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Thread: The truth about classic muscle cars...

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    The truth about classic muscle cars...

    Muscle cars were slow.

    I mean, the classic-era ones from the 1960s and '70s. Very few of them made it to 60 mph in less than seven seconds. Most were 15 second quarter-milers, which today is Toyota Camry V-6 territory.

    No kidding.

    I know it's not in line with the image - lumpy cams, tire-frying burnouts, menacing hood scoops and all that. But I am here to tell it like it is - and the dread truth is that most of the '60s and '70s-era muscle cars were only quick by the standards of their time - and would be considered merely peppy today.

    Here are some stats:

    * 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T Hemi, 426 CID -

    0-60, 6.7 seconds; quarter mile, 13.9 seconds

    * 1969 Chevy Camaro Z28, 302 CID -

    0-60, 7.4 seconds; quarter mile, 15.2 seconds

    * 1970 Buick GSX Stage 1 455 CID -

    0-60, 6.4 seconds; quarter-mile, 13.9 seconds

    * 1970 Oldsmobile 442 W30 455 CID -

    0-60, 6.8 seconds; quarter-mile, 14.2 seconds

    * 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air III 400 CID -

    0-60, 6.6 seconds; quarter-mile, 14.6 seconds

    A 2010 Mustang GT can get to 60 mph in just over 5 seconds flat. A new Camaro SS is even quicker, around 4.7 seconds. Either one completely outclasses the cars above - quickness-wise, anyhow.

    And to put a finer point on it: The stats mentioned reflect the times of the meanest factory stock muscle cars - models equipped with the largest or highest-performance engines available at the time, like the mighty 426 Hemi, in the case of the Chryslers.

    The same cars with the standard (and usually, less powerful) engine were considerably slower.

    A 383 Super Bee or GTX was a mid-15 second car. Small block muscle cars slotted in closer to 16 seconds.

    That was typical of the time.

    But that's not what people remember. They bask in the glow of the much-hyped magazine profiles - and the completely not-representative performance of specially tuned "ringers" or barely streetable dealer-modifed cars like the Yenko Super Camaros and Royal Bobcat Pontiacs.

    Some of those cars did run 12s - or even 11s.

    But they did it on drag slicks, with race gas in the tank, "super tunes," open headers, wild camshaft profiles and rear axle ratios that would never work on public roads

    Few mass-produced/factory built muscle cars of the '60s or '70s ever came close to that kind of performance.

    Today, you can get a production Camaro SS into the 12s without in any way hurting its street driveabilty.

    None of this is intended as a slam of classic-era muscle cars. They have style - and sheer presence - that arguably outclasses anything modern. You can work on them yourself, too - and it's easy to extract more performance with a few choice modifications. They are also great investments that appreciate in value - whereas that new Mustang GT you just bought for $30,000 will probably be worth barely half that in five years' time.

    But, dammit Jim, they are unholy fast (easy 150 mph top speeds, factory stock and fully warranted and with the AC running) and usually can be counted on to run for 100,00-plus miles before you even begin to see puffs of blue smoke curling out of the tailpipe.

    Most of the '60s and '70s-era stuff was seriously tired by 50,000 miles.

    I have an old muscle car myself (bright orange '76 Trans-Am with 455 V-8) and love it dearly. But it would get its proverbial doors blown off by a new muscle car - and if I tried to drive it every day, it would be a rust-eaten, smoke-spewing hulk within three or four years.

    To make it as quick as a modern muscle car would require some significant modifications. To match the handling/braking, some even more serious mods. To achieve the same body integrity and overall durability would be all-but-impossible without completely re-engineering the car - in which case it would be "old" in name only.

    So, I keep it for the memories and because of the way it makes me smile whenever I slide behind the non-air-bag-equipped Formula spoked steering wheel, key the ancient V-8 to life and sniff the uncontrolled byproducts of internal combustion.

    I remember the good old days - but I don't idealize them unduly.

    And I am grateful for how good we've got it today!

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    What's the 0-60 for a 2010 Ford Focus?
    Just for comparison purposes.

    Chip H.

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chiph View Post
    What's the 0-60 for a 2010 Ford Focus?
    Just for comparison purposes.

    Chip H.
    I'll look it up but I bet it is around 7.5 seconds - which would mean it's about as quick as my '76 Trans-Am was when it was new (and stock)!

    And: A 2010 Camry V-6 is quicker. That car (and others like it) can reach 60 in 6.5 seconds or so.

    That's about what most '60s-era GTOs (except the highest-performance versions, which were produced in smaller numbers) were running...

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    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    I'll look it up but I bet it is around 7.5 seconds - which would mean it's about as quick as my '76 Trans-Am was when it was new (and stock)!

    And: A 2010 Camry V-6 is quicker. That car (and others like it) can reach 60 in 6.5 seconds or so.

    That's about what most '60s-era GTOs (except the highest-performance versions, which were produced in smaller numbers) were running...

    I timied a 1954 Dodge Coronet once that I used to own. 0-60 was 18 seconds. Once it got going though, it would surprise more than one late model driver. I had a chrome air cleaner that wasn't silenced replacing the oil bath unit. Get going and kick it into low range and it would really talk to you. The looks from bystanders when I got on it was one opf wonder. You'd hear that "WHHHOOOOMMMMMPPPPPP!!!!!!" until I let up. It would cruise at 80 even if it wasn't a fast accelerater.
    Honk if you love Jesus.

    Text if you want to meet him.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post
    I timied a 1954 Dodge Coronet once that I used to own. 0-60 was 18 seconds. Once it got going though, it would surprise more than one late model driver. I had a chrome air cleaner that wasn't silenced replacing the oil bath unit. Get going and kick it into low range and it would really talk to you. The looks from bystanders when I got on it was one opf wonder. You'd hear that "WHHHOOOOMMMMMPPPPPP!!!!!!" until I let up. It would cruise at 80 even if it wasn't a fast accelerater.
    Yeah, I miss that too.

    One of the great joys of older carbureted cars was you could flip the air cleaner lid to let the carb "breathe" - and if you were lucky enough to have a car with a Rochester Q-Jet (these had small primaries and huge secondaries that were airflow controlled) you'd get to hear this banshee-like moan as the carb opened up!

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    Hmmm.....

    I used to get 14-second times at the 1/4 mile strip with my stock '69 Z-28.

    Every time.

    How'd I do that? <G>

  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gareebee View Post
    Hmmm.....

    I used to get 14-second times at the 1/4 mile strip with my stock '69 Z-28.

    Every time.

    How'd I do that? <G>
    High 14s? Mid 14s? With headers/"power tune"? Slicks?

    The typical corrected 1/4 mile for a stone stock '69 Z-28, according to published reports, was in the high 14s/low 15s.

    The 302 produced 290 "gross" hp; by modern "net" standards, this was probably a "real" 250 hp. But I'll concede the 302 was also probably under-rated by 50-75 hp. Still, that's at best a (probable) 300-320 honest SAE net rear-wheel horsepower.

    Compare that to a modern SS Camaro's 6.2 liter, 420 hp V-8. (Heck, the standard V-6 in the new Camaro produces more rated hp than the old Z's 302 V-8!)

    I love the old muscle cars and prefer them to the current stuff because they're wilder, free of electronic/computer crap and just look better and have more soul.

    But it's easy to remember them as quicker than they actually were.

    The new stuff is much more powerful and far quicker - excepting a literal handful of ultra-rare, low-productions tuff such as aluminum 427 Corvettes, Yenko 454s, etc.

    Look into for yourself. The typical '60s/'70s muscle car ran low 15s/high 14s. A few were quicker, a few were slower.

    But that was typical.

  8. #8
    I love the old muscle cars and prefer them to the current stuff because they're wilder, free of electronic/computer crap and just look better and have more soul.
    Exactly! Why would you want to be fucked along in a modern, quiet, boring, dumpy, common Camry when you could have a unique, almost as quick(who goes all out all the time anyways?), looks better, mid 60's muscle car (I said mid because they are still powerful, but less recognized) for less than half of the price. A Camry costs $22-30k, a decent reliable classic muscle car costs $10-15k. Who the hell would want a new car?

  9. #9
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dieseleverything View Post
    Exactly! Why would you want to be fucked along in a modern, quiet, boring, dumpy, common Camry when you could have a unique, almost as quick(who goes all out all the time anyways?), looks better, mid 60's muscle car (I said mid because they are still powerful, but less recognized) for less than half of the price. A Camry costs $22-30k, a decent reliable classic muscle car costs $10-15k. Who the hell would want a new car?
    Yep.

    Hell, you can have a lot of fun with something like a mid-late '70s Caprice coupe (or Laguna). And they're dirt cheap.

    Another good choice is an early-mid '70s Nova II. Basically the same under the skin as a same-generation Camaro. Available with both big and small block V-8s, manual transmission, etc.

    You can find Cherry examples for less than $10k and really nice drivers for a lot less than that.

    See also: For Maverick (esp. Grabber versions).

    None of these were quick/powerful in stock trim but it is very easy to soup them up.

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    >>* 1969 Chevy Camaro Z28, 302 CID -

    >>0-60, 7.4 seconds; quarter mile, 15.2 seconds

    Huh? I used to run 14.0 second quarters with my '69 Z-28.

    Every time.

    No mods.

    Straight stock.

    How did I do that?

  11. #11
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gareebee View Post
    >>* 1969 Chevy Camaro Z28, 302 CID -

    >>0-60, 7.4 seconds; quarter mile, 15.2 seconds

    Huh? I used to run 14.0 second quarters with my '69 Z-28.

    Every time.

    No mods.

    Straight stock.

    How did I do that?
    Well, maybe you did!

    But the published (corrected) results are what they are - and I'm just quoting them.

    The early Z, as you know, was not even intended to be a quarter-mile car but to be a successful road racer.

    If you wanted maximum straight-line performance in '67-'69 you wanted an SS 396, not a Z28 302!

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    I had to rumage through my box of timeslips from the early 1970's for our 68 RS/SS 396 Camaro to find the stock runs (we bought the car in mid 1969, wrecked, but didn't get it fixed and ruuning till mid 1970.

    At the time, it was bone stock 4spd 396/325 h/p, 3.55 posi (limited slip), and the slips show from 14.90's to 15. 30's (similar to our stock 1992 LX 5.0 with AOD times), and as I recall, good year bias ply 14's x E70's.

    After a bit of "super tunning" including degreeing the stock cam and new double roller gear set, edlbrock intake, 850cc Pontiac Quadrajet, black jack equal length headers with 1 an 7/8th's primarys, 4 inch collectors, "Dayton" L60 x14's redlines over the 1970 winter period, it ran high 13's (13.80's to 13.90's), at our 1800 feet above sea level track.

    A change in gear ratio (4.10's), 2" primary headers, pocket ported heads, better cam profile, balancing, 750 Holley double pumper with 1" spacer for fit and 28 tall cheater slicks (can't remember the brand or find the sales reciept right now, but not good year or rich, guess could see if still have the carcuss's), and ran low, low 13's, occassional high 12's.

    But never had much problem's beating "Stock" Z-28's in the "Full" 1/4, when stock ourselves (we all know the Z-28's, as well as the Boss 302's, were bad ass's in the first two blocks).

    Can't say much about when had dropped the LS6-454 into it, because didn't spend the money to get dependable traction since engine was just visiting the Camaro's engine bay, but on a few good days, have hit 12.90's with our much heavier 1970 Chevelle's body & frame (4spd {M22} an 3.73 gears). which didn't/doesn't have dependable traction either, not in the stock factory configeration any way (AHRA records back in 1970, in Seattle show the best time on an LS6 that ran there, only hit low 13.60's "Pure Stock".

    Rex

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    With the evil handling and brakes on those old cars, just how much faster would you want to go?

    Stock specs may have been unimpressive by today's standards, but it didn't take much money or effort to make some of them quite a bit faster.

    There's a good reason why they're so rare today, these cars were beat to death by 60K miles.

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    "With the evil handling and brakes on those old cars, just how much faster would you want to go?"

    So long as it was a straight line....

    A few actually did handle reasonably well. The '70-up F-cars, for example (and the Firebird Trans Am in particular; later models offered 15x8 alloy wheels with fairly decent tires, 4 wheel disc brakes, a good "high effort" steering box and a pretty efficient - if crude - suspension).

    But you're right, most were frighteningly unstable by the standards of even the most unassuming modern economy car. A buddy of mine owned a stock '71 GTX 440 and it was a pig. Quick as hell, but on 14 inch rims and that eat-shit suspension it waddled around corners like a pregnant sow on roller skates!

    "Stock specs may have been unimpressive by today's standards, but it didn't take much money or effort to make some of them quite a bit faster."

    Yes. This is one of the things that was great about them. A bone stock mid-late '70s Trans-Am (or Camaro Z28) was about as quick as a new Camry V-6. But spend a weekend gutting the emissions controls (especially the single exhaust/catalytic converter) and recalibrating the carb and ignition and you could get one into the high 14s. A few more relatively simple/inexpensive mods such as a cam change and headers would get you close to the 13 second mark.

    That was damn decent for the early Reagan era!

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Mopars were the worst. All they had was cheap power and flashy styling.

    In the '60s and '70s, GM always had the best handling and brakes of the big three, and they were the first with variable-resistance power steering. Ford's chassis wasn't all bad, but they couldn't give you controls with any feedback at all.

    What kind of steering box did they put in Mustang Trans-Am racers? I assume they weren't running power assist, and the stock Ford Falcon/Fairlane/Mustang non-assist steering box had like 7 1/2 turns lock-to-lock, so I have to assume there was something better available? What did the Boss 302 ship with if you didn't get power?

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    "At the time, it was bone stock 4spd 396/325 h/p, 3.55 posi (limited slip), and the slips show from 14.90's to 15. 30's (similar to our stock 1992 LX 5.0 with AOD times), and as I recall, good year bias ply 14's x E70's."


    And that would be better performance than a '67-'69 Z-28, with its lower torque (and lower hp) small-block 302!

  17. #17
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    Mopars were the worst. All they had was cheap power and flashy styling.

    In the '60s and '70s, GM always had the best handling and brakes of the big three, and they were the first with variable-resistance power steering. Ford's chassis wasn't all bad, but they couldn't give you controls with any feedback at all.

    What kind of steering box did they put in Mustang Trans-Am racers? I assume they weren't running power assist, and the stock Ford Falcon/Fairlane/Mustang non-assist steering box had like 7 1/2 turns lock-to-lock, so I have to assume there was something better available? What did the Boss 302 ship with if you didn't get power?
    Good question!

    I'm not a Ford guy, so I don't know...

    Did the rules require running OEM-type steering?

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    Another consideration is that quite a few of these cars—Camaro, Mustang, Firebird, etc.—left the factory equipped with straight sixes. The hotter V-8 versions were rather more expensive and rare even when new, by comparison with the slower bread-and-butter versions. But survivors with sixes have not been considered desirable, so far fewer have survived in good condition. Collectors want these cars with a V-8, any V-8, even if it's the tiniest small-block.

    We have become spoiled by the car magazines' constant claims that a new car that takes all of 8 seconds to go 0–60 mph is "slow". Most cars on the road in the '60s and '70s, meaning import and domestic alike, took 15 or more seconds to hit 60 from a standstill. And just how often does the average driver accelerate in that fashion? In a sense, 0–60 full throttle is comparable to making a high-speed panic stop 60–0.

    OT a bit: some years back (1990s), Popular Mechanics compared some of the old muscle cars with the models then available new and found that the old ones cornered just about as well as the new models if modern radial tires were installed. Highly revealing...

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    Did the rules require running OEM-type steering?
    I don't know, but that's not what I was trying to imply. Consider that two questions -- what were the racers running, and was there a better non-assist box available from the factory for street cars?

    Chevy ran Saginaw steering boxes, right? What was in Fords? I know it was a worm and roller of some sort.

  20. #20
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ekrampitzjr View Post
    Another consideration is that quite a few of these cars—Camaro, Mustang, Firebird, etc.—left the factory equipped with straight sixes. The hotter V-8 versions were rather more expensive and rare even when new, by comparison with the slower bread-and-butter versions. But survivors with sixes have not been considered desirable, so far fewer have survived in good condition. Collectors want these cars with a V-8, any V-8, even if it's the tiniest small-block.

    We have become spoiled by the car magazines' constant claims that a new car that takes all of 8 seconds to go 0–60 mph is "slow". Most cars on the road in the '60s and '70s, meaning import and domestic alike, took 15 or more seconds to hit 60 from a standstill. And just how often does the average driver accelerate in that fashion? In a sense, 0–60 full throttle is comparable to making a high-speed panic stop 60–0.

    OT a bit: some years back (1990s), Popular Mechanics compared some of the old muscle cars with the models then available new and found that the old ones cornered just about as well as the new models if modern radial tires were installed. Highly revealing...

    Thank Elvis there's someone else out there who's sane!

    I've been doing this (writing about cars) for almost 20 years now - and I've become pretty cynical.

    Every day, I go out and find myself stuck behind a "high performance" car of some type that's just puttering along at about the speed limit. The owners (as you say) rarely, if ever, make full or even close to full use of the available power/capability - which in many cases has become extreme. If they did, they'd lose their licenses or be in jail within a few weeks.

    That's just the reality.

    And have you noticed the irony?

    Just as sports-obsessed Americans are among the most out-of-shape and overweight people on earth, so Americans drivers - among the least skilled and most inhibited - feel they absolutely must have cars with 300 or 400 hp and 140-plus top speeds....

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