Some Things To Know About Muscle Cars… Before You Buy One

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Owning an old muscle car can be a lot of fun. But it’s not all fun – and you ought to know what you’re getting yourself into before you get yourself into it.muscle 1

First, some definitions.

Muscle cars are old.

Nothing new – nothing modern – qualifies as a muscle car. The defining attribute of a muscle car is not horsepower or performance. Nor that it has a V8 engine feeding power to the rear wheels. There are many new (and modern) cars that do that. And they are not muscle cars, even if some of them look like they might be (and perform better than the real ones did).

What, then, defines a muscle car?

One thing, above all: It was made before the Era of Control. That time – long ago – when it was possible (legal!) for a major automaker to build a car with a huge engine and a completely outmatched rest of the car. No computer to modulate the outbursts of power. It was on you to keep it under control and that was no easy thing. If the car in question has anti-lock brakes, traction control or air bags it cannot – by definition – be a muscle car.

Muscle cars were – let’s not mince words – dangerous.charger burnout

It is why they are no longer made. It is why they were – effectively – outlawed. First by the insurance mafia, which (with government’s help) made it increasingly impossible, financially, to own one of these death missiles. Muscle cars – the real ones – were chiefly bought by people under 25, if you can imagine. Now imagine a young twentysomething in a two-ton mauler with a 7 liter V8 up front, 14×6 wheels underneath and drum brakes all around.

Add beer and Saturday night.

Muscle cars were about disproportionate, unbalanced power. They were scary as much as they were fast and that was the point. Modern performance cars are very fast but rarely scary unless driven with deliberate recklessness and then it’s the driver more so than the car. Trying to keep something like a ’70 Formula 400 Ram Air III Firebird in a straight line (and from climbing up a telephone pole) with the pedal to the floor and the carburetor’s massive secondaries popped open is no easy feat. But even just poking around, a true muscle car is a hard beast to manage. No hydraulic assist for the clutch – which made changing gears man’s work (no offense, ladies). The steering, meanwhile, was either overboosted or farm tractor-like. The brakes, of course, sucked. Most muscle cars had big engines… and way too small radiators. They often overheated.'70 Firebird

These things tend to get lost in the shuffle – romanticized away. So much time has passed – arguably, the last trickle of factory-new muscle cars petered out in the mid-late 1970s, some 40 years ago – that most people under 40 today have no direct, personal experience of those animals and what they think they know about them comes from reading about them.

Which brings us back to those things to know about muscle cars – things to think about before you buy one, if you’ve never owned one before:

* Are you knowledgeable about ancient technologies?

Most muscle cars had ignition points, which gap had to be adjusted and set just right (and set just right often, at least twice a year, typically) for the engine to run right (or even at all). Do you know how? And if not, do you know someone who does? How about carburetors? All true muscle cars have one (or more) of these leaky, finicky fuel delivery devices. Do you know how to set secondary air valve tension? Adjust a mechanical choke?Qjet pic

Many shops will not touch muscle cars (or other truly old cars) for the altogether sensible reason that their techs don’t know how to work on them. They know trouble codes and computers. They do not know the fine art of gapping points, of dwell, of epoxying leaking fuel bowls. Do you? Are you confident you can learn how? If not, you’ll need to find a competent old-school mechanic and (believe me) they are not easy to find. Most people who own muscle cars know how to keep them up – and for them, it’s part of the fun. But it kills the fun of owning a muscle car if the thing won’t start, doesn’t run well, leaves you stranded – and you have no idea how to deal with.

* Have you got suitable quarters?garage muscle

Muscle cars are rustbuckets. All cars made before the ’80s are rustbuckets. If left outside, if allowed to get wet, they will rust. People have generally forgotten how bad it was. Today, you can park a car (a modern car) outside, never wash it – drive it in winter and marinate it in road salt – and probably the body will outlast the engine. With muscle cars, it was the reverse. Their cast-iron V8s can last decades. But most of them started to rust – their bodies – after as little as five years and by ten or fifteen years old, the majority (those not kept indoors, in climate controlled garages) had serious rust problems. These cars are now all 40 years old and older. You will find they come one of two ways, usually. The first way is the pristine restored or the very rare original, low-miles car that was cared for like a Faberge Egg from the day of delivery to today. The second way is the survivor car that’s still functionally viable but will need work. The first will rust if not cared for like a Faberge Egg; the second is already rusty. Cars of 40-plus years ago had horrendous body integrity, Grand Canyon gaps between panels. Even if meticulously restored, the restoration has merely reset the clock – and it’s ticking, bub.rusty Superbird

So, you will either be dealing with the fear of your car rusting out – or dealing with rust already there.

Realistically, the only way to keep a muscle car from rotting if it hasn’t already begun to is to keep it dry. That means a secure garage, ideally one with some form of humidity control. It absolutely means forget about carports and car covers outside. All they do is accelerate decomposition by helping moisture to get where it’s not wanted. You must avoid the rain. Forget using your muscle car as a daily driver. Learn to accept having to keep close track of the weather – and what might be coming this afternoon – before you take ‘er out for a spin. Don’t drive too far from home base. Never drive it in winter.

If it ever gets wet, you’ve already lost.

* Do you like Snipe Hunts?swap meet pic

Maybe you were a Boy Scout and remember this gag. The Scoutmaster would organize the troop and announce a hunt for the mysterious Snipe – a creature that, of course, did not exist. The boys spent many hours hunting, nonetheless.

Do you enjoy hunting for impossible to find things? This is part of the fun of owning an old muscle car. It means spending a lot of time, sometimes, surfing eBay and CraigsList and driving long distances to swap meets and car shows, hoping that – just maybe – you’ll be able to find that critical (or maybe just important) part you need to finish the resto. Or just get her running again. Said part hasn’t been made in more than 40 years and now there are more people who need that part than there are parts left in circulation. Even if you happen to find what you need before they do, you’ll find you may have to pay a stupefying sum for it. There will be no choice, because she’s gotta have it. But if there’s another “she” in your life, there may be a conflict. What happened to that $2,500 we were going to put into the 401k? You spent it on… what?swap meet 2

The mundane (and fairly cheap) things can be a hassle, too. For instance, I own a Pontiac muscle car (Trans Am). Pontiac, the company, has been gone for more than a decade – and the last time Pontiac built Pontiac engines was the early 1980s (arguably, the late 1970s as the last 301 Pontiac V8 made in ’80-’81 is its own weird thing and doesn’t share parts with the earlier, better-known line of Pontiac V8s). This means even routine maintenance stuff like changing the oil has to be planned for – because most auto parts stores no longer stock things like oil filters for engines that haven’t been in production for going on 40 years. You will need to order supplies from specialty suppliers. Also the oil, by the way – because old muscle car engines require oils that have certain anti-wear additives (e..g, zinc) that’s been all but eliminated (for emissions control reasons) from off-the-shelf oils.

Fuel filters (remember, carburetors), ignition/tune-up parts, hoses and belts, gaskets, wiper blades, headlights and bulbs, etc. … they’ll  almost always need to be found – and ordered.old oil filter

Tires – especially performance compound tires – are almost impossible to find because the 15×7 (and 14×6) steel wheels most muscle cars came with are obsolete. You’ll be stuck with mediocre-quality passenger car radials, but the good news is these tires are much better (in terms of grip/heat dissipation and so on) than the crap stuff they were making – and putting on cars – back in the ’70s.

* Legalities. 

You will want to check into applicable laws before you buy a muscle car. Because of what someone else may have done to said muscle car.

Most muscle cars have had several owners by now – and almost all of them have been “modified” by one or all of them. Often, these mods involved gutting the factory emissions systems (yes, muscle cars had them – at least, those 1968 and newer). Things like Air Injection Reaction (AIR), Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) and the system of vapor/vacuum hoses that – back in the day – created driveability problems that many early owners dealt with by simply removing the offending item and throwing it away.smog check pic

Here’s the problem: Some states require emissions compliance, both functional and visual, before the car can be registered and plated. The visual component is the tough one. A given car’s actual tailpipe emissions maybe in specification, but if it has a non-factory intake manifold (such as an Edelbrock aluminum one, for example) without EGR… if it has a non-factory air cleaner… if the AIR system has been removed… if all the factory vapor/vacuum lines are not there (and operational) the inspector will fail the car and it will be – legally speaking – undriveable. May the motor gods help you if the car has a non-original (e.g., crate) engine and the inspector is a fussbudget and checks VINs and stampings and notices this. It can be a huge hassle – and a monster expense.

Related to this is the decision you’ll have to make about how to register (and insure) the thing.antique tags pic

In most states, you can choose either “normal” (like any other car) plates and registration, or “antique vehicle” tags and registration. The upside to the former is there’s no limitation on how you may drive the car; the downside is you’ll probably have to take the car in for regular state safety and emissions testing (most states require them – which means handing over your baby to a greasy-pawed stranger with an air gun. The upside to the latter – antique tags – is that (in most cases) your car will be exempt from regular safety/emissions testing and (at least in my state, Virginia) the tags and registration are permanent – no annual renewal fee. The downside is that – legally – you’re only allowed to drive the car on a limited basis, to and from car shows and for “testing” purposes. Legally speaking, you’re not allowed to drive the car regularly, as daily transpo. As a practical matter, you can get away with occasional local pleasure driving. But wander too far from home to be plausibly “testing” (or headed to a car show) and you could find yourself being hassled by a cop. Keep in mind that you will stick out like a stripper at the Vatican in your 40-something-year-old muscle car and every cop you pass will look you over.

Final thing: graphic

You will probably want to go with specialty coverage – and probably will have to as many (most?) standard policies are not designed to deal with 40-plus-year-old cars. For one thing, it is almost impossible to assign a “ballpark” value to any given car because – after so many decades – their condition today varies wildly. This is why most classic car policies have what’s often referred to as “agreed value” policies that are based on an appraisal of your specific car and its specific condition. Some insurers will have a guy come out and look at your car, or ask you to provide pictures, receipts and so on to determine its approximate value. It is actually very good – and very important – that things are done this way. Because if some bozo T-bones your restored muscle car that you put $50k into, you don’t want to find yourself haggling over what it was worth. With an agreed-value policy, you and the insurer have agreed on the value of the car – and in event of a loss, they’ll cover it up to that amount.

The downside is most specialty/antique vehicle policies have mileage and other limitations. Some require annual odometer statements. Most require the car be stored indoors, in a garage. But the upside is the policy cost is usually very reasonable – because it assumes limited use and limited exposure – both of which reduce the odds of something happening to the car.

Ponder all these variables before signing up for the keys to a piece of automotive history… and everything that comes with that set of keys.

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  1. “Muscle cars – the real ones – were chiefly bought by people under 25, if you can imagine. Now imagine a young twentysomething in a two-ton mauler with a 7 liter V8 up front, 14×6 wheels underneath and drum brakes all around.

    Add beer and Saturday night.”

    Sounds like a good time to me. One thing about howling engines, going sideways when that wasn’t really the object and achieving what was then uber speeds is it was like the meth that would come later, a real heart beating thing. Open those dumps and hear the roar and watch the flames light up everywhere you went. And it affected everyone that way either from sheer excitement, enjoyment or abject fear or some of each. I recall countless times straightening a windy road for 10 or 30 miles and have a person of the effeminate sex not know whether to…..well…..or go blind. The great thing was the stimulus generally evolved into some of the greatest sex I ever had. Hey, let’s bring back real women and muscle cars. I may be old but …………the older the violin, the sweeter the music.

  2. I had a 70 Dodge Superbee in the late 80’s and remember one time a cop stopped me at a traffic light. I had no idea on why he was stopping me until he came up to me and said he just really liked my car and wanted to check it out. I also bought a 69 Plymouth Satellite 4 dr sedan in the late 80’s for about $1500 that I used as my daily driver for 5 years. Good ole 318 2bbl and I could go out in the coldest day of a miserable New England winter here, pump the pedal a couple times and it would start right up. Still miss that car alot. My baby was my 69 Dodge Charger R/T used for warm sunny days and car shows only. It was definitely a love hate relationship at times but there was nothing like the feeling and thrill that those cars gave you as you were driving them.

  3. Hello Eric, I have some experience with these cars. From 1989 through 1995 I used a 1970 Plymouth Fury with a 440 auto as a daily driver. A daily driver in this case was, it was the only car I had. It was used for work, dates, vacations etc. Biggest problem by far with this car; the starter. When you stopped for gas or any other reason with the engine fully warmed up, especially in summer, you had to allot 30 min for the engine to cool enough for the starter to turn it over. This situation was aggravated by the carburetor having a tendency to flood. Additionally, one never new when the starter would just decide to give up the ghost entirely. This averaged probably once a year, but you never new when. I met a nice girl this way when I was about 25. I was standing in the parking lot of a nightclub at 3 am, because the Fury wouldn’t start, and she took pity on me and invited me to her hotel room, so things worked out. The other thing about the car was that the radiator would begin leaking every spring, as soon as it begin to get warm. This was a constant annoyance as I was always getting it fixed, putting stop leak in it or carrying water. Another quirky issue involved the ignition switch, which sometimes didn’t work. One had to get out of the car and connect the jumper wire from the coil to the battery and then one was back on the road again. The points had to be replaced every 10,000 miles or so, which I never did a very good job of attending to and that caused problems, but I considered that to have been my fault. Finally, the only other issue with the car was that it attracted police. And that was a whole other set of stories of interesting experiences. Since the Fury, I’ve driven a 70 Challenger R/T 440 4sp, a 68 Firebird 455, an 89 5.0 Mustang and a 72 Gran Torino 351 Cleveland and never had the kind of problems with police as I did with the Fury. I still have the Challenger and the Torino and I still drive the Torino. Overall, a big problem I have had over the years with everyone of these cars, except the Mustang has been the gasoline. Everyone one of them spark knocked on modern 93 octane gasoline, and yes I had my timing right. Secondly, gasoline is expensive, and everyone of them, excepting the stang used lots of gasoline. The cost of gasoline was and is a primary limiting factor in driving muscle cars for me. Another point of consideration with classic cars in general is that people steal them. My Challenger was stolen once and my ‘stang twice. Aside from these considerations, I have never had much trouble finding maintenance parts, belts, hoses, oil filters, etc. I wrecked the Torino a couple years ago and needed a bumper and trunk lid and that was not an easy find, but I eventually found the parts.

    Aside from the aforementioned issues, I feel like I have had pretty good luck with my vehicles and enjoyed them. Various people, including you Eric, have said that engines back in the day were not built well, but I have not had that experience. My Torino, has a 100K miles on it with the original engine, and uses no oil between it’s 3000 mile changes. The Fury had 79840 miles on it when I bought it and 140,000 when I wrecked it, and it was using a quart every 2000 or 2500. It should be noted I rarely changed the oil on this car as I was in my early 20s and in Grad school and neglected the hell out of the car. I was probably lucky it held up as well as it did.

    I’ve had other older vehicles besides the muscle cars. I drove a 71 Belair in the 80’s and had 130-140K on the odometer, after having driven the car about 50,000 miles in 4 years, including an entire summer with no air cleaner and it used a quart of oil every 500 miles at the end of it’s use. I didn’t change the oil in it either, nor did I obey the speed limit with it. Not that bad considering how it was treated. Now I drive a 2005 Chrysler Sebring as a daily driver. It has 74000 miles on it and uses a quart of oil every 2500 miles or so. I drive the speed limit with this car, use synthetic oil and change it and the filter every 3000 miles almost religiously. In a nutshell, I am not convinced my Sebring has a better quality engine then my Torino or Challenger. I will agree it uses less gas. I think the wiring holds up better in newer cars and the Sebring seems to have less propensity for rust then my older vehicles as you have stated Eric. A big issue for me comparing older vs newer is that the new stuff doesn’t require as much maintenance, no points, and no frequent plug changes, but when something breaks on the new stuff, watch out. Additionally, the new car can’t be crutched along if something happens. If my ignition switch goes out on my Sebring, I’m screwed, but on the Fury a piece of wire running from the coil to the battery and I’m on my way. I think the new cars are like consumer electronics, you use it until it’s broke or obsolete and then throw it away. The old stuff you can keep running for years if you have a little mechanical ability. Look at the cars in Cuba, for instance. I don’t mean what I am about to say as an insult Eric, but you sell new cars, if I am not mistaken. I think your viewpoint might be a bit biased. Just my two cents.

    Joe Brackhan.

    • Hi Joe,

      I have the same hot-start issue with my 455 Pontiac (they were famous for this).

      I don’t think I ever stated that the engines from that era were poorly built. Just that they did need more frequent attention and sometimes had minor issues (like the hot-start thing).

      PS: I don’t sell new cars! I just review them….

        • Yup. Tried the shields (I’ve owned the car for more than 20 years).. helps a little.

          The 455 was notorious for hard hot-starting. It’s a very long stroke engine. Lots of reciprocating assembly, too. Add a little compression, some heat…

          The only real fix I know of is a super high-torque starter and an up-rated battery.

          • Also famous for long stroke – the old 2 cylinder John Deere A’s & B’s. You started them by manually spinning the flywheel. Some of them were set up so you could pull a pin on the steering wheel and use that to spin the flywheel. But you needed to be sure you got it off before the engine caught, or you couldn’t steer. You would have to kill the engine and try again.

            • Hi Chris,


              My 455 TA has no issues with cold starting and the coolant doesn’t run hot but the cast iron headers radiate heat onto the starter and that causes hot start issues. It has trouble cranking – and the fix is a high-torque starter. Which I can’t afford right now!

  4. 426 hemi or Toyota Corolla, you could, in those days, actually (1) see the ground on either side of the engine, and (2) get to it yourself.

  5. You got that one right. I got clocked doing 29mph in a 25mph zone, in my GT500. When the cop pulled me over, I rolled my eyes and told him this was ridiculous. What I got was a ticket for 49mph in a 25mph zone. He grinned and told me to fight it out in court. Regrettably, these tactics really detracted from owning a muscle car.

  6. Great article. One of your best runs down memory lane.

    So many points to make and so little time and space to make them but you pretty much did it pretty darned good.

    Yes, we can go home again, but it’s really gonna be sweaty and really expensive!

    The one point which you not only did not avoid, but put right to us – “Muscle cars were – let’s not mince words – dangerous”
    is the one point which to me shouted the loudest because anyone who grew up and participated (68 GTX) in those salad days of American muscle and beauty personified via rubber, steel, chrome and Sunoco 260, knows, (or should I say knew), at least half a dozen like fellows who, indeed, did not make it out of there alive..

    • Thanks, hp!

      A good friend of mine bought the farm in his ’71 GTX 440.

      That car was like handling a double edged razor with greasy hands in a dark cockpit during wild turbulence… and trying to shave without bleeding out…

  7. Maybe there are all these problems with owning one, and maybe they don’t measure up in certain things nowadays. But, the one thing cars from that era and earlier had was personality. They looked great. Cars now look like they came from a cloning factory.

    • Agreed, dogg!

      I feel the same way every time I take my old Trans-Am out for a drive. It’s nowhere near as fast as a new Corvette and so on and so forth… but it’s almost alive in a way a modern car like the ‘Vette can never be.

      • It was great growing up as I did in the 50s & 60s when ALL the cars were different. Oh, you might occasionally see one go a 2nd year w/only minor changes, but no more (53-54 Chev and 55-56 Ford IIRC). Sure, there were some like the 59 Chev that took some getting used to.
        Nowadays it seems you have to be close enough (w/good enough eyes) to read the badging to know what it is. And the only ones that stand out are FUGLY.

  8. I had a 1968 Camaro SS with a 396 when I was in high school. With the bias ply tires and that much weight on the front end it was absolutely miserable in a curve, hard to stop, and with a dual disk clutch, sitting at a stoplight was a workout on your left leg. But I had a hell of a lot of fun in it!

    • 68 camaros are beautiful cars. The brake issue is a real problem. No where near modern standards. God forbid you drive it in the rain.

  9. Yeah, rust is the name. Really.

    I had a friend in 1971 back in high school whose family for some unasked reason had two roadrunners and a superbird.

    I remember most of all the purple one. It was driven by Jason’s aunt. She was scrawny and I think she worked in accounting, and I don’t remember her name right now. But when she climbed into that roadrunner, she turned so hot, I swear her sunglasses reflected back fire.

    As for his dad, he was a “professor” of Comic books at Sheridan College, just when it was getting off on its two legs. He was a mountain of a man, well before being large was the norm. Getting into his plymouth wasn’t an easy feat, but that car had the power to move him around.

    And mom, she was like that lady from “Trapped in Paradise”, big and round and kindly, and eager to go out to the Dominion Store to pick up a loaf of bread in the bird. It didn’t matter that the store was well within walking distance. I think she liked the way the car… errr vibrated.

    A couple of years later, I succumbed to the pressure of buying a car: a 1974 yellow Toyota Corolla which my friends called “The Remon”. One of them had applied a fridge magnet to the trunk. It was a lemon.

    I wonder what Jason’s aunt is doing.

  10. “…with a 7 liter V8 up front…”

    Come on, Eric; I know you know better.

    When muscle cars were muscle cars, no one referenced displacement in liters (the ONLY one I recall was a late ’60s Cougar XR-7, I think it had a 7.0 on the fender).

    Cubic inches: 350, 360, 390, 401, 427, 428, 429, 440 six-packs, 454, 455. None of the newfangled metric BS in the ’60s or early ’70s.

  11. So what “modernizations” would be acceptable? For example, someday I want to acquire a GMC motorhome. Most of the owners convert the 455 engine to fuel injection, and I think it’s not too difficult to install electronic ignition either. It is also normal to see them with Alcoa aluminum wheels that will accept radials and a change in the differential gearing to help with fuel economy.

    I realize that it’s a different animal than a muscle car, but it seems to me those types of mods will get the car a little closer to the daily driver end of the reliability spectrum without sacrificing the spirit of the thing.

    • Hi Eric,

      It’s perfectly cool to do whatever you want to with your car!

      I’ve put an overdrive transmission in my Trans-Am and it does indeed make it a great deal more everyday driveable.

      But – and this is just my opinion, not declaring I’m morally right – if someone puts a fuel-injected modern engine in an old muscle car (e.g., a crate LS1 Corvette small block in place of the original Pontiac V8) a modern overdrive transmission, IRS suspension and modern high-performance brakes, 17×9 wheels/tires, etc… then it’s just a shell and no longer a muscle car. It’s been turned into a modern performance car that looks like a muscle car.

      • Well, sure you can take a hammer to the hood if you want to, but I’ll bet it affects the resale value… 🙂

        I’m asking what, if any, impact some basic conversions would do to the resale value? Back in my youth a buddy inherited his father’s 53 Buick convertible. There were specific things that were done that didn’t affect the value (like replacing the top), and some things to be avoided (like screwing with the radio). Yes, bone stock is always preferable, but upgrading from vinyl to leather interior or repainting in a better color (why anyone wanted a gold car in the 1970s was beyond me) shouldn’t affect the value much -and might even make it worth a little more.

        And then there’s the add-ons that you’ll never get your money back on, like chroming out the engine, true custom rims, hydraulics, stereos, etc.

        • Hi Eric,

          This is just my take, but:

          If it’s just a bolt on (or off) and the original parts are saved, no real harm is done. My transmission swap, for instance. Very easy to re-install the factory transmission – and no cutting or welding was needed to install the modern overdrive transmission.

          What will hurt the value of a collectible car is removing (and losing) the original/correct parts (e.g., the correct block and heads) or altering the car in some permanent way (e.g., welding in tubs).

  12. My first car was a ’68 dodge coronet 500. It was ten years old cost $600 and $1,200 to insure. I was in high school the car met its sad end due to beer and Saturday night! No one was hurt. A testament to thick American steel and thicker American skulls! One point you didn’t touch on was this new ethanol gas. It eats up old rubber fuel lines and carb. gaskets which then leak and cause a fire! The fix buying more expensive non ethanol gas or getting new fuel lines and carb. gaskets. As for big man pig man I have no problems with them. They’re too busy looking for the under 30 crowd driving donks, boxes, and bubbles with coffee can fart pipe exhaust.

  13. “bacon-boy has a “trained eye” for these things.”

    Exactly RK. If they are behind you, they will just “pace” you. It’s just as good as the gun. Basically anything these losers say is “legitimate”. Why would your protector want to do anything wrong to you? It’s all about their concern for your safety. Isn’t that what most of us run around thinking about all day………everyone else’s safety?

    Sometimes I lay awake at night–only after praying to Jesusafety–thinking about how I can make everyone and everything more safe. Free will be damned.

    • The cops around here seem to appreciate my ’68 Cutlass S (not technically a muscle car, but it looks like one). When I finally got it finished this past fall, I drove it around a lot while waiting on the historic vehicle plates from the state. Speaking of which, in Missouri, the mandatory log is a running joke among vintage car owners. I have heard to “just don’t get caught without it”. We have 1000 mile per year limit on “personal use” that we have to record in the log. However, we have unlimited mileage for driving the car to “events”. Just firing her up, and driving her to local DQ is an event for me. Plus, we don’t have to record “event” mileage. It’s a pretty good system actually, not to mention that I never have to get the old girl inspected again.

      I can’t overemphasize using ethanol free gas, and motor oil with zinc in these old cars either. Plus, new vintage car owners are going to have to realize that these cars leaked fluids when new, and checking the vitals are a necessity. Re-learning how to set points, dwell, and fine tuning the carburetor is all part of the fun for me. Sure I could find an HMI, or a conversion kit to get away from the points, but the Olds 350 is not modified, and it runs great when everything is set up properly.

      The old cars aren’t even close to being noise proof like modern cars either. A lot of whistles and squeaks and the occasional funny smell permeates the cabin sometimes. No need to freak out though.

      It’s a gas to own a vintage car. They do draw a lot of attention, but (so far) it’s all been positive. The worst comment that I have gotten up to this point is “what year Chevelle is that?”

      • “We have 1000 mile per year limit on “personal use” that we have to record in the log. However, we have unlimited mileage for driving the car to “events”. Just firing her up, and driving her to local DQ is an event for me. Plus, we don’t have to record “event” mileage. It’s a pretty good system actually, not to mention that I never have to get the old girl inspected again.”-Rick

        I like the system for classic cars here in Idaho a lot better. It consists of nothing. Those are my favorite government programs. The non-existent ones.

  14. Most of the maintenance and control issues you mention apply to ALL cars from that era, (including librarian special 6 cyl Falcons,) not just muscle cars. The only difference is that with a Big Engine, the primitive steering, brakes and minimal traction could cause you to lose control even faster.

    Although you alluded to this, the core of “what defines a muscle car” should be clearly stated. A “Muscle Car” is an American car from that era where the manufacturer took it’s lightest, full or mid sized body, and stuffed in it’s biggest, most powerful engine.

    • Hi Mike,

      I don’t hugely disagree.

      Of course, it’s mostly muscle cars that people collect (and try to keep going) from that era. Those Slant Six Mopars and equivalents from Chevy and Ford, made in such huge numbers, are mostly all gone now.

      • Dear Eric,
        About your slant-six, and others, comment:
        I still daily drive my 1972 Dodge Dart 2-door economy car [only extras: 225 engine, am radio, rear defrost package, undercoating package, and bumper guards] factory ordered, bought through Cumberland Dodge, Nashville in March of 1972, registered now in Mississippi, annually, no “antique” crap plate, and kindly insured by Geico.
        I suppose that the old sixes are scarce now. In recent years, Car and I have felt like “survivors”; now you are making us feel like “relics”.
        Keep rolling, safely.

        • Hi Montague,

          Great car! The Mopar Slant Six was, indeed, a gem. But I’d bet it’s getting hard to find good cores. How long has that engine been out of production?

          My Pontiacs… used to be easy to go to the local salvage yard and find a 400/455 in a wagon or some such and pull it for a project (or just for parts). Good luck finding a Pontiac anything in a standard salvage yard today.

          • Dear Eric,
            You are very right about the salvage/junk yards for finding now any Darts or Valiants, and I am sure for the Pontiacs also. Those last Mopars finished their yard cycle — in this area, at least — over ten years ago. When I bought my yellow [green interior] Dart, I bought it to keep. So I checked the local yards early on and bought many “anticipation” parts for many years. I am sure that you did the same thing. I no longer even look in the yards, also getting too old for it. Best wishes.

            • Hi Montague,

              Yup! (Unfortunately…)

              I had three spare Pontiac engines before we moved here – and foolishly sold them because I was running out of room. Hindsight….

  15. The biggest thing to know is the “Cop Bait” aspect. You know: public health & safety, protection & service . . . at gunpoint! And, of course, the ready-made “proofs” and cop self-exculpations when it’s time for revenue-extraction . . . after all, Mr. Exemplary-In-A-Snazzy-Uniform must be right about that “speeding” ticket he concocted . . . that Firebird just looks like a natural for “speeding”. Besides, thug-boy’s police fiction, er, report clearly notes the infraction (never mind the intentionally mis-calibrated radar gun) . . . bacon-boy has a “trained eye” for these things.


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