Life imitates art, motor vehicle department

Some time ago I wrote about a Hot Wheels car, the Overbored 454, that prompted my semi-fascination.

Click on the link and you can read my speculation over which Chevrolet (obviously since Chevy designed the 454, and the 454 is still available from GM in crate engine form) the Overbored 454 was supposed to emulate.

Then came this photo from Holz Motors in Hales Corners via Facebook Friend Chad Millard …

… which certainly looks a lot like the Hot Wheels car (minus the hood actually covering the engine):

The real car is a Hot Wheels edition Chevy Camaro SS, about which the Chicago Tribune writes:

Back when the days were long and the years were endless, back when time was on my side, I used to line up two lanes of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, running from the family room to unknown roadways. A few decades later my kids did the same thing on the window sills overlooking our city street. We are not alone. There is something magical about a toy car, how it transports you through time and space, through reality and imagination.

The Hot Wheels package on the 2018 Chevy Camaro is the same kind of time machine. Instead of fantasizing about all the driving freedoms of adulthood in a die-cast toy, the real-life Camaro V-8 powers you through the nostalgia of youth. At least that’s the premise of the $4,995 package celebrating 50 years of Hot Wheels history.

The Custom Camaro was the first of the inaugural class of 16 Hot Wheels to be sold in 1968. It had a racing stripe and mag wheels. The 2018 Camaro 2SS features a black racing stripe bisected by an orange strip the width of a Hot Wheels track. The orange Crush exterior also evokes the toy’s racing track. It has special 20-inch satin graphic, or black, wheels that unfortunately do not have the five-spoke mag wheels with red stripe slicks of the toy version.

Hot Wheels badging adorns the fenders, illuminated door sills, and steering wheel. Orange stitching, orange brake calipers and other orange elements keep occupants in a Hot Wheels state of mind.

But the real charm is the 2SS Camaro itself. The 455-horsepower 6.2-liter LT1 V-8 engine — same as in America’s supercar, the Corvette — is a bruising, chest-thumping beast of burden. The engine note is a national anthem of engineering prowess, thanks in part to the dual-model performance exhaust ($895). There is a quiet or stealth mode to activate valves in the exhaust, so cruising around the neighborhood need not be obnoxious. But like any big dog, it begs to be let loose.

This most powerful Camaro SS ever, according to Chevy, hits 60 mph in 4 seconds with the eight-speed automatic. With the six-speed manual in the test car, Chevy estimates 4.3 seconds. That’s the penalty for rowing your own and thinking man is better than machine.

The manual is worth the penalty. The gear stick manual is short and stubby, the shifting quick and direct. Unless you’re easy on the throttle. In an attempt to save fuel, at light throttle from a stop, as you shift to second, the car will redirect it to fourth. First to fourth is nothing I got used to in my week with the car. It could be a problem if you’re turning right or left from a stop sign and need to jump into the far lane to beat traffic then have a sudden lack of power. Then just start in second. Active rev matching paddles help to keep downshifts smooth.

The rear-wheel drive handling is composed; you can wag the rear with much more control than the buffoons in V-8 Mustangs crashing out of cars and coffee events all over YouTube. We weren’t able to track it but spent plenty of time on and off ramps grinning like lottery winners. It’s been over a year since we last drove the Mustang, so memory may favor the fresh, but the overall handling was more confidence-inspiring than the other muscle cars. At a decade old and aging, the Challenger is just so big and heavy. Camaro could be pushed harder, faster, better than Mustang and Challenger. And the steering wheel feels as if it were made for your hands.

The inside feels as if you got microsized inside one of those Hot Wheels, though. The high beltline and low roofline make for small windows and poor visibility, which has become as synonymous with Camaro as muscle cars are with midlife crisis. But the outside is striking enough to stand the test of time, as it has for classic Z28s. Tradeoffs.

Once inside, the cramped cabin sort of perfects itself. All the controls are within effortless reach so the driver can stay snug in the seat. The center console is thick, the seats narrow, but the orange stitching and uncluttered dash with circular vents maintains that Hot Wheels state of mind. GM’s layered vehicle info display takes a minute to understand but then it’s very easy to use, as is the touch screen and voice commands. The head-up display is excellent as well.

The rear seats are more for storage or for folding down than sitting anyone; toss your phone back there if the cupholders are in use. The trunk is huge, but the opening small. We had to jam our hockey bag in like we were stuffing our foot in a skate for the first time all season. Once inside there is plenty of depth for golf bags, suitcases, and the two passengers that couldn’t fit in the rear seats.

The Hot Wheels package may seem like an unnecessary money grab for a vehicle about to get refreshed for 2019, but all the little easter eggs, badging and Hot Wheels track elements are reminders of a time when dreams were only as big as the imagination. Camaro is the payoff to all those Hot Wheels-inspired dreams.

This is not an Overbored 454; it’s a Not-Overbored 376, but the Camaro’s 455 horsepower is five more than the most powerful 454 Chevy ever offered in a car, the LS-6 454 in the 1970 Malibu SS. (And that may have been an underestimate, since insurance companies were getting nervous about horsepower.) That same year Chevy claimed it offered an LS-7 454, with reported 465 horsepower, in the Corvette, though the LS-7 was never actually built for a Corvette.

That’s the Hot Wheels SS. In case you find 450 horsepower insufficient …

… you could upgrade to the ZL1, with 200 additional horsepower thanks to its turbocharger.

Another potential similarity with the Corvette is that you can get the ZL1 without its (suitable only for the height-challenged) back seat. I think the Overbored 454 lacks a back seat.



That’s a Ford what?

Motor Junkie has an interesting piece about familiar-brand cars that you may not recognize if you’ve never left the U.S.:

Everything began when Ford started selling their Model T cars worldwide, establishing assembly plants on several continents. The Model T was a utilitarian product people all over the world loved. But to continue selling cars in different countries, Ford needed to develop models to suit each specific market. This started the idea of founding subsidiary companies independent from Detroit.

So, Ford concentrated on engineering and building specific products under well-known American names. And here are the most interesting cars by U.S. companies they sold in various parts of the world. Dodge, Ford and Chevrolet offered everything including right-hand drive muscle cars, luxury sedans and even pickup trucks. And they sold them in Europe, Australia, Africa and South America.

Ford Falcon GT HO 351

Probably the most famous Australian muscle car was the mighty Falcon GT HO 351 Ford introduced in 1971. Despite its performance portfolio, it was a four-door sedan with proper muscle car equipment. And it came with Ford’s 351 V8 with a shaker hood and beefed up suspension and brakes.

The power output was 300 HP for the standard version, but Ford also offered Phase II and Phase III options. The car looked the same, except with upgraded mechanicals. And in the ultimate Phase III version, the Falcon GT HO produced over 350 HP. The performance was astonishing with 0 to 60 mph in the six-second range and top speeds over 140 mph.

The Falcon GT HO was successful at racing, dethroning its arch enemy, the Holden Monaro GTS 350. In the U.S., the Falcon was an economy car. But in Australia, it was a well-respected four-door muscle model with racing pedigree.

It’s true that the American Ford Falcon was an economy car (except for the Falcon Sprint), but the Falcon’s underpinnings made up the first Ford Mustang.

Chevrolet Firenza CanAm

One of the craziest, rarest Chevrolet muscle cars is the Chev Firenza CanAm. Chevy introduced it in 1973. They based the Firenza CanAm on the Vauxhall Firenza, a two-door sedan they designed and constructed in England. However, they built it in South Africa under the Chevrolet badge.

But, the best thing about this car was the engine. It was a 5.0-liter Chevrolet V8 straight from the Z28 Camaro with performance intake and heads producing close to 400 HP. Since the Firenza body was light, the V8 could launch this homologation special in 5.4 seconds to 0 to 60 mph.

These acceleration figures were closer to a Ferrari than a Chevrolet. They only produced 100 Firenza CanAms, almost by hand and mostly for racing. Today, surviving examples are quite rare and expensive.

The Firenza on which the CanAm was based had four-cylinder engines of 1.2 to 2.2 liters. To stuff a V-8 into small car is such an American thing to do.

Ford Capri

The success of the Mustang inspired many American brands to offer a pony car model of their own. Even in Europe, the Mustang was popular and common. However, Ford wanted to explore the market further with a smaller, European version. It would be less expensive and more suited to the needs of their European buyers.

And this is how the Ford Capri came to be in 1969. They designed in the UK, so the Capri was a European Mustang in every way. Using the “long hood-short deck” formula and semi-fastback styling, the Capri had a fantastic stance. Although they based it on the standard Cortina floor plan with the same engines, the Capri looked like a thoroughbred sports or muscle car.

In fact, people often confused it with U.S.-built Ford. This affordable coupe proved almost as successful as the Mustang, selling in millions during its 16-year lifespan. Interestingly, they imported it to America as the Mercury Capri in the mid-70s.

Want proof that a Capri was a hot car? Watch this scene from the John Wayne-as-cop movie “Brannigan,” set in London:

Chevrolet Opala SS

The Opala SS is the typical example of a Brazilian muscle car Chevrolet produced in the height of the muscle car craze. They introduced this handsome fastback coupe in 1969. It came in a wide arrange of formal body styles as Chevrolet’s main mid-size model for the Brazilian market. However, the name, “Opala,” was controversial because customers thought it represented a mix between the names, “Opel” and “Impala.”

Germany’s Opel was a part of GM and produced a model they called the Rekord. While it was visually the same, the U.S.-made Chevrolet Impala used the 4.1-liter straight six, like Brazil’s Opalas. Either way, Chevrolet decided to introduce the performance version of the Opala using the same 4.1-liter straight six tuned to produce 169 HP.

Although not much by today’s standards, it was enough to give the Opala SS decent performance figures, attracting many customers. The Opala SS was even successful on the race tracks and won many events in Brazil during the 1970’s. And the Opala SS had a distinctive appearance package that included a vinyl roof and racing stripes. Also, it came with cool graphics and sporty wheels to differentiate it from its lesser cousins.

The Opala certainly does look like an Opel Manta of the early 1970s.

Dodge Charger R/T

Most people know what the Dodge Charger looks like since it is one of the most popular classic muscle cars in the world. However, the Brazilian version is different even though it carries the same name and model designation. In the late 1960’s after the demise of the Simca operation, Chrysler introduced the Dodge Dart to produce locally.

The car was modern and among the most prestigious Brazilian models. But in 1971, Chrysler surprised Brazilian performance enthusiasts with a new model they called the Charger R/T. It was a dressed up two-door Dart with a new front design and cool graphics. They also gave it a vinyl roof and a 318 V8 engine with 215 HP.

The new Charger R/T was immediately one of the most desirable cars in Brazil. It came with optional air conditioning and a plush interior. The front disc brakes made it highly advanced for the time. The high price meant it was relatively rare, but it was a hit with Brazilian car fans.

Ford Falcon Cobra

In 1978, Ford was getting ready to introduce a new body style for its popular Falcon. They wanted to produce a new model in a sedan or station wagon because the two-door coupe was out of production. After closing down the assembly lines of the old model, Ford was left with 400 coupe body shells to scrap. However, Ford decided to turn the leftover bodies into a special version they called the Falcon Cobra.

The 1978 Falcon Cobra came with a 5.8 or 5.0 V8 engine and automatic or manual transmission. Also, it came in two colors, white or blue. Each car had racing stripes as an homage to the Shelby Mustang, which was popular in Australia. Today, the Falcon Cobra is a valuable and popular car in Oceania.

Ford here did do something sort of like the Torino Cobra, building a Torino Cobra Jet with a 429 V-8. Ford also tried to build a later counterpart to the Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Road Runner Superbird (both reactions to the Ford Torino Talladega) by building a prototype King Cobra Jet whose purpose was to be run in NASCAR.

Chrysler Valiant Charger

Chrysler Motor Company wanted to participate in the Australian muscle car class, so in 1971, they introduced the Valiant Charger. They based it on a regular Valiant platform but gave it a sporty new two-door body. The Charger got its name from its American cousin, the Dodge Charger. To be able to keep up with mighty Falcon GTs, Monaros and Toranas, the Valiant Charger came with several performance engines.

The most popular engine came from a hot version of Chrysler’s six-cylinder engine featuring new cylinder heads and updated intake systems. In the R/T version, the 4.3-liter six delivered over 240 HP, but the most powerful version was Charger 770 SE E55. Under the hood was a well-known Mopar-built 340 V8 with 285 HP and three-speed automatic. This engine was common in Dodge Challengers and Plymouth Barracudas in America.

The concept of a hemi Slant 6 probably would have been a bit mind-blowing here 50 years ago. With few exceptions like the Ford 300 six (which was only used in trucks because big cylinders are great for torque) and the Pontiac Sprint overhead-cam six, the answer to “we need more horsepower” always ended with the number eight.

Ford Sierra Cosworth

Ford UK is a popular economy car manufacturer. However, occasionally, they produce a machine with amazing performance and power at affordable prices. Some say that fast Fords are perfect examples of “blue collar” sports and muscle cars since they attracted mid-class buyers.

One of the most legendary British muscle cars is the fantastic Sierra Cosworth, which they introduced in 1985. And the Sierra was an ordinary family sedan Ford produced in numerous versions. The car featured rear-wheel drive and an independent rear suspension. However, when Ford decided to contract Cosworth tuning house for a performance model, a legend was born.

Cosworth took a three door-body and added a special body kit with spoilers, unique wheels and colors. Under the hood was a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine producing 225 HP, propelling the car to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds. For 1985, those were fantastic numbers, so the Sierra Cosworth immediately became one of the hottest British cars on the road. Also, it was successful on the tracks, winning many races.

Ford brought this car to the U.S., calling it the Merkur XR4ti, with the same engine that would be later put into the Ford Probe GT. An ex-girlfriend of mine had one. All I remember about it is that it mechanical issues. As for the Probe GT, I drove one. It was fast once the turbocharger spooled up, but it had the most torque steer of any car I’ve ever driven.

Chevrolet Veraneio

Lots of American manufacturers produced trucks and vans abroad using identical platforms and designs as in America. Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge produced pickups for the South American and Mid-Eastern markets similar to their domestic models except for the engine and trim options. However, for the big Brazilian market, Chevrolet decided to go with unique styling and somewhat of a different concept than in the U.S.

The best example is the cool-looking Chevrolet Veraneio. It was just one SUV/crossover model they produced from the late 1950s to early 1980s in Brazil. Chevrolet realized Brazil needed trucks as well as a local version of the Chevy Suburban. The Suburban model could carry up to nine passengers and their luggage and still could tackle those rough Brazilian roads.

They built the Veraneio on a truck chassis and equipped it with standard six and V8 engines. But, they covered it in a groovy looking SUV body. Despite having a unique design, the Veraneio was identical to other Chevrolet truck products underneath the body. Today, it is hard to find one in good condition since most people used their Veraneio as a work vehicle.

They could have called this the “Suburbano,” which is Portuguese for “Suburban,” but no Brazilian may have understood the reference.

Ford F-1000

When Ford realized Chevrolet was building special models for the Brazilian market and winning buyers over, so they decided to do something similar with their truck operation. And that is how the interesting and quite strange F-1000 came to be. Ford introduced the F-1000 in 1979 and it was outdated in styling but advanced in construction.

It featured an extended cab but came with two doors and a short truck bed. They equipped it with an all-wheel drivetrain, which local buyers needed for driving through the jungles of Brazil. However, the most interesting thing was the engine.

All F-1000s came with diesel six cylinders and later, turbodiesel engines. The engine choices limited the F-1000’s appeal to commercial users. But almost all buyers used them as dependable work trucks. Production ended in 1998 but those interesting trucks are still roaming through Brazilian roads.

The first four-door short-box pickups I remember seeing were on a family trip to Minnesota, where we were staying at a house next to a train station, where four-door Dodge Stepsides were parked. They also could be driven on the tracks, which blew my four-year-old mind.

Chevrolet SS

Behind this strange name is the Australian built Holden Monaro GTS. They exported it to South Africa and sold it under the SS badge through their dealerships. The car was basically the same as the Monaro GTS except for the front grille. Also, the South African SS had four headlights. Buyers could choose between two V8 engines.

The standard powerplant was 308 V8, but most customers wanted the 350 V8 with 300 HP. With this engine, the SS could accelerate to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds and top 130 mph. Interestingly, despite relatively high production figures, the Chev SS is rare. This is because drivers either crashed most of them or sent them back to Australia.

Between 2004 and 2006 Pontiac took the last Holden Monaro, put Pontiac badges on it, called it a GTO, and brought here. The styling kind of doomed it, which is too bad, because that car was fast, as I found out when I test-drove one. Sadly, it had only seats for four, and we have five in the house.

Ford Escort Mk1

Although the British car industry was always known for its luxury and sports cars, their economy models were just as interesting and unique. And this was the case with the Escort Mk1, a mass-produced economy car that became one of Ford’s global bestsellers. Also, it was a fantastically successful motorsport legend.

Ford introduced in the Escort Mk1 in 1968. It was a compact rear-wheel-drive saloon they aimed at family buyers. And the basic version used the forgettable 1.1 and 1.3-liter engines. But for those who wanted more, Ford offered the hot 1600 RS and RS 2000 models. Those cars had special suspensions and engines.

They also had a lot of power and a small weight. And this combination made them capable of defeating much more expensive cars. Also, they were proper racing monsters.

Not here, though, I had a 1991 Escort GT, which was a great car, though it had merely a 1.8-liter DOHC four with 127 horsepower. The hairiest British Escorts had 200 horsepower and all-wheel drive.

Ford Landau

Ford presented the Landau in 1971 as the biggest and most expensive car they sold in Brazil. However, the Landau was basically an upscale mid-60s Ford Galaxie. They produced it until 1983, make few changes during that time. So, the Landau was common and a car the government officials used.

Under the hood was a 302 V8 engine the mated with a three-speed automatic or manual gearbox. Interestingly, in the late ‘70s, Ford Brazil produced several thousand Landau models they modified to run on alcohol rather than gasoline due to the oil crisis. They built over 77, 000 Landaus during its 12-year production run.

As you will notice with the previous car and the next one, South American vehicles of this vintage look like updated 1960s designs, which is a strange effect.

Ford Falcon Sprint Argentina

Ford unveiled the Falcon in America in 1960 as their bestselling compact model. And it came with a range of six and eight-cylinder engines and several body styles. So, to reclaim its position as the market leader in Argentina, Ford decided to present an Argentinean version in 1962. It was basically identical to the U.S. model featuring just a few design differences.

In 1973, Ford Argentina wanted to explore the muscle car market, so they announced a new performance model they called the Falcon Sprint. This was the same 10-year-old four-door sedan. However, it came with an appealing graphics package, a different front end and a 3.6-liter straight six delivering 166 HP.

Ford Capri Perana

Basil Green was an accomplished racer turned tuner and dealer. So when Ford introduced their affordable and cool-looking Capri coupe in late 1969, he realized the potential. And soon, he introduced the Capri Perana. Green took the 3.0-liter V6 Capri they delivered from England and installed a 5.0-liter Ford V8 from Mustang.

To make the car handle properly, Green had his engineers modify the suspension, chassis, brakes and steering. So, after some thorough work, the Capri Perana was born. The power output was around 280 HP. But in the lightweight body of the standard Capri, the Perana was able to reach 60 mph in just six seconds.

See the comment about the Firenza CanAm.

Ford Taunus

The Taunus was a line of mid-size, family sedans and wagons Ford Germany built from the late 1930s to 1982. Over the years, Ford Germany produced numerous models and versions. And they sold well in Europe as well as in other parts of the world, too.

The Taunus didn’t share any components with American-built Fords. But Dearborn often used the same compact V4 engines they produced in Germany for some of their show cars and prototypes.

That’s Taunus, not Taurus.

Chevrolet Calibra

In 1989, the GM subsidiary Opel introduced an advanced sports coupe they called the Calibra. The car featured modern, aerodynamic styling. Chevy built a lineup of four and six-cylinder engines and front wheel drive. And at the time, it was one of the best affordable sports cars on sale in Europe.

However, GM decided to reintroduce this car in South America, and not as the Opel but as the Chevrolet Calibra. They sold the car with minimal modifications. The top brass at GM even considered bringing it to America, but that didn’t happen.

It looks sort of like a Geo Storm or a Saturn SC.

Ford Granada

American car enthusiasts will recognize the Granada name since Ford introduced it on a series of mid-size cars from 1975 to 1982.  However, you may not know about the European Granada. It was a different model Ford produced from 1972 to 1985.

Ford conceived it as a luxury model, so the Granada was the biggest car they sold in Europe. It was also powered by four and six-cylinder engines and featured a long list of optional extras. The model came in two distinctive generations and they later replaced it with the Ford Scorpio in 1985.

The next unaffordable Corvette

This blog has reported from time to time the progress of the next supposedly mid-engine Corvette:

The Corvette world has a mixed opinion about this, as Brett Foote notes:

Historically, the Corvette has always been about two things, namely performance and value. For significantly less than the cost of an exotic supercar, you can go out, buy a Corvette, and run right with them. However, a funny thing seems to be happening ever since we found out Chevy was working on building a mid-engine C8 model. Suddenly, people started comparing this exciting new ride to cars far beyond its price range. Which is fair, really. But Corvette Forum member ColoradoGS hit the nail on the head with his assessment in this thread.

“In so many of these C8 threads people are like ‘Ferarri this’ and ‘hypercar that.’ Suggestions of ‘well if the C8 isn’t XYZ, I’m gonna buy a McLaren!’ Story time.

I went to the supermarket today at lunch in my grocery getter–a 2017 Grand Sport. I parked in the back of the parking lot (as one does) and when I came out there was a guy crouched down behind my car taking pictures with his phone. As I walked towards my car he stood up and asked ‘Is this your Vette?’ I can say with confidence that being able to say ‘Yeah, that’s my Vette’ after years of dreaming never gets old no matter how many times someone has asked.”

C8 Corvette

This particular conversion, it turned out, sparked an interesting point. One that we seem to have lost sight of in recent months.

“His favorite thing about Vettes? The performance you get for the dollar. We talked about how I’ve wanted one my whole life and finally was able to pull the trigger. He was like “one day, dude, one day”. And that’s the thing. A Ferrari could never make him feel like that. Sure, it’d be cool to see one and he’d probably take a picture of it too. But he could never ever imagine actually owning one. He can realistically dream of owning a Corvette one day. That’s the difference.”

And that’s one heck of a reminder of why so many people love the Corvette in the first place. Not because it’s the fastest car on the planet, the best handling, or the one built with the most exotic materials. It’s because this is a cool car that your average Joe can save up and buy. And that’s perfectly fine with folks like smithers.

“It does seem like people have suddenly forgotten that Corvettes have always been priced in a way that made them realistically affordable to common people. There seems to be an expectation that GM has suddenly said ‘to hell with that’ and decided to abandon their current market and make it a car most people won’t be able to afford (that $100k+ range).

Chances are high that this car will basically be a Corvette with the engine in the middle. And that’s fine. But most people seem to have this idea in their heads that going mid engine means it is has to look like a LaFerrari and cost $150k+. Or, even worse, the hope that it’s a halo car like the Ford GT. But there have been plenty of cars over the years that were both ME and affordable. There is no reason the C8 can’t do the same.”

C8 Corvette

It’s an interesting point, for sure. And also a nice reminder that the Corvette has, and hopefully always will be the quintessential American dream car. After all, Chevy has done a heck of a job offering up exotic-level performance at an affordable price for decades. Why stop now?

The answer to that question, I suppose, is determined by asking why GM felt the need to build a mid-engine Corvette — in order to build something to compete with Porsche, Ferrari and others. The problem in GM’s eyes is that a Corvette is not seen to be as exotic as whatever Porsche and Ferrari are building (in much smaller numbers) despite the current Corvette’s being probably the best performance bargain on the planet. Building a mid-engine Corvette puts GM in the corner of either selling something so expensive that its current and potential future buyers can’t afford it, or building something not exclusive enough to those who would consider buying a Porsche or a Ferrari.

That’s assuming GM can even competently put this car together. GM’s past performance with non-front-engine cars is not promising. The Chevy Corvair was an unfairly maligned car due to its rear-engine handling, but notice that the Corvair didn’t survive the 1960s. The Pontiac Fiero, like too many GM cars, was technology (mid-engine rear-drive) sent into the marketplace before it was really ready, and by the time Pontiac put in an engine that could move the car, the Fiero was dead.

As far as the price goes, here is an interesting observation, though I don’t know if it’s accurate:

Average price of a new car in 1953 = $1,650.
Corvette price in 1953 = $3,498.
Average income in 1953 = $3,139

Average price of a new car in 1962 = $3,125
Corvette price in 1962 = $4,038
Average income in 1962 = $4,291

Average price of a new car in 1970 = $3,542
Corvette price in 1970 = $6,773
Average income in 1970 = $6,186

Average price of a new car in 1980 = $7,000
Corvette price in 1980 = $14,694
Average income in 1980 = $12,513

Average price of a new car in 1990 = $9,437
Corvette price in 1990 = $31,979
Corvette ZR-1 price in 1990 = $58,995
Average income in 1990 = $21,027

Average price of a new car in 2000 = $24,750
Corvette price in 2000 = $39,280
Average income in 2000 = $32,154

Average car price in 2010 = $27,950
Corvette price in 2010 = $54,770
Average income in 2010 = $49,445

Corvettes have always been well above the average car price. The 1980s saw some of the highest Corvette sales years, and yet the price to income ratio was the most disproportionate. Also, in 1990 despite the car’s price being triple the average income and six times the price of the average car, Chevrolet managed to sell more than 3,000 ZR-1s. Corvette has never been for the average man.

This is not “average income,” it’s median household income, meaning that 50 percent of U.S. households make more, and 50 percent of U.S. households make less. Based on this comparison, if it’s otherwise accurate, the Corvette has always been priced approximately around the median U.S. household income and about twice the average price of a car.

The median household income in 2017 was $61,372, according to the U.S. Census. (Which reports that it may not be directly comparable to previous years because different questions were asked to determine that amount, but for our purposes let’s use this number.) The base price for a 2019 Corvette is $55,495. The base price for this Corvette, which besides being mid-engine is likely to have a new V-8 engine and all-wheel drive, will certainly not be $56,000. Reports indicate a six-digit base price is more likely.

A comment on Foote’s post posited:

The Ferrari could certainly out do the Corvette in “wow” factor (especially if driven but even if just standing still). But it wouldn’t give the guy the same rush because he knows he will never, ever own one. It’s the attainable part of the Corvette that makes it special to so many people.
I am skeptical a GM-built mid-engine Corvette can be made “attainable.”

Freedom for our wheels

Stephen Moore:

A few years ago, I spoke at my son’s fifth-grade class about all the wonderful things that we have today in our great country that weren’t around 100 years ago, including cars. A ponytailed girl in the front of the room raised her hand and, with a solemn look on her face, scolded me: “Cars are bad. They cause pollution.”

Wow. These were 11-year-olds! It was one of my first encounters with the green indoctrination that goes on in public schools starting in the first grade.

There wasn’t time to explain to her that when Henry Ford started rolling his black Model T’s off the assembly lines in Michigan, the mass production of automobiles was heralded as one of the greatest environmental and health advances in history. It replaced one of the prodigious polluters: the horse. The average 1,000-pound horse dumps 30 pounds of feces and 2 gallons of urine a day. Can anyone imagine what Washington, D.C., or Pittsburgh or New Orleans smelled like on a hot, sweltering summer day or what all that feces did to our water supply? Oh, and watch your step!

Yet, many liberals still seem to agree with Al Gore, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, who says that the combustible engine is one of the worst inventions of all time.

This explains why the ascendant green movement in America has for decades been trying to force Americans out of their cars. They think like that fifth-grader despite being supposedly rational adults.

The war on driving includes calls for carbon and gas taxes, tens of billions of gas tax money diverted to inefficient and little-used mass transit projects, and opposition to building new roads and highways. One of the most nefarious initiatives has been the Obama administration’s draconian increases to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards — a giant and hidden tax on American drivers.

Donald Trump announced last week he wants to ease those regulations. Under the Obama mandates, CAFE requirements would rise from about 35 mpg today to 54 mpg by 2025. This would raise the cost of many new cars by almost $3,000, and the hit to the economy from these rules is expected to reach a cool $500 billion over the next 50 years.

Under Trump’s proposed changes, mileage requirements would still rise every year to 42 mpg by 2025 (way too high for my liking). And yet the left is seething in protest, complaining this means the end of our planet. The difference between the Trump and the Obama standards will mean a 31-hundredth degree higher global temperature in 80 years.

The Department of Transportation has found that the best way to get cleaner air is to incentivize families to buy new cars and get the older and higher polluting gas-guzzlers off the road. But CAFE standards raise car prices. So families delay the purchase of new cars, which increases pollution levels.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the new Trump standards is that they are expected to save about 1,000 lives a year due to lower highway deaths. The Competitive Enterprise Institute has found that CAFE standards kill people for two reasons: first, they induce the car companies to build lighter cars in order to meet the fuel standards. Second, because the regulations keep old cars on the road longer, Americans are more likely to be driving in less safe vehicles. The Trump administration has science firmly on its side here.

Not so long ago liberals opposed military intervention in the Middle East by chanting “no blood for oil.” But with higher CAFE standards, they willingly tolerate more blood on the highways to save on oil.

Hearty congratulations to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler for a new rule that can save lives, reduce pollution, grow the economy, and let people buy the cars they want — including SUVs, minivans and sports cars. This is a great victory for common sense and a windshield against the left’s war on cars. As for those misguided fifth-graders, they will figure out the virtues of cars once they are old enough to get their driver’s licenses. But when will liberals grow up?

What is Polish for “Mike”?

WBAY-TV in Green Bay reports:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has asked state lawmakers to pass a bill naming a new interchange after a late state senator from Neenah.

The newly constructed 1-41/US 10/WIS 441 Interchange would be named in honor of Michael G. Ellis.

“Mike Ellis was a larger-than-life personality who loved Wisconsin and passionately served the people for more than 45 years,” Governor Walker said. “Today, as we gather in Neenah to celebrate Mike’s life, I am announcing that I will include in our budget, or will sign a bill drafted by the Legislature, naming the brand new I-41/U.S. 10/WIS 441 Interchange in his honor—whichever comes first. It would be a fitting tribute for a man who contributed so much to his community and his state.”

Ellis passed away July 20 at the age of 77. Flags in Wisconsin are flying half-staff Tuesday in his honor.

Ellis made a name for himself on the Neenah Common Council in the late 1960s and 1970s. He was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1970.

Ellis was elected to the State Senate in 1982. He was named President of the State Senate in 2011. He’d serve in that role until his final days in office in 2015.

Ellis told us he was most proud of his work to get Wisconsin public schools more than $400 million in funding, and the transformation of Highway 41 in the Fox Cities. He called it the “Main Street” of the Valley.

That was what Ellis and former U.S Rep. Tom Petri (R–Fond du Lac) were doing while Wisconsin’s two Democratic U.S. senators of the time, Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, were accomplishing nothing for the state.

There is, however, an irony to this. When that interchange opened in it’s original design, it was known locally as the Polish Connection, ostensibly because of all the Polish people who lived in Menasha, but more likely because of the interchange’s original design, which included an off-ramp and an on-ramp using the same pavement, one part of the interchange leading to a dead end since U.S. 10 wasn’t extended west of 41 (10 used to be Wisconsin Avenue in Appleton), and even after 10 opened west of 41, drivers could not go from northbound 41 to westbound 10 from that interchange.

The other thing is that, as far as I know, Ellis wasn’t Polish. “Michal” is “Michael” in Polish, for those who care.

The biggest and fastest

The correct definition of “muscle car” is a mid-sized or compact car with a more-powerful-than-stock engine.

Muscle cars arrived in the early 1960s as U.S. automakers started selling cars that were smaller, and therefore less powerful, than the cars they’d been selling since the end of World War II. Therefore, most cars on Motor Junkie‘s list cannot properly be called “Classic Full-Sized Muscle Cars” because that term is an oxymoron.

Which doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile cars:

Over the years, the American car industry has introduced many cars people consider full-fledged muscle machines. However, some of them came in different packaging. Back in the 60’s and early 70’s, full-size models were family sedans or luxury cars. Despite the fact they had optional big block engines with high horsepower ratings, nobody considered them performance cars. Their heavy bodies, soft suspension and slow-shifting automatic transmissions had limitations when it came to driving dynamics.

However, not all full-size coupes were slow and boring to drive. During the muscle car heyday, Detroit produced a dozen capable, powerful and fast full-size muscle cars. In fact, they could run with the best of them and still look elegant. Most of those cars were luxury cruisers or personal luxury cars yet they performed and sounded like true muscle cars. Read on to find out what exactly makes those models so special and desirable.

  1. Mercury Marauder X100

Today, the Mercury brand is defunct as a cost-cutting measure Ford made. But back in the 60’s, it was a well-respected luxury division, above the working-class Fords and just below the patrician Lincolns. With Cougars and Cyclones, Mercury was well into the muscle car segment. However, luxury performance models were scarce until 1969 when they introduced a new generation of the Marauder.

Mercury envisioned it as a luxury coupe. The Marauder had a fresh design with some interesting features like concealed headlights, a massive front end, and a sloping rear end with concave rear glass. It was a big, heavy car they intended for cruising rather than street racing. However, Mercury needed something to fight the Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Riviera GS.

They knew they needed to upgrade the Marauder to higher spec if they wanted a piece of the action. So, they presented the Marauder X100. Behind the strange name was a regular 1969 Marauder. However, it came with a 429 V8 engine delivering 360 HP and a heavy-duty suspension. It also had bucket seats, blackout rear trim and fender skirts.
The performance was respectable, but it was still a large, weighty car, so compared to some barebones smaller, lighter muscle models, it was significantly slower. The Marauder line was relatively popular, but the X100 didn’t become a bestseller, And in its two years of production, Mercury made just over 8,000 of them.

Just look at this. Fender skirts? Check. Hidden headlights? Check. Sport wheels? Check. Bucket seats on a full-size car? Check. The only thing this lacks is a manual transmission.

  1. Pontiac Grand Prix SJ

Back in the 60’s, Pontiac was GM’s performance brand, so it is no coincidence when Pontiac conceived the GTO. The allure of powerful engines and aggressive design was Pontiac’s trademark. But the management wanted to widen its appeal and go beyond regular muscle cars like the GTO and the Firebird. To enter the world of luxury muscle cars, Pontiac had a perfect candidate in form of the Grand Prix.

The Grand Prix was a personal luxury coupe they introduced in 1962 in a coupe body style. It also came with powerful engines and a long list of options. They put this model against the Ford Thunderbird and Oldsmobile 98, as a so-called “gentleman’s express.” However, with the restyling of the Grand Prix for 1969 model year, there was a chance to introduce trim packages to transform this comfy cruiser into a real muscle car. And Pontiac jumped at the opportunity.

First, there was a new design with a long hood and short rear end and a driver-oriented dashboard. The 1969 Grand Prix stood apart from its competitors so sales immediately jumped. Second, there was a trim option called the SJ featuring a high output 428 V8 engine. It delivered 390 HP and a host of other performance options. Pontiac borrowed the moniker, “SJ,” from the legendary Duesenberg brand.

The SJ insignia was on the most powerful Duesenberg cars, so Pontiac wanted to get a piece of that legend with the Grand Prix SJ. The automotive press and car fans received this luxury muscle car well, so the Grand Prix sold in large numbers. The powerful V8 propelled this big coupe to some respectable acceleration times. Although Pontiac conceived it as an executive transport, the Grand Prix SJ was a respectable street machine.

  1. Buick Wildcat

Buick introduced the Wildcat in 1962. It was one of the first personal luxury coupes featuring a performance-tuned engine and other go-fast options. Since it was a Buick product, they guaranteed their luxury appointments and upscale options. Even before the Rivera GS or the start of the muscle car craze, Buick noticed there was a market for full-size coupes with the performance of a sports car.

Young, successful people wanted an upscale product that looked expensive. But they also wanted enough power and driving dynamics to make driving fun. In those days, luxury coupes like Thunderbirds or Eldorados were all big, heavy cruisers with soft handling. That is why Buick introduced the Wildcat. Available as a regular four-door hardtop, two-door coupe or convertible, the Wildcat was a separate model.

Under the hood was a powerful V8 from the top of Buick’s engine lineup. One popular year was 1967 when they offered the Wildcat with the mighty 430 V8 engine producing 360 HP. This kind of power in an unassuming sedan or coupe was unheard of at the time. The Wildcat provided great performance, but also exclusivity to the owners.

  1. Ford 7-Litre

Mustangs and Thunderbirds were the most famous, recognizable Fords of the 60’s, so the Ford 7-Litre is a forgotten luxury muscle model. In fact, most people are not even aware of its existence, but this is an interesting, powerful car. Unfortunately, it has a short history. The story starts in the mid-60’s when Ford introduced a new engine with 428 CID; an evolution of their venerable FE block.

They designed this engine to be a powerful street engine with lots of horsepower and torque. At the same time, Chevrolet had a successful Impala SS model featuring the 427 V8 engine, so Ford wanted to compete with it. But, Ford had a different vision. If Chevrolet produced the Impala SS as a mundane car, Ford would produce its model as an upscale coupe or convertible with an emphasis on luxury and exclusivity.

So, using a full-size Galaxie two-door hardtop or convertible platform, Ford introduced a new model for 1966 they called the 7-Litre. The 7 stood for displacement and the Litre spelling gave more European charm to the otherwise ordinary Galaxie. Under the hood was the 428 V8 with respectable 345 HP, which delivered a convincing performance. However, the 7-Litre’s equipment was also interesting since Ford put everything they had into this car. Buyers could get air conditioning and bucket seats were standard.

There was also a heavy-duty suspension, power everything, a choice of special colors and the 7-Litre badges on the sides to identify this model. This was a one-year only model so in 1967, the 428 was back, but only as an option on the Galaxie. In muscle car history, the 7-Litre was forgotten for quite a while. But, in recent years, its popularity has grown.

So now these big coupes and convertibles are of high value on the classic car market. In 1966, they produced a little over 11,000 7-Litres, so it can be hard to find one.

  1. Chevrolet Impala SS

The legendary Super Sport or SS has its place in muscle car history as a model that promoted performance to the public. This was one of the first high-performance automobiles that were relatively affordable yet fast. Everything started when Chevrolet decided to transform its 409 truck engine for use in passenger cars. They found out that the unit was so powerful, it could outrun all other cars on the road.

With some modifications to the engine, it could produce up to 409 HP. This was enough to propel the Impala from a standstill to 60 mph in six seconds flat. At the time that was Corvette territory. So, as a mid-year introduction, Chevrolet presented the SS package featuring bucket seats and a sports trim. It also came with the 348 V8 engine producing 350 HP. However, another option was the 409 V8 with up to 409 HP if you got the dual quad intake system.

Although Chevrolet sold over a million of its full-size models, they only made 456 Impalas SS that year. And out of those only 142 Impalas came with 409 engines. This started the SS sub-model for Impala lineup. So from 1961 to 1969, Chevrolet offered the biggest, most powerful engines in the prestigious SS package for its two-door coupes and convertibles. They turned a regular family car into a fire breathing full-size muscle car.

  1. Chrysler 300 Hurst

Everybody knows about the legendary Chrysler 300 “Letter Cars.” They were a series of high powered coupes and convertibles Chrysler built from 1955 to 1965. Chrysler called them “Letter Cars,” since they marked each model year with a letter starting with “C” and finishing with “L” in 1965. With low production numbers, bespoke interiors, leather upholstery and powerful engines, the “Letter Cars” were true Gran Turismo coupes of their era.

However, when production stopped in 1965, everybody thought that a true 300 Series car would never be available again. But, in 1970, they produced a special limited edition 300 Hurst. Chrysler built just 500 with the help of the famous transmission company, Hurst. The Hurst featured a special white and gold paint job. It also had a similarly styled interior and rear spoiler integrated into the rear deck lid.

Under the hood was a mighty 440 V8 engine with 395 HP that could propel the two-ton beast to respectful acceleration times. They offered this model for one year only, so people soon forgot it. But true Mopar aficionados will always remember those gold and white behemoths with Hurst emblems. And dedicated Chrysler historians place this special version as a continuation of the “Letter Cars” lineup.

  1. Pontiac Catalina 2+2

In the mid-60’s, the Pontiac GTO was the car to have since it was on the forefront of the exciting new muscle car movement. With its performance, powerful engine and great Pontiac styling, the GTO was the perfect car for the moment. But, it wasn’t the only stellar performance machine coming from Pontiac. In 1965, there was another pure muscle car icon in form of the Catalina 2+2. Behind this strange name hides a full-size Catalina model available as a coupe or a convertible but with a performance twist.

The regular Catalina was a great looking, decent selling model. However, in 2+2 form, it transformed into a true Gran Turismo with a luxury interior and fire-breathing engine. Since the Catalina was a full-size model, it was eligible for engines over 400 CID, according to the GM rules of the time. This meant that the Catalina 2+2 came with the famous 421 V8.

But, if you wanted, you could get the Tri-Power intake system like on the GTO. This boosted your car’s power to 376 HP. Car buyers could also order limited slip differentials, heavy duty steering and brakes. This made the Catalina 2+2 well appointed, but expensive, too.

The top of the line 2+2 cost over $4,000. This was a hefty sum and much more than the similarly equipped GTO, for example. However, Pontiac produced around 11,000 of these fine machines in 1965, but only around 200 convertibles.

  1. Plymouth Fury GT

Despite being an economy brand for the Chrysler Corporation, the Plymouth had a surprisingly large number of muscle cars during the 60’s and 70’s, as well as numerous special versions. Their luxury muscle car was the GTX, but in 1970, the Fury GT debuted as the biggest model on offer. The Fury GT was a two-door coupe version of the Fury sedan. But in the GT guise, it was a full-size muscle car with a perfect combination of looks and power.

Under the hood was a well-known 440 V8 with a three-carburetor setup and 375 HP on tap. Buyers could choose between the 727 Torqueflite automatic and the four-speed manual. But, if you wanted real performance, you could choose the manual.

However, despite the power and looks, the Fury GT wasn’t a big performer since it was still a heavy car. In combination with a relatively high price tag, it proved to be a slow seller. So, after just one year in production, Plymouth discontinued the GT model.

  1. Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

Back in the late 60’s, Chevrolet’s product planners decided to enter the personal luxury segment with a new model. Since Chevrolet was famous as a mid-priced car brand, moving up the ladder was a big deal. Chevy knew that they needed a fresh design, name and powerful engine. So, in 1970, the presented the Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

Chevy built it on the modified Chevelle platform. The Monte Carlo was a handsome coupe-only car with V8 engines, a nice interior and decent performance. Although most Monte Carlos came with small V8 engines, there was one crazy muscle option in the form of the SS 454 package. This version was a true full-size muscle beast with a monstrous 7.4-liter V8 engine.

It pumped 360 HP and propelled the heavy Monte Carlo to amazing 0 to 60 mph times. For just $420 above the base price, buyers could get this trim level to transform this coupe from a lazy cruiser to a quarter mile beast. However, only around 3,800 people decided to do that, so the Monte Carlo SS 454 remains one of the rarest luxury muscle cars they ever produced.

The reason is that Chevrolet had a few muscle cars in their model lineup already. So, most car enthusiasts turned to the Chevelle, Camaro or Corvette for performance and looks. The typical Monte Carlo buyers preferred comfort and luxury. So, the SS 454 option fell somewhere in the middle, contributing to the low sales numbers.

  1. Buick Riviera GS

In the early 60’s, Detroit was aware of luxury Gran Turismo European coupes coming to America and selling in significant numbers. Performance-oriented buyers didn’t want big, heavy domestic coupes. This is because they had the power, but didn’t provide the handling or the feel of a sports car. So, instead, they turned to Ferraris, Maseratis, and Jaguars for that performance car excitement and prestige.

GM decided to capitalize on this trend by introducing a new luxury model with great styling, a cool name and enough power to put all those European coupes to shame. So, in 1963, they presented the Buick Riviera. It immediately became one of the most interesting cars on the American market back then. A combination of sleek and elegant styling, modern interior and powerful Buick’s Nailhead engine made the Riviera an instant bestseller.

It was also the first real competitor to the famous Ford Thunderbird. But Buick wanted more, so the company introduced the legendary Riviera Grand Sport or GS in 1965. The car featured a revised suspension, a bigger 425 engine, and a host of other performance upgrades. In this version, the Rivera was a true world class automobile with 360 HP and acceleration times of 7.9 seconds.

This was better than most of the sports cars of the period. The Riviera as a model stayed in production until 1993. But the first three generations, especially the GS models remained the most sought after as some of the best full-size muscle cars Detroit ever produced.

  1. Chrysler C-300

The fastest, most powerful American production model for 1955 and the car that shook the car scene was the mighty Chrysler C-300. The car got its name from the 331 V8 Hemi engine which they equipped with 8.5:1 compression. Chrysler added a race camshaft and twin four-barrel carburetors to produce 300 HP, which was a magical figure for the mid-50s.

The performance was outstanding with nine seconds 0 to 60 mph times and 130 mph top speeds. The car was expensive and full of luxury items, but it proved successful in racing, winning 37 stock car events. …

  1. Oldsmobile Starfire

Even though Oldsmobile started the muscle car segment, it wasn’t active until 1961. This was when the rest of Detroit’s manufacturers introduced more powerful models, gaining respect on the streets and on the strips. Oldsmobile saw the potential and introduced the Starfire, its top of the line model which featured engine from the bigger models.

All big Oldsmobiles used a 394 V8 with 325 HP ratings. But in the Starfire, the engine delivered 330 HP and gave the 1961 model some performance credentials. These models weren’t true muscle cars since they were more luxury machines. However, they still had the power, performance and looks.

  1. Chevrolet Impala

As the muscle car era came to an end, Chevrolet discontinued the Impala SS, only to resurrect it in 1994 as an option on the seventh generation of this legendary model. Since the early ’90s marked the return to performance, Chevrolet installed the famous 5.7-liter LT1 V8 engine in this full-size rear wheel drive sedan.

Then they equipped it with a heavy-duty suspension and components, creating a modern-day muscle legend. The engine delivered 260 HP and propelled the big sedan to 0 to 60 mph times of seven seconds. Although not exactly spectacular numbers, for the mid-90s, those were quite good results.

  1. Mercury Marauder

Despite the fact they never intended the Grand Marquis to be a performance car, Mercury decided to turn it into one. So, they installed a highly tuned 4.6-liter V8 with 302 HP and added a revised suspension, gearbox and brakes. All those changes turned this sleepy and comfy sedan into a sharp muscle car.

The black paint, which was one of three colors available, gave the Marauder menacing looks and an aggressive stance. This clearly differentiated it from its more sedate cousins. The performance was good for a big, heavy sedan with 0 to 60 mph time in around seven seconds.

  1. Buick Roadmaster

The legendary Roadmaster name returned to the Buick lineup in 1991 after a 33-year long hiatus as a freshly styled luxurious sedan and station wagon model. The car was basically the same as other offerings from General Motors in the same class. However, the Roadmaster had some more luxury options.

Also, it had one interesting engine that turned this comfy cruiser into a muscle car. Buick engineers found a way to install a Corvette LT1 5.7-liter V8 engine into the Roadmaster’s engine bay. The LT1 produced 300 HP in the Corvette, but in the Buick, it delivered 260 HP, which was more than enough.

  1. Cadillac Coupe DeVille 1949

The ’49 Cadillac was an important model for the company since introduced a new design element that sparked the trend of big chrome fins. The raised rear fenders near the rear lights started a revolution in American design during the ’50s.

And with the new 331 CID V8, the ’49 Cadillac produced 160 HP, which was powerful for the standards of the day. Equipped with a manual transmission, the pillarless Coupe De Ville could accelerate to 60 mph in just 12 seconds. This was fast for the late ’40s and transformed this luxury coupe into a muscle machine.

The reasons muscle cars muscled out these speed yachts is (1) they were less expensive and (2) therefore purchased by younger buyers.

Sharks with wheels

Apparently this is Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. (No, I’m not watching.)

Andy Bolig writes about different kinds of sharks:

It’s easy to look at something and say whether or not you like it and why, but to create something from nothing that will have lasting, world-wide appeal is a gift given to a rare few. When speaking about Corvettes, there are several names that constantly rise to the surface as undoubtedly having that gift.

In the late-50s and early 60s, designing a car was laid squarely on the shoulders of those who wielded a pen and paper. Their thoughts and souls flowed upon the canvas, and without any assistance from computers or electronics, they fostered designs that inspired generations. Gentlemen such as Bill Mitchell and Larry Shinoda came together to bear prototypes that would lead Corvette for generations and capture the hearts and minds of enthusiasts to this day.

Bill Mitchell took over the styling department when Harley Earl retired. At the time, styling made the rules, which put Bill high atop the food chain at GM.

Two cars that exemplify this are the “Mako Sharks”, a duo of forward-looking vehicles that used technologies of the day to inspire and captivate enthusiasts with their futuristic design and styling. The basis for these cars, of which they both were dutifully named, has its roots in Bill Mitchell’s love for deep sea fishing, and the shark that he reportedly caught while on one such endeavor.

Bill enjoyed deep-sea fishing and cars he designed had a definite connection to the sport.

In The Beginning

Larry Shinoda reported in an interview on more than one occasion how Mr. Mitchell caught a shark and was so enthralled in the color and shape of the animal that he used it as the design basis for the cars. He wanted to create a car that had the same appearance of speed and agility, as well as the ability. Of course, no other platform provided such a solid starting point as Corvette.

Larry Shinoda worked under Bill Mitchell and was responsible for many of the designs that rolled out of the styling department at GM. He recalls that when the paint team couldn’t match the colors of the shark that Mr. Mitchell had above his desk, they simply “borrowed” the shark and re-painted it to match the car!

In an interview with Wayne Ellwood, Corvette Designer Larry Shinoda once explained how the Mako Shark came about. The design work for the new-for-1963 Corvette was completed by 1962, and Chevrolet wanted something to help promote the new car. Larry was ordered to do some sketches that would build excitement for the new offering using cues from the new car, as well as taking some styling license with the design. After several designs, the final result was XP-755, the Mako Shark as we know it.

The first Mako Shark was as much a styling car as it was a driver. Reportedly, Bill Mitchell had as many as 50 cars specially built for his use during his tenure as design chief.

Even if anyone had seen the new 1963 Sting Ray Corvettes, they hadn’t seen anything like the Mako Shark! It’s pointy nose, flowing lines and a paint scheme that flowed from shark-skin blue to silver underneath were undeniable cues to the feared predator that shared its name.

Mako Shark II

Just three years later, Chevrolet churned out the next chapter in their Mako-based Corvettes. There is some confusion surrounding this car, partly due to its transformation as it would adjust to responses that it garnered while travelling the show circuit. In fact, there are three iterations of this stylized icon; the first being a non-powered styling exercise, then a drivable version carrying the same name. Lastly, the car was updated with a revised roof line that featured a mail-slot opening as a rear window and the movable rear louvers were removed. The car was also upgraded with the new ZL-1, all-aluminum 427 engine and was now known as the Manta Ray.

In its original configuration, the Mako Shark II was a “pusher”, wearing stylized side pipes and unable to move under its own power. It DID make for a great photo though!

The Mako Shark II was first introduced to the public in 1965, at the New York International Auto Show of that year. As such, it was unmistakably all Bill Mitchell. The “coke-bottle” shape was the brain-child of Mr. Mitchell and reportedly, vexed Corvette’s Chief Engineer, Zora Duntov greatly. That is, until Zora was testing the pre-production 1968 Stingray on GM’s high-speed test track and had a tire failure. Resting the car against the wall at speed until it stopped, the concrete barrier ground the wider wheel housings down until they were even with the narrow waistline of the rest of the car’s body. Reportedly, Zora exited the car and said, “Ah, bulges SAVE Zora!”

More than simply a styling car, the Mako Shark II encompassed features that wouldn’t be seen on production cars for decades, and some that have yet to be realized. The hidden wipers made it into production quickly on the ’68 Corvette, but items like the adjustable pedals are just making it onto production lines. Other items like the motorized rear louvers never really took hold, and the pop up taillights (in Manta Ray trim), and rear spoiler may have missed their moment, or we just haven’t realized how much we need them – yet. Time will tell.

In it’s first iteration, the Mako Shark II was not intended to be driven as much as it was a styling exercise to gauge public opinion on various ideas. In this form, the car can be seen with side-pipes akin to those used on several earlier styling cars, such as the World’s Fair ’64 Corvette. As Chevrolet designers gained insight into what the public wanted to see, the car changed to a rear-exiting exhaust, albeit in stylized form.

Other changes to the car throughout the year included a more standardized round steering wheel that replace the squared-off version it originally had, and the car, originally equipped with a Mark IV (396ci) engine later received the all-aluminum ZL-1. By the time the Mako Shark II made its appearance at the Paris Auto Show in October of ’65, it was a runner.

Even with the various changes, the Mako Shark cars have proven the lasting, timeless virtue of good design. We would have to look long and hard to find another example of styling cars of that era that have made such an impact or have withstood the test of time.

Most Corvette fans acknowledge that the C2, inspired by the Mako Shark, was a better car than the C1. Corvette fans have been split on the C3, inspired by Mako Shark II, given that it was bigger outside but smaller inside than the C2 it replaced, and had rather useless storage space. (Not that the C2’s was better, since it was not a hatchback either.)

I’ve never mentioned this before now, but I once owned a Mako Shark.

It went as fast as I could push it.

There is no substitute for calling 911

Esquire swerves away from overpriced men’s fashion to cars:

In 1955, at the age of 24, and fresh from the success of East of Eden, actor James Dean popped down to John von Neumann’s Competition Motors in Hollywood, California to in a MG TD for a new Porsche 356 1500 Super Speedster. The sports car purveyor to the stars obliged. Weeks later, Dean entered a race in Palm Springs, and placed first in the under-1500 class. The following month he headed up to Bakersfield and won again. The Speedster threw a rod in Santa Barbara shortly thereafter. Back at Competition Motors Dean traded it in for Porsche’s latest race car, the 550 Spyder, got Von Dutch to paint “Lil’ Bastard” across the tail, and made a beautiful car iconic. After wrapping up filming of the movie Giant, Dean drove up the Central Valley toward Salinas in the 550 for another race. But he never made it.

And, yet. The glamor of racing didn’t end with Dean—in fact, it only strengthened from there, becoming part of the legend, the doomed romanticism. He died doing what he loved, and what could be more pure than that? Dean became among the first of a tradition: the actor turned gentleman driver, handsome and domineering, possessing not just the means to race but a level of dedication that transcended their stardom. He may have never driven one onscreen, but he cemented the legend: Porsche and the Hollywood connection, intertwined.

The racing image sealed it, but in the early years, Porsche’s 356 appeal was palpable—small European sports cars were hot, exactly the car to see and be seen in. James Bond may have never driven a Porsche (at least, not yet), but Sean Connery sure looked good in his 356. Janis Joplin’s 356 took on psychedelic colors (and in 2015 fetched $1.76 million at auction). In the film Bullitt, it’s McQueen’s Highland Green Mustang that gets all the glory, but Jacqueline Bisset’s Canary Yellow 356C convertible lends some balance to the film’s heavy-laden grit.

When the 911 came out in 1964, Porsche’s true potential as a sports car builder evolved: honed even further with a replacement that was faster, sharper, and more practical. Robert Redford put skis atop a 1968 Porsche 911T for the film Downhill Racer, a combination of cool made up of Alpine skiing, one of the earliest 911s, and Redford’s square-jawed magnetism. Can’t argue with that math.

And then there’s the legend of the Kings of the Mountain up on Mulholland Drive, clandestinely racing across the Hollywood Hills in hot-rodded 911s, the lights of Los Angeles on both sides below them. In 1981, Harry Hamlin starred in a film of that name, behind the wheel of a monster 356 Speedster—the movie didn’t do well, which is probably why you’ve never heard of it, but it’s a slice of old Hollywood history that we’ll continue to love nonetheless.

The Eighties arrived with a flash—a decade of excess and bright colors and car phones and Blaupunkt radios blasting Duran Duran—and Porsche symbolized that New Money glamor. They were fast, sleek, and most importantly, expensive. Witness the star turn of the Porsche 928 in Risky Business. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect moment than Tom Cruise, with Ray-Bans and a shit-eating grin, saying the unofficial Porsche tagline, “there is no substitute.”

What would Tony Montana buy? In Scarface, it was none other than a gleaming silver 928, bought to impress Michelle Pfeiffer’s character, who, understandably so, wouldn’t be caught dead in a Fifties Cadillac with tiger-skin upholstery. A fully-equipped 928 fit the bill. And in Sixteen Candles, main heartthrob Jake Ryan rolls up to Molly Ringwald’s house in a bright red 944, the perfect car for high school rich kids.

Given the brand’s rich history in racing, it’s no surprise then that Porsche became intertwined with high stakes in Hollywood too. In the 1987 movie No Man’s Land, an undercover cop infiltrates a gang of car thieves, led by Charlie Sheen, whose garage boasts an impressive number of stolen Porsches. Twenty years later, what’s the first car stolen in Gone In 60 Seconds? The hottest new 911 of the era, a silver 996 named Tina, flying out of the showroom with a bang.

Even today, Hollywood’s obsession with Porsche still feels as relevant as ever, without forgetting the decades past that made the match so natural—take the 2017 movie Atomic Blonde for example. Set in a Cold War days before the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is equal parts Soviet-drab and Western glitz, all pinks and purples and golds, a culture of fur coats and Carrera sunglasses. And for agent James McAvoy, whose amped-up flashiness belies a certain ruthlessness, his whale-tailed Porsche 964—seen evading spies throughout Berlin’s tunnels—is an indispensable part of his character, and key to the movie’s signature look.

Getty Images

That look leads us conveniently to the beginning. There’s nobody more associated with the Porsche hype than the aforementioned Steve McQueen, whose 1971 film Le Manswas a passion project, a love letter to his greatest hobby, and everything he touched in that film became imbued with a palatable cool—the Heuer Monaco wristwatches, the Gulf livery on his character’s Porsche 917K race car, and the Porsche 911 itself, his own personal Slate Gray 911S, purchased in Europe to match one he had in California.

In the opening of Le Mans, he roams across the unspoiled French countryside, no MAC trucks or soft-drink billboards along his two-lane highway. He parks the 911 in the pits. Some unremarkable human drama ensues. McQueen climbs into his other Porsche, the mighty 917K. And so it was, and so it will continue to be.

Well … keep in mind that Porsche aficionados considered neither the 944 nor the 924 to be true Porsches, since they had four-cylinder engines in front. (The 924 was originally intended for Volkswagen.) Nor did they consider the 928 to be a true Porsche, since it had a V-8 in front and an optional automatic transmission. (The 928 was intended to eventually replace the 911. The 928 is gone, and the 911 is not.)

Now an aside: CBS-TV’s “Magnum P.I.” had the hero driving a Ferrari 308GTS.

Less known is the fact that the producers first considered putting Magnum behind the wheel of a 928, asking Porsche to build one with an extra-large sunroof. Apparently Porsche balked at the idea.

Certainly visually Magnum with a 928 doesn’t work. (Irrespective of the issue of Tom Selleck’s height, which forced the producers to take out the driver’s seat cushion from Magnum’s Ferrari. The famous Italian driving position is long arms and short legs.) I have driven neither (again, life is unfair), but I gather that the 928 is not the same car as the 308.

The biggest difference between a 911 and most other performance cars is its engine — a flat-six (originally air-cooled), located behind the back wheels. (Which makes it “rear-engine,” in contrast to a “mid-engine” car with the engine either ahead of the rear axle or behind the front axle.) Unlike American front-engine cars that are nose-heavy, the 911 is tail-heavy. Whereas a driver can make front-engine rear-drive car spin by punching the gas too hard (either accidentally or deliberately), they usually understeer, but not 911s. Their squirelly handling (in the opinion of those who weren’t used to driving them) was also a complaint of the Chevrolet Corvair, which had the same engine design and location.

Down the street and on the other side from the Corvettes-owning neighbor was the owner of a dark red 911. I never got to see that car except when it was driving past our house. Our next-door neighbors briefly had a boarder who had a red 914. (Not sure if it was a four-cylinder or a 914/6.) That, sitting in one at a Milwaukee car show and the vicarious experience of my eighth-grade English teacher’s Christophorus magazines (for Porsche owners, published since 1952) are the total of my own Porsche experiences. (The magazine made me aware of Porsche’s European delivery option, in which one could go to Europe, pick up the 911, drive it around Europe for a while, and then when done have it shipped to the U.S.)

One of the interesting features of the early 911s was the instrument panel.

On the far left was the fuel gauge and oil level gauge. Next was oil temperature and oil pressure. The tachometer was in the middle, with the speedometer (and turbo boost gauge) to its right and the clock on the far right. No engine temperature gauge (perhaps because the first ones were air-cooled), and no battery gauge, but a lot of focus on oil.

The ignition switch was on the left side of the dashboard, a race setup to allow the driver to start and shift immediately. (Also found on Fords back in the ignition-switch-on-dashboard days allegedly because Henry Ford was left-handed.)

There is one additional experience of sorts. Not long after I was hired to be the editor of a business magazine, my boss (one of my two favorites in my career) knew that I was a car nut. He was not, but he suggested (perhaps because it didn’t involve his own money) buying an old 911 and learning about the car by fixing whatever came up. I didn’t follow through on his suggestion (remember, I work in journalism, the land of low wages and lousy hours). Maybe I should have, though I’m guessing my ownership experience would have lasted until children started arriving, even though the back seat of a 911 will fit children and car seats.

Meanwhile, there is good news reported by Road Show …

Enthusiasts grumbled when the previous Porsche 911 GT3 hit the scene offering only a dual-clutch gearbox. Even though the sequential manual pushed the performance envelope with faster shifts for better lap times, some Porschephiles still longed for a more involving driving experience that comes with three pedals. For 2018, there’s good news for those manual transmission purists because the GT3 will once again be offered as a stick shift.

How is it? On roads throughout California’s Napa Valley region, it’s spectacular. Rowing through gears with the crisp short shifter is certainly more entertaining than flicking paddle shifters, and it makes perfect downshifts with its auto rev-matching, which can be turned off if you prefer to blip the throttle yourself.

Improvements to the 991.2 Porsche 911 GT3 don’t end with manual transmission. There’s a new 4.0-liter boxer six-cylinder engine in back cranking out 500 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. That engine replaces a 3.8-liter unit making 475 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of twist. Redline remains a stratospheric 9,000 rpm.

… not that it makes me any more likely to buy a Porsche because (1) I would honestly prefer a Corvette, and (2) I can afford neither, even if I could find a Corvette cheaper than the 911 GT3’s $144,650 price.



The T/A at 50

Gary Smith reviews a book:

“I don’t think You’re man enough to take on a car like this.” Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges) has just walked into Pete’s Dependable Used Cars somewhere in Idaho. He eyes up a Cameo White ’73 Trans Am with a red “shaker.” “It’s a repo. Three thousand and change,” says Pete. Seconds later, the Trans Am is flying through the western countryside, stolen. Movies made the Trans Am an American legend.

Tom Glatch tells the inside story of the Trans Am’s impact on the culture (and sales) through it’s starring role in several motion pictures and TV shows. Clint Eastwood in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot drove a Cameo white ’73; John Wayne’s Brewster Green ’73 in McQ; and David Carradine’s red ’73 in Cannonball. 1977 introduced Burt Reynolds drove a black TA “Bullet” in Smokey and the Bandit, along with Hooper. “Ain’t nobody can fly a car like Hooper.” Steve McQueen drove a ’80 TA in Hunter. Steve died four months after the film was released. In the early ’80s David Hasselhoff starred in the TV series Knight Rider that featured KITT, the talking Trans Am. Tom reveals many inside details about the making of the films, how the cars were procured, and what became of them.

The book quotes many designers and engineers who had something to do with the Trans Am. Norm Inouye drew the famous flaming bird graphic based on a sketch by Pontiac Studio Chief Bill Porter. After a flaming initial rejection by Bill Michell, it finally became an option beginning in 1973. Porter recently commented, “I think it may have saved the car. In the mid-seventies, everything was going against the Firebird, and I’ll put he case forward that the Trans Am bird saved it.”

Mitchell’s Pegasus

Enzo Ferrari gave Bill Mitchell a 347 horsepower V-12 from a Ferrari Daytona 365 GT/B4 for his customized Firebird, Pegasus. The motor was a tight fit, and the author states that the firewall was moved back nine inches to accommodate the longer engine. However, you can clearly see that there were no modifications made to the interior or the wheelbase of the Pegasus. The V-12 was shoehorned in by taking up the space occupied by the stock fan and fan shroud.

1989 Turbo Trans Am

As an added bonus the author devotes several pages to the development of the 1989 Turbo Trans Am, the fastest four-seat American car of the 1980s. Pontiac built two Trans Ams in 1986 with the Buick Turbo 3.8-liter engine. But for the engine package to fit, the passenger-side fame rail was modified to make room for the exhaust downpipe. Production was not feasible, because the car would have to be re-certified at great expense to meet government crash standards. Using the standard Trans Am transmissions was also a certification issue.

The PAS team was brought in to see if production would be possible by other means. Bill Owen of Buick, the primary engineer behind the Turbo V-6 engine, came up with the idea of using the cylinder heads from the front-wheel-drive 3300 V-6 to narrow the width of the engine and make room for the transmission bracket so that the entire Grand National engine/transmission package would fit, along with the different heads. With this, the first production-ready Turbo Trans Am was born. Lloyd Reuss, executive vice president for GM’s passenger car group at the time, drove the gray-on-gray prototype and decided he wanted it to be the 30th Anniversary Trans Am.

Pretty interesting stuff. There are a lot of similar insights in the book.

By the way, in the gallery there is a shot of five ’77 TAs and a GMC motorhome that was part of the Trans Am Territory promotion. It is included in Michael Lamm’s great book, The Fabulous Firebird. One day at GM Design they picked out several TAs in the parking lot for the shot. The yellow TA was my car.

The Trans Am was named for a racing series of the same name, which included such pony cars as the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger and AMC Javelin, each of which was limited to a 5-liter V-8 engine.

We owned very mild versions of two of these. Our first new second car was a brown 1973 Javelin with the 304 V-8 and automatic. It was the first car I, uh, legally drove. It had bucket seats and console, which was cool. It did not have power brakes, which one could get used to; it also didn’t have a parking brake indicator light, which led to a few interesting moments when one tried to drive without releasing the parking brake. It was fun to sit in the front seats of that car, but not so much in the back.

Note: Not our actual car.

Twelve years later, my mother got a red 1985 Camaro, because her oldest son kept using the 1975 Caprice, about which I have previously written. The Camaro had the 2.8 liter V-6 and automatic. It was an unusually reliable car for a GM product of the day; the only problem I recall with it was that the shifter knob kept coming apart until a recall. The problem that fit in the category of Feature, Not Bug was that that Camaro was so low that I had to put my hand on the ground first to get out.

Note: Not actual car, I think.

Between Javelin and Camaro ownership, the motorheads at my middle school (none of whom of course could legally drive) there was an ongoing argument about the Trans Am and the Corvette. The late ’70s C3 had the L-48 350 V-8 engine standard, with the L-82 350 V-8, with 40 more horsepower, optional. The standard Trans Am had a 400 V-8 with the same horsepower as the L-48, with the “T/A 6.6” V-8 adding 20 more horsepower.

Both cars are an example of 1970s taste, such as it was:


You could logically guess that I pined for the Corvette. I was a subscriber to Motor Trend magazine (motto: Every Car’s Great!), and when it reviewed the ’77 I pored over every word, including the red bubble on top of the antenna for the AM/FM/CB radio. (Don’t ask me how I remember that, good buddy.)

The reason the Trans Am became so popular in the late ’70s wasn’t just “Smokey and the Bandit” (starring ’70s icon Burt Reynolds), but because there were few other choices for a hot car. (“Hot” as in high performance, such as it was in the day, not “hot” for stolen.) Besides the Corvette (which was more expensive and lacked any back seat, as opposed to pony cars’ Back Seat in Name Only) … well, AMC killed the Javelin, and Chrysler killed the Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Challenger. Chevy killed the Camaro Z-28 in 1975, only to bring it back in late 1977 after noticing Trans Am sales. Ford’s Mustang II was based on the Pinto, and without a V-8 until 1975, one year before Ford introduced the Cobra II package powered by a 140-horsepower V-8.

The ultimate Trans Am is the Special Edition T/A, available in black with gold bird thing on the hood or gold with black thing on the hood. According to this site, the correct combination — the T/A 6.6, 4-speed manual and T-tops — was chosen by 2,699 buyers.


Eight cylinders and it uses them all …

I’ve written before here about the most superior engine design, the V-8 engine.

Along that line, Hotcars has 20 potential V-8 car purchases for $10,000 or less, including …

Even though it seems like Americans have a monopoly on producing this epic piece of machinery, the rest of the world has an appreciation for it as well, using it only for their finest models.

However, it’s not cheap to purchase something with eight thumping pistons under the hood. Even work trucks and base trim muscle cars can be rather pricey. For cheap V8 power, one must look at the used market. While a new vehicle with such a powerplant will likely start above $30k, it’s fairly easy to find a used model with similar power at a third of the price. With that being said, it’s worth remembering how much more it will cost to insure and fuel a vehicle with eight thirsty cylinders. Although, there’s nothing else that moves a car quite like a V8, especially when such an experience can cost less than $10k.


The formula for building a competent sports car is rather simple. Use a strong powerplant in combination with buttoned-down suspension and a lightweight design. One of the few American offerings that follows this philosophy is the Chevy Corvette. Its body doesn’t weigh much thanks to the fiberglass panels, which pair well with its unique leaf spring suspension design. When put together, it makes for an excellent sports car. However, the most important part of a Corvette is its motor. Powered almost exclusively by Chevy small block V8s, the best Corvettes accelerate as well as they corner.

The model’s strength heavily depends on which motor resides under the hood. The C4 Corvette launched in 1984 came equipped with only 205 limp horsepower. While that V8 was later revised to produce up to 245 horsepower, the LT1, the predecessor to the legendary LS, is the engine to seek out. This motor’s 300 horsepower rating means this aging Corvette can still tear up the street. While the newer LT1 models will cost more, it’s well worth the extra cash.

The C4 is not my favorite Corvette, in large part due to the ridiculous instrument panels …

… but that can be fixed, for a price. (As with everything else.)


What American muscle car is more iconic than the Ford Mustang? It has been in continuous production since it was introduced in 1965. As a result, there are many Mustangs that can be had for well under $10k. For those who want some classic V8 muscle, there are many original Mustangs that are surprisingly cheap, if a bit rough around the edges. And that kind of money can also buy a very clean Fox-Body Mustang with the iconic 5.0-liter V8. However, if a buyer is willing to purchase something that’s a little less clean, they can opt for a cheaper Fox-body and use the left-over money to turn it into a track destroying monster thanks to the model’s huge aftermarket selection. While newer SN95 Mustangs are definitely cheaper, they aren’t as modifiable as the older Fox bodies or as attractive as the newer 2005 through 2009 cars.

It doesn’t hurt that these models also have a wide selection of modifications available. While Coyote 5.0-liter ‘Stangs are out of this price range, there’s still a lot of fun to be had with older examples.


With the exception of the Ford Mustang, the longest running muscle car is the Camaro, having been produced uninterrupted from 1969 to 2002. The model did return once again in 2010, now sporting a retro look. However, these newer examples have yet to depreciate into affordable territory and, obviously, the classic models can get quite expensive. If there is anyone who still wants a Camaro that offers Corvette power, strong acceleration, and impressive handling for under $10k, then the fourth-generation model is a perfect choice.

This version entered production in 1993, but the one to look out for is the 1998 to 2002 model. Originally, this Camaro came with the C4 Corvette’s LT1 V8, but the way the engine was crammed under the hood made it difficult to work on and it was not as powerful, nor as fuel efficient as the motor that came after. For 1998, Chevy decided to throw in its new LS1 V8 that was more powerful, being rated at 335 horsepower and being capable of achieving decent highway fuel economy with its efficient, computer-controlled motor in conjunction with its slippery body design. While the four-speed automatic is capable of delivering powerful acceleration, it’s the six-speed manual that will really unlock this car’s performance.

16 DODGE RAM 1500

Out of the American Big Three, Ram tends to be the lowest volume seller when it comes to trucks. With Ford being the most established brand, Chevy providing a more traditional truck experience, and Toyota offering its usual undying, if outdated, experience that it’s known for, Ram has a tough time competing. On the surface, the Ram’s main appeal is its unique looks. Starting with its 1994 redesign, the Ram’s styling shifted towards its now iconic semi-truck inspired look with low headlights and a tall crosshair grille. It was further refined in 2002, and, a year later, the model received Chrysler’s new 5.7-liter Hemi V8. This new motor was good for 345 horsepower, which put the Ram’s new optional V8 shockingly close to the other brands’ performance trucks of the time. That powertrain combined with the truck’s tough looks gave the Ram 1500 a very muscular presence, and Dodge saw an opportunity.

To capitalize on its redesigned truck’s new powerplant, Dodge released a few special edition models, such as the Rumble Bee, Daytona, and GTX, all referencing classic Mopar muscle cars. As most of these were less desirable single cab models and are getting a little old, it’s easy to find such Rams for under $10k.


If there’s one thing that BMW is known for, it’s for producing high-quality sports cars that are surprisingly practical. Despite the company generally building performance vehicles, it manages to keep its models’ styling fairly subdued while retaining an instantly recognizable look. Perhaps the company’s best combination of performance and practicality is the 5 series. For many years, it has provided owners with a driver-oriented experience with the practicality and comfort of a luxury sedan, with the M5 being the quickest option. Unfortunately, M-power is not within our budget, but there are still plenty of V8-powered 5 series available for under $10k, as long as the model is more than a decade old.

Although the 5 Series never came standard with eight cylinders, there were plenty of buyers willing to shell out the money for the extra oomph. Power was dependent on which V8 was equipped.

While any of these motors make for a quick sedan, it’s still worth remembering that this is a premium German luxury sedan and that repairs may be quite expensive should they come up, but the experience may be worth it.I drove a 1994 540 once, with, as a bonus, a six-speed. It was fast, but smooth, but fast. I recall ripping down a suburban street at 73 mph in a 35-mph zone due to my not noticing how fast I was going.


Today, many companies have moved away from sedans and are instead focusing on crossovers and SUVs. However, Dodge is still selling its 12-year-old Charger to demonstrate how good sedans can be. Besides being a large four-door with plenty of room, one of the Charger’s biggest draws is its optional Hemi V8. These days, everyone is drawn to the model’s 707 horsepower Hellcat trim, but that beast of a motor is understandably worth a lot of money. In comparison, the car that launched over a decade ago can be found for only four figures while still rocking V8 power. Even though the 2006 Charger R/T made a comparatively small 340 horsepower from its 5.7-liter Hemi, it’s still a powerful and practical performance option that remains quick in comparison to its contemporaries.Weighing in at around 4,000 pounds, the Charger is more of a smooth cruiser and highway pulling machine rather than a canyon carver. For those who want even more power, the SRT8 model sends 425 horsepower to the rear wheels and sports stiffer suspension and bigger brakes. That said, only high mileage SRT8 cars will clear out tight budget. If you need more practicality, Dodge also sold the Magnum, which was basically the wagon variation.


Used American police cars are often a good bang for your buck, which unsurprising given that many of these vehicles have a V8, are rear-wheel-drive, and have little else. America’s most popular police car over the last decade was the Ford Crown Victoria; the last old-school American sedan.

When it comes to chassis design, the Crown Vic utilizes a ladder frame, which is only used on pickups and full-size SUVs these days. Even though such as layout certainly doesn’t help the model’s driving characteristics, it’s part of the reason of why these cars simply won’t die. This large dinosaur packs a V8 under the hood that makes up to 250 horsepower. While that’s hardly a huge number, it’ll certainly get this big car down the road easily. In its Police Interceptor form, nobody can tell between a decommissioned model and an active unit, meaning that nobody will pass you. However, for those who want a vehicle that can just float over the bumps at the cost of performance, civilian models are also quite cheap. It’s easy to buy a Crown Vic for under $5k, let alone 10.


One of the biggest hurdles that American luxury car companies have to get over is appealing to younger audiences. These brands previously offered large, inefficient, and uncompetitive land yachts that were far more attractive to old people rather than their grandchildren. The most outdated type of vehicle these companies pushed out was the personal luxury coupe; two-door cars designed to be as large, comfortable, and ostentatious as possible. These cars certainly challenged the idea that coupes were meant to be sporty. As the popularity of this segment decreased, Lincoln tried to inject some performance into its Continental Mark series.

The Lincoln Mark VIII may not look like much, but it is hiding some impressive muscle under the hood.

If that’s not enough, the engine’s time in the Mustang has resulted in a wide selection of aftermarket parts, so long as they fit in the Lincoln’s packed engine bay. The versions to search for are late-model LSC trim cars, which produce 290 horsepower and feature body-color trim rather than the ugly chrome that came standard. Regardless of year or trim, many Mark VIII’s cost less than $5k. …

10 FORD F-150

The quickest selling vehicle in the world is the Ford F-Series. Jatco Dynamics studied the best-selling cars of 2017, and the F-Series was at the top of the list with over a million trucks finding owners. It even outsold models that are available in more countries than the Ford truck. Given its ridiculous popularity, the F-150 often the first truck to come to mind when thinking of light-duty pickups. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of F-Series available on the used market with varying degrees of luxury and practicality. The biggest hurdle is the price. Trucks are highly popular in today’s automotive world, so used examples still hold a lot of value despite their age.

F-150’s from the early 2000s are the most likely models to fall within the $10k price limit. Models from this generation were offered with two V8 options, a 4.6-liter, and a 5.4-liter. As expected, the larger motor produces more power, but it may not be the best choice for those who want something long-lasting. Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords reports that three-valve 5.4-liter motors can wear prematurely due to a bad camshaft phaser, and its spark plugs are so difficult to replace that FourWheeler wrote a how-to guide on how to change them. While the 5.4-liter may be more powerful, the 4.6-liter V8 may be the smarter choice.


It’s not hard to find people who miss the Pontiac brand, mostly due to the company’s past models. It offered the powerful and sleek Firebird Trans Am and the muscular GTO, making it GM’s performance company. At least, that’s what it used to be. Towards the end of Pontiac’s existence, too many of its cars became rebadged Chevys and its few memorable performance models were imported from GM’s Australian Holden division. While the Aussie muscle options are excellent vehicles, they tend to run well over our price range. However, the last real performance Pontiac does fall within the price limit and it has classic American muscle under the hood. The late-model Grand Prix was generally not much to speak of. In the past, the hottest Grand Prix was a supercharged V6 GTP model. For 2005, a new GXP trim was released featuring 5.3 liters of LS horsepower.

While it is rather unfortunate that the Grand Prix was a front-wheel-drive car, and 303 horsepower is a lot for the front wheels to handle, Pontiac used high-performance shocks, and special, wider front tires to mitigate unfortunate handling effects caused by the layout, according to Car and Driver. However, these cars can suffer from transmission problems, so prospective buyers should get theirs inspected.


There are many aspects where Chevy can easily be mocked. Throughout the ‘90s and 2000s, the company was well known for producing low-quality vehicles. There are many examples of its models having laughably bad interiors and poor quality control. However, the company does build quite a few workhorses that can run for many miles just on general maintenance. Perhaps the longest lasting and best-engineered powerplant to come out of the company would be its small block motors, which go by the LS and Vortec names. Of course, it’s no surprise that Chevy uses these power plants to move its Silverado pickup. While the model comes standard with a V6, many pay extra for the reliability and power of the small block motors.

Besides producing over 300 horsepower in many of its various designs, the Vortec engine is capable of running for a couple hundred thousand miles without much trouble.

Even though brand new trucks are considerably quicker and more powerful than their ten-year-old counterparts, such aged examples still have plenty of V8 muscle under the hood. For extra power, Chevy offered the stout Vortec Max motor in various trims. However, the asking price on a used Silverado depends on the vehicle’s cab size, engine choice, and mileage, so availability will vary.


It’s no secret that the car market is shifting towards SUVs and crossovers. This process has been slowly progressing over the last few decades as buyers learned that they can use bigger, taller, and seemingly tougher vehicles to haul their family around. Perhaps the model that had the greatest influence in this change was the Chevy Suburban. Not only does it share its name with a type of residential area, but it can also seat up to eight people while providing plenty of space behind the third row. It would be easy to assume that the Suburban would only be successful while gas was cheap, but even expensive fuel didn’t stop this truck-based family hauler from selling. It’s practicality and general reliability (at least in older examples) have earned the model quite a reliable consumer base. Of course, the most important part of such a large vehicle is an equally large and torquey motor. Unsurprisingly, the Suburban has generally employed a Chevy small block V8 as its base motor.

During the 2000s, Chevy offered a heavy-duty Suburban with an optional 8.1-liter big block V8 for those who want something with a little more torque.

Of course, year and condition affect the value of a used Suburban, but it shouldn’t be difficult to find examples that fall under $10k. …


One of the most well-known SUV companies in the world is Jeep. For many years, it has produced a wide selection of off-road oriented machines, with the Wrangler being its most capable model. That small box on wheels can easily bounce over any terrain given its extremely basic chassis and axle design. However, the Wrangler has become a classic of sorts which has driven up its value. It also doesn’t tend to be a practical vehicle, and only has six cylinders at most, making it ineligible for this list. However, the first truly modern vehicle sold by the brand was the Grand Cherokee, as it was designed to be somewhat luxurious while still being able to tackle rough trails. Jeep managed to build a vehicle that could drive well on the road and provide a sophisticated interior all while sitting on tough solid axles that have impressive articulation. For power, the original Grand Cherokee was offered several powertrains, with either a durable, but rather underpowered straight six or a 5.2-liter V8. While these motors were powerful enough for a ‘90s SUVs.

Jeep would later stuff in a 5.9-liter V8 that was good for 245 horsepower, making it one of the quickest SUVs available at launch, according to Autotrader

For the price, it’s hard to find a similarly refined and capable truck. …


For many years, the Crown Victoria reigned supreme over the police, taxi, and traditional full-size sedan markets, primarily due to it being the only ‘modern’ offering throughout the 2000s. However, that doesn’t mean that the Crown Vic was always the sole choice for interested buyers. In fact, during the ‘90s, Chevy’s Caprice was generally the preferred choice over the similarly geriatric Ford. On the surface, the Caprice is nearly identical to the Ford, as it was a giant car based on an ancient platform with a corporate V8 under the hood. However, the motor is what makes the Chevy more intriguing than the Crown Vic.

While the final generation Caprice started out with a reliable but feeble Chevy small block engine, the model received a Corvette-derived LT1 V8 for the 1994 model year.

Even though this motor was detuned to produce a comparatively low 260 horsepower, that was enough to make this big boat surprisingly quick despite its size. Given the age of these vehicles, it’s not hard to find them for well under $10k, or even $5k. Furthering its appeal, the Caprice was also available in a wagon and performance-oriented Impala SS trim, though these models can command higher prices, but will generally remain under the budget.


Toyota is often well-known for building long-lasting and tough vehicles, and its most impressive model in this regard is the Land Cruiser. In the beginning, the Land Cruiser was a Jeep-like vehicle with a strong focus on off-road capability. Over the years it became a more practical four-door SUV, but it never lost its trail tackling capabilities. While the US lost the utilitarian Land Cruiser long ago, the more modern and luxurious examples are still impressive machines. Newer examples and classics still quite valuable, but there are plenty of Land Cruisers from the late ’90s and 2000s are ripe for the taking.

While such models are becoming popular again, there are plenty of high mileage examples that can be purchased for a quite a low price. While a few hundred thousand miles on a normal car is usually something to worry about, the Land Cruiser will still have plenty of life left in it. Using Toyota’s 4.7-liter V8, this large SUV is sufficiently quick and smooth. Despite its plush interior and soft ride, the Land Cruiser is still more capable off-road than many other modern alternatives. If Land Cruisers are difficult to find, look for the Lexus LX470, as it is basically the same vehicle, just with different badges.


It’s pretty amazing how far Hyundai has come since its introduction to the American market. Even as recently as the mid-2000s, the brand was most well-known for producing cheap models with debatable quality and longevity. However, only a few years later, that same brand would release a rear-wheel-drive performance coupe, a full-size luxury car, and the Genesis sedan. Today, Genesis has become a new premium brand for Hyundai and Kia, separating the luxury models from a potentially less desirable brand image. Regardless of whether or not that’s a good idea, the original Genesis sedan is a strong offering, even if its brand isn’t known for such cars.

For 2009, the large sedan was first released sporting an optional 4.6-liter V8; a rare sight under a Hyundai hood. Early models are the most affordable, and during these early years, the Genesis’s V8 produced 361 horsepower, which was good enough to propel this rear-wheel-drive sedan to 60 in 5.5 seconds, as found by Motor Trend.
Even though some may have reservations about purchasing a near decade-old Hyundai, it’s proven to be a reliable car, with USNews giving it a five out of five in reliability. While it’s a slim margin, early V8 Genesis sedans can be had for less than our $10k limit.

I drove a Genesis once. I was surprised at how nice it was, and how much like the V-8 sedans U.S. automakers used to built it was.