Category archives: Vehicle Profiles

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”!

Click to see all Rolls Royce’s for sale on ClassicCars.com.

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: 1957 Chevrolet Corvette

Visually, the 1957 Chevrolet Corvette remained nearly unchanged from the 1956 version. However, underneath that sexy fiberglass body, changes were brewing that would further solidify the Corvette as a true American sports car and icon that was here to stay.

Some of the new additions for 1957 were a long awaited, four-speed manual transmission (the soon to be infamous, nearly bullet-proof, Borg-Warner T-10), a Rochester Ramjet mechanical fuel-injection unit and the small-block V8 engine displacement was increased to 283-c.i.. This mighty little small-block was now capable of producing a walloping 283hp (actually produced closer to 290hp with fuel injection and special tuning).  This was heavily promoted by Chevrolet, as a first in mass-production engines, to have a one-horsepower per cubic-inch displacement rating (they were, actually, a year behind Chrysler Corporations release of their 354-cid, 355 hp, Hemi V8 engine). Base price for the 1957 Chevrolet Corvette was only $3,176.32.

As far as the exterior goes, Inca Silver was added to the previously available body color choices of Onyx Black, Polo White, Arctic Blue, Aztec Copper, Cascade Green and Venetian Red, which combined, equals 6,336 units, but actual production total posted by Chevrolet was 6,339 (which again, shows how lax the bookkeeping was way back then). This may sound like a small number of total vehicles produced, but it is about twice as many as were produced in 1956. This is due to the marketing of the performance and handling advancements and results of racing victories of 1956 and 1957 combined.

The two-tone exterior paint option was still available. The same three colors were available for the convertible soft-top, White, Beige and Black. Aside from opening the hood, one of the easiest ways to visually identify a 1957 Corvette from a 1956 is the means of adjustment method of the inside rear view mirror. The 1956 is adjusted by means of a thumbscrew, while the 1957 version requires a small wrench to adjust it. The optional removable hardtop and power operated folding convertible top were still available.

Interior Updates were minimal as well for 1957 and Beige and Red were the only color choices available. Options still available were the fresh-air type heater system, Signal-Seeking AM radio, parking brake alarm, interior courtesy lamps, windshield washers and power windows. The main dashboard area was unchanged and the passenger area was left alone as well.

Major changes were made to the chassis and drivetrain in the 1957 Chevrolet Corvette. These areas were mainly focused on by Zora Arkus-Duntov and his team of Corvette engineers to answer the shortcomings of power, performance and handling of the previous models, by all the critics of the day. In the engine bay, the Corvette was now powered by a base 283-cid, 220 hp, single 4-barrel carburetor, small-block, V8 engine. The transmission duties were handled by the standard, three-speed manual unit or optional Powerglide automatic unit until about April, when finally, the Borg-Warner T10 four-speed manual transmission became available.

Also, a first for 1957, was the availability of Chevrolet’s new Posi-Traction (or limited-slip) rear axle, which was available as an option in different ratios. The front suspension was still handled by independent, unequal length A-arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar and tubular hydraulic shock absorbers. The rear suspension was again, comprised of a rigid, live-axle, supported by semi-elliptic leaf springs, an anti-roll bar and tubular hydraulic shock absorbers and the rear axle ratio of 3.70:1 was still the standard offering. Tires remained of the 6.70 inch x 15 inch size and rims were 5.5 inches wide. Wide-Whitewalls were still an available and popular option. The 11-inch Bendix drum brakes were carried over and used front and rear.

Several optional versions of the 283-cid, V8 were also made available, from a 245 hp, dual 4-barrel carburetor to a 270 hp dual 4-barrel carburetor. In the new fuel-injected, equipped versions, were several different configurations of the new 283-cid, V8 engine, including: a 250 hp FI or a 283 hp FI and a special “for race only” version also rated at 283 hp (but actually closer to 290hp). The race version also came with a steering column mounted tachometer and cold air induction system. Chevrolet informed all interested customers that these special, VIN coded EN, “for racing only”, models were indeed for racing purposes only and would not be supplied with a heater system. The other “racing only” option was a “special heavy duty” racing suspension, which included such things as heavy duty springs, quicker steering ratio (reducing lock-to-lock turns from 3.6 to 2.9), thicker front anti-sway bar, enlarged piston shock absorbers with firmer valving, and finned/ventilated brake drums with ceramic/metallic compound brake linings for better stopping power. Combine these two factory race options and you have yourself an off-the-lot, race ready and truly competitive machine.

So, no matter what configuration you purchased the 1957 Chevrolet Corvette with, it was truly an awesome performance machine that would only get better over the years to come and today is one of the most desirable C-1’s ever produced.

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: 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.

Find a classic Plymouth ‘Cuda’ that you love!

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.)

Find a classic Packard Twelve Series that you love!

Vehicle Profile: Porsche 356

Porshe

The 1964-1965 Porsche 356C was the last generation for the model 356 production run (with four generations during its run, model “356” from 1948 to 1955, “356A” from 1956 to 1959, “356B” from 1960 to 1963).  Spanning from 1948 to 1965, it remained basically unchanged by looks, but made dramatic evolutionary and technological changes underneath that curvy exterior.

The 356 model is also the first, full-production vehicle, offered by Porsche. The Porsche 356 model was created by Ferdinand “Ferry” Porsche, the son of the founder of the company, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. It featured flat, 4-cylinder, air-cooled, rear-mounted engine, rear-wheel drive configuration in a lightweight sporty package with quick-handling, sure-footed suspension.

It quickly became very popular on the racing scenes all around the world. The pan style chassis was attached to the body making a sturdy unitized construction design. Most of the original mechanicals were borrowed from the Volkswagen Beetle (designed by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche himself), and improved over the years to enhance performance and make it more Porsche-like.

Initially and throughout its 18 year run, it took some time to build enough numbers to supply the demand it had created and by the time it had run its course, the little 356 had quite a reputation for driving pleasure, quality of build and racing prowess. It is believed, that over half of the 76,000 units produced, are still in existence today.

The 356 was offered in both coupe and convertible (or cabriolet) models and were about 50/50 split as far as production numbers go. The 356C’s were built with disc brakes at all four corners, the most horsepower (1582 cc and 88 hp in stock form, 95 hp with “SC” model) of all the pushrod pancake Porsche motors and many upgrades in both suspension and creature comfort areas. The 356C, which remained almost completely and painstakingly, hand-built, was certainly the most refined and therefore most desirable of all the 356 models.

In fact, in a 2004 article, Sports Car International ranked the 356C as the 10th position of Top Sports Cars of the 1960’s. Certain limited production models, like the 356 Carrera, can bring over $300,000 at auction and almost any 356 model will bring from $20,000 to over $150,000.

Find a classic Porsche 356 that you love!

Vehicle Profile: 1953 Corvette

The beautifully classic, original, all American sports car is surely the 1953 Corvette! Way back in 1927 a young man by the name of Harley Earl was hired by GM and at the time, who would have guessed that he would be responsible for the design of one of the great American Icons of the automobile industry? Harley (cool name) had a passion for and always loved sports cars from early on, but that passion became more intense when our proud and victorious GI’s returned home from WWII bringing with them a flotilla of Alfa Romeo’s, MG’s, Jaguars and other similar marques from Europe. These “sports cars” were vastly different from anything being produced here in America at the time. They were small, fun to drive, felt “sporty” and were even economical to operate. I mean really, who wouldn’t want one of these little gems? And so, the flame was fueled and Harley pushed the top brass at GM to let him build the sports car of his dreams. Enter: “Project Opel”, not sure where they came up with that name, but history was made that very day!

It was already late in 1951, by the time Harley Earl assembled his “special projects” crew of designers and laid-out his plans to build what would become America’s Sports Car. He rushed to complete a hand-built prototype, nicknamed EX-122, the first pre-production “Corvette”, to be ready for display at the GM Motorama Exhibition, in January of 1953 at New York City. The name “Corvette” was chosen in honor of the U.S and British naval fleet’s convoy of escort ships called Corvettes. These ships were famous for their speed and maneuverability.

The prototype was shown to the crowd at the Motorama and received rave reviews and was rushed put into production immediately. In fact, within 6 months after their debut to the world, they were pumping out hand-built units in a makeshift warehouse that used to be an old truck assembly plant in Flint, MI. They were also revolutionary, due to the fact that they were made of a new lightweight product called “Fiberglass”. Story goes that sheetmetal was scarce after the war, so they sought a suitable replacement for this special project vehicle. By the end of the first “production” run, 300 of these beauties had been produced and they all sold quickly. Even though the car was a huge hit, it may have been just a flash-in-the-pan of automotive history, if it weren’t for a guy named Zora and the Ford Motor Company!

See the 1953 Chevrolet Corvettes for sale on ClassicCars.com

Vehicle Profile: Pontiac Firebird

1967PontiacFirebird

The first generation Pontiac Firebird (1967 to 1969) offered two different design options to consumers: a 2-door hardtop coupe and a convertible model. This new vehicle made by Pontiac, shared the new General Motors “F-Body” chassis with its also new for 1967 sibling, the Chevrolet Camaro. The debut of the Firebird marked Pontiac’s entry into the popular Pony Car arena.

The new Pontiac Firebird had a 108.1-inch wheelbase, weighed in the area of 3,000 pounds and showed up on the scene some five months after the Camaro made its debut. This short delay helped John DeLorean (who was, at the time, the youngest head of a division in GM’s long history) and his team of Pontiac designers and engineers, put some distinguishing touches on a vehicle who’s design closely mirrored that of the Chevrolet Camaro.

Apparently, John DeLorean was somewhat annoyed that the Camaro was released first, because the new Firebird was one of his pet projects that he hoped would be as popular as the 1964 Pontiac GTO that he also engineered, which is often referred to as the first Muscle Car.

There were five different engines available (engine displacement also identified each model) for 1967 Firebirds, which Pontiac referred to as their “Magnificent 5″.  You could start with the base model which had an innovative “overhead cam” (or “OHC”) 230-cid, in-line 6-cylinder, with a 1-barrel carburetor that produced about 165 hp.  The next step up was the “Sprint” model that offered a 230-cid, in-line 6-cylinder, with a 4-barrel carburetor that produced about 215 hp. Both 6-cylinder models were available with a 3 or 4-speed manual transmission or a 2-speed, automatic transmission.

The 326-cid V8 model with a two-barrel carburetor capable of producing about 250 hp, was also an option. Next in line was the Firebird V8-H.O. (High Output) model which also featured a 326-cid V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor rated at 285 hp.  At the top of the heap was the 400-cid V8 (borrowed from the GTO) with a 4-barrel carburetor that was capable of producing at least 325 hp.  Another option was the 400-cid, “Ram Air” engine which contained a tuned camshaft with heavier valve springs, making the otherwise non-functional hood scoops, functional. This engine design modification was not reflective of any additional horsepower output in any of the marketing brochures for the Firebird at the time. Subsequently, this option was rarely ordered, also making it an ultra rare option to find in today’s classic car buyer’s market. Ultimately, all V8’s came standard with the heavy-duty 3-speed manual transmission, with an optional 4-speed manual transmission and 2 or 3-speed automatic transmission.

The unique and definitive Pontiac styling on the Pontiac Firebird included a split chrome grille with embedded quad-headlamps, “beaked” hood, rear quarter panel “split-gills” and slotted , “slit-style” tail lights (also borrowed from the GTO). All of these details made the Firebird stand-out in a crowd of new Pony Cars. Many performance options and creature comforts were also available including several different rear axle ratios, front disc brakes, power steering, full gages, floor consoles and the first-ever, hood-mounted tachometer.

The 1968 Pontiac Firebirds saw little change from the 1967 models. Some noticeable differences were the loss of door vent-windows and some minor interior revisions that were made. Pontiac “Arrowhead” side-marker lights were added to the rear 1/4 panels and the front turn signal/parking lamps were revised to curve around to the sides of the vehicle for the 1968 Pontiac Firebird, new federal vehicle laws that were implemented in 1968.  The rear shocks were also staggered  on the 1968 Pontiac Firebird, with one mounted to the front side of the axle and the other to the rear side of the axle, in an effort to increase ride quality.  The rear leaf-springs were also changed to the “multi-leaf” design, in order to reduce annoying “wheel-hop” upon quick acceleration. Most of the other changes, were in the available drivetrains, such as the “OHC” 6-cylinder, that grew from 230 to 250-cid and the 326-cid V8 that grew to 350-cid, both producing increases in horsepower production.

The Pontiac Firebird had a major facelift in 1969 (similar to the new GTO), with a new front end design. The rear-end area was changed slightly, while the interior was again revised and an exciting new Trans Am performance and appearance package was introduced in March of 1969. The Trans Am name, which was borrowed from the SCCA racing series, also meant that Pontiac had to pay the SCCA a license fee of $5.00 for every car sold, in order to use the Trans Am name. All the Trans Am optioned vehicles produced in 1969 (only some 689 coupes and only 8 convertibles, again super rare) were polar white with blue racing stripes. A 5 foot long trunk-lid mounted low-profile spoiler, special decals and the exclusive hood with driver operated, functional intake scoops, were included in the package. Also exclusive to the Trans Am, were the front fender scoops or vents, which were intended to help evacuate captured, engine-bay air.

Vehicle Profile: 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle

1968 Chevrolet Chevelle

The 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle “SS396″ was the only year that the Super Sport or SS was its own separate model which can be distinguished by a VIN# starting with a 138.  The only engine available in a 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle SS model was the 396-cid V8 (all with a varying type of 4-barrel carburetor), which came in only three forms . . . 325 hp, 350 hp or 375hp. This is what today’s ‘Internet Bible” (Wikipedia) says a Muscle Car is: “Muscle car is a term used to refer to a variety of high performance automobiles.” The Merriam-Webster definition is more limiting, “any of a group of American-made 2-door sports coupes with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving. The term generally refers to 2-door, rear-wheel drive, family-style, 4+ passenger mid-size cars (and, by some, full-size cars) equipped with large, powerful, V8s, and sold at an affordable price for mainly street use and sometimes both formal and informal drag racing.”

Well, I guess that sums it all up. Or does it? I wonder if the people who wrote those descriptions have ever really driven a true Muscle Car? And if so, would they not have mentioned the way in which your adrenalin starts to flow as soon as that fire-breathing V8 roars to life, sits there rumbling at idle like a nervous cat getting ready to pounce on its prey. And before the car ever moves even an inch, you can just hear, smell and feel the raw horsepower just waiting to be unleashed by the mere pressing of a small pedal on the floor? And what about when you sit in the seat, drivers or passengers, it makes no difference, and you are immediately pinned into that seat the moment you mash your foot into that accelerator pedal and release the clutch, which, in turn, breaks loose those big, oversized, rear tires and you conjure every muscle in your body just to try and pull yourself out of the upholstery long enough to bang the clutch to hit second gear, just as she starts drifting a bit sideways, you again, pull every shred of power you can muster and slam her into third gear, both rear wheels still spinning (because you have “posi-traction” of course) and that big V8 just screaming to be unleashed from it’s mounts and trying to twist itself right outta that frame, which at the moment, is doing all it can to merely control the beast and by now the smoke from the tires is so thick and engulfing the whole car that you can barely see where you’re headed, the look of horror on your unwitting passengers face is priceless (today those videos would go viral on youtube) and for a split second you even wonder . . . is she gonna grab traction and launch us like a slingshot into the future or am I gonna try to pull my foot off that small pedal on the right long enough to regain control before that cop pulls a u-turn and tries to catch up to me to give me another ticket for having far too much fun. As a good old friend of mine once said (and I am sure he stole it from somewhere) “It’s a much fun as a human-being can possibly have . . . with your clothes on!”