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OCTOBER 2012

A Road Less Traveled

1968 Dodge Challenger is a force to be reckoned with.

Muscle Cars That Shoud’ve Been The classics get an upgrade.

$7.99US

Old vs. New

Camaro, Challenger, and Shelby.


Visit thehome of the American automobile.

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Detroit OCTOBER 2012 AMERICAN RIDE

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1968 Dodge Charger

Martin Sokulski is one of the few to race the 1968 Dodge Charger, but people are starting to notice. From simplicity to speed, this car – and Martin– are a force to be reconned with.


W

hether you’d like to chalk it up to popularity, parts availability, or perhaps some permutation of the two it’s an annoying truth of the hobby that some cars are just easier to build for the type of all-around performance standards that Pro Touring cars strive to achieve. But that always leaves the burning question: What if your loyalty lies with an underserved member of the community? You get creative and look for ways to pioneer. We’ve noticed for quite some time that at any given event—be it autocross, track, or open road—you can usually count the Mopars in attendance on one finger or less. Oh sure, good-looking and highhorsepower cars turn out for car shows and drag races, but for some reason when it comes to actually pitching the Pentastars in more than one direction, the participation drops off precipitously. Is it that parts just aren’t there, or are the parts not there because the customers aren’t there? Either way, when we do spot Mopar A-, B-, C-, or E-Bodies walking the walk, we take note. And not to play favorites, but the big B-Body cars particularly catch our eye. Maybe because it’s easy to picture the smaller ’Cudas and Challengers carving cones, but oh so much more interesting when a Charger has the courage. That’s why we couldn’t take our eyes off of Martin Sokulski’s beautiful blue B at this year’s Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational. While Chargers don’t seem to be at the top of the list for those seeking to pursue handling, it was the obvious choice for Martin. His dad originally bought a ’68 Charger that was his pride and joy, but he had to part with it to buy the family’s first house. Martin always felt like he should bring one back to the Sokulski clan. As for the handling angle, up until a few years ago, Martin was heavy into Stock racing, driving Limited Stock circle track and NASCAR late-model for almost 15 years. He did

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fairly well, and even had his own team for a while. Around that time, Martin figured it was a good time to finally get a Charger. A ’68, of course. Looking for a way to bring a bit of that Stock Car corner capability into his Charger, Martin was one of the early guys to jump into the Pro Touring revolution, focusing his attention and budget as much on handling as horsepower. The options were even thinner back then, so much of the work was custom, but simple. Needless to say, he still raised a few hackles at the notoriously conservative Mopar events he attended with it. Unfortunately, history repeated itself and Martin had to part with that Charger due to family responsibilities. It was the right thing to do, but he always regretted having to say goodbye. On the bright side, that Charger went to another great Mopar-loving home with Mike Musto—yup, the same guy who owns the ’69 Daytona clone seen in our OUSCI coverage. The Pro Touring Mopar community really is a small world. Also bitten by the Pro Touring bug, Musto had been looking for a B-Body to play with. Not too long after acquiring it, Musto drove the Charger on the Bull Run cross-country rally. Needless to say, Martin wished he was the guy behind the wheel, and missing out on an adventure like that (in the car he built!) stuck with him.


With that unpleasant taste in his mouth, it wasn’t long before Martin found himself searching ads for another ’68 Charger. Surprisingly, a nicely painted and solidbodied roller showed up in Alaska, of all places. Ironically, when Martin contacted the owner about it, he learned the Charger was actually a California car that was bought right around the time he sold his first Charger. Actually, the owner had called Martin about his car, but had been beaten to the punch by Musto, which was why he’d bought this Charger. Man, the Mopar world really is small. Those tight-knit connections came back around to help Martin though; when Musto secured an invitation to the 2011 OUSCI for his Daytona, race director Jimi Day asked him if he knew of any other worthy vintage Mopar owners who would be up for a trip to Pahrump and a little track time. Without hesitation, he called Martin. Luckily, the Charger had gone from roller to runner in short order, and Martin had been driving

it for a while. But there was only a month to get it up to par and prepared for actual competition. With the help of buddies Steve Collins, Dan Basher, and Brad Drawhorn, the Charger was upgraded to higher-rate Hotchkis springs with RideTech adjustable shocks, custom subframe connectors, and a set of Viper calipers on the front brakes. After all, he had to make sure his B-Body could run harder than Musto’s! So how did it work out for him? Martin ended up being the fastest of the big Mopars on the 2.2-mile Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch road course by a strong margin; he covered one similarly prepped car by a full 3 seconds. “If I did not have to feather the throttle on some of the long sweepers due to an oiling issue,” Martin told us, “I would have been even faster!” We think that taste may have hooked Martin for good. ’Round about sunrise the following morning, as we stood in an empty area of the Las Vegas Speedway shivering from the 30-degree temperature

to shoot the photos for this feature, Martin and fellow conspirators Collins, Basher, and Drawhorn were overheard doing quite a bit of bench racing. Plans were bandied to completely reinvent the Charger and try to make their way back to the OUSCI in 2012. More aggressive suspension, lighter wheels, maybe a 6.1 Hemi underhood, the wheels were definitely turning. If he follows through, we think Martin has good odds for the invite. That’s one of the big benefits of following a road less traveled; it may provide more resistance, but he’ll still probably be one of the few Mopars in contention. Then again, maybe he’ll inspire more Mopar lovers to throw their hats in the ring. That would be fine with Martin though, he’d love to see more Mopars support the brand and carry the banner.

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69 CHevy CAmaRo ss

The styling of the 1968 Camaro was very similar to the 1967 design. With the introduction of Astro Ventilation, a freshair-inlet system, the side vent windows were deleted. Side marker lights were added on the front and rear fenders which was a government requirement for all 68 vehicles. It also had a more pointed front grille and divided rear taillights. The front running lights (on non-RS models) were also changed from circular to oval. The big block SS models received chrome hood inserts that imitated velocity stacks. The shock absorber mounting was staggered to resolve wheel hop issues and higher performance models received multileaf rear springs instead of single-leaf units. A 396 cu in (6.5 L) 350 hp (261 kW) big block engine was added as an option for the SS, and the Z28 appeared in Camaro brochures. The 427 cu in (7.0 l) was not available as a Regular Production Option (RPO). Several dealers, such as Baldwin-Motion, Dana, and Yenko, offered the 427 as a dealer-installed replacement for the factory-supplied 396 cid engine. The 1968 Chevrolet Camaro was virtually unchanged as it entered its second year of production, although a close inspection would reveal the addition of new front and rear side marker lights and vent less door glass. Chevrolet described cars equipped with the optional Rally Sport package as “a more glamorous version” of the Camaro. Chevrolet boasted that the 1968 Camaro SS was dedicated to the “fun crowd.” The sales catalog said it was “a husky performer and looks it.” Big engines, upgraded suspension and special equipment features made this model stand out. The popularity of Camaro Z/28 Special Performance package started to climb based on the car’s first year racing reputation.

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The Z/28s were common in the Trans-Am winner’s circle that season, winning 10 of the 13 races.Chevrolet wasn’t sure if it wanted to market the option strictly for racing or to the public. Output climbed to 7,199 cars, making it clear that a decision had been made.

GTOs typycally ran the quarter-mile in the low 14s. Almost 82,000 GTOs were sold in 1967, 13,872 of which had the 400 HO, with Ram Air installed in only 751 of these units.

2 67 pontiac Gto 3 66 CHevelle

Many enthusiasts consider the “Goat” to be the first muscle car, and its classic split grill front-end design is among the most recognizable features of all muscle cars. Starting life as an option package for the 1963 Pontiac LeMans, the GTO became its own model series in 1966. Model year 1967 was the last year of this first-generation look with the stacked headlight design, and is showcased here. Standard equipment included bucket seats, a walnut-grained dash panel, duel exhaust, and a beefy suspension. A look under the hood found a bigger 400 cid motor than the prior year’s 389. Pontiac also went from a tri-power (three 2bbls) carb setup to a single 4bbl for the 1967 edition. The top performance option in 1967 was the 400 HO, rated at 360 hp at 5,100 rpm. Adding the Ram Air induction option slightly increased peak rpm. These

Chevrolet’s “Super Sport” option package was first introduced for the 1961 Impala and soon spread to its other model offerings including the Chevelle, which began life in 1964. The 1966 model year saw the Chevelle take on what I consider to be its best looking body style, with its most-recognizable feature, the classic forward-thrusting front fenders. The Super Sport version also included special wheel covers, red-line tires, and a black-out grill which showed off the SS badging to further compliment its bold appearance. Enginewise, the 396 was basically a de-stroked big-block 409, and was available in several configurations starting with the base-rated 325 hp version. The top option was the RPO L78 which was a mid-year release. Thanks to its 11.0:1 compression ratio, a hot cam, and other tweaks, this baby generated 375 hp at 5600 rpm, could go 0-60 in about 6.5 seconds and ran 14.5 second quarters. In 1966, Chevelle SS 396s with the L78 engine option numbered only about 100 units, and accordingly are highly prized today.


5 66 OlDs 442

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6 69 Roadrunner

69 Coronet

I’m listing both versions of the ’69 Coronet muscle car here, because they are both very similar (and very cool), but each one has its own unique advantages. The R/T option designation was available on several Dodge models starting back in 1967, and signified “road/track” performance. In 1969, many Mopar fans opted for the slightly less expensive Coronet Super Bee (boasting its unique logo in the rear-end bumble-bee striping). This was Dodge’s equivalent to the Plymouth Roadrunner, and as such, was equally minus many luxury features, making it lighter in weight as compared to the R/T. Super Bees are also much more common, especially those equipped with the base 383 cid (over 24,000 units sold), which was not even available in the R/T. A few Super Bees came with either the bigger 440 six-pack or the 426 twin-four Hemi. The R/T was only offered with the 440 Magnum or the Hemi. These burners routinely ran the quarter-mile in the mid-13s. As for the R/T being the rarer of the two models, about 6,800 R/Ts were produced in 1969, 400 of which were the R/T convertible (all Super Bees were hardtops). Ten of those rag-top R/Ts had the Hemi, and only four of those left the factory with the four-speed tranny.

Technically, pre-1968 Olds 442s weren’t an actual model, but rather “442 was an option package available for the Oldsmobile Cutlass. The standard L78 400 cid engine incorporated a single 4bbl carburetor and was rated at 350 hp. The favored set-up for muscle car buyers was the upgraded L69, which was a one-year-only configuration that featured a hotter cam and a triple 2bbl carb “tri-power” arrangement, which helped increase the power rating by another 10 horses. Quarter-mile runs were as quick as 14.8 seconds. Rarest of the rare was the W-30 version of the tri-power motor, which also incorporated an air induction system via tubing from the front bumper. There were only 54 factory-released copies of the W-30, although another 97 were dealer-modified installations. Finding a W-30 442 today is next to impossible (at this writing, one is available on eBay for $70k!), but lacking that, the “regular” tri-power L69s are most desired by collectors.

Mopar struck paydirt when it came up with the idea of capitalizing on the muscle car wave of popularity by offering the lowpriced Roadrunner to the masses in 1968, with 1969 being a particularly stellar sales year. They were definitely marketing the younger audience with better affordbility, as well as licencing the Warner Brothers cartoon character as its namesake and mascot, including the well-known “beepbeep” sound for its horn. To keep the price down, Roadrunners were minimally appointed, but these cars weren’t toys, as performance and suspension features were not compromised. Base stickered at under $3,000, the price quickly went up when you started beefing it up with power options. Who wants the standard 383 cid mill when you could get a 390 hp 440 with a three-two “Six-pack”? Well forget even that; what you really wanted under the hood was the 426 Street Hemi. Featuring hi-po goodies such as Hemi heads, 10.25:1 compression and two fours, its rated output boosted to 425 hp at 5,000 rpm. It could run the quarter in 13.5 seconds and had a top speed of 140+ mph! Over 80,000 units of the various configurations were sold in 1969, with the “no-post” hardtops being the most desirable among collectors. But the real find today is the rag-top, of which only about 2,200 were produced.

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7 69 Torino Cobra

Officially, these are known simply as Cobras, according to period Ford advertising and sales brochures, and more importantly, the dealer winder-sticker. Really though, these are Fairlanes, as the Torino designation was an option package for the Fairlane body-code and was not yet a separate model line in 1969. Sometimes also referred to as the Torino GT or Fairlane Cobra, this naming convention generates some debate in collector circles. This line featured two body styles: the hardtop and the much more common “sports roof” fastback. The Cobra performance package included as standard the 335 hp 428 Cobra Jet V-8 with a Holly 4bbl. Also included was a locking rear differential, which was exclusive to Ford. Quarter mile times were typically in the 14.5 second range. It is estimated that about 14,000 Cobras were sold in 1969, with the vast majority of them being the fastback version.

performance or drag racing. Heavy duty suspension provided superior handling (compared to the typical muscle car), and with a powerful 375 hp 440 Magnum V-8, this car ran the quarter-mile in just under 15 seconds, and listed for about $3,500. Not good enough? R/T Chargers with a Hemi under the hood (only 475 produced) would cost you an extra $600, but dropped that quarter time down to the mid 13s. A total of 96,100 Chargers were built in 1968, with 17,000 of them having the R/T designation. Fans of the 1968 movie Bullit might recall that Steve McQueen’s nemisis drove an awesome black 440 Magnum R/T Charger in perhaps one of the best chase scenes ever put on film.

8 68 charger Sleek “coke-bottle” body styling and a mean-looking black-out front grill with hidden headlights sets the Dodge Charger apart from the competition. The R/T (road/ track) designation is what Dodge used to denote a car equally suited for street

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9 69 RAMBLER

1969 American Motors Corp. joined forces the well known parts company Hurst Performance and surprised everyone with the SC/Rambler (aka “Scrambler”). The SC stood for “stock-car”, but this was a raceready production vehicle. Maintaining the typical small-car-bigengine strategy, AMC stuffed their 390 cid 315 hp V8 power-plant into its light-weight Rambler Rogue hardtop coupe. This car could hold court with many of the more popular machines of the day, as stock vehicles regularly turned low 14s at the strip. No options were available (except an AM radio), which kept the price below $3,000. All cars had plain grey vinyl interior with bench seats and red white and blue headrests, carpeting, and a Borg-Warner 4-speed with a Hurst shifter. But perhaps the car’s most striking feature was its bold paint scheme and a large, functional “Ram Air” induction hood scoop. The first 500 units all were a base white with a wide red side panel running the length of the car, and had a blue stripe running front to back across the top of the car. An arrow graphic pointed towards the scoop and lettering noted the engine size. Additionally striking were the blue twotoned mag wheels. When these cars quickly sold out, AMC released a second batch of 500, this time with “B” trim, which was mostly white with narrow red and blue side stripes. A third batch of 512 units was later released which are thought to have gone back to the “A” trim, though this is a source of controversy among enthusiasts, as vehicle VIN codes do not differentiate between the two paint schemes. What is known is that of the total 1,512 SC/Ramblers built, the majority of surviving examples today have the “A” trim. The SC/Rambler is perhaps one of the least remembered muscle cars from the era.


1O 63 IMPALA

Chevrolet’s famed 409 engine was immortalized in the 1962 Beach Boys song of the same name, and was the desire of many muscle car enthusiasts in the early 60s. In ’62 the hot set-up was to order the 409 in the lightweight “bubble-top” Bel Air 2-door hardtop. Well, kicking it up a notch in 1963, Chevrolet introduced the Z11 option package for its Impala line. The package included a modified 409 increased to 427 cid by way of a stroked crank, and had special heads, valves and a two-piece aluminum intake manifold sporting dual quads. Output was rated at 430 hp. The additional Z11 features were not limited to the engine compartment however, as the hood, fenders bumpers and other items were made of aluminum to lighten its overall curb weight. This was a RPO (regular production option) package supposedly available to the general public, but appears to have only been selectively sold to racers with the intent of furthering Chevrolet’s cause at the drag strip. No matter, the ’63 Impala SS with a standard 425 hp 409 was plenty fast for the average joe, regularly turning sub-15s in the quarter mile. Only 50 or so (qtys vary by source) Impala Z11s were sold in 1963, and there are 7 known to be still in existence today.

Tom Brady

OCTOBER 2012 AMERICAN RIDE


Charcoal grilling since 1952.

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