Nailing down the primary 'muscle automotive'

Ben Williams November 5, 2020 2 No Comments


Some say the ’49 Olds 88 was the primary muscle automotive. Others give that honor to the ’55 Chrysler C-300 or the 1957 Rambler Rebel. Purists of the bucket-seat, four-speed and “fat tire sect” insist {that a} ’64 Pontiac GTO was the unique muscle automotive. Still there are others who say the 1936 Buick Century was the granddaddy of all of them. Those who know automobiles will see a sample right here.

All of those automobiles have been American-made. They have been manufacturing automobiles, and most have been competitively raced. The ’49 Olds ran within the La Carrera Pan Americana, aka Mexican Road Race. The ’55 Chrysler C-300 tore up inventory automotive racing circuits and in addition ran at Road America. After one cleaned up at Speed Week in Daytona Beach, Rambler Rebels turned native cease mild and drag strip bullies. The ’64 GTO additionally did most of its racing on the drag strip.

But what defines a muscle automotive? Most folks argue that, as a minimum, a muscle automotive has a “big car” engine in a lighter mid-size or compact automotive physique and was particularly marketed for efficiency. Further muddying the definition is the truth that the time period “muscle car” wasn’t definitively used till after the automobiles’ heyday (“super car” was simply as generally used).

Using that system, listed here are the contenders for “first muscle car” honors:

1936 Buick Century

1936 Buick Century

1936 Buick Century

Those who argue the unique Buick Century’s place as the primary muscle automotive level to Buick placing its huge Roadmaster engine in a comparatively quick 122-in. wheelbase chassis — a lot shorter than the 131-in. wheelbase of the Roadmaster from which the engine got here. The results of this mixture produced a automotive that Buick promoted as being able to 95 mph, making it quicker than Buick’s top-end Limited and high-end Roadmaster and thus giving the Century its title (even when Buick rounded up). Few automobiles of the time might come near 95 mph and most of those who might have been very costly and really not often seen full-size luxurious automobiles, comparable to Duesenbergs.

Although the Century’s title was an early type of efficiency advertising and marketing, the Century wasn’t utilized in organized racing. However, there have been few venues for efficiency competitions so maybe the Century was merely forward of its time.

1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 pace car edition

1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 tempo automotive version

1949 Oldsmobile 88

The first domestically produced high-performance automotive after World War II was the ’49 Oldsmobile 88. This hot-running “small” Oldsmobile happened as the results of an afterthought reasonably than a grasp plan.

Oldsmobile developed its 303-cid overhead-valve “Rocket” V-Eight for its top-of-the-line Series 98 fashions. The highly effective engine was meant to cap off the brand new “Futuramic” B-body styling that was first seen on the 1948 Oldsmobile 98 fashions.

For the 1949 fashions, the choice was made to additionally put the brand new Rocket V-Eight engine in Oldsmobile’s smaller A-body automotive. A trusty however sluggish flathead six often powered Oldsmobile’s model of the A physique, which was additionally utilized by General Motors’ Chevrolet and Pontiac divisions. Oldsmobiles that used the A physique shaped the division’s Series 76 choices.

When the 135-hp Olds V-Eight went into the 119-1/2-in.-wheelbase A physique, the Futuramic Series 88 was born. It shared the identical six physique kinds of the 76, which put it on a wheelbase that was 5-1/2 in. shorter than the 98, thus making it weigh 250 lbs. lower than the 98. Hydra-Matic Drive was normal, though a three-speed guide transmission as out there.

“The Series 88 combines Oldsmobile’s new high compression (7:25:1) Rocket engine with a new medium-weight body . . . the result is a highly favorable power-to-weight ratio,” acknowledged a information launch dated Feb. 6, 1949.

The high-performance implications of such a positive power-to-weight ratio weren’t misplaced on members of the brand new breed of race automotive driver — those that piloted late-model inventory automobiles in NASCAR occasions the place the ’49 Olds Rocket 88 was an on the spot success. Neighborhood gear heads additionally shortly loved the efficiency potential of Dad’s Olds 88.

There was no manufacturing facility backing of inventory automotive racing on the time. If a driver needed to race, he went and purchased his personal automotive, put masking tape over the chrome and headlamps, took off the wheel covers and raced. The Rocket 88 proved to be a Rocket and 5 of the primary eight NASCAR Grand National races held within the preliminary 1949 season went to Oldsmobile 88s with the brand new V-8. Series champion Red Byron was an Oldsmobile driver.

An Oldsmobile 88 convertible additionally served because the Official Pace Car on the Indianapolis 500 that yr and garnered further consideration. The tempo automotive was dressed up with huge rocket ships on the fenders and had a see-through hood panel to flash off the sizzling V-Eight engine, although technically neither of which have been out there in an 88 off the flash ground.

Production automobiles and inventory automotive racing would bear many adjustments in coming years, however beating the Oldsmobile 88 turned the goal for each.

1955 Chrysler 300 C-300 “Letter Car”

1955 Chrysler 300 C-300 “Letter Car”

1955 Chrysler C-300

Chrysler introduced revolutionary “Forward Look” styling to the automotive world in 1955. The outcomes paid off in gross sales success for Chrysler Corp. and fame for its chief designer, Virgil Exner, who crafted the brand new physique styling. Also often called “The 100-Million-Dollar Look” (after the amount of cash reportedly spent on getting it to market), this beauty initiative reworked Chrysler’s boxy picture to one in every of a fighter jet on wheels. Lower, extra rakish profiles and tailfins imparted a sensation of pace.

Completely new physique styling wasn’t the one change for 1955. Chrysler additionally launched the limited-edition Chrysler C-300 on Feb. 10. The Chrysler C-300 was the brainchild of Bob Rodgers, a Chrysler engineer and auto fanatic who watched earlier Hemi-powered Chryslers battle by means of the Mexican Road Races. Rodgers satisfied administration {that a} Chrysler picture automotive was wanted to compete with the Corvette and Thunderbird. Rodgers felt he might make such a automotive at very low value by basing it on the New Yorker hardtop and incorporating principally pre-existing heavy-duty components that Chrysler had made out there to Mexican Road Race contenders. The C-300 was moreover given an Imperial grille, leather-based upholstery and a model of the Hemi V-Eight fitted with twin four-barrel carburetors. The physique was stripped of extraneous chrome trim for a cleaner look.

Special “300” badges and chrome lettering (noting the marketed horsepower score) have been utilized to the physique. The 300 was nicknamed “The Beautiful Beast” and it was each. By the tip of the yr, the mannequin had taken the NASCAR Grand National Stock Car Racing Championship and the AAA Stock Car Racing Championship. Only 1725 Chrysler 300s have been constructed this yr, however they introduced many individuals into Chrysler showrooms.

1957 Rambler Rebel

1957 Rambler Rebel

1957 Rambler Rebel

Due to its low manufacturing of simply 1500 automobiles and its shocking supply —American Motors, of compact automotive fame — the Rambler Rebel is usually neglected in muscle automotive conversations. Yet right here was a automotive with the 327-cid V-Eight from the huge Ambassador plugged into the smaller Rambler four-door hardtop physique. AMC painted its efficiency automotive silver love a bullet, gave it a racing stripe of anodized trim down the facet and christened it with a reputation befitting its place among the many firm’s conservative lineup. Then AMC took it to the seashore.

In March 1957, a Rambler Rebel appeared at Daytona Beach Speed Week the place it accelerated from a cease to 60 mph quicker than each different automotive current, save a fuel-injected Corvette. The four-door’s efficiency raised eyebrows and the automotive caught the eye of automotive journal editors, who gave the Rebel pages of ink. Gear heads in search of one thing completely different discovered a lot to like concerning the 255-hp Rebel between cease lights and on the drag strip.

While practically all Rebels featured a four-barrel carburetor, the Bendix Electrojector System of gasoline injection was elective and is believed to have been initially fitted to a handful of Rebels. However, these problematic items have been changed with four-barrels early within the automobiles’ lives.

Another choice out there on the Rebel was a continental equipment — a decidedly unmuscle car-like characteristic. However, as an unbiased, AMC might all the time use methods to make one other buck on a sale and choices have been a fast and straightforward manner to try this. For that, we received’t maintain the “connie kit” in opposition to the Rebel — maybe the primary true muscle automotive.

1964 Pontiac Tempest LeMans with GTO option

1964 Pontiac Tempest LeMans with GTO choice

1964 Pontiac GTO

Often regarded by automotive fans as the primary true muscle automotive within the sense of being a mid-size automotive with a big-block V-Eight and bucket seats, the unique GTO was not likely a mannequin in any respect. Due to GM’s fall 1963 ban on divisional participation in high-performance advertising and marketing, Pontiac was prevented from placing an engine with greater than 300 cubic inches right into a mid-size automotive.

Pontiac’s “Young Turk” executives joined with an advert man named Jim Wangers to sneak the GTO into existence as an extra-cost bundle for the Tempest LeMans. Late in October of 1963, the Grand Turismo Omologato bundle was introduced for the LeMans coupe, hardtop and convertible as a $295 choice. It was actually a efficiency bundle marketed as such, proper right down to the title.

GTO gear included a 325-hp 389-cid V-Eight with a particular camshaft, particular hydraulic lifters and 421-style cylinder heads. It had a single Carter four-barrel carburetor. Also included within the choice have been specifically valved shock absorbers, a seven-blade 18-inch cooling fan with a cut-off clutch, a twin exhaust system, red-stripe nylon low-profile tires, twin-simulated hood scoops, an engine-turned sprint insert, bucket seats, particular high-rate springs and longer rear stabilizers.

Desirable GTO choices included a middle console, Hurst-Campbell four-speed guide shift linkage, customized exhaust splitters, particular wheel covers and a Tri-Power engine choice with three two-barrel carburetors. The Tri-Power model of the 389-cid V-Eight produced 348 hp at 4900 rpm.

In January 1964, Motor Trend journal discovered a four-speed GTO convertible able to doing the quarter mile in 15.Eight sec. at 93 mph. The identical automotive’s 0-to-60-mph efficiency was 7.7 seconds and it had a 115-mph prime pace.

By yr’s finish, the GTO was thought-about an enormous gross sales success. Pontiac data confirmed manufacturing of 7384 GTO coupes, 18,422 two-door hardtops and 6644 convertibles. Those 32,450 automobiles helped preserve Pontiac within the trade’s No. three gross sales rank.

So take your choose for America’s first muscle automotive. A sure proportion of GM followers will level to the ’49 Olds Rocket 88. AMC followers will argue for the Rebel. MoPar buffs will reply with a push to acknowledge the Chrysler C-300. Other GM loyalists will argue that the ’64 GTO was the primary muscle machine. What automotive will get your vote? Regardless of your alternative, you possibly can drive quick with a smile in your face in any one in every of these automobiles.

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