If there’s one concept that’s central to the legacy of American automobiles, it’s the muscle car. While automakers from around the globe have imitated our trucks and sedans, the legacy of the American muscle car stands apart. The term “muscle car” is commonly applied to classic cars, but not all instances are accurate. What qualifications define a “muscle car”?
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Having turned the big 5-0 earlier this year, I suppose that I shouldn’t be terribly surprised that the transformation into wistful geezer has begun. For some, that means pining away for the old days, a late-onset interest in beautiful flowers and paying attention to the pill ads in Reader’s Digest.
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A conversation between two muscle car guys can sound positively military, with all the acronyms, slang, codes, and jargon. Imagine how that sounds to others, especially younger types who may be weighing whether the muscle car hobby is the place for them. As they hear a steady stream of odd, head-scratching, and off-putting terms, perhaps too many decide to stick with collecting Star Wars action figures and Fruit Ninja video games.
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CTS-V Wagon owners, we get it. You want the aggression, speed, sound and character of a muscle car, with the utility of a rear liftgate. Aside from weirdos like the Dodge Magnum SRT8, the CTS-V, and if you squint hard enough, the Buick Roadmaster Estate from the 1990s, there’s a real lack of V-8 wagons after the early 1970s. Don’t fret — if you’re willing to lose the rear doors and drive something from the 1980s, the exceptionally quirky 1985 Pontiac Trans Am Kammback concept is back up for grabs at Barrett-Jackson’s 2017 Scottsdale sale.
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Albert Galdi of Somerset, New Jersey, has modified and restored a pretty extensive inventory of cars over the years, taking underpowered rides and turning them into high-horse street brawlers, each reformed with the addition of some extra punch under the hood. He became infatuated with the GM big-block rides of the muscle car’s heyday and is a devout follower of Chevy’s highest-performing models. Tops on his must-have list were the ones of the COPO and ZL1 variety, but finding one that he could afford became a great challenge. He did eventually score, restore, and still owns a real COPO Chevelle. However its value and scarcity make it difficult to drive and enjoy the way he wanted to do
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The 410 cu in (7.0 L) can produce 345 hp (257.266 kW) at 4600 rpm and would deliver a walloping 475 ft-lb (644.01 N-m) of torque to the wheels at 2600 RPM. This variation was initially only available for the short lived Edsel in the ’58 and ’59 model year, but the Mercury Parklane is powered by the 410 engine through 1967.
The standard equipment engine for the uptown Lincoln and Continental brands is the 430 cu in (7.4 L) from 1958 through ’65. This large engine could also be ordered optionally for the smaller but still plushy equipped Mercury from ’58 until the end of the 1960 model year. The 1959 and ’60 Thunderbird could also have the 430 engine, with the alternate moniker of the MEL engine “Bulldozer”, justly applied. The 430 has a stroke of 3.7” which it shares with the 410, but the 430 bore is larger at 4.30 inches (109.2 mm). Ford takes top spot again in 1958 with the Super Marauder option for the 430 which includes three two barrel carburetors to produce 400 hp (298. 27 kW) and is the first American made production engine to achieve such a high rating. The carburetors are three Holley 2300 models for the complete three year production run although the engines 10.51:1 compression ratio in ’58 is down to a lower 10.0:1 through the 1959 model year. The horse power ratings also decline from a high point of 400 hp (261 kW) in ’58 to a low of 315hp (235 kW) throughout 1960. A Lincoln Mark III could have been optioned with a Holley 4150 four barrel carb with a 590 flow rating.
Some 1958 Lincoln Continental Mark lll came brand new with the Holly 4150 4 barrel carburetor, list1405 rated at 590 flow rate. The 430 engine has new pistons for 1963 and the new 10.1:1 compression rating kicks the horse power rating of the three two barrels back up to 345 (257 kW) in the same year.
The hot rodding life of the 430 MEL engine is not as long as the TE it is a colorful one. Bertram Yachts made a name for themselves when the twin MEL 430’s powering their ship brought them first place in the first Miami to Nassau race. Johnny Beauchamp took a photo second place in his “T”bird 430-just a hair behind Lee Petty in the 1959 Daytona 500 race. Holman Moody raced a number of Thunderbirds with the 430 under the hood and with at least one of these cars surviving until today. The supercharged Lincoln powered dragster with Rodney Singer piloting and pit crew headed by Karol Miller won the NHRA Nationals top Eliminator class in 1959. The car makes history as the first supercharged winner in NHRA history. There still may be an unknown number of these unique modified race cars still in modestly good condition. The intake manifolds, pistons and heads are major items but still undergo frequent designing changes mean there are few mass produced aftermarket speed equipment items for the 430. The specialized, Edelbrock did make a 6x2 ported manifold plus a water cooled marine manifold called the M4 and Weiand manufacture a 8x2 manifold for drag applications as well. There are/were also oversized pistons for early drag racers with blown 430’s, including the “Forged True” brand made by the now defunct Jahns Pistons. The Forged true piston is precisely 13:1 and .150 inches over standard size and were guaranteed to help make the engine purr-form at high revs. There is also a number of unsubstantiated reports of other unique and interesting ideas, add-ons and adjustments to make your 430 turn in quicker times that have been tried over the years.
In 1966 the 430 is retired and replaced by the MEL 462 cu in (7.6 L) engine which has a longer stroke and a larger bore than its predecessor. The new version has a Carter AFB four barrel carburetor with hydraulic lifters and will produce 340 hp (254 kW) while developing as much as 485 lb-ft (658 N-m) of torque. This engine is factory equipment for the Lincoln Continental and will be replaced by the Ford 385 engine family at the end of 1968.