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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Muscle Car Customization – Hey…I Know That Muscle Car!

muscle car customization hot rod diamond don

It’s a sunny day outside, and you’re out enjoying the day just cruising around; perhaps even headed to a local show and shine or other auto enthusiast event. First you hear it… then, as your head swivels towards the sound, you catch a glimpse of a boulevard brawler. You know your sixties muscle cars: you recognize the silhouette, and easily ID the make and model. But wait- your brain has just sent you an additional message… something doesn’t quite fit with that initial recognition. Now the realization sinks in. There were indeed some subtle  (maybe even some not so subtle) differences from the muscle car that first popped into your head and the car you actually saw. Muscle car customization and personalization means that there were a lot of sweet street lookalikes that had a little something extra.

Let’s start by classifying two main types of muscle cars; factory stock and owner customized. It’s no secret that the first thing a muscle car owner usually does is customize their ride in some way. Call it customizing, modifying, hot rodding – it’s a timeless concept. It’s about personalizing your ride, within your means, into something that may be different from the factory norm but more reflective of your style, your image, and your need for speed!

There are many companies in the business of building out their (pricey) versions of today’s factory muscle cars with performance and handling updates. Roush, Saleen, Shelby, Lingenfelter, and Callaway are a few examples. In the sixties there were also companies producing their customized versions of factory muscle cars albeit on a smaller scale than today’s giant industry. You may instantly recognize some of these muscle cars by their common factory name – but it may be a tougher challenge to ID the customized version. It’s likely that today’s young generation may never have seen some of these particular customizations, since few were made and even fewer have survived. Whether or not you have seen any of these muscle cars before, here’s your chance to appreciate some of what the hot rodding tradition turned out in the sixties.

Let’s go!

#1) Hey, that’s a 1967 Chevelle… right?

diamond don muscle car customization 67 beaumont cheetah

1967 Beaumont “Cheetah”

In 1966 a dealership named Conroy Pontiac Buick realized that there was a gap in the Canadian automotive market for dealer built supercars.

The Beaumont Sport Deluxe was the Canadian equivalent of the Chevelle Super Sport. You can see that the trim, grill, and badging are unique to the Beaumont, but the drive train was all Chevrolet. “Cheetah” was the right name to give to this high performance beast. The Cheetah’s high performance upgrades most commonly included a 396-cubic-inch engine, headers, and four speed manual transmission – but ten or so received the 427-cubic-inch top dog engine transplant
as part of the package.

diamond don muscle car customization 67 beaumont cheetahdiamond don muscle car customization 67 beaumont cheetah

#2) Hey, that’s a 1968 Barracuda… isn’t it?

diamond don muscle car customization 68 barracuda savage gt

1968 Barracuda “Savage GT”

The Auto Craft Company chose to name their heavily modified 1968 Barracuda the “Savage GT”. The company’s marketing materials list the following Savage GT packages upgrades: wire wheels, lake pipes, a fiberglass trunk lid with molded in spoiler, a modified grille, integrated roll bar and special badging. The Savage GT could be ordered with a modified 340, 383, or 440 Chrysler engine.

Only a small number of Savage GT’s were built in 1968 and 1969, and an even smaller number seemed to have survived. Searching for pictures of restored examples didn’t turn up much; probably because any restorer would have little luck in finding the many one-off customized components – they simply no longer exist! The first two Savage pictures shown are copies taken from the company’s original marketing brochures. The last picture shows a 1969 Savage that shows up to race at Nostalgic Drag Racing events. Unfortunately, only some of the unique Savage GT components have remained with the car.

diamond don muscle car customization 68 barracuda savage gtdiamond don muscle car customization 68 barracuda savage gt

#3) Hey, that’s a 1970 Nova… correct?

diamond don muscle car customization 70 yenko nova deuce

1970 Nova “Deuce”

Don Yenko recognized the track success and attention that Carol Shelby was receiving from racing enthusiasts in the sixties. However, because he was a GM guy, Yenko set up his own Yenko Sports Cars performance shop and began transplanting big cubic inch engines into popular Chevrolet models such as the Camaro, Chevelle, and Nova.

Eventually the shop just couldn’t complete enough engine swaps to keep up with the public’s demand. Yenko’s solution was to use GMs COPO “Central Office Production Order” program to order a factory installed 427 cubic inch engine as the starting platform for his super cars. Besides the obvious Yenko badging, the total package typically included all the other expected go fast goodies.

A combination of tougher emissions regulations and increasing insurance premiums for big cubic inch vehicles in 1970 influenced the direction Yenko would take with his next high performance offering. Yenko created his version of a “mini muscle car” that could supposedly fly under the radar of insurance companies; helping to avoid high insurance premiums. Using the COPO program again, 1970 Novas were ordered with the same high performance LT1 360 horse power small block engine used in the Z/28. After receiving an attractive appearance treatment, the upgraded Nova was released as the Yenko “Deuce”.

diamond don muscle car customization 70 yenko nova deuce

diamond don muscle car customization 70 yenko nova deuce

#4) Hey, that’s a 1965 GTO… could I be mistaken?

diamond don muscle car customization 65 gto royal bobcat

1965 GTO “Royal Bobcat”

In the sixties a dealership named Royal Pontiac in Michigan was making a name for itself at the drag strips with its modified GTOs. The “Royal Bobcat” was all about super tuning an engine built using all the best performance parts that Pontiac engineering had to offer. Since the package did not include obvious side stripes or decals, to make a positive ID you’d need to check the leading edge of the front fenders to locate the Bobcat emblems.

From a Car Life review written in 1965 - “Car Life magazine tested a 1965 Royal Bobcat GTO with Tri-Power and a four-speed. In stock trim, a GTO ran the quarter in 14.52 @ 96.89 mph. After the Royal Bobcat treatment, it blasted down the strip at 14.06 @ 102.14 mph; that’s nearly a full half-second e.t. reduction. Do the math, and you’ll find that the engine had gained something from 30 to 40hp.”

diamond don muscle car customization 65 gto royal bobcat

diamond don muscle car customization 65 gto royal bobcat

#5) Hey, now I get it… you’re going to tell me it’s not a 1969 Boss Mustang?

diamond don muscle car customization 69 super boss mustang

1969 “Super Boss” Mustang

I’m going to tell you that the “Super Boss” started out as a Boss 429 Mustang serial No. KK#1214.

Major mods carried out by well-known performance dealership Tasca Ford in order to create a milestone Mustang worthy of the “Super Boss” title included:

Purchased the seventh Boss 429 Mustang built at the Kar Kraft custom assembly plant in Brighton, Michigan.Replaced the 429 Cobra Jet with an all-aluminum 494 cubic inch Can-Am race engine.Finished in a killer multi-hued paint scheme from the mind of famous designer Larry Shinoda.

There are reports from the day that Tasca offered a $1,000 prize to anyone able to outrun the Super Boss at the drag strip. Good luck with that challenge!

diamond don muscle car customization 65 gto royal bobcat

Cautionary note – beware of cars with a loose nut behind the wheel!

See yah- Diamond Don


Tagged as: Diamond Don, Muscle Cars

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