Category archives: Vehicle Profiles

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: 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: 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: 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: 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird

1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird

The 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird is hailed as the “holy grail” of Plymouths and the most sought after of their line of raw-powered Muscle Cars and have sold for several hundred thousand dollars. The Superbird actually exists, largely due to the strong requests (actually demands) of then NASCAR champion, national hero, racing celebrity and multi-talented winning driver/owner, Richard Petty, honorably dubbed “The King”, by his peers.

Petty had always been a staunch Plymouth man, but in 1969, after being denied a Plymouth version of the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona “winged” production race-car, he left Plymouth and defected to Ford’s Racing Team (a move which was devastating to Plymouth’s Racing Team at the time). The Plymouth Racing Team would take this act to heart and scrambled to provide “The King” with what he wanted, and at the time needed, to win in the NASCAR series for 1970. Even though NASCAR changed the rules for competition in 1970, from 500 production units for 1969, to one unit for each manufacturer’s dealership in the U.S.A., this would mean that they would now have to build 1920 units (records show that some 1,935 units were actually produced, give or take). Plymouth wanted Mr. Petty back and pulled out all the stops to make that happen in 1970 . . . they did and it worked.

“The King” and his new winged-warrior, the Plymouth Road Runner Superbird, were a force to be reckoned with on the circuit for 1970 winning 8 races during the season and placing highly all year. Unfortunately, due to excessively high speeds achieved and for safety reasons, the powers-that-be at NASCAR were forced to make a decision and this would be the first and last year that these winged vehicles would be allowed to race (with the large displacement engines) in the series. Even though the cars were still eligible and even legal to race body-wise, they were forced to reduce engine displacement to no more than 305 c.i. This rule change, pretty much rendered them non-competitive due to poor power-to-weight ratios that were, well, sickly at best.

But, for that one glorious season, the engineers at Plymouth put their heads together and came up with a design utilizing the front-end of their Coronet models with a huge, yet aerodynamic sheet-metal “beak” attached to it and grafted to the “B-body” of a Road Runner chassis. Also, after redesigning the rear-window and body area (note: all Superbirds came with a vinyl roof to cover the metal-working “scars” left from the installation of the flush-mounted rear glass) and by adding over 40% more surface area (than the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona) to the stabilizer portion of the aluminum wing and tilting it farther to the rear of the trunk area, they were able to achieve the desired aerodynamic results. The wing was also made a bit taller to aid in clearance of the trunk lid, when opened. However, the huge, rear wing was basically useless at speeds under 90 mph, and other than the love-it or hate-it relationship that the general public had with the winged look, it was rarely ever functional at legally posted speed limits.

The 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird (all were 2-Door Coupes) was very similar to their line of high-end GTXs and its drivetrains were similar in offerings.  The standard package included the 375 hp, 440-cid Super Commando V8 with a single 4-barrel Carter carburetor (approximately 1,084 units were made).  Upgrades were either the 390 hp, 440-cid Plus-Six Super Commando Six-Pack V8 with three 2-barrel Holley carburetors (approximately 716 units were made) or the amazing 425 hp, 426-cid “Hemi” V8 with dual-quads, two 4-barrel Carter carburetors (of which only 135 some-odd units were made, again, record keeping in those days was a bit sketchy at best).

That’s a lot of power for a production vehicle, which could be bought right off the lot at your local Plymouth Dealership. These powerhouses were coupled to either a four-speed manual transmission complete with a super-cool pistol-grip shift knob or a TorqueFlite 727 automatic transmission with either column mounted or floor-console shifter. (note: the above production totals are per Chrysler Historical records of street vehicles produced, but are again, sketchy at best and in constant debate as to their validity).

The Superbird used the Road Runner’s “Rallye” style dashboard with full instrumentation, a 150 MPH speedometer, a tachometer and even a clock. However, no air-conditioning, rear window defogger or Ram-Air hood option was available. They did come standard with power-assisted front disc-brakes, rear-facing front fender scoops (which were mounted on the top of the fenders and were there to evacuate air that may get trapped in the wheel wells, as well as, to aid in cooling of the brakes), split over/under tail lights and of course all those cool “Road Runner” cartoon-character decals. They showed the famous bird holding a racing helmet within a circular “Road Runner Superbird” lettering surrounding it (one small decal on the left front headlamp door and a substantial sized one on each side of the rear wing) and a huge “PLYMOUTH” decal on each of the rear 1/4 panels. The car weighed 3700+/- pounds and was 221 inches in length (over 18 feet), 76.4 inches wide, 61.4 inches high and had a 115.8-inch wheelbase.

The Superbird’s winged styling seemed to be a bit much for the general public, not to mention their $4,298 base price tag.  As awesome as the car was on the track or to the people who absolutely loved them, they did not sell well and many dealers were left holding onto them for as long as two years later. It is rumored that some of them were even changed back into standard looking Road Runners and sold sans beak and winged tail-section.

Vehicle Profile: 1970 Dodge Dart


The Dodge Dart actually started life as a smaller, full-sized vehicle for 1960 and 1961.  In 1962, the Dodge Dart was downsized and offered as a mid-sized vehicle. It ended up as a compact vehicle from 1963 to 1976, which marked the end of its 17 year run.

The 1970 Dodge Dart was available in a 2-door coupe, 2-door hardtop and a 4-door sedan. The convertible models were dropped after 1969. For 1970, the Dart was freshened up with new sheet metal, front and rear. The grille and rear end designs were fashioned to look more like their full-sized counterparts. Trunk space was reduced to nearly half the size of the 1969 models and the tail lights were rectangular units set into the angular, wedge-shaped, chrome rear bumper.

Engine choices for the 1970 Dart included the following:  198-cid or 225-cid, “slant” 6-cylinder engine to a 318-cid, V-8, 2-barrel carbureted or 340-cid, 4-barrel carbureted, V-8 power plant, which produced some 275 hp. The 383-cid V-8 was dropped after 1969 to keep the Dart from interfering/competing with the new Challenger models in the muscle car arena.

After 1969, the Swinger 340 was the only true performance model in the Dart lineup. The Swinger name was also added to all Dart 2-door hardtops, with the exception of the high-line custom models and the GTS package.The Swinger 340 came with a pair of cool looking, slanted, but non-functional hood scoops. It was also equipped with front disc brakes, 14-inch bias-ply Fiberglass-belted tires on fashioned steel Rallye rims (keeping with the rage of the day). The Swinger 340 also came with beefed-up Rallye style suspension upgrades, including a 3.23:1 rear axle ratio and the rear 1/4 panel bumble-bee stripe and 340 decals. Options included: all-vinyl bucket seats, a center floor-console, a 6000 RPM tachometer, flat-black painted hood scoops and cool hood-pins, a custom vinyl roof in either black or white, power brakes, power steering and power windows were also available. Oddly enough, the only radio offered was an AM radio!

I did not own a Dodge Dart, but I did have a 1970 Plymouth Duster 340. It was a very quick and fun car to drive. That 340 motor could be tuned to produce some real arm-stretching, neck-snapping, slingshot like “G-forces” when you stuffed your foot into it! I had a blast with that little car and hold fond memories of the days cruisin the strip, red-light racing (stoplight to stoplight) and sitting in muscle car row at the outdoor theater!

Vehicle Profile: 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


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.”

Vehicle Profile: 1961-1969 Lincoln Continental


The 1961 to 1969 Lincoln Continental was designed by Elwood Engle and his team of designers in order to capture a larger part of the luxury car market from its biggest rivals. The overwhelming success of this vehicle prompted, then President of Ford Motor Company (and first ever President of the Ford Motor Company outside of the actual Henry Ford family), Robert S. McNamara, to continue the Lincoln Division.  He was considering dropping it, along with the Edsel line, due to previously sluggish sales.

This huge, rectangular, flat-paneled, aircraft carrier sized, boxy looking beast was truly a vision of beauty to behold. At 212.4-inches in length, 78.6- inches in width and 53.6-inches in height, it was still smaller than the previous design run which ended in 1960. The wheelbase was 123-inches for 1961 to 1963 and grew to 126-inches for 1965 to 1969, which added more legroom to the rear seat passengers. Amazingly, the weight was kept nearly the same (from nearly 5,000 to over 5,700 lbs during the production run from 1961 to 1969), but still the heaviest make of all U.S. luxury car offerings.

Initially, the Lincoln Continental was available in either a four-door sedan or convertible, with “suicide” rear doors (with opening at the leading edge of the rear door, which were actually used to ease entry and exit for the rear-seat passengers).  A two-door sedan was introduced in 1966 to rave reviews. Although 1967 marked the end of the convertible model, the 2 and 4-door versions continued until 1969 before the next generation Lincoln would make its debut in 1970.

All the Lincoln Continental models (this was actually the first time in history that Lincoln and Continental would be used together outside of the “Mark” series) would come nearly fully equipped with all the goodies Lincoln had to offer at the time. Another historical first (for a car made in the USA) was the offering of a 2-year, 24,000 mile, bumper-to-bumper warranty by Lincoln on all its models.

On the convertible models, the trunk lid would mechanically open from the leading edge. This came with a hidden nightmare of electronic and hydraulic issues that would frustrate many technicians in years to come whenever they needed repairs. Many grille and tail-end changes were made over the 9-year run and the interiors/features evolved with the times. The huge V-8 increased from 430-cid to 462-cid in 1966 and then went to 460-cid in 1968, while always being supported by a three-speed, heavy-duty, automatic transmission.

This uniquely designed vehicle was showered with accolades, both inside and outside the automotive industry and even received the prestigious “Bronze Medal” from the haughty Industrial Design Institute (which rarely recognized the automotive industry). This American Icon of heavy metal engineering and design has been used by Hollywood in many movies, TV shows (most recently seen in the hit series “Entourage”).The Lincoln Continental has been driven by hoards of celebrities and was even the chosen by J.F.K as the Presidential parade vehicle (code named SS-100-X). This was all due to the refinements, unique innovations and the distinguished look that Lincoln Continental had provided to a “hungry-for-change” buying public.

The Lincoln Continental was beautifully designed by Elwood Engle and his team, under the direction of Robert McNamara (who, incidentally, went on to become the Secretary of Defense for both J.F.K. and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Presidential terms).  The convertible models are especially coveted today and will bring all the money at any event they show up in any “salable” condition!