Category archives: Features

Vehicle Profile: 1965 Ford Mustang

The year of 1965 was a great one for the Ford Motor Company, with the introduction of a totally new vehicle in their lineup called the Ford Mustang! This beautiful, yet economically minded car, created a new class of vehicle which was dubbed the “Pony Car” (a sporty, 2-door coupe design which incorporated a long hood and a short, rear deck area). The car was introduced unusually early in the model year (on April 17, 1964 at the New York Worlds’ Fair and to rave reviews!) as a 1965 production model, with room to seat 4 people and was based on the affordable Ford Falcon chassis. Many purist’s still refer to these early production models (April thru September 1964) as 1964-1/2, but all were actually produced, titled and coded as 1965 models!

The Mustang also happened to be Ford Motor Company’s most successful new model launch since the Model “A” way back in 1927! The Mustang would become Ford’s third oldest nameplate to date, being surpassed only by the F-Series pickup models and the Falcon which is still in production in Australia. To date, there have been five generations of the Ford Mustang and it is also the longest running, uninterrupted production run of the original “Pony Car” in existence. Other Pony Cars that followed the Mustang have come and gone and some are even seeing a revival today, as new, current models being produced by General Motors and Chrysler.

Ford Motor Company originally estimated that less than 100,000 units would be produced for the 1965 year model, but due to huge sales and consumer demand, over 1 million were actually produced in the first 18 months of production. The car was well built and stylish, not to mention a great car to drive! It also didn’t hurt, that its 1st movie debut was in the hugely popular James Bond film, “Goldfinger”, released in September of 1964!

It’s funny, that there seems to be some confusion as to who actually chose the name for the Mustang but at least two arguments exist:

1.) That Ford’s Executive Stylist at the time, Pres Harris, who was a huge fan of the infamously successful WWII Mustangs of the North American Aviation Company not only chose the name but was instrumental in the design of the body.

2.) That Ford’s Division Market Research Manager of the time, Robert J. Eggert, due to his love of American Quarterhorse breeds, and after receiving a book, as a birthday gift from his wife back in 1960, named “the Mustangs” (by J. Frank Dobie) was responsible for using his influence to name the new car.

Either way, Lee Iacocca is still considered the “Father” of the Mustang project and his team of designers, stylists and all who were involved can be very proud of the little Pony Car that could and DID!

Vehicle Profile: 1955-1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air

In 1950, Chevrolet introduced its first Bel Air models, but in 1955,56 and 57 (commonly referred to as the Tri-Five Chevys) they made some awe inspiring design upgrades to these full-sized beauties each and every year. The kinds of changes that created true legends, not only of their time but those that will carry on forever. The result of these individually unique, designer’s dreams, was an automobile that would change the way we Americans, and the world for that matter, would love to just jump into our vehicles and go for a ride for no reason at all but pure joy of ownership.

All the 1955 Chevrolet full-sized models received new styling details (including a Ferrari-like grille) that the media could not help but praise and even earned the “Hot-One” designation by enthusiasts as well. Unlike many other manufacturers of the day, Chevrolet’s styling was crisp, clean and new. The top-of-the-line Bel Air models came with all the features found on cars in the lower model ranges but also included: interior carpet, chrome headliner strips on hardtops, large chrome spears on the front fenders, chrome window surround moldings, fully styled wheel covers and of course, the Bel Air script in gold lettering.

They had a 265-cid V-8 engine option, which featured a modernized OHV (over-head valve), high compression design that was so well designed, it remained in production in various forms, for many decades to come and became known as the beloved Chevrolet Small-Block. The base 265-cid V-8 came standard with a two-barrel carburetor and was rated at 162 hp, but later in the year, a Super-Power-Pack option was added, including a 4 barrel carburetor, a higher compression ratio and was rated at approximately 195 hp.

The 1956 Chevrolet full-sized models even received a few styling upgrades, including a full-width grille which encompassed even the front turn indicators and reached from fender to fender. A distinctive two-tone bodyside treatment and graceful wheel openings, front and rear, complimented the restyling touches. At the rear, single housings held the taillamp, stoplamp, and backup lamp (the left taillamp housing even held the hidden gas filler opening and gas cap). Among the now, seven different Bel Air models, was a new Sport Sedan, a pillarless 4-door hardtop (no divider between the front and rear door windows from the beltline to the roof).  From the various 4-door models, the 2-door hardtops and sedans, to the awesome and rare 2-door Nomad wagons many options including seatbelts, shoulder harnesses, and even a padded dashboard were available, and you could even get the hot Corvette based, 225 hp engine.

The 1957 Chevrolet full-sized models were the cream-of-the-crop in the Tri-Five family and usually have been the most desirable of the three years run of designs. The 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air is among the most recognizable American cars of all time and are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts to this day. They are stylish, roomy, fun, enjoyable and even came with tastefully subdued tail fins of the period and all that chrome. Oh, and did I mention, the 265 c.i. displacement engine was increased to 283 c.i., and when you added the Super Turbo-Fire V-8 option, you had 283 hp at your feet with the help of a continuous, closed-loop mechanical fuel-injection system. These babies were dubbed “fuelie” cars and are quite rare and bring all the money in today’s market.

Vehicle Profile: Jaguar XK150

1959 Jaguar XK150

The Jaguar XK150 sports car was an upgraded version of Jaguar’s infamous, post-war, XK120/140 models and a very desirable vehicle in the XK model bloodline. The beautifully sweeping, yet bulbous body lines were very appealing to the eye, but the hierarchy at Jaguar was not convinced that the car would be as vigorously accepted by the general public due to its more pudgy looks, as compared to the earlier XK120 and XK140 models . . . but it proved them wrong.

Today, it remains one of the most desirable, and I think beautiful, of all the early XK models. The Jaguar XK150 was introduced in 1957 and ran through the 1961 model year with various mechanical, evolutionary and technological upgrades over the 5 years of production, resulting in just fewer than 9,000 units (including some 888 units of the more powerful “S” models) being made. The Jaguar XK150 started out with only two models, the “FHC”, or Fixed-Head Coupe, and the “DHC” or Drop-Head Coupe (and all XK150’s were 2-door vehicles of course). As the Jaguar management felt the XK150 was going to be a success after its launch, they soon got to work adding a true “Roadster” to the lineup in 1958.

The Jaguar XK150 was actually the first production automobile in the world to come with four-wheel, “Dunlop” designed, disc brakes, which helped make it a great performer not only on the street, but also at the racetrack. The two-seater (the FHC and DHC models did have a very small jump-seat behind the front seats) sports cars were steel bodied on a boxed, sectioned steel frame and came with an aluminum hood (or bonnet). The Jaguar XK150 models were front-engine, rear-wheel drive vehicles with the standard engine being an in-line, six-cylinder, DOHC (double over-head camshafts) with 3.4L/210 c.i. displacement producing some 180 hp.  A “performance-tuned” or “S” engine option was made available, starting in 1958, boasting three, 51mm (2″) bore, “SU” brand HD8 model carburetors, pushing out 220 to 250hp.

In 1959, a larger displacement engine was also available on the “SE” (“Special Equipment”) and the now, most rare, XK150 “S” models, which displaced 3.8L/231 c.i. and could be tuned to produce at least 265hp. This latest version was capable of an impressive 0 to 60 mph time of just under 7 seconds (out of a straight six) and top speed of 135+ mph, while maintaining an 18 to 20 mpg fuel efficiency.

The new Jaguar XK150 came with a one piece, curved windshield glass, thinner doors, which made for a more spacious interior and a more comfy, leather-wrapped dashboard. The new, top-of-the-fender, front parking lamps had a small, red pilot light, which reminded the driver that the lights were on and steering was handled by a rack-n-pinion gear. The wheelbase of the Jaguar XK150 was 102 inches, overall width of 62.2 inches and overall length of 177 inches, while the car weighed in at around 3,000 pounds. Over its entire production run, the Jaguar XK150 was available in over a dozen different colors including my favorite . . . British Racing Green.

Vehicle Profile: MG MGB

1972 MG MGB

MG is the moniker for “Morris Garages” of Oxford, England, which began in 1924 or 1925 at a dealer of Morris brand vehicles. The discrepancy regarding the actual year that MG was established varies according to which historical records about the company one refers to. MG modified different Morris brand vehicles into various special sports car style bodies.  The emblem for MG was created in March 1928, officially establishing the brand.

Sir William Morris, an engineer and Cecil Kimber, a designer, co-founded MG. The MG brand lasted for more than 50 years, surviving a number of changes in ownership, as well as a number of mergers between 1924 to 1980. The brand continually produced vehicles during its lifetime, with the exception of the WWII era, when all manufacturing efforts were focused on the war.  The MG brand also survived the loss of one its co-founding members, when Kimber died in an obscure railway accident in 1945.

MG released the first, of their last series of sports cars to be made in 1962, the venerable MGB models. The first MGBs, referred to as MkIs (1962 to 1967), were all 2-door roadsters with convertible soft-tops and 1798cc, 4-cylinder engines and rear-wheel drive.  In 1966, MG released a 2-door hatchback coupe with 2+2 seating, called the MGB-GT. This model also featured the 1798cc 4-cylinder engine, a trend that lasted through 1974 in the U.S. market and continued through 1980 in Europe.

The MGB-GT soon spawned another vehicle in the MG line-up, the MGB-GT V8. This vehicle was designed to compete with the more powerful vehicles of the day. It featured a shoe-horned version of the Buick/Rover designed, 215-cid, V8 engine. This model was only produced for 3 years, from 1973 to 1976,  with very few units actually crossing the “pond” and landing in the states. MG also went so far as to release a version of the roadster called the MGC for a short period of time (1967 to 1969). The MGC featured a 2912 cc, in-line 6-cylinder engine, which was an ill-fated design that offered lackluster performance and handling due to the added weight of a V6 engine.

The MkII MGBs were produced from 1967 to 1971 with the 1798cc, receiving several upgrades along the way, including: dual master-cylinder brakes, negative earth (ground) electrics, an alternator instead of a generator, a fully synchronized transmission and an automatic transmission option (mainly in the European market).

The MkIII MGBs were produced from 1971 to 1980, remaining basically unchanged, with the exception of several minor upgrades to creature comforts, which were for the most part considered detractors for an otherwise nice looking little sports car. For instance, in 1974 a large, rubberized front and rear bumper fascia was added to comply with new safety laws that were imposed, which dramatically diminished the sleek look that previously existed when chrome components were still being used for the bumper assemblies.

The MGBs were innovative at their time of inception with their unique monocoque chassis design, making them lighter, stronger and even less expensive to manufacture. Most other vehicles of the time were based on the tried-and-true body assembly bolted to a chassis/frame assembly. They had plenty of legroom and were actually quite comfortable, even for taller people. Performance was snappy with a 0 to 60 mph rating of just over 11 seconds and handling was superb with good, balanced weight distribution.

Front braking chores were handled by more than adequate 11-inch disc brakes, with Girling dual piston calipers, rear were standard drums. Electrical system components were mainly supplied by the Lucas Electric Company (affectionately referred to as the “Prince of Darkness” by those of us who have had a love affair with these great little cars over the years). In terms of safety, the MGBs were some of the first production cars to incorporate “crumple-zones” into their body design in order to protect passengers in the event of an impact with an immovable object at 30 mph.

The last MGB units rolled out of the Abingdon Factory in 1980, after which the company closed its doors forever. Overall units manufactured in the entire run of the combined MGB models was 523,836 in just over 18 years. The U.S. market was largely responsible for the demise of the MGB. Our ever changing safety laws and emissions regulations were forced on all manufacturers, which many times reduced horsepower ratings and added weight; two things that don’t bode well with sports cars.

MGBs were (and still are) raced very successfully in many events, venues and series including the Monte Carlo Rally, winning the GT category at Sebring in 1964. MGBs also won in 1963, 1964 and 1965 at the grueling LeMans 24 Hour endurance race while beating many more powerful vehicles at the same time. These affordable classic cars are readily available on the market today and are a big bang-for-the-buck.

Vehicle Profile: Sunbeam Tiger

1966 Sunbeam Tiger

The 1964 through 1967 Sunbeam Tiger, of the Rootes Group from England, was considered by some to be a mini Shelby Cobra because of its similar power-to-weight ratio, as well as the involvement of none other than, the now-infamous, Carroll Shelby himself. Actually, several key players were involved with its concept, design and eventual addition to the small Sunbeam lineup of vehicle models.

Ian Garrad (U.S. West Coast Sales Manager for the Rootes Group), Walter McKenzie (U.S. Western Region Service Manager for Rootes Group), a young, but already proven, Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles (a successful race driver and fabricator who would end up working for Carroll Shelby) were just some of the people involved in the project to make a better, faster, more powerful driving machine out of the already existing, but docile Sunbeam Alpine 2-seater convertible sports car. It was equipped with a barely adequate, but dependable, small displacement four-cylinder engine.

Carroll Shelby (and his team) quickly went to work on the redesign of the little Alpine (code named the “Thunderbolt” project).  With the installation of the 4.3L, 260-cid, 164hp V8 engine, borrowed from Ford Motor Company’s popular Falcon model, they had modified an Alpine into what would be an exhilarating-to-drive, great-looking little sports car. Shelby and his team set the 260-cid Ford V8 as far back as possible in the engine compartment (by slightly modifying the firewall) for better weight distribution and modified the transmission tunnel to accept the four-speed manual transmission. They also used a more responsive, and favorable, rack-and-pinion steering gear in place of the recirculating-ball type used on the Alpine models. The chassis was strengthened and tweaked to accommodate the nearly twice as powerful V8 engine and of course, to improve the overall handling of the little beast.

This prototype was tested and refined extensively. It was sent to England where further exhaustive testing was performed and it passed with flying colors. It was rushed into production to be introduced as a new model for 1964 (this original Shelby prototype, as well as the one done by Ken Miles both still exist, intact today). The Sunbeam Tiger (and even the Alpine model) was a bit more refined than its contemporaries from the other, more famous British marks and sold well in the U.S. due to the more powerful and “American-made” V8.

Unfortunately, however, just as it was gaining popularity in every marketplace, trouble was brewing inside the Rootes group.  The Chrysler Corporation ended up buying a majority stake in the struggling firm. Since Chrysler had no V8 engine that would readily fit the small 2-seater it was unceremoniously cancelled in 1967 with just over 7,000 units being produced in the four years it was offered. Such a shame, as the little Tiger was progressing along each year with upgrades and modernization which had set it apart from other British competition and was even considered a poor man’s alternative to the Chevrolet Corvette.

The Sunbeam Tiger was a two-door, two-seat, convertible roadster (sport scar), with an all-steel uni-body, weighing just over 2,600 pounds with an 86-inch wheelbase. Its overall length was a short 158 inches, overall height of 51.5 inches and 60.5 inches wide with a front-engine, rear-wheel drive and four-speed manual transmission. It had disc brakes in front and drums in the rear with independent front suspension set on coil springs while the rear was semi-elliptical dual leaf springs. They performed well while driving but made the car suffer a bit from wheel-hop, which resulted in poor of-the-line traction.

It was a great little car to drive.  The Sunbeam was always turning heads whenever it made an appearance, especially when driven (actually an Alpine) by James Bond in Dr. No (as the first-ever “Bond” car) in 1962 and later (a 1964 Sunbeam Tiger) by the hilariously bungling, secret agent Maxwell Smart (Agent 86) on the 60’s hit TV series “Get Smart”.

Find a classic Sunbeam Tiger that you love!

Vehicle Profile: Mercedes-Benz 350SL

1980 MercedesBenz 350SL

The Mercedes-Benz SL series began its production run way back in 1954 (actually the series began in 1952, but as a racing version only) and continues through today. The period we are concentrating on here, was produced from April 1971 (1972 introduction in the U.S.) through mid year 1989, which was the longest run in the series to remain basically unchanged throughout the length of its production.

The SL stood for “Sport Leicht” in German, which translated to “Sport Light” in English. Although the original versions were actually, relatively light in weight, that was not necessarily true when they introduced the sporty and luxurious new SL version for 1972. It put on over 300 extra pounds in comparison to it’s predecessor and added many innovations including a new 3.5L, V8 (4.5L for U.S.) powerplant and all the creature comforts of a luxury car.

For 1972, Mercedes-Benz’s SL series would jump from a 2.8L straight, six cylinder engine and into a 4.5L, V8 engine (at least here in the U.S., mainly due to stricter U.S. emissions laws, in order that the car would have enough power to satisfy the American buyers). In fact, from 1972 to 1989 the SLs would have eight different engines (six V8’s, only three of which were used in U.S. models and 2 in-line six’s, none of which were used in U.S. models) available throughout the production run.

The U.S. version of the 350SL actually had a 4.5L, V8 (rated between 180 hp to 190 hp) but was labeled 350SL for 1972 models only and was changed to 450SL badging for 1973 models. This model/engine carried through to 1980 when Mercedes-Benz changed to the 380SL with the 3.8L, V8 (rated at 155 hp) for 1981 through 1985. The final run of the series, 1986 through 1989, had once again, increased displacement to 5.6L, V8 (rated at 227 hp) and a 560SL badge was used. They all came with a three-speed automatic transmission through 1979 and from 1980 through 1989, had a four-speed automatic transmission. All years and models were equipped with a type of Bosch, fuel Injection and all were rear-wheel drive.

While the earliest versions of SL bodies were made of aluminum, all the 1972 through 1989 models were made of sheet metal and were comprised of a unibody construction. They were all a two-seater, soft-top convertible, with removable hardtop and optional rear foldable, “jump” seats. They also had disc brakes all the way around (and in 1980 they introduced the first car with electronic ABS brakes in the USA) and re-circulating ball type steering gears.

In 1982, Mercedes also introduced a driver-side, front airbag system. The front suspension was handled by double wishbone arms, coil springs with added rubber spring buffers and stabilizer bar. The rear suspension was handled by the strange, but effective, diagonal type, trailing-arm, swing-axle, supported by coil springs and a stabilizer bar. Wheelbase was 96.9 inches, front track was 57.2 inches and rear track was 56.7 inches up to 1985 and 57.6 inches (front) and 57.7 inches (rear) after that, through 1989. Overall length was 172.5 inches for 1972 through 1980 models, 182.3 inches for 1981 through 1985 models and 180.3 inches through 1989. Overall width was 70.5 inches and overall height was 50.8 inches for all 1972 through 1989 models. Dry weight was 3,597 pounds for 1972 through 1980 models, 3,460 pounds for 1981 through 1985 models and 3,650 pounds for 1986 through 1989 models.

When it was introduced to the USA in 1972, the Mercedes-Benz SL models were very advanced, luxurious, sportscars directed at a specific upper-class market and they more than filled that niche and some 237,000 units were produced worldwide during the years of 1971 through 1989. It seemed, by the end of it’s run however, that the now 18 year old SL had lost it’s luster and was long overdue for a change. That dramatic change would come in a big way in 1990.

Vehicle Profile: Pontiac GTO

The First true “Muscle Car”? Many will argue it to be the 1964 Pontiac Tempest LeMans “GTO” (the 2nd generation Tempest, 1964 thru 1967 models)! Even Pontiac itself warned: “To be perfectly honest, the Tempest “GTO” is not everyone’s cup of tea. … It’s suspension is firm, tuned more to the open road than to wafting gently over bumpy city streets. It’s dual exhausts won’t win any prizes for whispering. And, unless you order it with our lazy 3.08 low-ratio rear axle, its gas economy won’t be anything to write home about.” Well, apparently, one man’s warning is another’s ringing endorsement. Pontiac had hoped to sell approximately 5,000 of the 1964 Tempest GTO’s and was overwhelmed when they actually sold 32,450 of them! 18,422 2-Door Hardtops (no pillar), 7,384 Sport Coupes (had a pillar to divide front/rear windows) and 6,644 Convertibles were produced in 1964. The “GOAT”, as it was affectionately referred to, generated a cult following and surprised all of it’s competition!

The design of this second generation Pontiac Tempest LeMans “GTO”, was made possible only by ignoring a General Motors’ mandate that all intermediate-sized cars would not have engines larger than 330 c.i V-8’s. In a grand scheme, which circumvented GM’s “parental approval”, Pontiac’s top-brass made its 389 c.i. V-8, part of a special package only for the new Pontiac Tempest LeMans “GTO”. The name, “GTO” (short for Gran Turismo Omologato) which was begged, borrowed or possibly even stolen from Ferrari, became a special performance model for the new 2nd generation Tempest LeMans line-up.

This new intermediate-sized vehicle from GM was designated the “A” body platform and had a 115″ wheelbase, was 203″ in length, was 73.3″ wide and had a front and rear track of 58″.

To create an engine to power this original “musclecar”, Pontiac built the 389 c.i. V-8 with a special high-lift cam, borrowed the 421 c.i. V-8’s high-output heads and were able to produce 325 hp with the standard Carter four-barrel. The optional “Tri-Power” (three Rochester two-barrel carburetors in a row) with progressive linkage was ordered in 8,250 of the GTO’s (for a small up charge) and were rated at 348 hp. Both versions had 10.75:1 compression ratio and 428 lb-ft of torque. Chrome valve covers, oil filler cap and air cleaners were standard as well as declutching fan, high-capacity radiator and battery. Transmissions offered, were the standard three-speed manual, optional four-speed, both of which used Hurst shift linkages and all came with heavy-duty clutches. A two-speed automatic transmission was also available.

A thicker front sway bar, heavy-duty shocks, stiffer springs all the way around and high-speed 14-inch Red-Line tires were included as standard equipment and 15 body colors were available. An optional “Roadability Group” added sintered-metallic brake linings and a limited-slip differential. All GTO’s came standard with bucket seats and an engine-turned aluminum instrument surround, non-functional hood “scoops” and dual exhaust.

A woodgrain steering wheel, a locking center console and simulated wire wheel covers were among the GTO’s factory options.

Only slight cosmetic changes were made over the next few years (thru 1967), most notably for 1965 and on, the front grille area was changed and “split” to emulate the full-sized Pontiacs and the headlights were changed to an over/under configuration. The rear tail lights also underwent a facelift along with a more slanted rear deck area.

Oh, and the four-barrel GTO’s typically ran from 0-60 mph in about 7.5 seconds and the quarter-mile in 15.7 seconds at 92 mph, while the “Tri-Power” GTO’s were consistently quicker and added a ton of mystique to the car’s overall street-cred! What a great time to be alive and grab ahold of that wheel and stuff your foot into that quick lil’ Goat!!! HOOOOOOHAAAAAAA!!!

Vehicle Profile: 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton

410167_14999116_1937_Cord_812

In 1929, Mr. Errett Lobban Cord (or E.L. Cord to most people) founded the Cord Corporation as a holding company for the many companies (over 150 total) which were under his control at the time. These companies included the likes of the Auburn Automobile Company (which also produced the Cord line of automobiles), Duesenberg Inc., Lycoming Engines, Checker Motors Corp. (makers of the famous “Checker Cab”), the Stinson Aircraft Co., New York Shipbuilding Corp. and American Airways (which would become American Airlines).

The 1937 Cord model 812 was a medium-priced but high-end vehicle (even in its day). It was the first American automobile to have front-wheel drive along with independent front suspension. Lacking the usual transmission hump and driveshaft tunnel (running lengthwise through the center of the vehicle), meant that the new Cord model 810’s (1936 models without supercharger) and 812’s (1937 models with or without optional supercharger) were low enough to eliminate the need for running boards, which were commonly used to aid in entry to the vehicle. The use of a unitized body construction for strength and rigidity was innovative and aided overall in reducing weight and increasing performance.

The unique design of the 1937 Cord model 812, which is iconic to this day, was the brainchild of Gordon M. Buehrig. He is also famous for his work at Auburn Automobile Company and was heavily involved in the design/production of the famous 1935 model 851 Boattail Speedster (some of which, may have been influenced by the brilliant, but short-lived designer, Alan Leamy).

Mr. Buehrig and his team of designers and engineers went to work on designing a vehicle that was different than the norm-of-the-day in many ways. Some examples of these differences are the hidden door hinges, front opening hood (hinged at the rear) for easier access, hide-away headlamps operated by dash-mounted hand cranks and a concealed fuel-access cover on the right rear body panel. The “coffin-nosed” front end and “louvered”, wrap-around grille design were exclusive touches which, without a doubt, informed you it was a Cord automobile coming your way.

The 1937 Cord model 812 came with an optional Schwitzer-Cummings centrifugal “Supercharger” (with 6 psi of “boost”) mounted to a Lycoming V-8 of 288.6-cid. It produced somewhere in the range of 170-195hp (depending on tuning) and sported the large, tell-tale, highly polished and corrugated exhaust tubing exiting from the engine compartment and into the top of the voluptuous, front, pontoon styled fenders. This powerful engine was connected to the forward-mounted, four-speed transmission, which was activated by an electronically controlled vacuum-servo. This was operated by a gear-selector lever mounted on the steering column. Leaving the floor of the vehicle uncluttered, hydraulically actuated drum brakes all around and a pistol grip handbrake lever under the left side of the dashboard actuated the parking brake.

The 1937 Cord model 812 sported some pretty cool creature comforts for the era including variable speed windshield wipers (most vehicles still had hand operated wipers, if any at all) and an AM radio (which would not be available, as standard, on most vehicles until the 1950’s). It also had a horn button located in the center of the steering wheel (which was also a first in the industry and most other manufacturers would later adopt this style) and a beautiful, engine turned dashboard with full instrumentation including a tachometer, an “oil-level” gauge and switches galore.

The convertible top could be collapsed and completely hidden from view inside the rear deck area.  This added to the increased interior compartment size which easily seated five people. The new Cord model 810/812 prototype made its debut at the New York Auto show in 1935 to rave reviews due to the sleek styling and ravishing great looks alone. People were climbing on top of each other and anything else they could find (other vehicles, for instance) just to get a glimpse of it. Unfortunately, the Great Depression would signal the end of Mr. Cord’s “automotive empire” in 1937.  What he contributed to the automotive industry, in a few short years, was pure genius and his ideas and designs were of legendary proportion!

Vehicle Profile: 1969 Plymouth GTX

481907_16408621_1969_Plymouth_GTX

The Plymouth GTX was produced from 1967 to 1971 and in that short period of time went through three different design changes (3 generations). The Plymouth GTX was based on the Belvedere mid-sized chassis and was introduced as a more refined, more luxurious, bettering performing Muscle car. Although it was based on the 116-inch wheelbase Belvedere chassis, the GTX was only available with upgraded heavy-duty suspension.

The heavy duty suspension was needed in order to handle the standard 440-cid, “Super Commando” V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor, producing a potent 375 hp.  The optional 426-cid “Hemi” V8 which produced a whopping 425 hp in box-stock form was also available.  Later, an option of three 2-barrels or a “Six-Pack” dubbed “440+6″ was also available, making around 395 hp. The Plymouth GTX was only available as a 2-door hardtop or convertible and came standard with the TorqueFlite 3-speed automatic transmission or an optional 4-speed manual transmission.

For 1969, the GTX received a subtle facelift including an optional, and now functional, “Air Grabber” hood with dual side-facing air vents. The hood and “Air Grabber” vents were also painted (by over 3/4 of its total area) with two flat-black racing stripes on top of the body color. Those flat black stripes, a bit thinner of course, were also applied to the rocker panel and fender/quarter panel areas as well. Also new for 1969 was a heavy-duty battery, a higher performance camshaft with larger valves and ports to match, chrome exhaust tips, red or white colored reflective safety stripes on front and rear areas and probably the biggest new option of a Hurst shifter was now available. Several rear-end gearing options were offered to enhance performance and front disc brakes were also available.

However, as popular as the GTX was, mainly due to performance “bang for the buck”, sales dropped in 1969. This was somewhat due to the fact that the ever popular Road Runner, was now available in a convertible model as well (this would also be the last year a convertible would be offered in GTX garb).  15,602 GTX units were produced in 1969 and only 700 were convertibles and Hemi’s accounted for 207 units. You can see why these cars today can bring pretty big money at the sales and auctions around the globe!

Vehicle Profile: 1968 Dodge Charger

431474_15443502_1968_Dodge_Charger

The second generation 1968 Dodge Charger was a complete redesign based on the mid-sized chassis (or B-Body with 117-inch wheelbase).  All 1968 Chargers were two-door, fastback coupes (the fastback was much toned-down compared to previous models). They, however, retained their signature blacked-out front grille with hidden headlamps. The former mechanical, rotating headlamps were replaced by a vacuum operated, “eyelid” type lamp cover instead. Also, the former body-wide, tail light panel was revised and replaced with a pair of dual round lamps at either end (outlined in chrome trim).

The doors and hood each contained a pair of racy-looking indents (faux wastegates if you will) with rear facing “tails” or “sweeps” which made the car look like it was going fast, even as if it was standing still. Both front fenders and rear quarter panels were rounded out and gave a bulbous, muscular look to the whole car. The chromed, racing style, “quick-fill” gas cap was located on the upper rear quarter panel. The new fastback body backlight was inset and had a rearward swooping panel that led into the trunk and quarter panel area on each side.  It bore the resemblance of the trailing-wing or “flying-buttress” styling cues of the day.

The 1968 Dodge Charger started out with a base 318-cid V8, 230 hp (rated), 2-barrel carbureted engine.  Later in the production year the venerable 225-cid “Slant” 6-cylinder with 1-barrel carburetor was also made available. The 383-cid big-blocks in both 2-barrel, 290 hp (rated) and 4-barrel, 330 hp (rated) were carried over from the 1967 first generation Dodge Chargers.  A new R/T (Road/Track) version came standard with a 440-cid Magnum V8 and a 4-barrel carburetor pushing 375 under-rated hp. Of course, as if that wasn’t enough, you could still opt for the awesome 426-cid Hemi V8 with two-4 barrel carburetors producing in excess of 425 hp (again under rated and only a $605 option at the time).

Dodge pulled some extra muscle power appeal from their war chest for 1968 R/T’s and announced the Scat Pack option, which included heavy duty suspension and brakes; special rear trunk bumble bee striping (wrapped around the rearmost area from side-to-side); a double wide racing stripe outlined by two thinner stripes and a special decal with a muscular looking bumble bee that had a V8 strapped to its back. The Torqueflite “727”automatic transmission came standard and mounted in the floor console with the option of a four-speed manual linked to a Hurst shifter.

The 1968 Dodge Charger had an all new “space-age” looking interior with many new safety features (some federally mandated and others just for sake of innovation). The cockpit style gauges were placed in front of the driver and angled for easy viewing at any speed. A tachometer was optional and the rallye style clock was standard.

The sporty looking door panels carried new map pockets (or ticket collectors, as the case may be). The front seats had safety latches to allow easy access for rear seat passengers. It also prevented the seats from unintentionally folding forward, especially in the case of impact. The ashtray was tucked into the dash for safety and the center of the steering wheel was padded (also for the unfortunate event of an impact). There was a new power window safety lockout switch to prevent accidental finger crunching. The ignition also had to be turned on for the windows to operate at all. Front seat head restraints were provided and seat/shoulder belts all the way around (at least at the driver and passenger sides, front and back, center rear lap only). Instrument padding was extended to cover the knee area of the steel dash for added protection. To help aid rear visibility, a rear-window defogger was added. There were 6 basic interior colors and 17 exterior colors and an optional vinyl top which was ordered on three out of four units.

Some 96,100 Dodge Chargers were produced, far more than the estimated 35,000 they thought they would need to build. Of those, only 470 units were built with the Hemi engine option. Wow, no wonder they are such desirable vehicles in today’s marketplace. The Hemi version was capable of 0-60 in 5.3 seconds and run through the 1/4 mile traps in 13.8 seconds at 105 mph. Not bad for a car that weighed over 4,300 pounds. Man, those were the days, and I for one, am lucky and proud to have grown up in that era! Dodge stated that “This is no dream car. It’s a real ‘take-me-home-and-let’s stir-things-up-a-bit’ automobile.”