Muscle Cars Were Slow… II

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muscle leadAbout two weeks ago, I got a new (2016) Mustang GT to test drive. 435 hp. This is a mass-produced, docile, AC-equipped street car with a dead-calm idle. Anything from back in the day – the ’60s and ’70s – that made that kind of power would have been a handful to drive on the street and also would almost certainly have been either a low-production, bracket race-intended animal (e.g., an L88 427 Corvette) or modified.

Almost nothing that came from the factory back in the day made 435 hp.

Or even 335 honest hp.

I wrote about this before (here) and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. It does not alter the truth. Hindsight is not 20-20. Most of the first-generation muscle cars were weak… by modern standards.

The turbo four cylinder (315 hp) version of the current Mustang is probably about “par” for what was available from the factory in a typical V8 muscle car from the late ’60s/early ’70s, in terms of horsepower and performance. The current EcoBoost Mustang’s output, if calculated using the SAE “gross” method that was used up until 1972, would likely be right around 360-380 hp, in the same ballpark as (for example) a ’70 Camaro Z28 LT-1 or a 440 four barrel ’71 Plymouth GTX.'71 Yellow GTX

Only a small handful of elite classic-era muscle cars touted more gross hp than that.

The famous Chrysler 426 Street Hemi with twin four barrel carbs was one of the very few – and its advertised 426 hp was close to as good as it got.

And nowhere near what something like a new Dodge Challenger Hellcat (article here) offers (707 hp).

And when SAE “gross” horsepower ratings changed to SAE “net” ratings – the engine in production tune, installed in the car, with a full production exhaust… as opposed to on an engine stand, with open headers and tuned for maximum output – even the strongest of the classic-era muscle car’s numbers wilted like most men’s Willies when forced to view a naked picture of Hillary Clinton.

But it was a much more honest measure of an engine’s true output.

For example, one of the strongest factory-stock classic-era muscle cars was the 1973-’74 Super Duty 455 equipped Pontiac Trans-Am and Firebird Formula. These were pretty much the quickest factory stock cars Pontiac sold up to that time. The SD-455 TAs and Firebirds were quicker through the quarter-mile (low-mid 13s) than all but a handful of the most feral late ’60s stuff, such as the L-88 Corvette already mentioned and others like it (of which there were very few).'73 SD455 pic

The SD-455 was a special engine, very low production and assembled on a separate line. It shared only its displacement with the more common (and non-SD) 455 V8s used in other Pontiacs (including run-of-the-mill Trans-Ams). It had a special heavy-duty block, specific high-flow round port cylinder heads based on the race-only Ram Aim IV heads Pontiac designed for the Trans-Am race series, an aggressive camshaft, big four barrel carb and a bunch of other special equipment, including provisions for dry sump oiling. Yet this huge – and radical – engine – produced how much power?

290, SAE net.

Less than the current Mustang’s four cylinder turbo engine. And not even half what the new Hellcat’s engine delivers.

Now, there is a qualifier.

The old stuff seems fiercer. Feels quicker. Sounds tougher.

This includes even run-of-the-mill muscle cars like my ’76 Trans-Am. Which also has a 455, like the ’73-74. But it’s not an SD – and it made a lot less than 290 hp when it left the Lordstown, Ohio plant back in the early spring of ’76.

How’s 200 (out of 7.4 liters) grab you?

But, the old Indian makes all kinds of threatening war whoops. There is the mournful wail of the Quadrajet four barrel carb’s enormous secondaries opening up, the unfiltered vacuum hissing and sucking through the shaker hood scoop. Modern fuel injected cars – no matter how powerful – cannot duplicate this sound.'69 GTO

Nor the smell of raw gas, adding to the animal ambiance of the thing.

These old V8s had flat tappet camshafts, too – and as soon as the engineers dialed in more than grocery-getter lift and duration, the resultant idle got nicely choppy. You knew – back in the day – when a car was “cammed.” Some of the more radical grinds were leavened a bit with lifters that bled off some of the lift/duration of the cam at idle, but they clattered menacingly.

Long and short, there was no way – with a flat-tappet cam – to have a mild-mannered muscle car. If it was remotely quick, it was also inherently uncivilized. Add the usual large (by modern standards) displacement and what you had was a deep breathing, shaking/rattling angry-sounding thing that fathers of teenage daughters dreaded hearing roll up the driveway.'70 firebird

Then came – in the mid-late 1980s – roller camshafts. These allowed lots of lift and duration, but without the sturm und drang. The car could be very powerful, extremely quick… but also idle like a Camry.

And, be as quiet as one, too.

That ’16 Mustang GT? Despite having literally more than twice the power my ’76 Trans-Am was packing when it was new, it is barely audible when parked next to my car with its engine on. Reason being, of course, the new car has four catalytic converters (which act as mufflers) as well as actual mufflers in addition.

If I start my car in an underground parking lot, the exhaust concussions set off other cars’ alarms.'69 Camaro lead

The whole car vibrates. It is like riding a roman candle.

The Mustang, like all modern performance cars, also has fuel injection; specifically, direct port fuel injection. Which stabilizes the idle and also entirely eliminates the hard-to-get-it-started blues that used to be part of the whole Muscle Car Experience. Anyone who has tried to cold-start a ’70 Hemi ‘Cuda or even a Boss 302 Mustang will know all about it.

Now drive the New vs. the Old.

Most classic muscle cars were fitted with 15×7 steel wheels (some had 14s) and 70 series tires. Traction control was you trying to not get too deep into the throttle. It was very hard – it took real skill – to get down the quarter-mile without getting sideways. These cars were dangerous, which is what made them such a thrill.

The new GT is a 12 second street car but does not feel it – or sound like it.Charger burnout

Fathers of teenage girls are not nearly as skeeved out when they see one roll up the driveway. If they even do, because they probably won’t hear it coming.

And that’s the difference that matters.

The old stuff left memories, like burnouts in front of your best friend’s house, that you can still smell even after 40 years. The new stuff doesn’t do burnouts (big tires, traction control), is very, very quick…

And 40 years from now, no one will remember. depends on you to keep the wheels turning! The control freaks (Clovers) hate us. Goo-guhl blackballed us.

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  1. I am so glad this read is still going! I think the initial point that Eric has made is just as rock solid as concrete….case closed on old vs. new. Once again I am 45 and own the following fully restored vehicles 86 GMC sierra classic 4×4 (all original except for the 383 stroker), 69 440 Charger RT, 87 K5 blazer, 72 dart swinger 340. I have a couple newer vehicles which are daily drivers (BMW 328, Tahoe z71 (both belong to the wife), and a company vehicle – new Toyota sienna minivan. You ought to know which ones I love the most, and I am not bragging but they are in new condition. The fastest…….wait for it…..the freaking minivan. I don’t know what in the hell, other than a 6 cylinder it has in it, but its a rocket AND it handles. Before the BMW we had a turbo mini-cooper. You talk about something that takes curves. The dumb thing is, this minivan would stay right on my bumper and we live on a curvy pig-trail….Straight stretch=mini gone! Its even got a paddle type manual shifter if you want to shift.

    This thread though has dove off into so many other areas of interest. I remember talking about (and don’t quote me now on the exact years), but from like 61′-78′ no production car had overdrive. Now my dads first car was a 47 Mercury when he was 13. It had overdrive split for every gear. Ask some of the old guys why no overdrive during those years? They will scratch their heads and say…….hmmm good question, I guess cause gas was cheap (but this was also during the times of the oil crisis). Overdrives existed in cars before the 60’s and in big trucks (planetary gear systems – not a new concept even back then) but one in which I had to pay a lot of money for when I got tired of running 75mph in my 69 charger at 3600rpms with RV’s passing me. Chevy guys lucked out. They can now bolt up a 396 to a 700r (built to hold it, and built pretty cheap). I did it on that stroker because I didn’t want to loose my overdrive. 700rs were known to be sick only good for about 250hp. Your starting to see them in drag cars now. That’s called PROGRESS. You older drag racers from the 60’s will have to agree. According to my dad who lived at St.Louis drags on the weekends told me that in 65′ if you showed up with a powerglide you were made fun of. They called them slushboxes because they wouldn’t hold together. Look at them now. Anyway I researched this and researched this, and came to the conclusion that this was a setup between oil companies, car manufactures, and parts stores = a whole lot of money to be made. We are still now just getting over a fact we all lived by for years. That was if a car had 100k miles on it, the engine was gone. It was never the engine. The parts of the engine that wear are all still there, but instead of 70 mph at 3000 or more rpms, now we are down to in some cases 1100. I’m no big conspiracy person but that’s the conclusion I arrived at.

    Another point about muscle cars and the value, patriotism, rawness, comes from memories of youth or nostalgia. I did an article on here once about Pac Man arcade games I bought from and old man……who told me as I was driving away with them “Be careful trying to recreate your youth. You will remember things much more colorful, fast, fun, etc….than they are today” These new muscle cars will not be worth anything in 30-40 years. Let’s forget the electronics, the fact that they are throw away cars with a scientific life. Again, I’m 45 and have a 14 year old. I manage many other people my age that have teenagers even older than my daughter. We the parents ALL have two things in common. These kids are spoiled rotten and the many that could get a new Camaro for their 16th birthday. Many are already 18 and don’t have a license. I’m not talking about a few. Its epidemic. They cant understand that on a Friday night by 6pm, you literally could have eaten your meal off any part of my mustang excluding the tires back in the day. These kids say things like, “why do I need a car, you’ll take me where I need to go,” or “why do I need a car – where would I go.” If you don’t believe me ask around. Eric is right – they don’t have a love affair with a car in fact NO ONE does with the NEW ones (public in general vs. 60’s). Wheew glad I reread and added that – the corvette club guys would have eaten me alive. Case in point. My friend and I went to look at a new Ford (not my brand) Powerstroke Deisel pickup. First I couldn’t believe the lowest line with a vinyl floor was $55k (blew my mind). But secondly I started looking around and they are everywhere. If you have teenagers today and you pull up to that busy gas station, I don’t care if its a 69 GTO judge, brand new corvette, or a new $100k BMW. Its just a form of transportation to them…..and that’s IF you can get them to look up off that damn cell phone. So no sorry – I don’t believe one day the new Hell Cat will be the Hemi convertible cuda of tomarrow but you big dogs go buy em up and store them in the barn just like you did back in the late 90’s when that mustang special edition cobra came out…..wonder what the blue book on it is now lol. The muscle car of yester year may have been slower but they were much more “everything.”

    The last point I will make is that my fully restored 86′ GMC is a pristine driver. The reason for this: I have been blessed by having a couple of new pickups, the last being a 4×4 dodge 5.7 hemi boasting something like 375hp. I liked it. It was peppy. It would run, and I remember it had a tach with a redline showing like 7k. I was like wow. Then we decided to go to Mopar Nationals in St. Louis and I decided to take 6 440 blocks to sell at the swap meet. I decided to drive the charger so my wife said she would pull the 16ft. trailer with the blocks on it behind the new truck. We were convoying up with a group on I-44 so we all had little radios we could talk on. Its not real hilly in that 2 hour stretch so I was surprised to hear my wife telling me to pull over that something was wrong with the truck. We switched and I immediately knew right away that this truck did have the 375hp but needed all 6500 rpms to get it. The big three know what they are doing. They assume anyone who buys a 1/2 ton short bed wont be pulling anything. I have talked to several people who have either a chevy, ford, or the dodge. Its the same story. These new motors are not like the old ones. They have the Pep but no low end Torque. When we got back I told my wife I was going to sell it and buy the truck I always wanted,,,,,so I made me a brand new GMC that will one day carry my coffin.

    If you look at it now, it all makes sense. When I grew up we had horses and every year we went down to southern MO where they have the largest organized trail ride in the United States. For people like my father half the fun was working on your truck so when you made that trip you could be the guy out in the left lane out pulling everyone. He would actually find an older 440 out of a GTX and have it rebuilt…built and install it in a 77-79 dodge 1 ton dually, put a customized paint job on it to match the big WWW 42′ Iron trailer loaded with 5 horses and all the gear my mother could load and the race would be on, CB’s blaring. For years he was the guy to beat and eventually was so he switched to an 82′ chevy and immediately pulled the perfectly fine 454, and bought a 70′ 454, but had to find the right sought after heads etc. I had never seen a truck pull like it in my life. My point though is he had the knowledge but others didn’t but had a lot more money. It got to be a huge rivalry with at least 20 rigs. So a month before the ride a couple went out and bought the new chevy turbo diesels (late 80’s). They were supposed to be the answer to the sick diesels of earlier. (not so much sick but wouldnt pull). When my dad reached the top of the mountain, my mother got out and made ham sandwiches while we waited on them (lol). As we all know, that would not happen today with the duramax, cummins, or powerstroke. I think that is what killed the big block.

    Anyway love it love love. Keep up the good work Eric. Also hope I didn’t offend anyone just my experience and opinions and maybe some knowledge. I will apologize for the spelling. I have a MS but cant spell. who knew

    • “but from like 61′-78′ no production car had overdrive”
      Well, they weren’t common, but I knew a guy had a ’65 Fairlane 289 w/3on the tree and overdrive.

      • PtB, it was almost exclusively Ford that had OD trannies. I always liked driving them till they quit. The problem back then was lack of durability. Why nobody ever tried to make a stout one with OD has something to do with 20 cent gasoline.

      • IIRC, there were a few imports in the late ’70s that had five speeds. But fifth may have been 1:1 (not OD)… I can’t recall for certain offhand…

      • How about my 76 Volare wagon?
        225 slant six, 1 barrel Holley, 3 speed on the floor, with overdrive.

        I would drive it from Texas to Pa. and back twice a year.
        30 mpg cruising

    • Brent, one thing new engines have all over old ones is LOW END TORQUE or at least GM engines do and I supposed Dodge engines did also. My big problem with the design of engines now is the direct injection. It’s been demonstrated to my satisfaction that it will wash out the rings. Understand I had reservations about this theory since diesels have had it forever. But diesel ain’t gasoline and so far, I don’t see anyone trying to reduce friction(ringwise) in diesels to the point of next to nothing like gasoline engines.

      I admit I’m biased because nearly everything I operate is diesel and goes forever except for the new DEF big rig engines and it’s not the internals that fail, just the DEF and EGR bs along with computer management of so damn many things including the engine.

      Some day I’ll find an auxiliary gearbox(like the old Brown Lipe’s) to go behind the manual gearbox in a diesel pickup and have 20 gears or so and be satisfied……or close anyway.

  2. We grew up to the growl of small blocks and the rumble of big blocks.
    Kids today know the rasp of a coffee can.
    We definitely had the better childhood.

  3. Had this conversation with a youngster (30) just yesterday. I admitted that the newer cars were more powerful, quicker and tame than the beasts we are talking about. He stated that he would blow my doors off and I agreed that that would probably happen. Then I asked, which would you prefer to drive, the unleashed beast that rumbles and roars or the tame turbo mustang?
    He conceded they are much better looking and sounding than anything out today and he would prefer the beast.
    Also, why do these new performance cars sound like the exhaust is wheezing? Ya think if they knew how to get all of that power they could make it sound good too.

  4. Nice article as always. However, I wish you would go easy on the Hilary Clinton analogies. Don’t want that picture to come up when I think of this site.

  5. Luxury cars back in the day were quick considering their heft and girth. No doubt that is why power plants from a wrecked Olds, Cadillac or Lincoln were transplanted into a Model A. Repowering is more difficult these days.

    • Hi CC,

      Yes… relative to the average back then!

      Today, the “bar” for 0-60 acceleration is about 8 seconds. This is what you’ll experience in, say, a four cylinder Camry. Anything that takes more than 10 seconds is slow…. by modern standards. And there are almost no new cars that take more than 11 seconds to get to 60.

      In the ’60s and ’70s, any car that got to 60 in 7-8 seconds would have been considered very quick. The typical car was much less quick than that. It was pretty common for big luxury boats to need 12-13 seconds to get to 60, even with a V8 engine. To put that in perspective, a new Prius hybrid is an 11 second-to-60 ride!

    • Ease of swapping drivetrains is one of the (many) reasons the old steel will still be desireable long after the newer stuff has been sent to the junkyard.

      • Hi Bob,


        Also: I can still rebuild the entire drivetrain in a car like my ’76 Pontiac with hand tools and not much money.

        How much is involved in a complete teardown/rebuild of, say, a 2016 Mustang GT’s engine – including all the electronic peripherals and emissions-related systems.

        I would be willing to bet a free oil change that the cost of the Mustang’s exhaust alone (the four cats, four 02 sensors, plus the mufflers and so on) is close to what I’d spend to rebuild the engine in my car.

        • You are probably right Eric, I could dump some money into a pontiac motor but that wouldn’t exactly count as a rebuild. Plus, when was the last time you heard of someone doing a frame off restoration on a 1998 (or any other year) Camry?

          • Hi Bob,

            Yup. My car has a distributor, an alternator and a starter motor. That’s the sum total of the “electronics” associated with the engine.

            Assuming the block and crank can be re-used (usually the case), you’re looking at some basic machine work, a set of pistons and bearings, a timing chain set, cam and lifters, plus gaskets. That’s pretty much the whole deal. If you can do the assembly work yourself, it’s about $1,500 in parts plus machine shop work (boring, etc.) to do a top-drawer, oil pan to air cleaner rebuild. When done, you have a new engine, as good as the day it left the factory and probably better.

            With a new car like the ’16 Mustang mentioned in the article, replacing/rebuilding the engine and all the peripherals would probably involve $10,000 or more (my educated guess).

            Just price the fuel injection parts – injectors, fuel rails, sensors and related pieces (plus the plastic intake manifold) and then all the associated sensors and harnesses…

            • The local gendarmes of the county used to have Crown Vic’s that got pretty decent mileage when they could stay out of them. The only real rub I know of was replacing those plastic intakes. First time I saw one I was astounded, didn’t even know such was made. They got suck a great deal from Chevy though they just HAD to go with Tahoe’s. That was back when gas was at an all-time high. I’m guessing in a few months you could have replaced the manifolds on the CV’s a few times for fuel difference. Now, they not only run those Tahoe’s but have a 3/4 T Ext. cab Chevy with a moniker that denotes “police” only. I forget the name and can only wonder what the diff. is except maybe no speed limiter. I wonder when they’ll “step up” to Class 7……for durability.

              • The plastic upsides: Cheap to manufacture and easier to make into various shapes; they tend to be smoother and flow better than production cast iron/alloy. And of course, plastic is light.

                But, plastic is also relatively fragile (especially compared with cast iron) and over time, exposure to the elements (including gas and oil) as well as repeated hot/cold cycling/vibration, etc. will probably mean a shorter service life.

                Cast iron intakes routinely last 50 years or even twice that long and are still functionally good as new.

                • Early plastic intake manifolds suffered from making the coolant cross over entirely from plastic. Later designs used aluminum for this function. Newer designs should not have the issues the older ones did. And eight’s constant ford bashing would have one thinking it’s just a ford issue. No, there are GM vehicles that suffered the same way. Just take a look at the dorman catalog.

          • Actually there have been some high profile restorations of ordinary cars of famous people.
            Some rapper is getting his early 90s sedan redone. One of the Japanese brands.

            Reproduction/Restoration parts are coming on line for my ’97 Mustang. There are more every time I look.

            • It would surprise me if there weren’t repro parts for the stangs, lots of people love those cars and want to keep them on the road.
              As far as the rapper’s early 90’s japanese sedan resto (Ludacris’ 93 Acura?), whatever floats his boat.

              • There are repro parts – but they are very pricey, compared with the classic stuff. Which doesn’t need ECUs, sensors, elaborate harnesses, etc. Provided your block can still be bored (if needed), all you need to rebuild a classic-era V8 is a set of pistons and rings, bearings, cam/lifters, gaskets, etc. That’s it. Might cost you $1,500 (assuming you can turn a wrench).

        • Mustangs have had stainless steel exhaust systems for about 20 years now, so of course it will cost a lot for factory replacement parts. A complete aftermarket system using a better grade of stainless will cost more than a rebuild too. A quality stainless exhaust system for your car is going to cost close to if not more than rebuilding it’s engine if it has cats. Especially true if it is a true dual exhaust system like modern mustangs instead of a restrictive single catalyst system typical of the mid 1970s. It’s just straight up material and fabrication costs.

          • Hi Brent,

            My car has cast iron exhaust headers; they’re essentially immortal (and if I need a new set, they cost about $250). No 02 sensors (or cats). Just pipes (very cheap) and mufflers (about $50 each for good ones).

            My buddy just bought a new (plastic) intake for his LS V8; the cost was eye-popping. And it is (being plastic) not immortal.

            The aluminum (or cast iron) four-barrel intake pretty much is.

            He’s also got to buy a fuel rail assembly, deal with eight injectors, MAF/MAP sensors, a throttle body, plus the computer and the wiring harnesses.

            I’ve got a four barrel carb that needs a $70 rebuild kit once every 10-15 years, maybe.

            • Eric, I’ve had my 1997 Mustang GT since December 1996 and it has 206K miles on it. Yes, I’ve replaced some parts one would think of replacing in the course of 206K on a car driven year round in Chicago, but the engine has never been opened. I replaced the water pump on it, which is easier than it is to do on my 1973 Ford. I replaced the intake manifold because the plastic coolant crossover cracked. This was an early design error. Nobody does that anymore. Carb rebuild? I haven’t touched the fuel system in my ’97 except to replace the filter, which I probably didn’t even need to do and the fuel pump sometime after the car hit 200K.

              Carbs need frequent attention for a daily driver compared to FI. Even before the days of RFG I had to adjust on a regular basis. Minimum seasonal adjustments when I was daily driving such cars. I got good at it, it only took a couple minutes, but still it had to be done. Carb rebuilds aren’t 15 year affairs for cars racking up miles. Old cars weren’t even supposed to survive five years where I live. And I am old enough to remember what would happen to cars in the hands of a dealer mechanic when they were over five….

              There are many design and manufacturing practices in older cars that are just plain bad. Over the course of 40 years they are usually rectified for all but the cars that have to be 100% original. That is every one of the cars people actually drive.

              My ’97 also has cast iron exhaust manifolds. Some cars like my ’12 come with factory headers that would have to be bought aftermarket in days past. They are also much better made. Now I’ve had to fix flanges and hangers on my Mazda, but after 16 years I now have to replace one of the pipes. It isn’t even a stainless system. I’ll probably buy an economy part for it. If I find the original to be not too bad I might weld it up and put it on the shelf in case I need it.

        • I have to laugh at that one Eric. Your 76 needed to be rebuilt all the time. The 2016 car never will need it. That is what you don’t get. A newer car will run well past 250 thousand miles and keep on running. How many rebuilds would your 76 need in that time? My last two cars lasted well past 200 thousand miles before I got rid of them. The engines were still running fine with no rebuilds.Clover

          • Clover,

            Have you ever rebuilt an engine? No. As usual, you speak (and write) without any knowledge or experience behind you. Just hearsay – and, of course, your feelings.

            If this were not the case, you’d know that pre-computer engines could be very long-lived; many exceptionally so (Dodge Slant six, for example). But the difference that’s relevant is that they could be rebuilt easily and inexpensively, which is not the case with modern engines.

            Yes, it’s true that the engine itself (in a modern car) will probably still be mechanically sound at 150,000-plus miles and more. But the peripherals (especially electronics) routinely render them economically not worth fixing at some point around 15-20 years old, whereas something like the 455 in my Trans-Am can be restored/rebuilt almost indefinitely because it is not especially expensive to do so.

            My car is 40 years old. Yet I could completely go through the entire drivetrain – the engine and all its systems (including the entire electrical system) the transmission and drive axle – for about $5,000.

            That would be a total restoration, Clover. Of everything. With the result being a mechanically/functionally new car.

            • I don’t plan on getting rid of my ’97, it will be 19 in december.

              All cars are cheap to keep going if one values his labor at zero. Having a 40 year old car restored, paying someone to do it, is like buying a new car.

              I can build a ’69 Mustang from all new parts. It would cost me about forty grand. About the price of a new Mustang.

              • Let’s see how it fares after 20 more years! 😉

                On the ’69. Yeah, but that’s a bit of an extreme approach. Starting with nothing, buying all-new everything. One could restore a restorable example (re-using/rebuilding the major components) for half that amount.

                • Eric – I didn’t read Brent’s comment as that he was recommending a build from scratch, just that it was possible.

                  • Hi Phillip,

                    Brent and I have had this little argument before! His position (I think; if I’m wrong, he’ll correct me) is that there isn’t that much cost differential between the Old and the New. I’ve argued there is – a big one.

                    He’s absolutely right that the old stuff requires more in the way of periodic (even regular) fine-tuning/maintenance, etc. That the new stuff is more durable, has a longer service life.

                    But I’d still much rather deal with (as an example) the low cost/inherent simplicity of a non-electronic carburetor and a cast iron or aluminum intake manifold vs. a modern car’s PFI set-up, with all the sensors, wiring harnesses and throw/away/replace-with-new (and $$$$) electrical scheisse.

                    • “But I’d still much rather deal with (as an example) the low cost/inherent simplicity of a non-electronic carburetor and a cast iron or aluminum intake manifold vs. a modern car’s PFI set-up, with all the sensors, wiring harnesses and throw/away/replace-with-new (and $$$$) electrical scheisse.”


                      My daily drivers are a 2 liter, dual weber carbed ’65 Bug and a 1.8 liter mechanically injected (CIS) ’82 Rabbit pick-up. The wife has a 1.6 liter dual carbed ’74 Super Beetle and a recently acquired 2.slow, 5 speed manual 2000 Jetta that I just fixed up for her for her commute from the south bay to Oakland at her new job, she deserved something more comfortable.

                    • Actually I agree with Brent on this one. If you value your labor at zero then you can keep your 76 car running until you die and as long as you can get parts. I do not want to keep rebuilding a car that gets 12 miles per gallon with the fenders falling off. Eric I do not value my time at zero. Just because you do not know how to repair a computerized car does not mean it is not possible. I have worked on computerized cars. In a way they are even simpler than your 76 car. They sure do run a lot better and are far cheaper to drive. Get in a modern car and start it right up at -30 deg. That is not that easy on your old 76.
                      Also Brent a 97 car is modern compared to a 76,Clover

                    • Clover,

                      You haven’t worked on any car, modern or classic. You are a mechanical ignoramus. I doubt you know the difference between a torque wrench and a tire tube.

                      PS: My TA gets about the same mileage as the Caddy ATS I just finished reviewing (high teens, average, with the V6). And it has all of its original sheetmetal, which is now 40 years old.

                      Poor ol’ Clover! Put in the Libertarian Camel Clutch and hombled yet again!

                • No respect. No respect at all I tell ya.

                  It will always be well in another 20 years…. A 1970s car would not have lived through what I already put my ’97 through. It would be a structurally unsound car by now. I know this from experience.

                  Building a ’69 from scratch is a viable option because either one pays a lot these days or buys a rusted hulk that is only good for the vin number and various bits that aren’t available.

                  • That’s prolly true for the “known” collectible models (e.g., the ’69 Mustang). But you can buy something like your Maverick in very solid “driver” shape for well less than $5k and make it a very respectable street performance car for another $5k.

                    I should snap one up before they, too, become “collectible”!

                    • If I could find a rust free V8 MT maverick for 5K these days I would buy it. My own maverick is pretty much all I see and it needs work with regards to the demon rust. It’s also 250cid I6.

                    • Yes, locally they are gone. There two I see at car shows and mine. That makes the three I’ve seen in person in the last 10+ years. The two at the shows are V8s. One’s actually a comet.

                      Maybe there’s hope. Sunday I saw a Monza on the road for the first time in 20 years.

                      Even when I travel to more environmentally friendly climates I don’t see Mavericks any more. I used to.

                      I do see them online occasionally but they are far away from me and never V8 w/MT.

                      I just checked the forum and I admit I haven’t kept up in the model forums. There’s a ’71 grabber project car for sale asking $4K. It’s NC and it looks like it has a home made trans tunnel. It needs… a lot but it looks like the rust work has been done and wasn’t too bad.

                      There’s a ’73 V8 AT for sale in Vegas. 149K miles. Looks ok. tiny bit of rust. $9500.

                      A $3500 grabber V8, MT, but it’s in WA state. It’s got the demon infesting the fender flanges. It’s worn and dirty. Lower 1/4’s rusted. Driver’s side 1/4 smashed moderately. Interior is shot. some sort of misalignment with the trunk lid. It happens when they are hit in the 1/4s. Mine has it from that but it doesn’t show unless the truck is opened. original vinyl roof is missing.

                      Locally… there’s this: Nicer than most I see for sale here.
                      And this is um… typical of what I see for sale locally:
                      Anything that’s been sitting like that in the south burbs is a rusted hunk of crap beyond redemption. The floors are most certainly gone.

                    • I’ll see whether the guy I know still has his. He had two of them, one a decent contender, the other a parts car.

                    • Please don’t check on my account because I don’t have anything to fetch even one car with let alone a pair. I’m kinda limited to what’s close to me at present. If I could even clear the space. I need to move to some place with a nice pole barn.

                  • Building a ’69 from scratch is a viable option
                    Given your earlier caveat that you not assign a value to your time.
                    Of course another possible take away from your earlier comment is that whatever part you need, it is available.

                    • Yup.

                      You can now buy a complete – brand new – ’69 Camaro shell (everything from the cowl to the tailpanel; a complete/welded unibody ready to bolt the front subframe/engine/suspension, etc. to.

                    • Actually the $40K figure is having professionals do much of the work, or at least it was a few years ago. Probably more now. Considering a show car can be created professionally for 80-100K after having the car of course a good driver from scratch shouldn’t be much more than half that.

                      It’s all parts but it’s not a super careful paint job either. Assembling a car with new parts isn’t bad. They are meant to go together fast.

                      That’s the whole idea of the new stamped body. The repair labor just goes up up and away exponentially plus the stripping and prep time so a new shell pays for itself quickly. Prep, paint, done.

              • My Sportwagen TDI will be 7 next month, and soon to turn 200K on the clock. I’m keeping my fingers crossed on the DSG (& the timing belt).
                They use a lot of salt on the roads around here, too, because people come to DC from all over the country and all around the world who have never even seen snow, let alone learned how to drive in it.
                But I’m hoping to get a lot more time and miles out of it, cause I can’t afford to replace it.

            • Hi Fred,

              Clover is a typical “throw it away, buy a new one” latter-day American. Being a government employee with a secure (taxpayer-provided) income and a generous (also tax-financed) pension he/she can afford to indulge.

  6. As a race engine builder I wholeheartedly agree with this article. 2 valve pushrod engines of yesteryear are vastly inferior to the modern 4 valve DOHC layout. The only reason domestic manufacturers stuck with pushrod engines for so long is because the R&D costs were paid off 75 years ago. When the Japanese came along in the late 70’s…well we all know how that story ended.

    Eric…in regards to your complaint about roller lifters, I believe your complaints are unfounded. Hydraulic roller lifters are for your grandmomma’s Chevy.

    All modern day shaved beaver munching V8 hot rodders should be running a SOLID roller lifter. A solid roller stuffed into a modern Chevy LS engine is a thing of beauty.

    • Hi Pedro,

      Actually, GM has worked miracles with the two-valve/pushrod V8. Easy 500-plus reliable/street drivable hp without supercharging using a very simple (basic) design that is much more compact (and so fits more easily in tight engine compartments).

      And with a supercharger…. holy Hellcat! (and CTS-V).

  7. Dear Eric,


    Out of curiosity I compared the acceleration time of a 2015 Mustang V6 against the 60s era Shelby Mustangs.

    Turns out the 2015 Mustang V6 (0-60 in 5.5 sec) is actually faster than the 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 (0-60 in 6.1 sec).

    • Hi Bevin!


      I love the originals; just as I also admire battleships. But I would never make the mistake of sending a battleship against a modern carrier task force or even going toe-to-toe with a single modern destroyer.

      The results would not be favorable.

      To the battleship!

      • It’s true that modern warship could put fire on a WW2 era battleship without the battleship ever having seen them.

        But the Iowa Class ships were fitted with Harpoon anti ship missiles as well as Tomahawk cruise missiles which could be used in an anti shipping role. They had 4 Phalanx mounts and Stinger mounts to deal with incoming missiles as well.

        The thing they had over any modern ship short of an aircraft carrier was that they were designed to take a punch! In a “toe-to-toe” battle put me in the BB! Any modern ship that gets within range of those guns is toast. If WW3 breaks out I’d just as soon not be on any ship, let alone one of those modern aluminum cans.

        The article being about speed. Think of a ship that displaces 55,000 tons moving 38 mph through the water. You, and everyone you ever met, could waterski from it.

        • I am a major battleship geek. I watch “battleship porn” on YouTube all the time!

          The Iowas were, of course, updated as you describe. But still very vulnerable to air attack, their chief weakness and the primary reason for their downfall.

          Consider, for example, Bismarck. It was killed – ultiamtely – by a WWI-era cloth-covered biplane and one well-placed torpedo.

          See also Gunther Prien (sp?) and Royal Oak, etc. Another example of a cheap/simple opponent (U-boat and a torpedo) sinking a massive warship that cost an enormous amount of time and energy and money to build.

          The Germans had planned for a “super Bismarck” that would have displaced more than 100,000 tons (larger than the appx. 70,000 ton Japanese Yamato-class; about twice the size of an Iowa) mounting 20 inch main guns, if you can imagine. But it was tabled because the thing still would have been easy meat for a carrier task force.

          My personal favorite for elegance of line is the Scharnhorst. A beautiful ship. One of her her sister ship’s (Gneisenau) main turrets can still be toured in Norway. It was emplaced there as a shore battery.4

            • Hi Fred,

              I hope he does; I read his!

              Fred is a superior writer. One of the best out there. He’s also got his head screwed on right – and that’s even harder to find.

        • The old battleships have armor that the modern ships just don’t have as well as various design features that modern ships lack. It would take a lot of effort but if one of those old hulls was restored and the ships entirely resto-mod’d they would be at least interesting. The problem is that the modern stuff may not even function in those hulls.

        • But don’t battleships exist only to blow low quotient toy seamen bitches to smithereens.

          If one admires them, mighten one also admire the newest model scold’s bridle, now with blue tooth, GPS, and a wi-fi hotspot.

          [Be sure to read the above in mocking clover superior sing song]

          The scoop of shit us clovers drop in the eye-scream, though inedible, might be blinding you libertarians to the inherently violent hierarchy that brings us all the eye-scream.

          I scream you scream, the police come, it’s awkward.

          Military machines. Devices built by bitches for bitches to keep bitches in line since forever.

          Smack My Bitch Up – Oktoberfest Parody

          North Korean Car Commercial With Subtitles. RIP Glenn Rhee.

      • always been more of a Steeda fan when it comes to Fords, maybe because they used to outshine the other tuner cars (with the exception of Lingenfelter) back in the day.
        LPE is still tops in my book, especially after I witnessed one of their 427 c.i. twin turbo motors in a pro stock chassis regularly beating down 800+ c.i. nitrous fed mountain motors, there were some butt-hurt racers that day.


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