Category: Sports Cars and Muscle Cars

Including pony cars, sports coupes, muscle cars, GTs, and exotics.

Fish Story: The Plymouth Barracuda (Part Two)

When we last saw the Plymouth Barracuda, its second generation had floundered (if you’ll excuse the expression) in its efforts to challenge the popular Ford Mustang, ranking near the bottom of the “pony car” sales race despite more attractive styling and stronger engines. Troubled but undaunted, Plymouth took a third swing, with results that surprised even them. Here’s the story of Plymouth’s 1970-1974 E-body Barracuda and Plymouth Duster.

1971 Plymouth Barracuda hood pin
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Fish Story: The Plymouth Barracuda (Part One)

If you ask the average person to name an American sporty car of the late sixties, you probably won’t hear “Plymouth Barracuda” unless the person is a dedicated Mopar fan. In a way, that’s curious, because the Barracuda was the first of the so-called pony cars to hit the market (even before the Ford Mustang) and in some areas it was arguably superior to its Ford rival. So, why was the Barracuda doomed to be a perennial also-ran? This is the sad story of the 1964-1969 Plymouth Barracuda.

1968_Plymouth_Barracuda_badge
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The Forgotten Ferrari: The Dino 308GT4

This week’s subject may be the most obscure of all Ferrari road cars. In fact, a fair number of histories of the marque omit it entirely — which is odd, because it was one of the best-selling cars Ferrari S.p.A. ever built. On the other hand, for the first few years of its existence, it was not officially a Ferrari at all. We’re talking about the often-overlooked Dino 308 GT4.

1975 Dino 308 GT4 badge
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Sadomasochistic: The Pleasures and Pains of the Citroën SM

Our more cosmopolitan readers are no doubt aware that “S/M” can be shorthand for sadomasochism (the enjoyment of inflicting and receiving pain). That alternate meaning makes the designation of the Citroen SM all the more piquant, for although the goal of this ne plus ultra of Citroens was high-speed comfort, its design was every bit as adventuresome (and as kinky) as the name implies. And, as we’ll see, it also involved more than a little pain for everyone involved.

1972 Citroen SM badge
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Stuck in the Middle: The Mid-Engine Porsche 914

Sometimes there’s nothing worse than having an iconic, instantly recognizable product. How do you follow up an icon? Both Volkswagen and Porsche faced that problem in the 1960s. Volkswagen had the Beetle, Porsche the 911, but both companies knew that these highly successful products weren’t going to be enough to sustain them into the next decade. In 1967, they decided to collaborate on a new, affordable sports car that they hoped would expand their market. Unfortunately, they found out the hard way that the public had some very firm ideas about what a VW or a Porsche was supposed to be. This is the story of the 1970-1976 Porsche 914.

1975 Porsche 914
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The Unlikely Studebaker: The Birth (and Rebirth) of the Avanti

Once upon a time, a venerable and well-known automaker, realizing the end was nigh, tried desperately to show the public that while they might be down, they were not yet out. They called on the world’s most famous designer and asked him to design them a sports car: something so striking and unusual that buyers would come running back to dealerships just to see it and thus breathe life into a dying business. It failed, but the designer’s sports car rose from the ashes and went on to outlive its parent company by more than 40 years. This is the story of the Studebaker Avanti.

1963 Studebaker Avanti nose
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Getting the Lead Out: The 1970-1981 Chevrolet Camaro and the Rise and Fall of Leaded Gasoline

Pity the second-generation Chevrolet Camaro. Born late — a delivery fraught with complications — it was nearly snuffed out in adolescence. Although it survived to a ripe old age, the second-gen Camaro has never inspired the same nostalgia as its beloved 1967-1969 predecessor, perhaps because it arrived in the fray of one of the most contentious public debates of the 20th century: the battle over automotive emissions and the use of lead as a gasoline additive. This is the story of the 1970-1981 Chevrolet Camaro and the rise and fall of leaded gasoline.

1973 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 nose
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Romeo and Julietta: The 1954–1958 Alfa Romeo Giulietta

It might be easier to overcome the various stereotypes that pervade the auto industry if they weren’t so often true, something of which Italy’s Alfa Romeo has long served as a case in point. Alfa’s products are generally attractive and compelling to drive, but they often have a well-deserved reputation for being temperamental and undependable and the politics behind their creation have often been the stuff of comic opera. Such was the case of one of the firm’s loveliest creations, a car named for a Shakespearean tragic heroine: the 1954-1958 Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

1958 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider 1300 front view
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The Infamous 1980–1981 Pontiac Trans Am Turbo

This car’s engine has been much maligned and its muscular styling still conjures up bad memories of gold chains and exposed chest hair, a last gasp of disco-era glory. It was Pontiac’s first turbocharged production car, but it also brought down the curtain on a storied era of unique Pontiac engines. This is the story of the little-loved, often-forgotten Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Turbo.

1980 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Turbo hood
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Mean Machine: The 1970-1974 Dodge Challenger

Successful car design is as much a matter of prognostication as engineering skill or styling acumen. To be successful, a design has to take into account not only where the market is now, but where it’s going to be three years from now. If you show up late to the dance, it may not matter how stylishly you’re dressed or how clever your moves may be. Dodge learned that the hard way in the early 1970s when it made its belated entry into the “pony car” market: the formidable but ill-fated 1970–1974 Dodge Challenger.

1970 Dodge Challenger R/T hood pin
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The Crown Corvair V-8

What does nearly every car produced anywhere since the days of the Model T have in common? Other than wheels, it’s the inevitability that sometime, somewhere, somebody has stuffed a small-block Chevy V8 into it. We’ve yet to hear of a V8 Prius and there might be a Russian ZiL or two that remains innocent of the Mouse Motor, but everything else from ’32 Fords to RX-7s, has at one time or another had the ubiquitous Chevrolet engine stuffed under the hood — or wherever else it might fit.

The author recent met some of the members of the South Coast CORSA (Corvair Society of America) chapter and had a chance to see some of the cars owned by the members. Aside from Greg Vargas’s cherry black Monza (pictures of which appeared in our recent Corvair article), we also came face to face with a highly unusual example of the Corvair breed: Chuck Rust’s Crown V8 Corvair, a car that is no longer quite a Corvair, but a Corv-8.

Crown Equipped sticker on a 1965 Crown V8 Corvair
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