Category archives: Vehicle Profiles

Vehicle Profile: 1970 Dodge Dart

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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

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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

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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

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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!

Vehicle Profile: 1958 Chevrolet Corvette

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The 1958 Chevrolet Corvette was only available as a 2-door convertible model, with few options available over the base model offerings. The larger-sized body (restyled, updated and enhanced) and more aggressive looks, included adding over 200 lbs. to the total weight of the Corvette. This was the first production Corvette to weigh just over 3000 lbs.

To keep with the styling cues of the era, the 1958 Chevrolet Corvette had the quad style headlamp effect added to the front fenders and a 9 tooth “shark-look” grille, (previous models had a 13 tooth grille). The hood received some “faux” louvers and the trunk was adorned with twin chromed trim spars, running tip-to-tail on the trunk lid. Both of these effects were specific only to the 1958 models. Both front and rear bumpers were now attached to the frame instead of directly to the body, which greatly increased their strength and protection factors. The eight available body paint colors were changed from the old enamel system to a new acrylic lacquer paint for a better finished look.

The interior of the restyled 1958 Chevrolet Corvette was also refined. The instrumentation was now placed directly in front of the driver and included a stacked arrangement of a 160 mph speedometer on top of an 8,000 rpm tachometer (which replaced the previously utilized 6,000 rpm unit) and a complete set of gauges . A grab bar for the passenger to hang onto in stressful driving conditions was added and a pair of (now factory installed) seat belts was standard.

The suspension included:  independent A-arm with coil springs, anti-sway bar up front and a solid, live axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs in the rear (both front and rear handled by tubular hydraulic shock absorbers). Engine availability was left to the venerable 283-cid small-block in five different variations: a single 4-barrel carburetor producing about 230 hp, two different versions with dual 4-barrel carburetors which produced either 245 or 270 hp (depending on tuning and components), and two different versions of the “Fuelie” or fuel-injected units producing either 250 or 290 hp (depending on tuning and components).

Three transmission types were available: the (optional) 2-speed automatic “Powerglide”, the (standard) three and (optional) four-speed manuals. The brakes were 11-inch drum style front and rear with optional heavy duty Cerametallic linings and racing suspension package. Performance ratings for the 250hp version was 0-60 mph in 7.6 seconds and could run through the 1/4 mile traps at 90 mph in 15.7 seconds!

In 1958, 9,168 Chevrolet Corvettes were produced, making it the largest number of units per model year- to-date. It was actually reported to be the first year that Chevrolet made a profit on the model. Some other notable options, not mentioned above, were a heater (go figure), signal seeking or “Wonderbar” AM radio, auxiliary hardtop, power windows, power operated folding soft-top and posi-traction rear axle in three different ratios.

The 1958 Chevrolet Corvette was an impressive performance package (wheelbase of 102-inches, an overall length of 177.2-inches, an overall width of 72.8-inches and height of 51.1-inches) for around $3,500, especially when compared to the more expensive Euro-Brands of the day. Unfortunately, due to the “Automobile Manufacturers Association” anti-racing mantra, which had been established in 1957, Chevrolet down-played the many racing successes of the new for 1958 Corvette.

Vehicle Profile: Dodge Viper

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The Dodge Viper RT/10 first appeared in 1989 with rave reviews, at the NAIA Show (North American International Auto Show) in Detroit, being quickly rushed into production shortly thereafter. Designed by a hand-selected group of engineers, nicknamed “Team Viper”, they began development in March of 1989, of what would soon become the production vehicle. Their goal was to create a new American made 2-seater sports car, which would be steeped in traditional, iconic designs of such cars as the Anglo-American AC Cobra that could go from zero to 100 mph and back to zero in under 15 seconds. Oh and of course, could compete with the dominating and legendary Chevrolet Corvette.

Even the seasoned legend, Carroll Shelby, was involved with initial design cues and even more-so when the GTS Coupe was introduced in 1996. The Dodge Viper would be considered, at least internally at Chrysler Corporation, as a modernized version of the infamous Cobra from days gone by.  At the time, Dodge had a cast-iron blocked, V10 engine available in their line of pickups which was too heavy for use in the new sports car.  To solve this problem,  Lamborghini (a Chrysler subsidiary at the time), was asked to help develop an aluminum-block, V10 engine.  With the engine design issue in the rear view mirror, a prototype Viper could be pushed out. This happened at the 1991 Indianapolis 500, when the pre-production Viper appeared for the first time, with the one-and-only Carroll Shelby behind the wheel.

The Dodge Viper came to market for the first time in 1992. Its design included a front mounted engine with rear wheel drive and 4-wheel independent suspension. It had a modern, sleek, low, wide and nimble look as well as a powerful V10 engine. The first generation Viper also featured low-profile tires and a body with seemingly never-ending curves, capturing the attention of sports car enthusiasts everywhere.  The first generation Viper was truly a beast of a beauty to be admired by car lovers the world over.

As modern as the first generation Dodge Viper was in many respects, it was also primitive in some areas, such as no roll-up windows. Instead, a pair of clear, flexible, zip-up, fabric trimmed plastic windows could be put in place where glass would normally appear. No hard top roof was present in the design either. A flexible soft top roof was available instead,  which was mainly useful for inside storage only. The first generation Viper also lacked outside door handles, requiring you to reach inside to open the doors, in order to climb into the cockpit. All the seemingly commonplace creature comforts were eliminated in order to keep weight to a minimum. No traction control or ABS brakes were available either.  All this “dieting” helped the 3,284 pound, 400 hp, V10, 488-cid, six-speed manual transmission Dodge Viper go from zero to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds. The first generation Viper was also capable of traveling a quarter-mile in only 12.9 seconds with a speed in excess of 180 mph.

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

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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

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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.