What makes a muscle car? The post-war boom in automobile production from the late '40s saw many changes in style, comfort, safety and performance. Full-size cars from that era and through the 1950s, could be had with optional performance packages, but the new wave of early 1960s intermediate models were equipped with gas-sipping six-cylinder engines, or moderate small-block V8s. Taking a cue from hot rodders, manufacturers saw the easiest way to add performance was by taking the lightest car and stuffing it with the most powerful engine. For 1964, the marketing folks at Pontiac believed they could offer a performance option in the mid-size Tempest LeMans that would meet the needs of new performance buyers.
Management at General Motors had set a limit for intermediates, of 10 horsepower per 100 pound vehicle weight, meaning the 3,300-pound LeMans could only have Pontiac's 326 cubic inch V8. Now an optional model like the GTO, could have a larger engine, as long as it was under 400 cubic inches of displacement, so the Pontiac marketing department chose the potent 389 cu. in V8. It came with either a four-barrel carburetor producing 325 horsepower or an optional tri-power carburetor equipped version, capable of 348 horsepower. Hoping for modest sale of 5,000 units in its first year, the GTO option quickly eclipsed that figure, as final production was 32,450.
For 1965, GTO got a modest redesign with stacked headlamps, updated tail-lamp panel and a new hood scoop. Power was also increased as the four-barrel 389 increased to …
The 1962 Plymouth and Dodge models from Chrysler appeared with new styling and a dramatic reduction in wheelbase and overall size. To many they resembled an almost compact size in comparison to the Chevrolet and Ford models of the day. Part of that look can be directly attributed to the "Detroit Buzz" which had rumours of Chevrolet downsizing its full-size lineup to increase profits and entice buyers to remain with the full-size cars, over the new compacts and Chrysler didn't want to be left behind. Problem was, Chevrolet didn't downsize and the car-buying public's reaction resulted in weak sales figures. Financially Chrysler was in no position to immediately retool for a larger car so they did what they could to keep the cars fresh and in the showroom.
For 1964 the Plymouth line received a mild facelift, that included a larger front bumper, rectangular tail-lamps and a bevelled edge feature line on the roof of the sedans and hardtops. Hardtops also received a new roof "C" pillar that dramatically tapered into the rear fender for a sportier look. Now that sportier look came on a 1962 inspired lean and light 116-inch wheelbase that would deliver added fuel economy and performance. It was the performance edge that helped keep Chrysler in the sales hunt by offering some potent power packages.
Win on Sunday, sell on Monday, was a mantra most manufacturers subscribed to and the Big 3 ensured they had all forms of motorsports covered with the latest asphalt assault …
The mid-size Oldsmobile Cutlass started out as a compact F-85 model entry in 1961. For 1964, the F-85 and Cutlass moved into the intermediate category after a full redesign. It gained three inches in wheelbase to 115 inches and grew 11 inches in length. Gone was the aluminium block 215-cubic-inch V8, and in its place was a V6 or cast-iron Rocket V8 engine. It was the start of one of Oldsmobile's most successful lines.
For Ken Swaffer of Winnipeg Beach, the Oldsmobile was always his car.
"I've always liked Oldsmobile and my first was a '51 Olds 98 hardtop, then a '55 Sedan and a '63 Dynamic 88."
On Jan. 4, 1965, Swaffer found himself sitting in the showroom at Community Chevrolet Oldsmobile, then located at 1149 Main St., about to order his new 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass hardtop.
Advertised as, "the pocket-size Olds for $4,235," it was still a hefty full-size price.
Looking over the option list he was checking off the boxes to order his new Olds exactly how he wanted it. He chose the jetfire rocket 330-cubic-inch V8, which was equipped with 10.5:1 compression pistons, four-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust rated at a healthy 315 horsepower. Backing up the V8 is a Muncie close-ratio four-speed manual transmission with floor shift, leading to a 3.23:1 ratio 12-bolt rear axle. It was a nice starting point for a performance coupe.
Swaffer considered opting for the $156 4-4-2 performance-and-handling package, with a larger 400-cubic-inch 345 horsepower V8.
In 1965, the 4-4-2 package was available …
If you were in the market for a British sports car in the 1950s, you had a lot to choose from, including the Aston Martin, Jaguar, Lotus, Sunbeam-Talbot and Nash-Healey, as well as more familiar offerings from MG and Triumph.
For 1953, quaint sedan manufacturer Austin would team up with racer and engineer Donald Healey to build the Austin-Healey 100. Weighing in at 2,000 pounds and powered by an in-line four-cylinder engine, it was a lively and reliable two-seat roadster. With strong sales of more than 10,000 units per year, it definitely had a following. In '57, the four-cylinder gave way to a new 2.6-litre six-cylinder power plant.
In the spring of '59, the engine of the Big Healey as it was referred to, grew to 3.0 litres and was called the 3000. The larger engine brought peak horsepower up to 124 at 4,600 r.p.m. as well as front disc brakes for greater stopping power. Available as the BN7 two-seater or the BT7, offering a 2+2 capacity, thanks to two jump seats behind the standard bucket seats, it was now the new sales leader with 18,825 produced in 1960.
Roger Morcilla of Winnipeg is no stranger to British sports car restorations. Having completed a few and with a couple still waiting in the wings, this is a passion that runs deep.
In 2005, Morcilla found a 1960 Austin-Healey 3000 in need of a full restoration. Already dismantled, with much of the rusted areas carved out of the body, he picked it up in pieces. …
When Don Scharf purchased his first car, it as if the die was cast: The yellow and black 1952 Oldsmobile 98 he purchased from Community Chevrolet Oldsmobile was just a $200 used car, but it had potential.
After an engine rebuild, it was on the road serving as daily transportation for Scharf. taking him from his home in La Riviere to his many job sites as a road builder.
"I put over 100,000 miles on the car without even leaving the province," Scharf said.
The machine shop in Crystal City saw the 303-cubic-inch Oldsmobile Rocket V8 engine more than once for rebuilds and, on it's final visit, was bored 0.040" and the cylinder heads were milled over 0.100" for increased compression.
Great highway transportation, and the car Scharf owned when he began dating his wife Barbara, the Oldsmobile 98 held many memories.
Fast-forward 50 years and the Oldsmobile is still the vehicle of choice for Scharf as a collectable. Owning several Oldsmobiles, including a rare Starfire hardtop, Scharf wanted to find a solid 98 model.
In September of 2012 he found a Cameo cream and Provincial white 1962 Oldsmobile 98 Holiday hardtop model in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. A recently restored car, it was in great condition and priced right. The car was purchased and transported to Fargo, N.D., where Scharf met the delivery truck and drove the Olds back to Winnipeg.
A nice straight car with brilliant chrome and polished stainless-steel trim, it looked like a home run from every angle. Inside. the original Tri-Colour Gold Brocade …
There was a newcomer in the sports-car field for 1963, the MGB Roadster. Slightly smaller than its MGA predecessor, the MGB was a winner right out of the gate.
Riding on a 91-inch wheelbase, with a total length of 153 inches, it was light and svelte, And with a 1.8-litre in-line four-cylinder engine producing more than 90 horsepower, it was also fast.
While production lasted until 1980, it's the cars built prior to 1974 that get the most attention. After 1973, the government's crash-test limits mandated the use of heavy rubber bumpers, which many felt detracted from the car's styling. The 1970 model was billed as having more than 20 styling changes but, aside from a recessed grille inside a thin chrome surround, most changes were so subtle they went largely unnoticed.
In April of 2008, Winnipegger Murray Malcolmson was checking out a 1970 MGB Roadster for an out-of-town friend who wanted to buy a little convertible.
"When I walked up the driveway I knew this was going to be a car for myself," he said.
That was saying a lot, because cars come as second nature to Malcolmson. Beginning his career as a mechanic at Matthon Motors, he saw many of the early sports cars and European marques from the 1960s. Later, Malcolmson found himself at Kildonan East Collegiate, where he's worked for almost 30 years as an instructor in the Automotive Technology Power Mechanics shop.
Over the years, there have been several restorations and project cars in and out of Malcolmson's home garage, including …
By 1965, Ford's Thunderbird had reached it's 10th year of production. What began in 1955 as a two-seat personal car, conceived as an upscale alternative to the Chevrolet Corvette, was now much more.
Buyer demographics had changed, and the Thunderbird was now seen as the personal-luxury leader in the field. A true four-passenger coupe or convertible since 1958, the Thunderbird offered buyers something competitors couldn't -- a heritage and a following that carried it from the showroom to the street.
Available with all of the optional amenities, the Thunderbird was a unique vehicle that carried you in style, with a quiet and smooth ride that said you'd arrived.
The '65 Thunderbird, riding on a 113.2-inch wheelbase, was in the second year of a three-year styling phase and so received only mild visual enhancements over the '64 model. Simulated chrome-trimmed air scoops could be found in the front fender along with a new crest replacing the Thunderbird script on the leading edge of the hood. Fender-mounted turn indicators and sequential rear turn signals were now standard equipment.
The Swing-Away steering column, introduced as an extra-cost option in 1961 and made a standard feature in 1963, continued for '65. With the gear selector in the "Park" position, the steering column could be moved 10 inches to the right, making access and egress to the passenger compartment easier for the driver.
The interior also continued to feature unique, aircraft-inspired toggle switches and levers for controls, and there was a ribbon-style speedometer that ran the length of the gauge …
She's real fine my 409, my 4...0...9.
The line comes from the Beach Boys song 409, released in '62 and letting everyone know about Chevy's newest high-performance powerplant.
Introduced in October 1957 as a 348-cubic-inch engine intended for Chevy trucks, it had the low-end torque needed for pulling heavy loads. But by the late '50s General Motors realized the additional cubic inches and torque from the 348 was also needed to pull the weight of the ever-growing full-size Chevrolet.
The 348 responded well to increases in compression and carburetion to the point that it kept Chevrolet competitive in the market. But in late 1961 an increase in bore and stroke to yield 409 cubic inches really got the ball rolling. Again, increases in compression and a move to dual four-barrel carburetors yielded 425 horsepower at 6,000 r.p.m., making the Chevy a viable street machine and successful weekend racer.
By 1964 there was a new player in town called the mid-sized LeMans GTO, which had less weight and almost as much performance potential. The full-sized cars were losing some of their performance image. But, hook a full-size Impala Super Sport up with the 425 horsepower 409 V8 and fading quietly into the woodwork wasn't an option.
There were 8,684 Chevrolets built in 1964 with the 409 V8, so finding one today can be a bit of a challenge. But since less than 10 per cent of them found their way into the Impala Super Sport convertible, finding a needle in a haystack starts to look like …
The 1950s was a decade of prosperity and growth. Announcements of advances in manufacturing, housing, electronics and automobiles were daily occurrences, and consumerism was in full swing.
When it came to cars, longer, lower, wider, bigger and better were all too familiar ad phrases. By the middle of the decade, high style was the order of the day, and cars began to look more like space ships with tailfins, Dagmar bumpers, scoops and vents, all adorned with a liberal dose of chrome and stainless-steel trim.
Today, many of the cars from the '50s are highly collectable. A burgeoning industry producing reproduction parts has facilitated their restoration, many of these cars out of the shed and into the show-car arena.
For Dave Moffatt of Winnipeg, building hot rods was all about Ford Model As and Model T's -- that is, until his friend Tom Wright got his hands on a mid-50s Chevy.
"Tom had a '56 he was building and I thought I'd like to try a Chevy as well, but didn't want to compete with him. So I started looking for a '57 model," Moffatt said.
In June of 2009, he found a 1957 Chevrolet 150 series two-door on eBay that was located in Iron Mountain, Wisconsin.
"At the end of the auction, I was high bidder, but still $200 under the seller's reserve price," Moffat recalled. "But within a few hours he sent a second-chance offer and accepted my bid."
The 150 sedan had been restored and updated with several mechanical and convenience additions. And the …
With the 1960s came new compact and mid-size vehicles. But not to be overlooked in the line-up were station-wagon models to meet the needs of growing families.
Production figures show sales were relatively steady and didn't begin to wane until the minivan hit showrooms in the 1980s. Today, these older station wagons are catching the eye of classic-car enthusiasts, many of whom have turned them into some pretty classy cruisers.
Ron Schellenberg of St. Andrews has owned station wagons most of his life. When he was a boilermaker in the construction industry, wagons were a natural conveyance to transport him and his gear to worksites.
"The wagons were roomy and tough, and things didn't slide around in back like they do in a truck," Schellenberg said. While keeping the everyday car on the road was his main foray into auto repair, an early 1990s visit to see his brother Bob in Maple Ridge, B.C. started him down another road.
"Bob had about 20 cars on the property and this Fairlane 500 wagon was one of them," he said. "I picked it out of the pinecones and fir-tree needles and thought for a project car it was in very good shape, which really means it needed everything."
With the original 289-cubic-inch V8 engine removed years earlier, Schellenberg installed a used 302-cubic-inch V8 and got the car ready for the journey to Manitoba.
"The trip through the mountains at night got a bit tense, as the headlights would momentarily go off and on, but I made it home."