Crucial Cars: Chevrolet Camaro, Part Two

Back when the Chevrolet Camaro debuted, the Beatles were making albums, color TV was a new novelty and the Vietnam war was escalating. Chevy’s sleek new number, an answer to Ford’s super successful Mustang launched a few years prior, came onto the groovy scene to get its slice of the “pony car” pie. In the nearly half century since, the Camaro has stayed true to its roots by providing enthusiasts with an abundance of styling and performance at an affordable price.

We’ve already covered the first three generations of the Camaro so now with part two we pick up where we left off.

Something borrowed, something new

1993 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

1993 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

The fourth generation of the Camaro debuted for the 1993 model year. Even sleeker than before, this Camaro initially came in base and Z28 versions. The base car came with a 3.4-liter, 160-hp V6, while the Z28 borrowed the “LT1” 5.7-liter V8 from the Corvette, though in this application it made 275 hp versus 300 hp in the ‘vette. Still, it was the most powerful engine fitted to a Camaro since the early ’70s, and made

the Z28 truly quick with 0-to-60 and quarter mile times running around 5.6 and 14.0 seconds, respectively. The V8 was backed by either a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Safety was also enhanced via standard antilock disc brakes. That year, the Z28 paced the Indy 500 and replicas were produced in its honor.

The following year, a convertible version returned to the Camaro lineup. For 1995, a more powerful V6 (3.8-liter,200 hp) became available on the base car and traction control became available on the Z28. More power was the battle cry for ’96, as the Z28 got 10 more horses, the base car got the 3.8-liter V6 as standard, and an SS option took the Z28’s V8 even higher, to 305 hp. The latter was known as the Z28 SS, strange considering those were separate trim levels in the past.

To celebrate the Camaro’s 30th anniversary, Chevrolet offered a special white and orange themed Z28 for 1997. One could also choose a limited edition of the SS featuring a 330-hp V8, the LT4 borrowed from the previous year’s Corvette engine roster.

A facelift for 1998 gave the Camaro a more aggressive nose with a bigger grille and headlights. But the big news—for the Z28 anyway—lay behind it. An all-aluminum LS-1 V8 (shared with the Corvette) gave the Z28 305 standard (and likely considerably underrated) horsepower, while the base car continued with the 3.8 V6. The SS boasted a functional hood scoop and 320 horsepower from its LS-1. Nothing major happened over the next few years apart from, in 2001, the Z28’s output rating being changed to a more realistic 310 horsepower.

 

2002 Chevrolet Camaro SS 35th Anniversary Edition

2002 Chevrolet Camaro SS 35th Anniversary Edition

The last year of the fourth-gen Camaro—2002—also signaled the 35th anniversary of the model, an occasion celebrated by a special edition of the SS featuring red paint and a pair of silver stripes that morphed into checkered flags as they neared the windshield.

I’m baaaack

2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS

2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS

After a seven year hiatus, the Camaro returned for 2010. With retro styling that obviously paid homage to the first-gen Camaro, it looked like a show car that rumbled right off the turntable and into the showroom. Indeed, it visually differed little from the concept car displayed at auto shows a few years earlier.

The lineup consisted of base LS, luxury LT and sporty SS. The Z28 was noticeably absent. Even V6 versions packed plenty of heat, with their 3.6-liter engine making a stout 304 hp. The SS sported no less than 426 hp (400 with automatic) from its 6.2-liter V8. Transmission choices for both included a six-speed manual and six-speed automatic. Going with the V6 still meant a seriously quick car, with 60 mph and the quarter mile taking just about 6 and 14 seconds, respectively. Springing for the SS gave you performance that could embarrass most any old muscle car; we’re talking low 5 second 0-60 blasts and a low-13 second quarter.

An independent rear end and quick steering came regardless of which Camaro you picked. The SS also featured larger Brembo brakes and a sport-tuned suspension, making it a strong performer on a twisty road as well. The chief gripe road testers had concerned the car’s poor outward visibility that was due to the thick roof pillars and high beltline. For 2011, the V6 got a boost to 312 hp, while later in the model year a convertible version debuted.

2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible

2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible

Not since the 1960s had such a power war raged, and for 2012 the Camaro faced off against its top Mustang and Challenger rivals with the new ZL1. With a pavement scorching 580 horsepower from its supercharged 6.2-liter V8 the ZL1 ripped to 60 mph and through the quarter mile in the low 4-second and low 12-second ranges, respectively. An adaptive suspension and dual-mode exhaust are also part of the ZL1 deal. Less exciting but still notable for that year were more power for the V6 (now at 323 hp) and an upgraded interior. The following year saw the debut of the road-racing oriented 1LE option package for the SS.

Making a triumphant return for 2014, the Z/28 topped the lineup and returned to its roots as a no-nonsense track-ready car. As such, weight was dropped via the deletion of A/C and some sound insulation, making the Z/28 about 300 pounds lighter than the ZL1. Even more focused than the 1LE, the Z/28 features a 7.0-liter, 505-hp V8 (formerly used in the Z06 Corvette), lightweight 19-inch wheels, a race-ready suspension setup and exotic carbon ceramic brakes. The whole Camaro line benefitted from an update that featured new front- and rear-end styling, with the former showing off a larger lower grille and smaller headlights and the latter sporting rectangular taillights and a new spoiler.

For 2015, Chevy’s iconic sport coupe (and drop top) saw no changes as that year marked the end of the fifth gen Camaro.

Six generations strong

Although it didn’t look much different, the 2016 Camaro was nearly all-new, but the important attributes remained…the long standing tradition of power, performance, and unmatched aesthetics.

 

2016 Chevrolet Camaro RS

2016 Chevrolet Camaro RS

A number of Camaro enthusiast sites provide advice as well as classifieds for cars and parts for sale. You may want to check out Camaro Forums and Camaro Source. Furthermore, acceleration times can be found on zeroto60times.com.

Are you a fan of the Camaro? Tell us about your experience. 

Crucial Cars: Ford Bronco

Cream colored classic Ford Bronco

Source | Andrew Duthie/Flickr

Over the last 50 years, dozens of SUVs and off-roaders debuted only to become stuck in the ruts and mud holes of history, forgotten. There are very few legends in this arena, but the Ford Bronco name recalls off-road fun in an affordable and efficient package. For 30 years, the Bronco was a Spartan, capable vehicle that was everything the modern flabby crossover isn’t: awesome.

1966: Creating a legend

1966 Ford Bronco

1966 Ford Bronco, Source | Valder 137

Ford fans will recognize the names Lee Iacocca and Donald Frey as fathers of the massively successful Ford Mustang. Iacocca liked small vehicles and Frey was riding high after huge Mustang sales numbers, so the pair tried again with what was conceived as an off-road Mustang. Lightning struck twice.

The only real competition of the time came from the Jeep CJ, whose ancient design harked back to the WWII military Jeep. It looked great, but was cramped inside and down on power. Ford solved both issues with its 1966 Bronco. Larger inside but still compact externally, the Bronco could be fitted with the same engine as the Mustang, a 289 V8. The CJ didn’t offer any size V8. Available in truck, convertible, and wagon forms, the innovative design of the Bronco could adapt to drivers’ outdoor needs.

The Bronco wasn’t just more powerful; it was all-around better. Instead of harsh-riding solid axles and leaf springs up front, the first-generation Bronco had coil springs and a three-link-style suspension for better on-road handling, but was still capable and durable when mudding. Later, the truck gained the 302 V8 and an automatic.

With just minor changes over the 11-year first generation, the Bronco gradually lost sales to bigger competition. Still, collectors consider the last ’76–’77 trucks some of the most sought-after Broncos. These years gained factory options like heavy-duty Dana 44 axles, power steering, and power disc brakes, all making the late first-gens comfortable on-road and durable off-road. The early Bronco was one steed that wouldn’t let you down.

1978: A full-size workhorse

1978_ford_bronco_front

Source | Magley64

The second generation was brief, at only two years. Why a full redesign for such a short time? The original Bronco was uncompetitive by the time it left the market, outgunned by vehicles like the Chevrolet Blazer and International Harvester Scout II. A larger, more powerful, and heavier-duty Bronco was in the works but had been delayed due to the ’70s gas crunch. Ford didn’t want to look irresponsible debuting a monster truck when gas was at a shocking dollar per gallon.

Once the supply crunch passed, the 1978 Bronco hit the streets and dirt trails. Essentially a half-ton F-100 truck with a shortened frame and a removable hardtop canopy over the bed, the Bronco was larger than its predecessor in every way, including under the hood. The base engine was a 351M, which was cool and all, but wrong for those penny-pinching times. The 400 V8 was available for extra cash, as the biggest engine available in any generation Bronco. It didn’t have to stop there, though—since Ford dumped the huge 460 V8 into all kinds of cars and trucks in the late ’70s, a 460 would drop right in. As is, the second-generation Bronco was an ogre on the street but could overpower hills, mud, and rocks when off-roading.

1980: Downsized and upscale

The 1980s were a different time and saw economy introduced across the range of models, including large cars, SUVs, and trucks. The third-generation Bronco was built on the new seventh-generation F-150 chassis, and parts sharing continued. Downsized in external dimensions and available engines, the Bronco gained an inline six as the base engine. It was somewhat fuel efficient but lacked the ponies for towing. The 302 and 351M were optional for the V8 crowd. The independent front suspension helped road manners, and the interior was quieter and almost civil. The removable hardtop continued, as did seating for six, but competitors with four doors were starting to gain ground, and the Bronco was a bit softer than previous versions.

 

1987: Continued refinement

1987-91_Ford_Bronco

1987 Ford Bronco, Source | IFCAR

In 1987, another new truck meant another generation of Bronco. This time underpinned by the F-150, the Bronco gained subtle front-end aerodynamic tricks and a complete redesign of the interior. Unfortunately, the same cubic-inch options continued, with a straight six, 302, and 351W. These were the digital Broncos, offering fuel injection. Enthusiasts cheered when transmissions gained a gear, getting to four speeds in the automatic and a five speed for the manual. The 1991 25th anniversary showed the Bronco getting old and Ford not caring. Rather than going hardcore on a retro 4×4 with monster capability, Ford offered red paint and leather. A flashy and comfy steed, but mainly marginalized.

1992 practicality and out to pasture

1992-96_Ford_Bronco

1992 Ford Bronco, Source | IFCAR

The 1992 Bronco was handsome, if tame looking. With buyers less interested in gas mileage, model bloat was not an issue, and the Bronco porked it on up to 4,600 pounds. Still, there were some standouts in the fifth generation. 1996 is the winner here, as it had OBD2 for easy tuning and troubleshooting, and cool mirrors with turn indicators in the side mirror glass. The 351W was the choice for solid towing, with manual hubs, quad shocks, and tow package for possibly the best ’90s all-around SUV.

While a great rig, the Bronco lost ground to the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, and their reliable and quiet all-metal construction. The Bronco’s removable roof was awesome fun, but NVH suffered with wind noise, squeaks, and rattles. Power was adequate from the aging V8s, but gas mileage was terrible, seeing 20 MPG downhill. The two-door design looked great, but proved less popular than four-doors like Grand Wagoneer and Suburban. Buyers wanted looks but bought convenience. Outclassed as an on-roader, Ford dropped the Bronco for the clean-sheet four-door Expedition in 1997.

Rumors and Return

So if it was outclassed and inconvenient, why did the Bronco matter and why are its competitors mostly forgotten? It was a cheap and simplistic vehicle that was ready to take you on an adventure, any time you wanted to go. The idea of a fun, affordable off-roader is what people remember, rather than the rattles and poor gas mileage. Add some nostalgia, great stories, and experiences from owners, and it’s no wonder the Bronco is still talked about today.

After years of rumors, internet claims, and even a couple of concept trucks and infamous renderings, Ford confirmed at the 2017 North American International Auto Show that the Bronco will return in 2020. We do know it will be built on the same platform as the new Ford Ranger, but details are still under wraps as of this writing.

Enthusiasts hope for a capable compact that can take on the modern CJ, the Jeep Wrangler. Corporate bean counters want the cheapest vehicle with readily available parts, so it may end up looking like a new Ranger with seats in back. Or it could be a mix of something in between, capable and corporate, like Toyota’s FJ Cruiser. Ford just has to remember the original idea: simple, charismatic, honest, and fun. It worked before, and the Bronco just might be a hit again.

Ever driven a Bronco? Did it weasel its way into your heart? Tell us why in the comments!

Crucial Cars: Continental Mark II

A blue 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II f34

Lincoln Continental Mark II f34. Source | Wikimedia Commons

To fully appreciate the Continental Mark II, you have to look at what the automotive scene in mid-1950s America was like. The economy was booming, and with flashy styling complete with jet-aircraft-inspired shapes and plenty of chrome, the luxury cars of the era were nothing if not flamboyant symbols of the mighty USA. GM’s Cadillac was far and away the No. 1 luxury brand, with Chrysler’s Imperial and Ford’s Lincoln brands trailing behind. It was high time for Ford to step up its game.

So for 1956, Ford brought out its new “Continental” division, which was slotted above the Lincoln brand and intended to beat not just Lincoln’s age-old rivals, but to battle the best from Europe, as well. Yes, that means Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz. Although there was previously a Lincoln Continental model, Ford decided to repurpose the evocative Continental moniker for this new super-premium brand.

The rear of a 1956 Mark II r34

1956 Mark II r34. Source | Wikimedia Commons

Running counter to the status quo

The first model out of the new Continental factory was the 1956 Mark II, which had Cadillac’s prestigious Eldorado series squarely in the crosshairs of its iconic hood ornament. Although the Eldo, introduced three years earlier, was available in both coupe and convertible body styles, the Mark II was offered as a coupe only.

Compared to the rocket tail-finned and chrome-bedecked Eldorado, the Mark II was an exercise in tasteful restraint, with simply elegant, flowing lines and, compared to the Caddy, a minimal use of chrome. Indeed, with its low sleek body, smoothly integrated bumpers and turn signals, the Mark II looked more like a car from the late-1960s than one from the mid-1950s.

Measuring 218.4 inches long over a 126-inch wheelbase and tipping the scales at around 5,000 pounds, this was a seriously big car. Yet the Mark II’s timeless styling managed to mask the car’s massive bulk.

The steering wheel of a 1956 Mark II

1956 Mark II interior cabin. Source | Wikimedia Commons

Classy cabin

Inside it was the same story, with biscuit-style upholstery (available in a choice of fabrics or Scottish leather) and a clean dash and door panel design. Two-tone interior color schemes were available, and as with the overall styling, were subdued rather than ostentatious.

One concession to the aviation-influenced themes dominating the era was the set of controls for the heater and optional air conditioner. These looked like miniature jet-engine throttle controls. Pretty much everything anyone could want in a luxury car, apart from A/C, was standard on the Mark II, including power windows, power seat, even power vent windows.

Horsepower and heft

Although it wasn’t a jet turbine, the Mark II’s 368-cubic-inch V8 cranked out 285 horsepower (300 for 1957). Running through a three-speed automatic and charged with propelling 2.5 tons of top-of-the-line American luxury, the Continental’s V8 quietly moved the Mark II with grace, if not a lot of gusto.

Although the engine was the same one used in Lincoln’s of the day, those used in the Mark II were blueprinted—that is, assembled with the parts that had the most precise tolerances. The engines were also subjected to six hours of testing before installation in the car.

A baby blue 1956 CadillacEldorado

1956 Cadillac Eldorado. Source | Creative Commons

Profits lost but prestige gained

Make no mistake: The Continental Mark II had it all—neatly tailored styling, a plush interior, all the latest luxury gizmos, and a very smooth powertrain. It also had a price tag of around $10,000 (around $90,000 today), which was some 50 percent higher than a comparable Eldorado coupe. And Ford reportedly still lost money on each one it built due to the cost of the high-quality materials and the extensive amount of man hours involved, the latter being double that required of a Lincoln.

That first year, 2,556 units left the factory. For 1957, changes were limited to increased engine output (as stated earlier) and the relocation of the air-conditioning air intakes from the top of the rear fenders to hidden behind the grille. Production for 1957 totaled just 444 units.

As it didn’t make much business sense to build a product that cost the company money, Ford dropped the Continental Mark II after just those two years in production. Although the Mark II didn’t contribute to Ford’s bottom line, it did give the company something arguably more valuable: the prestige of having produced a modern classic.

What do you think of the Continental Mark II? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Our Top 3 Vehicle Evolutions in Hollywood Reboots and Remakes

Whenever Hollywood experiences a box-office hit, a sequel is almost inevitable. As fun as it is to see our favorite characters change and mature, it’s almost equally as exciting to see their iconic vehicles grow up. From then-and-now Camaros in Michael Bay’s “Transformers” to the evolution of the Mitsubishi Lancer, erm, Evolution within the “Fast and Furious” franchise, these are three of our favorites.

Chevrolet Camaro: “Transformers”

chevrolet-transformers-bumblebee

Source | DreamWorks

When a live-action version of “Transformers” hit big screens in 2007 (there was also an animated feature in 1986), the iconic Bumblebee took a couple of vehicular forms. However, it’s most remembered for turning into a fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro—of sorts. The car we saw was actually a concept unveiled in 2006.

For the film, Chevy placed body panels made from molds used for the concept on the chassis of a Holden Monaro. It was a precursor to the Gen 5 Camaro (topped by an SS trim boasting an LS3 6.2-liter V8 with 426 horsepower), which was only sold two years later.

A yellow 2017 Chevrolet Camaro

The sixth-generation Camaro, the basis for Bumblebee’s transformation in the upcoming “Transformers.” Source | Courtesy of Chevrolet

Fast-forward to summer 2017 and installment five of the series, “Transformers: The Last Knight.” In this chapter, Bumblebee will take on yet another form, this time a sixth-gen Camaro wearing some exterior aero modifications, including a more aggressive front fascia, hood cooling vents, and large spoilers all around. A trio of engines are available for the platform—which was revealed a year and a half ago—most interesting of which is the LT1 V8 churning out an impressive 455 horsepower.

Ford Mustang: “Gone in 60 Seconds”

Younger viewers who watched the 2000 version of “Gone in 60 Seconds,” starring Nicolas Cage, may not realize it was actually a loose remake of an identically titled 1974 release. Sharing more than just a name, the main automobile in both iterations was a classic Ford Mustang. The original featured a 1971 Mustang partially modified to look like an optioned-out 1973 using a newer grille, as well as black accenting on the hood and lower paneling reminiscent of the Mach 1 special edition.

MV5BMTM5MzU5MTU0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjI2OTAyNw__._V1_SX1500_CR0_0_1500_999_AL

Source | Touchstone Pictures

In the reboot, the creative team decided to go with a slightly older pony car: a 1967 Mustang fastback, gussied up to resemble a Shelby GT500. A total of 12 ‘Stangs were sourced, and all were built for various purposes such as chase scenes and stunts. The vehicles were truly a hodgepodge of parts, utilizing aftermarket PIAA auxiliary lighting, Chevy Astro van billet grille components, 17-inch Schmidt wheels designed after Ford GT40 units, Lincoln Versailles rear ends, and a plethora of custom-fabricated fiberglass pieces.

Of the 12 Eleanors, only seven survived after shooting wrapped up, according to Mustang Monthly. It breaks our hearts that even a single one was damaged.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution: “The Fast and the Furious”

Arguably Mitsubishi Motor’s biggest fan-favorite product, the Lancer Evo, is prominently featured in two of the biggest underdog F&F follow-ups: “2 Fast 2 Furious” and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” The former is where we get the first sighting, when the feds give Paul Walker’s character a tracking-device-equipped 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII to drive to an undercover drug cartel meeting. It’s the scene that made us love the Evo.

The all-wheel drive sedan had a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder mill, equipped with nitrous tanks, of course (hey, it was the early 2000s), and sported a Japanese-spec DAMD body kit, ARC trunk wing, and Motegi Racing alloys.

In the third F&F movie, the race-ready Lancer skipped a generation and returned as a 2006 Evo IX GSR, given to protagonist Sean Boswell after he totals his mentor Han’s Nissan Silvia while learning how to drift around corners. Like the VII, the IX employs a boosted 2.0-liter powerplant that in stock form makes 276 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, here benefiting from the addition of a Rhys Millen Racing air intake and exhaust downpipe. Aesthetically, it was fitted with an Alabama-based APR Performance body kit, spoiler and side mirrors, along with massive 19-inch RAYS G-Games rims. It looked—and was—fast.

There are too many reboots and remakes with great vehicles, and we’re guessing we missed some of your favorites. Share your picks in the comments.

5 of the Most-Coveted Classic Tuner Cars

Tuner cars are nothing new. Back in the ’60s, they were called third-party muscle cars, modified by the dealership or company to increase performance over what the factory offered. Some of them took it a step further and added exclusive wheels, body parts, or custom paint. They built what manufacturers didn’t offer, and a number of legends came out of that work.

Today, Yenko and Baldwin-Motion Chevys, Royal Oak Pontiacs, and Mustang Stallions and Shelby cars are some of the most sought-after vehicles in the classic muscle car market. Here’s a look at some of the fastest and most well-known classic tuners.

Ford

Shelby GT500

Shelby GT500, Source | GPS 56/Flickr

Shelby GT500

It doesn’t really get much bigger than this. From numerous race wins in the ’60s to Nicolas Cage drooling over one in “Gone in Sixty Seconds,” the GT500 is arguably the best-known tuner car of all time. Carroll Shelby knew the Ford Mustang could be more than a “secretary’s car” and totally changed its attitude by reworking the entire vehicle, including pulling the pedestrian 289ci V8 in favor of a 428ci. More than just turning up the horsepower knob, Shelby added a race-worthy suspension built from his Le Mans days (Shelby had been on the GT40 team), so it could tear up the corners as well as the drag strip. Stripes and custom parts helped the visual punch, contributing to the legend and making the GT500 one of today’s most expensive muscle cars.

Chevrolet

Baldwin-Motion Phase III Chevrolet Camaro

Baldwin-Motion Phase III Chevrolet Camaro, Source | mashleymorgan/Flickr

Baldwin-Motion Phase III Camaro

The Camaro was designed to fight the Mustang, so building a competitor to the GT500 was a natural conclusion. The Baldwin Chevrolet dealership teamed with a nearby speedshop, Motion Performance, to create a limited run of super-muscle cars. Baldwin-Motion would work on nearly anything, but it was famous for the Phase III Camaro (no, there wasn’t a phase I or II). This beast packed a 427 that had been heavily massaged with race-worthy parts. Advertising listed it as 500 horsepower and “unreal” torque. That’s not an exaggeration, as it could run 11.5 in the quarter mile. With optional bulging hoods, side pipes, and outrageous paint colors, these cars weren’t subtle, but they were fast.

Yenko SC427 Nova

Don Yenko’s dealership and performance shop had been building hot versions of the Camaro and Corvair for years by 1969. That experience allowed him to get the new Nova right the first time around. Pulling the top-of-the-line 427ci V8 from the big Chevelle SS, Yenko stuffed it, along with a four-speed manual, into the tiny Nova, making a hilariously fun and dangerous car. Four-hundred-and-fifty horsepower was good for 11 seconds in the quarter on slicks, and even zero-to-60 passed in just 5.1 seconds. It would be 30 years before the factory Camaro could do it that quickly, and for the ’60s it was very impressive. Yenko later reflected in Road & Track that the SC427 Nova was “barely legal at best” and was probably too dangerous for the street.

Pontiac

Royal Bobcat GTO

GM’s excitement division arguably created the muscle car in 1964, but by 1968, the 400ci-powered GTO was fading into the rearview. Mega-dealership Royal Pontiac decided to change things by swapping in a 428ci V8 with a fistful of upgrades. Loaded up with ram air and steeper gear ratios, the rebadged Bobcats were capable of daily driving but were a handful at the limit. Car and Driver called them dangerous in the wrong hands, as they were civil enough for grandma around town but just a gas pedal away from supercar firepower. Bobcats were good for 13-flat in the quarter, if you had tires that could grip all that torque. On regular street tires, they were good at turning rubber into smoke.

Dodge

Hurst/Spaulding Dart GTS 440

The Dart was an attractive but mild-looking compact, and it had acceptable performance with its 340ci V8. The late ’60s demanded more speed, so legendary aftermarket performance company Hurst and Chicago dealership Mr. Norm’s Grand Spaulding worked together to stuff Chrysler’s 440ci mountain motor in the compact Dart. Conservatively rated at 375 hp and 480 lb/ft, the repowered Dart weighed 3,600 pounds. The result was shenanigans, as the Dart GTS 440 was severely nose heavy, and lacked power steering or a warranty. It didn’t matter, though, as the overpowered compact could run low 13s in the quarter mile, beating Corvettes for half the price.

These tuned classics were performance bargains in their day but now sell for serious cash. Ever seen one at a car show or the strip? Let us know your favorite in the comments below.

Crucial Cars: BMW 2002

During the late 1960s, American performance cars that could seat four or five adults comfortably were big, heavy, and fast. We’re talking midsize coupes like the Pontiac GTO, Chevelle SS, Plymouth GTX, and Ford Torino GT. Sure, there were the smaller, so-called “compacts” like the Chevy Nova SS, Ford Falcon Sprint, and Dodge Dart GT, but like their bigger brothers, they were more about blasting up through the gears in a straight line than carving up a tightly curved mountain road.

1972 BMW 2002 NY

1972 BMW 2002 NY

More agility, less acceleration

Yet on the other hand—and on the other side of the Atlantic—you had a certain boxy and unassuming German two-door sedan that could seat four adults comfortably and whose idea of performance was quite different from that of the Americans. Introduced for 1968 and based on the BMW 1602 (which debuted a few years earlier), the 2002 combined its sibling’s compact but space-efficient body and agile handling with a bigger (2.0-liter versus 1.6-liter) four-cylinder engine.

There was just 100 horsepower on tap, so the Bimmer obviously lacked ripping acceleration. But a finely tuned, fully independent suspension system along with communicative steering and a curb weight of only around 2,100 pounds meant that a 2002 could quickly make tracks on a serpentine road. A blacktop scenario that would leave those American muscle cars falling all over themselves.

The two-door sport sedan

Yes, we called the BMW 2002 a sedan, which may seem odd given it has only two doors. While the American market typically defines a car with four doors as a sedan and one with two doors as a coupe, the Europeans define a sedan as a “three box-style” (hood, passenger compartment, trunk) automobile, saving the “coupe” designation for a two-door with sleeker body styling.

With the introduction of the BMW 2002, the sport sedan—a compact, boxy, practical car that could seat four or five adults while providing entertaining and athletic performance—was born. Indeed, the 2002 was a new type of car, one that could embarrass sports cars on a twisty road while also serving as a comfortable family and commuter car.

In a road test of the 1970 BMW 2002, Car and Driver stated: “Forget about the sedan body and pretend that it’s a sports car—a transformation that’s almost automatic in your mind anyway after you’ve driven it a mile or two. With the possible exception of the new Datsun 240Z (which is not yet available for testing), the BMW will run the wheels off any of the under-$4000 sports cars without half trying. It is more powerful and it handles better.”

1972 BMW 2002

1972 BMW 2002

Fuel injection makes a buffer Bimmer

Some U.S. market enthusiasts still wished for more power under the 2002’s hood. Although Europe got to enjoy the step-up “ti” model with its stronger engine, it didn’t make it to American shores. And neither did a turbocharged 2002 that was produced later on. But those drivers’ wishes came true for 1972, when BMW introduced a more powerful version of the 2002 called the 2002 tii that was available in the states.

With mechanical fuel injection (replacing carburetion), higher compression and other engine tweaks, the 2002 tii made 140 horsepower. With 40 percent more power than the base 2002, the tii was noticeably quicker, running the 0-to-60 dash in about 9.5 seconds versus about 11 seconds for the standard 2002. Other upgrades for the tii that boosted overall performance included a beefed-up suspension, bigger brakes and a less-restrictive exhaust. Inside the car, a leather-wrapped steering wheel greeted the lucky driver.

1975 BMW 2002

1975 BMW 2002

From Roundies to Squaries

From 1968 through 1973, the BMW 2002 continued essentially unchanged as far as body styling. These vehicles are known as “Roundies,” so-called because of their simple round taillights. Those years also featured smaller, more elegant bumpers. For 1974, the slim chrome bumpers were replaced by what looked like hydraulic shock-mounted aluminum battering rams that jutted out from the car on either end.

These unfortunate blemishes were an answer to the 5-mph impact standard that took place in the States the year prior, meaning a bumper had to absorb a 5 mph hit without damage. That year also saw the taillights updated to square (actually slightly rectangular) units that seemed to tie in better to the car’s body shape than the Roundies. Second generation “Squaries” continued through 1976, which would be the model’s last year.

1971 BMW 2002 interior

1971 BMW 2002 interior

The die has been cast

The 320i replaced the 2002 in 1977, and thus the iconic “3 Series” was born. Given its rare combination of a fun-to-drive personality and everyday practicality, the 2002 served the company, and legions of driving enthusiasts, very well.

Did you own a 2002 or just dream of driving one? Tell us what you love about the 2002 in the comments.

ZDDP Motor Oil Additive: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Car

Source | Luke Jones

Engines wear out. It’s an unfortunate truth, but it’s not one you simply have to accept, even if you own a classic car. There are steps you can take to keep your engine from deteriorating for a long time, the most important of which is ensuring it’s properly lubricated and that the oil is changed regularly. But does your classic car’s engine want classic oil? Does it need supplements that aren’t found in modern oil, like ZDDP? Read on to find out.

What is ZDDP?

Zinc dialkyldithiophosphate, or ZDDP, was once a common and useful engine oil additive. It was inexpensive, highly effective metal-on-metal antiwear additive, and as a result, it was used widely in engine oils from the 1940s through the 1970s, and is still in use in some cases today. If your car was built during the peak period of use, chances are its intended motor oil included ZDDP. But in the past few decades, it has been phased out due to concerns over its toxicity.

How does ZDDP work?

As your engine runs, it generates heat and friction, especially at high-stress points like the cams, valves, and tappets, where metal-to-metal contact pressures can be extreme. As this heat and friction builds, the ZDDP breaks down into its chemical components, coating the metal with what’s called a tribofilm and taking the brunt of the load. This film forms at the atomic scale, helping to protect the metal in your engine, and reacts in a “smart” way, increasing the protection as the friction and pressure increases. By reducing direct metal-to-metal contact, the ZDDP provides a replenishable wear surface that prolongs the life of your engine. Studies of ZDDP have shown that it effectively provides a cushioning effect on the underlying metal, distributing the force upon it and, accordingly, the wear.

When does a car need ZDDP?

If you own a modern car, built in the 1990s or more recently, there’s no need to add ZDDP to your engine oil. Just ensure you use the oil specified by your manufacturer in your owner’s manual. Modern engines are designed around low- or no-ZDDP oils, and they often use lower valve spring rates, roller lifters, and other methods to reduce the metal-on-metal friction pressure, particularly in the valve train, that ZDDP was used to combat.

In classic engines with high-pressure friction points, however, ZDDP is still a useful ingredient in preserving the performance and extending the life of your car. Today’s oils often contain some level of ZDDP, though the latest ones often contain only trace amounts—enough to help newer cars with minor wear issues but not enough to prevent newly rebuilt or broken-in classic car engines from wearing at much higher rates than intended. While the debate is still raging among enthusiasts, there’s good evidence that classic-car owners should ensure their engines are getting adequate amounts of ZDDP.

Should you add ZDDP to your oil?

Exactly how to ensure your engine is getting enough ZDDP is another question. Some oils sold in auto parts shops, like Advance Auto Parts, still include ZDDP in their formulation. Some of these are only for racing or off-road use, however, and some are not widely available in all regions. None of the oils that still include some quantity of ZDDP indicate on the bottle just how much they contain, or how that compares to the oil originally specified for your car. You can, of course, call the company that makes the oil and find out for yourself with some digging—but that can be a slow and frustrating process.

Fortunately, there are ZDDP additives available on the shelves at your local Advance Auto Parts (or online). These additives are easy to use and economical, so it’s a cheap and simple way to provide your engine with some solid insurance against premature wear. All you have to do is follow the instructions on the bottle, which typically involve pouring some or all of a container into the engine oil fill port. Don’t exceed the recommended amount; it won’t increase your protection and will only waste the additive (and your money) and put more of the harmful zinc and phosphate components of the compound into the environment than necessary.

Which ZDDP additive should you buy?

As great as ZDDP is for protecting your engine, and as many amazing smart-material behaviors as it exhibits at the molecular level, it isn’t a mysterious, proprietary chemical. It has been used and tested for more than 70 years. In other words, just about any ZDDP additive you’ll find will work great in your engine. Some brands of ZDDP additive may be designed to work with the same brand’s engine oil, so those seeking the ultimate in peace of mind might want to team them together. Otherwise, just grab a bottle of your preferred brand and use as directed to give your classic-car engine the protection and longevity it deserves.

Do you have experience with ZDDP? Let us know.

A Look Back at the Truckcar

Lots of people love pickup trucks but don’t always have the need for a full-size truck. Way back in the ’50s, manufacturers developed a solution with the car-based truck, commonly called the truckcar, or coupe utility. Whatever you call ’em, the idea is the same. Take a car chassis and drivetrain, and drop a small pickup bed out back. While they’re the automotive equivalent of the mullet (business up front, party in the back), the classic truckcar has earned a place in the hearts of many.

Full-size legends

Ford Ranchero

The Ford Ranchero

While truck-ish cars have existed almost since the beginning of the car, Ford really kicked things off with the introduction of the 1957 Ranchero. Built on the full-size Ford sedan and coupe chassis, the Ranchero obviously differed from other cars with its body-integrated pickup bed. At a little over 5 feet long, the Ranchero bed offered light work potential in an easy-to-drive, car-like package.

The ’60s saw the Ranchero transition to the compact Falcon chassis, then the larger Torino, where giant engines like the 460 V8 were common. Cargo ratings hovered just over 1,000 pounds throughout the changes, making the Ranchero a true “half-ton truck.” While it sold well, light trucks were exempt from emissions and mileage requirements, so 1979 was the Ranchero’s last year, as it was replaced by the Ford Ranger compact truck.

The El Camino

The El Camino, Source | Allen Watkin

GM noticed early surging sales of the Ranchero and quickly developed its own competitor. The ’59 El Camino was based off the full-size Chevy sedan/wagon chassis but offered a variety of engines, from a weak inline six, to the fuel-injected 283 Ramjet. The second generation switched to the smaller Chevelle platform, and the El Camino mirrored the muscle car’s options and equipment, including the 396 V8.

The ’70s weren’t a great time for most car manufacturers, but the El Camino survived better than most. With a big-block 454 V8, manual trans, and rear-wheel drive under a lightweight rear, the El Camino was a groovy burnout machine that also delivered a respectable 5,000-pound tow rating when properly optioned.

Compact and odd

Subaru BRAT

The Subaru BRAT, Source | ilikewaffles

Around the time the Ranchero was disappearing in favor of light trucks, Subaru developed this odd little competitor. The BRAT differed from the American car-trucks with its 1.6-liter inline four cylinder making all of 67 horsepower, and driving all four wheels. While the bed was small, the weirdness continued there, with the option of two rear-facing jump seats. Alongside Van Halen’s best years, the BRAT was only available from 1978 to 1985.

Dodge Rampage

The Dodge Rampage, Source | John Lloyd

Apparently the coupe utility market was hot in the early ’80s, as Dodge felt the need to jump in with the Rampage. Despite the popularity of the K chassis, this little guy was built off the L platform (think Dodge Omni) and featured a 2.2-liter inline four powering the front wheels. That’s peak 1980s right there: a FWD truck with a tape player. It was even available in “Garnet Pearl Metallic,” which is ’80s-speak for neon pink. Rad.

Want one brand new?

Holden Ute

The Holden Ute, Source | FotoSleuth

Australia has a unique place in automotive history, as it never forgot how to build a muscle car, even during the 1970s and ’80s. The Aussie version of the El Camino is the Holden Ute. Like standard versions of the truckcar, the Ute features a modern chassis, suspension, and interior, with all the useful bed space you would likely need. If a standard V6 isn’t enough power, step up to the SS version, which features a 400+ horsepower 6.2-liter V8 and 6-speed manual transmission. With a 3,500-pound tow rating, it can haul your race car to the track, and then rip off a high 12-second quarter mile. Work and play in one great-looking package.

Volkswagen Saveiro

The Volkswagen Saveiro, Source | Wikipedia

While the 1980s mostly put an end to the rear-wheel drive truckcar, the Ute has held out until 2017. Now the closest comparable vehicles are small front-wheel drive truckcars like the VW Saveiro. This subcompact coupe utility drives the front wheels with a choice of four-cylinder engines, which is plenty of power when your truck is three-feet shorter than a Toyota Tacoma. Cheap and economical, the Saveiro meets the needs of many owners. Want one? You’ll have to move outside the US, as Volkswagen has no plans to sell them here.

While the truckcar doesn’t look to be returning to the USA anytime soon, we do have a lot of options if you don’t mind buying used. From a fun muscle project to a useful truck alternative, the truckcar style has a lot to offer.

Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

Crucial Cars: Dodge Li’l Red Express

The mid- to late-1970s were rightfully regarded as the darkest days of performance. In an effort to meet ever-tightening emissions standards, engines were detuned as compression ratios were lowered and outputs were further strangled by emissions controls such as more restrictive exhausts with catalytic converters.

The mid-’80s would see a big resurgence in performance as newer technologies allowed engineers to once again tune engines for performance while still meeting emissions regulations. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

Indeed, if one was looking for something American that would accelerate with gusto during the late 1970s, the pickings were mighty slim. Sadly, a V8 of the era typically made only around 140 to 170 horses with just a handful of performance-oriented vehicles able to join the 200-horsepower club. As such, performance choices were essentially limited to Chevrolet’s Corvette with its optional L82 350 V8, Pontiac’s Trans Am with the optional “T/A 6.6” (W72) 400 V8… and Dodge’s Li’l Red Express Truck pickup. Yes, that’s right—a pickup truck.

Dodge Li'l Red Truck

Red and righteous

Dodge took advantage of less stringent emissions regulations for pickup trucks, and with a wink and a nod created the Li’l Red Express Truck for 1978. The basis for this unique vehicle was the short wheelbase, “Utiline” (stepside) version of Dodge’s D150 pickup truck. From there, the engineers and designers had a field day.

Bright red paint covered the body and real oak wood accented the bedsides and tailgate while “Li’l Red Express Truck” decals and gold striping added still more pizzazz. Even among all that eye candy, one of the most arresting features was the chromed-out, vertical exhaust system whose big-rig-style pipes would have done a Peterbilt proud.

Chilled-out cabin

Inside, the outlandish Dodge had a much more sedate styling scheme. Buyers had a choice of either a bench or optional bucket seats (with a standalone folding-center armrest) in either red or black. A sporty thick-rimmed, three-spoke “Tuff” steering wheel was initially standard, though it would be replaced by a less-stylish four-spoke wheel the following year.

Dodge Li'L Red Truck interior cabin

A V8 with vigor

With all that flash on the outside, there had to be some dash under the hood. And with a free-breathing 360 V8 dropped between the front fenders, the Li’l Red Express delivered.

Specifically, the high-output V8 was derived from the Police package 360 and sported a massive 850-CFM 4-barrel carburetor, a dual snorkel air cleaner, a performance camshaft and a real dual exhaust system with 2.5-inch pipes. It was rated at a strong-for-the-time 225 horsepower. And that was likely a conservative rating given the performance it provided for a near 2-ton truck. A chrome air cleaner and valve covers dressed things up and harkened back to the muscle-car era when car makers were proud to show off their engines.

Unfortunately, a four-speed with a Pistol-grip shifter was not an option, as the sole transmission fitted was a column-shifted, beefed-up automatic that admittedly did a fine job of sending the power to the 3.55:1 rear end. The Li’l Red Express rolled with fat, 15-inch white-lettered tires mounted on chrome wheels.

A pickup with plenty of pickup

Performance figures were impressive for the time. The Li’l Red Express could sprint to 60 mph in around 7.5 seconds and blast down the quarter mile in the mid-15-second range. In other words, in those performance tests, this big red truck would run about neck-and-neck with the aforementioned Corvette and Trans Am.

Make it a race to 100 mph, however, and the Dodge would leave those sleek sports cars behind. Gathering up the fastest American vehicles available for 1978, Car and Driver conducted such a test and ended up naming the Dodge Li’l Red Express as the fastest accelerating American vehicle from 0-to-100 mph.

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Lively yet short-lived

After testing the waters and producing just 2,188 units for 1978 but seeing strong demand for its hot rod truck, Dodge ramped up production for 1979. Total production for that second year was 5,118 units.

For 1979, the Li’l Red Express Truck saw a handful of minor changes. Round headlights gave way to a quartet of square units, the hood was flatter and catalytic converters were fitted (as emissions regulations for trucks tightened up), now requiring the use of unleaded gas. Thankfully the latter had little effect on performance, likely due to the fitment of dual converters rather than a single one and the availability of higher octane fuel.

The gas crisis of 1979 helped to seal the fate of the Li’l Red Express Truck. Units sat unsold on dealer lots while gas prices grew and gas availability shrunk. Understandably, the company pulled the plug on the pickup after the 1979 model year run. Still, there was no denying that Dodge’s shining performance star provided much-needed light during a dark time.

What Is Lead Substitute and Do You Need It?

Source | Clem Onojeghuo

If you own a classic car or have been thinking about getting one, chances are someone has told you that you need to use a lead substitute. But what is lead substitute, and why might you need it? Does it really work?

The theory behind lead substitute is that when the engine in your classic car was designed and built, gasoline had lead in it—more specifically, tetraethyl lead, or TEL. That lead served several functions. It boosted the octane rating, allowing for higher compression ratios; helped reduce knocking; and reduced wear on the valve seats. (It did so by helping to prevent “microwelds” from forming between the hot valve surfaces and the seats in the cylinder head as the valve closed.) The process of constant welding and subsequent tearing free when the valve opened again could wear the valve seats over time, requiring expensive repair.

Phasing out lead

A California ban on leaded fuel use went into effect in 1992, and the rest of the nation followed in 1996. The phase-out had already begun in the mid-1970s over concerns about the toxicity of lead and its interference with catalytic converters. Once lead was phased out of gasoline, carmakers began to make hardened valve seats and used different (higher-temperature) valve materials to eliminate the problem of microwelding and valve seat wear. Today, lead substitutes use a variety of proprietary formulas, often based on manganese, sodium, phosphate, or iron, rather than lead, to fulfill the function of lead without the toxic side effects and harm to catalytic converters.

Source | David Brodbeck

When you can skip the lead substitute

So the question arises: If your engine was made before hardened valve seats became common, does today’s unleaded fuel mean you need lead substitute to keep from causing damage to your valve seats? The answer is, frequently, no.

Many of the cars built even when leaded fuel was common have sufficiently hard valve seats to endure unleaded fuel use, especially if the car was made after the mid-1960s. You may want to use premium fuel, especially in higher-performance classic engines, to ensure you have sufficient octane and knock resistance, but the valve seats themselves are unlikely to suffer from unleaded fuel use.

That said, some engines definitely did have “soft” valve seats that were prone to damage from use of unleaded fuels. Some of these engines have been upgraded to harder valve seats over the years by their owners; if yours is among these, you can use unleaded fuel with impunity. If your car is currently running just fine, and has been running for the decades since leaded fuel was phased out, it is probably safe to continue running without lead substitute.

When lead substitute is a smart bet

Most of the cars that had problems with unleaded fuel suffered whatever damage they were going to suffer in the ’70s and ’80s, and have already been taken off the road. On the other hand, many classic-car owners argue that lead substitute can’t hurt your engine and may help reduce any risk of using unleaded fuel in an engine intended for leaded gasoline.

For many, the low cost and ease-of-use of lead substitute (typically a small amount is added to the gas tank at fill up) makes for cheap peace of mind. The bottom line? It’s up to you, but chances are good that you and your engine will get along just fine without any lead substitute, as long as you’re running the proper octane for your car.

Do you use a lead substitute? Tell us about your experience.