The sleek lines of the Mercury Comet had quite a few young gentlemen excited when it was first released by the Mercury division of the Ford Motor Company in 1960. The Comet was originally planned as an Edsel model which was developed along similar lines to the Ford Falcon, but with better trimmings and a slightly longer wheel base. It initially made use of the distinctive split grille that had become the Edsel trademark. When it was decided that the car would be marketed by Mercury instead, the Edsel grille was dropped in favor of a Mercury grille though the elliptical taillights and instrument cluster and dashboard knobs were kept for the first-year model.
Initially the changes in design and marketing strategy meant that it was difficult to classify the car properly. With its stretched 14″ Ford Falcon platform and 114″ wheelbase, it was neither a compact car nor an intermediate-sized car for the duration of the seventeen years that the Comet was produced. However Mercury eventually decided to market it as a compact car. Initially the Comet was not marketed as a Mercury, but simply as a ‘Comet’. It was available in 2 & 4 door sedans and 2 & 4 door wagons. It only officially became part of the Mercury line in 1962 when it was first marketed with the Mercury badge. There was also a ‘sport’ version of the Comet – the S-22 – which was available between 1961 and 1963. The S-22 was much the same as the regular 2-door Comets, but it featured an S-22 badge, bucket seats, a centre console, a stainless spoked steering wheel and stainless full wheel covers, amongst other things.
The Comets produced between 1960 and 1963 have a somewhat rounder shape. The initial Comets that were made between 1960 and 1961 had rather unique large, slanted taillights. Car owners could choose between a 3-speed manual or a 2-speed automatic transmission. To counter complaints about the resulting low performance of the 144 ci engine, a 170 ct with a 4-speed manual gearbox was released in 1961. In the car’s first year as an official Mercury car, some minor re-styling removed the ‘cat eye’ taillights and gave the car a sleeker look. The 1963 model was able to accomodate a V-8 engine and was also available as a convertible. The car went through quite a few more changes over subsequent years, but proved in its day to be a most noteworthy muscle car.
In 1964, the Chevrolet Chevelle made its debut on the market, as a mid-sized vehicle. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Chevrolet produced the Chevelle, which became one of the General Motors group’s most successful vehicles. It appealed to the public, as this model ranged from an ordinary family vehicle to a powerful, and more expensive convertible or coupe. After 1977, the Malibu name replaced Chevelle, and it was the pride and joy of GM.
The Chevelle was designed as the competitor of the Ford Fairlane, with similar size and similar concept, according to the 1955 to 1957 model vehicles. During the years 1967 to 1972, hardtops with four-doors were available and during 1964 to 1965, consumers could purchase two-door station wagons.
Chevrolet entered into the muscle car ranks with the Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS, and during the years 1964 to 1965, the Malibu badge appeared on the vehicles. The Z16 option is an extremely sought after model, and has the emblem on the front of its fender. The badge reflecting Malibu SS only appeared on models sold in Canada after 1966. The Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS was a high performance vehicle, and therefore, it had its very own line of performance equipment and its own line of engines. Engines that were available were the 325hp, 350hp and 375hp V8 engines. After the COPO dropped their displacement rule in regard to engine power, bigger, more powerful engines were fitted into these muscle cars. The engine ratings began to decline in 1972. The most popular Chevelle of all time was the 454. It could rocket over a quarter mile, reaching speeds of 105 to 108 miles per hour within 13 seconds.
The models that were produced between the year 1973 to 1977 were very popular with the public, although collectors are not interested in them. All models between 1974 and 1977 carried the Malibu name. The SS option was available to all the Malibu coupes, and quite unbelievably, the station wagons. Purchasing a Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS, would include black out trims and bucket seats. In 1978, GM decided to downsize on the intermediate models, which led to the Chevelle name being dropped, and all following models, being named Chevrolet Malibu.
There are a variety of Dodge vehicles, on three different levels, all bearing the Charger nameplate. The name “Dodge” is connected with a performance model but has also been given to ordinary sedans, hatchbacks and a personal luxury coupe. The name was also given to a 1999 concept car that was very different from the average Charger and was set to be put into production for the 2006 model year.
In 1966 Dodge officially introduced the Charger as competition to the Ford Mustang and the Plymouth Barracuda. The famous Dodge Charger’s interior was state of the art for that time, especially with its four-bucket seats, two in the front and two at the back. The console was also innovative, instead of just being in the front it went full length from front to back. A total of 37,344 Dodge Chargers were produced in 1966.
The model was such a success that in 1967 only minor changes was made, like the adding of turn signals on top of the fenders and the full-length console replaced with a normal-sized console. But the time soon came for change to take place when only half the number of sales for 1966 was sold in 1967.
The 1968, a newly designed Dodge Charger had what is called a “coke bottle” styling which means that the front fenders and the back quarter panels had curves that resembled a coke bottle. The full-length taillights were replaced with taillights similar to a Corvette; these are just some of the differences that changed the 1968 Charger. A year later there was not much difference in the car from an aesthetic point, just slight modifications to the outside of the car. Aside from the R/T version there was also a Special Edition version, which focused on luxury and gave a unique option of a sunroof, which was rare for that time.
The end of muscle cars came in 1971 due to the strict emission standards and the high insurance costs that were put in place. Since then Chargers and Coronets have shared the same body style but the Charger is only a two door whereas the Coronet is a four door. Between 1972 and 1974, the Charger was moved from performance category to a luxury car.
The very first Ford Mustang came off the assembly line in Michigan, in 1964. The public that attended the New York World Fair, caught their first glimpse of the Mustang, and it was viewed on television networks on 19 April 1964. The automotive industry would never see another product launch like this. Within the first 18 months, over a million Mustangs had been sold, and after revisions over the years, the Mustang is still in production today.
The years 1969 and 1970, saw the birth of the Ford Mustang Boss 302. Ford had attempted to combine the brute power of muscle cars, with the comfortable handling capabilities of a sports car. The press loved the Boss 302 Mustang, and even said that this car was everything that the GT-350 should have been. The Ford Mustang Boss 302 featured a 5.0 L V8 engine and cylinder heads that were used on 5.8 L engines. The combination of these parts, together with its manual four-speed gearbox,elevated the Boss 302 Mustang 290 hp into a class of its own. The Boss 302 Mustang was originally going to be named Trans Am, but that already applied to the Firebird by Pontiac.
Ford’s most competitive rival against their Mustang, was the Chevrolet Camaro. Ford had the lead in the “pony car” division, which was largely created by Ford, when they first introduced their Mustang in 1964. Unfortunately, the Mustang could not compete with the Camaro with regard to performance, which led to the development of the 428 Cobra Jet in 1968, and the design and production of the Boss 302 Ford.
The Boss 302 Mustang is also well known at drag racing venues. Ford made a Drag Pack option available, which was free of charge. All that was needed was to order the 4.3:1 rear axle ratio car. The conversion can be seen under the hood, with an oil cooler mounted in front of the vehicle’s radiator.
The Ford Mustang Boss 302 is still very popular with the reproduction of muscle cars, and can be seen in the diecast model toys available in the Matchbox, ERTL American Muscle and Hot Wheels ranges. The “hockey” side stripe on the car, the chin spoiler and the rear louvers distinguish this muscle car which is still popular and much loved.
Plymouth is a division of Chrysler Corporation, and were responsible for the productin of the two-door Plymouth Barracuda between 1964 and 1974. Originally, the Barracuda was constructed on an A-body chassis. This chassis was extremely common in the vehicles that were being manufactured by Chrysler, which included the Dodge Dart. It had the characteristics of the Valiant. The Valiant is believed to be the very first pony car, to reach the market, as it was available two weeks before the Ford Mustang.
The Plymouth Barracuda was made famous by the massive fastback rear window, that basically wrapped around, and was the largest automotive glass part that was ever installed at that time. The Barracuda’s performance was at first extremely modest, with a 180 horse power V8 engine, that would improve over the years, but also stood out due to its push button shifter that was mounted in the dashboard. All 1964 automatic Barracudas were fitted with this feature.
The year 1965 was an interesting year for the Plymouth Barracuda as two new options were introduced. The 4.5L Commando, which was a 235hp V8 engine, and the performance package that was called Formula ‘S’, and included the engine together with a standard tachometer, and upgraded wheels, tires and suspension. Over the following years, the Plymouth Barracuda would undergo various facelifts and engine changes, to remain competitive in the changing market. The 1966 model is considered unique, with the Barracuda Fish emblem being added, new grills and redesigned, chiseled features. The Plymouth Barracuda was completely redesigned in 1967. The models that followed had convertible options and notchbacks.
Engine options were improved as the competition grew. With the 7.2 L RB single four barrel carbureted engine being available, on the floors of the showrooms. In 1969 the limited addition 80 Super-Stock was released. It was a Hemi-powered Barracuda, built in 1968, that was not street legal, as it was built for racing and was often used in drag racing. A few Savage GT’s were also manufactured, that came off the second generation Plymouth Barracudas. The 1971 Hemi-powered Plymouth Barracuda and the 426 Hemi are considered extremely rare and almost priceless amongst collectors. There were only 14 Hemicuda’s manufactured in 1970, and at an auction in 2006, one was sold for US$2.16.
Production of the Plymouth Barracuda ended after a successful, ten year run, during the 1973 oil crisis. The third generation was a failure in the market, and after hanging on until 1974, the Plymouth Barracuda was discontinued. The rarity of some of the Plymouth Barracuda models is due to the public not being interested, sales being low, and therefore, not many were produced. Today, it is a classic muscle car, with many collectors just waiting for the opportunity to find one.