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A guide to muscle cars

Flexing the muscles Published: 20th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

A guide to muscle cars The Shelby Mustang GT350’s are still hugely popular
A guide to muscle cars
A guide to muscle cars 1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda with 440ci engine, Six-pack carburettors and Shaker Hood
A guide to muscle cars
A guide to muscle cars
A guide to muscle cars Chargers could charge up to 200mph in racing tune!

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Even in these lean times musclecars are still hot property! Here’s our top four to consider

Classic car dealer Alan Carrington whose stock list often includes muscle cars reports despite the current economic downturn, the market is still buoyant with good cars always selling well. “Recession, what recession,” he quips? “I recently sold a Shelby GT350 for £85,000 and a tribute clone for £28,000. “The Mustang is as popular as ever in all its guises, it will fi t in your garage with no problems, whereas a 17ft long Dodge Charger may not,” he points out. “The Mustang is small, light, agile and can benefi t from further tuning if required. The American replacement parts business is a multi-million dollar industry, I can order stock on Friday and it can arrive as early as Monday, and parts don’t cost a fortune either. American muscle cars such as the Shelby Mustang, Pontiac Trans-Am, Plymouth and Dodge Charger are all well known models and always sought after by enthusiasts.” Here’s four beefcakes worth buying…

Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am

Named after the Sports Car Club of America’s “Trans-American” racing series, the second generation Firebird Trans-Am arrived in 1970. It sported a completely new body with fastback styling, bonnet scoop, front air dam, front wing air extractors and rear spoiler. With huge muscle car looks and appeal, this model is sometimes also referred to as the “Bullnose” cars because of their two-piece ‘nostril’ grille. Even more importantly was that good looks were bestowed with a huge engine, the 455ci rated at 310bhp. The 1971-1973 Trans-Ams were powered by the 455ci HO engine with a 455ci Super Duty engine for 1973, ostensibly a street legal race tuned engine featuring a reinforced block, aluminium pistons, a special cam etc. Pontiac rated the engine at 310bhp, but in reality it was near to 370bhp. Only 252 Trans-Ams were fi tted with this level of tune engine. It was the largest engine available in any muscle car and with insurance rates rising and the Arab oil embargoes, it represented the very last heady days of the muscle car power and glory, though a de-tuned 455ci engine soldiered on until 1976. The 455 SD power equated to 0-60mph in under six seconds, a top speed of 135mph and covering the quarter mile in just 13.8 seconds at 108mph. With bucket seats, engine turned metal dashboard, Rallye gauges, Formula steering wheel, power steering, and front disc brakes, the Trans-Am was a potent performer and reckoned to be the best handling American sports car of its era. Nowadays the cars built between 1970-1973 are amongst the most collectable. Prices for a rough 455 HO car start at around £15,000, top cars range from £25,000 - £55,000, 455 SD cars in mint condition will be £25,000 - £75,000, expect to pay a premium for a 1973 car, 1974 cars are worth much less. If you can’t quite stretch your budget to a 455 HO or SD car, a Black & Gold Smokey & The Bandit Trans-Am may fi t the bill at £10,000 - £15,000. UK Trans-Am specialist is Robin Gray of Auto Pontiac. Tel: 0208 894 5930.

Plymouth ‘Cuda

With so much Mopar Muscle around you are spoiled for choice, but Plymouth’s (E-Body) 1970-1974 ‘Cuda ranks highly on many enthusiasts wanted list. A development of the original 1964 Barracuda, the now abbreviated ‘Cuda was a stylish twodoor coupe available with 383ci 440ci and 426ci Hemi engines, three or four-speed manual transmission of TorqueFlite automatic. Nowadays one of the most popular optioned car is the 440ci Magnum with Six-pack carburettor set-up, Shaker Hood and Dana 60 rear axle. The ‘Cuda used the same basic suspension layout as the Dodge Charger with torsion bars at the front, leaf springs at the rear with live axle, though there front disc brakes at the front. For those fond of ‘wind in the hair’motoring there was even a convertible option available. Plymouth’s vibrant colour range on the ‘Cuda included hip names like Vitamic C (Orange) In Violet, Plum Crazy, and Lemon Twist to name but a few. Interiors featured a wood trim dash, a wood grain steering wheel, Hurst pistol-grip shifter and bucket seats. In 1970 a limited production run of approximately 1500 AAR ‘Cuda’s were built, and based upon Dan Gurney’s All American Racers. These cars featured a 340ci engine Six-pack carburettors, a liftoff matt black GRP bonnet, black ducktail spoiler, and body strobe stripes. Models built 1970-1971 are the most sought after and fetch £10,000 - £18,000, and you can double those prices for a Hemi. Rarest of the breed are Hemi convertibles, only nine were built.

Shelby Mustang GT350

Carroll Shelby, a motoring legend in his own lifetime has endorsed a huge number of automotive products, but perhaps the GT350 Mustang is the best known. It started Shelby-Mustang fever and the cars are probably more revered nowadays than ever before. The very fi rst Shelby’s were ‘tweaked’ at Venice, California, after which production moved to Shelby’s Los Angeles Airport facility. It is said the ‘350’ designation was taken from the distance in paces walked from the engine shop to the offi ce at the Venice facility! Tweaking included fi tting Tri-Y exhaust headers, and an aluminium high rise inlet manifold and Holleycarburettor to the 289ci High performance engine, raising horsepower from 271 to 306.Then the brakes and suspension were tuned, a GRP hood fi tted and the back seat was removed. For racing an optional GRP front valance was often fi tted to improve cooling. Painted white with Blue Le Mans stripes, fi tted with Plexiglas side windows and sitting on Torque Thrust mag wheels, the GT350-R’s with race tuned 360bhp engines are the purest of the breed and cars built in 1965 (approximately 30) remain the most sought after. In race trim the 350GT-R won the SCCA B-Production title three years running in ’65, ’66, and ’67. The last cars to be built in Los Angeles were in 1967, powered by 289ci, 302ci or 428ci engines, after which Shelby’s were built by the A.O. Smith Company in Michigan. Cars built 1967-1968 featured GRP scoops ahead of the rear wheels and on the rear-roof quarters, GRP nose and of course bonnet. In 1966 the now famous limited edition black and gold liveried GT350’s were ordered by Hertz Rental Co. However, many found their way on to the race track at weekends and were delivered back to the rental company on Monday morning often worse for wear! Prices for the 1965 GT350 range from $200,000 plus for a good driveable non matching numbers car to $400,000 for a perfect matching numbers restored car. 1966 $100,000 to $200,000, 1967 (only 1095 built) $100,000 to $120,000, 1968 $70,000 to $100,000. It’s clear to see why many folk have taken to building 350GT clones. When purchasing a car, you need to be sure exactly what you are getting. Alan Faulkner- Stevens at Dragon Wheels is aspecialist in sourcing rare Shelby Mustangs and their subsequent restoration. Tel: 01908 551131.

Dodge Charger

The 1968-1970 the Dodge (B-Body) Charger is possibly the most aggressive, menacing looking muscle car of our group here, depicting classic ‘Coke bottle’ lines It may be designated a two-door coupe, but make no mistake, it’s a huge car measuring in at 17ft 3-inches long and weighing in at a hefty 3610lbs. The 440 (375/390bhp) R/T model was the most sporting in the range with Scat-Pack bumblebee striped tail, and the Hemi the most powerful with its 426ci 425bhp engine. Base models used the 318ci engine and a 383ci was also available. The TorqueFlite three-speed auto matic transmission came as standard.Interiors tend to be rather stark especially in black vinyl, and ‘hideaway’ headlamps are a novel period feature, however, this boulevard bruiser is all about muscle and performance with the 440 delivering a 0-60mph time of under seven seconds. Fastest of the breed were the racing Charger Daytonas with aerodynamic package that thundered around NASCAR circuits at speeds in excess of 200mph, scary! Standard road cars can easily eclipse motorway speed limits and with drum brakes all round to stop you. Running a Charger will mean you parting with big bucks at the petrol station, expect 12-15mpg. These cars engines are high compression built to run on high octane fuel, and don’t particularly like unleaded! There’s still plenty of Chargers around, they’re the Dodge everyone wants and expect to pay £15,000 - £25,000. For Hemi engined cars even higher £60,000 - £70,000.

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