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Build Your Own 50s-60s Dream Car



  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 18,578
    I've been a fan of the early Pontiac GPs ('62-'64)
    since I first saw them. There's something about those clean lines and those eight lug wheels that makes me forget they're basically just cleaned up, luxed-out Catalinas.

    IIRC the 421 was available as well as the 389 (including the Tri-Power).

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • argentargent Posts: 176
    Yeah, GPs were available with the 421, either in single 4-bbl form (353 hp) or Tri-Power (370 hp), and you could get a 4-speed box, but I imagine most of 'em were sold with the base 303-hp 389 and Hydra-Matic. There were allegedly three GPs produced with Super Duty 421s, although that wasn't a regular production option. Most people who were going for the street-racer probably bought the cheaper Catalina. Personal luxury buyers weren't that interested (almost no T-bird buyers went for the tri-power 390 option, for example).
  • argentargent Posts: 176
    On a different subject, here's another 'never was' dream car idea -- a '67 Cougar fastback.

    I kinda like the Cougar, and the idea of a Cougar grille (and those sequential taillights) and trim...

    ...with the '67 fastback Mustang roofline:

    Sounds nice. I like Ford's dark green color (ala Bullitt's Mustang), and the tan XR-7 interior. I'm not enamoured of any of the '67 engine choices for the Cougar, so I'd rather use a '69 351 engine -- even the 351 Windsor seems like a better tradeoff than either the 289/302 or the 390 engines.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,338
    Well you could plop the 351 Cleveland heads and a high rise on the 302 and have yourself a Boss Cougar! Oh, 4-bolt mains, too, I guess.

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  • argentargent Posts: 176
    Nah... there were some Cougar Eliminators with the Boss 302 engine, I recall (I recently read a CAR LIFE review of one), but the Cougar seems like it needs easy torque, not screaming horsepower. The 390 engine is a stone, though, both in terms of output and in the extra heft it puts on the nose.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    Another sharp fastback is the 1967-69 Plymouth Barracuda. It has handsome styling and tough drivetrains. The 273 (for 1967) and the 340 (for 1968-69) were just about perfect - powerful, but light enough not to hurt the balance of the car.
  • wq59bwq59b Posts: 61
    A decent percentage were manuals: 5157 units in '63, 3124 in '64. Not sure which was more common, but somewhere I found this stat: in '66 there were 386 4-spds & 531 3-spds.

    There WERE 3 '63 GP SDs- none known to have survived... but none of the 16 '62 GP SDs were known either, yet in the last 8 years or so 3 have surfaced. Find a '63 GP SD and you'll have made a MAJOR find.

    Yes- the GP & Cat share the same 'small' B-body, but theres a great deal of differences between the Catalina & GP besides just trim. The whole package comes off as much more upscale; the unique roofline, the buckets/console/floorshift, vacuum guage & other guages, upholstery, wood trim, grillework front & rear, lighting, etc. The early GPs (63-66) are beautiful cars.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 18,578
    the GPs do come-off as more upscale than a Catalina or even a well-optioned Bonneville.

    The '65-'66 restyle did nothing for me but it's interesting that Pontiac beat Buick, Olds, Cadillac and Chevy to the draw with a credible competitor to the T-bird by a couple of years.

    The early-mid 60s were truly the golden age of the Tin Indian.

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • argentargent Posts: 176
    I like the '67-'69 hardtop better than the fastback. The 2nd-gen fastback looks better than the earlier Barracudas (which are ungainly from many angles), but the hardtop seems classier. Oddly, there are a bunch of first-generation fastback Barracudas around Los Angeles, but I've only ever seen one 2nd-gen, and it was so obviously rusty that I was amazed it was driveable.

    This is a '68 notchback hardtop:

    And this is the rear of a '68 fastback:
  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    Both versions of the pre-1970 Barracuda fastbacks are, um...., beauty impaired. I think they are much more archaic looking than say, a 67/68 Camaro. The notchback is OK, but those little scoops are silly looking (ranks right up there with hood mounted tachs).

    For that matter,I've always wondered what was going on through the minds of a designer looking at a clay model at an early Dodge Charger (aka the Rambler Marlin). Ooh lah lah, maybe.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    My preference is the reverse of argent's...I prefer the fastback. The convertible is also nice. The coupe is, well, distinctive. Let's leave it at that.

    All of the 1967-69 Barracudas seem much higher than a contemporary Camaro/Firebird, but I still like their flowing lines and distinctive nose. As for the hood was the 1960s, and scoops and spoilers were to the time period what tailfins and dagmars were to the 1950s.

    Interestingly, the 1967-69 Barracuda marked the last time that Plymouth was given a distinctive model not shared with either Dodge or Chrysler.
  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    ...can be good or bad (oh boy, I'm delving well into the personal opinion universe here).

    Good (just a random list):

    1969 Camaro ZL2 hood
    1970 Chevelle cowl induction hood (well, ok, 70-72 sort of)
    1971 and up Camaro rear spoiler
    Shaker hoods (Mustang/Barracuda/Challenger)
    69/70 Mustang rear spoilers...hey, at least they were on the race cars
    70-73 TransAm stuff except for the decals
    Mark Donohue Javelin rear spoiler
    Later AMX cowl induction

    *Any* hood tach
    Fake brake scoops on Mustangs
    Those useless scooplets on early Firebirds/GTO's/Skylarks (which actually pull air out of the carb)
    Giant rear spoilers on Judge/442
    Hood scoop on SC/Rambler (oh man...what can I say)
    L88 hoods
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,038 reason they sat up higher was probably that Chrysler didn't have the resources to differentiate them further from the compact Dart/Valiant, whereas Ford and GM could afford to almost totally make over their compacts to come up with the Mustang and Camaro.

    At one time I had Barracuda interior trim (door panel inserts and the inserts in back) in my '68 Dart 270. They fit almost perfectly, which is a pretty good indication of how similar the cars are. In back, the Cuda panels were about 3" shorter than the Dart panels, although that discrepancy was still hidden by the backrest of the seat. I guess that'd make sense too, since the Dart was on a 3" longer wheelbase than the Barracuda back then.

    With me, it's kind of a hard call on which body style I prefer. Well, the convertible would be my first choice! But then I'm kinda torn between the notchback and the fastback. I like the notchback because it doesn't seem like you see too many of those, but then the fastback is just radical enough to be cool, too!
  • bhill2bhill2 Posts: 1,778
    of this discussion, I was having fun. Or did my idea of a '58 Rambler Ambassador hardtop wagon with a Chevy small-block in it make everyone want to just forget the whole thing?

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

  • argentargent Posts: 176
    How 'bout a Hot Rod Lincoln, to commemorate Lincoln's efforts in the '53 Carrera Panamerica?

    Take a '53 Lincoln hardtop like this Capri:


    ...remove its old 317 engine and Hydra-Matic, replace them with a '67 428 Police Interceptor engine (with the aluminum manifold) and C-6. Add disc brakes (at least in front, borrowed from a '65 or later T-bird or Continental, or a Boss Mustang).
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    That would be a neat "hot-rod Lincoln." The stock taillights and rear bumper look surprisingly clean for 1953.
  • argentargent Posts: 176
    The '52-'55 Lincolns (which were only mildly facelifted from year-to-year) are quite tasteful, especially compared to the monstrous '58-'60 models. I think the '53 has the cleanest bumper and tail treatment, although the visual differences between '52 and '54 are modest.
    They competed with impressive results in the Carrera Panamerica road rallying of the period, and were often considered the most roadable American car of the time, their chief rival probably being the Hudson Hornet (the Olds Rocket 88 was perhaps a bit faster, but didn't handle as well, according to period testers). Sort of a Lincoln version of Chrysler's 300. I think they're attractively and tastefully styled, although I've heard that the original Lincoln engines of that period (Ford's first OHV V-8s, similar in principle but not in block to the early Y-blocks) are less than stellar, with endemic oiling/lubrication problems, so the substitution of a later V-8 seems wise.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,038
    ...I never really liked those things. It's hard to explain why, because they're certainly more modern-looking than equivalent GM and Chrysler products of the time. I guess they're just too conservative looking, although I always thought a conservative-looking car that could blow the doors off its competition was a good thing! I dunno...for some reason, I never really cared for the Fords in that period either, at least not until '55. Maybe it's just that they were all too stubby looking. That Lincoln just doesn't *look* impressive enough...looks more like it would compete with an Olds or Buick or DeSoto, instead of Imperials and Cadillacs (although back then, Cadillac definitely was a step above Lincoln in price, and I believe the Imperials were, too).
  • argentargent Posts: 176
    Yeah, Cadillacs and Imperials were a little more expensive than the Lincoln. Lincoln sales were in the dumps back then in part because there seemed to be a conflict between the engineers and designers--who really did seem to be competing with Buick, Olds, and Chrysler for the upper-middle market--and the marketing and sales force, which pushed the Lincoln as a Cadillac competitor (and priced it accordingly). If you compare the Lincoln against a Caddy of the same vintage, it doesn't have the same gravitas (it's also more tasteful, to some extent, but it doesn't scream "wealth" in the same way), whereas if you look at it against an Olds Ninety Eight or Chrysler New Yorker, it acquits itself better.
  • argentargent Posts: 176
    Back to the topic at hand...
    In some respects I like the Mercedes sedans of the 60s. They drive surprisingly well (especially for the time), and they've got that old-money gravitas that newer, prettier Benzs don't manage. And the old 300 SEL 6.3 was eye-openingly muscular -- low 90s in the quarter mile, 0-60 in under 7 seconds, top speed around 135 mph.

    But '60s Benzs had crummy air conditioning, the Benz four-speed fluid coupling autobox (no torque converter, like the old GM Hydra-Matics) was clunky, and the six-cylinder engines were sluggish (the 6.3L engine was quicker, but finicky and _very_ heavy -- it weighed almost as much as a big Lincoln 430/462, well over 700 lbs.)

    So here's a heretical thought. Take a 250 SEL or 300 SEL sedan and dump the Benz engine and transmission for a '66 or '67 Cadillac 429 and switch-pitch Turbo Hydra-Matic. The Caddy engine was LIGHTER than the Benz 6.3L (595 lbs. versus maybe 730 lbs.), the TH400 a lot smoother. It had enough muscle to push a 5000-lb Cadillac with fair alacrity, so in a 1200-lb lighter Benz, it should be brisk.

    I'd also imagine that late-sixties Cadillac climate-control A/C would be vastly better than the Mercedes system, which even Benz fans generally admit was crap.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,338
    I don't think you'd gain anything by such a conversion and in fact would end up with a considerably slower car I'd imagine, due to slower revs, less torque, sloppier transmission (softer shifting) and hardly enough HP gain to make a difference.

    So you'd lose 0-60 speed, top speed and fuel mileage. What you'd gain is getting rid of Benz's lame a/c and the expense of having to rebuild a 6.3 engine (probably about $15,000)

    The 6.3 would go 0-60 in 6 seconds or less and due to a 2.85 diff delivered respectable fuel mileage. It could use this economy diff ratio because of its massive grunt, 434 ft. lbs of torque at 3000 rpm. (Source: Nitske's "Mercedes Benz 1946-1995).

    The 429 is no match for this engine but it was a nice engine for a Cadillac-type of car.

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  • argentargent Posts: 176
    What I meant actually was using the Cadillac engine in a six-cylinder 250SEL (same mechanicals save the engine) or non-6.3 300, not _converting_ an existing 6.3L.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,338
    Oh,gotcha...yeah, that makes more sense, although I'm not sure there's room in a six-cylinder Benz. The 250SE, or the later 280SEL, are both Type 108 cars, while the 6.3 was a type 109. So a different species there.

     The reason Cadillacs were so wide is partly because of the engines they used.

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  • argentargent Posts: 176
    Hmm. A good point, that. The upshot is more "Benz sedan with a cheaper, potentially more powerful, if less sophisticated American powertrain." I recall seeing somebody who'd done that with a 250 SE and a Ford 289 some years ago. I don't remember how much of a hassle it may have been, though...
  • wq59bwq59b Posts: 61
    "The reason Cadillacs were so wide is partly because of the engines they used."

    Completely untrue. There is no correlation between engine width and body width: Cadillacs are no wider than any other full-size domestic of the same time period. Case in point- 1964 Cadillac: 79.5" wide, 1959 Buick: 80.75" wide.

    In fact-- even a 472/500 Cadillac engine is only 2 inches wider than a Chevy small block:

                   W L H
    Cadillac 472 28" 30.5" 28"
    Chevrolet 327 26" 28" 27"
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,038
    ...the reason those old cars were wide was because that's how people wanted them, not because of any engine size. Those old engine bays were huge, with plenty of room on either side, and often in front, to work on the cars. I'd guess that most full-sized cars from the late 50's on up to when the final overblown '79 Lincolns often flirted with the 80" width.

    Besides, wasn't the Cadillac 472/500 the basis for the later 425 and 368? Well, those 368's ended up in cars as narrow as 70-72", which is close to modern Accord/Camry/Altima territory!

    BTW, don't (or didn't) some states have a law regulating the maximum width of a passenger car? I thought it was 80" (although a few cars have gone over that)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,338
    I think you both misunderstood what I meant. Probably I didn't phrase it properly.

    The dimensions of the engine heavily influence the height and width of the car, this is inescapable. Also, a powerful engine tends to encourage a bigger car since it can push it along.

    The Olds rocket 88 engine of 1948 made car big in other words.

    With a monster V8 of large dimension, like a 429, you need extra width for the suspension, a big transmission hump since the engine is usually set back to make the car driveable and somewhat balanced, and then a huge trunk to compensate for all the room it took to house the monster engine and transmission.

    Some cars slanted the engines (Dodge Dart, Mercedes 300SL), why others have to add bulges or hood scoops (carburetor clearance). But most cars just wrapped the engine in a big body.

    Even today the V8 /V10 makes for a wide car. Look at the Corvette or Viper for instance, or the Ferrari for that matter. Their engines are about as squished as you can make them right now, height-wise, but still require a wide body.

    Fuel injection helped all this somewhat on modern cars because now we don't have to make carburetor clearance; also alloy V8 engines can be smaller and lighter.

    More to the topic, this is why our dream cars might not be so easy to build, as we often can't chop into the suspension to accomodate wide engines....and MOVING suspension on a car is a major, major project.

    People don't dictate styling. I have never ever believed that. They vote on the styling after the car is built, with their checkbooks.

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

  • wq59bwq59b Posts: 61
    Sure a powertrain creates an 'envelope' that must be worked around, that's a no-brainer.

    But plenty of models started out as straight 6s or straight 8s then went to V-type engines and NEVER had to widen the car because of that. This clearly proves that most cars have enough room underhood and that most appreciable engine displacement increases (or even cylinder configurations) do not directly influence each other.

    I see your problem: a 429 is not a "monster" engine, being only 2 inches wider than a 327 small block. It may displace a lot more cubic inches, but externally it's very compatible. That's how people decades ago could create 'Studillacs' and 'Fordillacs' and even a few 'Mercedillacs' without widening their much narrower cars.

    So statements like "The Olds rocket 88 engine of 1948 made car big in other words" are terribly misleading. The '49 Olds (the Rocket V8) is not any wider than the inline 6 & 8 Olds's of '48, in fact, the front track got narrower in '49 (57" vs. the '48's 58").

    Case in Point III: 1965 Ford Galaxie 500 XL 427: 77.3" wide. If the 77" was a necessity of there being a 427 V8 underhood, pray tell how were 356 Cobras built with a 427 when they were only 61" wide at the front fenders (only a half-inch wider than a '66 Beetle).
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,038
    ...that cars went to wider engine bays was simply that's how the styling advanced. In the 30's, cars had separate fenders and narrow hoods covering their engines. As styling advanced, the fenders got larger and filled out, becoming wider and ultimately in-line with the passenger cabin. As the cars got lower, the hoods also got lower, wider, and more integrated to the flow of the fenders. As a result, this opened up more room in the engine bay.

    Why did cars get wider in the first place? The market demanded it...people wanted 3-across seating. Well, you really need at least 57" of shoulder room for that (according to CR...I'd say more like 60" to be considered a "true" full-sized car). So, unless you want your doors to be one inch thick, with no crush space whatsoever and noplace for the windows to roll down into, you're going to need a car that's around 75-80" wide if you want a full-size interior. If the car's 75-80" wide at the passenger cabin, it's going to be close to that across the front fenders, as well, unless it's severely tapered like some cars are today.
  • argentargent Posts: 176
    Two points, and then I'll move on...

    First, one of the reasons I was thinking a Cadillac V-8 is that the Caddy 429 was one of the lightest and most compact engines for its displacement -- the engine block was redesigned in '63 to make it more compact and lighter, and it weighed only 595 pounds dry, only about 50 pounds more than a 327/350 Chevy and only 30 pounds more than an Olds 330/350.

    On the other hand, even a few inches of width can make a substantial difference in terms of wedging something into an engine bay, as anyone who's ever tried to change the spark plugs on a 390 or 428 engine '67-'68 Mustang or Cougar can attest. (Or seen the work Kar Kraft had to do with repositioning the front suspension towers to fit the 429 semi-hemi to '69-'70 Boss 429 Mustangs.)

    The Ford 260/289 small block fit pretty readily into the AC Ace to create the original Cobra. But stuffing the 427 side oiler into it went along with a total redesign of the suspension for the big-block Cobras... (Not only because the 427 was physically larger, but also to account for the fact that it weighed something like 200 pounds more than the small block.)
This discussion has been closed.