Not to brag, but I am a descendant of one of the little old ladies from Pasadena. Not the one from the Dodge advertisement, but a genuine citizen, born, bred and licensed in the great city of Pasadena, California. Maybe that is where I get my love of cars, and speed and racing. I can assure you all very quickly that my dad is responsible for my conservative side, which has left me with a perfect driving record and a host of friendly gestures from other drivers who really want to go twenty miles above the speed limit.
How could I turn down an invitation to write about muscle cars? They helped cement the idea of what boys should have in a car, and define how girls should base their love. Contra Costa Times presented this opinion from Steve Barlow, president of Specialty Sales, a classic and exotic car dealership in Pleasanton, California, who further defined muscle cars as cars with big engines (over 300 hp): “When you think of a muscle car, you think of a car that roars, burns rubber and is fast, powerful.”
Narrowing the choices down to five took some shuffling; if you see other cars mentioned it is because it was hard to leave them out. Have fun, and enjoy the show.
1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda Six Pack AAR
The 1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda Six Pack AAR, or All American Racer, hardtop produced 2,724 muscle cars. The following information used to be a pickup line, or a way of quantifying yourself through the car: it can do 0 to 60 in 5.8 seconds.
Girls would get all goo-goo eyed and say “Oooh”; the guys wanted to hear that these AAR ‘Cudas roared with a 290hp, 340ci “six pack” engine. The block engine, which matched to the “six pack” carburetor system, helped make performance similar to the ‘Cuda. Designed for a Trans-Am circuit, performance in the ¼ mile and slalom were quite acceptable. Of course, if you were the guy with the ‘Cuda Six Pack AAR hardtop, you would express it as “far out.”
1970 Dodge Challenger T/A
Dodge produced 2,142 of the 1970 Dodge Challenger TransAm so it could race in the Sports Car Club of America’s Trans American Sedan Championship, but pulled out of the Championship the following year. The TransAm was Dodge’s street version of its racecar, like the Plymouth ‘Cuda AAR. Using the 340 engine, a trio of two-barrel carburetors was added on top of the aluminum intake manifold, creating the 340 Six Pack. It was capable of 0 – 60 in 5.9 seconds.
Low-restriction dual exhausts exited in chrome tipped outlets in front of the rear wheels.
The customer had their choice of a TorqueFlite automatic or Hurst-shifted four-speed transmission, and manual or power steering. Front disc brakes were standard.
One prominent feature adding to the Challenger T/A’s popularity was the Rallye suspension. Using heavy-duty parts, increasing the camber of the rear springs, and using different size tires front and rear, the T/A appeared to be a stoked warrior ready to challenge. The style was challenging, but the race Challenger T/A lacked the flash expected. The street version had issues with under steering in fast corners. Its best feature was the ability to turn mid 14s in the quarter mile, an impressive feat for a small block muscle car.
Perhaps it was the turn of the decade that had automobile manufacturers considering styling changes. The 1970 AMX was released with a different grill, including parking lights, taillights, and a hood, which had a sporty-looking Ram-Air induction scoop. That forced cool air into the engine compartment. A new front suspension completed the major changes.
The 390ci/325hp engine was able to achieve 0 – 60 in 6.5 seconds. Sales at half of the previous year resulted in just slightly more than 4,000 cars being produced. Still, the hood remodel puts it in the top category for me, although the limited production puts it into a difficult category for restoration.
1969 Pontiac GTO Judge
“Gonna save all my money, and buy a GTO,” sang The Beach Boys, paying homage to the “PonPon” GTO. 1969 saw Pontiac produce theGTO Judge, resplendent with a V8 engine and bright primary colors, particularly orange. Power was enabled with the 366-bhp Ram Air III evolution of the GTO’s 400-cid V-8 engine. An underdash knob could close the hood scoops in wet weather. GTP Judge had a three-speed manual transmission with a Hurst T-handle shifter, the expected firm GTO suspension, and wide-tread Polyglas G70x14s tires.
Another $400. give or take a few dollars, purchased the Ram Air IV, with 370 bhp. The performance has questionable for most people, as idle always seemed to be begging for action. Capable of 0 – 60 in 6.2 seconds, the Judge was powerful with a skilled driver. Any regular GTO option was available for purchase, including hidden headlamps. (I can still remember our youngest pleading for a car with eyes that close.)
A total of 6,833 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge’s were built.
1969 Chevrolet (Chevy) Camaro Z28
Chevrolet evaluated the market in 1969, and successfully produced the rally striped Camaro Z28 muscle car. An incredible vehicle for road racing, it was equally comfortable as a street machine. The standard 302ci engine was conservatively rated at 290 hp; however, the 302-cid V-8 with its 850-cfm four-barrel carburetor was tested at close to 400 horsepower. Z28 wasn’t the fastest car, averaging 0 – 60 in 7.4 seconds, and a top speed of 120 mph, but it was the most desired car, with 20,302 produced.. Handling and steering put this muscle car into a class by itself.
Upgrades in 1969 included dual exhausts, special front and rear suspension, a heavy-duty radiator, quick ratio steering, and 15 x 7-inch Rally wheels. A four-speed manual transmission and power disc brakes were mandatory options with a Posi-Traction rear axle highly recommended. After all, the buyer was after the muscle car; muscle it out.
Fans and owners of muscle cars carry on the tradition through car shows, clubs, internet groups, and exhibitions. Beach Boys tunes continue to remind people of all ages about the significance of muscle cars, and their role in the rite of passage. Scope out a car show today, and treat your family to the grandeur of American history. Play “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” on the way.
Rebecca F. Johnson, Muscle Cars make the cut
Muscle Car Facts, 1970 Barracuda
Classic Muscle Cars, 1970- 1974 Dodge Challenger
Muscle Car Facts, 1970 AMX
Muscle Cars, How Stuff Works, 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge
Muscle Car Facts, 1969 Camaro
Muscle Cars, How Stuff Works, 1969 Chevy Camaro Z28