On this Independence Day, it is only prudent to consider all of the tenents that make this nation great. While the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights (ya know, the first ten amendments) are what secure a number of our personal freedoms, another American Institution has been an integral part of opening up our way of life in the 20th Century. The automobile has been the tangible tool that allows us to explore new corners of our great nation and bring friends and family together.
A plethora of different automobiles have facilitated this vehicular freedom through the decades, but none have done so with the style and power of the cars of the muscle car era. These highly potent performance machines defined a generation, and carry a luster that still runs strong today. Though it was massive V8s that drove these vehicles, they are remembered as much for special touches unique to each model.
As much as Ford fans loved the return of the 302 (or 5.0L, depending on when you first fell in love with the ‘Stang), enthusiasts applauded a feature as simple as the sequential rear turn signals. Though this feature first debuted on the ’65 T-Bird, and later appeared on the ’67 Mercury Cougar, its appearance on the ’68 Shelby Mustang stands out. So what if we were to make a the perfect American muscle car. Well it should be all-inclusive, so this Perfect Muscle Machine would have elements from all of the greats, including the following:
Sure, it is perhaps not a technical “muscle car,” but it did exist during the muscle car era, and as much as these coupes and convertibles were about power, they were also about an inherent style. The vented pillars of the Riviera that would come to life at night commanded the feeling of power necessary to intimidate others on the road.
Chrysler knew what they were doing when they re-introduced the Challenger with a front grille that nearly leans over the front bumper- it calls up memories of the true intimidating nature of muscle cars. But none were as intimidating as the 1968 Ford Shelby GT500KR. Its grille was intensely forward-facing, and appeared to suck in entire atmospheres of fresh air, feeding the tremendous 428 cubic-inch block
Though it actually first appeared on the 1969 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet, it claimed fame shimmying its way from the inside of the ’70 ‘cuda. On a ‘Shaker’ hood, the air intake is directly fixed to the top of the engine, rather than a hood scoop that worked air to the carburetor. As a result, whenever one would turn over the engine, or crank it up, the scoop would move with the rhythm of the engine. It is power that you can see.
OK, so its a few years past the peak of the muscle car era, but just consider how iconic the “Screaming Chicken” is. There are plenty of other muscle car color and graphic schemes but none are readily identifiable as that of the Trans Am. (Since we’re playing ‘what if,’ we’ll take the hood-mounted tachometer from the following vehicle…)
In the 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge, the driver was given some added input via a ‘Ram Air’ toggle that brought in more fresh air to the 455 cubic inch block. Did it really make a difference? Owners argue it to this day, but it represented another way in which an enthusiast could personalize their ride.
It first appeared as the powertrain option above the inline-6 in the 1967 model year, but it has gone on to so much more. To this day, millions of vehicles are on the road with a 350 under the hood, but they did their best in Camaros and Corvettes. There is no end to the tweaks and modifications one can perform on this venerable small block.
Was it even a contest? No name is more synonymous with the act of changing a gear than Hurst. Through the years they have laid their hands upon the 1969 AMC SC/Rambler, 1970 Chrysler 300, 1971 Jeepster, and several flavors of Oldsmobile. Though many know them for simply their iconic shift lever, their transmissions are a favorite among drag racers.
Oh, yeah- and they also invented the “Jaws of Life” rescue tool. How many aftermarket companies that you order from can claim that? Another win for America.
Image sources: Wikipedia, Mecum Auctions, Mustang Monthly, Stingray.nu
- muscle car