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.
The AMC Javelin is classified as a “pony car” and is a rival to the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro, which were a similar make of car in that era. The American Motors Corporation built the AMC Javelin between 1968 and 1974.
AMC debuted the Javelin in 1968, a full production version of the AMX prototype that had being taken around the USA two years before it was released. This version of the car came with a variety of AMC engines starting with the economical 232 cubic inch straight-6 through to the V8s, which included the 343 cubic inch, V8 and many other features that went with the car.
The AMX 390 engine was offered as a Javelin option in 1969 and came with “Big Bad” paint and an interesting roof spoiler. AMC supported the Javelins and the AMX with an array of dealer installed performance accessories. The Road and Track described the Javelin favorably when it was first introduced in 1968. They felt that the smaller engine was an asset to the light vehicle and the interior styling was “pleasant” but not exciting and the non-power steering and disc/drum brakes were given poor marks.
In 1971 the Javelin was given a new look and incorporated many of the elements that had been wanted earlier on, so that they could race the car in the Trans-Am circuits. The roof spoiler became essential to the car; it was adapted to be able to accept wide racing tires and an array of engines and transmissions was offered. Unlike the Hornet, which was a study in symmetry the interior of the Javelin was non-symmetrical and every part of the car was unique to its position.
The Pierre Cardin interior was unusual and imaginative having a stripe pattern that ran from the seats up to the doors, then onto the roof and back down to the seats and a tough, but almost satin like material was used. The Javelin AMX went from a car that contained many racing modifications for the track to a street version, which AMC advertised as “The closest thing you can buy to a Trans-Am champion”. The Javelin AMX came with a fiberglass full width cowl induction hood, a racer type stainless steel mesh screen to cover the grill and front and rear spoilers that increased traction at high speeds.
The production of this car stopped in 1974 as interest in high performance cars died down and amidst the Arab oil embargo. Due to the lack of interest in collecting AMC products, the price of the Javelin is not as high as other muscle car and pony car models.
It took two men of vision (William “Bill” France along with Bill Ward) to look beyond the bare dirt expanse and abandoned buildings that stood before them, to see the potential for what would ultimately become the biggest, fastest and most competitive super-speedway in the world – Talladega Speedway.
There were several possible sites in the Southeastern United States for the proposed speedway. Talladega, Alabama emerged as the top choice thanks to it’s accessibility to the interstate, and being in the middle of a population base of at least 20 million people within 300 miles. Over 20,000 acres of available land to construct on didn’t hurt either!
Back in 1969, the Super Speedway was called the Alabama International Motor Speedway, and in 1989 the name changed. But long before then, the track had surpassed every initial expectation in terms of sheer size, speed and competition.
With Bill France as the guiding force, construction began on the site on May 23, 1968, with the first race being the ‘Bama 400 Grand Touring race several months later on Saturday, September 13, 1969. Ken Rush drove his Camaro to Victory Lane in that event. The next day, Richard Brickhouse won the first Grand National race – the Talladega 500 (now known as the UAW-Ford 500), edging Jim Vandiver and Ramo Stott.
Putting that first race weekend on the record books wasn’t as easy as it may sound. The practice and qualifying speeds were so high (Charlie Glotzbach won the pole at 199.466 mph) that the tire companies – try as they might – could not in the time available come up with a compound that held together for many laps. The Professional Drivers Association (PDA), led by Richard Petty, declared the situation unsafe, and left the track Saturday afternoon.
It was not long before the Talladega Speedway came into its own with unprecedented speeds and unparalleled competition. The combination of the two also played a major role in the development of many drivers’ careers as they built reputations for setting records and taking wins at what quickly became known as “the largest, fastest and most competitive track on the circuit.”
The track at the Talladega is 2.66-miles long, four lanes wide and is banked 33 degrees on each end, with 18-degree banking in the tri-oval. This layout has produced some of the fastest and most competitive racing in history. The backstretch is nearly 4,000 feet long, and stock cars have reached speeds in excess of 220 miles per hour in competition.
The grandstands seating capacity at the Speedway is 143,231 including the most recent expansion of the O.V. Hill South Tower. The 212-acre all-reserved infield holds many thousands more.
Many stars have raced around the track’s challenging curves, but the track’s true dominator was Dale Earnhardt, who posted 10 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup wins at Talladega over the years. Earnhardt’s first victory was in the 1983 UAW-Ford 500, driving for Bud Moore. He won again the next year in his first season with Richard Childress. When he captured the 1990 UAW-Ford 500, he became the first three-time winner of that event, then added UAW-Ford 500 wins in 1991, 1993 and 2000.
Earnhardt also had victories in the 1990, 1995 and 1999 IROC races, as well as the 1993 Aaron’s 312 Busch Series race, to give him a total of 14 career victories at Talladega. That put him ahead of Davey Allison, who had four ARCA triumphs and an IROC win to go with his three Aaron’s 499 victories.
Fans know that flag-to-flag competition is the name of the game at Talladega Super Speedway, and the record book backs this up.
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.
Production vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, from family cars to off-road vehicles and much, much more. Each production vehicle manufacturer will create a number of models for mass production, thus providing people with a wide choice of vehicles to suit their needs and budgets. The auto production industry is a perfect example of market forces in action – successful vehicles sell in great quantities and for a long time, while models rejected by the market are soon withdrawn. The history of the automibile reflects the changing tastes of the buying public, whose demands are quickly met by the production vehicles designed and produced by automakers worldwide – and competition for consumer dollars is fierce.
In the United States, the main manufacturers of production vehicles are General Motors, Ford and Chrysler (now officially DaimlerChrysler) – traditionally known as ‘The Big Three’. There used to be many more independent automakers, but almost all have gone out of business or have been absorbed by their larger rivals. Some of these bygone makers of American production vehicles were Studebaker, Packard, Hudson, Nash, Willys and Kaiser. A few of these small independent manufacturers joined forces to form American Motors (AMC), but even this wasn’t enough to ensure survival and AMC was bought out by Chrysler in the mid 1970s.
Foreign production vehicles began arriving on American shores after the Second World War. Names like MG, Triumph and Jaguar (England), Volkswagen and Mercedes (Germany), Fiat and Alfa Romeo (Italy) and Renault (France) achieved varying amounts of success here. However, it was the Japanese who have made the biggest impact, and are now the largest foreign-owned manufacturers of production vehicles in the USA. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda and Subaru are the biggest names and most successful.
Many types of production vehicles are manufactured to directly meet certain automotive needs. Jeep specializes in off-road vehicles that are able to cope with rough terrain and are perfect for adventurous people who want to explore. Porsche and Lamborghini are well known for their powerful and luxurious sports cars. If there’s a recognizable need in the market, you can be sure the automakers will address it with a new production vehicle!