Cooley On Cars
Top 5: Classic muscle cars (and their tech innovations)Muscle cars of the '60s and '70s helped define a generation; we check out how technologies from those cars and that era started trends that are hot today.
With the recent arrival of the new and rather impressive Chevy Corvette, we thought it would be a good time to take a look back at some very cool classic American Muscle cars, that were made in relatively limited numbers and had some very cool tech. I am Brian Cooley with my top 5 muscle cars that we can hear echoes of today. Were going to rank these guys by their rarity of production. Lets go. 5 - 1964 Pontiac GTO Tri-Power -- 8,245 made John Delorean gave it the name, inspired by the Ferrari Gran Turismo Omologato nomenclature of the same era. Blasphemy in many ways, since it was basically a Pontiac LeMans - another optimistic American use of European car legendry. But add the optional Tri-Power triple two barrel carbs package an youre getting 348 HP from the very first muscle car. Today you can draw a pretty straight line from the GTO concept to performance tiers like BMW M, Audi S an Mercedes AMG. Though I notice they they never call their cars things like Talladega. 4 - 1969 Mustang 428 Cobra Jet -- 2,870 Mustang was a pony car faring rather poorly in the street drag culture of the muscle car era. So Ford wedged in their 428 big block, and topped it with free breathing heads from the hotter 427 cammer, a ram air scoop, bigger intake valves and more to foreshadow roll up a theme of freer breathing for faster running. End result: 411 horsepower. Those same physics lessons underlie todays trend toward freer breathing air intake kits, though Im afraid nothing will make your Mitsubishi sound like an R Code Mustang! 3 - 1968 Dodge Charger R/T Hemi -- 467 1968 was the first year for the Charger with the coke bottle shape and wide inset grille. Still fresh today. You know this guy as the bad guys badass car in the chase from Bullitt. Add the 426 Hemi engine option and thats where the badass part came from. 425 HP and 490 ft-lbs of torque. Hemi refers to a engine with hemispherical combustion chamber roofs. Other engines do, but nobody markets it like Chrysler. 2 - 1969 Camaro ZL1 -- 69 The 69 Camaro ZL1 was created by specing a rather arcane factory option called COPO 9560. That added a $4,000 427 V8 to a $2,200 car! It also made over 500 HP and did 0-60 on slippery old skool tires in a still impressive 5.3 seconds. BTW, those optional ZL1 engines were hand built in a surgically clean room overseen by none of ther than Zora Arkus-Duntov -- the head engineer of the Vette. Before we get to #1, the car that could have been except it isnt really an American production car: The 1967 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake -- 2! As if a 427 Ford V8 wasnt enough Caroll Shelby bolted on a PAIR of superchargers for a total of 800 HP in a car that weighs about the same as your fat uncle right after a big meal. Of the two made, Shelby kept one for himself, gave one to Bill Cosby who scare himself so bad in it he immediately gave it back, at which time it was sold through the Ford dealer in San Francisco to a guy who also couldnt handle it and went right over a cliff into the Pacific Ocean. Thats why performance cars have ABS and traction control today.. 1 - 1971 Hemi Cuda Convertible (11) Yes, just 11 of these cars were made in ragtop form with a 426 Hemi - the last year it was offered. Incredibly rare, especially since most muscle cars were incredibly shoddily made, this was an interesting example of something we take for granted today: Extreme performance cars with drop tops. It took some decades of engineering to get those to work without turning themselves in a pretzel. For more high tech cars back then, today, and tomorrow, check out cnet on Cars at cnetoncars.com. I am Brian Cooley, thanks for watching.