1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz

Posted by on Monday, September 29, 2014 in Articles, Vehicle Spotlight

Fully equipped and opulent in it’s design, the 1959 Eldorado Biarritz is considered by many to be the most recognizable post-war Cadillac ever built.  It represents the height of the tailfin period, and is certainly a car that proclaims “I’ve arrived” wherever it is driven. This sleek new body style for 1959 became an icon, and at $7,401 sticker, just 1,320 copies of the Bairritz left Detroit in 1959.

This example is presented in the classic Olympic White paint with red leather interior, and includes the full complement of power accessories such as steering, brakes, seats, locks, mirrors, trunk release, and even a power operated top. The engine is a 390 ci V-8 pushing 345 HP, and is correctly finished in Cadillac blue with the gold air cleaner. The brushed aluminum trim and stylish dashboard are all part of the package that made Cadillac the “Standard of the World” in 1959.

The History of Fender Lines

Posted by on Thursday, September 25, 2014 in Articles

1937 Cadillac V12 Fleetwood Formal Sedan

From a Rudimentary Appendage to a Major Styling Element, Fenders Helped Define the Era in Which a Car Was Built

At the turn of the last century it was almost impossible to have a “fender bender” because there weren’t any fenders, but that was just a temporary situation. By the early 1900s just about every American and European made motorcar had rudimentary fenders of some form over the tops of the wheels to keep mud from being slung into the faces of the driver and passengers. This worked some of the time but dusters, hats, and goggles were recommended accouterment for the open road.

Benz 1886 Patent Motorwagen

As early as 1894 Carl Benz was fitting rudimentary fenders to his latest versions of the 1886 Patent Motorwagen. This 1894 features a small bicycle-style fender on the front wheel and small curved fenders above the rear wheels. Sitting in the Motorwagen are Benz’s daughters, Thilde, Clara (at the tiller) and Ellen.

It is believed that the first automobile fender was invented in 1901 by Frederick Simms, who was instrumental in the founding of Daimler in Great Britain (1893), as well as the Automobile Club of Great Britain in 1897 (later the RAC). One could beg to differ, since Carl Benz had already mounted cycle fenders on his Patent Motorwagen by 1894, and the 1898 Benz Ideal had full length fenders. In the United States the earliest cars to have fenders, which were little more than mud guards, began to appear by 1903-04.

1898 Benz Ideal

A larger engine, more luxurious styling and vis-à-vis (face-to-face) seating were features of the 1898 Benz Ideal, which also featured full length fenders to help keep dirt and mud off the vehicle’s occupants. It would be safe to say that Brit Frederick Simms did not invent the automobile fender in 1901.

By the mid 1900s fenders were finally becoming more than appendages. Both their length and width were increased with many curving all the way down to the frame. Soon the front and rear fenders were joined together by a sturdy running board that paralleled the frame line. This became the preferred style for more formal cars in the early 1900s, while sportier models eschewed the running board. By the 1910s just about every car built in America and Europe had some form of fender and running board combination, and fenders themselves were beginning to take on a more stylish appearance, some rakishly curved, others flared at the rear to further prevent the splash of American roadways into the passenger compartment of open cars. But fenders were still rudimentary in their overall design. Body stylists regarded them as a necessary feature but one relegated to a single job, keeping the road beneath them, beneath them. Whether a handsome cycle fender design, a flat-topped wing, or long, sweeping fender-into-running board style, rarely did fenders add anything dramatic to the overall look of an automobile.

1911 Oldsmobile Limited

Side-mount spares were not a new idea when Harley Earl introduced his design for fender-mounted side-mounts in 1919. The side-mount dates back to the early 1900s and was used on a number of American marques including the massive Oldsmobile Limited in 1911. The only drawback to the early design was that it precluded the driver using one side of the car for entry or exit. Earl’s design moved the spares forward and into a recess in the fender allowing driver and passenger to make use of their doors.

American manufacturers had all achieved a near equal level of engineering refinement and reliability in their products by the early 1920s, but bodywork was mostly provided by outside coachbuilders, and that coachwork was generally accompanied by similar elements: running boards, fenders and mudguards, all separate components, and all very much the same in appearance. Then one day a designer said something to the effect of, “…if we extended the front fender rearward and added a recess at the bottom, you could mount the spare tire there.” It is likely those words were spoken by Harley Earl, since the design began appearing on La Salle and Cadillac production cars in 1927, less than a year after he was hired by General Motors to create Detroit’s first automotive styling department at the suggestion of Lawrence P. Fisher. Fisher was Cadillac’s General Manager, and something of an aficionado of Earl’s work for Don Lee.

The side-mount spare wasn’t a new idea. Companies like Locomobile had been offering them since the early 1900s, but back then side-mount spares precluded using one side of the car as an entrance for the driver. The same was true of Oldsmobile, Packard, and Pierce-Arrow, among others by the 1910s. Interestingly, in 1919 Earl had already penned the innovative fender-mounted side-mount spare, which was used for a coachbuilt Duesenberg Model A sedan bodied at the Earl Automobile Works in Los Angeles. The company, founded by Harley Earl’s father, was owned by Don Lee, Southern California’s premier Cadillac dealer. Earl had also designed and built several custom bodied Cadillacs for Don Lee in 1921, all of which featured fender-mounted side-mounts. Soon other American coachbuilders were following suit, including Judkins and Fleetwood, but the majority of coachbuilt cars bearing this distinctive fender line were coming from Don Lee Cadillac and the drafting table of Harley Earl.

1930 Cadillac V8 Phaeton

In 1927 Harley Earl brought style to GM with the La Salle. The influence of the La Salle, its sweeping fender lines and side-mount spares spread to the entire Cadillac line by 1930 when this Cadillac V8 Phaeton was produced. By the early ’30s side-mounts were being offered by all of GM’s divisions.

The new side-mount design, whether pioneered by Earl or someone else had changed everything by the late 1920s, including the fender itself. The greatest changes, however, were to come the following decade when fender lines became as much a styling element as hoods, rooflines, windshields, trunks, and even headlights.

1933 Cadillac V16 Convertible Sedan by Fleetwood

Not to be outdone by its contemporaries who were copying the 1927-1932 look of Cadillac, in 1933 Earl and his design staff raised the bar with handsome skirted fenders which for the first time made fenders more than just purposeful, it made them a styling element.

Cadillac V16 Aero-Dynamic Coupe

By 1934 Earl made another change in fender styling with the pontoon fender seen on this Cadillac V16 Aero-Dynamic Coupe. The body style by Fleetwood was first seen at the 1933-34 Chicago Century of Progress Exposition.

For Earl and Cadillac (and other GM Divisions) the first dramatic change in fender lines came with the 1933 models and the introduction of skirted fenders, a design which swept the American automotive industry from Packard to Pierce-Arrow. By 1934  Lincoln and other U.S. automakers were all featuring skirted fenders. Of course by ’34 Earl had already redesigned the skirted fender introducing the pontoon fender look, which made the fender an even more prominent styling element. Variations of this design would carry GM through the 1930s with the most significant changes coming in 1939 from the drafting table of Earl’s protégé Bill Mitchell. As the decade came to a close, the influence of Harley Earl’s 1938 “Y Job” concept car was spreading throughout GM and the American automotive industry. The “Y-Job” was not so much a look at the distant future of automotive styling but a glimpse about three years ahead. The hoodline, integrated fender lines and general contours would begin appearing on GM models beginning in the WWII abbreviated 1942 model year and being reprised in 1946.

Harley Earl and 1938 Y Job

In 1938 Harley Earl and his designers rewrote the book on fenders, hoods and a host of other automotive features with the experimental “Y-Job” concept. Many of the styling features of this car would appear on GM and other American makes by the time the U.S. was drawn into WWII. The long term influence of the “Y-Job” lasted into the early postwar Forties.

While Earl’s “Y-Job” was changing the shape of fenders in America by the end of the 1930s, in France, fenders were changing the entire shape of cars! From the armistice in November of 1918 to the onset of World War II in 1939, the styling and construction techniques employed by French coachbuilders were among the most advanced in the world. Their flamboyant, avant-garde, almost larger-than-life designs were the envy of every automaker. As famous as their clienteles, Jacques Saoutchik, Joseph Figoni, Henri Chapron, Letourneur et Marchand, Jean-Henri Labourdette, and the Franay Brothers, all at various times, and on a variety of both European and American chassis, fashioned some of the most magnificent body designs of the entire 20th century. By the early 1930s the society of ateliers on the outskirts of Paris were a hotbed of activity with France’s leading carrosserie catering almost exclusively to national marques such as Talbot-Lago, Delage, Delahaye, and Bugatti. The most influential stylists of the era, at least as far as fender lines are concerned, were Jacques Saoutchik and Joseph Figoni. Their work on Talbot-Lago, Delahaye and Delage chassis completely redefined the shape of automobiles built in France during the late 1930s. Figoni’s work on late ’30s Talbot-Lagos and Delahayes stands out as some of the most innovative if not outlandish of the entire 20th century. One would have to search high and low to find more intriguing designs than the Talbot-Lago T150 SS “Lago Special” models or the 1939 Delahaye Type 165 V12 Cabriolets.

Talbot-Lago T150 SS

In France, where automotive styling was as fashionable as the latest Paris couture, Joseph Figoni had made the fender into a styling element as bold and provocative as every other part of a car’s coachwork. The sweeping tear drop look of the later 1930s was perhaps the last and loudest statement in fender lines.

With the Talbot-Lago T150 SS Figoni perfected his aerodynamic design theory with a streamlined body composed almost entirely of curves, the car’s teardrop shape dictating even the contour of the doors, which were oval. The entire body of the T150 SS was a study in prewar aerodynamics. Figoni had first experimented with this design in 1932, although on a much larger scale, for a Rolls-Royce Phantom II Pillarless sedan. For 1939 Delahaye management decided that the company needed to do something spectacular, and that something was a V12 engine on a Type 165 chassis fitted with a one-off body by Figoni. Given the proportions of the massive Cabriolet, the 165 appeared larger than life, literally and figuratively. Only one example was completed, and a second non-running display car shown at the Paris Salon. (That car is now fitted with an engine and is fully road worthy). Bodied as a two-seater, which was the competition formula (most Delahayes were designed to seat four or five), the Figoni Cabriolet was one of the French designer’s more seductive aerodynamic motifs. As with nearly all Delahayes designed by Figoni, the bodywork characterized the image of captured motion – just a trace of windshield frame, which could be cranked down completely into the cowl if one desired, chromed sweeplines slashing through the hood and doors, and bold, elliptical fenders that gave the body a sense of fluidity, as though being stretched rearward by the force of its speed. The Figoni Delahaye left most everyone at the 1939 Paris Salon speechless. It is much the same today whenever the cars appear in public. When you consider just how much changed in automotive design between 1900 and 1939, and the significant a role that fenders played in bringing about those changes, you may never look at a fender in quite the same way.

Daimler Phoenix c.1899

Putting the engine in front, the Daimler Phoenix c.1899, had fenders over the rear wheels.

1902 Mercedes

By 1902 the mighty Mercedes was the most powerful motorcar in the world, and even sporty two-seaters came with ample fenders.

1912-1915 Stutz Bearcat

In America cars like the Stutz Bearcat and Mercer Raceabout c.1912-1915, made fenders stylish but they were still little more than appendages meant to keep as much of the mud and muck from American roads (most of which were still dirt) out of the passenger compartment.

1915 Packard 5-48

Fenders were still just a function of design rather than a design element even at Packard. This mighty 1915 Model 5-48 sports nice, flowing fenders but nothing that stands out. Packard parked a pair of spares at the rear.

Fender styling and side-mounts took on a familiar look in the early 1930s whether on a Cadillac, a Packard, or as pictured, a Chrysler CG Imperial, Duesenberg Weymann LaGrande Torpedo Phaeton, or Model J Derham Tourster.

1931 Chrysler CG Imperial 8 Roadster

1931 Chrysler CG Imperial 8 Roadster

Model J Duuesenbeg  Weymann LaGrande Torpedo Phaeton

Model J Duuesenbeg Weymann LaGrande Torpedo Phaeton

Model J Duesenberg Derham Tourster

Model J Duesenberg Derham Tourster

1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K

Mercedes-Benz, where the whole thing had started, fender styling was evolving in many different ways at the company’s design center and coachworks in Sindelfingen. The ultimate statement in fenders (outside of the aerodynamic Autobahn Kurier models) was the sporty and elegant 540K epitomized by the limited production Special Roadster.

by Dennis Adler
© Car Collector magazine, LLC.
Originally appeared in the April 2009 issue

1958 BMW 507 Roadster

Posted by on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 in Articles, Vehicle Spotlight

The BMW 507 sports car was another brainchild of importer Max Hoffman, who knew the roadster would be a good fit between the little British sports cars of the day and the expensive Mercedes 300 SL. Based on the 502 sedan chassis and mechanicals, and designed by none other than Albrecht Goertz, power came from a 3.2-liter aluminum alloy V-8 producing 155 HP. With a four-speed manual gearbox, top speed was 120 MPH. Despite big plans, only 252 examples of the expensive roadster were produced, making these cars highly desirable today.

This model, displayed with Rudge wheels and a removable factory hardtop was delivered to its first owner in New Jersey, and carefully driven until 2001. Now in the custody of its third owner, it has only benefitted from a full repaint, with the engine, convertible top, and full interior all completely factory original.

Stan Hywet Concours Event Recap

Posted by on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 in Articles, Event Recap

The Concours d’ Elegance at Stan Hywet Hall took place September 19-21, 2014.

We sure enjoyed our time at this new event near Akron, Ohio.  It’s a lovely venue for a Concours, and Davis Schultz and his staff organized a well-laid out field and an elegant display of fine vehicles.  Heacock Classic sponsored morning coffee and donuts for everyone, as well as a private luncheon for the entrants.

Linda Conrad and her staff of the Stan Hywet Hall were great, and the grounds were in full bloom, and the weather cooperated for the entire afternoon, making for a great day for all the entrants.

SH 2

A few of the highlights for us included an impeccable group of Pierce Arrows, with 2 full classes of worthy entrants.

Classic cars lined up in a row


Front headlight and hood ornament

The CCCA Full Classics were well represented with 4 judged categories, and an exceptional group of Duesenbergs that included the eventual Best In Show Car, the 1931 Model J Tourster by Derham owned by Joseph and Margie Cassini from New Jersey.

Grand Classic Automobile

Thanks are due to all of the collectors who brought their cars, as well as the artists, sponsors, and benefactors who contributed to this inaugural event.  Looks to us like they’ve earned their slot on a crowded Concours calendar.

Classic Chryslers with wood doors

Visit or for full details.

Gather together a group of car enthusiasts and ask them to pick their favorites and you’ll be in for a spirited debate. Any topic this subjective will raise passions, as each argues for and against the merits of one car against the other. In the end, everybody’s right and everybody’s wrong.

So when we decided to pick what we considered to be the most significant pony cars built from 1967 – 1970, we knew we’d be walking into a buzz saw of controversy. Readers would bombard us with letters questioning everything from our reasoning to our ancestry. That’s fine; we always appreciate reader input. But before you begin emailing your opinions, consider our criteria and reasoning, and we think you’ll agree that our choices certainly stand on their individual merits.

We chose to narrow the field to 1967 – 1970 for several reasons. While the Mustang was introduced in 1964 ½, there was no competition for Ford’s first pony car. Plymouth had released the Barracuda two weeks before Ford on April 1, 1964, however, it was a Valiant with a fastback, not truly in the Mustang’s pony car genre.

The second reason is, by 1967, all the major players had entered the pony car field with the exception of American Motors, who would come to market with the Javelin and AMX in 1968. The pony car market was maturing and each manufacturer had built their cars on the long hood/short deck template that Ford had first stamped out in 1964½.

Further evolution of the collective breed could be found in peripheral influences that helped accelerate pony car sales. For the first time, large displacement engines were offered in pony cars, allowing them to enter and compete in the super hot muscle car market. The up and coming Sports Car Club of America’s Trans-Am series was just the ticket for Ford and Chevrolet to wrestle for dominance. By 1970 every pony car manufacturer had smacked fenders in the Trans-Am, which had in three short years passed Formula 1 in popularity in America. Race on Sunday and sell on Monday never had more meaning than it did for pony cars in 1970.

As you read about each of our candidates, we think you’ll agree that the choices we’ve made make sense. Within the context of their time, these seven cars helped shape the destiny of the American pony car.

1967 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

1967 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 Exteior

1967 Camaro Z28 – Owner: Rick Treworgy of Punta Gorda, FL

When Chevrolet introduced the Camaro on September 29, 1966, Ford’s monopoly on the pony car market was over. The Camaro measured almost inch for inch to the Mustang, and matched its option list line for line. Its fluid shape highly contrasted to the Mustang’s more chiseled looks.

On December 29, 1966, Chevrolet released the Z28 option to homologate the Camaro for Trans-Am racing. To meet the series’ 305 cubic inch engine limit, Chevrolet combined the bore of their 327 cubic inch block with the stroke of the 283 cubic inch engine’s crank, producing 302 cubic inches. Ridiculously under-rated at 290 horsepower, the Z28’s solid lifter, short stroke engine came alive at 3500rpm and easily zipped right up to 7000rpm.

The Z28 was literally a racecar for the street. Along with the 302 engine, the Z28 came standard with dual, low restriction exhaust, special heavy duty suspension, heavy duty radiator with temperature controlled fan, quick ratio steering, 15×6 wheels on 7.35×15 nylon red stripe tires, 3.73:1 rear gearing and black paint stripes on the hood and decklid. 

The Z28 required a host of mandatory options like four-speed gearbox, power brakes (with or without front discs). There were actually four different versions of the Z28 option. The base option as described above cost $358.10. Three others came from the factory with equipment packed in the trunk for dealer or customer installation. A Z28 option with a special air cleaner that ducted to the cowl cost $437.10, with exhaust headers, the price was $779.80, and with plenum air intake and headers, the cost was $858.40.

Chevrolet produced just 602 1967 Z28s, and that was mainly because the dealer body wasn’t even aware of the option. Regardless, the ’67 Z28 established new standards for American performance sedans and laid the groundwork for a new generation of small block, high-performance engines from Ford and Chrysler. Whether on the street or the road course, the Z28 became an instant legend.

1967 Ford Mustang GT

1967 Ford Mustang GT Exterior

1967 Mustang GT – Owner: Rob Timken of Clearwater, FL

By 1967, the car that started the pony car phenomenon just three years earlier was growing long in the tooth. “It would seem,” Car & Driver noted, “that Ford has been content to rest on its laurels, while the rest of the industry has gone all out to win a piece of the Mustang market.”

Ford gave the Mustang its first facelift in 1967 in anticipation of Chevrolet’s new Camaro. More important than the cosmetic redo, however, were the engineering changes made under the hood. Ford knew their arch-rival would be coming out of the chute with a large displacement engine option (Chevy didn’t get the 396 V8 out until November), so to remain competitive, Ford widened the front suspension’s girth to allow their 390 cubic inch FE series engine to fit. Getting a big displacement engine into the Mustang was an absolute marketing necessity. Using the “dumb four door” 390 was an absolute disappointment to Blue Oval fans who had hoped to give the Camaro newcomer a solid shellacking on the street. Still, a total of 28,800 Mustangs were sold equipped with the 390 engine in 1967.

1967 Ford Mustang GT 390 Engine

Ford – 390 cu in (6.4 L) Big Block FE V8 4-barrel

Given that the 390 was rated at only 320 horsepower (the base 396 engine had 325 – with options up to 375 horsepower), the Mustang was at a disadvantage. The 390 produced gobs of torque (427 lbs.-ft. @ 3200rpm) great for towing Air Streams but not for sucking the doors off Chevys. What was significant about the 390 Mustang (which looked street-snazzy in GT form), was that it laid the groundwork for a powerful generation of Mustangs that would arrive it 1968, led by the 428 Cobra Jet. After watching a stock 1968 428 CJ Mustang click off the quarter-mile in 13.56 seconds at 106.6 mph (fully two seconds faster than the 390), Hot Rod would be moved to exclaim, “It is probably the fastest regular production sedan ever built.”

From there, Ford would build a line of muscular Mustangs from 428 Mach 1s to Boss 429s that would take on the big block Chevys, 455 Trans Ams and the dreaded Plymouth Hemis. These powerful ponies would acquit themselves well in battle, both on the street and the track. That would be several years after Ford’s “Total Performance” program first mated the Mustang with the 390 back in 1967.

1969 Pontiac Trans Am

1969 Pontiac Trans Am Exterior

1969 Trans Am – Owner: Jeff Reiland of Burnsville, MN

From the time he was Chief Engineer until he was appointed Pontiac’s General Manager in 1965, John Z. DeLorean wanted to build a two-seat sports car. Not to compete against the up-scale Corvette, but to take on the Mustang. Time and again he took his proposals and clays to GM management, and time and again he was shot down. So when he learned in 1966 that he would be getting a version of GM’s Mustang fighter six months after Chevrolet would release their version, he wasn’t completely gung ho on the assignment.

1969 Pontiac Trans Am 400 cu in Engine

Pontiac – 400 cu in (6.6 L) Ram Air V8

That extra six months allowed Pontiac to improve the GM F-car. While the fundamental sheet metal was the same, the Firebird shared little else with the Camaro. Pontiac was able to refine the brakes and suspension and with its 215-horsepower overhead cam six engine, the Firebird was as close to a European sports sedan as Detroit could make. Along with two OHC sixes, Pontiac offered two 326 cubic inch V8s and a 400 that produced 325 horsepower.

The prize each pony car manufacturer eyed was the Trans-Am series, and Pontiac was ready to enter the fray against Chevy and Ford. What handcuffed Pontiac was its lack of a small displacement engine. While they could have destroked their 350 cubic inch V8, it couldn’t produce the kind of power needed for racing. An 18-month crash program to build a 303 cubic inch engine with special round port heads resulted in frustration, and Pontiac ended up never being a contender in the Trans-Am race series. 

That didn’t mean they couldn’t cash in on the SCCA’s name. Pontiac developed an option for the 1969 Firebird that used the series’ name and agreed to pay the SCCA a $5 per car royalty for every Trans Am sold. A total of 697 Trans Ams were built that first year, either with the standard 400 cubic inch Ram Air III or the optional Ram Air IV. What made the 1969 Trans Am significant to pony car history wasn’t its first year of production, but how the nameplate successfully lasted for an additional 33 years, especially through the tough mid- to late 1970s. Pontiac sold hundreds of thousands of Trans Ams and, until the end of 1982 it was the Corvette’s only competitor. It may have never raced, but thanks to that $5 spiff, the Pontiac Trans Am made a ton of money for the Sports Car Club of America.

1970 AAR Plymouth ’Cuda

1970 AAR Plymouth Cuda Exterior

1970 AAR Plymouth ’Cuda – Owner: Scott Waddell of St. Petersburg, FL

Even if Plymouth hadn’t chosen to go racing in the Trans Am series, the AAR ’Cuda would still have been one of the most memorable muscle/pony cars of 1970. Inspired by the All American Racing team of Dan Gurney, the AAR ’Cuda was a preponderance of strobe stripes, matte black hood, side pipes and a 340 engine that boasted a trio of Holley two barrel carburetors parked on an Edelbrock intake manifold, right from the factory.

1970 AAR Plymouth Cuda 340 cu in Engine

Plymouth – 340 cu in (5.6 L) LA V8

Rated at 290 horsepower, the AAR ’Cuda’s 340 engine used the same block and heads as the race engine, however it was much calmer than the race version, which produced over 460 horsepower. Road tests of the day indicate the AAR ’Cuda was an excellent road car. The usually unrepentant three-deuce carburetor setup was smooth throughout the rpm range. That was unusual since multiple carburetion was usually either lethargic under low acceleration or neck snapping when the wood was put to it with no in between. 

The Barracuda’s redesign in 1970 made it wider, lower and longer, and finally in a class with the Camaro, Firebird, and Mustang. While Dan Gurney and Swede Savage didn’t fare well in racing, the AAR ’Cuda didn’t do badly in the showroom selling 2,727 copies (the SCCA homologation rule was 2,500). When Plymouth chose to drop out of the Trans-Am in 1971, the AAR ’Cuda was withdrawn.

Today, the AAR ’Cuda is more a testament of how Detroit could dress up a performance car with what many young drivers were doing on the street. Blacked out hoods, side exhausts and multiple carburetion were popular at Drive-In parking lots where high schoolers congregated with their cars on Saturday nights. Not many 18 year olds actually could buy an AAR ’Cuda, but it was a sure bet they had posters hanging on their bedroom walls. Did that translate into more Barracuda sales? Probably not, but it was all about the image, baby, and Plymouth had that in spades.

1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator

1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator Exterior

1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator – Owner: Gregory Fritz of Ramsey, MN

When Ford chose to give a pony car to the Lincoln/Mercury division, it was a foregone conclusion that it would be accorded a posh interior, soft ride, and luxury looks. The resulting 1967 Cougar was all that and more. It featured disappearing headlamps, a 200-horsepower 289 cubic inch engine and sequential lighting rear tail lamps. The XR-7 option included a 390 cubic inch engine, four speed transmission and upgraded interior.

Even Lincoln/Mercury couldn’t resist the temptation to jump into the muscle/pony car market in 1969, even though the Cougar had no performance heritage to speak off. In what has to be one of the most stilted 1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator Detailadvertising phrases of the ’60s, Mercury launched their “Streep Scene.” Streep being a combination of strip and street, see? To ballyhoo their drag racing efforts, Mercury commissioned “Dyno” Don Nicholson to campaign a tube-framed Cougar funny car named “Eliminator.”

That lead to a high performance street version that for 1970 featured a standard 300-horsepower, 351 cubic inch engine, rear deck wing, matte black hood scoop with an optional bold black strip running from the grille to the scoop, and black body stripes that extended along the upper belt line. Also optional was the 335-horsepower, 428 Cobra Jet with Ram Air as well as the “Drag Pack,” which featured an engine oil cooler and 4.30:1 Detroit Locker differential. Even the Boss 302 engine was on the order sheet.

While Mercury didn’t fail to install the necessary hardware to make the Eliminator run like a performance pony car and look like a performance pony car, what they couldn’t do was bolt an image onto the Cougar. It was virtually impossible to sell the youth market on the premise that their father’s Mercury was hotter than a Mustang, Camaro or Firebird. That was the kiss of death, and after 2,267 were sold in 1970, the Eliminator and the “Streep Scene” were swept away. It was a textbook lesson in how Mercury failed to understand it took more than a flashy name to establish credibility with a young, but very critical market.

1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger

1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger Exterior

1970 Hemi Challenger – Owner: Cheryl Leopold of Clearwater, FL

After watching from the sidelines since 1965, Dodge was finally in the pony car fracas with their new 1970 Challenger. They had chosen to take a pass on Chrysler’s offer for a Barracuda version in 1966, instead introducing the mid-sized Charger. And while the Charger hit its stride beginning with the beautifully redesigned 1968 model, Dodge still chomped at the bit for a pony car. The Challenger may have been the last pony car nameplate in the marketplace, and it couldn’t match the Camaro or Mustang in sales volume, but it still managed to outsell its Barracuda sibling by almost 50 percent.

1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger 426 cu in Engine

Dodge – 426 cu in (6.98 L) Hemi V8

The Challenger was actually larger than the Barracuda, with a two-inch longer wheelbase, and shared little with its Plymouth cousin. The Challenger had a complete line of nine available engines, from the indestructible Slant Six all the way up to the King Kong of all street engines, the 426 cubic inch Hemi. Named for the design of its hemispherical combustion chamber, the Hemi was fundamentally a race engine detuned for the street. With dual four-barrel carburetors, solid lifter valve train and 425 horsepower on tap, the Hemi was finicky to run on the street. But when in full song, the Hemi could propel the Challenger down the quarter-mile in mid 13 second elapsed times. Not bad for a 3,800 pound pony car.

Inside, the Challenger’s interior was driver oriented, with three large, round pods that, when ordered, contained optional gauges including tachometer. The transmission of choice for Dodge fans was the bullet proof 727 TorqueFlite three-speed automatic, which had earned its bones with performance fans in the early days of Super Stock racing. Those who chose to shift for themselves had to handle the awkward “Pistol Grip” shifter and lumbering A-833 manual four-speed. Most chose the TorqueFlite.

While the 440 cubic inch Six-Pack V8 with its 390 horsepower could beat the Hemi like a drum, on the street, there was no other engine with the image or the heritage. From super speedway NASCAR racing to wheel-standing NHRA competition, the Hemi was the undisputed heavyweight champ. Just 356 customers chose to throw down the extra $648 for a Hemi in the R/T model ($779 in any other Challenger). It was worth every penny just to drive a legend in its own time.

1970 AMC AMX

1970 AMX Exterior

1970 AMC AMX – Owner: David Matthews of Indialantic, FL

All through the 1960s and early 1970s, American Motors Corporation had to fight for a very small slice of the American automotive market. “If you had to compete with GM, Ford, and Chrysler,” AMC once asked in an advertisement, “what would you do?” To capture their small share, AMC had to develop alternative choices for the consumer. When AMC discovered performance and pony cars in 1968, they shed their old staid image. Car & Driver thought “American Motors had stopped holding its pants up with both belt and suspenders.”

1970 AMC AMX 360 cu in Engine

AMC – 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8 4-barrel

When the Javelin was released on September 26, 1967, AMC had done their homework well and built a car that met all the standard pony car criteria – long hood/short deck, 2+2 cockpit and plenty of options. In its first year, the Javelin won the praises of road testers and outsold the Barracuda. It was a credible entry into the market, however, AMC had a trump card.

That ace in the hole was called the AMX, and it was the alternative card that AMC played not against the Mustang or the Camaro, but the Corvette. Was it a sports car or was it a two-seat sporty car? Or was it a long hood/short deck pony car that was honest enough to admit what all the others wouldn’t, and that was the idea of a real rear seat in a pony car was a wicked canard?

The AMX cost two grand less than the Corvette, and by 1970 had built a solid reputation with a small cadre of performance enthusiasts. In its final iteration, the 1970 AMX was the best of the run, with a 360 cubic inch engine standard (the 390 was optional), functional Ram Air, redesigned front 1970 AMC AMX Detailsuspension and vented front brakes. The front end was face lifted and extended two inches. Inside, the cockpit was redone, with a flat, wood-grained instrument panel reminiscent of an English sports car. Large nacelles placed the instruments clearly in front of the driver, and a rim blow steering wheel and high-back bucket seats were standard. AMC minted 4,116 AMXs in 1970 and then bowed out of the two-seater market.

As an alternative to the Corvette, the AMX did what it was intended to do, and did it briskly. In their December 1969 issue, Motor Trend put a 390 AMX to the test and netted 0-60 acceleration in 6.56 seconds and recorded a quarter-mile in 14.68/92 mph. Those times placed it clearly in Corvette territory, or was it Camaro territory? Or better yet, AMX territory.

Text and Photography by Paul Zazarine
© Car Collector magazine, LLC.
Originally appeared in the August 2007 issue

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