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Build Your Own 50s-60s Dream Car

Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,596
edited March 2014 in Buick

1. You can pick any 1950-69 vehicle, car or truck up to 3/4 ton, no busses, tanks, etc.

2. It can be foreign or domestic.

3. You can match any engine to any car, even if it is ridiculous or expensive, BUT IT MUST BE A 50s or 60S POWERPLANT. No modern hot rods in other words. Also all the components you add must be 50s or 60s.

4. You MUST, however, explain to use why you built the Dream Car you built...I mean, other than "because I wanted to". We'd like to know your rational, goal, strategy, prejudices, etc.

5. You can modify the bodies within reason, such as cutting a coupe that was never a convertible, but not welding two cars together, etc. etc, like Monster Garage.

6. Basically, think of the game this way---you are building the car that no manufacturer had the genius to build for you.

Remember, 50s or 60s components throughout, no Monster Garage stuff, jet engines, etc. This is to be a roadable everyday driver.
Cost is no object. You can have all the Mopar Hemi or Ferrari engines you want.


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  • argentargent Posts: 176
    I like classy two-door coupes with decent ride and handling. So:

    A 1965 Buick Riviera Gran Sport with all the interior trimmings. Add the "ride and handling" package (HD shocks and springs, fast-ratio steering), a rear anti-roll bar (dunno if one off an Olds 442 would fit, but there were lots of aftermarket parts that probably would). Adapt the four-wheel disc brakes from a Corvette Sting Ray with a set of Hurst's short-lived but quite nice alloy wheels. Replace the old nailhead engine with a '69 Buick 400 Stage One out of a GS400, and maybe add a Hurst dual-gate shifter. Not exactly a dragstrip scorcher, but an attractive and flexible 'gentleman's express' that would not be embarrassed to show its face in polite society.
  • bhill2bhill2 Posts: 1,784
    The GTO, at least through '67, was just a Lemans of the same body style with enhancements. Pontiac, for obvious(?) reasons, never offered that treatment on the 4-door hardtop. That's what I would do. Take the chassis, with suspension, brakes, and drivetrain, of a GTO and screw on (in) the body and interior of the 4-door hardtop. No GTO badges. I don't know why that would delight me, but it would. Call me weird. You won't be the first.

    2009 BMW 335i, 2003 Corvette cnv, 2001 Jaguar XK cnv, 1985 MB 380SE (the best of the lot)

  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 18,660
    remember the Ranchero pickup on the little Falcon? How about a full Shelby treatment:

    Start with a '66 Falcon Ranchero, add K-Code 289 V8 (305hp in GT-350 trim), add Mustang disc brakes, oil cooler, GT-350 gears and rear end, springs and shocks. Some halogen headlights, grille center fogs and a Shelby Blue paint job with white LeMans striping, Halibrand Cobra style mags.

    If that's not fast enough there's always the Paxton supercharger set up from the GT-350S.

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • argentargent Posts: 176
    A Dodge Fire Arrow III convertible (Virgil Exner-styled roadster built by Ghia on a 1954 Dodge convertible chassis, the basis for the limited-production Dual-Ghia of 1956-1958), but on a more modern chassis -- perhaps a '67-'68 Plymouth Road Runner/GTX, which had similar dimensions -- with torsion-beam front suspension, heavy-duty springs and shocks, and disc brakes, at least in front. Rather than a Hemi, which seems obvious, I'd go with a 440 Super Commando 4-bbl and Torqueflite.

    image image image image

    Leather interior like this, full gauges, custom wheels -- although I think it demands the fat whitewalls.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,596
    Nice idea argent. Could we get rid of the bumper car strip around the beltline, though?

    These were all good ideas so far.

    Here's mine:

    A '55 Buick convertible, fitted with a medium powered, low compression Corvette engine from the mid-60s, coupled to a TH400 automatic, Camaro disc brakes from I don't know what yet, and GS suspension pieces wherever possible. Baloney whites, spinner hubs, fake stock radio that hides a CD stacker, later GM a/c unit, Corvette p/s steering box. I might also think of imaginative ways to decrease sprung and unsprung weight wherever possible., like inflatable spare tire, and if it saved enough weight, IRS with disk brakes in the rear (lotta work there).

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  • argentargent Posts: 176
    Well, I'd probably go with chrome side trim rather than the white painted strip, but I like the idea of the trim strip. The Grand Prix/Riviera clean body sides look may be great in the showroom, but for actual driving in cities with parking lots, it sucks!
    Rear disc brakes were optional (albeit very, very rare) on Camaros in 1968 and 1969. IRS does not necessarily reduce total weight versus a live axle (on a modern Mustang Cobra, for example, the IRS is heavier than the live axle)...the key is to reduce _unsprung_ weight to improve ride and handling.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    Here's my choice: a '65 Volvo PV544 sedan, with these modifications- a high-output dual-carb (Weber) B18 from a '66 or '67 P1800, hooked to an M46 manual gearbox, Mercedes SL 4-wheel-disc brakes, and a rear end from an 1800. I think this would be the ultimate, sporting, indestructible old Volvo around. Everything else would remain stock.
  • argentargent Posts: 176
    Okay, both of my previous ideas have been relatively we need some "things that should not be...unless it's fun."

    So here's a perverse idea. A 1964 Checker Marathon sedan...

    Let's see, a blocky, sturdy, stodgy taxi cab (actually not at all huge by 60s standards -- a '64 sedan was 200 inches long on a 120-inch wheelbase, with a shipping weight of around 3650 pounds). A small voice screams "Hemi," but how about an Oldsmobile 455 ala Hurst/Olds, with a Turbo Hydramatic and Positraction? Perhaps with a W-30-type fresh-air intake fabricated for the purpose.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,040
    ...but I was always under the impression that they were H-U-G-E inside! I found some stats on the web though, that list interior volumes of cars in 1978, and the Checker only comes up as a midsize. Something like 100 cubic feet of interior volume, and 14 cubic feet of trunk space. In comparison, a downsized '78 Malibu sedan is 102/17, while a '78 Caprice/Impala sedan is around 110/21. Were they really not all that big inside?

    I like that idea though, taking something stodgy and conservative and turning it into a monster. Another car I always thought would be a good candidate for that would be a '67-69 Valiant 2-door sedan (or maybe a '67-68 Dart 2-door sedan). Something like this you wouldn't even need a big-block...a 340 would do just fine! Maybe upgrade it to the 4.5" bolt pattern, so that you could put some 15x7 copcar rims on it with the little dog-dish hubcaps.
  • My dream car is the Italia with "different" styling. The european styling plus,a slight update in the engine department, not the 202 jet motor with Twin "H", but the 192 hp 4.0 litre jeep tweeked with Clifford Performance parts and Borla disc's all the way around.. just a little improvement
  • argentargent Posts: 176
    American cars of the 50s and 60s were big in terms of overall size, not so hot on efficient use of space -- you got lots of monstrous cars with mammoth hoods, lots of overhang, but cramped rear legroom. Checkers were built on the minivan principle...their overall exterior dimensions weren't colossal, but being basically large boxes on wheels, they had much more available space.
    Making a Dart or Valiant into a monster is not all that tough. There were at least 50 '69 Darts built with Hemis, for example, although they weren't very driveable on the street. If you don't want to sweat, a 340 is the better bet--a 383 crowds the engine bay very badly (it took Chrysler engineers two years to work out a new power steering pump to allow p/s to be ordered on 383 Darts and Barracudas), and a 440 has wider heads that basically rule out power steering or brakes. The 340 also weighs 90 pounds or so less than the 383, and it doesn't have so much torque that traction becomes a major problem.
  • wq59bwq59b Posts: 61
    There was an updated-to-'56 styling Packard Panther Daytona hardtop concept with a 3-window close-coupled greenhouse & '56's thru-bumper exhaust & cathedral taillights. Slick- but I don't have a pic of the front end- a '56 400's front would be fine. I'd take that with a '64 Caddy 390/TH400 powertrain and a buckets/console interior, scratch-built to fit the period & marque.

    There was also an earlier prototype '53 Panther with another close-coupled roofline & an enormous rear deck. Let's go with a Chrysler Crossram 413 and a TF727 in that one.
    I like both these designs because the proportions are so different than anything else & I prefer long deck/short hood designs. They're both sleek & 'jukebox' at the same time.

    I also really like the '55 Packard Request because the front end is so wonderfully intimidating & beautiful. (I have no idea why I am gravitating towards Packards tonight). Perhaps I'd go with Pontiac power in that one- a nice '64 421 HO and a 4-speed, a Dana 60 rear and Buick aluminum drums. Or.... maybe drop the Request body on the chassis of a '58 Fury and keep the 305HP/350 & pushbutton TF727 Fury powertrain.

    The '63 Chrysler Turbine is a pretty clean design too, lots of 'thrust' in it's lines. I'd get a good-performing turbine plant in there, alter the front finned headlight bezels to free-wheel in motion, do the same for those giant back-up light bezels (electrically driven?). The wild contour of the rear deck is awesome- nothing like that has ever been done automotively since. But the car needs to be dropped evenly a good 2-3 inches and it also needs a good 2-3" chop & no vinyl top. The interior is fantastic as is. Bigger wheels/wider tires.

    On the other hand, I am building something that almost follows these rules to a T: '59 Buick Invicta coupe, '72 Buick 455, Stage 2 aluminum heads (aftermarket), '59 aluminum drums with Kevlar shoes, TH400, Dana 60, ladder bars, nosed, decked & shaved, period interior, dropped & raked.

    The only things I'd do other than what I am (budget restrictions) is go with a 4L80-E (TH400 with electronic OD), an underhood blower on mild boost and angle-chop the top (1" lower in the back & 2.5" lower in front). Bodywise I'd visually extend the rear deck by shortening the greenhouse. And scratch-build a 4-bucket/full-console interior in the vein of the '60 300-F.
    This one I like because it's the angriest car ever penned and I identify with that. A rip-snorting performance car should LOOK as mean as it's fast. The '59 Buick is graceful and well-integrated overall, yet the front looks like a stainless steel ramming device. That's good.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    An alternative to the minivan - a 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass Vista Cruiser (the model with the raised roof) with the engine and suspension from a 1965 4-4-2, along with disc brakes from a late 1960s Cutlass. Or, better yet, Corvette four-wheel disc brakes. The transmission would be a late 1960s Turbohydramatic.

    The interior would feature bucket seats from a late 1960s 4-4-2, while the exterior would boast the styled steel wheels that Oldsmobile offered in the late 1960s on the Cutlasses. Chrome would be kept to a minimum, with no hood scoops, stripes, etc., to clutter up the design. And, of course, no woodgrain along the sides.
  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    A simple to build one would be the following...a '69 Camaro SS/RS convertible with an L72 (since 454's are not allowed given the rules)/rock crusher/JL8 brakes/ZL2 hood/gauge package/power steering/ factory FM/ konis / bars / Minilite wheels... I used to own nearly this (except with L89 / 2 wheel disks) and wouldn't mind another. Pretty boring concept, really.

    Next...street legal Lola T70 with 302 Chevy.

    A non fender flared / non hood scooped / non side piped 427 Cobra except pitch the 427 and use a Boss 302 (a 1969 one, of course).

    Hmmm...maybe a 1955 Porsche Speedster, except built like a Baja Bug. Raised, 2 liter VW engine (maybe a type IV if I can if those were around in really late 1969), tall wheels and tires, cage, etc.

    How about a 1969 Ford (Mercury, whatever) Capri with a Cosworth V8...there was a road racer built with this setup back in the day.

    ...a 1969 Monteverdi 375 with Paxton-blown 426 hemi.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    The perfect stealth car - a white 1960 Rambler American two-door sedan, complete with dog dish hubcaps. Somehow, stuff a fuel-injected small-block Chevy V-8 in the engine bay, connect it to a four-speed Corvette transmission and use the suspension and brakes from a 1965 Corvette. The tires would be 1960s Michelin radials. Make sure the exhaust sounds like a stock Rambler (if that is possible). Then go a-huntin'.
  • argentargent Posts: 176
    I had a wonderful idea last night. It's awful, and it's clear I'm going straight to hell just for contemplating this.

    We all know that Pontiac's GTO shared its name with the famous Ferrari. I was thinking, "what else do 60's Ferraris and Pontiacs have in common?"

    So here's the recipe:

    - Take one 1963 Pontiac Tempest Custom sports coupe. (I prefer the exterior of the Custom to the LeMans, except perhaps the LeMans three-bar grille -- I think the LeMans horizontal taillights are dowdy.)
    - Remove slant-four engine and transmission. Install:

    3.3L DOHC V-12, driveshaft, and 5-speed transaxle from a mid-60s Ferrari 275 GTB/4. Yup, that's right, the Colombo V-12, all alloy, twin cams, six Weber 40DCN carburetors. It was claimed to have 300 hp, but from what I've read 260 or so was more likely -- no matter.

    I dunno what kind of nightmarish fabrication would be necessary to make this fit. The Colombo V-12 is actually about six inches shorter than the Pontiac engine, and somewhat lighter, but beyond that...well, since I'd be selling my soul to the devil to make this happen in the first place, why not?

    - Some judicious modifications to the suspension and brakes. I don't know how much could be done with the handling, especially the Tempest's miserably slow steering box. '63 Tempests I think had an improved trailing arm rear suspension (ala '63 Sting Ray or '65 Corvair), but they're still pretty hoppy. Best available radial tires, alloy wheels.
    - Custom interior with a full set of gauges replacing the awful Tempest dash, and some proper bucket seats.
    - A liberal helping of "GTO" badges for the exterior.
    Why would I do such a thing? Sheer perversity. This is a sick idea, but it makes me giggle just thinking about it, and the looks of horror on the faces of purists in both the Poncho and prancing-horse cults alone would almost be worth it.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,596
    Well Bill Harrah, the famous collector/entrepreneur in Nevada, actually did install that engine into a Jeep Wagoneer...yes, it was called a Jerrari I believe.

    The biggest problem I see with this "Tempari", aside from the expense (let's see...maybe $15K for a rebuildable 3.3 V-12 and another $30K to really do it up), would be how to keep a Pontiac Tempest on the ground at 170 mph.

    I'd expect you'd want to gear it down differentially and fiddly with the aero considerably.

    You might not win a 0-60 with a big block but you could kiss them goodbye at about 115 mph.

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  • bhill2bhill2 Posts: 1,784
    Hmmm, your idea of the Rambler American with a small block Chevy interests me, but you may be making life more difficult than necessary. The American ran strictly sixes, but its square and befinned not-much-larger sibling (I think that it was just called the Rambler) was available with a 250 ci V-8. This was not a small engine on the outside, so I bet a Chevy 327 or 350, or a Chrysler 340, should fit in with only fabricated engine mounts. The rest of the treatment would be as you described. This car looks so funky that I think it would be as good a sleeper as the American.

    2009 BMW 335i, 2003 Corvette cnv, 2001 Jaguar XK cnv, 1985 MB 380SE (the best of the lot)

  • rea98drea98d Posts: 982
    Well, my dream car has always been a '57 Thunderbird with a 4.0 Jaguar V-8, but since that's a '90's engine, I'll have to find something else to power it. I'm thinking F-code supercharged 318 V-8 that a very few Thunderbirds came with that year. Color would have to be turquoise, with white hard & soft tops and white leather interior. Chromed wire wheels, with wide whitewalls.
    Why? It's perhaps one of the most beautiful cars Ford ever made, and with the supercharged engine, it'll move, even if handling and braking aren't up to 2003 standards.
  • argentargent Posts: 176
    Given the "dream car" theme, if you weren't obsessed with authenticity, why not a '57 Thunderbird with a later 289/302 engine? For example, a 1968 Shelby GT-350 302 engine with the Paxton supercharger -- it had similar power, wasn't as highly tuned or rough as a 289 K-code (hydraulic lifters), and was at least 100 pounds lighter than the old Y-block. With less weight on the nose, and a switch back to the faster steering ratio of the '55 Thunderbird, the handling's a bit better. Dump the original transmission for a Select-Shift C6 Cruise-O-Matic, upgrade the brakes, and it seems a much more driveable package.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 18,660
    with Paxton blowers (factory option)?

    The biggest problem with that Temparri would be that cruddy rope of a driveshaft Pontic used. Maybe you could use the Ferrari one, I'm not savvy about adapting driveshafts.

    Fun topic Mr. S, even better than the Mink test.

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • argentargent Posts: 176
    Yes, as the previous poster said, there were about 200 or so "F-code" '57 T-birds with a $500 supercharger package. They were basically only for racing. I'm suggesting that the hydraulic-lifter 302, which is a lighter and generally better engine, would be better, if we're dreaming.
    I figure to make the unholy V-12 Tempest, the Ferrari driveshaft would be adapted -- since the engine on one end and transaxle on the other would be the Ferrari parts anyway. The driveshafts on the Tempest and the 275 had very different design philosophies. On the Tempest, the shaft was deliberately somewhat flexible (hence the "rope drive" nickname) to absorb the massive, unbalanced vertical shaking of the big four-cylinder engine. High revs were not a priority (maximum usable rpm was well under 5,000). On the Ferrari, after the earliest production models they adopted a rigid tube to enclose the driveshaft. Because the Ferrari engine was much higher revving (and, being a 12, didn't have the same secondary forces), what was a big problem was that if the driveshaft alignment wasn't precise, it could shake things loose in a very expensive and dangerous manner.

    The difference between an engine with an 8,000 rpm redline and a 4,600 rpm redline...
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,596
    I don't think a 60s Rambler American could take a big engine of that power. The frame would just twist massively. The American was an incredibly cheesy car as I recall, and I don't think any amount of strengthening would stabilize it.

    Basically you'd have to lift the body off and put it on some other structure, like with a funny car.

    Oh, yeah, 55-57 T-Birds would be excellent candidates for a powertrain transplant. Don't forget to insulate the passenger compartment against engine heat, which Ford did forget to do.

    MODERATOR --Need help with anything? Click on my name!

  • As the Rambler American {all amc's} were/are unitized bodies, often prone to the old recycles SALT. evens everything out.. The 57 AMC v-8 was a 327 cu in surprise. The block was thick enough to start at 250 cu in all the way to 401 cubes in the Matador.. Remember the L.A police cars? anyway the 327 would make a 57 283 gasp in disbelief-just the torque tube driveshafts wouldn't take a beating for too awful long...
  • 1st find a rust free Yugo {har har}
    then get a 3800 twin turbo out of a GMC cyclone P/U. Then reinforce the Yugo with about 500lbs of titanium boxed tubing, tub the rearend, and move the drivers seat to the back. Then find the biggest disc's you can hang on that baby along with a parachute on the back just in case... oh, ah, shoot I was just getting to the good stuff..golly this isn't a 50-60s..darn
  • argentargent Posts: 176
    AMC dropped the torque-tube rear suspension for 1967. The '67-on AMCs had four-link coil spring rear suspensions. They also got the new AMC V-8, which was considerably lighter and more efficient than the old 327. It started in '66 as a 290, and was eventually offered in 304, 343, 360, 390, and 401 form (all the same basic block). The '67-'68 models had an anemic valvetrain that got breathless above 4500 rpm, but the later Javelin and AMX layouts were better. I think the '67 AMCs were generally pretty handsome by late-sixties standards -- obviously derivative of popular Chevy and Ford style elements, but tasteful if not distinctive. The temptation to put a Hemi in a '67 Marlin is intriguing...
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    bhill2: You're right - the standard-size Ramblers (called Classic after 1960) would be a better candidate. They still look like an old maid's car, but can accept a V-8 under the hood.

    hudnut2: The Rambler American first offered a V-8 in 1966, when it became available with AMC's new thin-wall 290 V-8. AMC did offer the 343 V-8 in a few special-order 1967 Rambler Americans, but, as Mr. Shiftright noted, those engines were too much for the body. I don't think that was a problem with the 290 V-8.

    Of course, the American was never designed for a V-8. The car was originally only supposed to be available with the straight six. Post-1963 Americans are pretty good looking cars, especially the hardtops. The previous two generations - 1958-60 and 1961-63 - are pretty homely, but have a kind of goofy charm.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,596
    Remember the early 60s American with a FLATHEAD engine? That was a piece of had DECALS for the instrument panel labels, like you put on model airplanes.

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  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 18,660
    to Porsche: brakes, suspension, wheels, engine, transaxle, exhaust etc. Since early Porsches were VW based a lot of Porsche stuff is compatible and when you're done you have a nice Q-Ship.

    This was actually done back in the day, most famously by race driver P.L. Newman (Joanne Woodward's husband).

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • rea98drea98d Posts: 982
    I think I'd rather do that to a Karman Ghia convertable than a Beetle, but it's still a cool idea.
This discussion has been closed.