It's interesting to look from our perspective as the automobile graduated from simple transportation to lifestyle choice and recreation. The evolution of automotive technology is remarkable and the impact which the freedom of mobility given by cars has had on our society.
The area where I grew up, the Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) were economically depressed since, well, forever. There weren't that many of the high end models, regardless which manufacturer. I didn't see a Corvette in living colour until I was a teenager.
The few guys who could afford new cars didn't travel in my social circle. We built our own fun as we couldn't afford new factory rockets. I can remember the wailing sound of my buddy's old Dodge Coronet 383 2 door, burning off tires, looking for traction but never finding it. Another guy had a Mercury pickup which he stuffed a 390 into; great at the quarter mile we'd marked off down on the backroad but it didn't corner or brake worth a damn.
I remember too clearly the handling results of my air-shock "tail in the air with tall rear tires" driving stance experiment on my old Duster. After a couple white knuckled cornering attempts, I decided to let some of the pressure out of those air shocks. Eventually, I discovered that the adjustable torsion bar suspension could be your friend if you set it up (or rather, down) right but you need to have the alignment done or the tires go away quickly. I never did manage to get really good traction in my GMC Sprint (same body as an El Camino) but that 327 Vette engine (no idea what year) would squack the tires at both upshifts on the automatic. I had to launch slow or the wheel hop would bruise my kidneys. Sometimes, I wonder what ever happened to the cars I had. Most of them survived my abuse and were running despite my mechanical skills (or lack thereof) but I expect rust has taken it's toll.
The closest I ever got to a Cobra was the pictures in Car and Driver. Down south we just didn’t get exotic cars. Heck Corvettes were almost foreign cars in LA* When I bought a BSA motorcycle my Father would not let me keep it at home. I hid the thing in my Uncles barn for 2 years!! (*LA = Lower Alabama)
The Hemi´s were the guys to lookout for. I remember a 56 dodge pickup with a 426 hemi and automatic gearbox that went like $#!t off a shingle. He never ran it at the strip; he would drive to where nobody knew him and pick up a couple hundred bucks shutting down the ¨rich¨ boys.
Back then the full sized cars packed a punch, 7 liter LTD’s, GTO’s, 442’s, all the cars from Mopar. I am going to have to dig out the old Jan and Dean 45´s and listen to them just to remember all the names. But these guys were only the Dog and Suds cruisers. They were quick and loud and good competition for each other however when the serious iron rolled down the street these folks stayed in the parking lot. The serious stuff was always home built. A Dart-Falcon-Chevelle body with the chosen 400cid+ motor.
My first new car, (36 easy payments to 1st. National Bank), was a Shelby GT-350 with 4:11 gears. It ran low 12´s and thanks to that tiny little 289 I could get spotted a few links by anybody who did not know the car. I was the boss until Bubba Lawrence came home from boot camp in a Mickey Thompson Camaro. That animal with its 400+++ cid turned constant 10.5´s.
Luck was on my side, Bubba and I were ¨blood brothers¨ from the 1st grade. It is good to be with a friend when you are both standing beside the unfinished Interstate with empty billfolds watching the tail lights of a 56 Dodge pickup fade away.
Me too, brother....me too!
Originally Posted by SolidLifters
Ah Yes I Remember It Well .........(I Think)
Back in 1965, I was pumping gas at station before Rt. 80 was done on the major road in NJ. A guy used to come in with a Cobra who's father was a state senator and had sent him to college in Fla. He was always racing for money and it was not a strange thing for him to ask me to spot him a tank of gas because he had no money. He'd always come back before closing and pay me and usually give me $5 for helping him out. One night he came in and asked me to do him a favor, he was behind like three months or more on car payments and the repo gang was hot on his tracks and had already been to his house twice. He had the car sold the next Monday morning but needed to keep it hidden and out of that town for the next three days and wanted to take my 1956 Ford, Crown Victoria and have me stash the Cobra. I said "Can I drive it around?" and he said no problem, just stay out of that town and the surrounding others. Well, you know the rest, I drove the snot out of that thing, lost my job, which was coming any way, the owner of the station thought I was a senior in college, NOT high school, raced everything in sight for three days and nights. Was it fast you ask? Yes, did it beat the big block Gm's? NOPE, nice car, fast car, but not my idea of a 1/4 mile race car and that's what I'm all about, Ah Yes I Remember It Well..............
I agree comletely with Gary. I drag raced on the street and strip in the 60s. The fastest stock cars I saw and drove were SS/A Mopars. The streets were full of fast Chevrolets and Pontiacs. On the strip Mopar ruled the top stock classes. In other classes and on the street, Chevy did the honors.
Originally Posted by Red73BB
I STILL haven't seen a Cobra anywhere - not even at car shows. All the cars that look like Cobras are kit cars. If I want a kit car, I'll get a dune buggy.
I'm reading all of your posts and it brings back alot of memories. I spent my teen years in the sixtys in Ft. Lauderdale. What a great place to be , A1A on any weekend was a cruise fest of any kind of street rod you could imagine. Yea we had a couple of cobras around but never saw one race. They were like a good looking woman with there hair all done up, more show than go. Anyway it was all there and yes plenty of vettes. At the time I had a couple of rich budies with vettes but they were way out of my reach. I remember being on the strip down by the elbo room sometimes watching the old guys going by in there vettes thinking what a waste of a good car. Now I'm one of those old guys and I'm loving it. By the way at the drag stripe on amateur night the old mopars with those push button autos were hard to beat .In the mid sisties I had an austin healy 3000 and beleave it or not that thing in a red light to red light run was hard to beat,alot of low end torque in that straight 6. Then I got a 66 goat ,let the games begin, alot of fun and tickets there. I wouldn't trade those times for anything thanks to everyone for jogging the memories.
too bad i didnt live in the 60's. I have a 66 impala rag top but it only has a 283 =(
I will give you the prespective from New England. I grew up in LYNN, Mass., near the GE which made Jet Engines, as you can guess all the machinists who worked for GE had Muscle cars. First they raced on the LYNN MARSH ROAD, long straight road between Lynn and Revere, then everying by 1966 shifted to the "Carwash" located on the Lynnway and the Nahaunt Causeway at night. I was very much around during the hayday of the true muscle cars and loved every minuite of it, thus today I still am a motorhead wishing for those simpler days to return...ok ok I know I am a throughback.
Cobras were more of a track car until the Ford Shelby Cobras came out first with the GT350, then the GT500KR. There was a mafia dealer named Al Grillo in Lynn who had several on the lot (62 Cobras) and many many of the Mustang Cobras....in the early 70's Al Grillo lost his dealership and was found dead, ironically on the Lynn Marsh Road. Well if it was not for his dealership in the Boston area, I don't think we would have seen any of these cars. Al Grillo was the King of Fords in the mid 60s. Those Fords were more common to see then the small two seat Cobra of 1962, very rarely did you see those. The Ford Mustang GT with a 390 were great cars and you would see many of those, for some reason most were a cooperish color or dark green. Of coarse the Torino, with its Cobra Jet was present, but really not much of a threat in the 1/4 mile, they were considered to big and heavy.... In reality the Mercury was really not a big player in this area, sure it had the Cougar XR7, with a 390, but it really did not sell for the price they wanted in my area of the country.
Mopar and Chevrolet were most popular. In the begining it was all Plymouth Fury and a car call Chrysler 300 with hemi and dual quads...and the occasional Hemi...in the Plymouth Fury, but alot more Hemis were in the large New Yorkers and Imperials. Again the Fury was considered a Police Car, but still Dodge and Plymouth had a great run of Hemis, especially for track cars only, but very few on the street until the late 60s. Chevy had the 409 impala SS, and just started with Chevy II SS (283), then the Nova started up. The Covair Spyder was a quick car, although people who seemed to like British Sports cars seemed to like the Corvair. Then as the mid sixties approached, the 64 GTO start to catch on, but it was the 65-66 that really started to make things turn, around the same time Chevelle and Malibu started to run, and very quietly as if in the background the Buick GS400 was running and beating a lot of cars, but because it was a Buick was not popular. But Buick did make a big mark in 1970 with the GSX, again very expensive but VERY VERY fast, remember Buick had a special engine that produced an enormous amount of torque, those Buick Heads were straight up... Then Mopar or better known as the Dodge Boys (Y'all come back know...hear) started its big push, with all its Chrysler products, the Road Runners, Dart GTS (not common), Barracuda 340's, Dart Swingers (VERY popular) up to the top end Hemi Cornets and Chargers....Charger came out as a fastback with mild engine set up a 383....until it totally changed in 68. This time is when the Hemi made its mark on the street. However not to be ignored by the big three, ...RAMBLER now AMC, had the AMX with the GO PACK, which I thought was the most underated car of all, it was the only other car that could claim to be a sports car (two seats) other then the Corvette produced in American, AMC went on to produce the Rambler Scrabbler, which took the drag racing community by surprise,,,that thing screamed and nobody talks about it today. It was red white and blue...meanwhile GM continued to put larger engines in smaller cars as whell as big cars...by 1967 the Impala could be purchased with a 427 tripower engine pushing well over 390 HP, far superior then the heavy torques 409. The Corvette was the car considered to be the king and in many corners far superior to the Mustang Cobra or even the Hemi Cuda....Corvettes, Chevelles, Malibus, and Camaros were winning, along with there cousins the GTO, OLDS 442, Grand Prix 455, Impala 427, BUICK GS455, Buick Riveaira 430 with dual quards it screamed, and the Firebird. Then Mopar with its line including the Demon, Super Bee, Super Bird, Road Runner, Dodge Dart, Dodge Swinger, Cornet, GTX, Challenger T/A, Cuda, and the list continues.
Muscle cars were the family sedan or hardtop with a hudge engine, Pony cars were built specifically for sport, speed and daily driving (Mustang, Camaro and Firebird) and the Corvette remained in a class by itself, expect for the AMX...it was the only true AMERICAN Sports car (not counting the Avanti, Excaliber, or AMX)....
I personally owned a Buick GS400 1968 Stage I (yes a Stage I three were produced in 68), a 1969 Yenko Camaro SS 427, and a 62 Corvette fuel injected never got that on the road bad accident damage, but I sold it to buy the Buick. I did race at NE Dragway, and did see all the major race cars and drivers.
I do remember this, cars then had no air, no power steering, no fancy radio systems, no electric windows or power locks...everybody tried to get the stripped down version (less weight), with the biggest engine. Firestone Wide Oval Red Line tires were the shoes with Cheetha Slicks, many used shackles to raise the car forward, lifting the back, traction of hop bars were used, headers could be installed in an afternoon, aluminum manifolds were the choice if you had money, and almost everybody had an STP sticker that graced the rear window. Sunoco 260 gas was the rage (highest octane I think it was 111 for the street), racing stripes were used by some, but most stuck to factory stripes or paint. The 396 then 454 Chevy engine was the most popular while Mopar most popular was the 383 and the 440 Magnum Wedge. Very few Hemis roamed the street, but they were there, and the car most faired was the 427 Corvette or Camaro. Nobody new much about COPO's or other factory type race cars, most were interested in just buying a basic car and building it up in the backyard.
It seemed the insurance companies and pollution laws killed the muscle car in 1972, then it was dead in 1973. To me the last good year was 1970, and some of 71....after that it wend way down hill fast and has never been the same, its something your read about.
Well thats my take Kinda missed those days, but if you are really objective about it, isn't that what the people with the Hondas, Eclipes and Accura's are doing today...just what we did
Unless you lived it you will never never experience what we did from reading about it or hearing the stories.
My dad tells a story. He was driving home one night in his 64 1/2 mustang that he put a 289/271 with 2x4's and 4sp into. Driving home one night at a high rate of speed, headlights appeared in his rear view. He got on the mustang and gave it all it had for a couple of miles but was run down and passed by a cobra. The 64 1/2 had no torque and didn't run the light to light very well, so he traded it on a 67 GTA 390. In 68, he went chevy with a 68 corvette 327/350 which saw many iterations. My brother has it now and he tries to keep up with my Chevelle. I wish it was safe to do it on the street today.
Can't say about 60's but the 1970-80's performance drought meant those same fabled 61-72 muscle cars were still alive and kicking WELL into the 80's with one advantage. By 1980-85 your average 15-20 year old kid buying his first $300 dream project could actually afford those same fabled cars first time out. Lemme see; 68 Z28, 67 Camaro, 68 Chevelle conv, 69 Chevelle 396, 72 Chevelle 402 conv, 71 Z28, 72 GS conv, 69 442 conv, and my list goes on. Plus SB and BB parts cars were plentiful and cheap in the bone yards by then. If I had the foresight to hang onto those cars and buy 100 more at 80's prices...oh my lord ! My buddy was into Mopars and I remember looking at 6 different 69-71 Barracuda convertibles (all nice drivers, all < $2000) with him and him not buying any of them because they were all 318/340/360 motors & he wanted a 383/440. I'd buy all in split second today. Street racing those same cars was also our climax to our Saturday night cruise as well; 30-40 cars pull over on the shoulder of the hwy, everyone piles out onto the hood/fender...arm drops...Boss 429 & AMX 401 scream by, everyone back into their cars and tear out before the cops arrive 2 minutes later. God help you if your car didn't start and you were the poor sap left behind to answer questions/drop names to the police, much less have your girl with you while doing so (Don't ask how I know this). No doubt, the 60's were legendary times, we as teenagers in the 80's paid homage to this fact even then. But from a young adult's perspective, the 80's were the days for buying/building cheap, fast legandary muscle cars. BTW, there was only one Cobra around town in the 80's and we never once saw it on the road then either.
I was around in the sixties too. Don't ever remember seeing any Cobras on the street. I had an uncle who would take me to Englishtown (Drag strip in NJ) and I think Watkins Glen NY?? He had a 62 Vette, it was only a year or two old at the time. It was at the road racing events (Watkins Glen I think) that I really fell in love with the 63-64 Stingrays. I was quite young at the time maybe 8-9 but I remember Cobras, XKEs & Vettes. I remember a 63 Coupe passing a Cobra on a straight away- on the shoulder, as the traffic was heavy, dust and gravel flying everywhere, that did it for me and my smoldering interest in Vettes burst into flames. But honestly I remember the Cobras usually beating the Vettes in road racing events at this time.
In the early to mid 60's, a friend's DAD had a 289 COBRA that we used to cruise in. Great car. In the mid 60's, another guy from high-school, ordered a 427 COBRA(rich DADDY) for street use. After waiting several months the car arrived. He refused to accept the car because it didn't have a radio, and no side windows, only snap in curtains. He promptly went to the Chevy dealer and purchased a '67 435HP-427 Vette Roadster, 4-speed, Green/Tan, beautiful car. Needless to say , he was "THE MAN" with the local gear-heads.
Another friend from high-school, and his hot sister, were from a famile that owned an import car dealership. Coming back to school after the Christmas break in '65 they came into the parking lot in their opposite matching AVANTI'S. His was RED/White, R-3 supercharged, hers was WHITE/RED R-1 carburated . Both fully loaded They created quite a spectacle.
In '64 another high-school buddy whose Dad owned a salvage yard, was lucky enough to purchase a '63 SWC, FI, 4-speed, Silver/black, etc. We used to cruise the area on Saturday nights. He was never beeten in a street race when I was with him. The next year, while cruising, a lady bumped into us on the street, hitting the R/R corner. The bumper was pushed into the body.The fiberglass cracked over to the center of the car, and up the rear window split to the roof . Another crack went forward over the wheel opening to the door opening. He had the repairs done, couldn't afford the increased insurance rates and sold the car.
I could go on for hours as I grew-up in the era of factoty muscle cars. Most of my friends owned one brand or another, so I got to be around most of the best the factories had to offer.
Thanks for the opportunity to re-live some of those good times.
Well, a very interesting thread that does indeed bring back the "ol days" I too grew up with street racing in the 50's and 60's, uhhhh, and 70's.
In Monticello Indiana, home of Indiana Beach, there were always new guys coming to town for the resort, and that always led to drag racing out on highway 39. A straight, but hilly road for miles and miles. Like mentioned earlier, as soon as a couple of cars left the drive-in's, (Log Cabin or Spot) everyone would head out to watch the drags. This was in mid to late 50's and no police EVER came to bother anyone. Sometime there would be several rows of cars lined up one after another to drag. After the first two would get out aways, then the next two would take off, then the next two. Unsafe? You bet, but never any wrecks, oh well, except for a couple of brothers.
One was racing his 61 Chevy 348 convert against a 64 Chevy 348 Biscayne and after a couple of runs they were sitting in the road getting ready to race again when the second brother came over the hill in his 63 340hp Vette at high speed. He sideswiped his brothers car, but luckily no one was injured, but it sure was hard for them to explain it to their insurance company.
All that easy draggin came to a close when the State Cops started using Plymouths in 1960. They were dead fast on top end and not easy to outrun, especially when there were so many easy targets. The drag racing continued, but not as outragously open and blatant.
It's hard to say what the fastest car was, because on the street it was cheat, cheat off the line. The king of the Bunker Hill drag strip for awhile was a Dodge 426 pushbutton, but then a guy from Lafayette In. had a 63 Sebring Silver convert Vette with 4.56 gears that took over and held the King of Bunker Hill for a long time. I don't remember their times, but my cousins 63 Vette with 340hp and 4.56 gears and Atlas Bucron tires turned a 12.87, and they were faster than him.
My car at last drag race in Bowling Green KY turned 13.7 and 104mph and I had to shift at 4700rpm due to a bad miss. Not too bad for an old car, but nowhere as fast as my Son's ZR-1 or Z06, both of which turn in the low 12's. Darn I HATE that!!!
Back to the original question about how fast Cobras were compared to Vettes. There was an article in one of the ZR-1 newsletters that a guy from Calif. that wrote that he had two Corvettes that were never beaten by a Cobra on the drag strips, even the 427. His cars won A sport class in 63,64 and 65. His 63 FI car turned 12.22 at 115mph, and in 1965 his 65 turned 11.53 at 122.36. It was bored out to 332 cubic inches. I never tried to verify that, but that's very FASSST back in those days. Heck, thats fast these days.
Like others, I've gotta million stories. Thanks for reminding me of them.
And all the Jag could see.......http://www.hayco.ca/images/usa1.jpg
Somebody should capture these stories and do a book of the muscle cars from the owners perspective...getting these stories is like recording history.
No power steering, no air, no power brakes, AM radio, 8 track under the dash, wide oval red line tires, STP sticker in window, Sunoco 260 , posi rear, marlboro cigarettes are we all the same or what. The one and only original muscle car era -- The Sixites. My first ride was a 1966 red with black vinyl top GTO. It had a 389 and 3 two barrel carbs. I believe it had 335 hp, a two speed powerglide trans and a 4:33 posi rear. It smoked those 14 inch wide oval tires. Had good 1/8 mile times and was hard to beat at the light. Never did see any cobras , the BB vettes were also few and far between. Picked up my current ride ( 66 427-425 ) in 1974. Been through alot with it , kicked alot ass and will probably be buried in it. Anybody remember the Hi Karate cologne? Steve
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