The Rear Wheel Drive Resurgence

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Two things once defined American cars.

They were almost always rear-wheel-drive – even the economy cars – and they sometimes could be had with V8 engines. Or at least they fit.

The  Pontiac Tempest was one such. Add a 389 and it became the 1964 GTO.

Slide one into a Vega or Pinto . . . even a Chevette.

Many did.

The economy car became a high-performance car after a weekend’s knuckle-banging in the garage. One capable of outperforming high-end European cars. Which were defined by one other thing:

Their (usually) high prices. Not many Americans could afford an E-Type Jag, Mercedes SL or a Ferrari Daytona. But many could afford a Camaro.

Almost anyone could afford a Nova

And either – plus many others – could give an E-Type or Daytona a run for the money . . . for a lot less money.

And then it all went away. Or at least, mostly. Vengeful oil cartels made gas impossibly expensive . Government termagants (of both sexes) made gas mileage expensive via heavy fines for cars that didn’t deliver it. This changed the landscape almost overnight – and seemingly forever. Those who lived through it will remember – and shudder.

American cars became like Japanese economy cars. We learned to Drive 55 – and speedometers read no higher than 85.

Rear drive and V8s gave way to front-drive and small fours – maybe a small six, if you paid extra. A big V8 wasn’t offered and wouldn’t fit anyway – not without serious welding – because the engine bay was meant for a tiny and sideways-mounted engine. A V8 engine was much too long. Even if you managed to knuckle-bust one in there, there was no room left for the transmission – which in a front-drive car is likewise mounted sideways (it’s called “transversely”) and combined with the drive axles, packaged together into something called a transaxle

Not, as Seinfeld likes to say, that there’s anything wrong with that. 

The FWD layout takes up less space overall – leaving more space inside the car for passengers. It is cheaper to manufacture – and it gets the weight of the drivetrain over the driven wheels, which aids traction. Pulling the car rather than pushing it helps on that score as well. It’s the reason why Citroen called its first front-drive car, the 1934 Traction Avant, just that. 

The name means traction forward.

But FWD is also the broccoli of car design. It may be good for you – and good in snow – but a ribeye is better for you. 

And rear-drive is the ribeye you’ve been craving. 

It’s the right way to burn rubber, obviously. A FWD burnout is always clumsy because the wheels you’re trying to steer the car with are skittering and bouncing all over the road as they try to put the power to the road.

There’s also a limit to how much power the wheels that steer the car can take before they fly off the car. It is why there have been very few truly powerful FWD cars. To keep things from breaking, the power must be limited or dialed back electronically or some of it shunted to the rear wheels through an all-wheel-drive system.

But now you can’t do a burnout at all – which is no fun, even if the car is powerful. 

And besides, you still have most of the weight of the drivetrain over the front wheels – which messes up the balance. FWD is nose heavy, tail-light; cars of this type are prone to understeer, which is to driving fun what broccoli is to dinner.

It is also why almost all race cars and serious high-performance cars are based on a rear-drive layout. You can steer with the rear wheels – using the accelerator. Countersteering with the front wheels – via the steering wheel. 

It’s what car people crave. 

And it’s making a comeback.

American cars – and SUVs, even – are returning to the rear-drive layout. The Ford Explorer is one such that was rear-drive in its heyday, transitioned to a FWD layout but is now – at last – rear-drive again for 2020.

Ford plans to expand on this, too.

There is a hopeful rumor that Lincoln – Ford’s luxury division – is going to go back to the RWD layout as well. 

Chrysler’s cars (and their Dodge-badged cousins) are all rear-drive, which probably accounts for their rampant popularity, despite aging designs. The 2020 Chrysler 300 and Charger sedans are ten years old, basically – but thjat is why people love them.

They are built like they used to make ’em – and you can can still get ‘em.

Rear drive also thrives among American trucks – which remain the most popular and profitable vehicles on the road. In fact, the only reason there still is an American car industry is because of big trucks. They subsidize the FWD (and electric car) loss leaders – which are manufactured mainly to keep the government termagants off the car industry’s back.

None of these trucks has ever been front-wheel-drive.

All of them have always offered V8s.

Some of these trucks are quicker than the European exotics of not-so-long ago.

The 2019 Chevy Silverado 1500 pick-up has the heart of a Corvette: 6.2 liters and 420 horsepower. It gets to 60 in about 5 seconds – enough to scare a Lamborghini Countach back to Bolognese.

Speaking of Corvette.

The new mid-engined one that just made its debut casts a heavy shadow. Its pushrod, two-valve V8 – which still drives the rear wheels – makes 490 horsepower in standard trim (more is available) for a base price of $58,900 – which is just a bit more than half the price of a new Porsche 911 with a 443 hp six with four valves, overhead cams plus turbos.

There are also the survivors, like Ford’s Mustang – which somehow made it intact through the dreary ’80s and ’90s. Its survival encouraged the revival of Camaro – which had been down for the count – and the Dodge Challenger, now available in Redeye form with almost 800 supercharged horsepower – all of them searing the asphalt via the rear wheels, as the Motor Gods intended.

And for a relatively accessible $72,745.

The good times – the American times – are back.

Enjoy ’em while they last . . .  .

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. When the Obama administration killed Pontiac, GM was at that time tossing around the idea of remaking the brand as a rear-drive only brand. It already had the G8 (Holden Commodore) and the Solstice, so just drop the G6 and make a compact rear-drive aimed squarely at the BMW 3 Series and they’d have had it. Doing that rather than keeping Buick as a Chinese prestige brand would have been a brilliant move. Too bad it didn’t happen.

    I wonder if Ford would have the balls to make a four door compact based on the Mustang. Call it the Falcon. Seems unlikely, but it might be their only reasonable move back in to the sedan market in a few years after killing off their entire FWD car line.

    • Hi J!

      It’s interesting to speculate about what killed Pontiac (and Oldsmobile). Both of them were once popular and successful brands that – in their heyday -sold more cars than some major independent brands do today. I think the fatal blow – for them both – was the ending of their independent engineering operations and brand-specific engine lineups. How many ways can you re-sell a Chevy?

      I like Chevys – or rather, today’s “corporate” engines from GM that are used in all GM brands. The LS V8 series is excellent.

      But, if I am buying a Pontiac, I want it to be a Pontiac.

      My ’76 Trans-Am has a Pontiac V8. It is thus not a Camaro with slightly different styling. After 1981, the Firebird became a Camaro with slightly different styling. A good-looking car, but a badge-engineered one. The ending of Pontiac’s V8 is, I think, what ended Pontiac. It just took another 20 years for the disease process to run its course…

      • eric, they have LS fests these days. I’ve seen everything you can imagine with LS power including a Rolls. It was said to be a damn fast Rolls. Of course an LS in a Rolls isn’t so far-fetched since Rolls used GM 400 transmissions for many years. Of course they did some mods to them that made them suck when the 400 was known as the “forever transmission” and the 454 was the “forever engine”.

        I just sold my 82 3/4T 4WD 454 400 pickup with a one ton rear end. The speedo quit so many years before it did(well, it never quit, it just jumped time so bad I couldn’t afford a complete rebuild). It did this with 40 gallons of fresh gas and a new set of Michelin Class E tires. Two months earlier and it wouldn’t have had the tires or the gas…..well, probably not 40 gallons.

    • Hi J,

      Trust me, this is not meant as a snarky defense of Obama (whom I loathe) but, what did Obama do specifically to kill Pontiac?


      • I don’t have particularly good sources, but this documentary on the rise and fall of Pontiac goes into some detail of the demise of Pontiac after 2008, and the government takeover of GM insisting that they cut brands. Skip to about 1:00:00 for the talk of the end times.

        Sadly, Eric, I’m too young to remember a time when GM divisions had their own engines (save for Cadillac Northstar V8s, shudder.) Honestly, such an idea seems like a strange relic of a magical past; modern car manufacturers don’t do that. VAG shares engines across VW, Audi, Skoda, even some cross talk between Lamborghini and Audi, while Bugatti and Bentley and Audi share engines too. Just an example. I guess in those days GM wasn’t so much one big car company as a big family of car companies, cooperating and competing with each other as they saw fit. What a different time!

        I think it’s too bad for Pontiac to have, in its later years, have become an unfocused bin of rebadged Chevy and Holden and Opel machines. No wonder it wasn’t selling, they’re the same as all the other cars! But if the brand had been made into a budget sport-luxury RWD-only brand, that would have been different. Heck, and then if GM were smart (oh, boy that’s an if) they could have made Cadillac into the true luxury brand (no “sport”) that it once was.

        • Hi J,

          Each of GM’s divisions used to have its own in-house design and engineering operations; they functioned, to a great extent, as independent car companies, each catering to a different buyer/niche. So, for example, Buick and Oldsmobile were upscale but not as flashy as Cadillac – and Pontiac was GM’s upscale performance brand. It worked brilliantly too. Chevy, in 1970, had more market share by itself than all of GM has today and (IIRC) Pontiac sold more than Chevy does today.

          You missed out on some good times.

          • eric, I’d love to have a 96 anniversary Roadmaster Buick station wagon. Bose stereo, air bags, the entire 9 yards but simple driveline. I’d use some Vortech heads on the base engine that are good for another 130 HP and better fuel mileage with the good ol TBI. Simple, powerful, economical and luxurious.

            I could live with a 78 Vista Cruiser too. There’s better heads and danged sure better cams for those not to just increase hp but fuel economy too. 180 degree Weiand high rise intake with TBI on top and no telling what the mpg could be had plus serious power and towing ability. Cholley Jack wants either of them. Great dogmobiles and they’ll let a human or two ride along for company.

            • I know I like my 95 Roadmaster sedan.
              Been on the lookout for a 94-96 fleetwood.
              A hearse would be ok too…
              Even more of a land yacht 🙂

              • Well, funny thing is I’m now en route to the eastern seaboard from the mountain west to pick up a BMW 540i that I bought on eBay.

                Not exactly like those American land yachts you all are speaking of, but I’ll have a naturally aspirated V8 with a 6 speed manual and will be able to sell my too-much-tech Audi A3 with its turbocharger and DSG.

                This site may have had something to do with this decision.

              • Bob, only wanted a hearse for 50 years. A true hearse is now hard to find with Suburban’s being the substitute.

                We recently saw a 90’s hearse and I made the comment that would be fine with me. The wife rolls her eyes. I don’t get why she doesn’t get it.

                More height, better suspension and a better drivetrain and being really luxurious on the inside. You could even make your choice of what to use in the rails for better, more secure storage. I don’t see the downside. There used to be more on the road not being used as a hearse.

                I have driven several of them(nominated by the funeral director…..saves money). Nobody ever had to ask me twice.

                • some bolt ons and a 150 shot would put it in the mid 12’s (1/4 mile) too, for when you feel the need to troll somebody lol

            • If I recall that had the LT1, which while great in its’ own right uses reverse flow cooling and cannot use Vortec heads (without mods)

              • that would be correct. the 94-96 B and D bodies all had the LT1 as an option and the buicks and caddies only got the LT1 (with iron heads – F and Y bodies got the aluminum heads). The iron LT1 head was the template for the vortecs and they perform about the same. reverse cooling is a bit more forgiving in terms of knock resistance as well.

  2. Here in Australia our Falcons and Commodores were RWD till the bitter end (2017).
    DOHC 4.0L inline 6 turbos with RWD – that particular inline 6 spawned from the original 1960s Falcon 6, but Australianised for over 5 decades. Its final name was ‘Barra’ after the Barramundi fish, a prized catch.

    Here is an American reviewing one of the last F6’s:

    Here is some nutter who has shoehorned the large ‘Barra’ 4.0 NA six into a Ford Ka and made it RWD:

    I’m so sad we have lost our indigenous RWD cars! Send some of your new ones over (and we’ll Barra turbo swap them haha)

    • Hi Jack. I am from Melton, Australia. I have a 2000 WH Stato and a 2001 Camry. Before that I had a VP Commodore I bought new and had for 23 years, 411000 km. Good to see a fellow Aussie on EP Autos. Grew up on RWD and it is a far better alternative than FWD.

    • I have been a fan of the Falcon 6 since Ak Miller hopped some up in the early 70’s. It would be nice to have an Aussie connection for heads which could swap on to replace the awful counterflow head and log intake American cars were saddled with. I found the 250 to be an unappreciated gem with tons of low end torque and a Windsor bellhousing, but that intake and single barrel are a pain to work around, much less having intake and exhaust on the same side.

  3. Years ago I had a fwd Nissan Sentra that I used to take off road occasionally. There was this dirt road we used to take up to the top of the foothills that ran through this narrow crevice just wide enough for a truck to get through. Just beyond it was a mud bog. After a good rain, if you weren’t going fast enough, you were stuck. I went flying into the bog one day, and had no problem getting through it with my trusty front wheel drive economy import. There just so happened to be a few guys in their shiny new Chevy Blazer out in the mud trying to hook up a cable from some other guys in a jeep on the side of the hill. They all watched in stunned amazement as I shot by them shooting mud everywhere, but mostly all over my car.

    There’s also a point where the DOT will require people to chain up their tires in the snow, but don’t require it for front wheel drive cars which is also nice. Other than that, front wheel drive cars are not my thing. I no longer have a front wheel drive vehicle, but then I haven’t had any desire or inclination to drive in mud or snow either.

  4. My first great love when I was 19 was my 1967 Citroen DS FWD. I loved it and would never go back to RWD. Over the years I had 8 DS’s and never regretted anything. Right now I have a Chevy Spark FWD and it’s a great car.

  5. “And for a relatively accessible $72,745.”
    Wow, Eric, I need to start doing what you’re doing. Sounds like $72K is chump change to you. Lol

  6. I really like rear wheel drive cars (most of my cars have been and are rear drivers), nevertheless it is true that there have been some exceptionally good front wheel drive cars. You guys really need to drive something like the classic Peugeot 205 GTi or the extremely tail-happy 306 GTi6 (a big favourite) or one of the Renault Clio Williams or one of the Renault Megane factory hot rods or the mighty Ford Focus XR5. Any of these are just brilliant. In particular, the Peugeots are entertaining in how directly they steer and the ever ready ability to oversteer on trailing throttle into a corner. Wonderful! These are excellent cars with sparking chassis and so tactile. Try one.

    Note: Clarkson reviewed the 205Gti in a retrospective and reported that on a winding tight and narrow road the 205GTi was quicker point to point than the mighty Lamborghini Diabolo!

    Another note: There was an interesting comparison between two products of the Lotus company well worth our thought and consideration. Lotus manufactured a front drive sportscar called the Elan. It was powered by an Isuzu four cylinder engine of modest power. Later they built a mid-engined rear drive sportscar, the Elise. At a race event during the GP weekend in Macau examples of both raced against each other. Normally the more powerful and far quicker Elise would dominate. Not this time.

    It started raining heavily after race start and soon the Elan was circulating some 20 seconds a lap faster than any other vehicle on the circuit that day (none of the others were front drive). There were two reasons for this. They were, firstly, that the Elan demonstrated better traction in the slippery conditions (more mass over the driven wheels as a percentage of total mass of vehicle). Secondly, when the driver exceeded the grip of the car in corners he experienced gentle understeer which was easily corrected by reducing power. The on-limit handling was benign and allowed the Elan driver to approach the limits of adhesion consistently and more often than was the case for the drivers of the Elise or any of the other cars. When the Elan driver exceeded the limit, recovery was calm and easy- no drama whatsoever- with only meager time lost.

    In the case of the Elise, even though there was more grip available overall and the chassis was closer to the dynamic ideal for racing, it did not respond anywhere near as benignly when the limit of adhesion was exceeded. After a few big oversteer moments these drivers reduced their pace so as to stay safely away from the limit. Their times were thus doubly penalised in that whenever any of them had a big oversteer moment time was lost recovering from it gathering the car up (sliding is not a fast way round a corner). After catching the car a few times the preference became to reduce fatigue and stress by avoidance of the limit altogether. They drove conservatively, necessarily far more so than the Elan driver needed to, hence more time lost.

    I’ve found similar effect on regular street driving. In difficult, reduced traction conditions, front drive is easier for fast driving. I can go faster in a good rear driver but not for all that long- fatigue and survival instinct (and good judgement) takes over!

    Query: I came across an article on Allpar about some front wheel drive cars Chrysler made back in the day. Apparently there was a front drive performance car called the Spirit R/T. It was a 225hp turbo affair. As far as I have been able to discover no examples of these ever made it to the South Pacific. I have yet to try one. Anyone know what they were like? I can imagine they’d have been reasonably quick, but what about the chassis? How did they handle? What did they feel like? Did any of you guys drive one?

    Next adventure: This would just have to be getting a Hellcat! Or, better, putting a Hellephant engine into something really lightweight…. (and rwd).

  7. I have been driving Chrysler 300s (now a 10 YO ‘C’) for nearly 20 years. No, they get little respect or love from car yakkers, but I like my V8 and huge trunk. Driving across Texas requires some size. Very comfy and powerful. RWD of course.

    I may get a 2020 one though my current one has only 38K and is rarely in the shop. Very safe on congested freeways full of gasoline tankers too. And crazy SUV mamas on cell phones. All other things being equal, Safety = Power + Weight + Space. Not a gas sipper, but mileage not too bad especially out on the big fast roads. Lower gas prices over the years have been my friend. Plus where I live the A/C is required nearly year round.

    A few blocks away from where I live two teen males driving a pickup 65 mph on a residential street at night bumped a Chrysler 300 from the rear that was going more slowly and knocked it off the road. The pickup also flew off the road, tumbled badly and ended up crashing into a large brick wall. Two dead. As the news report said, “the Chrysler 300 occupants were unharmed.” ‘Nuff said.

  8. I love rear-drive, always have. It just *handles* better. I also love real shifting – makes you a better driver. But good luck finding much of anything with both of these. I dig the new Jetta GLI (and I hate Jettas!) but it’s front-drive. I love the Stinger, but there’s no clutch. Can’t get a sunroof in the 86. Might be the 124 for me, once the hard top becomes available…

    • Same here! Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always thought that all cars were either RWD or 4×4. To my dismay, I soon realized that many small to mid-size cars and minivans in the 90’s were FWD. Yuck! I also learned that the FWD trannies (especially on minivans) had a habit of “committing suicide” at ~100K miles. Since then, I always swore to never own an FWD car. That also includes AWD since most of them are predominately FWD; although I did briefly consider a Mazda CX-9 since it was geared to be a “fun to drive” CUV.

      • I learned to drive with the throttle on RWD. I soon realized I’d need a surplus of power. My 67 Malibu had more than a surplus. I’d blow one of the huge V8 cars off and then show the air cleaner “275 HP”. There is was, in plain letters. You don’t believe it? Wanta go again?

        I love RWD. I led a huge amount of vehicles up the caprock from Post. Tx. on 84 one night in a huge blizzard. Those Goodyear Polyglas GT’s were superior to everything else out there besides the just then being available radials. The sister and BIL with their own GT’s in their Camaro were right behind me.

        Strange how people aren’t cool with following and have the need to go around everyone else. Many tried that night, and I wasn’t trying to outrun anyone, just do the fastest speed I could maintain control. Those many would finally overpower their tires, spin off into the really deep snow but probably 50-80 vehicles followed me all the way to Lubbock. Say what you will, RWD is a very good bad weather style…..if you have some decent driving abilities.

        I learned to get anywhere the best way in a big rig a couple years later. When the highways were solid ice and maybe some snow over that, I did the best thing to be done since it never lasted long, sat at the house, drank coffee and played with the pets…..and the wife.

    • What killed Pontiac and Hummer brands was the Obummer regime. They told GM they could only be bailed out with a $70 Billion plus loan if GM got rid of the two lowest fiscal performers in GM brands. Hence, Pontiac and Hummer, followed by Saturn not to many moons later. The Demonrats only destroy, never restore, whatever they touch.

      • Hi Saxon,

        It didn’t help, certainly. But by ’08 Pontiac was just a badge-engineering marketing arm that re-sold Chevys and Buicks under its label. Even the G8 was a rebadged someone-else’s car. I say this as a Pontiac guy who has owned several real Pontiacs (with Pontiac-built engines that were not the same as Chevy or Buick engines).

        Hummer was doomed by $4 gas – remember?

        • By the end Pontiac was also seeking badge engineered imports from Australia: the Holden Monaro as the Pontiac GTO (unfortunately discontinued a cookie of years before ’08) and the Holden Commodore as the Pontiac G8. Pontiac also had the Solstice which wasn’t a Chevy (I think it was some Opel, but the only other American marque selling it was Saturn).

          Pontiac was just starting to have a unique identity, to no longer be just rebadged Chevy’s, when it died. That was sad.

  9. In my high school days, back in the mid-seventies, I was a dirt bike nut and drove a ’63 Chevy SWB stepside and have been a pickup guy ever since. My friends all drove V8 muscle cars. Javelins, Chargers, Barracudas, Skylarks, Fairlanes, Mustangs, Novas, Camaros, a Super Bee and Tri Five Chevies. God, I miss those days. What the hell happened?

  10. I remember the FWD as a piece of junk. The transmissions did not hold up. I remember because I was stuck suddenly in traffic when a pin gave way that became a very expensive mistake.
    I bought rear drive trucks after that. One of which was a 1985 small truck that is still working.
    In Ohio, after a heavy snow, a fwd would not allow you to go backwards then forwards to get out of an icy patch of road. The transmission however did die doing that. They were designed to fail.

  11. Really Eric, a VEGA on the front page? Yeah, it’s RWD, but a VEGA? A Hemi Dart, a 440 Six-Pack Valiant, even a Buick Century with a 455, but a Vega…hmmm!

    As for me, I love the feel of rear engine, RWD. Talk about traction, and with enough power (Porsche 911), the tail-happy feeling of terrain features passing by in reverse!

    You can thank Sir Alec Issigonis and BMC for that transverse engine FWD thing, BTW. 1959 Austin se7en Mini, the first production car with that layout.

    • In high school, I had a friend that owned a 69 Cuda 440 that he had upgraded to drag race in. His younger brother had a (65? 66? 67?) Mustang hard top, also upgraded. They and their dad were all wrenchers. At one point, someone gave them an old Pinto. They pulled it into their shop yanked the engine and rebuilt it. While rebuilding it, they found that the dimensions on the engine lent well to replacing the cam, the valve train, the pistons, the exhaust manifold, the intake manifold, cylinder head, and the carburator with high quality performance parts. While they were at it, they put on a turbo charger and a larger exhaust. When they were done, it netted 260 horsepower and would get up to 60 in about 6 seconds. They put on an aftermarket speedo and clocked it doing 140 on the old runway that was used for drag racing (after about 1/2 mile, it’s 1/4 mile speed was in the high 80’s, enough to be respectable but not enough to win at a serious street-class drag race).

      The moral of the story? Never assume that an old “junk” car from the 60’s or 70’s was actually junk. With some parts and work, just about anything from that era could be made fast.

      • Well, we had a Pinto, and yes, compared to its contemporaries, it was shall we say, substandard. Mostly, the bodywork. Handling was pretty good, and that English or German 4-speed shifted very nicely. But the bodywork, oh man.

        Ditto the Vega. Wags used to claim if you scraped the paint off a Vega’s fender, it would say “Coors”!

        Now, big engines in small cars, yeah, try a Plymouth Fire Arrow on for size sometime. Mitsubishi Lancer basically, with their biggest engine in it. Real screamer. Built-in tinworms in the fenders, however…

        Another, the Cortina Lotus. Ran into a fellow with one of those here in the US. English Ford Cortina with a breathed-upon Ford Crossflow Kent 1.6L, twincam Lotus head, dual Weber DCO’s. A true screamer!

        • Oh now THAT would be sweet.

          Used to know a guy way back when, was racing a Formula 3 (or is it C in the US?), the cigar shaped open wheel car, the class standard dictated that the engine had to be ONE litre or less displacement AND derived from a production SEDAN. Not sports car, SEDAN. Now THAT limited things a bit. Many fitted the tiny little one litre pushrod four…. that was found knocking about England and Europe, and quite a few here in the States, in the engine bay of the Anglia 105 E saloons. Lightweight little car, nothing remarkable, but the engine just happened to be prefectly suited for the Formula car use. Saloon origi, one litre, lightweight… perfect 3:4 stroke/bore ratio, just oversquare, had an six port head (the inlets were siamesed), five main steel crank and decent bearing size. super short pushrods….. they’d take the head and bore straight down into the intake pockets just above the valves, and press a smooth tube in. Presto, eight port head. HUGE eight ports for only breathing one litre. They’d balance, dry sump, etc and thos engines, naturally aspirated, on a single 32mm carburetter, would run at 12,500 all day and produce upward of 120 horsepower,

          My friend had campaigned his Formula car for two seasons, no mishaps, and was thinking it was time to begin building a new race engine. He found a 1952 car, the pretty soft blue, a creampuff owned for many years and driven by a little old lady who was afraid of her own shadow, so never pushed it. The engine had coked up so badly it would barely run, but he did not care. He repowered his race car, retired the trusty first engine.. then the next winter kept looking at that nearly showroomo mint Anglia out in the side yard, and he got crazy. Fun crazy. Yes, he de-cammed the race engine, converted the dry sump back to stock, left the racing induction system on it, new piston rings cause the others had two seasons on them, fitted a stock clutch on the lightened flywheel, left the tubular headers on and took a two inch pipe through a mufler and let it hang just below the bumper where the 3/4 inch exhaust pipe used to be. Lowered the suspension of the Anglia about an inch and a half, made sure the brakes were healthy, put slightly wider road wheels on it and a retired set of Goodyear Blue Streaks….. and went out looking for fun. The ONLY hint the car was anything other than it was when he bought it was that twin inch pipe just below the rear bumper, but few ever noticed that. ANY standard sports car wad dead meat for him… I think he had cammed it for a redline of 9,000, rather than the original 12,500 for the race car. I seem to rmember those Anglias only weighed in at about 1500 pounds with a full load of petrol Not only was that thing light and fast, but it handled pretty well, too. He thought it was a great sleeper… hardly anyone ever guessed how fast it would be. And it still looked just like the little old lady’s town car it was when he got it.

          • I drove one of those Anglias, a 1967 124E (LHD) with the 1198cc non-crossflow Kent engine. Had it for 7 years and one complete drivetrain overhaul.

            When I saw that Lotus Cortina, hell, when I saw a fellow over here in the Colonies with a Cortina GT, I drooled. 1.6L, crossflow head…little did I know that sweet little engine (in a Cortina) would get saddled with a much heavier Pinto in the 70’s. In the Cortina GT, a nice little ride. In the Pinto, a dog. Now, that same engine in an Anglia…ah, that would go very fast!

    • I still think Vega styling is nice. A friend bought a Vega the way they all should have been, the Cosworth powered job. Nothing growing on that Vega.

      • Oh yeah, agree there, they were nice looking cars. But the rust-o-matic fenders, and the self-destructing aluminum block engines…they should all have been Cosworths, yep! Then the memories of Vega 40+ years later would not consist of cars with hoods up and steam pouring out.

    • I have watched many of those, in nearly every one of the stronger engine configurations, on the sports car racing track, and owned a ’64 Cooper S 1275 Stage Three. Dropped down an inch, Koni’s 3/4 hard all round, Goodyear Bluestreaks on the Spider mags….. up to about 110, that thing was formidable. If it had been fitted with the Hewland five speed gearbox with fifth an overdrive gear, it probably would have one a tad above 130. Rock solid stable, nothing I’ve ever owned or driven could corner like that thing did. I watched them pass the V8 monster cars on the INSIDE, besting them by a good 20 MPH,, then pulling away from them on the straight till they’drun out of gear, dive into the Twisties at the end of the straight and be passing the big boys on the inside again. Hilarious to watch.

      Foot down pushing her in the twisties she’d return only about 40 phg on the petrol (US galllon). Drive steady speed, as on the motorway, I’d see a solid 55 mpg on the same US gallon. NOTHING returned as much pure motoring fun for such a small purse than that thing.

      Some here would disparage the lowly Porsche 911 because it had a MERE six cylinder. And rear mounted into the bargain. And it displaced ONLY a paltry two litres. I’ve been around some of those that had been built, too. And watched them with great delight on the Posrts Car tracks…. they always ran in a different field than the Minis, so never got to watch them at the same time. A well prepared 911 was nearly inbeatable on the track. They could wind out SO HIGH… some of them up to12,500, and hold that as long as driver wanted to. HUGE flow through that hemi head cross flow twin cam design, very free flow exhaust. They;d make a sound like nothing else I’ve ever heard, too.. I could hear it two miles away as we approached the track for the weekend. Practice and qualifying had them all out. That was also a remarkablty dirable engine, too. I worled in a Porsche speciality shop years ago, we cared for quite a few of these cars for their owners. WIth normal care, driven very hard at times, many of them passed the quarter million mile mark, no issues with cam chain, valves, bearings… in fact, it was impossible for us to predict what component would fail, thus leading to that eventual rebuild. It was never an issue of the common weak point, because there was none.
      Friend of mine bought a several year old 911 E which had badly rusted fender wells, salt on the roads where iit came from. Had 125K on the car, ran well, floorpan was solid.. had the fenders flared like the Carrera race version, dropped it down about 35 mm, Koni shocks set at 3/4 hard, got a huge wide set of Carrera racing mags, fitted the first set of Michelin XVR tyres to come into California, I pulled them in through y shop. Engine was out, replaced the cam chains, put on the Carrera inlet manifold and six huge Webers, recurved the distributor advance to match the Carrera race version, fitted a set of four factory Carrera race camshafts, and chucked the used engine back into the car. He set redline at 9500, which it would hit easily and quickly. And went racing with it. I had a demo ride in that monster, and I’d have surely gone “Code Brown” had I not known three things about my friend… he knew the car intimately, having built it, taken drive school in it, and raced it for some time; he knew the particular road he had selected, as he had commuted daily over that windy mountain pass for a couple of years. Every pot hole and squirrel hole, he knew. And third, I KNEW him well enough to know he did NOT want to die. Good job he had fitted the right seat with the race standard five point safetyy harness… the G’s in those turns were far more than I could have managed to overcome on MY strength So I just kicked back, nenjoyed the ride, and left the driving to Goss.

  12. They’re still computerized out the ying yang. Yes, they’re powerful and fast but they’re no fun. Like you wrote, fun was hopping up the car. Triple duces,,, Double fours,,, balancing,,, CCing the heads,,,Higher compression pistons,,, Hurst shifter,,, Changing the ratio of the rear end,,, making cut-outs.
    Not exactly a thrill when one uploads a new map to the ECM. Your average Millennial could do that if you could break them away from their Ipads and social media.

    It is nice to have rear wheel drive,,, I’ll grant you that but even then it’s in the high cost cars. Even trucks are ridiculously priced now with all the nanny state garbahge and electronic distractions galore. The other day I saw a car pass me up on the freeway with the female driver turned around doing something in the rear while the kiddies were watching a TV mounted up front on the dash. Beverly Hillbillies I think. I assume the car had some sort of lane assist technology. I was being a clover only doing 80. With all this self driving stuff I’m becoming a little leary of driving period. 🙁

  13. I’ve had plenty of both types plus an AWD, and I far prefer RWD. Somehow they simply feel like they drive better.

    Son bought a Challenger SRT. Now that’s all kind of fun there. Mrs. Freeholder has forbidden me from such nonsense. She says she would prefer to collect my life insurance later rather than sooner. 🙂

    • Why, freeholder? If she collects it sooner she can spend it while she has some life left in her. And while she may have her mental facilities intact and not spoiled by dementia and aging. LOL!

  14. Well as you like to say Eric…..”different horses for different courses.”

    Obviously, trucks are RWD ( or 4WD ). Their job description requires hauling weighty cargo in the load bed. Ford Exploders and other medium-large SUVs at least theoretically should accommodate cargo with lots of volume and a fair amount of weight. RWD also expands their ability to function off road, which is also, theoretically, within their mission statement.

    90% of basic family transportation cars are FWD, and Who Cares? High performance is not their main mission. Camrys and Civics don’t need RWD.

    Your most interesting information is the possibility that Lincoln might produce a NEW RWD platform. That would open the door for a new generation of full sized Ford sedans. That’s exciting!

  15. I will only buy RWD based vehicles. RWD only for me, and RWD with AWD capability for my wife and daughter. I like her Charger’s AWD system which leaves it in RWD most of the time and only turns the fronts on as needed. I can tell when they turn on, but my wife and daughter can’t.
    Fords Explorer move is great news. I hope Lincoln moves the Continental to this new platform, as it will make me look at it vs my current favorite 300S v8-RWD-only.
    If so Ford, please don’t do what GM did with their CT6 and make it AWD-only.
    Just my opinion, as I get bashed all the time that the new AWD systems can drive hard better than me, and I agree that they probably can, but I don’t care. I am an old-ex-roadracer and I very much dislike when the fronts are doing anything other than steering. I can tell, and it messes with my brain.
    And yes, I drive my RWD-only in the snow. Is it convenient? No. But 5-10 days of the year I can be inconvenienced to enjoy the other 355 days a year.

  16. The Explorer was traditionally based on the Ford Ranger platform. When they stopped building the ranger, the Explorer became FWD, loosely based on the Taurus. Now that the Taurus is gone, the Explorer can be a Ranger derivative. See how neat that works out?

  17. FWD always felt too lurchy for me but when I had them for rentals like in a minivan it was great fun peeling out from stopsigns and fish tailing in them.


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