Archive for December, 2010

The Shelby GT500 Mustang

December 28, 2010

In the mid to late 1960s, famed race car driver and automotive designer Carroll Shelby created high-performance versions of the legendary Ford Mustang. These cars would be known as the Shelby GT350 and the GT500. The Shelby GT500 Mustang, introduced in 1967, offered the signature muscle car styling of the Mustang with Shelby modifications for increased performance.

The 1967 Shelby GT500 featured an unusually large and quite powerful engine for a compact muscle car; a 428-cid monster rated at 355 horsepower due in part to various alterations made by Shelby. A few models received the potent Ford 427 V-8. It came with both four-speed manual and three-speed automatic transmission options. The interior design on the GT500 was largely shared with the Ford Mustang GT, and power steering and air conditioning were offered as upgrade options.

In mid-1968, the Shelby GT500 received a new suffix, now being called the Shelby GT500KR (the KR standing for “King of the Road”). A 428-cid engine now replaced the standard 427 of 1967. The new engine was rated at 335 bhp, but this was considered by many to be a conservative rating. In 1968 a convertible option was also added for the GT500.

By 1969 and 1970, Shelby had ceased working in conjunction with Ford. The body style on the new models was changed dramatically, including a four inch increase in length. Production models actually ceased after 1969, as 1970 GT500s were rebranded leftovers from the previous year. 1969 marked the end of an era for the GT500, with the ’67 and ’68 models being the most authentic of the original GT500s produced.

In 2007 Ford and Shelby collaborated on a new GT500, and in 2008 a GT500KR was also released for the 40th anniversary of the KR version of the 500. New Shelby GT500 Mustangs are still in production today, produced in limited quantities each year.

Contributed By Fossil Cars Staff Writer

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The 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona

December 24, 2010

The 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona evolved from Dodge’s Charger fastback, introduced in 1966. The Charger fastback was conceived for the racetrack, but actually performed quite poorly in competition. In 1968 Dodge attempted to spruce it up with rear spoilers for competition models, but even with this improvement it was still considerably slower than its competitors. The aptly named Charger Daytona of 1969 was an attempt to bridge the gap and give Dodge a solid NASCAR contender to compete with superior Ford racing cars.

The Charger Daytona was fitted with an extremely large rear stabilizer to reduce the problem rear-end lift of the earlier fastback. It also featured a more aerodynamic front-end design, and between these two changes was considerably faster than its predecessor. Dodge built approximately 500 Daytonas, as this was the minimum requirement for a production car to compete in NASCAR.

Charger Daytonas were equipped with the famed 426 Hemi engine, and performed exceptionally in speed trials. The Daytona set a new world record for speed at Talladega, clocking in at nearly 200 mph. To Dodge’s chagrin, the car did not perform nearly as well in its first race. Ford still had the upper hand, drastically outperforming Dodge in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Charger was simply too fast for its own good; due to excessive tire wear drivers could not maintain max speed for the duration of races without blowing out the tires.

Dodge engineers implored tire manufacturers to make a more durable tire for the Charger, but it simply could not be done. Despite this issue, with expert driving to conserve tire tread, the car proved it could still contend with Ford and other manufacturers. By the end of 1969, the Daytona won 22 Grand National races, with NASCAR racing leader Ford winning 26. The Charger Daytona was a definite success.

Dodge ceased its production of racing cars in 1970, so the original Charger Daytona only enjoyed one year of production. The Charger Daytona name was revived in 1976 as an upgrade package for the Chrysler Cordoba. In 2006 Dodge brought back a new version of the Charger, offering a sporty Charger Daytona upgrade package. The new Charger is still in production today.

Contributed By Fossil Cars Staff Writer

The Plymouth GTX

December 21, 2010

The Plymouth GTX was an American muscle car produced from 1967-1971. The 1967 Plymouth GTX, originally launched as the Belvedere GTX, shared it’s basic body design with the stylish Plymouth Belvedere. It was seen as a “gentleman’s muscle car” for it’s combination of muscle car power and built-for-comfort street car design. The stock engine for the GTX was the “Super Commando 440,” a 375 horsepower monster made by Plymouth. The state-of-the-art MOPAR 425 horsepower 426 Hemi engine was available as an upgrade.

In 1968, the GTX gained higher standing in the Plymouth range, as the addition of the lower-cost Road Runner made it their premium muscle car offering. The 1968 model featured a new grille, a new hood, and a new taillight design. It came with the same two engine options as the ’67 GTX. The interior was shared with the Plymouth Sport Satellite, featuring faux wood grain and other luxurious details. The 1968 GTX represented a perfect mixture of luxury and performance in the muscle car category.

The GTX remained relatively unchanged for 1969, featuring minor cosmetic alterations, and a few new performance upgrade options. The biggest change for 1969 was the addition of the 440+6 engine option; a tooled up 440 V8 rated at 390 bhp in comparison to the stock 440’s 375 bhp. By 1969 the GTX was beginning to decline in sales, as the cheaper Road Runner was offered in convertible and two-door options, placing it in closer competition to the GTX.

In 1970, the GTX body style became a bit less boxy, receiving rounder lines and sleeker styling. The convertible was not offered in 1970, and the same three engine options remained. By this time, the GTX’s luxury appointments made it heavier than the cheaper Road Runner, and in turn slower. Sales continued to decline as the Road Runner gained popularity, and a mere 7,748 GTX’s were sold in 1970.

By 1971 it was clear that the GTX was falling out of favor with the public, and it was a bit of a surprise that Plymouth released a 1971 model. The ’71 GTX featured relatively dramatic styling changes. It was now smaller, rode on a shorter wheelbase, and was considerably less boxy than even the 1970 model. It was still offered in the same three engine options, albeit with the base engine horsepower lowered by 5 bhp. Less than 3,000 were sold in 1971, and Plymouth ceased production of the GTX. In 1972 Plymouth made the GTX an upgrade option for the more popular Road Runner.

Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer

Ferruccio Lamborghini And The Beginnings Of Lamborghini

December 18, 2010

Italian industrialist Ferruccio Lamborghini had amassed considerable wealth by the early 1950s. As an automotive connoisseur and a skilled mechanic, Lamborghini naturally sought out the finest cars available with his newfound fortune. In the early 1950s, Lamborghini owned a variety of top-notch automobiles, including Maseratis, Alfa Romeos, Mercedes Benz’s and Jaguars. Although fine cars, they were not up to Lamborghini’s high standards, which led him to Maranello to pay Enzo Ferrari a visit.

Lamborghini purchased several Ferraris in the late 1950s, and although he found them to be good cars, he was displeased with various weaknesses in their engineering and design. He considered them to be excessively noisy, lacking in interior luxury, and they consistently required service due to poorly made clutches. He was also displeased with Ferrari’s service department, considering it inadequate for a high-end brand such as Ferrari. Lamborghini brought these concerns to Ferrari head Enzo Ferrari, and Ferrari disrespected Lamborghini, dismissing his concerns. This inspired Lamborghini to outdo Ferrari, and led to the beginnings of the Lamborghini brand.

Lamborghini had worked as a mechanic and vehicle maintenance supervisor for the Italian military, and tooled up Fiats from his garage in Pieve di Cento in the late 1940s. He took his mechanical prowess and retooled one of his factory model Ferrari 250GTs for superior performance. Upon successfully modifying his Ferrari, he was moved to start his own brand of automobiles, with the goal of refining the touring car to its pinnacle of excellence. To this end Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. was born in 1963.

Ferruccio Lamborghini was driven, and he took an extremely hands-on approach in establishing Lamborghini as a firm competitor of Ferrari and other top brands. He would often put in hard work on the production floor, toiling side by side with his employees, inspiring solidarity and a commitment to quality at the Lamborghini factory. By 1968 he had certainly achieved his goal of producing equal if not superior cars to Ferrari. Ferruccio Lamborghini sold his remaining stake in Lamborghini in 1974, and retired from the automotive business. Despite Lamborghini’s departure, the Lamborghini brand continues to this day as a top maker of high-end automobiles, and a main competitor of Ferrari.

Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer

2011 Russo and Steele Automobile Auction Approaches

December 14, 2010

As the Holidays approach and 2010 comes to a close, auto collectors anxiously await the 11th annual Russo and Steele automobile auction. The auction will be held from January 19th through January 23rd, 2011, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Russo and Steele is one of the most prominent auto auctions held annually in the United States, and it attracts some of the most avid collectors in the world each year.

Russo and Steele have some really exciting cars ready to hit the auction block in 2011. Among these will be a 1970 Hemi ‘Cuda convertible. Fans of American muscle cars all know that the 1970 Hemi ‘Cuda is one of the most legendary cars of all time. It is considered by many to represent the highest pinnacle in American muscle car production. The 1970 Hemi ‘Cuda up for auction in Scottsdale this year is one of only 14 convertible Hemi ‘Cudas produced, and it is truly a rare gem.

Also for sale will be a 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 CSX1001 once owned by the vehicle’s namesake, celebrated race car driver and designer Carrol Shelby. It is a one of a kind vehicle as only 12 were made and it is the only one to be owned by Shelby himself. These are just a couple of examples of the 650 prized collector’s cars that will be featured at Russo and Steele in 2011.

Each year more and more car enthusiasts flock to Scottsdale in January for the auction. As turnout has increased, Russo and Steele have consistently stepped their game up each year. 2011 promises to be the best auction yet, with a broader and better selection of higher quality cars than ever before. There will be a little bit of something for everyone, with all the finest in American muscle cars, European sports cars, hot rods, classics, customs, and more up for auction. On top of the excellent collection of cars for sale, there will be many exciting attractions to make for an all around action-packed experience. For a list of cars offered this year and other additional info on the event, visit http://russoandsteele.com.

Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer