Certainly not in keeping with Buick’s traditional image, the ’70 BUICK STAGE I GS-455 – FIRST ADULT SUPERCAR catapulted the Flint automaker into the heat of the battle for Supercar supremacy. The Skylark GS-455, in 360 horsepower Stage I trim, was the industry’s first “adult” Supercar. It was a powerful, high-quality, well-balanced midsize coupe (or convertible) with superb ride and handling qualities. Yet it was almost invisible compared with competitive offerings like the SS Chevelle,...Read More
COPO CAMARO: HERITAGE & HORSEPOWER!
Before there was a COPO ZL1 Camaro and later an RPO ZL1 Corvette in 1969, Duntov’s aluminum Mark IV program had already generated engines for Can-Am racing. The third ZL1 Camaro built was yellow and ordered by Berger Chevrolet. COPO CAMARO: HERITAGE & HORSEPOWER! Although Duntov championed aluminum heads and lightweight engines for the Corvette, the first “production” use of the ZL1 was in the 1969 COPO (9560) Camaro, not the Corvette. Credit for the ZL1 Camaro goes to Vince Piggins, worki...Read More
PONTIAC FLASHBACK: TEMPEST MONTE CARLO!
Built on a shortened ’62 Pontiac Tempest convertible, the Monte Carlo was a hit at auto shows and major road racing events. It shared the spotlight with GM design chief, William Mitchell’s Corvair Sebring Spyder show car. One thing was a given at GM in the 1960s: Chevy’s Corvette was a sacred cow and no other division could bring a two-seat sports car to market. The only way Buick, Pontiac, Oldsmobile or Cadillac could reveal branded two-seat, high-performance sporty vehicles was to have Mitche...Read More
427 CAMARO: THE THOMAS /NICKEY AFFAIR!
Within months after Chevrolet’s September 1966 introduction of its all-new ’67 Camaro, Nickey and Nickey/Thomas SS427 Camaros were on the road. Bill Thomas Race Cars, Anaheim, CA built 427 Camaros for California customers, while Nickey Chevrolet, Chicago, IL covered the rest of the country. Built on a Bolero Red SS350 donor, I drove Bill Thomas’ first SS427 Camaro around Orange County in early 1967. It retained its original 350 emblems and 1966 Illinois dealer tags. My reason for visiting Bi...Read More
ONE OF NONE: PONTIAC RAM AIR V GTO!
Like Chevrolet’s ZL1 Corvette and Buick’s Stage II Gran Sport, Pontiac’s Tunnel Port Ram Air V is part myth, part magic, and has been the subject of urban legends for decades. According to Tom Nell, a Special Projects Engineer at Pontiac in 1971, “Pontiac’s Ram Air V or Mark V was the first Pontiac engine since the 1963 Super-Duty 421 to be developed around the concept of performance and durability, outside the realm of normal usage.” Many of the same high-performance engineers responsible f...Read More
ONE OF NONE: PONTIAC 455 VENTURA SPRINT!
What could have been the ultimate 1972 stealth Supercar, a GTO/Firebird 455-inch HO-powered Ventura Sprint, never really happened. They built just one production-ready prototype. It was an unassuming Pontiac Ventura II Sprint coupe motivated by a 455 engine. Little more than a grille and badge-engineered Chevy Nova, this screamer with an EPA certified engine would have flown under insurance companies’ radar. Pontiac built one and everyone loved it. But it was not to be! I drove it in June...Read More
’65 CHEVY Z16: ONE-YEAR WONDER!
One of the highlights of Chevy’s 1965 performance portfolio was the limited-production big-block 396/375 Malibu. Chevrolet had been slow to bring a high-performance midsize car to market in 1965. Toward the end of the 1965 model year, they revealed the potent Z16 Chevelle Malibu SS396, powered by an all-new Mark IV 396 big-block. While somewhat boxy, it was the most powerful car in the Supercar Sweepstakes. But there was a problem. Chevrolet General Manager Bunkie Knudsen’s foray into the marke...Read More
’66 PLYMOUTH STREET HEMI: BONNEVILLE TO SUBURBIA!
After setting the B/Production Flying Mile record of 156.35 mph at the Salt Flats, I daily-drove and drag raced the 426 Street Hemi in around New York City. Bob Summers’, left, pre-production ’66 Plymouth 426 Street Hemi registered a top speed of 160.82 mph and set a USAC-FIA two-way Flying Mile record of 156.35 mph. It also set the two-way Flying Kilometer record of 155.30 mph. The B/Production records had been “owned” for years by factory Pontiacs prepared and driven by Mickey Thompson. I had...Read More
’69½ DODGE: STING LIKE A SUPER BEE!
Dodge gets its Supercar act together with an aggressive midyear Super Bee with a venomous sting. Built off the midsize Coronet platform, the Super Bee was packaged for testosterone-infused enthusiasts. Like the streamlined Charger 500 and Charger Daytona, Detroit’s Creative Industries handled final assembly of Dodge’s in-your-face Super Bee. With its lift-off scooped fiberglass hood, tri-power 440 Wedge, beefy Dana 60 rear end, status graphics, taut suspension and “electric” colors, the Super ...Read More
MUSCLECARS 101: BACK IN THE DAY!
Musclecar was barely part of enthusiast vernacular when iconic GTOs, Hemis and Camaros and Mustangs were new and prowled the streets. Today, it’s the only word used to define those ground-pounding Supercars and Ponycars. When Pontiac built the GTO in 1964 they jump-started Detroit’s performance car revolution; the Supercar was born. That same year, Ford gave us the Mustang. It became the quintessential Ponycar. It was Supercars and Ponycars, period. Musclecar was the catchall descriptor used ...Read More