Vehicle Profile: 1956 Morgan Plus 4

MorganPlus4

The 1956 Morgan Plus Four (or +4) model, was produced in Worcestershire, England.  It was powered by Triumph’s TR3 (and later TR4) based, in-line 4-cylinder engine displacing 1991cc’s and producing nearly 100hp. Harry Frederick Stanley Morgan (known by his friends as “HFS”) started his company back in 1910, with the idea to produce a light weight, economical, but sporty vehicle for himself to drive.

The original Morgan vehicles were of a three-wheeled configuration. The two wheels up front were outboard, steered, sliding-pillar design and independently sprung, and the rear had a single, driven wheel. They were powered by a 2-cylinder, V-twin style engine. The Morgan Plus Fours were light weight, agile, spirited and most of all . . . just plain fun to drive. The first Morgan 4-4 (4-wheels, 4-cylinders) cars were produced in 1935/6. The updated Morgan 4-4 or Plus Four, four-wheeled models made their debut after WWII and were an instant hit with sports car enthusiasts from around the world, but mostly in the good ole U.S. of A.

The Morgan Plus Four was first introduced to the world in 1951, but it looked nearly the same as it had since 1935/6. It wasn’t until 1954 that the body got a facelift. It became more streamlined and curvaceous upfront with a distinct sloped back rear body. The grill changed from the outward protruding, flat-front, radiator/cowl configuration to a concealed radiator with formed grille and smooth front cowl area. The frame and chassis of the Morgans were light but sturdy units of stamped steel. They supported ash-framed, steel-over-wood designed bodies of various light weight materials (even an all-aluminium body, as the Brits would call it, was available) and are completely hand-built even to this day. It had such upgrades as four-wheel hydraulic brakes, a longer wider stance ( a bit more hefty all-around) and upgraded interior amenities over previous models.

Early competition events were commonplace for the “Moggies” (affectionately nicknamed by their owners and admirers) and they always fared pretty well, even winning the 1913 French Cyclecar Grand Prix at Amiens, France. Morgans, old and new, are entered in competition all around the world even today and always perform quite well. As they have been for over 50 years, Morgans are always in high demand, with waiting lists for new vehicles ranging from 2 to 5 years and were sometimes as long as a 10 year wait.

Vehicle Profile: 1954 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith

The Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith models were part of the post WWII era resurrection and rebuilding of the automobile industry in Europe and were produced by Rolls-Royce, LTD at their “Bentley-Crewe” plant located in Crewe, Cheshire, England. The “Silver Wraith” moniker was first introduced in 1946, as new for 1947 models and would last through the 1959 model year. The 1954 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith was one of only a handful of the long wheelbase (133 inch) models built over the 13 year production run, where only about 1880 total vehicles were produced, of which around 639 were of the long wheelbase version (approx. 1/3 of the total production run).

The large displacement, in-line, 6-cylinder engine was increased to 4,887cc for 1954 and was coupled with a General Motors designed, four-speed automatic transmission, and had a live-axle, rear-wheel drive setup with semi-elliptic springs. Hydraulic brakes were now used on all four wheels and the front suspension was of the independent type with coil springs. All the press was continually impressed with whatever came from the Rolls-Royce factory and one even stated the following in trying to sum it all up: “All the world knows that Rolls-Royce carry on an unremitting search for engineering perfection in everything they undertake. The qualities which made their aircraft engines famous, and their cars the finest procurable, are the result of scientifically conducted engineering research and of painstaking attention to detail.”  And now a new range of cars is about to appear it is believed that the new cars are the best that Rolls-Royce have ever built.” Brilliantly said, Ol’ Chap! “Rolls-Royce Motor Cars” also boasted . . . “In common with all Rolls-Royce cars, the Silver Wraith has an indefinable something about it, a delicacy of behaviour, which escapes definition in written words. It is a car for the connoisseur in cars”!

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Vehicle Profile: Oldsmobile 442

Oldsmobile442

The Oldsmobile (a Division of General Motors) answer to the Musclecar craze that began in 1964, was the F-85/Cutlass “4-4-2″ mid-sized model. “4-4-2″ initially stood for a special option package of their F-85/Cutlass mid-sized models, which came equipped with a four-barrel carburetor, four-speed manual transmission (or four-on-the-floor) with dual exhaust from the factory.

For the “4-4-2″ units produced with an automatic transmission, the first “4” stood for 400-cid, V8 (which was the base engine supplied); the second “4” stood for four-barrel carburetor and again, the “2” stood for dual exhaust. By 1968, the  “4-4-2″ was flying solo as its own distinct model, which would continue through the 1971 year models. After that, it would revert back to an option of the Cutlass models and carry on through the mid-70’s.  The “4-4-2″ option/model/badging would reappear several times after that, through the 80’s and into the 90’s, but did not necessarily designate a four-barrel, four-speed with dual exhaust.

The performance specifications on the most powerful of all the “4-4-2″ models was the “Hurst/Olds 4-4-2″, with a 455-cid Big-Block V-8, producing 380 hp, and was stated to reach 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds. A 1/4-mile run was clocked at approximately 103 mph in 14.03 seconds. Not bad for a box stock, factory issued, hulk of a car that possessed pure performance, coupled with awesome handling for a vehicle of its size.

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Vehicle Profile: 1933 Packard Twelve Series

1933 Packard Twelve

The 1933 Packard Twelve was the second year in a production run, from 1932 through 1939, of the awesome Twelve series (of which a total of some 35,000 vehicles were produced over that period). These expensive, powerful and reliable cars were manufactured to exacting standards by the Packard Motor Car Company in Detroit, MI.

James Ward Packard, the founder of the company, had started the company up in Warren, OH in 1899 to build the Packard vehicles, with the idea that he could build a better car than the “Winton” he had purchased. From meager beginnings with small, single-cylinder, driven motorcars, the Packard brand, would eventually become the “supreme combination of all that is fine in motor-cars” and one of the finest vehicles in the world (especially for the price). Considered one of the three “P’s” (Packard, Pierce-Arrow and Peerless) of American motoring Royalty, Packards were built to higher standards and proved to be very reliable in every aspect.

When their new 3,500,000 sq. ft. production plant opened, in Detroit in 1903, it was the most modern automotive manufacturing facility of its kind in the world. In fact, by 1929, more people owned stock in Packard than any other company, except for General Motors. Packard concentrated its efforts on building up-scale automobiles, specifically for wealthy customers both here and abroad.  This proved to make Packard, the Social Standard of the American public.

The Packard brand lasted some 59 years, from 1899 through 1958, and is still one of the most revered automobiles in the history of motoring. The Packard brand always brings the big money at auctions and are truly, a solid investment.

Some significant changes were made to the styling and chassis of the 1933 Packard Twelve series. The 142-inch chassis, was stiffened-up with the introduction of their new tapered X-Frame which included cross-member bracing and the new 17-inch wheels were smaller than those used on previous models. All Packards were rigorously tested to ensure quality, performance and reliability.

The mammoth, 445.5-cid, V12, 160 hp, side-valve engines were run for an hour by a large electric motor before being initially started. After that, they were run for another six hours under their own power before being installed in the vehicle. Then they spent another hour being run and tested on a dynamometer and finally a thorough road-test (of approximately 250 miles) was performed. A single, dry-plate, vacuum servo-boosted clutch assembly coupled to the three-speed, selective, synchromesh manual transmission, hypoid-gear rear axle, Bijir central chassis lubrication system, “Ride-Control” adjustable shocks, driver-adjustable, vacuum-assisted, freewheeling mechanical drum brakes, a new “Stromberg” downdraft carburetor which included an automatic choke mechanism and fast-idle circuit, and of course the “Packard Stabilizer”, chassis vibration dampers incorporated into the front bumpers, were featured.

The updated exterior featured the clamshell styled fenders complete with skirting and all the usual Packard finery. “V” type radiators with body-painted cowling and thermostatically-controlled shutters was standard, as well as, the new controlled body-ventilation system. The interior was also upgraded, refined and treated to a lavish looking Carpathian Elm Burlwood dashboard with American Elm accents. The speedometer now included a tachometer and the electric fuel gauge also contained an oil level read-out. Luxuriously appointed and custom interiors were the norm at Packard and the vehicles could cruise, smoothly and quietly, all day at highway speeds of 60 to 70 mph. Due to a torque rating of 322 lbs/ft, the Packard Twelves had a quick take-off from a standing stop and could effortlessly reach close to 100 mph at top speeds, making it one of the fastest cars of its day.

In fact, Maurice D. Hendry, a top authority on Classic Cars in New Zealand once stated “If you set out to design a luxury car that would have high performance, but be far quieter and smoother than a Duesenberg; that would rival the refinement of the Cadillac V16, but be mechanically simpler; you would have your work cut out for a start! . . . But, if in addition, you sought a car Europeans rated superior to the finest Old World contemporaries, you would face a monumental task. If you succeeded, you’d be able to congratulate yourself on a job uncommonly well done. Packard succeeded!” (This was printed many years ago in “The Packard Cormorant”, the magazine of the Packard Club.)

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Vehicle Profile: Plymouth Barracuda

Plymouth Barracuda

The Plymouth Barracuda (“Cuda” for short), an aggressive sounding name for a car (and a pretty mean-ass fish, which is a deep-water predator, with a lot of sharp teeth), was unfortunately only produced for 11 years (1964 to 1974). The Plymouth Barracuda started out as a sporty, compact, fastback model based on the A-body or Valiant chassis (an entry level or secondary vehicle for the economy-minded, American family of the day).

There were three generations of the Plymouth Barracuda during its 11 year production run, the first (1964 to 1966) and second (1967 to 1969) generations were based on their A-body platform (Valiant chassis). The third generation was built on a totally new, specifically built chassis, referred to as the E-body. The release date of the Plymouth Valiant Barracuda model was April 1, 1964 (actually making it the first real Pony car model), just two weeks before Ford made an early release of their infamous 1965 Mustang Pony car.

The first generation Barracudas came with a huge rear fastback glass area (14.4 sq. ft). It was designed in cahoots with the PPG Company (Pittsburgh Paint and Glass) and at the time was the largest wrapped (curved down to meet the rear body panels) glass area ever installed on an American-made production vehicle.  All models were of the 2-door coupe design with that distinctive fastback glass area. The 1964 Barracudas were offered with either a standard slant 6, 170-cid (101 hp) or 225 cid (145 hp), 6-cylinder engines or the Chrysler Corporations’ 273 cid (called the LA design), V8 with a 2-barrel carburetor which produced 180 hp. This would also be the only year with the optional, dash-mounted, push-button, 3-speed, automatic Torqueflite transmission. The standard transmission was the 3-speed (“3″ on the tree) manual transmission.

For 1965, the Barracudas remained cosmetically the same but they had a few changes under the hood and in the interior departments. Also, to give the Barracuda its own identity, Plymouth decided to drop all Valiant badging from the vehicle in order to keep the Barracuda model exclusive. The base engine would now be the 225-cid, 6-cyl (in all U.S. models), while the 273-cid, V8 with 2-barrel carburetor, would remain as the entry-level V8. An optional Commando version of the 273-cid V8, would be offered and produced 235 hp via a 4-barrel carburetor/intake, a higher compression ratio, a special camshaft with solid lifters and some fine tuning.

A Formula S package was added which included things like the 273-cid, Commando V8 engine, a tachometer, special badging, a sportier suspension system and larger tires and rims. Factory installed air-conditioning and front disc brakes were made available later in the production year. The 1966 Barracuda would receive a minor facelift including new front-end sheet metal, new grille work, larger bumpers and some new tail lights. The interior sported a new dashboard which included areas for the optional tachometer and oil pressure gauge and for the first time, a center console was an option. The 1966 also sported the new fish logo along with the Barracuda nameplate.

Second generation Plymouth Barracudas came with all new and exclusive sheet metal (not sharing with the Valiant models, as before) and was now available as a notchback coupe and also, a convertible (all were still 2-door vehicles). The wheelbase was extended by 2 inches to make it 108 inches and the exposed racing-style gas cap was located on the left rear 1/4 panel. Even though the exterior was all new and exclusive, the Barracuda still shared many components with its sister Valiant models, to keep manufacturing costs down. Some of the unique new design features were more rounded looking body panels, a concave deck panel at the rear/trunk area and the rear fastback glass area was more flattened out. As for the enlarged engine compartment area, the 225-cid Slant 6-cylinder was still standard, the 273-cid V8 with 2-barrel or 4-barrel carburetor options and newly available, but rarely-ordered, was the 383-cid Big-Block Super Commando V8 powerplant (only available with the Formula S package).

For 1968, the exterior remained basically the same except for the federally mandated addition of side-marker lights. The 273-cid V8 was replaced with the 318-cid V8 and a powerful 340-cid V8 with 4-barrel carburetor was offered as an option. You could still opt for the 383-cid Big Block Super Commando V8, with approximately 300 hp, if the mood struck you. There was also the very special (as only about 50 were made), Hurst-built Performance editions which housed a 426-cid Hemi V8 with two 4-barrel carburetors. These were designed specifically for SuperStock drag racing. This monster was capable of running the 1/4 mile in the mid-10’s, right off the showroom floor. Wow, really? A production car? Yep, made and sold by the manufacturer in 1968. It did, however, come with a sticker/disclaimer that stated something to the effect that “this car is not for use on public roads”. (Yeah, right, got it officer.)

Again for 1969, there were minimal changes to the general appearance. To keep with Plymouth’s emphasis on building and supplying performance minded vehicles for their performance minded clientele, some powerhouse drivetrains were available to meet your desire. In keeping up with the times, a Mod Top option was offered which included a floral (like “flower-power” man) designed vinyl roof with matching seats and door panels. The ‘Cuda package (based on the popular FormulaS package) was born.  It was all business and set the tone for the release of the all new ‘Cuda for 1970.

The third generation Plymouth Barracuda had come into its own and was a force to be reckoned with. The fastback was gone for good and the coupe and convertible models would carry on. The Barracuda was now 100% removed from any association/sharing with the Valiant models and was a stand alone vehicle built on the new “E” Body platform.

Three models of the new performance based vehicle were now available, including the base model Barracuda, the Gran Coupe (a more luxury-inspired model) and the Sport and high-performance model, ‘Cuda. This new chassis design was a shorter, wider version of their “B” bodied cars (Road Runner, etc) and had, of course, a larger engine bay (reportedly to more easily house the 426-cid, Hemi V8 for true production vehicles). Another, smaller 198-cid, Slant 6-cylinder engine was added to the base 225-cid version, and over six different versions of V8s were available including, 318-cid, 340-cid, 383-cid Super Commando 2-barrel with 290 hp or 4-barrel with 330 hp in base and Gran Coupes, 335 hp in ‘Cuda models as its base engine, 440-cid 4-barrel, 440-cid 6-barrel (3-dueces) or 426-cid Hemi with two 4-barrels. The 440-cid and 426-cid Hemi engines were always complimented with a heavy-duty suspension package and strategic, structural reinforcements to ensure the power got to the ground.

For 1971 the Plymouth Barracudas would get a new grille (also, the only year that they would have four headlamps and faux gills on the upper-rear, front fenders of the ‘Cuda models), new tail lights and some new trim options and seats. Otherwise, they would remain cosmetically the same with most powerplant offerings still available except for the 440-cid, 4-barrel engine. Some desirable options on 1970 and 1971 cars was the Shaker hood, Dana “60” rear axle, various graphics packages and some interestingly, vivid colors. (Note: only 11 of the 1971 Hemi ‘Cuda convertibles were produced and some examples of these have sold for over two million USD at auction).

The 1972 through 1974 would remain basically the same (except for available powerplants, no more big blocks were available, how sad) after the upgrades in 1972 to the grille, switch back to dual headlamps and new, circular, quad tail lights, incorporating the back-up lamps. Some other minor changes over the final three years would be conforming to new federal standards pertaining to safety, but mostly to the front and rear bumpers. Also, mainly due to tougher emissions standards and somewhat due to increasing insurance rates, the oil embargo, etc., the vehicle became extinct on April 1, 1974 (exactly 10 years to the date after its start) as they removed the vicious bite from the venerable ‘Cudas.

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Vehicle Profile: 1967-1970 Mercury Cougar

468254_16162649_1969_Mercury_Cougar

In 1967, Mercury officially entered the Pony Car arena with the introduction of their Cougar models. The Mercury Cougar was designed to be a sport/luxury vehicle intended for the pony car market. It was also designed to compete with its counterparts not only in the USA but also in Europe.

The Mercury Cougar immediately gained acceptance and was even extremely successful in the racing circuits of the day with involvement of greats like Dan Gurney, Bud Moore (NASCAR), Parnelli Jones, Ed Leslie and former Carroll Shelby employees Nels Miller, Mark Waco and Bernie Kretzschmars. They worked together on a Cougar race team for famed Indy car owner Bob Estes, racking up a record six wins in ten races for 1967.

The Mercury Cougar was designed as a slightly larger-sized vehicle (after extensive study results were compiled by means of corporate and public surveys). It was more luxurious in options and offerings than the Ford Mustang, on which it was based. Mercury designers worked to combine all the best qualities of the Ford Thunderbird and Mustang models.

The target market for the Mercury Cougar was a younger, upscale, well-educated, more discerning, married with family buyer. It was ultimately geared toward the male ego. The 111-inch wheelbase was 3 inches longer than that of the Mustang and overall length was 6.7 inches longer as well. The Cougar also weighed approximately 200 pounds more than the average Mustang but possessed a softer more comfortable ride in stock form. The Cougar still had the characteristic short rear deck area and long hood area in keeping with the Pony Car styling cues.

All early Cougars were of the two-door (notchback-style) coupe design and a convertible was added in 1969 and continued for 1970 (culminating the end of the first generation of the Pony Car year models). The Mercury Cougar would only be available with a V8 powertrain (of several various displacements from 289-cid to 428-cid over the 1967 to 1970 year models) and coupled to a 3-speed or 4-speed manual transmission or 3-speed automatic transmission.

1967 and 1968 were virtually the same except for larger displacement engine offerings for 1968 and some subtle styling changes (i.e. federally mandated side-marker lamps for 1968). The signature fender to fender (with center divider) “electric razor” looking grille, with closely spaced vertical chrome inserts and concealed headlamps were all a part of the more sophisticated look and functionality.  The rear, nearly body-wide, sequentially flashing turn signals/tail lights (borrowed from the earlier Ford Thunderbirds) also added to the sophistication. Crisp bodylines and angular styling gave the car a unique, aggressive tough guy look.

The sportier GT package offered more performance upgrades (like 390-cid big-block engine) than the base model Cougar.  The even more luxurious XR-7 package was offered and comprised of a competition styled cluster walnut wood grained dash/console area and steering wheel inserts, leather/vinyl covered seats and a leather automatic shift-control handle. An extra special XR-7G option (“G”, for the racing legend Dan Gurney) was offered and came with all sorts of special performance goodies like racing-style hood pins (then popular), a center hood scoop and even some Lucas fog lamps. A mid-year (1968) introduction, GT-E option, saw the use of the 7-Litre, 427-cid and even later on the 428-cid Cobra Jet “Ram Air” engine, which was intentionally under estimated at 335 hp. Some 150,000 total units were produced in 1967.  In 1968, those numbers dropped to about 113,000 units (619 were XR-7G’s and 602 were GT-E’s, only 244 with the 428-cid C/Jet engine).

The 1969 Mercury Cougar welcomed the introduction of the convertible model along with a few other subtle styling changes (including more engine offerings).  Weight was added with a wider and longer wheelbase. The grille had now changed to horizontal fins instead of the vertical style (electric shaver) models. Some optional enhancements to the front-end area included a spoiler and Ram-Air induction style hood scoop.

An Eliminator performance package was offered for the first time which included a 351-cid with 4-barrel carburetor, or optional 390-cid with 4-barrel carburetor or even 428-cid “CJ” (Cobra Jet) or 302-cid “Boss” motors. The Eliminator was detected visually by the blacked out grille area and further enhanced by standard front and rear spoilers, special striping and better performance/handling suspension package. However, the awesome XR-7G and the GT-E options were both dropped for 1969. Production dropped again to 100,000 total units for 1969.

1970 saw the final year of the first generation Mercury Cougar and only a few changes from the 1969 version. The hood now contained a center tooth which divided the new grille area in two. The black grille/headlamp covers had reverted back to the vertical electric-shaver style fins. Inside the car we saw some new interior patterns and a federally mandated, lockable, steering column to help deter theft (however, as always, the thieves quickly figured out how to circumvent that minor setback to their craft) . The 351-cid engine was now available in both the standard Windsor with a 2-barrel carburetor and the new Cleveland, 300 hp (with 4-barrel carburetor) versions.

1969 and 1970 convertibles were produced in small numbers and today are very prized among collectors. Total production for the 1970 year model dropped to 72,000 units. The muscle car era was being heavily scrutinized each coming year, until they all but eliminated performance as we knew it.

Vehicle Profile: Chevrolet Nova

1967 Chevrolet Nova

The Chevrolet Chevy II or Chevy II Nova (later just Nova), was one of the quickest, concept-to-production new vehicle projects to be produced by the General Motors Corporation. It was only 18 short months from inception to the first unit rolling off the assembly line on August 16th, 1961. It was barely in time for its release to the public in September, as a 1962 year model.

This was all done in order to compete directly with the now popular, Ford Falcon, a compact car which had become a major success for the Ford Motor Company shortly after its debut in 1960. The Nova quickly became a fierce compact car competitor with four-door sedans, station wagons and they even offered a two-door hardtop and convertible, ahead of the Falcon’s release of those same models. According to Ed Cole, GM’s General Manager of the time, the Chevy II’s mission was to be a back-to-the-basics, simple and affordable vehicle for the masses. He described it to the press as offering the buying public “maximum functionalism with thrift!”.

The name, Nova, was (internally, at Chevrolet, anyhow) a popular choice to represent the new model (but at first, Nova, was only used on their top-of-the-line models), but again, with keeping its new models tied only to names beginning with the letter “C”, it was last minute, when they finally settled on the “Chevy II” name. There would be five generations of the Chevy II or Nova models, ranging from 1962 through 1988, with a brief hiatus from 1980 to 1985. The fifth generation Nova, made from 1986 through 1988, was actually a sub-compact, re-modeled, re-badged, front-wheel-drive vehicle produced as a joint effort between GM and Toyota, and based on their Sprinter model. The Chevy II name was dropped after the 1968 year model and was afterwards, known as the Chevrolet Nova through the end of its run.

The base of the Nova’s through 1979 (the end of the fourth generation run) was a rear-wheel-drive vehicle of unibody construction. Over the years, you could have ordered your Nova with anything from a 153-cid in-line, 4-cylinder (later models, 1975 to 1979, carried the Iron Duke 151-cid in-line, 4-cylinder) to a 402-cid Big-Block, V8 and pretty much everything in-between. What a gas these sleeper cars could be with a little creative “tuning”.

The first generation Chevrolet Chevy II (Nova) ran from 1962 through 1965 and saw the first V8 powerplant available from the factory in 1964, a 283-cid unit, producing 195 hp. It was, however, commonplace in 1962 and 1963 to have a dealer installed V8, placed under the hood. The 1965 received a bit of a facelift and some more ponies, due to various engine options now available, including the SS models, 300 hp, 327-cid Small-Block V8 making the little compact a real musclecar contender. The standard transmission was the 3-speed, on-the-tree manual, an optional 4-speed manual transmission (sometimes dealer-installed) and 2-speed Powerglide automatic transmission.

The second generation Chevrolet Chevy II (Nova) experienced the shortest run of all five generations and ran from 1966 to 1967. They came with a more modern, angular looking body shape (including a semi-fastback roofline) and squared-up styling than the previous models. However, most other features, as offered on earlier models, changed very little and basic dimensions were about the same. The 1967 NovaSS, option package, was the first model of the line to drop all “Chevy II” badging, even though the model was still referred to as the Chevrolet Chevy II.

The third generation Chevrolet Chevy II (Nova, X-Body) enjoyed the longest production run of all the generations and stayed around from 1968 through 1974. A complete, extensive, frame-up re-design came for 1968 and carried-on, basically unchanged, through the end of the series in 1974. The front end housed the newly designed GM sub-frame assembly (similar to that, which was used, on the new Chevrolet Camaro for 1967) comprised of both the front suspension and powertrain, which was then bolted to the chassis of the vehicle. The station wagon (due mainly to lack of interest) and hardtop sport coupe models were discontinued and would not return. Some available options included power steering and brakes, rear shoulder safety belts and head restraints, and Four-Season air-conditioning.

For 1969, Chevrolet finally decided to drop the “Chevy II” nameplates and badging and now their compact car was officially known as, simply, the Chevrolet “Nova”. The four cylinder powertrain was dropped from the lineup for 1971 due to lack of sales and the 250-cid, L6, became the base powerplant. The 3-speed manual transmission and 2-speed Powerglide were still offered standard, but the 3-speed Turbo-Hydromatic automatic and 4-speed manual transmissions were available on most V8’s.

1970 would be the last year for the venerable “SS396″ Nova’s, while they were actually increased to 402 c.i. displacement to help meet emissions standards, but due to its strong “SS396″ name recognition and to downplay power output to relieve pressure from governmental scrutiny and insurance companies ever increasing premiums, Chevrolet chose to keep the “SS396″ badging. A Rally Sport package was offered for 1971 and 1972 which included suspension upgrades, some Rally wheels, special striping and trim options and the largest engine available was now the 350-cid V8.

For 1972 an optional sunroof could now be ordered as well as Strato style bucket seats with built-in headrests. 1973 saw a minor facelift with a hatchback rear glass area, and once again, to conform to the government mandates to have energy-absorbing, 5-mph bumpers front and rear. For the first time, since 1962, a multi-leaf rear spring (like those used on the new Camaros) would replace the single-leaf type. We would also say goodbye to the long-running, 2-speed, Powerglide automatic transmission. For 1974 the Chevrolet Nova would receive some minor exterior upgrades including larger parking lights and even larger, impact-absorbing bumpers for safety sake (actually adding over two inches of length to the vehicle). The 2-speed Powerglide automatic transmission was now replaced by the 3-speed Turbo-Hydramatic automatic transmission.

The fourth generation Chevrolet Nova (X-Body) would last from 1975 through 1979 and would be the makers most-changed model in its lineup for 1975. With all new sheetmetal “refined along the lines of elegant European sedans” stated in the brochure, but keeping some of the third generations rear suspension components and the same 111-inch wheelbase. The front suspension was similar to that used on the second generation Camaro, with larger diameter stabilizer bar, front disc brakes now came standard and radial tires were used all the way around. Windshields had larger glass area, while coupes and hatchbacks had fixed rear-quarter glass or optional swing-out hinged glass. The new LN (Luxury) models featured creature comforts never before seen on a Chevrolet compact car.

For 1976 the “LN” model was re-badged as the “Concours” to compete with other brands more elegant sounding names (i.e.: Monarch, Granada, etc.) and boasted such lavish appointments as Rosewood vinyl woodgrain interior trim, the first Chevrolet coupe to offer fold-down front, center armrest and it even had an upright, sprung, hood ornament. All other changes throughout the end of the run were merely cosmetic and or diminishing in power and performance. The 1979 Chevrolet Nova would bow to the age of front-wheel drive vehicles and the likes of the Chevrolet Citation.

The fifth generation Chevrolet Nova (1986 to 1988) just one word . . . Forgettaboutit. That’s a story for another generation (no pun intended).

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Vehicle Profile: Chevrolet El Camino

1967 Chevrolet El Camino

The full-sized, Chevrolet El Camino was first launched as a new model in 1959 in response to Ford’s full-sized Ranchero model (launched in 1957). The El Camino was continued (and discontinued) in 1960, and would only compete head-to-head (and win with 22,246 units sold to Ranchero’s 14,169 units sold) with the full-sized Ranchero in 1959. Ford decided to downsize the Ranchero for 1960 and base it on their new, smaller, Falcon chassis.

Chevrolet would drop the full-sized El Camino from their line-up for 1961 to 1963.  It re-emerged in 1964 based on a new, mid-sized Chevelle chassis and remain in production until 1987. GM’s Chief Designer, Harley Earl, actually suggested a “coupe-pickup” designed vehicle as early as 1952, but GM’s top brass did not act on that idea until Ford came out with the Ranchero in 1957. The El Camino name is of Spanish origin meaning “the road”.

Since the “First Generation” Chevrolet El Camino was based on a car chassis (as opposed to a truck chassis) all the trim options available in the corresponding model, Impala, Bel Air, Brookwood, Biscayne, etc. (and later on SS) were available. These creature comforts and more plush interiors were not yet available on the full-sized truck models of the day (other than the short-lived, 1955 through 1958 Chevrolet “Cameo Carrier” full-sized pick-up models) and were very well received by the public.

The El Caminos also featured the first Chevrolet built pick-up, with an all-steel (sheet metal, instead of wood) corrugated bed floor. A 235-cid L6, 283-cid V8 (in several variations and hp ratings) and even a 348-cid V8 (also a few variations) were available and all were offered with either a manual (3 or 4 speed) or 2-speed, Powerglide, automatic transmission. Initially, sales were good, then fell off by nearly 1/3 for 1960 (producing just over 14,000 units), possibly due to the fact that the cab only held up to 3 persons (at a time when the country was experiencing a major growth spurt due to the baby-boomer era). Maybe, a concept ahead of its time (as a crossover type vehicle), the Chevrolet El Camino would leave the scene for a few short years and re-emerge in 1964 based on the new, mid-sized Chevelle platform.

The “Second Generation” Chevrolet El Camino was produced from 1964 through 1967 and, as mentioned, was based on the all new Chevrolet Chevelle chassis as a mid-sized, coupe/pickup, type vehicle. Available engines were a 194-cid L6 with 120 hp, a 230-cid L6 with 155 hp and a 283-cid V8 with 2-barrel carburetor and rated at 195 hp, and a 4-barrel version (complete with dual exhaust) rated at 220 hp. Later in the production run for 1964 was a 327-cid V8 rated at either 250 hp or 300 hp depending on option package and again, coupled to manual (3 or 4 speed) and automatic transmissions.

For 1965, a minor facelift was given to the front end (with a V’d grille shape similar to the newly designed, full-sized Chevrolets).  An even more powerful 327-cid V8 rated at 350 hp was an option as well as all the engine offerings for 1964.

The 1966 El Camino received another minor facelift with some massaged sheet metal and slant-cut front fenders where they mated, at the more aggressively angled, grille area. The interior was freshened-up, including a horizontally sweeping speedometer and instrument cluster. And finally, an optional 396-cid V8 (big-block) was offered, in several variations from 325 to 375 hp.

For 1967, the El Camino again carried the features of the Chevelle forward of the B pillars and was given a more pronounced grille area, front bumper and available trim work (an optional vinyl roof was even offered). Air-shocks were still standard equipment in order to compensate for load weight and disc brakes were now an available option.  A new TH400, 3-speed Turbo-Hydromatic, automatic transmission for the 396-cid engines was also available. An energy-absorbing steering column and dual-reservoir, brake master-cylinder were now standard equipment due to federal mandates.

The “Third Generation” Chevrolet El Camino was produced from 1968 through 1972 and featured a completely new, longer, Chevelle-based chassis and body re-design. All new sheet metal and more aggressive looking, forward-styling, enhanced the performance look and sporty feel of the new models. Again, power front disc-brakes and now, a posi-traction rear axle were available as options. The interior was totally re-designed with cloth/vinyl or full-vinyl bench seat or optional full-vinyl Strato bucket seats and center console. Deep-twist carpeting was standard and interior trim was shared with the Chevelle/Malibu models.

For 1969 the El Camino front grille area and surrounding body area was more rounded in appearance and kept the quad headlamps (now with a single-bar divider). The parking lamps were located in the slotted bumper. This is the first time a 350-cid V8 would be available in the El Camino. A revised instrument panel with round instrument design replaced the previous horizontal look and power windows and door locks were an option. The Super Sport package, including various versions of the 396-cid V8, now featured a blacked-out grille with “SS” emblem in the center and double, raised bulges running front to rear (from the mid to rear) of the hood, leading to a chromed grate.

The 1970 El Camino saw some interior redesigns and new exterior sheet metal that gave the bodywork a more squared-off look. The 396 badging was kept, even though the displacement was increased to 402-cid and the LS6, 454-cid big-block V8 with some 450 hp was now available.

For 1971, the El Camino received a new front end redesign, with single-unit, Power-Beam, headlamps like the Chevelle now used and integral park/turn/side-marker lamps. As the Feds were cracking down on those air-polluting emissions, GM was forced to add the dreaded smog pumps to their engines and reduce compression and horsepower at the same time.

The 1972 El Camino came with a front fender safety, side-marker/parking lamps and a re-vamped, twin-bar grille. Again, due to global standardization and ever tightening emissions mandates, all vehicles would now use net instead of gross horsepower ratings and the power decrease was across the board. The SS models would become diluted and now any V8 engine could be ordered with this option.

The “Fourth Generation” Chevrolet El Camino was produced from 1973 through 1977 and again, was based on the Chevelle, (A-body) station wagon chassis. It was the largest and heaviest vehicle of the entire series and featured the government mandated, safety, impact-absorbing bumpers front and rear. Two trim packages were offered, the base model and the SS. Front disc-brakes were now standard and the wheel track, front and rear, was increased by one inch for better stability. Coil springs at all four wheels were computer-selected by weight of added options to make for smoother ride and handling properties. Several new features included a double-panel acoustical roof, sturdier designed side-door guard beams for structural integrity, flush-style outer door handles, better fitting glass seals for wind-sound reduction, full, flow-through power vent system, inside hood release and contour-molded foam seats and backs. Visibility was increased by thinning out the front glass pillars and longer trips between fuel stops with a new 22 gallon fuel tank.

The engines available for 1973 were the (base) 307-cid V8 with 2-barrel carburetor and 115 hp, the optional 350-cid V8 with 2-barrel carburetor and 145 hp, the optional 350-cid V8 with 4-barrel carburetor and 175 hp and lastly the 454-cid V8 with 4-barrel carburetor and 245 hp. The 3 or 4-speed manual transmission and the Turbo-Hydromatic, 3-speed automatic transmission were available. The SS was now reduced to a mere trim option and included a blacked-out grille with “SS” center emblem, special instrumentation and interior badging, body-side striping, bright roof-drip moldings, body-colored outside sport-mirrors, front and rear anti-roll bars, rallye rims with special, raised white-letter 70-series tires, and was only available with the 350 or 454 V8’s.

For 1974, the El Camino had a revised (Mercedes-style) grille, a new trim package called the Classic was available.  It offered a more luxurious interior with cloth or vinyl upholstery and carpeted door panels and woodgrained panels on dashboard. The 350-cid V8 was now the base and a 400-cid V8 was introduced and the 454-cid V8 was still an available option.

The 1975 El Camino saw another new grille design, dual remote-operated outside mirrors and radial tires with refined suspension for a smoother, quieter ride. Creature comforts such as intermittent wipers, “Econominder” instrument package complete with vacuum gauge (to monitor fuel consumption) and cruise-control were offered, along with some standard features like H.E.I. ignition, which improved performance and minimized maintenance. The 250-cid L6 with 105 hp was offered as the base engine and this would be the last year for the 454-cid V8 which was now reduced to 215 hp due to emission standards choking the life outta that big-bore monster.

The 1976 El Camino remained unchanged for the base models and only a cosmetic change of new “stacked” rectangular headlamps was evident on the Classic models. The 1977 El Camino again remained visually unchanged from the previous year but lost the availability of the 400-cid V8.

The “Fifth Generation” Chevrolet El Camino was produced from 1978 through 1987, which was the last year for the series. The El Camino, once again, shared some suspension components and front-end sheet metal with the Chevelle Malibu, but this time, had its very own specifically designed chassis. Four models were available through the final run of the “coupe/pickup” including the El Camino, Royal Knight, Conquista and Super Sport. A totally new, slimmer, angled and chiseled looking body style emerged for the final 10 year run with a one-inch longer (117-inch) wheelbase. The doors were borrowed from the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and the tailgate and rear bumper were shared with the Malibu Station Wagon. The slightly protruding, grille area included new larger, single rectangular headlamps. As downsizing was now the norm, the base engine was a 200-cid V6 with 94 hp, with optional powerplants of 231-cid V6 (Buick manufactured) with 105 hp, 305-cid V8 with 145 hp and the 350-cid V8 with 170 meager hp.

For 1979 El Caminos, very little was changed, aside from the visibly divided grille panel and under the hood was a new 267-cid V8 with 125 hp. For 1980, the El Camino remained nearly identical cosmetically, but again, under the hood the 200-cid V6 was bumped to 229-cid and hp rating increased to 115, the 305-cid V8 now with 155 hp and the 350-cid V8 was discontinued. Most vehicles now came with the automatic transmission but the 3-on-the-tree was standard.

For 1981, the El Camino sported a new vertical designed grille and under the hood a new GM “Computer Command Control” system to help reduce emissions even further and again, horsepower ratings were down across the board. The automatic transmission also received a lock-up type torque-converter for better highway mileage.

The 1982 through 1987 El Caminos remained basically the same and were treated to a quad-rectangular (side-by-side) headlamp arrangement and cross-hatched grille pattern. A dismal performing, dog of a diesel motor (350-cid V8 with 105 noisy hp) was an option for 1982 through 1984. In 1983, the 267-cid V8 was dropped and from 1984 to 1987 the SS model borrowed the front end of the Monte Carlo SS and offered the 305-cid V8 with 190 hp. In 1985, Chevrolet transferred production of all El Camino models to their plant in Mexico and through 1987 the 262-cid V6 was the standard engine. Somehow ironic, the long running El Camino model would end its life south of the border at a plant in Mexico.

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2nd Generation Chevrolet Camaro

1972 Chevrolet Camaro

After the dazzling debut and extreme popularity of the 1st generation (1967 through 1969) Chevrolet Camaro, GM’s Chevrolet Division’s designers and engineers (inspired by the likes of Jaguar, Ferrari and Aston-Martin designs of the day) were challenged to give the next generation Pony Car a fresh new look and some added technological upgrades. For the 2nd generation Camaro (1970 thru 1981), there were obvious body style changes made, including lower, wider and longer dimensions. Some chassis and drivetrain upgrades were made and eventual horsepower downgrades were in the works as well (mostly due to pressure from EPA to meet continually restrictive, emissions standards) throughout the model run. Even so, some enthusiasts will argue that the 2nd generation Camaros, nicknamed the “Super Hugger”, were more a true driver’s car and quite possibly, the best all-around Muscle Car ever made.

The newly redesigned Chevrolet Camaro two-door coupe (the convertible was no longer offered), complete with fastback styling, would get a late start as a 1970 model (released in February of 1970). This would eventually make it the most sought after year of the second generation Camaros, due to low production numbers (just under 125,000 units) and more powerful drivetrain offerings.

Some notable changes throughout the second generation Chevrolet Camaro series were:

1970 – Totally new, re-design of body (all of Fastback 2+2 style) and upgrades to chassis, available in base Sport Coupe, RS, SS and Z/28 models. They were approximately two inches longer, an inch lower and just less than an inch wider than the first generation Camaros, with a longer hood and shorter rear trunk/deck area with a Kamm (flat cut-off) back styling with round, inset Corvette-like tail lights. The longer doors were of a full-glass (vent-less) design and gone were the rear quarter-panel, side panel windows. The roof panel was of a new double-panel design to increase roll-over protection and deaden sound. The base models featured a full front bumper, while the rest of the models all had a more aggressive looking, extended, rubberized “Endura” material surrounding a sunken grille, with chromed bumperettes on each side of the open grille. The new instrument panel featured several round gauge clusters, placed directly in front of the driver with other controls and radio near the center. The standard interiors were offered with an all-vinyl material and the dash was finished in a matte black color. An optional upgraded vinyl/cloth interior was offered along with some woodgrain surfaces. The largest engine available was the 396-cid V8 (which actually displaced 402 c.i., but Chevrolet decided to retain the “396” badging) which was rated at 375 hp and was only available in the SS models and came with 4-spd manual transmission, also available in the SS, was the 350-cid, 300 hp V8, again, with the 4-spd manual transmission. The six cylinder engine, available in the base Sport Coupe, was increased to 250-cid, 155 hp, from the former 230-cid powerplant and an optional 307-cid, V8, 200 hp, was also available. The RS models were available with the 250-cid L6, with 155 hp or the 350-cid V8, with 250 hp depending on your option choice. The Z/28 (Special Performance Package) was only available with the new high-performance LT-1, 350-cid, V8, 360 hp, powerplant. Transmissions available were a 3-spd standard, 4-spd standard (with Hurst Shifter) or Turbo-Hydramatic 400/3-spd automatic transmission.

1971 – Minor changes were made mostly in the appearance area (colors, stripes, badging, etc.) and the standard interior was now of the vinyl/cloth design. Also in the interior was the addition of the high-back bucket seats with built-in headrests that were not adjustable. Due to tougher emissions standards imposed by the government, most horsepower ratings declined in the performance offerings. The world was beginning the change-over to unleaded fuels and all manufacturers were scrambling to meet these more restrictive emission standards. Due to a corporate-wide, GM strike in late September, 1970, (which lasted 67 days) production was down for the 1971 year models. There were even rumors at GM about the demise of the F Body cars (Camaro and “sister” Firebird) because of declining interest in the PonyCar market and high insurance rates for all performance vehicles. Also, production of Camaros was halted at the Van Nuys, CA plant and were now produced at only the Norwood, OH assembly plant.

1972 – Again, minor changes are made to a faltering model, which again, is hit by a devastating UAW strike lasting 174 days. The internal battle to continue the F body cars went on at General Motors/Chevrolet and finally the supporters of the models won out and convinced the top-brass that it was still a viable vehicle. Only some 68,000 Camaros would be built in 1972, including only about 970 SS-396 models. This was also the last year for the SS models in the second generation run and the Z/28 model would lose the “/” and now be the Z28. Horsepower ratings continued to fall and even more so because the world was changing from gross to net ratings. For instance, the LT-1, 350-cid V8 dropped from 330 hp gross (1971 rating) to 255 hp for 1972 net ratings.

1973 – Standard impact absorbing front bumpers were added due to government safety legislation and again the horsepower ratings dropped and the 396-cid V8 was dropped. A new model LT was introduced and could be ordered along with the RS and Z28 to have all combinations in one car. The LT came with a more luxurious, quieter interior, full instrumentation, Rallye styled wheels, “hidden” wipers, sport mirrors and variable-ratio steering, among other available upgrades. Power windows were again offered, which had not been available since the 1969 year models. After a rough year and recovering from the previous year’s strike, they managed to build over 96,000 units.

1974 – A forward slanting grille was added to accommodate the new aluminum front bumper, which was added to meet further government safety standards. A similar rear aluminum bumper was added for the same reasons and overall the two new bumpers increased the length of the Camaro by some seven inches. The round rear taillights were replaced by elongated, rectangular, corner-wrapped units and sales would increase to over 150,000 units (despite the fuel crisis, which was initiated by the Arab Oil Embargo). Most of the Camaro’s (and Firebird’s) traditional competition would fall by the wayside and from now through the end of its run in 1981, the Camaro would be the reigning PonyCar with no real competition.

1975 – Interiors were changed slightly with new trim patterns and you could supposedly order a leather interior in the LT models (even though none were ever produced) and the walnut trim was replaced with a Bird’s Eye Maple woodgrain. Power door locks were now available and radial tires were standard equipment on all models. The rear window area was changed to a more wrap-around fastback style and gave greater visibility. The “Camaro” nameplate was removed from the rear trunk lid and the front fender scripts were changed to block letters. The “Camaro” badge was removed from the grille and a badge was placed on the cowl above the grille area on the front nose. The Z28 was dropped and would not reappear until 1977. The catalytic converter was introduced as a more efficient means to reduce emissions, which ended the use of a true-duals, exhaust system. Sales were again pretty strong at over 145,000 units for 1975.

1976 – The sales kept climbing as Camaro/Firebird now owned 100% of the PonyCar market and over 182,000 units were produced for 1976. A few appearance updates were made and the LT models received a brushed metal insert on the rear panel. All V8 models were now supplied with standard power-brakes.

1977 – The reintroduction of the Z28 was mostly due to the extreme popularity of the Firebird Trans-Am of 1976 and was a mid-year addition for 1977 Camaros. This late addition was an immediate success and very popular with a 350-cid V8, 4-barrel carburetor and producing 185 hp. Most of the Z28’s were supplied with creature comforts, like air-conditioning and automatic transmission. The Borg-Warner Super T-10, 4-spd manual transmission was still available, as well as the new intermittent wiper system. Over 218,000 units were produced for 1977 and the first time that Camaro outsold the Ford Mustang. A stripped-down Z28, in the hands of a capable driver, could outperform the Pontiac Trans-Am and even the Corvettes on any highway or even a twisty canyon road.

1978 – The Camaro would receive new bumpers front and rear for 1978 with rubberized, body-colored covers and the hood would now contain a “scoop”. Sales again increased to over 272,000 units and make a strong statement to those who had doubted it just a few years ago.

1979 – The “LT” model would be replaced by the more luxurious “Berlinetta” model for 1979. A re-designed instrument cluster, with flatter looking fascia, would replace the aging dash area in front of the driver. The “Z28″ came with a new front spoiler and fender flares and some new decals. The rear window now had an electric “defogger”, embedded in the glass. Another record year for sales with over 282,000 units being produced, breaking all previous sales by first or second generation Camaros.

1980 – The old reliable standard 250-cid L6 motor would be replaced by the new 229-cid V6. The Z28 hood got a new rear facing, raised, functional scoop with a solenoid actuated flapper valve, which opens under a full throttle position. New, optional grey 5-spoke rims were available for the Z28 and standard on all Z28’s was a newly styled upper and lower front grille and revised, colorful graphics. All speedometers now read a maximum of only 85 mph, reduced from the previous reading of 130 mph. Total sale figures fell to just over 152,000 units for 1980.

1981 – Virtually unchanged from the 1980 models, the 1981 Camaro would be the last of the second generation Camaros and the end of an era. Changes made were mainly government mandated, in order to increase fuel efficiency, while reducing emissions. A new computerized control system was used (CCC or Computer Command Control) with an oxygen sensor, electronically controlled carburetion system including a throttle position sensor, coolant temperature sensors, barometric pressure sensors and manifold absolute pressure sensors, along with the dreaded check engine lamp. This was only the beginning of changes that would take us out of the mechanical age and into the electronic age of today. The automatic transmission was also fitted with an electronically controlled, lock-up torque converter. This modernization (emissions restrictions) reduced the output rating to 175 hp for the 350-cid V8 in the Z28 and was now only available with an automatic transmission. The RS model was dropped this year and would not reappear until 1989. Total production fell again, to just over 126,000 units.

It was a great run for the second generation Chevrolet Camaro and they not only proved themselves as daily drivers that were loved by many, but also as great racing machines that dominated many series and all sorts of racing venues all over the world. The IROC series for one was totally dominated by the Camaros of the day.

Vehicle Profile: 1952 Studebaker Champion

1952 Studebaker

It’s quite a shame that one of the oldest automobile manufacturers (at the time of their demise) couldn’t have withstood the stiff competition of the day, because many believe they would have been an interesting addition to the future of the motoring world. The “Studebaker Automobile Company” (originally called the “Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company”) began existence in 1852 as a company which produced high-quality wagons and carts which became known as one of the heartiest, innovative and well-made variety of wagons to ever roam the wide-open lands.

Oddly enough, the first automobiles produced by Studebaker Motor Company were of the electric variety and made their debut in 1902. Their first gasoline driven cars were produced in 1904, with some components purchased from various other suppliers, while the first completely proprietary “Studebaker’s” came off the assembly line in South Bend, Indiana in the year 1912. The next 50 years (right up to and including their 100th anniversary) would prove beyond a shadow of doubt that Studebaker automobiles were not only innovative and sometimes years ahead of the competition, but very well built and completely reliable vehicles. Due to internal issues, some management blunders and the stiff competition of the day, Studebaker, like many other venerable marques over the years, would disappear by 1966.

For their 100th Anniversary in 1952, Studebaker Automobile Company planned to build a totally new vehicle, but due to complications and time constraints, some of which stemmed from the end of WWII and the more current Korean conflict, they settled instead for a facelift of the current models they offered since 1947. The striking looks of the bullet-nosed (or torpedo) designed front end was massaged into a more smooth-looking “clamdigger” design with a lower profile and six-toothed grille. The rear end kept the unique wrap-around or starlight glass effect (which is also the last year this design was used) and boat-tail rear trunk styling while the interior was updated, but most other areas of the 100th anniversary vehicles were left as they had been since the late forties. Studebakers came standard with their venerable in-line, six-cylinder engine with an optional small-block V8 offered and standard manual-transmission with an optional automatic transmission.

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