These 4 small-block screamers tackled muscle car brutes


@michaelhjundt - Interesting perspective. As one who did not live during that timeframe, I had always wondered how rose-colored the glasses really were when many people wrote about car culture during that timeframe.


Ditto on the little PoncHO! Their answer to the short lived W31 Olds.

I didn’t even stoop to mention – MANY of the mid-60’s ‘muscle’ cars came with the 2-speed Powerglide or it’s GM-sister equivalent. Even with a big block in front of them - they were doing good to get out of the 16’s. Truth is – a new V6 Accord or Camry will handily outrun the ‘average’ muscle car of yore. Not to mention quality, reliability, longevity, mileage, handling, braking…list goes on. I think we remember them much better than they actually were on many levels. Performance has never been as good as it is right now. Albeit often with a big helping of “bland” stirred in.


No rose colored glasses, and if you look at the stats, the big block “Muscle Cars” were not all that quick. I’ll try to attach a phone shot of a polaroid of my 57 Handyman in 1968/69 with a small block, on the street, carrying its front wheels through 1st gear. In 1969 right before I left for the Army I got beat fair and square by a Dart with that new engine called a 340. I’m sure he (like me) never feared any big block on the street.
Still they were not quick by todays standards. They did give you a massive adrenaline rush trying to keep them pointed in the right direction, fighting wheel hop, slamming the gears just to get a 13 second pass. Driving one in the rain with the tires of that era took special talent, as one cough of the carb could cause you to change directions. Keeping the car at the top of its game with carbs points, etc. gave you a feeling of being an accomplished mechanic.
Today I can relax, turn up the stereo, hold a cup of coffee in one hand while turning solid 12s in my current favorite, the 04 E55 AMG sedan, and with all the computer assist, it’s docile in the rain. Raise the hood? No need, there’s not even a dipstick to check the oil, just sit in the drivers seat and push a button to check the oil level.
Does that mean “todays cars can be consistently quick with a dipstick inside”?



Using your experience to suggest others misses one important point: I am the one who identified 4 examples for you, and they all were vehicles from the factory. Applying your experience from the strip is an apples to oranges comparison, never mind everyone and his mom is going to ask, “Why wasn’t [my favorite car] included?”

To your other point, Oldsmobile produced 3,100 W30s in 1970. Chevrolet produced about 1500 more LS6 Chevelles, which was about half as many L78s built the previous year. Ford produced over 13k Cobra Jet Mustangs in 1969. These are cars that could be seen in Every Town, USA.

Anyone’s, or my, age is irrelevant when talking facts and history.


My buddy had a brand new 1970 350 Buick GS. I would swear that was a big block. I had driven plenty of big block cars by then, but nothing like that GS. It never ran out of breath. I don’t know if it was the cold air intakes on the hood or what, but I always wondered what the real horsepower was. Then I wondered, or was it dreamed, about how the 455 would run. One interesting thing on the cold air intakes. When it rained, it was a little hard to start. When it caught it would sputter and cough for a few seconds. Maybe that was it. Factory water injection.


The 1970 GS was torquey, but my money’s on the W31.


Can’t argue that. I still drive a 74 Cutlass Salon with a warmed up 455. They were all amazing cars in their day. My full time rid is a CTS V with 556 hp and 551 lb-ft. full time. The golden age has come again, with a heavier car that in 185,000 miles has averaged 17 mpg and I’m still not afraid to stick it.


It’s often repeated that 60’s muscle cars weren’t as quick as a modern Accord. Quickest model 2018 Accord automatic is 5.5 0-60, 14.1 second quarter mile, manual: 6.1/14.7.

Not many 60’s cars had a 0-60 below 6 seconds - 427 Corvettes were mostly low fives, 1967 was 4.7 seconds.

That was on 50 year old Stonehenge tire technology though and a 2 speed transmission. It’d be interesting to a comparison to a '60s muscle car on modern tires and also the final drive ratio of a modern car in the first few gears.

Fortunately these days it’s straightforward to take a 60’s car and make it as arbitrarily fast as your wallet will allow :slight_smile:


Some engines ran better than others from the factory. My '70 Cuda 340 tested by magazines ran mid 14’s on the 1/4 mile but the original owner ran 14.1 at the strip and won the class. I have the Connecticut Dragway class winner sticker on the driver’s window from April 1970 along with the trophy in my garage.


How about the solid lifter LT1 350 as found in the early 70’s Corvettes?
Lots of people preferred them over the big blocks, and the better handling was appreciated.


@ dbucknh

I chose the L79.


My 3rd car (in 1978) was a '65 Austin Healey 3000 Mk 3. The previous owner owned a couple Aamco transmission shops.He replaced the inline 6 with a Ford 351 Cleveland and a C6 auto tranny. I LOVED that car!
It was my only transportation for a couple years, until I bought a '76 Fiat Spyder as my “practical” car. It got about 8 mpg, and I’d burn up most of a tank of gas in an evening driving up and down the strip in my town looking for Corvettes and muscle cars to shame. if it’d had wider than stock wheels and tires it would’ve done much better than the 12 sec. 1/4 mile times I’d unofficially recorded…165/15 Michelins didn’t offer that much forward grip!


I picked the " BOSS 351 " for the Ford Pantera, because it’s period correct.

I’ve read that a Ford 460 in to a Pantera, Imagine a 427 S.O.H.C., a BOSS 429,

But I don’t think that the ZF transmission could stand the Torque !

The " BOSS 302 ", would have been GREAT in a Ford Mangusta, if it will fit.