not own a Shelby Cobra? Would you like to? Well, you’ve got a chance. Did you miss the chance to buy the first AC Cobra produced? Most likely you answered yes.

AC Cars – which apparently still exists, by the way – will make nine new Cobras to exact 1962 specifications! They’ll even use the original tooling. While these continuation cars won’t be nearly as expensive as the $13.75 million original, they certainly won’t be cheap – be prepared to cough up at least $670,000 (or 500,000 GBP) for just one.

Autocar reports that these cars, which are called the AC Cobra Mk1 260 Legacy Edition, will be built at AC Heritage near the former Brooklands racing circuit in the UK. The factory is run by AC historian Steve Gray, who just happens to have acquired most of the Cobra’s original plans and tooling.

Each “new” Cobra will be built with an aluminum body, and will have a live rear axle and a 260 cubic-inch V8, just like the first Cobra. AC Cars will offer two colors: the original blue of the first Cobra chassis (CSX 2000, in case you were wondering), or yellow. Each car will be left-hand-drive, just like Carroll Shelby’s personal car.

Over the years, numerous Cobra replicas and continuation cars have been built, most notably a continuation series by Shelby American, but these Cobras are going to be very unique. While most replicas copy the more powerful and faster 289 and 427-powered Cobras, it’s incredibly rare to see one with a 260 cubic-inch V8. Plus, these cars have the distinction of quite proudly wearing the AC badge.

This is CSX 2000, the first Cobra ever made, not one of the continuation cars.
This is CSX 2000, the first Cobra ever made, not one of the continuation cars.

As always, donations are gladly accepted. It can even be the unofficial car for The Unmuffled Auto News!

The Perfect Balance of Street and Track in a Corvette

Some of you might know how the “Grand Sport” name for the Chevrolet Corvette. If you don’t, let me explain. In 1963, Zora Arkus-Duntov was hoping to build 125 lightweight, high-power homologation-special Corvette Sting Rays so Chevrolet could qualify for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. GM smashed that plan to smithereens after Chevrolet had built just five of the so-called Corvette Grand Sports. All five were quickly spirited under the table off to legendary racers with last names like Penske, Foyt, and Hall. All five cars were raced without any factory support.

Since then, Chevrolet has revived the Grand Sport name twice – once in 1996 and once in 2010. Both of those times, the badge meant special editions with beautiful bodywork, but no massive performance gain, unlike the 1963 Grand Sports. The 1996 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and 2010 Z06 would still outperform the Grand Sports. Of course, the 2010 Corvette ZR1 was still the most serious Corvette of that generation of Corvette.

Of course, Chevrolet’s engineers went hog-wild with the C7 Stingray Z06. It’s a combination of a massively powerful engine that has been described as one of the best-sounding engines ever (I agree), absolutely brilliant suspension, and enough computing power to sequence the human genome. Yet, it’s so approachable for the average driver that it’s truly mind-boggling. It also costs around $80,000. It’s a true giant-killer, especially with a professional driver. Even without a professional driver, this is not a car you want to tangle with.

The Z06 is also quite unlike the Corvette Racing C7.R that competes in one of the highest echelons of motorsports – endurance racing. The C7.R’s that quite simply walked away with the win at this year’s 24 Hours of Daytona actually make less power than the Z06 you can get on your dealership’s showroom floor. There’s no supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 V8 shrieking under the hood of the race-winning C7.R – those drivers have to make do with a 5.5-liter V8 sucking air through a restricted air intake the diameter of a garden hose. Because power is handicapped by a rule book (which didn’t stop NASCAR legend Smokey Yunick), the Corvette Racing team wins races with unworldly grip and highly aggressive aerodynamics. Let’s put it this way – their strategy works well.

It’s interesting that the new Grand Sport, which is the mid-range model, lives up to the “street-legal race car” cliche. It’s got some of the best street tires in the world, aggressive aerodynamics enhancements, and stock engine. Oh, and it comes with a warranty, something most race cars can’t brag about.

Let’s start off with the tires – Michelin Pilot Super Sports are standard tires, or even stickier Pilot Sport Cup 2s with the Z07 high-performance option package, which are the same tires you can get on the Z06. They’re much wider than the standard Stingray tires (40 mm wider up front, 50 mm wider out back), which means that Chevy had to put the Z06’s massive, bulging fenders to clear the massive tires.

GM’s truly brilliant Magnetic Ride Control is standard equipment, as is the highly advanced electronic limited-slip differential, as are the Z06-derived chassis sports custom stabilizer bars and springs. You can pair the brilliant 460-horsepower, 465 lb-ft, dry-sump LT1 V8 with a fantastic 7-speed manual transmission or a pretty darn good 8-speed automatic, both of which come with the Stingray and Z06. What does the Z07 package add? Carbon ceramic brakes, and even more aggressive aero, mostly.

Now, let’s move onto the beautiful bodywork. It’s mostly borrowed from the Z06 part bin. However, it’s got Grand Sport-specific front fender vent inserts. What about from the Z06? It’s got the Z06’s wider track (how far apart the wheels are from each other), an open-mouth front grille, and big differential cooling vents on the rear fenders. The Grand Sport has a Z06-spec front splitter, front splitters, and wickerbill rear spoiler, all of which are finished in carbon fiber in the Z07 trim. Chevy claims that they all create downforce, but the Z06’s clear plastic Gurney flip isn’t available on the Grand Sport. Oh, and then there’s a Heritage package, which adds the traditional front fender hash marks, which are now connected in a horseshoe shape. I somehow forgot to mention that Chevy has more than the entire rainbow’s worth of body, hash, and full-length racing stripe combinations.

Inside the Grand Sport, there is badging depicting the 1963 Grand Sport #002 (the only roadster out of Zora Arkus-Duntov’s original five Grand Sports) on the floor mats, headrests, and on a dash plaque directly ahead of the shifter. The brushed aluminum halo on the right of the center stack has a subtle racing stripe, which is created by rotating the brushing pattern on the metal 90 degrees during the polishing process.

Chevy says that the Grand Sport will hurtle it’s way to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, and blast through the quarter mile in 11.8 seconds. I’m going to say that’s probably because the Grand Sport has much better tires than the Stingray does.

The Grand Sport weighs in at 3,252 pounds, which is 98 pounds lighter than the Z06. Because there’s no gigantic supercharger, the hood is lower, affording much greater visibility of the road.

Even with the windows up, the A/C on full blast, and the engine contentedly burbling along at 1500 rpm in one of the Grand Sport’s many overdrive gears, you’ll still easily pull over 1 g without the car breaking a sweat. You won’t either.

We’ll move onto the price now. The Grand Sport coupe starts at just a freckle under $66,500, which is a $5,000 premium over the Stingray. It’s also about $14,000 cheaper than a Z06. If you want to drop the top on any Corvette, plan to shell out an additional $4,000. Do you want the Z07 package? Give Chevy $8,000. Even if you buy the Grand Sport convertible with the Z07 package, that still gives you about $2000 to get some accessories, or haggling wiggle room.

The Z06 is a great car – don’t get me wrong. However, the Grand Sport was designed with a different purpose in mind. The Z06 is powerful in a way that you’ll rarely be able to enjoy. 650 horsepower is more than you’ll ever be able to use on the street – with one quick stab of the gas pedal, you’ll be well on your way to jail. On the track, it goads you into probing it’s incredibly high limits, all the while serving a main course of absolutely brilliant chassis tuning and suspension, with a side of driver aides for that moment when you push it too far. To do that on public roads, you’d better have a top-notch lawyer, a very good health insurance plan, and a glovebox filled with bribe money. OK, you can forget about the last part. Cops really don’t like it if you try and give them $20,000 in $1 bills…

The Grand Sport does something truly incredible. Chevrolet designed this car to have the same absurd limits as the Z06, but never leave you feeling like it’s a waste of horsepower because you can never floor it. While grip, balance, and power all work together, which is what makes low-power sports cars so fun, they become magical when you turn the dial up to 11.

What would happen if you put the optional Z06-spec Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires to your Corvette Stingray Z51? It’s obvious that sticky tires are key to making a good car handle well. However, good tires won’t work as well unless the chassis and suspension are dialed into those tires. Even if you somehow figured out how to make those tires fit under a stock Stingray Z51’s seductive bodywork (remember that the Z06 is three inches wider in the back), you still would have a lot of work to do. The ABS system wouldn’t be properly calibrated. Stability control intervention would be much more sudden, and the brakes would slow you down almost instantly because the Z51’s brake calibration is designed for less sticky tires. That means it would apply more brake than necessary. The electronic limited-slip differential wouldn’t perform as well, either. The suspension would also be woefully undersized relative to the massive amounts of grip that the tires generate, which would make the car feel sloppy.

What does this all boil down to? It’s more than a sloppy badge job, far more than a Corvette with some random Z06 parts, and more than a throwback to a legend. It’s the real deal, folks. This car isn’t tuned to within an inch of it’s life (and yours). This is a race car for the…wait, I don’t endorse illegal activities here.

The Best Supercars of the 1990s!

The 1990s was the time when performance cars really started to get that oomph back. The supercars of that era still have jaw-dropping performance, and their designs are some of the most beautiful to ever howl and thunder their way down our roads.

They had no environmental restrictions, and they were the pure intent of the designer and engineers. These are the ones I view as the best.

  • 1993 Bugatti EB110 Super Sport: The predecessor to the legendary Bugatti Veyron, the EB110 Super Sport was capable of 216 mph, which is still a blistering speed. Yet, it had a comfortable and luxurious interior. Oh, and it had a quad-turbo V12.
  • 1998 Dodge Viper: Dodge’s Viper was a formidable car to begin with. However, it didn’t really compete with any of the European supercars. That changed pretty quickly when Dodge shoehorned a massive 8.0-liter V10 under the hood. It made 450 horsepower and topped out at 180 mph. It wasn’t as fast as the EB110 Super Sport, but it was much faster on a race track or winding road.
  • 1995 Ferrari F50: The F50 was slower than the legendary F40. It was the successor to the F40 and the predecessor to the Enzo. However, it was still incredibly fast and rare, with only 349 built.
  • 1990 Jaguar XJR-15: This was the world’s first completely carbon-fiber car. Jaguar only built 53 examples of this car. It had a 450 horsepower V12.
  • 1992 Jaguar XJ220: This Jaguar was one wild child. It had a 540 horsepower twin-turbo V6. It was the fastest car in the world in 1992, topping out at 212 mph. The McLaren F1 beat it in 1993.
  • 1993 Lamborghini Diablo VT: The Diablo VT could reach speeds over 200 mph. It was the first AWD halo Lamborghini. It’s also a car that many people have as their screen savers!
  • 1996 Lotus Esprit V8: The Esprit V8 was in that weird space between high-end sports car and supercar. It had a twin-turbo V8 that made 350 horsepower. It put the power to the ground via a five-speed manual. It was also the first all-aluminum Lotus design. Oh, and you can look like James Bond (providing the car runs)!
  • 1999 Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR: This was more race car than street car. It made 604 horsepower out of a V12. Does it look expensive to you? It should. The Guinness Book of World Records pegged it as the most expensive car in the world in 1999, at a cool $1,547,620.
  • 1993 McLaren F1: The world’s only three seat supercar, the McLaren F1. It made 627 horsepower out of a BMW V12. It was the fastest car in the world from 1993-2005. It’s top speed is a crazy 240.1 mph. The car that beat it was the Bugatti Veyron, which just so happened to beat it’s own record a few years ago.
  • 1997 Porsche 911 GT1 Strassenversion: “Strassenversion” means “street version” in German. This Porsche made 537 horsepower from a 3.2-liter twin turbo flat six cylinder engine. There are about 25 that exist worldwide. Do the math. You’ll likely never see one. You’ve also probably never heard of it.

Well, those are what I think are the best supercars of the 1990s. Tell me what you think!

I’m having technical difficulties with WordPress and photos. I will resolve the problem as soon as I can, but you are going to be without pictures until then.

The Most Unlikely Off-Road Cars Ever!

Why should you buy a Jeep, a Toyota Land Cruiser, or a Subaru for off-roading pleasures when you could have one of these machines?

  1. Rolls-Royce Corniche: This car competed and finished the 1981 Paris-Dakar Rally! While it wasn’t exactly stock, it was still cool. It had a custom tube frame, a GM small-block V8, a Toyota Land Cruiser 4WD system and an 87-gallon fuel tank. It’s quite possibly the coolest Rolls-Royce ever.rollsroycecornicherallycar
  2. Bentley Continental GT Speed: This car might handle itself like a proper British touring car when celebrities and the upper elite drive it around, but when Top Gear” got their mitts on it, everything changed. They put rally driver Kris Meeke in the driver’s seat and Captain Slow (or James May) in the passenger seat. This meant that the car’s full potential was finally untapped. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrNzPInDja0bentleycontinentalgtspeedtopgear
  3. Aixam Mega Track: Yeah, the name is weird. They probably could have thought of a better one. Aixam built “world-famous” economy cars. Out of the blue came this monster. It was a 400 horsepower, four-seat rally/supercar/absolute beast of a car. Yes, it was unexpected, but it was a gift from God.aixammegatrack
  4. Ferrari 308 GTB: Yeah, you heard me. A Ferrari was a rally car. A very successful one at that. It made the podium 20 times at rallies across Europe in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, Ferrari’s rallying and winning shenanigans were put to an end when the FIA dissolved the legendary Group B batch of rally cars.ferrari308gtbrallycar
  5. Ford Galaxie: Anybody who has bombed down a dirt road in an old muscle car knows that they make the best rally cars. This Ford Galaxie races alongside other intensely cool old cars in the Baja peninsula. The governing body is called the National Off Road Racing Association, or NORRA. This heavily modified Ford Galaxie shows us how it does business, in a very good scary way!fordgalaxienorraracer
  6. Lotus Esprite: Yes, really. The classically-unreliable British sports car actually did a very good job off road. After watching the “Top Gear” episode where they took this car off road, I am still in awe of how well this car performs off road!lotusesprittopgear
  7. Geo Metro: Yeah, you heard me. The tiny, crappy economy car actually performs well off road. There’s a guy who actually LIVES out of the thing! Well, not living IN it, but he’s gone a lot of places in the tiny little car!geometrocampingguy
  8. Ducati 1199 Panigale TerraCorse: This motorcycle is already a great track bike, but a Ducati dealer wanted to take it a step further. He simply adjusted the stock suspension parts, swapped the tires and brakes out, gave it an amazing paint job, and fabricated a skid plate. This bike turned into a holy terror on dirt roads. Watch out BMX bikes!ducati1199panigaleterracorsa

Of course, there are many more that I could mention. However, these are some really cool unlikely off-roaders. If you’ve ever owned an unlikely off-roader that I didn’t mention, let me know in the comments section!

Some of the Best Cars with V10s Around!

They have a great engine note. They have a lot of power. They come in sizes ranging from relatively small to large. Here are some of the best you can buy.

  • 2009 Audi R8 5.2 FSI Quattro: The V8 version of the R8 came out in 2008. It was stunningly beautiful, and offered great performance at a reasonable price. The 5.2 FSI Quattro version added two more cylinders, 105 more horsepower, and even better looks. The 5.2-liter V10 was a slightly-detuned version of the Lamborghini Gallardo’s V10. 2009audir8v10
  • 2005 BMW M5: The early 2000s were an era when manufacturers could shoehorn massive engines into big sedans without complaint. The 2005 BMW M5 is a relic of that era, and boy is it a good one! It bellowed and roared up to a redline of 8,250 RPM. This 5.0-liter V10 was derived from Formula 1, which is why it sounds so damn magnificent.2005bmwm5
  • 2006 Audi S8 5.2 FSI Quattro: This might be one of the ultimate sleepers. This big sedan is a beauty, but it’s a fast one. It got to 60 mph in a scant 4.8 seconds. The magnificent trim inside and out, plus the everyday utility of a large sedan made this quite possibly the best balance between work and play.2006audis8
  • 2006 Dodge Ram SRT-10: Need I say more than it was a truck that put down 500 horsepower stock? No, I don’t. Oh, and it’s engine came straight out of the Viper. 2006dodgeramsrt10v10
  • 2003 Lamborghini Gallardo: The first baby Lamborghini was an absolute sweetheart. It was also the car that really saved the brand. It was an Italian beauty with a German heart. The engine started out as a 5.0-liter V10, but ended up as a 5.2-liter V10. It also spanned 10 years. It birthed countless iterations and special editions, while becoming a tuner favorite.2003 Lamborghini Gallardo; top car design rating and specifications
  • 1999 Dodge Viper ACR: It had one of the biggest engines available when it came out, and that engine is still one of the largest around. It sounded more primal than mechanical. It sounds like a dinosaur fighting Slash. Yes, I know, I love to bash Slash.1999dodgeviperacr
  • 2011 Lexus LFA: It doesn’t matter that this was a terrible supercar. It sounded like nothing else. Lexus teamed up with Yamaha’s musical instrument division, who tuned the engine note like a guitar. That would explain why it sounds godly. It was described by Lexus engineers as “the roar of an angel.” I think it sounds more like the roar of Satan.2011lexuslfa
  • 2011 Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI: It must be a good life to be a diesel V10. Good enough for U.S. emissions regulations to cancel sales on our shores twice. Yeah, twice. Thanks Uncle Sam. That being said, it had twin turbochargers force-feeding air into those 10 hungry cylinders. 2011volkswagentouaregtdiv10
  • 2004 Porsche Carrera GT: Where do I start with the “Widow-Maker?” I don’t know. Yes, it has killed people, notably Paul Walker and Roger Rodas, but that was more user error than anything. This car can trace it’s heritage back to Le Mans and Formula 1 cars. That engine note is out of this world. It reminds me of the Bad Company song “I Can’t Get Enough of Your Love.” Except this is I Can’t Get Enough of Your Engine Note.2004porschecarreragt

That’s all folks!

Which Modern Ponycar is the Best?

Modern ponycars have progressed a lot in the past 50 years.  While the Ford Mustang started the ponycar craze, the Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger have caught up (and surpassed it) in many ways.  If you are looking for a new ponycar, I hope that this post will help you.

2015 Ford Mustang:  The 2015 Ford Mustang is pretty groundbreaking.  It’s the first Mustang to come from the factory with fully independent front AND rear suspension.  Most Mustangs that had IRS (independent rear suspension) were factory hot-rod specials (Mustang Cobra, SVO, etc.).  Not any more.  The 2015 Mustang comes right off of the assembly line with IRS in any iteration.  Previous generations of Mustang used an antiqued live rear axle circa 1964.  Going over a bump or around a curve was not for the faint of heart.  Axle hop is scary, especially if you happen to be going at a high rate of speed.  Motor Trend recently tested a 2015 Mustang GT, and found that it weighed a whopping 196 pounds heavier than the previous generation.  While this certainly isn’t Ford’s first foray into IRS with the Mustang, the rear end bobbling around while on the gas is not fun, and neither is massive understeer when the gas is let off.

However, that’s NOT how most Mustang drivers are going to drive their car.  IRS pays off big time when you’re cruising in any car.  The IRS is worlds better than a live axle when you’re cruising.  In previous generations of Mustang, one small bump was enough to make you think that the semi in the lane next to you would be the last thing that you’d see.  Think about how much you drive on the freeway.  It’s a lot, right?  Heavier is often better on the freeway.  Not for fuel economy, mind you, but for cruising.  You just feel more planted to the ground.

Powering the Mustang is Ford’s fabulous (and famous) 302 cubic inch V-8 (5.0 liters).  It’s lightweight, aluminum, and it’s got a lot of power.  It’s got 435 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, thank in no small part to the previous-generation Boss 302’s valves, springs, connecting rods, and crankshaft.  Part of what makes this engine so fun is the fact that it loves to rev.  It doesn’t rev high, but it revs better than a pushrod V-8 has any right to.  A big part of a muscle car is driving around with the windows down and listening to that sweet thundering bellow that these engines make.  Ford’s 302 sounds good…once you put an aftermarket exhaust system on it.  I’m going to hedge a safe bet that 2015 Mustang owners will go straight to the muffler shop right after the warranty runs out.  Putting that power to the ground is either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.  Go for the manual.  It automatically makes a car more fun to drive.  Trust me.  I drive a stick.

The base engine is a high-revving 3.7-liter V6 borrowed from the Interceptor Utility.  It’s a good engine, but my first choice is the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine.  It’s small, but it’s got a turbocharger on it.  I know that a turbocharger does not a car make, but it does in this case.  Here’s why you should get the Mustang EcoBoost:  Lower weight, better fuel economy, and 320 lb-ft of torque.  Getting the EcoBoost Mustang also shaves a massive 96 pounds off of the front of the car.  Listening to the EcoBoost Mustang is fun, thanks to an amplified exhaust note.  It’s got a series of growls and pops, and when you pop the hood, you hear whooshes and whistles from the twin-scroll turbocharger.

Stopping the porky Mustang is a set of big Brembo slotted disc brakes.  Brembo makes probably the best brakes in the world.  They never overheat or lose stopping distance.  The brakes on the Mustang are almost 15 inches tall, and they work great, stopping the overweight pony in just 107 feet.  By no means is the EcoBoost Mustang meant to be a replacement for the Mustang GT – the Mustang GT is a completely different car.  It’s just meant to be a fun alternative to it.  

2015 Chevrolet Camaro:  Ever since it made a big splash in the ponycar segment in 2010, the Camaro has been an entertaining car.  In SS form, it comes with a free-revving LS3 6.2-liter V-8 making 426 horsepower.  It’s got visibility akin to a ski mask, but the burbling, rumbling engine note is almost enough to forgive the visibility.  However, an engine does not a car make.  The SS without the 1LE package understeered my dear friend at Motor Trend, Jonny Lieberman, right off of the track at Willow Springs International Raceway.  That would be traumatizing for anybody.  Not Jonny!  He’s driven just about every current-generation Camaro, and the best he’s driven is the fire-breathing Z/28.  I’m still jealous.  For us mere mortals that don’t have $75,000 to spend on a Chevrolet Camaro, the SS 1LE is almost as good a driver’s car.  It’s simply unflappable.  You’re going to make a mistake before the car does, let’s put it that way.  Why is that?  Well, it’s got specatcular magneothermal shocks borrowed from the Corvette ZR1 and Camaro ZL1.  This is the Camaro to (almost) end all Camaros.  Jonny’s fallen in love with this car – for good reason.  It’s just one of those cars that begs you to go faster around the next corner.  I would kill for a Z/28 Camaro, but until then, my faithful readers will have to get me a SS 1LE.  

2015 Dodge Challenger:  The big news about the Challenger is the Hellcat.  For about $60,000, you can have THE most powerful factory muscle car ever.  It’s not as powerful as the current bunch of hypercars, nor is it as fast.  But, it’s far, far cheaper.  I mean, who doesn’t want 707 horsepower?  If you can’t afford the Hellcat, it’s all good.  You can get the Challenger Scat Pack.  You can get a car with 485 horsepower for under $40,000!  The problem with the Challenger is weight.  It’s simply not a small car.  It’s big, wide, loud, powerful, and it soaks up anything the road can throw at it with ease.  It’s also 400 pounds heavier than the Camaro 1LE.  You won’t notice the weight in a straight line because it’s got more horsepower than it’s rivals.  The Challenger isn’t something you want to take in tight, windy roads.  It’s just too big.  It is, however, the car that you would want to tour the country in.  The Hellcat is insanely loud – I’ve heard one at speed, and it sounds about as loud as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car.  It’s that loud.  Dialing the Challenger back into the realm of sanity is the Challenger Scat Pack.  It’s got the 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 from the Challenger SRT8, and it just howls and revs to the heavens.  It sounds like a mini Hellcat, minus the blower whine.  Speaking of blower whine, the Hellcat got it just right.  The engine was so loud that they had to put an amplifying cooling chamber in the supercharger itself to make it be heard.  A job well done, Dodge.  The Challenger is the car you want to take on a road trip.  It’s big, comfortable, it can take two large coolers and luggage in the trunk, and it can take the kids, or two buddies easily in the back.  Driving this with the windows down is the only way to drive it.  You can just sit back and listen the the burbling, howling, crackling exhaust note that sounds right out of a vintage Trans Am race.  Want to know what the Hellcat sounds like?  It sounds like NASCAR, a Ferrari V8, a plane, and a Top Fuel dragster, with blower whine mixed in.  It’s a haunting, addictive melody.  It’s the car that you just want to cruise around in, revving the engine and doing burnouts and donuts in empty parking lots.

Overall, which car would I take?  That’s hard to say.  The Mustang EcoBoost is certainly a good choice, but you just can’t hear the engine itself very well.  The Camaro Z/28 is an excellent choice, too, but it’s a stripped-down track toy that’s not meant for daily driving (case in point:  air conditioning is an option).  The Camaro 1LE is good, too,  so I’d probably get the 1LE Camaro.  The Challenger?  Hellcat, Hellcat, Hellcat!  It’s just the very definition of muscle car.  It’s so powerful that when you’re going straight with ALL of the nannies on, it will still go completely sideways.  Think of another modern car that can do that.  I certainly can’t.

If I had to go with just one of these cars, I’d get the Hellcat.  It’s the very definition of affordable performance, and even a tuner car Mustang with 800 horsepower won’t be the same.  The most powerful Camaro offered is the 580-horsepower ZL1, which handily beats the 435-horse Mustang.  Just go with the Hellcat and let me know when you get it!  I’ll feature you, sing praises about the Hellcat (it shouldn’t be too hard), and never stop saying thank you.

P.S.  Ford made the Mustang Cobra Jet (a factory drag-strip only special) until August, but there are some to be found at various racing dealerships or classifieds.  I’ve even seen a few in Hemmings Motor News.

P.P.S.  Chevrolet makes the COPO Camaro (also a factory drag-strip special).  It’s got more engine choices than the Cobra Jet, and it looks pretty darn cool.

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…

 

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!

A Cool Classic

A while ago, my dad introduced me to one of his business partners who just happened to happen to own a 1960 Jaguar MK9.  Hmm…Maybe I just needed to see it…Well, I’m happy to report to you that it is, without doubt, one of the most breathtaking cars that I have ever laid my eyes on.  Not only does the beautifully patina’d maroon and good paint look absolutely stunning.  Oh, and if stunning looks and a spotless beige leather interior complete with Grey Poupon jars (you never know who might need them!) aren’t enough, this car used be Ike Turner’s car.  So, this car isn’t just ANOTHER Jaguar MK9…

The story behind the owner of the car is an interesting one in itself.  My dad’s business partner, Michael Page, used to be the bassist for Iggy and the Stooges, which was a band that opened for the Rolling Stones.  Mike also played for Chuck Berry and other bands in the 1970’s.  Mike now runs a small studio down in Southern California.  When I asked Mike if he still played musical instruments, his reply was, “Naw, I’m content to listen to it now.”

The story behind how the car ended up being in Michael’s hands is an interesting story itself.  During Ike and Tina Turner’s long divorce, Ike parked the Jag on blocks in a back lot of Paramount Pictures for somewhere around 17 years.  One day when Mike was walking in the back lot, he saw the Jag, was absolutely smitten, and made an offer on the spot.  It was accepted.  He then proceeded to, as he put it, “I stood on my head for about an hour with the guy from Paramount just trying to figure out what kind of engine was in it.  Eventually, I saw a label that said ‘Chevrolet 350 C.I. V8.'”  That means that the engine is a Chevrolet 350 cubic-inch small-block V8.  The Chevy 350 V8 is a popular choice for engine swaps in Jaguars.  It requires very little work to install, it has decent power stock (a LOT when it’s tuned), and it’s an extremely reliable engine.  That can’t be said about any Jaguar engine.  Just ask my uncle or grandmother.  As a whole, a 1960 Jaguar is a pretty sturdy car.  It’s made all out of steel (the only aluminum is inside), it’s got glass that could probably stop a bullet, and the tire treads wouldn’t look out of place on something destined to go off-road.

After Mike had owned the car for a couple of months, he decided to take it out for a spin on the freeway.  When he got up to 55 mph, the engine was screaming at something close to 5,000 RPM, and he was playing tag with a bunch of tractor-trailers and grandparents.  Not exactly my (or his) definition of fun.  He got off of the freeway and went to the local transmission shop and had them install an overdrive.  Now, the RPM’s are cut down to 2,500 RPM (most modern cars turn 1,800-2,000 RPM’s on the highway), and he can go up to 70 mph without worrying about killing the engine.  The overdrive, Chevy small-block V8 and Turbo 350 transmission are the only parts that didn’t come with the car.  That is, other than the tires!

Speaking of tires, the tires are modern Coker radial tires with big, tall whitewalls on them.  If whitewalls are put on the right car, they can turn a show-stopper into a car that will literally make people’s heads turn right off their neck!  That’s what my dad’s business partner did with this Jaguar.  The whitewalls make this classic Jaguar look better than it did when it rolled off of the Jaguar assembly line in Coventry, England, in 1960.  Not many cars can pull that off.  Plus, the engine, transmission, and overdrive give a car that wasn’t really driveable before the engine/transmission swap driveability.

In terms of driveability, Mike says that it drives like a wallowy, new car.  It’s got suspension technology from 1960, so it’s not the best choice to throw around a road course.  With the stock engine and transmission sans overdrive unit, the Jaguar MK9 isn’t easy to drive unless you toodle around town.  The stock engine was designed for people to take a slow, scenic drive of the British countryside, not for freeway cruising.  Bring a car like that to America where there are vast expanses of freeways, and you’re essentially got a death wish.  Mike essentially said the same.  The stock three-speed manual has a stiff clutch, according to Mike, and three short speeds aren’t going to do you any favors when you’re cruising.  The Turbo 350 transmission greatly improves the driveability factor.  The Jag doesn’t have power steering, but it tips the scales at about 3,400 pounds, so you’re really not having to put THAT much effort into turning it.  It does, however, have power brakes, so that does make it easier to stop it, even though there was no such thing as ABS back then.  With the Chevy engine and transmission, plus the overdrive unit, Mike could easily drive across the state of California if he so wished.

His Jaguar doesn’t have thousands of man-hours put into restoring it to #1+ condition.  It doesn’t have ABS, cruise control, or satellite radio like most modern cars.  It’s a survivor car.  Trust me, the Jag is perfectly fine that way.  It’s got absolutely gorgeous looks before the paint, which accentuates the car’s looks even more.  It has beautiful walnut wood varnished to an almost matte look.  It doesn’t need to have hundreds of thousands of dollars to get best-of-show at every car show.  These old Jaguars have a certain charm to them that very few other cars, classic or modern, can duplicate.  They’re not absolutely cute like a Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite nor do they look like they were hewn from a block of stone like a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro.  They have an understated elegance to them, plus that cute British charm.  With the right paint colors on them, like gold and maroon, they can be quite a looker.

If you have a self-esteem issue, buy a Jaguar MK9 NOW!  Nobody really lusts after them, so they cost far less than a 1960 MK2, which is also a good car for those with self-esteem issues.  People will want to take pictures of themselves standing in or next to the car (#selfie), and Mike says that whenever he goes out, he literally has to either leave an hour just to talk to people, or park the car and run.  I’d leave an hour.  Running’s not my thing…

I’ve attached some photos of the Jag for you to literally drool over.  As I’ve previously said, it’s one of the most beautiful cars that I’ve ever seen.  It really looks stunning, especially with some light, but not too much.  I’ve never seen it at sunrise or sunset, but I can only imagine how beautiful it is at those times.

 

Badges are awesome - just ask this car!
Badges are awesome – just ask this car!

 

Grey Poupon is a requirement for British cars, I guess...
Grey Poupon is a requirement for British cars, I guess…

 

Sorry about the view - it was the best that I could get!
Sorry about the view – it was the best that I could get!

Editor’s note:  Mike actually played with Chubby Checker, NOT Chuck Berry!  My apologies!

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.