Although the British built the AC Cobra that came to the forefront in 1960, it wasn’t the first vehicle that combined the V8 engine with an aluminum body and a light European chassis, but it was most certainly the most famous. The later models with bigger engines were among the road vehicles sold, that performed the highest.
The AC Cobra 427, was produced in two forms. There was a commercial vehicle, that featured dual carburetors, an under exhaust, a glove box and a relatively tame engine. The other however, did not feature the practical glove box, but had a stripped interior, revised suspension and a completely different layout of its instruments. The latter, was built for racing, and had a one carburetor powerful engine, wide fenders, a roll bar and its exhausts were on the side. Carroll Shelby, producer of the AC Cobra’s, was left with many of the racing versions. Shelby renamed the vehicles to Cobra 427 SC (Super Competition) and sold them to the public. Today, the SC models are the most valuable vehicles to collectors, and sell for millions.
The production of the AC Cobra 427/428, started in 1964, with the building of the Cobra 427. It was the most powerful car that had entered production, and would become the legend that dreams were made of. The chassis and the suspension had to be redesigned for these cars, to be able to cope with the massive increase of power and other changes. It boasted a seven liter Ford V8 engine and in standard form, the vehicle was capable of 400bhp, which could be increased even further, for racing purposes.
A 428 engine was later used, but the power remained virtually the same. The legendary AC Cobra 427/428 would be written into the history books because of it unbelievable acceleration capabilities and handling characteristics that could make anyone’s hair stand up right! In 1965, Shelby sold the Cobra name to Ford. Many replicas of the AC Cobra 427/428 can still be seen today, and many car enthusiasts still dream of being behind the wheel of this powerful muscle car.
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.
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 Buick Riviera came onto the market in 1963. It is not really a muscle car, but it did play a major role in the American automotive industry. In relation to that time period, Buick’s latest model release was seen as cutting edge and extremely stylish. It was a car that incorporated performance, as well as European styling. The Gran Sport or GS models were performance options that were available on the vehicles, and included models such as the Wildcat and the Riviera. A few vehicles were produced that carried the option as a model name.
The Gran Sport option was introduced in 1965, and once again surpassed all expectations in regard to luxury and the cars’ performance. Buick Riviera Gran Sports, were fitted with a 360bhp engine, a 425 cid and included a Posi-Traction rear end. The posi-traction could be found until 1973, on both the Wildcat and Riviera Gran Sport options. The car itself only had a few minor adjustments made to the exterior, such as the position of the headlights and restyled taillights. The top speed of the Buick Riviera Gran Sport was approximately 125 miles per hour. Later Riviera models were still GranSport options, but were replaced with GS on the badges. The high-performance option of the Riviera, the Riviera GS, was manufactured between the years 1965 to 1975. Other Gran Sport models that were produced by Buick, included the Skylark GS, Gran Sport 340/350, the Gran Sport 455, GSX, Century Gran Sport, Regal GS and as mentioned before, the Wildcat GS.
Even though the Buick Riviera is not a muscle car, it is still a desirable collectors item. It has a unique two-door body, dual exhausts, improved suspension and a Super Turbine 400 transmission that makes this GS model irresistible. Apart from the few exterior changes, seats, interior trim and chrome wheels, were additional options that vehicle buyers could chose from. Therefore it is not a standard vehicle, as owners could change and style their new car as they wanted. Most Buick Riviera Gran Sport owners view their cars as muscle cars. The look of the vehicle is aggressive, fast and unique, and has become an icon in its own right.