Pioneering muscle car novelties

American automakers have a long history of innovations that set their cars apart. Some, like the push-button transmission that Chrysler and Packard first offered in 1956, came and went quickly after being copied by other automakers. Others, like the retractable hardtop introduced with the 1957 Ford Fairlane, took decades to catch on.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/03/06/pioneering-muscle-car-novelties

I recall all of these “innovations” but I don’t recall “shaked” being correct… How about “shook?”

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I’m shocked the mechanical cowl induction hood on the Chevelle didn’t make the list.

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What about the 52 Mercury, it has a hood scoop?

Don’t forget the built in roll bar in later model Shelby GT350s and 500s. Or the additional five point seat belts also.

The push button shifter at Chrysler didn’t fade out all that quickly. It survived well into the 1960’s. For a real package of novelties look to the 1961-63 Pontiac Tempest. The shift lever for the 2-sp automatic was mounted in dash. No mistaking Reverse for Park. You shifted into Neutral and then pushed the lever to the left directly into Park. And I mean “push”. No mistaking whether it went in Park or not. Pontiac was also deeply into interchangeable parts. The 4 cylinder engine was literally the right side half of the 389 V8, right down to the 45 degree slant from vertical. Pistons, connecting rods, exhaust manifold, the entire cylinder head assembly, were all shared between the two engines. And of course there was the drivetrain layout - front engine/rear transmission with independent rear suspension. The engine and transaxle were connected by a torque tube that contained a curved (that’s correct - curved, not straight) solid (no flex-joints here) driveshaft. On the automatic the torque converter was on the rear of the transaxle, and if I recall correctly, exposed for all to see. With mild oversteer and well balanced steering geometry it handled surprising well and didn’t need power steering. Remember this was a poor family’s compact, not a performance car. I would perform the most beautiful power slides, and get into parking spaces others had given up on. Just keep the speed below 90 mph. Approaching 90 aerodynamic lift caused the rear tires to tuck under (same single u-joint rear axles as the Corvair and VW of that era) and you were just a passenger along for the ride. God didn’t even know where rear of the car was going.
In 1961&62 it was available with Buick’s aluminum 215 V8 and a 4-sp transaxle. For 1963 it was available as the Tempest LeMans, with available (iron) 326 V8, and upgraded trim.

Not really a gimmick.

IP mounted shifters were not new. Chrysler offered them on Chryslers in 1955-56 before they went to the 2 speed push button Torqueflites across the board in 1957. I think Corvairs also had auto shifters on the IP, too. The Chrysler push buttons were mandated out by the Feds in 1964. 1958-59 Edsels had push buttons on the steering wheel. There are likely others I haven’t recalled…
The 1936-37 Cord electric pre-selector shifter was probably the earliest on a steering column stalk.

While not qualifying as a muscle car, I thought the Buick Mirromagic instrument panel was very cool.


My dad had a 58 Plymouth Belvedere, light blue with a white top. He bought it in 61 with 40K miles. Not a good choice for someone who didn’t wrench, like my dad, who didn’t own a wrench. The one thing he could fix was the push buttons for the automatic transmission. The push buttons fell off of their slides about once a week, and he would carefully fish them out and reattach them. He put maybe 15K miles on the car, owned it 3 years, and had many many breakdowns, including blowing a head gasket on our first driving vacation. They don’t make em like they used to, thank God and modern engineering.

The 69 Firebird had a chrome beak not a endura bumper. The second gens front 70 up did however

'63 Studebaker Avanti came with a built-in roll bar

!967/68 Cougars’ sequential directional signals, headlight covers and interior roof panel with light switches and idiot lights ie “door ajar”

Regarding the shaker hoods, only the 1974 GTO had one. All other GTOs had conventional hood scoops. And no Firebird Formulas had shakers. Also, the 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix removed all chrome? Don’t believe that is true either.

Challengers and Cudas weren’t the only ones to climb on board the GTO’s Endura bumper bandwagon utilizing a soft plastic colour coded bumper. 1971 B bodied Plymouths like GTX and Roadrunner had the Elasto-meric bumper and applique as a then and now very rare option.

1973 and 1974 Firebird Formulas that were ordered with the SD-455 had the Trans Am shaker on them. It was done for emissions reasons, and they’re very rare, but I’ve seen several over the years.

  • Jim

How about the Lightning Rods for the shifter in the Hurst Oldsmobiles?

How about the Air Induction cowl hood scoop on 80 & 81 Z-28 Camaro. Put your foot into it and the air inductors open for the driver to see. Really cool, moved pretty good for that era as well.

If you look closely, Pontiac used Endura surrounding the chrome beak. Ditto the Bonneville.

I mentioned the B-bodies in the article.