The lesson of the day was unrealistic expectations lead to crushing disappointment.
I bought my 1978 Dodge Super Coupe a little over two years ago out of California. A really solid, very nice driver quality ride, bone stock since it had to be smog tested every 2 years. You don’t know what a Super Coupe is? In the late 1970’s Mopar tried to capture the Duster 340 and Dodge Challenger buyer with Aspen and Volare sport coupes. Two door Mopar F-Bodies with spoilers, louvers, road wheels, hi-impact graphics and most times equipped with 318 or 360 V8 engines. Smokey and the Bandit was a huge success, it had a big impact within car culture thus Ford and Mopar wanted their own bandit car. For 1978 the Aspen and Volare got basically identical cars called Super Coupe. All with 360 engines and 727 TorqueFlite automatic transmissions as no manual option was available, HD suspensions, sway bars fore and aft. A bold look with fender flares, fat radials, black out hood treatment, colorful tape stripes. This was supposed to be the serious Mopar street machine…as serious as 1978 emissions regulations would let you get. Still it was faster than the Trans Am tested by Car & Driver that same year.
That doesn’t mean they were fast; malaise muscle cars were rarely fast fresh off the showroom floor. So, among my restomod plans for the Super Coupe were a few measures that would hopefully boost ¼ mile times. While the SC is still a work in progress the engine is basically a stock low compression piece. Topping the motor is a Holley Sniper EFI throttle body, with Sniper distributer, coil and CD box for better spark. All smog equipment is gone. The single exhaust with cat was swapped for a true dual exhaust without catalytic converters. The 727 TorqueFlite transmission was replaced with a Silver Sport A41 overdrive unit with 1st gear 3.06, 2nd gear 1.63 opposed to the 727’s 2.45 and 1.45 ratios. The peg-leg 3.23 rear axle got a fresh Sure Grip unit, that’s posi for you GM guys. Surely this must have been good enough for a snappier 1320 time. So, I decided to take the Super Coupe to Island Dragway in north western NJ to see what it could do. I was hoping for a mid-15 second time.
My first pass was simply leaving the transmission in drive, 16.22 seconds, ouch. The second and last pass I tried shifting myself for a 16.13, still lousy and much worse than I expected. During the second pass I was lined up and gapped by a 90’s Honda sub-compact hatch. During the ride home my wife could sense I was deflated, she tried to convince me we still had fun anyway. The Super Coupe got a lot of admiring thumbs up, malaise muscle doing what it does best. Later that evening I discovered that in 1979 Car Craft averaged 16.47 seconds with a stock Super Coupe, their best run was 16.35. When I explained to the wife that progress is measured in tenths of a second, I got a “who’s a good boy” with a pat on the head. Maybe it was a good day.
I believe at this point for the SC to match it’s show with go the 360 will need a performance rebuild. I don’t think a cam and head job will do it, am I right? Let me know with a comment below.
If you’re like me you belong to a few car related groups on Fakebook. One that pops up on my newsfeed quite a bit is Car Museum. Mostly it is a love of cars of almost all types. On occasion someone will post a car that draws the ire and ridicule of the members and we don’t hold back. So, this guy Chad who appears to be new to the group posts about this build converting a Pinto into a European sports car, a super car. That’s a tall order. This thing looks ridiculous. From the pics it looks like it’s being built in someone’s dirty rural garage or barn. He’s beaming with pride over this hideous collection of parts and slapdash body work. There is a saying “don’t read the comments”. Chad got ripped by nearly everyone, including me. A few days later I’m checking out Motor Trend TV before retiring to bed for the night and I see this dude Chad building his Pintgo as I called it. I’m laughing my ass off watching this clown show as these guys build this adult size soap box derby racer.
Then I noticed some of his other builds, impressive. I noticed he’s a likable guy. So, I dug a little deeper. His builds are not super high dollar stuff. He works with whatever is available to him, scouring the farms and fields of his neighbors for parts. His approach to the car builds is creating art. Like those sculptors that use welding as a medium. Chad Hiltz is a modest guy with that rockabilly vibe, he’s teaching his son Colton life lessons through wrenching and knuckle busting. Also on the team is life long friend Aaron and mechanic Alex. The easy on the eyes shop manger at Hiltz Automotive is Jolene, also Chad’s fiancé. None of these reality shows are completely unscripted so there is the standard crew is behind the clock on the build.
The mission at Hiltz Automotive is not restorations or making big power and torque. It’s about Chad’s team creating rolling automotive art shade tree mechanic style. So, while some mock his work Chad is showing up, 80% of success is showing up. He's a passionate, talented, humble guy doing his thing.
Stir crazy? I think so, I'm ready for Car Season. What exactly that will be I'm not sure.
So I found a 1999 Trans Am that is only a short 90 minute drive away opposed to the one in Arizona that would require a flight and nice long road trip back. I'll be updating that story soon.
I found two unloved Road Runners that really have my interest. A 1975 and a 1977. I'm giving the '75 a serious shot first but I fear it's all a scam. Expect to hear more on that. The 1977 is a factory sunroof car but it's missing the fender tag, so is it a Road Runner or a nice cloned Volaré?
Are you ready for Car Season?
Full disclosure I fly the Mopar banner. Yet I'm of the opinion that every red blooded American should own a Corvette for at least a short time. For GenX that should be a C3. I've owned a couple of Mustangs. There is a 1968 400 Firebird convertible I'd like to have back. Speaking of Firebirds, the Trans Am is another car every American car enthusiast should own. Don't get me wrong I genuflect at the 1969 T/A and I understand the 1973 SD 455 but I'm talking T-top Trans Am. I'm talking channeling your inner Bandit once in a while. Something you're not afraid to ride a little hard and dirty. I think it's time and the wife is on board, so I better strike quickly.
I've got a 1978 Dodge Super Coupe restomod in the garage. So I'm thinking 4th generation. This Trans Am will pull daily duty. Automatic because I want the wife to feel comfortable doing some wheel time. I've narrowed down my search with two left for consideration. While they appear very similar they appeal to me in different ways. So maybe you'll chime in down in the comment section. Tell me which one you'd choose. They are priced within a grand of each other, price is not really a major factor.
The 1994 is a 25th Anniversary package car, white on white. Triple white if you include the wheels. This is of course in homage to original 1969 T/A. I like the look. Powered by the LT1 rated at 275hp and 325 foot pounds. It is also smog inspection exempt in my state.
The 1999 is a silver, I believe Pontiac calls it pewter. My wife likes this look better. Most importantly it is LS1 equipped, the all aluminum engine that is all the rage. Rated at 305hp and 365 foot pounds in the 1999 Trans Am. It also has an aluminum drive shaft, larger 17 inch wheels and larger gas tank, among other improvements. It is not smog exempt thus it is subject to inspection.
They are both great bang for the buck, good time performance cars. Which would you choose? Let me know in the comments section.
Let me just get this out of the way. I like V8 sporting American coupes with T-tops. I have also over time developed an appreciation for the vehicles of 1986, the year I graduated high-school. I mostly hated them back in the day. They were slow poser cars. My crew was still driving muscle era fun just before the collection craze began. In 1991 I scored a nice 1986 T-top Mustang GT. Hitting the road with the tops off, listening to VH 5150, with my favorite girl shotgun I had a deep profound thought. This is living, man! So yeah an IROC Z with T-tops and an LS swap, I'm in. A creampuff GM G-body with a V8 and removable glass panels, hell yeah!
With much encouragement from my wife I'm always probing eBay Motors, Facebook Marketplace and other online car corrals for a sweet deal on everything from 1978 Magnum GT to 1995 Trans Am. Now the king of the GM G-body is the GNX with Grand Nationals playing the crown prince role. Forget that jazz if you're looking to score a bargain. For some reason I just can't with the Monte Carlo SS, I don't know why but it's a no thank you. The 80s Grand Prix and 442 hold a special place in my beating heart.
At eBay what appears to be the 1986 Oldsmobile 442 to get is up for auction. This ad is detailed. This is likely a two-owner car. This is the dude's award winning 442, big shows and small. 25K original miles. Loaded, everything works, converted A/C. T-tops of course. It's located 90 minutes away for easy inspection and travel home. There is an odd note, the original T-tops have never ever been removed from the car at any time. WTF? Who does that? The kind of person that eats their victims with fava beans and a nice chianti, that's who. Unlike a 1978 Plymouth Volaré Road Runner weather strips for this car should be available.
Bidding is at $16.6K a number I feel good at. The reserve is not met. Keeping it under $18K I feel like a good deal is had. Don't get me wrong there is value in low mileage, all original but I'm a driver not a collector. I'm a restomod disciple. If I take this home on day two I'm visiting Tony at Lanz Oil to discuss tasteful, sensible mods. I'm popping tops and cranking the Van Hagar. Bidding crosses $17K, in no time I'm bidding $17.5K. Auction ends in under a hour and the reserve has not been met. $17.6K is the high bid, reserve still not met. I'm not showing anymore interest. Auction ends, as expected the car is quickly relisted at a starting bid of $17K. Auction ends in 8 days. I'll ignore it for week and see where things are. It may be a $20K car but there is so much out there I'd rather spend that kind of scratch on, like a 1994 Trans Am or 1973 Road Runner. www.ebay.com/itm/1986-Oldsmobile-442-CUTLASS/153876090141
It has been quite some time since any real news about the next generation all new Dodge Challenger has been reported. The program has been pushed back multiple times, Dodge has been focused more Charger lately, the future of FCA vehicle programs are in flux with the new Peugeot PSA merger. So there is a great appetite for news about the popular muscle car. There is a 50th anniversary package out now, see below.
FCA US design chief Ralph Gilles released a pic on Instagram. To show people that work still goes on from home while much of the FCA staff self quartine from Covid-19. The pic shows a possible design language direction for Dodge. The vehicle has muscle car hood pins and an aggressive front splitter. In the very near future, possibly later today, hack click-bait articles will proclaim New 2021 Challenger or New 2021 Charger. Ralph Gilles would never release such big news in a Instagram post. That won't stop people seeing this image, some saying they'll a cut a check tomorrow others claiming the new Charger will be an instant flop.
David Zatz of AllPar discusses the potential new design language. Comparing the Ralph Gilles image with a pic of Lucid Motors' prototype. Lazy hack writers will post both pics proclaiming the Next generation Challenger and Chrysler 300. Believe none of it.
Read the Zatz AllPar article here: www.allpar.com/news/2020/03/gilles-new-design-direction-for-dodge-47873?fbclid=IwAR1BQ-aFYaFuwWzu6tSzyzorUkSR9WKK0OliTkNMbh9hyfmq944Vwgftt88
“I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to Mopar fans asking for a fun rear wheel drive roadster that I provide, and then question the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said "thank you", and went on your way”, fictional Chrysler engineer circa 1999.
First, one shouldn't compare the Plymouth Prowler to other cars purchased as daily drivers. Although as standard equipped one could live with a Prowler doing DD duty, not something really said about Viper. Prowlers were purchased as fun weekend rides. They shouldn't be compared to muscle cars or rat rods. They should be compared with other purchased hot rods that don't do any serious track time. In that case they should look cool and be fun to drive and the Prowler is all that. It is also something rare and special in the modern automotive world.
The Plymouth Prowler was a radical show car that would preview a design language, it would be a test bed of technology and manufacturing techniques. A car like Prowler would also be a vehicle that normally wouldn't see road duty in a customer's hands. Mother Mopar did build it and sell it even though they never expected a profit from it. This was started in the early 1990s, a different time in the automotive landscape. Chrysler was still a separate independent corporation, selling FWD full-size LH cars. This was long before the new generation HEMI. The writing was also on the wall for Plymouth. Inside Chrysler they knew Plymouth couldn't continue as rebadged Dodges. This 5 year limited edition car program would be an exciting sign of the direction the new Plymouth would take. It was never intended to have a V8. The development of more powerful and efficient V6 engines was Chrysler's focus for Plymouth. Unfortunately the brand Plymouth wouldn't survive to see it's planned bright future. Prowler would survive eventually becoming a Chrysler.
After a few years as a popular auto-show darling in June of 1997 Prowler becomes a production car available at your local Plymouth dealer. All first year Prowlers sport a purple aluminum body with a 3.5 iron block V6 producing 214hp. Underneath is an aluminum chassis and suspension gear. Prowler would also have a rear trans-axle like the revolutionary C5 Corvette. Zero to 60mph came in 7.1 seconds, with a 1/4 mile time of 15.3 seconds. That probably feels pretty good with the wind in your hair. There would be no 1998 Prowler as Plymouth engineers couldn't put the final touches and certify the all new aluminum engine in time. For 1999 the all aluminum 3.5 V6 would put out a little more than 250hp, with revised transmission tuning the 2,780 pound roadster was good for 0 to 60mph at 5.7 seconds and the 1/4 mile at 14.3 making the Prowler competitive with the V8 Mustang GT. The sexy Prowler didn't just look quick, it felt quick. From 1999 through 2002 changes to Prowler were mostly paint colors added and dropped, and suspension tuning. The cars sold quickly and often in the earlier years significantly above MSRP.
Prowler owners quickly dismiss comments about needing a V8. They say the power to weight ratio provides them a fun, fast car that bystanders still admire. Advice for you single guys get a Prowler have a Golden Retriever riding shotgun, you’ll be a hit with the ladies. Some parts are becoming a challenge to get, fortunately the online Prowler community is pretty robust with fellow travelers helping each other out. Expect to pay $25K for a nice solid driver, for another $10K you get a perfect show winner.
Prowler has enough cargo room for clean underwear and socks, for those doing a long road trip pick up the snazzy matching trailer. The Prowler already has the tow hitch. (Correction)The Prowler did not come with a tow hitch, that was a Mopar parts dealer item.
In a world of blantastic CUV/SUV I’m glad there are people out there driving Prowlers.
If there was ever something unworthy of it's name or title it has to be the malaise era Dodge Charger Daytona. I might also walk bare foot over crushed glass or hot coals to score a deal on a nice one with T-tops. Properly equipped the Fake Daytona can be a real fun car to own and drive, still the Dodge Boys should have called it an R/T.
It was a dark time for the muscle car marques. A trifecta of challenges, the Automotive Axis of Evil, 1. new government emissions standards, 2. staggering insurance rates, 3. the first OPEC oil embargo. This toxic combination killed the muscle car. Product planners came up with the personal luxury coupe. Mid-size two door cars focused on comfort, features and styling that said class instead of fast. The Chevy Monte Carlo is a great example. Over at Highland Park the Chrysler Cordoba would carry the personal luxury banner with great success. At Dodge there was confusion. The Dodge Boys would get an all new Charger to replace the 1974 that had existed in some form since 1971. What they got was a Cordoba with the Charger name affixed to the fenders.
Below is the Cordoba and pitchman Khan Noonien Singh. One of the cars is the 1975 Charger, can you spot it?
The Charger unlike the Cordoba clearly had a sporting, muscle car reputation. Yes the Charger had a semi-luxury trim level, the SE that dates back to 1969. Yes, there were many bread and butter stripper Chargers for those light on coin, with the 318 2 barrel or even the occasional Slant Six. The Charger made it's name on the rip-snorting big block motored muscle cars and the NASCAR super speedways. For 1975 the Charger SE body didn't match the reputation, at launch all Chargers were SE. Introduced mid-year was the Daytona package which attempted to tap the Charger cachet. Swing and a miss. This Daytona had nothing in common with it's NASCAR homologation predecessors. It was a paint and decal option, bucket seats, and performance radial tires were also part of the Daytona trim. What wasn't standard on the Daytona were engines topped with 4 barrel carburetors or even a heavy duty suspension. Front and rear sway bars were standard equipment. While the four speed manual transmission was still available you could only get the Torqueflite automatic with the 4 barrel performance engines. Still if you check the right boxes on the order sheet you'd have a fun ride. For example the 360 or 400 4 barrel V8s, trailer towing package with the Sure Grip rear differential. Get the factory sliding sunroof.
For 1976 Charger would adopt a second body to join the SE. Basically renaming the former 1975 Coronet 2 door as Charger and Charger Sport. This basic body skin served as the Road Runner for 1975. It looked sportier, Dodge should have used this car as the basis for a Charger R/T. Instead Dodge trotted out Daytona once again, basically unchanged. For 1977 the T-top option became available. Charger SE would soldier on one last time for 1978 but with the new Dodge Magnum taking the performance mantel Daytona was no longer available.
Now as you read through this you may have gotten the impression I'm not a fan of the Disco Era Dodge Daytona. I think they are great cars for getting into the classic Mopar hobby on a limited budget. Most of them seem to have left the factory with either the 360 or 400 4 barrel, engines easy to massage more power from. Under the skin these are basically a Mopar B-body with great aftermarket parts availability. Get one with a sunroof or T-tops, you'll have an awesome summer time cruiser. That is a great base for all the hot rod wrench turning you can do. Bonus, your Charger will be the only one at Cars 'N Coffee, also easy to find at big Mopar shows. A really nice driver will set you back around $9K with all the bells and whistles.
For 17 years I lived in Enid, Oklahoma. Great little town, BTW. At one time I even owned and operated a full service cigar lounge there. I could go on about the downtown dinning and live theatre but it wasn't all roses and sunshine in Enid. There was a horrible dark secret. Something so damn sad yet I'd wager it went unnoticed by most who lived there. Imagine a homeless hoarder that lived in a broken down van. A broken down van that limped around, it's engine coughing and wheezing with the exhaust system hanging low held on by wire hanger. Now imagine this van is a white 25th anniversary Pontiac Trans Am with T-tops. I'd see this car packed with debris almost daily, everywhere around town, often outside the public library. I'd be driving my Challenger SRT8 or Wrangler Rubicon, which is to say my garage was full. Yet I wanted to save this poor car. I felt sick seeing it. Wondering what if some young gun good with wrenches owned it. MY GOD MAN DRIVE A CAMRY!
Apologies, I'll get a hold of my self. 1994 was a good year for the Trans Am which like many American sporting machines was rising from the ashes of the malaise dumpster fire. It was also the 25th anniversary of the Poncho pony car legend. Pontiac product planners wanted to celebrate with something appropriately special. 2,000 limited edition 25th Anniversary package cars were allotted. They all sold quickly. They all were painted white with a blue stripe as a homage to the original first year 1969 Trans Am. Speaking to High Performance Pontiac, design chief Jack Folden mentioned the design team being proud of the new 1993 body. So they wanted to be careful not to over badge the car, letting the new body work be the star. Jack also mentioned that in the late '80s and early '90s Pontiac was doing a lot with body colored wheels. So white 16x8 inch wheels were a no brainer.
All 25th Anniversary models started as a fully optioned Trans Am GT. Then received the mainly aesthetic commemorative upgrades. All were equipped with the relatively new LT1 engine from the Corvette, good for 300 horse power. Due to the F-Body's more restrictive intake and exhaust the 350 cid engine made 275 horse power in the T/A, with a compression ratio of 10.5:1. A four speed automatic or six speed manual were the transmission choices. Good for low to mid 14 second 1/4 mile times. A nice driver should set you back around $13.5K with an excellent #2 car around $18K. Maybe offer the offer the homeless guy $2.5K and the old Camry your kid doesn't drive anymore?
Looking around there are decent deals to be had. You have to skim past the dreamers priced way out of line.
In the heyday of the muscle car era there were plenty of rare odd pieces. Factory Built Freaks, Supplier Shop Specials, Hi-Po Dealership Monsters with a warranty. This didn't end during the Disco Era. In many ways the specialty shops, conversion houses were the route to get serious performance, turn key on day one. These smaller firms didn't have exactly the same regulatory hurdles that the big OE guys had to jump. Still, insurance and gas crisis scares tended to make these special models more of a handling and appearance package.
That is what we appear to have here. When the Grabber package for your Maverick just wasn't enough...behold Drag 'N Fly.
According to texasgrabber.com, a Ford Maverick enthusiast site. 400 of these souped-up Mavericks were built in 1974. The cars arrived at Eagle Coach Company of Dallas TX as Maverick Grabbers, 302 V8, floor shifted C4 automatic transmission, high back buckets. Eagle Coach would sit a Holley 4 barrel atop an aluminum intake, also adding dual exhaust. The rest of the package was the radical nose, spoiler, decals and stripes. Many of these were sold out of Eagle Lincoln- Mercury in Dallas, TX. The appearance items were available as a kit for order at your local Ford and L-M dealership, $995 installed or DIY for $750.
Ever see one? Own one? Have a story about one beating your SS Chevelle at a stop light? Drop us comment below.
John is a GenX car enthusiast who grew up driving classic muscle cars. He enjoys the new modern muscle cars that can out perform the classics in every way. In the sportscar world his banners are Viper and Corvette. John has a guilty pleasure. The disco era street machine. Those unloved, underpowered cars festooned with scoops, spoilers and stripes.