To say the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals is one of the best shows in the nation is quite an understatement. Filled with ultra rare and a seemingly never ending line of hard-to-find Detroit muscle, it’s almost mesmerizing to this journalist to pick a few of my favorites from the crowded show floor. But before you start sending me letters or emails about why I didn’t pick one of the L88 Corvettes, or perhaps one of the “Swiss Cheese” 421 powered Pontiacs, make sure you take into account that I picked cars from this show that I would want in my garage – and not necessarily the most expensive or the rarest.
Sure, there were million dollar cars from the left and to the right, as well as one-off skunk works cars like the “Fournado”: a Toronado-powered ’68 442 built by Hurst. But I pick these cars based on what might be the perfect blend of rubber melting power and being the coolest soccer dad on the planet.
PICK #1: 1968 Chevrolet Camaro 427 4-Speed – Baldwin-Motion Phase III Conversion
It was a true once in a lifetime chance to have this car. – Lud Renner
First pick is a car I’ve lusted after for years, originally purchased by Lud Renner for $6360.95. Lud began his love affair with his Baldwin-Motion Phase III Camaro by popping in an 8-track; and as the speakers filled the air with Jimi Hendricks, at the same time Lud also filled the air with the sounds of power, thumping through the freshly installed Hooker Headers.
Still, all but original and showing just over 4,000 miles, this is a tribute to what we all wish we could do: go back in time and buy it, drive it, race it and keep the memories both on the street and on the track forever.
The Camaro started life as a 1968 Sport Coupe RS/SS, and with some special one-on-one guidance from Joel “Mr. Motion” Rosen himself, the car was equipped with the best of the best from the Motion garage. It received an L-88 with Phase III Engine modifications that included a 950 CFM carb, 12.5 to 1 forged pistons, Mallory distributor, Aluminum flywheel, Schiefer Rev-Loc clutch. The rest of the car received a 4:56 Positraction and “Super-Bite” suspension, Traction bars, Steel Scatter Shield, Ansen Sprint Mag wheels, drive shaft loop, electric fuel pump capable of 75GPH, trunk mounted battery, metallic brakes, Hurst shifter, L-88 Hood, deluxe interior with custom center console, and several other modifications that were topped off by a coat of #96D Corvette Bronze with a black vinyl roof.
I caught up with Lud at this years Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals and ask him if there was any way to describe what it was like to not only own, but to drive such an outrageous street car.
“It was a true once in a lifetime chance to have this car,” he said. “Driving it on the street was only part of the experience, it was once I took it to the track that I fully understood what the car was capable of and believe me it was an absolutely unreal performing car on both the street and strip”
PICK #2: 1967 Ford Country Squire 428 4-Speed – Documented One of One
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few years you already know that wagons, long-roofs, or whatever you care to call them, have made a triumphant return to the hearts of hot rodding souls around the country.
But what if you were ahead of the curve and knew what you wanted – and where to buy it was the only question? That was the question of a man named Vincent Bolling, Jr., in 1967.
Vincent was a family man, and though he dreamed of shifting gears and acting out daydreams of James Bond, he was hindered by the fact that his wife and three children don’t fit very well into an Aston Martin.
Determined to get the “best of both worlds”, Vincent set out to his local Ford dealership with a simple list of needs – the biggest motor in their biggest car. But it had to have a manual transmission, and that’s where the plot thickens.
Vincent was not going to let the discouragement of the local dealer take hold of his performance goals, despite that for good reason they told Vincent even if they submitted the order, it would surely be kicked back as “unbuildable”.
So after obtaining a name and address of a Ford executive and doing as told to “write to this guy at Ford, if he says it’s okay then they will build it”, Bolling did. And who is this mystery Ford employee to return his request? None other than Lee Iacocca, a young Ford executive with the simple thought of pleasing each and every customer. And with that, the rest is history – at least that chapter.
Enter Adrian Clements: a Ford guy through-and-through, and also the founder and manager of the 1967 Ford Full-Size Registry who’s love for all things blue oval is as strong as the brand itself. After purchasing the Country Squire, Adrian did what most would agree would be the best plan for the big-block bang-shifting longroof: leave it alone. Only the shifter was replaced to the original Ford style, and the mechanics were given a run through, but beyond that the originality is 100% intact and in our opinion 100% perfect.
PICK #3: 1974 Chevrolet Camaro 427 THM400 – “The Last Nickey Camaro”
Nickey Chevrolet of Chicago has been highly regarded as the Original Super Car Headquarters, being first to offer the new L88s, L89s and L72s, and were fitting them into anything Chevrolet. But by the time 1974 had come around, the oil embargo along with Naders-Raiders had all but killed the era of the “Super-Car”. But before the doors closed at Nickey Chevrolet, Don Swiatek – the one and only “High-Performance Manager” at Nickey – had one last order to fill in November of 1973. Starting with a ’74 Camaro Don and his team sprinkled their Nickey magic on this F-body, and what you see here is “the last Nickey Camaro”.
Powered by an L-88 with ZLX heads, and backed by a turbo-400, this Camaro might not be a the wildest Nickey creation, but it certainly is one of the most significant. Stephano Bimbi discovered the car tucked away in a single car garage in Highwood, Illinois, with only 53,000 on the odometer. But finding the car was not the biggest hurdle to overcome.
So where would you drive your Nickey Camaro? On the street, ormaybe just at the track? Nickey has a long term history of racing – and winning – at the track.
Dick Herald, Jim Jepperds, whether it was drag-racing, road-racing, the Colson’s drag strip that was sponsored in the late ‘60s, these cars were driven on the street and that’s why the legend and folklore is what it is. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, to run up against one of these cars, whether it was at the track or the street, was an intimidating interaction for sure.
While almost all of the original parts were present, they were scattered about the small storage area. There was work to be done to resurrect this historic car, and after a complete concourse restoration this page in the Nickey Super Car history books will be saved forever.
PICK #4: 1967 Ford Custom 427 4-Speed – Documented One of One
Remember Adrian, yes the gentleman who you just read about and his outrageously cool wagon with the “Thunderbird” 428, backed by the “One-of-One” 4-speed manual? Well guess who’s back?
I already mentioned that Adrian is the founder and manager of the 1967 Ford Full-Size Registry, who’s love for all things Ford might only be matched my his divine luck. Starting with an email connected to a Craigslist ad in 2010, Adrian was pointed towards what you see here: a 1967 Ford Custom 2-door sedan with the W-code 427-4V Cobra 410 hp engine, and 4-speed manual transmission, originally owned by Michael A. Kandrach. And as it turns out, he only put 15,048 miles on this very special Ford.
As the story goes, Mike, a performance junkie through and through, was saving for his planned purchase of a new Shelby Cobra equipped with a 427, but something got in his way…his wife, or soon to be ex-wife.
After skipping town complete with the funds to buy the Cobra, Mike found himself unable to have his new Shelby, but not without desire to own a Ford powered by a 427. Now enter crazy mathematics: in 1967 the cheapest Ford you could get a big block installed in was a Custom, so with what had to be a puzzled look on the salesman’s face, Mike started checking boxes on his factory order.
Starting with a Ford Custom 2-door sedan, Mike then checked the $1,081.81 option for the W-code 427-4V 410 hp, then the $184.02 option for the 4-speed manual transmission, and the $46.53 for the 8.15”x15” Nylon blackwall tires – both necessary “options” with the 427 engine. Ordering either the W-code or R-code 427 engine resulting in a charge of $1,312.36 above the base price of this car, yes grab your calculator…that is a 53.7% increase above the base price.
Flash forward 20 years and now with the car in his possession Adrian started the quest to bring this rare Ford back to life. As with most “barn-finds” the weather had not been kind to the Dearborn sheet metal. Rust had infiltrated the floorboards, hood and trunk lid, but not to the point of no return as it had been left alone for the most part to keep the originality of the 40-plus year old Custom in tact.
Not surprising the car had not been on the road in quite some time, in fact the last remaining inspection sticker was from 1993. So it was a forgone conclusion that it would take some work to breath life into the 427 cubic inch monster. But after some basic maintenance and help from friends, the Ford big-block roared back to life with some fantastic – and true-life – whoops and hollers from Adrian and his family (watch the video here) and this true “One-of-One” Ford Custom was alive and well.
The car still retained almost all of the original factory equipment, including: C5AE-H 427 side oiler cross-bolted block, C5AE-F medium riser cylinder heads, C6AE-K aluminum medium riser intake manifold, C5AF-BV (Holley list 3255-1) 4-barrel carburetor, RUG-B Toploader 4-speed manual transmission, and WDT-S1 3.50:1 non-locking differential with the 9-3/8” ring gear. The only original factory piece missing was the C5AF-F distributor, as Mike had replaced it when the car was new with a higher performance Mallory model YL distributor.
Thankfully, like the Country Squire, Adrian plans to drive this car in its present mechanical and cosmetic condition as a tribute to this rare piece of Ford high performance history, and as a tribute to the car’s original owner, Mike.
PICK #5: 1971 Dodge Charger 426 4-Speed – The Last Documented HEMI Built
Just for the record, I’m in no way going to toss fuel on the “Last HEMI” fire in this part of my picks. If you would like to fan that blaze please feel free to access the internet and you and the rest of the believers, naysayers, and so-called experts can argue until you’re blue in the face. My time here will be much better spent being in awe of what could be the finest example of a 1971 Dodge Charger, complete with the elephant sized 426 HEMI, pistol-grip equipped 4-Speed stick poking out of the center console, and the Top Banana paint glowing in all its glory.
See my friend Tim Wellborn, by my standard, is not a collector, nor is Tim a historian, heck he’s not even a curator. Yes, he does own the Wellborn Museum, but Tim is a true “car-guy” and true “car-guys” are the kind of guys who should own and drive HEMI powered ’71 Charger R/Ts. Starting back when his father went to the local Dodge dealership to order his new 1971 Charger, a then 13 year old Tim was bitten by the bug that would change his life forever. Now, with not only this Charger R/T in his collection, Tim has gathered some of the best examples of Mopar power for his personal collection, but this Charger R/T is the best of the best.
I was only 12 months old by the time third generation Chargers were hitting showroom floors. A far cry from the quintessential “Dukes of Hazzard” or Steve McQueen’s 1968 cult-classic Bullitt, the “all new” Charger was dominated by its complete restyle, now with coke-bottle shape and broad C-pillars were just as prominent as the new hood designs. On top of the MOPAR/Charger food chain in ’71 sat the R/T. The R/T got a louvered hood with flat-black accent stripes, unless you were smart enough to order the 426cid HEMI, the hood louvers gave way to a Ramcharger hood scoop as you see here.
Now if you’ve been lucky enough to visit the Wellborn Museum then you already know of Tim’s undying devotion to all things Mopar, but you also notice that 1971 Dodge Chargers are his special slice of the Mopar rainbow.
So what made this Charger have to be on my top picks of the 2013 MCACN? Easy, Tim drives this car, not just to entertain visitors to the museum, but as if he was back in high-school at the wheel of his first HEMI Charger rattling windows and laying waste to any tire silly enough to be mounted to the “Sure-Grip” equipped rearend.
The bottom line is this is a car that will always be in the hands of the already started “car-guy” that will not sell it for quick profit or use the excuse of “falling on hard times” to part ways with his beloved HEMI power Charger. In fact, if hard times were to fall upon Tim and his wife Pam, I have the feeling that this Charger would instantly become a studio apartment.
PICK #6: 1967 Chevrolet Impala 427 4-Speed – Original Owner
The time was Tuesday June 27th, 1967, and a young man by the name of Ron Hoeft wandered into Lownsbury Chevrolet with $3250 dollars burning a hole in his pocket. Knowing that most of his friends were flocking to buy the smaller, lightweight Camaros, Novas and Chevelles. Ron held to his guns and scoffed at remarks that he drove a “whale” of a car and enjoyed showing most of them the rear chrome now and again.
Regardless, for those true full-size die-hards like Ron, Chevrolet came through for them with the high performance package that started with the RPO Z24. This option code started a chain of events that landed the one and only engine available to the SS427 buyer in 1967: the L-36 385 horsepower 427. And when coupled to the optional M-20 4-speed transmission and 3.73:1 rear axle, the L-36 was a capable street performer but Ron wanted more.
After driving the Super Sport Impala for a few weeks, Ron decided to visit the dealership to investigate why the 427 was not quite as impressive as he thought it would be. So after installing a 4:10 gearset the SS finally woke up and Ron was enjoying the full potential of the big-bodied Chevrolet.
Flash forward to Feburary of 1968, and Ron was called by Uncle Sam to serve his country. But not before selling his beloved SS427 to a cousin who drove the car until 1976 and then placed the car into storage. Then in 1997 Ron repurchased the Impala and started the task of a full restoration with a bit of an edge on the frame-off undertaking.
Ron had all the original paperwork, including the window sticker, sales invoice, and warranty booklet complete with the Protect-O-Plate which he give credit to his mother for filing away at the time of purchase.
Using a combination of GM N.O.S. and factory parts, the Impala was brought back to life with great time and effort to use the original glass, body panels and interior, and he made sure to replicate all of the chalk and paint marks as if the car was reborn from the assembly line.
In 1967 the Impala SS427 probably seemed very impractical to most potential customers wandering the local Chevrolet showrooms and consequently it was a vehicle with a very limited market of buyers, but thank goodness for guys like Ron who knew just how special these cars were…and yes, Ron loves to say it “Yes, I bought it new”
There weren’t any Corvettes I picked, but there were plenty on hand. Here’s a small sampling of some of the beautiful L88 Corvettes on display.
The Shelby Snakepit offered an iconic display that included examples of GT350 and GT500 Mustangs as well as original Cobras in both 289 and 427 configurations. For fans of the Blue oval this was the spot to be.
While wandering the the show, there were tons of different emblems for cars. Each one tells its own story and can easily let you know what you’re up against. Here’s some of the favorites from the show.
The list goes on and on with rare and incredible performance cars of the 60’s and 70’s. Here’s just a few other snap shots of the over 550 car on tap.
One thing’s for sure, Bob Ashton and the whole Muscle Car and Corvette National team know how to put on a show, and I can’t wait to see what he will have on tap for 2014!