The alleged $169,900 Chevrolet

Corvette Forum asks:

It’s safe to say that no car in recent history has been more hyped up and talked about than the forthcoming C8 Corvette. But that’s what happens when you’re allegedly taking an American icon and changing the entire drivetrain layout. Thus, we’ve been awash with more rumors and conjecture than usual in regards to Chevy’s radical new Corvette. The latest of which popped up right here at Corvette Forum recently. And it’s safe to say that you probably won’t like it.

“$169,900 is a go,” said Zerv02“If you’re in the under 100k camp, you will be disappointed. Let the madness ensue.”

Now, if you’re a regular around these parts, you already know that this is the same member who allegedly saw the C8 Corvette interior with his own eyes. Then, he shared a sketch and some additional info about it with us. This claim, however, is more than a little shocking. Especially for those who believe the Corvette will continue its position as a value-priced supercar. And most people just aren’t buying it. Starting with f-16pilotTX.

“I love all the contributions you shared with us Zerv02. But with all of the other evidence and credible sources, I just can’t see that happening, brotha.”

Others, like fasttoys, point out the many obvious problems this price point would present for GM.

“Lol I am out!!!!! Good luck GM. Zerv, you’ve lost your mind. If you’re correct, GM has lost their mind. Not buying a Chevrolet for 169k. I can buy a pre-owned 2017 Mclaren 570S for $145k with less than 4k miles and with a 3-year unlimited mile warranty. I can buy an Audi R8 for under that price. That is a hand-built car with a hand-built V10. Even the Viper was hand-built and came in at just $100k.”

Others, including Corvette ED, don’t necessarily see a problem with it. That is, of course, if this is the price of the range-topping version with world-beating performance.

“For the top-of-the-line 1,000 hp car, that price would be good. I see the base mid-engine car having a starting price of $65,000.”

And in that regard, it makes a little more sense, especially if GM is aiming to go up against the best the world has to offer in terms of performance. Which is what the OP believes will be the case.

“This will be a global car. An American GT to compete/rival the likes of Porsche, McLaren, the Italians, ect.”

In that regard, a high price makes a little more sense. If Chevy wants to build a halo car similar to the Ford GT, they could certainly do so and charge a hefty premium. In limited numbers, it would most certainly sell out, as the GT did with no issue.

Corvette Forum asked for opinions, and got them (abbreviations, misspellings and bad grammar not corrected):

  • My personal opinion is keep it do able for the common gm fan that being said tho is its it not time to evolve into what checy/gm is as a big name every type of race winner and it’s already proven in drag racing drifting etc but it’s not world renoun like Ferrari or McLaren l. What best way to that build a hyper car and disimate all that gonna cost a lot because r and d isnt cheap so if I pay that much I expect to get that much if u no what I mean
  • If GM decides that the C8 will be it’s only offering to the public and the price tag is on average 100k+, they can begin plant closing 6 months after the “kids” have their new toys.Just watch!
  • No closings due to $100k+ ZR1 and near-100k, Z06. In ’19, pricepoint won’t make a significant difference. Look at Harley. (2019 CVO is $44k.) Their issues are due to a vanishing demographic and Snowflakes’ inability to afford or even appreciate their products. (This phenomenon is killing Vettes too.) IMO, GM will continue with loss-leader C-8s at $60-$100k. The ZR1 will be “Holy Shit” high but, within a year, begin trickling down to relative affordability.
  • I believe GM has the ability to flatten the competition…..all of them…. at a reasonable price. But what is reasonable for a corvette? 165k ish? So be it. Holden/GM laid the smackdown on the 5 series with the G8. Apples and oranges i know, but i see i terrace type as its always been the last 20 years. You will be able to get 80% of the performance at 50% of the top tier cost with aftermarket close behind the lower performance optioned C8’s
  • I agree with you GM could lay the smack down but guess what ? a Lambo or Ferrari buyer will NEVER EVER buy one, they are filthy rich and the Corvette is a cheap car to them no matter where the engine sits or what the price is. I am a Corvette man no doubt about it but i win a couple of millions and guess what an real exotic will be sitting in my garage not a Corvette.
  • If GM has to make a mid-engine hyper-prized supercar with small production numbers, let them. But leave the Corvette out of it. In the real world, supercars dont exist, meaning most of us can never have them. Wanting what you cant have is a waste of dream. And keep the damn engine in the front where it should be, letting the drivers ass sit on the back wheels. Its a sportscar.
  • after working for GM 27 years, I can say they can make as much money mass producing the Corvette than putting a high dollar price tag that no one can afford, base will be $65,000
  • Also did work at GM for 27 years and am a fan of Sloan’s vision. Looking at the whole GM, I don’t see Corvette being their most expensive product. There’s already a disconnect having Corvette within Chevrolet, THE Corp’s volume brand. Then, GM should reinforce Cadillac as its premium brand. Cadillac cannot sustain its leadership image around the World with recent products, however good they may be: basically everyone is “good” today, and some relatively newcomers really excellent. The brand needs much more: it would need the Cien, the Ciel, even the Sixteen; those should sell in tiny volumes at very high prices and should not have to be individually profitable: a very difficult exercise for GM! But then, desirability of the brand will go up, and pull the upper half of GM’s lines, including Corvette.
  • Based on these photos I have no lust in my heart for the C8, no matter how well it drives. Hopefully they work out the shape because as shown it’s atrocious.
  • It looks great but $170 thousand, plus tax makes this pretty close to $200 grand. I guess we can all kiss Corvettes goodby! I guess that Corvettes will soon be a thing of the past. If 95% of the peple in this country can’t afford to purchase one then I’m sure GM will shut down production pretty fast. I have had one from every gen but 4 and I guess I won’t have one from 8.
  • I worked at GM for 39 years and I’ve learned in that time that upper management is disconnected from the everyday reality of the common man who is the Corvette buyer . The Corvette shoud remain a RWD car at a price that the common man can someday afford . This new model should have been moved to the Caddy lineup . There they might find buyers willing to part with close to 200 Grand for a car and sales tax’s .
  • I suspect that the majority of us Corvette enthusiasts bought our cars used…and at a fraction the new car price. Doesn’t mean we would not have bought a new one, but at some point family finances take over. I predict that a $170K Corvette would sell about 1/10th of the volume of the C7s (including all variants). With that few new C-8s out there, a large number of Corvette enthusiasts will be disappointed by the dirth of available used C-8 inventory and, possibly, move on to other brands/products. I don’t think that’s what GM wants…to effectively destroy the brand through its exclusivity. I think it possible that Corvette will either launch a “C-8 Corvette lite” or continue/further evolve the C-7 so that the C-8 could stand on its own as a Ford GT fighter and the rest of us could drive our favorite mark while dreaming of the day when we could step into a used C-8. Just my thoughts.
  • OK, If you got the bucks. The number of buyers is being cut down every year as the price keeps going up up up.
  • GM got bailed out by the US Government once, after that you can bet that GM will not subsidize a loss product again (ie SSR, Pontiac etc)., especially a marquee name like Corvette! Considering a 1LT msrp is around 60k and then there are 4-5 more expensive models after that up to 120k you have to look at the sales numbers and determine which category this new car needs to be in. While I like the Z06, I bought a new 1LT and added Z06 wheels and can’t be happier. Now I keep my cars, I have my original 92 and my original 05 SSR. So it will be exciting to see what comes out and their idea of an entry price. But you know if they do look good, you will not be able to get one for MSRP until 2021 as they will all be sold above MSRP just like the 2014 C7 were.
  • A Corvette that isn’t attainable isn’t a Corvette. The car should be built but it should be a Cadillac. Keep the Vette for the masses, elevate (and perhaps save) GMs most iconic brand with a Caddy super car! 

I suspect that never in the history of the Corvette have there been so many negative reactions to a proposed new Corvette. If anyone at GM had a decent respect for the opinions of mankind — assuming these rumors are true, and you know what’s said about rumors — GM management would be concerned.

For that matter, those who love Corvettes should be concerned. The great thing about the fifth-generation Corvette — and if you’re looking for a Christmas present for your favorite blogger may I suggest …

… is that it is neither as mechanically complicated (front-engine rear-drive V-8 powered) nor as expensive nor as fussy as exotics that may deliver more performance but can’t really be used as daily drivers. GM has not built a mid-engine car since the Pontiac Fiero in the 1980s, so given GM’s quality reputation one should be suspicious it can pull this off, particularly given GM’s current problems. And given that GM makes money on every Corvette it makes now, a phrase about not fixing what isn’t broken comes to mind.

As I’ve extensively documented here before, the Corvette might be the best performance bargain in the entire world, but not so much north of $100,000. Even with tires not recommended for use below 40 degrees, a Corvette that breaks down can still be fixed at one of the thousands of Chevy dealers in this country. That statement does not apply to Porsches, Ferraris or Lamborghinis.

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Government Motors fails again

Investors Business Daily:

General Motors’ decision to close four U.S. plants and lay off 14,700 workers, 15% of its domestic workforce, is an economic tragedy. And it might have been avoided if GM had listened to the market, rather than the Obama administration.

During and after the financial crisis, GM decided to do the government’s bidding in exchange for billions in subsidies. At one point, the federal government owned more than 60% of its shares, costing it more than $50 billion. By the time it sold the shares in 2013, U.S. taxpayers had an $11.2 billion loss.

How’s that working out for GM now? Not very well.

GM’s CEO Mary Barra, who took over the company in early 2014, reshaped the company’s offerings to please the Obama White House’s leftist auto czars, as did her predecessor. Barra has bet the company’s future on electric cars and other less-popular offerings, instead of what people want.

“The (GM) restructuring reflects changing North American auto markets as manufacturers continue to shift away from towards SUVs and trucks,” Reuters noted. “In October, almost 65% of new vehicles sold in the U.S. were trucks or SUVs. That figure was about 50% cars just five years ago.”

So what was GM making? Well, electric cars, for one. But even with a $7,500 subsidy, they don’t sell fast enough. Why? As the joke goes, the extension cord isn’t long enough. For anyone who has a long commute or wants to take a road trip, an e-car makes no sense. As such, GM’s commitment to electric cars is emblematic of its recent market failures.

Worse, it’s based on a kind of environmental fraud. Electric cars aren’t “zero emission,” as we’re constantly told.

For one, building an electric car produces more CO2 than building a regular car. For another, if the car’s batteries get their charge from electricity generated by a coal-fired plant, that makes an “electric car” really a coal-fired car.

It’s the electric-car industry’s dirty secret, one that undermines GM’s rationale for making such a big bet on electric cars.

As for President Trump, he hasn’t directed his anger at electric cars per se. He has directed it at GM’s layoffs from closing four plants here in the U.S., idling nearly 15,000 people.

Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland,” but keeping plants in Mexico& China, Trump tweeted Tuesday. “The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get!”

In particular, Trump’s says the corporate tax cuts and sharply lower taxes on repatriated profits from overseas should be going straight to the bottom line of comes like GM. So he’s now promising to look into cutting subsidies on electric cars and imposing tariffs on domestic car imports.

We understand Trump’s ire. But it’s misplaced.

Government shouldn’t pick winners and losers. Period. And that’s exactly what subsidies are: the government substituting its judgment for that of the marketplace. Why do we do it at all?

It never works as expected. It can’t. The government, despite delusions to the contrary, can’t possibly know what people want and need. Yet, a perpetual leftist dream remains an economy run and funded by government “experts.”

We see that in the Obama administration’s decision to subsidize GM during the financial crisis by investing tens of billions of taxpayer dollars in its stock and propping up money-losing operations. By ignoring the supply-and-demand signals of the marketplace, it only made GM’s problems worse.

More specifically, it led to GM committing itself to the unprofitable electric car market, one of President Obama’s pet projects. At one point, Obama even vowed to buy a Chevy Volt when he left office. He didn’t.

Not only has GM’s Barra embraced electric cars, but she sees the government as her partner in the enterprise, as she wrote in a recent USA Today op-ed. In it, she noted that her electric car plan “requires collaboration by the private and public sectors, supported by comprehensive federal policies.”

It’s no joke that some today call GM “Government Motors.”

Ironically, one of the victims of GM’s cutbacks will be the hybrid plug-in Chevy Volt. Even so,  GM’s commitment to the subsidy-sucking electric-car market remains unshaken, Barra says.

After all, who needs to please actual customers when government can compel people, either by huge subsidies or outright regulation, to buy your product?

And who buys those electric cars, anyway? Mainly those whom the left calls “the rich.”

“Overall, the top 20% of income earners receive about 90% of EV tax credits,”  noted The Hill. “Additionally, data from 2014 indicates that over 99% of total EV tax credits went to households with an adjusted gross income above $50,000.”

So we subsidize wealthy consumers at the expense of lower-income consumers, who can’t afford electric cars. That’s economic perversion, “regressive” not “progressive.”

“Barra wants taxpayers to foot the bill for her speculation on what the future will look like,” economics writer and Wall Street analyst John Tamny recently noted. “If Barra were truly certain, she wouldn’t ask for taxpayer support.”

Lest you think we’re being too harsh on GM, it’s not alone. Once-dominant GE’s shares have plunged nearly 60% this year. There’s a common theme here: GE’s long slide from grace began when Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s former CEO, began spending more time at the Obama White House than running his company.

There’s a lesson in this for other companies, summed up in Instapundit Glenn Reynolds’ catchphrase: “Get woke, go broke.” Immelt already learned that bitter lesson; Barra is learning it now.

Sadly, GM is just another once-great American company that went wrong trying please a government master, and not the customer. We can only hope other companies will learn from GM’s error.

‘Javelin’ was right

Readers of my previous blog may hazily remember that 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had the Secret Service handle of “Javelin,” after his father, George Romney, who ran American Motors Corp. before he was elected governor of Michigan.

(I’d say here that we owned a Javelin, but you knew that.)

On Monday, GM reported plant closings and layoffs, which prompts the Goldwater Institute (whose namesake, Sen. Barry Goldwater, owned both an AMC AMX and a Chevrolet Corvette, so he was the man) to observe:

“Let Detroit go bankrupt,” former presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrote in 2008, arguing that the federal government should not bail out the failing domestic auto industry for their poor management decisions. Vilified for turning his back on America’s autoworkers, Romney lost the argument, Barack Obama won the election, General Motors got its way, and U.S. taxpayers got stuck with an $11.2 billion bill to keep the company alive.

Today’s announcement from General Motors that it will close two plants in Metro Detroit and lay off 14,700 workers helps prove Romney right, albeit ten years later. Romney wrote that with a bailout, the American automotive industry’s demise “will be virtually guaranteed” because it would not be forced to undergo radical restructuring to be competitive in the marketplace. By subsidizing failure, the federal government would be gambling with taxpayer dollars and forestalling the inevitable.

This wasn’t the first time the government had bet heavily on General Motors at citizens’ expense. In a story much like recent efforts by state and local governments to give away billions of dollars to win a new Amazon headquarters, the cities of Detroit and neighboring Hamtramck teamed up in the early 1980s to win a new General Motors factory, chasing the promise of jobs and renewal of depressed and blighted neighborhoods. The Detroit News reports:

General Motors and Detroit Mayor Coleman Young hatched a plan: If the city would get the land, the auto company would build a state-of-the-art plant, crossing the border with Hamtramck, employing 6,000 people and providing a glittering example of what the auto companies and their suppliers could do in the city of their birth.

Residents who had lived in the targeted neighborhood would be given offers to sell their homes and move to make way for “progress,” but as the Detroit News reports, not everyone wanted to sell. In the face of protests and a legal challenge, the city moved forward with the plan, and a Michigan Supreme Court decision upheld the city’s decision to raze the site for General Motors. The factory was built, and decades later the court decision was overturned, but today, some 37 years later, that factory will be closed as General Motors fights to save costs.

One Detroit-area politician is feeling particularly burned by the decision. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat who was elected to Congress in November, decried the decision on Facebook:

“[M]ake no mistake, this is a perfect lesson illustrating that corporations are not your friend, and handing them tax breaks and incentives is a losing game. Taxpayers bailed GM out with billions just a few short years ago – and now they cut jobs to make bigger profits?

“What’s worse, Detroit tore down the vibrant Poletown neighborhood for GM, destroying a community, displacing hundreds of families, and a couple decades later this is how we’re rewarded.”

Hoping for rewards in exchange for corporate welfare can come with a high cost, and General Motors’ story should be a cautionary tale about government picking winners and losers with taxpayer dollars—and in taking private property for a supposed “public purpose.”

In a paper for the Goldwater Institute, economics professor Shirley Svorny wrote about the high costs of government subsidization of private businesses—and who pays the cost when if those companies fail:

There are limited, specific situations where local government can improve on private-sector outcomes. A political decision to redirect tax dollars so that benefits accrue to individual firms is not one of those situations…The company bears none of the costs if it fails in its effort or chooses to move elsewhere. That burden falls on taxpayers.

The thousands of autoworkers who lost their jobs today—and the homeowners who lost their property to General Motors decades ago—know that lesson all too well.

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.