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Posts filed under ‘Muscle Cars’

The New King of the Hill:
950-hp Shelby GT1000

March 25, 2013 by Matt

Ford Mustang Shelby GT1000 1000 Dark Blue

This is getting a little ridiculous.

Top Gear has info today on the newest Mustang breathed upon by the tuning gods at Shelby, the 950-hp GT1000.

While I’m not quite sure about the chronology here:

[It] arrives on a wave of history: exactly 50 years ago Carroll Shelby premiered the Cobra at the ’62 New York motor show, announcing the arrival of a new tuning house.

seeing as how it’s 2013, there’s no doubt Shelby’s creation is designed to steal some of the new C7 Corvette’s thunder at the upcoming 2013 New York Auto Show and to stoke enthusiasm for the outgoing Mustang generation, even as a new one is being readied by Ford.

Ford Mustang Shelby GT1000 1000 Engine Motor Supercharger Blower

What we have here, essentially, is an officially-sanctioned version of a particular flavor of tuner car familiar to almost all enthusiasts: The dyno queen. Bragging rights are the GT1000’s sole raison d’être. Whoever shells out the asking price of $200K (for a Mustang!) for one of the 50 that will be produced can claim ownership of unarguably the most monstrous pony car ever screwed together by an official tuning house. Nevermind the fact that there’s absolutely no way that kind of power is usable in a street or track setting; wheel that baby up onto the dyno rollers, fire up the digicam and get ready to upload the video of the pull to YouTube and achieve instant Internet fame. That’s it, really, aside from sedate cruises to local meets and being lovingly waxed every couple of weeks. I understand Shelby’s reasoning behind the GT1000’s build, but as a prospective automotive experience, to me, it’s less than desirable. No thanks.

Image credits: mustangsdaily.com, motortrend.com

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Upcoming Buick GNX: Another
Storied Nameplate to be Sullied

March 2, 2012 by Matt

Buick SLP GNX Regal GS Concept Sketch Teaser

It’s like what Pontiac did to the GTO, only worse.

Motor Authority reports that tuner SLP plans to revive Buick’s legendary GNX designation, applying it to a breathed-upon variant of the automaker’s current Regal GS. Mercifully, they’ve only planned to build around 500 of them, close to the painfully low number of the original that were produced.

To understand why this is such a travesty, consider a couple of things:

  1. The original GNX was the ultimate rip-snorting, ground-pounding, take-no-prisoners incarnation of the already-fearsome Grand National. It was, first and foremost, a muscle car. It may not have been V8-powered in the classic tradition, but its turbocharged V6 radiated torque in its own right. And it was RWD, sported a live rear axle, dripped with testosterone and was singularly intimidating to line up next to at a stoplight or drag strip.
  2. Back in ’04, Pontiac attempted to revive their legendary GTO badge by slapping it on a car called the Monaro, imported from their Australian subsidiary Holden. While the new GTO possessed good credentials on paper—a small-block V8 lifted from the outgoing Camaro and RWD—it utterly failed to catch on. Its timing was off by several years, for one; the new generation of muscle cars wouldn’t crop up until the emergence of the Dodge Challenger and especially the new Ford Mustang. But more significantly, although the mechanicals were on point, the sheetmetal was jellybean-like and inert, with absolutely none of the swagger befitting a proper muscle car.

And with the new GNX, history threatens to repeat itself as SLP prepares to water down yet another revered nameplate by affixing it to a very un-muscle-y sports sedan built on a FWD platform. A little nostalgia mining I can handle, but the new car must faithful if not to the original’s concept, at least to its general attitude. I really can’t see any possible way for SLP to re-cast the Regal GS in the mold of the ’80s GNX. It’s just not going to work.

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New Chevy Camaro: Muscle Caricature

February 20, 2012 by Matt

2011 11 Chevy Chevrolet Camaro SS Red

The new Camaro is really ugly.

There; I said it.

The new 571-hp Camaro ZL1 stares at me from the cover of the latest issue of Car and Driver whenever I walk by my desk, and I’ll occasionally stop and let my eyes linger on the angular nose and convoluted haunches, trying to like the shape, but… I just can’t muster it.

I vividly remember watching Transformers in the theater and hearing an audible intake of breath from the guys in the audience when Bumblebee morphed into his new Camaro shape. The film was released in ’07, and was a showcase for the upcoming car, which wouldn’t hit showrooms until March ’09. The new muscle car was duly spectacular in its movie role, and perhaps it fit the big screen too well, in a sense, its cartoonish, hyper-charged lines a better match for film stardom than real-life city streets.

1969 69 Chevy Chevrolet Camaro SS Blue

That touches on my main objection to its shape, I think. The original Camaro (shown above) was an instant classic, a shape at once lovely, well-proportioned, sensual and aggressive—without turning into a parody of itself. It helped, of course, that there was nothing to parody in ’67, the year the original was released, and the stylists were forced to pen a fresh shape. The latest Camaro, by contrast, plagiarizes far too much from its ancestor, and does nothing with its lines except pull and distort them into a blocky, awkward mess. Also, with the first-generation car, manufacturing materials and processes then weren’t what they are now, able to turn just about any designer’s fantasy into reality. But as with so many great movies, the limitations of the technology sometimes create a better film, or better-looking car in this case. As it is, though, the new Camaro banks far too heavily on the nostalgia of potential owners; hardly any of its lines are of the quality I would call enduring, in the sense that they aren’t visually exhausting to behold for more than 30 seconds or so. Don’t get me wrong; it’s nowhere near the nadir of modern car design, but if I owned one, I can confidently say it would quickly wear out its welcome in my garage. If the original Camaro was a timeless superhero on the order of Spider-Man or Batman, the new car is more analogous to one of the more modern crop of comic book characters, all of whom shamelessly borrow story lines and super powers from their forebears, and have yet to truly catch on.

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Have It Your Way

September 16, 2011 by Matt

Mustang Customizer Ford Website Options

A fun palate-cleanser for a chilly Friday: Ford’s new “customizer” website for their 2012 Mustang.

Beyond how much fun it is to play with and think that the automaker could actually deliver the combination of options selected, it’s refreshing to see Ford replicating a big part of what made the Mustang a runaway success in the ’60s: The ability to customize the car any way you want. I mean, how cool is it that the factory gives you 8 different air dams and 22 different wheel options to choose from? And they let you select the under-window trim strip color and headlight design, among other things? Amazing. Forget 2 or 3 pre-bundled “option packages;” this is how car buffs want to buy their cars. Provided you’re willing to wait for the factory to assemble “your” Mustang, it seems like it would boost new car sales significantly too, as chances are slim a second-hand pony car is going to have exactly the collection of features you want. It’s genius.

Between the essential goodness of the car and ability to tailor one precisely to your tastes, Ford really is firing on all cylinders.

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The Engine Swap Hall of Fame:
Mark Stielow’s ’69 Camaro

September 15, 2011 by Matt

Mark Stielow 1969 Camaro

I love engine swaps. My first major car project was an engine swap between two first-generation RX-7s, and it was great fun, albeit challenging. However, even the trial of simply replacing a car’s existing engine with an identical one served a purpose: It reinforced my admiration for guys who can combine disparate engines and chassis. There aren’t many more ambitious or exiting projects for us shadetree mechanics, and guys who do it right become heroes in their respective niches of the automotive community.

Mark Stielow 1969 Camaro Engine LS7 LS9

One such hero is Mark Stielow, owner/builder of the above ’69 Camaro, as reported in Car and Driver. Beneath the legendary first-generation F-body skin, Stielow has crafted a thoroughly modern car. He has either upgraded or replaced every bit of ’60s engineering, bringing it completely into the modern era—except, of course, for the styling. The spec sheet reads like a car nut’s fantasy: Supercharged combination of LS7 block and LS9 heads, Tremec 6-speed, Truetrac LSD, Brembo rotors and calipers, hydroformed subframe, rack-and-pinion steering, coilovers all around, 756 hp. Yep, 756. The acceleration figures (4.1 seconds 0-60, 11.8 1/4 mile) won’t impress many muscle car buffs who hone their cars solely for performance at the drag strip, but consider that Stielow’s Camaro can hang with the best modern sports cars on the road course as well, and it’s completely civil and tractable around town. The bandwidth here is amazing. As the automotive equivalent of a 60-year-old decathlete, it’s almost without peer.

Mark Stielow 1969 Camaro Dashboard Gauges

Granted, it is a “money no object” kind of endeavor. Stielow obviously had the resources to select the best parts to perform his time-warp makeover on the ’69. But pigeonholing him as some kind of “credit card racer” would be an insult to the attention to detail required by the necessary fabrication, and what’s more, Stielow’s ability to fine-tune the components to work together to extract both the savagery and docility. Make no mistake—it’s one thing to bolt-on all the most expensive geegaws you can find in the catalog; it’s quite another to have the skill to get them to “talk to each other” and make the whole more than the sum of the parts. From the looks of it, Stielow has resoundingly succeeded.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series showcasing awesome engine swaps and builds. Read the other installments here:

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Packing Heat:
The Buick Grand National

July 29, 2011 by Matt

1987 Buick Grand National GNX

Among other cars, I’ve owned a Toyota Supra. Yes, it was the turbocharged version, and yes, it was a 5-speed; I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’m sorry to report, however, that it wasn’t the coveted “Mark 4” (4th generation) iteration of The Fast & The Furious fame, a model whose asking price, due to its hallowed status, seems to defy depreciation 13 years after it departed our shores. The Mark 4 is a potent car, and its often deep-pocketed owners have been able to extract pavement-buckling amounts of horsepower from its indestructible and eminently tunable 2JZ-GTE engine.

But I’m not here today to discuss the Mark 4 Supra. No—I want to talk about the one car owners of the vaunted Mark 4 have said time and again that they fear to line up next to on a dragstrip or at a stoplight: The ’82-’87 Buick Regal Grand National, or Grand Nash.

Buick Grand National Engine Bay

One of the few true muscle cars of the horsepower desert of the ’70s and ’80s, the GN took an unconventional—by muscle car standards—path to greatness. Instead of a typical American pushrod V8, the car was powered by a turbocharged (from ’84) and intercooled (from ’86) variant of Buick’s legendary V6 engine. The horsepower figure may have looked mild, even for the era, at 245 hp, but the Grand Nash had four key advantages for those in the know:

  1. The horsepower was underrated. Especially in the ultimate GNX incarnation of ’87, with 276 “factory” hp, a 4.6 second 0-60 time and 13.5 second 1/4 mile clearly meant that at least that much power was being sent to the rear wheels, as opposed to being measured at the flywheel, without driveline loss. 276 flywheel hp + a 3400 lb car do not add up to that kind of acceleration. Presumably, the actual power figure was deliberately misquoted so as not to further overshadow the GM range-topping sports car, the Corvette, whose engine, until ’92, only put out 230 hp.
  2. Torque. Horsepower may have “only” been 245, but the maximum torque available was a colossal 355 lb-ft (again, even more in the GNX). Chalk this figure up to the presence of the turbo, the long stroke and relatively low redline. The upshot of the massive torque figure was that in the mid-rpm range street racers typically play, the Grand Nash had a huge advantage over its imported rivals, whose smaller-displacement engines often required much higher revs to extract their full potential, over a smaller rev range.
  3. Easily-upgradable rear suspension. Unlike the independent rear ends of the ‘Vette or the import aspirants, the GN featured a good ol’ live axle, which would accept virtually the full arsenal of grip-enhancing bolt-ons dating back to the ’60s, from ladder and traction bars to stronger differentials.
  4. Easily-upgradable engine. Perhaps most significantly, tuners had the Grand Nash’s engine “figured out” within a year or two of its entry into the marketplace. The Buick V6 core was a known quantity, and the relatively new technology of turbocharging was quickly mastered. As with the rear suspension, building a bulletproof engine was as easy as flipping through the Summit Racing catalog, and extracting more power was simply a matter of improving on what the factory had already provided. The manifolds, intercooler piping and fuel system were all there—just install a more capacious one of each, tune and crank the boost. Bingo.

The car has a cult following, and considering its model run was relatively brief (as with all good GM cars), it’s something of a collector’s item. Still, if I had to pick one American-made car from the ’80s as a keeper, the Grand Nash would probably be it. I’d love to stare down a cocky Mark 4 Supra owner or two.

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