By Roger Theron
With the popularity of movies like The Fast and The Furious, Gone in Sixty Seconds and The last Ride, there has been some reference to the good old muscle cars which were immortalized in movies like Bullit, Vanishing Point and of course The Dukes of Hazzard series. This top ten list has a look at some of the muscle car icons born from the late 60’s and early 70’s.
The main measure of these cars is power, with Brake Horse Power (bhp) being the term flung around most commonly. What this refers to is the power released by the engine before the gearbox, generator, differential, water pump, and other components sap its power. If you are used to Kilowatts, then take into consideration that 250kw translates to 335.26bhp.
The 1969 Pontiac GTO
Conceptualised to gain appeal to the younger market, Pontiac put a 6.3 litre V8 engine into the midsized Tempest shell, making for a cheap fast car. To the surprise of Pontiac’s marketing team the GTO became massively popular and in 1969 they fitted it with a 6.5 litre V8 which could kick out 366bhp. The Judge was born.
The 1970 Buick GSX
Again the idea here was to squash a beast of an engine into a midsized body, in this case the Buick Skylark. In 1967 the Buick GS became recognised as a standalone model available as a sedan and convertible.
The 1970 model was given a monstrous 7.5 litre engine capable of producing 400bhp. The GSX body came in yellow or white only, adding to the image which made this car a distinct classic.
The 1967 Chevrolet Camaro
There were various options available to those purchasing a first generation Camaro, the Z28 package being the most exciting. With a 4.9 litre engine, power steering, disc brakes on the front and a four speed manual gearbox, the Z28 was made for racing – producing up to 400bhp.
The Plymouth Roadrunner
Built to beat 14 seconds over a quarter mile, the Plymouth Roadrunner was stripped down to the bare essentials, sacrificing even the carpets in order to make this into a beast of a machine. It featured a beefed up steering, brake and suspension systems and a 6.3 litre engine which pushed 335bhp. An optional boost came from the 7.0 litre version’s 425bhp.
The Dodge Challenger
Hitting the market in 1970, the Dodge Challenger was a hit from the get go, selling more than 80,000 in the first year. Although various options were made available, the R/T is the model which attracts the most attention with its 7.0 litre Hemi engine kicking out 425bhp. Later models lost the plot, with the ’72 model dropping to a measly 240bhp. See the Challenger in the cult classic movie, Vanishing Point.
The 1966 Ford Fairlane GT
Launched in ’62 with a 3.6 litre V8, the Ford Fairlane was given a makeover in 1966, complete with a 6.4 litre engine capable of 335bhp. As if this were not enough they decided to upgrade to a 7.0 litre NASCAR engine with 435bhp. Rigid front suspension and disc brakes gave the car better handling, and the brute power kicked the dial over 60mph (100km/h) in six seconds.
The Cutlass model was equipped with a police specification engine capable of 310bhp. The 442 refers to the four barrel carburettor, four speed manual gear box and the twin exhausts. The 442 had a reputation for its handling when compared to other muscle cars, thanks to its improved springs, shocks and the comforting safety of an anti-roll bar.
The 1968 edition was redesigned as a shapely coupe, with a 7.5 litre block blasting 390bhp.
Although the Barracuda was launched in 1964, just a couple of weeks before the Ford Mustang, it was not until 1970 that Plymouth gained wider popularity with sexy lines and some serious growl under the hood in the form of a 7.2 litre 390bhp. The other choice was a smaller 7.0 litre Hemi block which knocked out some extra power at 425bhp!
Even with a revamped suspension the power was so much that the ‘Cuda gained a reputation for difficult handling.
The 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS
The 1965 Chevelle SS sported a 6.5 litre block pushing 375bhp, which was all too much for the front end of the car, making for some pretty horrible handling. Luckily this was addressed with the revamping of the suspension and the addition of disk brakes on the front.
1969 saw the introduction of the top engine spec, which was featured in the El Camio pick-up as well. The 1970 SS was powered by a 7.4 litre V8 with 450bhp pulling the Chevell to 100km/h in just six seconds. Later models were adjusted for unleaded fuel and the power output suffered considerably.
Bo and Duke’s ride of choice, the Charger was launched in 1966 and some 37,000 cars were sold in the first year. A 7.0 litre Hemi reputedly kicked out around 500bhp, though it was officially rated at 425bhp. This monster reached 100km/h in just five and a half seconds. The Hemi engine option was available until 1972.
Written by Roger Theron
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