Category archives: Vehicle Profiles

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

1995 Dodge Viper

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: 1950s Nash Ambassador

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Just how do you suppose the historically famous Italian company, Pininfarina, ever became involved in the styling designs of the 1950’s Nash automobiles? It would have been enjoyable to be around in the days of the late forties and early fifties when these sometimes garish and over-the-top designs were created. The designs were often borrowed from furniture and appliance manufacturers. They were slathered onto the artsy designs of some of the heaviest, yet most stylish, “gunboats” to ever grace the pavements of the world.

The Italian design and coachbuilding company Pininfarina was famous for their work with the likes of Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo and many other prestigious companies. They were commissioned by the Nash Motor Company to design these special edition Ambassador “bathtub styled” beauties aptly named the Nash Ambassador “Pininfarina” Country Club Coupe.

Vehicle Profile: 1969-1976 Triumph TR6

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The 1969 through 1976 Triumph TR6 was known as the quick, nimble, what-a-blast-to-drive and totally British sports cars of the day.  The Triumph TR6 was mostly unchanged throughout the 8 year production run. (unfortunately the end of a great era for Triumph and all true British sports cars, as we knew them).  The Triumph TR6 was only produced as a front engine, rear-wheel drive, 2-door convertible sports car.

The new-for-1969 body was only slightly redesigned by the famous Karmann group of Germany (while maintaining many components, both body and chassis wise, from the previous TR4/A and TR5/TR250 models). The front-end was widened and modernized, while the rear-end was given an angular, “Kamm-back” styling (which was becoming popular at the time). The only engine available was the 2,498cc (152.4-cid or 2.5L), in-line, 6-cylinder with twin “SU” (or later Stromberg) carburetors, producing around 105hp (the European market, and “British” only versions were available with P.I., or “petrol-injection” and produced in the area of 150hp). This torquey little, OHV, pushrod design, 6-cylinder, was coupled to a fully synchromesh, four-speed, manual transmission (and an optional, electrically switched, “overdrive” transmission was also available).

The wheelbase was a mere 88 inches, the overall length was only 155.5 inches, the total width was 61 inches and it was only a short 50 inches high.  It weighed a paltry 2,300 lbs (+/-). The Triumph TR6 was a great little “Sports car” package, that could reach 0-60 in approximately 8.2 seconds, run through the 1/4-mile traps at around 16.3 seconds and attain a top speed of around 120 mph. Nothing earth shattering, but a lot of fun, none-the-less!

The interior of the Triumph TR6 was typically “British” in styling and appointments. It had plenty of odd switches and levers, full instrumentation and comfy, sporty seats. It was cozy, yet, actually roomy enough for a person over 6-ft tall. It had the typical wood veneer dash board of the day, plush carpeting all over the place and a nice-feeling steering wheel. With the redesigned rear-body area by the aforementioned Karmann group, there was a lot more room for luggage and/or groceries than in most previous sports cars of this size.

For mid-1973, and again, due to U.S. Government safety mandates, a huge pair of (and most people agree ugly) black rubber bumper “over-riders” were added to both front and rear bumpers (to meet the 5 mph impact ratings). The Triumph TR6 was of steel frame/steel body design for its entire production run and had a semi-trailing arm rear, independent suspension with coil springs and knee-action, lever-style shocks. The front disc brakes and rear drum brakes were more than adequate, with the power assisted booster system. The steering was handled nicely by a rack and pinion style system, with huge 15-inch wheels/tires (Redlines were the cats-ass) all the way around.

Sketchy records indicated that some 96,000+ Triumph TR6 cars were produced from 1969 through 1976 and over 83,000 of those ended up in North America. That made the TR6 the most popular and most produced Triumph in the TR series history (the TR series ran from 1953 through 1980).  The Triumph TR6 is a very desirable and somewhat valuable and unique collectible vehicle in today’s market. Many of these cars have rusted away to nothing, leaving very few original units out there in good condition.

Vehicle Profile: 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vehicle Profile: 1955 Cadillac Series 62

The 1955 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible was a beautiful, behemoth of a boulevard cruiser that enjoyed quite a reputation for not only great looks and elegant luxury, but was no slouch in the performance category for such a large, heavy (weighing in at approx. 5,000 lbs.) vehicle. This was the fourth generation, 1954 to 1956, in the long run of the Series 62 models from Cadillac (fourth out of seven total generations of the Series 62, beginning in 1940 and running through 1964). This was a lower, more streamlined version of the third generation Cadillac Series 62 models and came with many refinements and updates. Cadillac was at the top of its game, globally, in the luxury car segment and you knew you had “arrived” if you were “well-heeled” enough to be the proud owner of one of these babies!

The hood (and entire body for that matter) was lower and smoother and the grille was styled with an “egg crate” design that was further enhanced by a pair of large torpedo or “Dagmar” protrusions which were attached to the left and right, inverted gull wing bumper extensions. Chrome was used heavily throughout the vehicle to add to the flashy looks, but was tastefully done, not overdone. The headlamps were surrounded by stylish, chromed visors and the parking lamps were moved directly below the headlamps. A chromed ventilation “grille” stretched across the base of the “Eldorado” style, curved or “wrap around” windshield. Touches of the famed automotive designer, Mr. Harley Earl, were evident throughout the vehicle including the larger rear tail light “fins”. The gas filler was still located (or hidden) behind a door, just below the left rear tail light. The rear bumper was updated and the large, vertical ends housed a port for each of the dual exhaust pipes to exit. The rear of the vehicle loomed very large to anyone who pulled up from behind and below the trunk-lid were six chromed, vertical molding “fins” which complimented the two vertical bumperettes on either side of the license plate mount.

Under the hood of the 1955 Cadillac Series 62 was a 331 c.i. V8 pushing 250 (stated) hp attached to a three-speed, Hydra-Matic, automatic transmission and reaching a zero to sixty mph speed in, comparable to size and weight, a very comfy 11 seconds. The wheelbase was stretched to 129 inches and the overall length of the monster was about 223 inches, the overall width was about 80 inches and the overall height was about 62 inches. A 12-volt electrical system was now standard, as well as power steering, automatic windshield washers, tubeless tires and aluminum alloy pistons. Very large drum brakes (12″ x 2.5″) were on all four wheels to help bring this lead sled to a halt (that and a prayer) and the turning radius was around 24 feet or about three full lanes of pavement!

Find your dream 1955 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible now.

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.

Vehicle Profile: Plymouth Barracuda

Plymouth Barracuda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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