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Profiling High Performance Cars and the Golden Era of Detroit Iron
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Monday May 12, 2014
NEW: Performance Car Chronicles, '66 AMC Rogue, '63 Healey 3000, & '70 GTO RAIV, '11 5.0 GT Overview, New Pontiac Heads - and More!

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New Series: Performance Car Chronicles - Setting the Stage
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Lingenfelter Record Shattering Corvettes

We visit the Lingenfelter Auto
Collection - and you should too!

1962 Pontiac 421 Drag Test

1962 Pontiac Catalina 421
Drag Test

Mustang Paint Codes

1964-2014 Mustang Color
Codes & Mix Codes

The 1949 Olds Rocket V8 Ad

Called the "Rocket," Oldsmobile's new 303 cu. in V8
"rocked" the auto world with its sophistication and HP.

1951 Hudson Ad

While not as sophisticated as the Olds - Hudson's better
handling & the torque of the 308 cu. in. I-6 did the job

Don Garlits in 1955

In 1955 Don Garlits was already making history with his
Ford Flathead Dragster. Shortly after, he switched to
Olds & Chrysler power.

by Wild About Cars Staff - reprint with permission only.

This week we start a new Series – Performance Car Chronicles. What we are going to do here is to document the benchmarks in each decade where performance impacted the US Automobile. Of course we'll have to outline what happened, but rest assured we will cover enough to make our case - and we'll send you to a host of references along the way.

We will do post WW II first, and then jump around. Initially, we will focus on what we think is the significant year in each decade – then backtrack into what was significant in each year. Hope you like it. And please don’t make this argumentative – it’s just a way to introduce what happened when and to build a timeline for your enjoyment.

Setting the Stage for Performance –

The decade of the 1950’s started off full of promise for the US performance car and performance car industry. The venerable flathead Ford & Mercury engines were mainstays of virtually every form of motorsport and the choice of street builders.

The modern overhead valve engines introduced in 1949 by Oldsmobile and Cadillac and the first generation Chrysler Hemi introduced in 1951 heralded a sea of change in US auto performance. By 1955 every major US manufacturer had an overhead valve V8 engine in their lineup.

America was in love with horsepower, and as such, two major forms of competitive Autosport were beginning to dominate the country – organized ¼ mile drag racing and "stock cars" is a truly American pastime - circle track racing. 

In drag racing, there were three major sanctioning bodies - the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) founded in 1951, the American Hot Rod Association (AHRA) founded in 1956 and the Automobile Timing Association of America (ATAA) founded in 1953. These three sanctioning bodies vied with each other to promote the sport and tried to "sign-up" as many drag strips as possible.

In the "stock car" racing arena you had the "big two"; the United States Auto Club (USAC) founded in 1955 – which sanctioned both stock car races and open wheel races, and the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing which we know as NASCAR, which was founded in 1947.

The early USAC and NASCAR races were held on smaller and mostly dirt tracks, primarily in the southeastern United States. Initially any year "stock car" was eligible to race. But in June of 1948, NASCAR instituted the "Strictly Stock" series that (as the name implies) permitted only current year or previous model year cars. Key was that the cars had to be EXACTLY as they came from the factory. This class quickly became a fan favorite and by 1950 NASCAR changed the name of this class to the "NASCAR Grand National" circuit.

Right away, the  more "modern" automobiles began to dominate. The Oldsmobile with its new OHV V8 and Hudson with its great handling chassis and its fantastic "Twin H" 308 cu. in. flathead straight 6 power plant. Its low slung chassis may have been the first US car with a made for racing series of options called the  "Severe Usage Kit".

Those two brands dominated the first few years of the 50’s. But by 1955, all of the US auto manufacturers (even Studebaker, Rambler and Packard) had developed and offered overhead valve V8 engines – and many had a performance package option. For example, Ford introduced its first OHV V8 in 1954, called the "Y" block at 239 cu. in..; Chevrolet introduced its famous small block in 1955 at 265 cu. in.; and Pontiac also introduced its V8 in 1955 at 287 cu .in. . . .

To read more about "Setting the Stage" - Click HERE!


Other Neat Period Stories and Articles:

To see 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket Ads - Click HERE

To see the Hudson Hornet Story - Click Here!

To see the History of the Chrysler 300 - Click Here!

To See a 1957 Pontiac Star Chief Catalina 270 HP Road Test - Click HERE!

To See 1955 Ford Thunderbird Road Test - Click HERE!


More Stories at Wild About Cars and the Auto History Digital Documents Library
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1966 AMC Rogue 290 V8 Test
1966 Rambler American Rogue V-8 Road Test

We all know about Ford, Chevy and Plymouth's small-block V8s and their impact on the US market and enthusiast. But did you know that AMC added what would become their Gen 2 in 1966 as a 290 cu. in. V8? One of the most overlooked engines produced in the '60s and '70s, the AMC boys were astute enough to make the block capable of anywhere from 290 to 400 cubes, just by varying the deck height/bore/stroke. Read what Car Life Magazine had to say about this new V8 American - called the "Rogue" - in August 1966.

Click here to read about the 1966 Rambler Rogue Test!

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1963 Austin Healey Test 1963 Austin Healey 3000 Test!

Car and Driver Magazine tested the new Austin Healey 3000 in their March 1963 issue. The new car had a "powerful" 3 Liter 6 in place of the previous 4 and the performance difference showed. Straight-line activity resulted in an 80 MPH 1/4 mile and superior top speed. Frankly the infusion of power made the Healey a much better car. read what Car and Driver had to say.

To read the 1963 Austin Healey 3000 Test - Click HERE!

1970 Pontiac Ram Air IV Test 1970 Pontiac GTO Ram Air IV Road Test

In a year when all other GM brands moved up to 454-455 cu. in for their famous hi-po models, Pontiac stayed pat with their 400 and instead improved the engine - now called "Ram Air IV". Popular Hot Rodding Magazine decided to wring out the Poncho and were impressed with the fact that it gave away nothing to those bigger mills. read along and find out what the magazine had to say.

To read this Pontiac GTO Ram Air IV Test - Click HERE!

2011 Mustang GT Overview Modern Muscle - 2011 Mustang GT 5.0 Overview!

Mustang shattered the concept of the Ponycar's mundane performance with the introduction of 5.0-liter four-valve Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing V-8 in the 2011 Mustang GT. Delivering 412 horsepower and 390 ft.-lb. of torque - the car added over 100 HP to its powerplant with the injection of the new technology. Check it out!

To see the 2011 Mustang GT Overview - Click HERE!

Patrick finishes 7th at Kansas Race News - Is Danica Patrick's run a Kansas a sign she is turning corner in NASCAR Cup Series?

Patrick had all the speed she needed and the moxie to match, and the driver of the No. 10 Chevrolet scored a career-best seventh-place finish in Saturday night’s 5-Hour Energy 400. This was no fluke, no serendipitous fuel-mileage play. All night long, Patrick mixed it up with the superstars of stock-car racing, and, more often than not, held the upper hand..

Click here to read more about Patrick's performance in Autoweek Race News!

Edelbrock Heads for Pontiac
Product News - Pontiac Performer RPM Cylinder Heads for 400-455 Engines

Performer RPM CNC cylinder heads have the same specifications as Edelbrock's Performer RPM cylinder heads for 1962-79 455 cu. in. Pontiac engines, but feature a revised CNC machined combustion chamber design with an all-new spark plug location for improved performance . . .

CLICK HERE to read about Edelbrock's New Pontiac Heads!

Check Out the Latest Uploads Library Listings - What's Hot in the Auto History Library.

In case you didn't know - the Auto History Preservation Society operates a very special Digital Documents Library that you can access through Wild About Cars. Check out the over 220 thousand pages of material you can download (or just view) by clicking on the link below. Don't forget, you must be a member to view much of the collection, you can sign up HERE.

Check out our LATEST UPLOADS - Click HERE to See.

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