Category archives: Vehicle Profiles

Vehicle Profile: Oldsmobile 442

Oldsmobile442

The Oldsmobile (a Division of General Motors) answer to the Musclecar craze that began in 1964, was the F-85/Cutlass “4-4-2″ mid-sized model. “4-4-2″ initially stood for a special option package of their F-85/Cutlass mid-sized models, which came equipped with a four-barrel carburetor, four-speed manual transmission (or four-on-the-floor) with dual exhaust from the factory.

For the “4-4-2″ units produced with an automatic transmission, the first “4” stood for 400-cid, V8 (which was the base engine supplied); the second “4” stood for four-barrel carburetor and again, the “2” stood for dual exhaust. By 1968, the  “4-4-2″ was flying solo as its own distinct model, which would continue through the 1971 year models. After that, it would revert back to an option of the Cutlass models and carry on through the mid-70’s.  The “4-4-2″ option/model/badging would reappear several times after that, through the 80’s and into the 90’s, but did not necessarily designate a four-barrel, four-speed with dual exhaust.

The performance specifications on the most powerful of all the “4-4-2″ models was the “Hurst/Olds 4-4-2″, with a 455-cid Big-Block V-8, producing 380 hp, and was stated to reach 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds. A 1/4-mile run was clocked at approximately 103 mph in 14.03 seconds. Not bad for a box stock, factory issued, hulk of a car that possessed pure performance, coupled with awesome handling for a vehicle of its size.

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Vehicle Profile: De Tomaso Pantera

The De Tomaso “Pantera” was a mid-engined, production “Musclecar” made and designed in Italy (with support from the Ford Motor Company, mostly for powertrain components) and destined mainly for the U.S. market. It was produced from 1971 to 1991 and evolved over it’s 20 year-run into one of the worlds most unique exotics ever produced! This was also, in-part, due it’s odd (at the time) blending of “Italian” design, handling and craftsmanship and good-ole American V8, raw musclepower! I say, odd, because the “purists” do not consider it a “real” Italian sporstcar due to it’s half-breed combination of Italian and American components. However, it has remained a cult-status vehicle in it’s own right and has stood the test of time as one of the most respected, feared (by other makes that cross it’s path) and sought after marques of it’s time! Although this car was designed in Italy at Ghia (another company owned by De Tomaso at the time) by a US-born designer, named Tom Tjaarda, it is steeped in “Italian” history and exoticar styling. The De Tomaso Car Company of Modena, Italy, was founded in 1959 by Alejandro De Tomaso, an Argentinian-born immigrant and at one time, also owned the likes of the Maserati and Moto-Guzzi brands.

The “Pantera”, meaning panther in Italian, replaced the short-lived “Mangusta” model, which was De Tomaso’s second-ever production vehicle (which also was powered by mid-engined Ford V8) introduced in 1966 and running through 1971. Their first, was the even shorter-lived, “Vallelunga” mid-engined model, which used a European Ford, Cortina 4-cyl powerplant. The “Pantera” would also be the first De Tomaso vehicle to use an updated steel “moncoque” chassis, which replaced the aluminum “backbone” chassis of earlier De Tomaso mid-engined vehicles. The V-8 supplied by Ford was the 351C (Cleveland) model and was/is considered by most, to be the best of the Ford small-block, V-8 family. It made it’s first, official public debut in Modena, Italy in March of 1970 and then made it’s U.S. debut a few weeks later at the New York Motor Show to rave reviews. Production was brisk ,at first, and from 1971 through 1973 Modena pushed out over 6,100 units (some 7,260 total production in over 20 years)! But once the big oil “crisis” reared it’s ugly head (also in 1973) and the oil embargo started, not to mention the poor fit, finish and quality control problems they were experiencing at De Tomaso, the Ford Motor Company decided to pull the plug on importing these Italian/American musclecars, which they sold through their Lincoln-Mercury dealerships. De Tomaso continued to build the “Pantera”, mostly by hand (at about 100 per year) until 1991 (some say a few models trickled out until 1993), at which time all production ended and the “era of the Pantera” was over. More than a footnote in automotive history, the “Pantera” is a legendary vehicle which seemed flawed only by it’s human “handlers” of the day.

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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”!

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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: 1968-1982 Chevrolet Corvette

1969 Chevrolet Corvette

The third generation Chevrolet Corvette (or C3, built from 1968 to 1982) went through many changes and technological advances during the 15 years of production. Even though the USA, and the rest of the world for that matter, was experiencing the first real fuel shortage crisis and facing continually restrictive EPA regulations throughout the entire series, the sales of the first true American Sportscar continued to increase by huge numbers.

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The C3 series was a toned-down version of the popular Mako Shark II concept vehicle,easily one of the most famous and recognizable concept/show cars of all time (designed by Bill Mitchell and his team at Chevrolet, including the young Larry Shinoda). The Mako Shark II, concept/show car, was first shown at the Motorama show in 1965 to rave reviews and was a newer version of the Mako Shark I from 1957. The “Stingray” fender scripts were used from 1969 through 1976. Even though everyone referred to all 1963 through 1982 Corvettes as Stingrays, the scripts were absent from all 1968 units and from 1977-1982.

There were two body styles of the newly-designed C3 Chevrolet Corvette, which included a convertible model with a hinged hard cover to conceal the top when in the down position and the T-Top model, which was the first dual-panel, removable roof design to debut in the U.S. marketplace. In fact, the T-Top model proved to be so popular, that the convertible models were discontinued altogether after the 1975 production year and would not return until 1986. The T-Top design was unique, and actually became a secondary design choice, mainly due to the creaks and groans (due to body-flex) produced by the initially designed, single-panel removable roof ( a design flaw the engineers could not seem to quiet). The chassis and engine offerings remained unchanged from the previous C2 series Corvettes and horsepower only diminished over the years, mainly due to strict EPA restrictions. The Big-Block engines were discontinued after 1974.

Of course, the usual upgrades to creature comforts (including leather seats and “cockpit” styled dashboard) and the technological advancements were continuously made over the years through the end of C3 production. The Corvette went through a period of metamorphosis from raw-powered, street and racetrack monster to more of a mild, yet sexy, boulevard cruiser. The horsepower rating of the final year (1982) of the C3 production run was a mere 200 hp. This meager horsepower rating actually increased over the previous years 190 hp rating. This was only due to the introduction of the first fuel injected (Chevrolet’s, Cross-Fire, electronic throttle-body system) Corvette since 1965. Keeping in mind, that in 1972 General Motors (and most other automobile manufacturers), changed to the SAE “Net” horsepower rating system, as opposed to the previously used SAE “Gross” horsepower rating system (270 hp gross = approximately 200 hp net). This resulted in lower, but more realistic horsepower ratings. This horsepower rating system is still in use today, as a global standard.

Some other highlights during the C3 production run, were the introduction of rubberized front and rear bumpers after the 1973 model (which actually had the new “rubber” nose, but retained the chrome rear bumperettes) to meet government safety standards for slow speed impact. There was also the addition of catalytic converters incorporated into all exhaust systems starting in 1975 which marked the end of a true dual exhaust system as we know it (thus,1974 was last year for true dual exhaust systems). This required the installation of steel floorboards, to replace the previous fiberglass units, due to the higher heat created by the catalytic converters. In 1978, the Corvette fastback styling returned, with an elongated, unopenable, rear glass area which included a larger storage area in the rear deck. The 1980 Corvettes, lighter in weight, introduced a more aerodynamically advanced body design which reduced wind drag and improved performance. In mid-year of 1981 the new Corvette specific production facility was finally ready, and all Corvette production was moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky where it remains to this day.

Zora Arkus-Duntov, also known as the “Father of the Corvette”, officially retired in 1975 and was replaced by Dave McLellan as Corvette’s Chief Engineer. However, Mr. Duntov would always be “unofficially” involved with the Corvette until his death in 1996. He remains the most influential figure of the first true American Sportscar in history. His unwavering input and support over the years, resulted in creating and refining the American icon that is the Chevrolet Corvette.

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Vehicle Profile: Chevrolet El Camino

1967 Chevrolet El Camino

The full-sized, Chevrolet El Camino was first launched as a new model in 1959 in response to Ford’s full-sized Ranchero model (launched in 1957). The El Camino was continued (and discontinued) in 1960, and would only compete head-to-head (and win with 22,246 units sold to Ranchero’s 14,169 units sold) with the full-sized Ranchero in 1959. Ford decided to downsize the Ranchero for 1960 and base it on their new, smaller, Falcon chassis.

Chevrolet would drop the full-sized El Camino from their line-up for 1961 to 1963.  It re-emerged in 1964 based on a new, mid-sized Chevelle chassis and remain in production until 1987. GM’s Chief Designer, Harley Earl, actually suggested a “coupe-pickup” designed vehicle as early as 1952, but GM’s top brass did not act on that idea until Ford came out with the Ranchero in 1957. The El Camino name is of Spanish origin meaning “the road”.

Since the “First Generation” Chevrolet El Camino was based on a car chassis (as opposed to a truck chassis) all the trim options available in the corresponding model, Impala, Bel Air, Brookwood, Biscayne, etc. (and later on SS) were available. These creature comforts and more plush interiors were not yet available on the full-sized truck models of the day (other than the short-lived, 1955 through 1958 Chevrolet “Cameo Carrier” full-sized pick-up models) and were very well received by the public.

The El Caminos also featured the first Chevrolet built pick-up, with an all-steel (sheet metal, instead of wood) corrugated bed floor. A 235-cid L6, 283-cid V8 (in several variations and hp ratings) and even a 348-cid V8 (also a few variations) were available and all were offered with either a manual (3 or 4 speed) or 2-speed, Powerglide, automatic transmission. Initially, sales were good, then fell off by nearly 1/3 for 1960 (producing just over 14,000 units), possibly due to the fact that the cab only held up to 3 persons (at a time when the country was experiencing a major growth spurt due to the baby-boomer era). Maybe, a concept ahead of its time (as a crossover type vehicle), the Chevrolet El Camino would leave the scene for a few short years and re-emerge in 1964 based on the new, mid-sized Chevelle platform.

The “Second Generation” Chevrolet El Camino was produced from 1964 through 1967 and, as mentioned, was based on the all new Chevrolet Chevelle chassis as a mid-sized, coupe/pickup, type vehicle. Available engines were a 194-cid L6 with 120 hp, a 230-cid L6 with 155 hp and a 283-cid V8 with 2-barrel carburetor and rated at 195 hp, and a 4-barrel version (complete with dual exhaust) rated at 220 hp. Later in the production run for 1964 was a 327-cid V8 rated at either 250 hp or 300 hp depending on option package and again, coupled to manual (3 or 4 speed) and automatic transmissions.

For 1965, a minor facelift was given to the front end (with a V’d grille shape similar to the newly designed, full-sized Chevrolets).  An even more powerful 327-cid V8 rated at 350 hp was an option as well as all the engine offerings for 1964.

The 1966 El Camino received another minor facelift with some massaged sheet metal and slant-cut front fenders where they mated, at the more aggressively angled, grille area. The interior was freshened-up, including a horizontally sweeping speedometer and instrument cluster. And finally, an optional 396-cid V8 (big-block) was offered, in several variations from 325 to 375 hp.

For 1967, the El Camino again carried the features of the Chevelle forward of the B pillars and was given a more pronounced grille area, front bumper and available trim work (an optional vinyl roof was even offered). Air-shocks were still standard equipment in order to compensate for load weight and disc brakes were now an available option.  A new TH400, 3-speed Turbo-Hydromatic, automatic transmission for the 396-cid engines was also available. An energy-absorbing steering column and dual-reservoir, brake master-cylinder were now standard equipment due to federal mandates.

The “Third Generation” Chevrolet El Camino was produced from 1968 through 1972 and featured a completely new, longer, Chevelle-based chassis and body re-design. All new sheet metal and more aggressive looking, forward-styling, enhanced the performance look and sporty feel of the new models. Again, power front disc-brakes and now, a posi-traction rear axle were available as options. The interior was totally re-designed with cloth/vinyl or full-vinyl bench seat or optional full-vinyl Strato bucket seats and center console. Deep-twist carpeting was standard and interior trim was shared with the Chevelle/Malibu models.

For 1969 the El Camino front grille area and surrounding body area was more rounded in appearance and kept the quad headlamps (now with a single-bar divider). The parking lamps were located in the slotted bumper. This is the first time a 350-cid V8 would be available in the El Camino. A revised instrument panel with round instrument design replaced the previous horizontal look and power windows and door locks were an option. The Super Sport package, including various versions of the 396-cid V8, now featured a blacked-out grille with “SS” emblem in the center and double, raised bulges running front to rear (from the mid to rear) of the hood, leading to a chromed grate.

The 1970 El Camino saw some interior redesigns and new exterior sheet metal that gave the bodywork a more squared-off look. The 396 badging was kept, even though the displacement was increased to 402-cid and the LS6, 454-cid big-block V8 with some 450 hp was now available.

For 1971, the El Camino received a new front end redesign, with single-unit, Power-Beam, headlamps like the Chevelle now used and integral park/turn/side-marker lamps. As the Feds were cracking down on those air-polluting emissions, GM was forced to add the dreaded smog pumps to their engines and reduce compression and horsepower at the same time.

The 1972 El Camino came with a front fender safety, side-marker/parking lamps and a re-vamped, twin-bar grille. Again, due to global standardization and ever tightening emissions mandates, all vehicles would now use net instead of gross horsepower ratings and the power decrease was across the board. The SS models would become diluted and now any V8 engine could be ordered with this option.

The “Fourth Generation” Chevrolet El Camino was produced from 1973 through 1977 and again, was based on the Chevelle, (A-body) station wagon chassis. It was the largest and heaviest vehicle of the entire series and featured the government mandated, safety, impact-absorbing bumpers front and rear. Two trim packages were offered, the base model and the SS. Front disc-brakes were now standard and the wheel track, front and rear, was increased by one inch for better stability. Coil springs at all four wheels were computer-selected by weight of added options to make for smoother ride and handling properties. Several new features included a double-panel acoustical roof, sturdier designed side-door guard beams for structural integrity, flush-style outer door handles, better fitting glass seals for wind-sound reduction, full, flow-through power vent system, inside hood release and contour-molded foam seats and backs. Visibility was increased by thinning out the front glass pillars and longer trips between fuel stops with a new 22 gallon fuel tank.

The engines available for 1973 were the (base) 307-cid V8 with 2-barrel carburetor and 115 hp, the optional 350-cid V8 with 2-barrel carburetor and 145 hp, the optional 350-cid V8 with 4-barrel carburetor and 175 hp and lastly the 454-cid V8 with 4-barrel carburetor and 245 hp. The 3 or 4-speed manual transmission and the Turbo-Hydromatic, 3-speed automatic transmission were available. The SS was now reduced to a mere trim option and included a blacked-out grille with “SS” center emblem, special instrumentation and interior badging, body-side striping, bright roof-drip moldings, body-colored outside sport-mirrors, front and rear anti-roll bars, rallye rims with special, raised white-letter 70-series tires, and was only available with the 350 or 454 V8’s.

For 1974, the El Camino had a revised (Mercedes-style) grille, a new trim package called the Classic was available.  It offered a more luxurious interior with cloth or vinyl upholstery and carpeted door panels and woodgrained panels on dashboard. The 350-cid V8 was now the base and a 400-cid V8 was introduced and the 454-cid V8 was still an available option.

The 1975 El Camino saw another new grille design, dual remote-operated outside mirrors and radial tires with refined suspension for a smoother, quieter ride. Creature comforts such as intermittent wipers, “Econominder” instrument package complete with vacuum gauge (to monitor fuel consumption) and cruise-control were offered, along with some standard features like H.E.I. ignition, which improved performance and minimized maintenance. The 250-cid L6 with 105 hp was offered as the base engine and this would be the last year for the 454-cid V8 which was now reduced to 215 hp due to emission standards choking the life outta that big-bore monster.

The 1976 El Camino remained unchanged for the base models and only a cosmetic change of new “stacked” rectangular headlamps was evident on the Classic models. The 1977 El Camino again remained visually unchanged from the previous year but lost the availability of the 400-cid V8.

The “Fifth Generation” Chevrolet El Camino was produced from 1978 through 1987, which was the last year for the series. The El Camino, once again, shared some suspension components and front-end sheet metal with the Chevelle Malibu, but this time, had its very own specifically designed chassis. Four models were available through the final run of the “coupe/pickup” including the El Camino, Royal Knight, Conquista and Super Sport. A totally new, slimmer, angled and chiseled looking body style emerged for the final 10 year run with a one-inch longer (117-inch) wheelbase. The doors were borrowed from the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and the tailgate and rear bumper were shared with the Malibu Station Wagon. The slightly protruding, grille area included new larger, single rectangular headlamps. As downsizing was now the norm, the base engine was a 200-cid V6 with 94 hp, with optional powerplants of 231-cid V6 (Buick manufactured) with 105 hp, 305-cid V8 with 145 hp and the 350-cid V8 with 170 meager hp.

For 1979 El Caminos, very little was changed, aside from the visibly divided grille panel and under the hood was a new 267-cid V8 with 125 hp. For 1980, the El Camino remained nearly identical cosmetically, but again, under the hood the 200-cid V6 was bumped to 229-cid and hp rating increased to 115, the 305-cid V8 now with 155 hp and the 350-cid V8 was discontinued. Most vehicles now came with the automatic transmission but the 3-on-the-tree was standard.

For 1981, the El Camino sported a new vertical designed grille and under the hood a new GM “Computer Command Control” system to help reduce emissions even further and again, horsepower ratings were down across the board. The automatic transmission also received a lock-up type torque-converter for better highway mileage.

The 1982 through 1987 El Caminos remained basically the same and were treated to a quad-rectangular (side-by-side) headlamp arrangement and cross-hatched grille pattern. A dismal performing, dog of a diesel motor (350-cid V8 with 105 noisy hp) was an option for 1982 through 1984. In 1983, the 267-cid V8 was dropped and from 1984 to 1987 the SS model borrowed the front end of the Monte Carlo SS and offered the 305-cid V8 with 190 hp. In 1985, Chevrolet transferred production of all El Camino models to their plant in Mexico and through 1987 the 262-cid V6 was the standard engine. Somehow ironic, the long running El Camino model would end its life south of the border at a plant in Mexico.

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Vehicle Profile: Chevrolet Nova

1967 Chevrolet Nova

The Chevrolet Chevy II or Chevy II Nova (later just Nova), was one of the quickest, concept-to-production new vehicle projects to be produced by the General Motors Corporation. It was only 18 short months from inception to the first unit rolling off the assembly line on August 16th, 1961. It was barely in time for its release to the public in September, as a 1962 year model.

This was all done in order to compete directly with the now popular, Ford Falcon, a compact car which had become a major success for the Ford Motor Company shortly after its debut in 1960. The Nova quickly became a fierce compact car competitor with four-door sedans, station wagons and they even offered a two-door hardtop and convertible, ahead of the Falcon’s release of those same models. According to Ed Cole, GM’s General Manager of the time, the Chevy II’s mission was to be a back-to-the-basics, simple and affordable vehicle for the masses. He described it to the press as offering the buying public “maximum functionalism with thrift!”.

The name, Nova, was (internally, at Chevrolet, anyhow) a popular choice to represent the new model (but at first, Nova, was only used on their top-of-the-line models), but again, with keeping its new models tied only to names beginning with the letter “C”, it was last minute, when they finally settled on the “Chevy II” name. There would be five generations of the Chevy II or Nova models, ranging from 1962 through 1988, with a brief hiatus from 1980 to 1985. The fifth generation Nova, made from 1986 through 1988, was actually a sub-compact, re-modeled, re-badged, front-wheel-drive vehicle produced as a joint effort between GM and Toyota, and based on their Sprinter model. The Chevy II name was dropped after the 1968 year model and was afterwards, known as the Chevrolet Nova through the end of its run.

The base of the Nova’s through 1979 (the end of the fourth generation run) was a rear-wheel-drive vehicle of unibody construction. Over the years, you could have ordered your Nova with anything from a 153-cid in-line, 4-cylinder (later models, 1975 to 1979, carried the Iron Duke 151-cid in-line, 4-cylinder) to a 402-cid Big-Block, V8 and pretty much everything in-between. What a gas these sleeper cars could be with a little creative “tuning”.

The first generation Chevrolet Chevy II (Nova) ran from 1962 through 1965 and saw the first V8 powerplant available from the factory in 1964, a 283-cid unit, producing 195 hp. It was, however, commonplace in 1962 and 1963 to have a dealer installed V8, placed under the hood. The 1965 received a bit of a facelift and some more ponies, due to various engine options now available, including the SS models, 300 hp, 327-cid Small-Block V8 making the little compact a real musclecar contender. The standard transmission was the 3-speed, on-the-tree manual, an optional 4-speed manual transmission (sometimes dealer-installed) and 2-speed Powerglide automatic transmission.

The second generation Chevrolet Chevy II (Nova) experienced the shortest run of all five generations and ran from 1966 to 1967. They came with a more modern, angular looking body shape (including a semi-fastback roofline) and squared-up styling than the previous models. However, most other features, as offered on earlier models, changed very little and basic dimensions were about the same. The 1967 NovaSS, option package, was the first model of the line to drop all “Chevy II” badging, even though the model was still referred to as the Chevrolet Chevy II.

The third generation Chevrolet Chevy II (Nova, X-Body) enjoyed the longest production run of all the generations and stayed around from 1968 through 1974. A complete, extensive, frame-up re-design came for 1968 and carried-on, basically unchanged, through the end of the series in 1974. The front end housed the newly designed GM sub-frame assembly (similar to that, which was used, on the new Chevrolet Camaro for 1967) comprised of both the front suspension and powertrain, which was then bolted to the chassis of the vehicle. The station wagon (due mainly to lack of interest) and hardtop sport coupe models were discontinued and would not return. Some available options included power steering and brakes, rear shoulder safety belts and head restraints, and Four-Season air-conditioning.

For 1969, Chevrolet finally decided to drop the “Chevy II” nameplates and badging and now their compact car was officially known as, simply, the Chevrolet “Nova”. The four cylinder powertrain was dropped from the lineup for 1971 due to lack of sales and the 250-cid, L6, became the base powerplant. The 3-speed manual transmission and 2-speed Powerglide were still offered standard, but the 3-speed Turbo-Hydromatic automatic and 4-speed manual transmissions were available on most V8’s.

1970 would be the last year for the venerable “SS396″ Nova’s, while they were actually increased to 402 c.i. displacement to help meet emissions standards, but due to its strong “SS396″ name recognition and to downplay power output to relieve pressure from governmental scrutiny and insurance companies ever increasing premiums, Chevrolet chose to keep the “SS396″ badging. A Rally Sport package was offered for 1971 and 1972 which included suspension upgrades, some Rally wheels, special striping and trim options and the largest engine available was now the 350-cid V8.

For 1972 an optional sunroof could now be ordered as well as Strato style bucket seats with built-in headrests. 1973 saw a minor facelift with a hatchback rear glass area, and once again, to conform to the government mandates to have energy-absorbing, 5-mph bumpers front and rear. For the first time, since 1962, a multi-leaf rear spring (like those used on the new Camaros) would replace the single-leaf type. We would also say goodbye to the long-running, 2-speed, Powerglide automatic transmission. For 1974 the Chevrolet Nova would receive some minor exterior upgrades including larger parking lights and even larger, impact-absorbing bumpers for safety sake (actually adding over two inches of length to the vehicle). The 2-speed Powerglide automatic transmission was now replaced by the 3-speed Turbo-Hydramatic automatic transmission.

The fourth generation Chevrolet Nova (X-Body) would last from 1975 through 1979 and would be the makers most-changed model in its lineup for 1975. With all new sheetmetal “refined along the lines of elegant European sedans” stated in the brochure, but keeping some of the third generations rear suspension components and the same 111-inch wheelbase. The front suspension was similar to that used on the second generation Camaro, with larger diameter stabilizer bar, front disc brakes now came standard and radial tires were used all the way around. Windshields had larger glass area, while coupes and hatchbacks had fixed rear-quarter glass or optional swing-out hinged glass. The new LN (Luxury) models featured creature comforts never before seen on a Chevrolet compact car.

For 1976 the “LN” model was re-badged as the “Concours” to compete with other brands more elegant sounding names (i.e.: Monarch, Granada, etc.) and boasted such lavish appointments as Rosewood vinyl woodgrain interior trim, the first Chevrolet coupe to offer fold-down front, center armrest and it even had an upright, sprung, hood ornament. All other changes throughout the end of the run were merely cosmetic and or diminishing in power and performance. The 1979 Chevrolet Nova would bow to the age of front-wheel drive vehicles and the likes of the Chevrolet Citation.

The fifth generation Chevrolet Nova (1986 to 1988) just one word . . . Forgettaboutit. That’s a story for another generation (no pun intended).

Find a classic Chevrolet Nova 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.