Category archives: Vehicle Profiles

Vehicle Profile: Porsche 356

Porshe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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: 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!

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Vehicle Profile: Pontiac Firebird

1967PontiacFirebird

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vehicle Profile: 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle

1968 Chevrolet Chevelle

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

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

Vehicle Profile: 1952 Studebaker Champion

1952 Studebaker

It’s quite a shame that one of the oldest automobile manufacturers (at the time of their demise) couldn’t have withstood the stiff competition of the day, because many believe they would have been an interesting addition to the future of the motoring world. The “Studebaker Automobile Company” (originally called the “Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company”) began existence in 1852 as a company which produced high-quality wagons and carts which became known as one of the heartiest, innovative and well-made variety of wagons to ever roam the wide-open lands.

Oddly enough, the first automobiles produced by Studebaker Motor Company were of the electric variety and made their debut in 1902. Their first gasoline driven cars were produced in 1904, with some components purchased from various other suppliers, while the first completely proprietary “Studebaker’s” came off the assembly line in South Bend, Indiana in the year 1912. The next 50 years (right up to and including their 100th anniversary) would prove beyond a shadow of doubt that Studebaker automobiles were not only innovative and sometimes years ahead of the competition, but very well built and completely reliable vehicles. Due to internal issues, some management blunders and the stiff competition of the day, Studebaker, like many other venerable marques over the years, would disappear by 1966.

For their 100th Anniversary in 1952, Studebaker Automobile Company planned to build a totally new vehicle, but due to complications and time constraints, some of which stemmed from the end of WWII and the more current Korean conflict, they settled instead for a facelift of the current models they offered since 1947. The striking looks of the bullet-nosed (or torpedo) designed front end was massaged into a more smooth-looking “clamdigger” design with a lower profile and six-toothed grille. The rear end kept the unique wrap-around or starlight glass effect (which is also the last year this design was used) and boat-tail rear trunk styling while the interior was updated, but most other areas of the 100th anniversary vehicles were left as they had been since the late forties. Studebakers came standard with their venerable in-line, six-cylinder engine with an optional small-block V8 offered and standard manual-transmission with an optional automatic transmission.

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Vehicle Profile: 1953 Hudson Super Wasp

1953 Hudson Wasp

The Hudson Motor Car Company, “Super Wasp” models, also known as the “Series 58″, were introduced as a new model for 1952 and carried on through 1956 (actually produced under the parent company, American Motors Corporation, in Kenosha, WI for 1955 and 56).

The Hudson “Super Wasp” models were differentiated from the base “Wasp” models by featuring upgraded interior designs and materials, a more powerful 262-cid, “L-Head”, in-line, six-cylinder engine with a single, two-barrel carburetor pushing around 127hp and a chromed, “air-vent” styled, hood ornamentation with special “Super Wasp” scripts added to the front fenders, trunk lid and glove-box door. Of course, they also featured the framework that made Hudson a famous marque of the times, with a chassis design way ahead of it’s time, the “Step-Down” or “Mono-Bilt” unitized construction process, in which the frame wrapped around the outside of the vehicle, just inside the outer body panels. This design added to the success of the Hudsons, mostly the Hornet models, on the racetracks and especially in the quickly emerging NASCAR racing circuit and was actually a safer design for the occupants of the vehicle in the unfortunate event of a crash.

Marshall Teague (one of the most famous tuners and race drivers for Hudson) became synonymous with Hudson performance in the 1950’s and Hudsons’ dominated much of the 1950’s racing events, winning 12 of 13 AAA events in 1952 an almost impossible feat, in itself, for a new-comer to the racing scene. Hudson cars/teams also won 27 of the 34 NASCAR Grand National races in 1952, 22 of 37 in 1953, and 17 of 37 in 1954. The Hudson Hornet proved to be nearly invincible in all of stock-car racing and many other events. Teague finished his 1952 AAA season with a 1000-point lead over his closest rival, winning those 12 of the 13 scheduled events.

History: (as provided by the knowledgeable staff at Daniel Schmitt & Co. Inc.) in The Hudson Wasp (Series 58) was introduced for the 1952 model year as an upgraded version of the Hudson Pacemaker, replacing the Hudson Super Custom models from 1951. The Wasp was available in two- and four-door sedan, convertible, and a 2-door hardtop designated the Hollywood. The Wasp was built on Hudson’s shorter 119-inch (3,023 mm) wheelbase using the company’s unitized, “mono-bilt” step-down chassis design with an overall length of 201.5 inches (5,118 mm). Hudson’s mono-built unitized structure used a perimeter frame which provided a rigid structure, low center of gravity and side-impact protection for passengers. Hudson automobiles remain highly regarded for their advancement of automotive design, particularly the innovative “Step Down” design, introduced on the 1948 Commodore. Unlike traditional body-on-frame construction, which forced passengers to climb up to enter their vehicles, Hudson designers placed the entire passenger compartment down inside the chassis, surrounded by a sturdy perimeter frame. Hudson recognized the marketing value of racing, and engineers including Vince Piggins, who went on to Chevrolet, developed a line of “severe usage parts” which transformed the robust Hornet into the definitive stock car of the early 1950s.

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2nd Generation Chevrolet Camaro

1972 Chevrolet Camaro

After the dazzling debut and extreme popularity of the 1st generation (1967 through 1969) Chevrolet Camaro, GM’s Chevrolet Division’s designers and engineers (inspired by the likes of Jaguar, Ferrari and Aston-Martin designs of the day) were challenged to give the next generation Pony Car a fresh new look and some added technological upgrades. For the 2nd generation Camaro (1970 thru 1981), there were obvious body style changes made, including lower, wider and longer dimensions. Some chassis and drivetrain upgrades were made and eventual horsepower downgrades were in the works as well (mostly due to pressure from EPA to meet continually restrictive, emissions standards) throughout the model run. Even so, some enthusiasts will argue that the 2nd generation Camaros, nicknamed the “Super Hugger”, were more a true driver’s car and quite possibly, the best all-around Muscle Car ever made.

The newly redesigned Chevrolet Camaro two-door coupe (the convertible was no longer offered), complete with fastback styling, would get a late start as a 1970 model (released in February of 1970). This would eventually make it the most sought after year of the second generation Camaros, due to low production numbers (just under 125,000 units) and more powerful drivetrain offerings.

Some notable changes throughout the second generation Chevrolet Camaro series were:

1970 – Totally new, re-design of body (all of Fastback 2+2 style) and upgrades to chassis, available in base Sport Coupe, RS, SS and Z/28 models. They were approximately two inches longer, an inch lower and just less than an inch wider than the first generation Camaros, with a longer hood and shorter rear trunk/deck area with a Kamm (flat cut-off) back styling with round, inset Corvette-like tail lights. The longer doors were of a full-glass (vent-less) design and gone were the rear quarter-panel, side panel windows. The roof panel was of a new double-panel design to increase roll-over protection and deaden sound. The base models featured a full front bumper, while the rest of the models all had a more aggressive looking, extended, rubberized “Endura” material surrounding a sunken grille, with chromed bumperettes on each side of the open grille. The new instrument panel featured several round gauge clusters, placed directly in front of the driver with other controls and radio near the center. The standard interiors were offered with an all-vinyl material and the dash was finished in a matte black color. An optional upgraded vinyl/cloth interior was offered along with some woodgrain surfaces. The largest engine available was the 396-cid V8 (which actually displaced 402 c.i., but Chevrolet decided to retain the “396” badging) which was rated at 375 hp and was only available in the SS models and came with 4-spd manual transmission, also available in the SS, was the 350-cid, 300 hp V8, again, with the 4-spd manual transmission. The six cylinder engine, available in the base Sport Coupe, was increased to 250-cid, 155 hp, from the former 230-cid powerplant and an optional 307-cid, V8, 200 hp, was also available. The RS models were available with the 250-cid L6, with 155 hp or the 350-cid V8, with 250 hp depending on your option choice. The Z/28 (Special Performance Package) was only available with the new high-performance LT-1, 350-cid, V8, 360 hp, powerplant. Transmissions available were a 3-spd standard, 4-spd standard (with Hurst Shifter) or Turbo-Hydramatic 400/3-spd automatic transmission.

1971 – Minor changes were made mostly in the appearance area (colors, stripes, badging, etc.) and the standard interior was now of the vinyl/cloth design. Also in the interior was the addition of the high-back bucket seats with built-in headrests that were not adjustable. Due to tougher emissions standards imposed by the government, most horsepower ratings declined in the performance offerings. The world was beginning the change-over to unleaded fuels and all manufacturers were scrambling to meet these more restrictive emission standards. Due to a corporate-wide, GM strike in late September, 1970, (which lasted 67 days) production was down for the 1971 year models. There were even rumors at GM about the demise of the F Body cars (Camaro and “sister” Firebird) because of declining interest in the PonyCar market and high insurance rates for all performance vehicles. Also, production of Camaros was halted at the Van Nuys, CA plant and were now produced at only the Norwood, OH assembly plant.

1972 – Again, minor changes are made to a faltering model, which again, is hit by a devastating UAW strike lasting 174 days. The internal battle to continue the F body cars went on at General Motors/Chevrolet and finally the supporters of the models won out and convinced the top-brass that it was still a viable vehicle. Only some 68,000 Camaros would be built in 1972, including only about 970 SS-396 models. This was also the last year for the SS models in the second generation run and the Z/28 model would lose the “/” and now be the Z28. Horsepower ratings continued to fall and even more so because the world was changing from gross to net ratings. For instance, the LT-1, 350-cid V8 dropped from 330 hp gross (1971 rating) to 255 hp for 1972 net ratings.

1973 – Standard impact absorbing front bumpers were added due to government safety legislation and again the horsepower ratings dropped and the 396-cid V8 was dropped. A new model LT was introduced and could be ordered along with the RS and Z28 to have all combinations in one car. The LT came with a more luxurious, quieter interior, full instrumentation, Rallye styled wheels, “hidden” wipers, sport mirrors and variable-ratio steering, among other available upgrades. Power windows were again offered, which had not been available since the 1969 year models. After a rough year and recovering from the previous year’s strike, they managed to build over 96,000 units.

1974 – A forward slanting grille was added to accommodate the new aluminum front bumper, which was added to meet further government safety standards. A similar rear aluminum bumper was added for the same reasons and overall the two new bumpers increased the length of the Camaro by some seven inches. The round rear taillights were replaced by elongated, rectangular, corner-wrapped units and sales would increase to over 150,000 units (despite the fuel crisis, which was initiated by the Arab Oil Embargo). Most of the Camaro’s (and Firebird’s) traditional competition would fall by the wayside and from now through the end of its run in 1981, the Camaro would be the reigning PonyCar with no real competition.

1975 – Interiors were changed slightly with new trim patterns and you could supposedly order a leather interior in the LT models (even though none were ever produced) and the walnut trim was replaced with a Bird’s Eye Maple woodgrain. Power door locks were now available and radial tires were standard equipment on all models. The rear window area was changed to a more wrap-around fastback style and gave greater visibility. The “Camaro” nameplate was removed from the rear trunk lid and the front fender scripts were changed to block letters. The “Camaro” badge was removed from the grille and a badge was placed on the cowl above the grille area on the front nose. The Z28 was dropped and would not reappear until 1977. The catalytic converter was introduced as a more efficient means to reduce emissions, which ended the use of a true-duals, exhaust system. Sales were again pretty strong at over 145,000 units for 1975.

1976 – The sales kept climbing as Camaro/Firebird now owned 100% of the PonyCar market and over 182,000 units were produced for 1976. A few appearance updates were made and the LT models received a brushed metal insert on the rear panel. All V8 models were now supplied with standard power-brakes.

1977 – The reintroduction of the Z28 was mostly due to the extreme popularity of the Firebird Trans-Am of 1976 and was a mid-year addition for 1977 Camaros. This late addition was an immediate success and very popular with a 350-cid V8, 4-barrel carburetor and producing 185 hp. Most of the Z28’s were supplied with creature comforts, like air-conditioning and automatic transmission. The Borg-Warner Super T-10, 4-spd manual transmission was still available, as well as the new intermittent wiper system. Over 218,000 units were produced for 1977 and the first time that Camaro outsold the Ford Mustang. A stripped-down Z28, in the hands of a capable driver, could outperform the Pontiac Trans-Am and even the Corvettes on any highway or even a twisty canyon road.

1978 – The Camaro would receive new bumpers front and rear for 1978 with rubberized, body-colored covers and the hood would now contain a “scoop”. Sales again increased to over 272,000 units and make a strong statement to those who had doubted it just a few years ago.

1979 – The “LT” model would be replaced by the more luxurious “Berlinetta” model for 1979. A re-designed instrument cluster, with flatter looking fascia, would replace the aging dash area in front of the driver. The “Z28″ came with a new front spoiler and fender flares and some new decals. The rear window now had an electric “defogger”, embedded in the glass. Another record year for sales with over 282,000 units being produced, breaking all previous sales by first or second generation Camaros.

1980 – The old reliable standard 250-cid L6 motor would be replaced by the new 229-cid V6. The Z28 hood got a new rear facing, raised, functional scoop with a solenoid actuated flapper valve, which opens under a full throttle position. New, optional grey 5-spoke rims were available for the Z28 and standard on all Z28’s was a newly styled upper and lower front grille and revised, colorful graphics. All speedometers now read a maximum of only 85 mph, reduced from the previous reading of 130 mph. Total sale figures fell to just over 152,000 units for 1980.

1981 – Virtually unchanged from the 1980 models, the 1981 Camaro would be the last of the second generation Camaros and the end of an era. Changes made were mainly government mandated, in order to increase fuel efficiency, while reducing emissions. A new computerized control system was used (CCC or Computer Command Control) with an oxygen sensor, electronically controlled carburetion system including a throttle position sensor, coolant temperature sensors, barometric pressure sensors and manifold absolute pressure sensors, along with the dreaded check engine lamp. This was only the beginning of changes that would take us out of the mechanical age and into the electronic age of today. The automatic transmission was also fitted with an electronically controlled, lock-up torque converter. This modernization (emissions restrictions) reduced the output rating to 175 hp for the 350-cid V8 in the Z28 and was now only available with an automatic transmission. The RS model was dropped this year and would not reappear until 1989. Total production fell again, to just over 126,000 units.

It was a great run for the second generation Chevrolet Camaro and they not only proved themselves as daily drivers that were loved by many, but also as great racing machines that dominated many series and all sorts of racing venues all over the world. The IROC series for one was totally dominated by the Camaros of the day.