Category: 1974

This 1974 Hurst/Olds Rounded Out One Man’s Collection of Every Year of H/O – David Conwill @Hemmings

This 1974 Hurst/Olds Rounded Out One Man’s Collection of Every Year of H/O – David Conwill @Hemmings


If there is a single race known to most American drivers, it’s the Indianapolis 500. When it started in 1911, it was a laboratory where automobile manufacturers developed their products. After World War II, though the race cars had long since diverged from road cars, the Memorial Day pageantry of Indy was still America’s national showcase of automotive prowess.

That nationwide familiarity with the 500 long meant that an invitation to provide a pace car for the race was the best free advertising available to any manufacturer that wanted to promote a performance image. From 1949 to 1970, the list is loaded with Detroit’s sportiest machines: Oldsmobile 88 (with the brand-new Rocket V-8), Mercury Eight, Chrysler New Yorker (with the first-year FirePower hemi V-8), Ford Crestline, Studebaker Commander (with its nearly new OHV V-8), Dodge Royal 500 (with the new Red Ram hemi V-8), Chevrolet Bel Air (in the first year of the legendary small-block V-8), De Soto Adventurer, Pontiac Bonneville, Chrysler 300, Ford Mustang, Plymouth Sport Fury, and so on.

It was still true in 1974, when Olds introduced the latest iteration of the Hurst/Olds with the proclamation “Guess who’s leading the pack at Indy again?” The 1974 race would be the fifth time an Oldsmobile had paced the event since World War II, a streak started by the 1949 88. That new “Rocket 88” was arguably the instigator of the first postwar horsepower wars, thanks to its new OHV V-8 and relatively lightweight A-body platform. By ’74, the 88 had long since moved to the B-body platform and the A-body, now an intermediate, underpinned the Cutlass series.

At that point, nearly halfway through “The Me Decade,” street performance had been steadily diminishing since the highs hit only a couple years earlier. Even in the intermediate segment, once the stronghold of pure muscle, personal luxury had taken hold as a replacement. Nevertheless, Oldsmobile had successfully blended performance with style in the 1950s and ’60s and wanted to do it again in the ’70s — even if insurance companies, government regulators, and OPEC had put the kibosh on the high-compression, high-rpm V-8 engines of the late ’60s

Though not a fire breather, the L75 455 was still torquey and made the H/O stand out from typical cars in 1974. Early ads suggested the 455 would come standard but ultimately a 180-hp 350 became the base engine

The H/O started out in the 1968 model year, when George Hurst and Jack “Doc” Watson shoehorned an Oldsmobile Toronado 455, tuned up to 390 horsepower, into a regular 4-4-2 (replacing its engine) and treated it to special paint and graphics. The result, built for Oldsmobile in quantity by Lansing, Michigan-based Demmer Engineering, allowed General Motors to maintain the fiction that it did not permit engines in excess of in its intermediate line, while simultaneously permitting Olds dealers to sell what the public really wanted.

Thanks to its origin via back-door shenanigans and immensely respectable performance, the 1968-’69 H/O is remembered as one of the top-tier muscle cars of its era, ranked by enthusiasts alongside Chevrolet COPOs, Pontiac Royal Bobcats, Holman-Moody Fords, and the unrestrained triple-carbureted and Hemi-powered machinery from Plymouth and Dodge. The advantage the Oldsmobile had over most of that specialist performance, however, was that you could get one virtually anywhere.

Oldsmobile had revived the Hurst/Olds concept for 1972, when it was invited to provide the pace car for that year’s Indy 500 (see HMM #181, September 2018) and discovered that the then-current iteration of the 4-4-2 (really just a handling-and-appearance package on the Cutlass S) wasn’t quite exciting enough for the job. That’s somewhat ironic, as the Hurst/Olds had originally been discontinued after 1969 because the massive Oldsmobile V-8 had become available as a regular production option, meaning the ’70 4-4-2 had been perfectly suited to its own pace-car duties.

The Cutlass was a hit in the ’70s and into the ’80s, surpassing the Delta 88 as the best-selling Olds for the 1975 model year and then becoming America’s best-selling car, period, for 1976 and again for 1978 to 1981. The Hurst/Olds wasn’t around that whole time, but in its periodic revivals, it served as the Cutlass line’s halo car. If Oldsmobile and the Cutlass were still around, we might even have one today on that Alpha platform shared with the Chevy Camaro and Cadillac CTS.

Read on

Project Apollo X: Perdition by the dashboard light – Joe Essid @Hemmings


The end of 2020 meant that my 1974 “rolling restoration” Buick Apollo wore a few coats of primer and ran well enough for longer road trips. It still needed some attention paid to small items after five years of heavy lifting.

A few things inside the car have been bothering me a great deal. As always, my mistakes and small triumphs are here to encourage readers to pick up the tools and DIY it. An average Joe, even one who is a faculty member in an English Department, can get an average old car back on the road. Why wait for that perfect (mentioning my favorites) E-type or GTO? Start with something you can afford, even something with four doors, and learn by doing.

After my last column on the car, we did indeed go apple-picking before the arrival of what passes for winter in Virginia these edgy days. I was working on other projects during the cool months, so the Apollo went only on a few jaunts.

Then, around New Years, I removed the dash to put in a vintage radio and address a few other issues. I’d yanked a hideous aftermarket RADwood-era FM radio with a cassette player, a box with flashing turquoise lights and busy displays, taking it to the electronics recycler. Begone! Then I began to hunt down a Delco from the mid-1970s that would fit. Or mostly fit.

I imagined that as soon as I switched my radio on, I’d hear songs coming from David Bowie’s swan-song to Glam, Diamond Dogs. You remember? Halloween Jack who lived in Hunger City, atop the ruins of “Manhattan Chase”? There was nothing cooler for a 14-year-old in the second half of the Cold War. Our parents had built fallout shelters just before we were born; we early Generation Xers joked about rushing with tanning blankets to Ground Zero. Bowie was whistling with us in the Atomic Dark.

With my luck, however, I figured the first sound I’d hear would be “Muskrat Love” by the Captain and Tennille.

Read on

It really didn’t take much to turn this Super Duty-powered 1974 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am into a capable restomod – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


Few cars fit the definition of restomod better than this 1974 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am for sale on (mostly) stock exterior and interior appearance, selected upgrades, better performance than the original. But scratch beneath the surface, and you’ll see that – aside from the modern automatic transmission, the flappy paddles, and the 17-inch wheels – all those upgrades are mostly tweaks to the car’s original specifications. There’s no electronic fuel injection, the brake components are all factory-available equipment, and nobody redesigned the suspension to incorporate cantilevers or coilovers or anything trick and expensive. Does that mean the mid-Seventies F-body was already a perfectly capable platform, in need of little to keep up with modern traffic? From the seller’s description:

This 1974 Trans Am started life as a Super Duty with the very rare Cordova top option. When I discovered the car efforts were made to find the original drive train and I determined it was destroyed by the original owner. At that point I decided to do a modern interpretation of a SD with it remaining as understated as possible. This car is custom in most ways except for the way it looks. Below is a partial list of modifications.

17 inch Year One Rally II wheels. Pro-Touring F-body springs all around. Pro-Touring F-body adjustable tie rods. Moog rubber bushings on flex points. Global West offset A-arm shafts. Global West Del-A-lum A-arm bushings. Competition Engineering subframe connectors. 10 bolt rear with 3.42 gears. 1LE front brakes/spindles with Porterfield street pads. WS6 rear disc brakes. Dual diaphragm WS6 master cylinder, metering block and booster. Tribal Tubes tri-y headers. 2.5 inch Pypes SGF70 exhaust system. Mallory 140 electric fuel pump. Custom fuel pickup. Ford impact kill switch for fuel pump. Blocker BHVIS drop base air cleaner. 1974 SD coded Quadrajet rebuilt by Cliff Ruggles. Performer RPM intake, water crossover separated. Edelbrock aluminum heads, port matched, flow sheet available. Harland Sharp 1.65 roller rockers, custome Butler pushrods. 1974 date coded 400 block with stroker kit. SRP pistons, 4.155 bore. Floating pins. File fit rings. Eagle 6.8 inch rods. Tomahawk cast crank. 3 inch mains. ARP 2 bolt main studs. Butler Pro-Series oil pump. Comp Cams 230/236 hydraulic roller cam. Comp Cams hydraulic lifters. Canton Road Race pan and windage tray. Northern aluminum radiator. Sanden AC compressor (R12). Custom AC brackets. 4L80e transmission. TCI transmission control unit. 3000 stall converter. Twist Machine paddle shifters. Custom Speed Hut GPS speedometer and tach gauges. Custom brushed aluminum trim rings on custom dash insert. Stock shifter with Shiftworks kit. Custome kick panels with speakers. Custom cd/usb head unit

Read on

How an EPA cheating fine kept Ford from selling its 1974-built Capri IIs until the 1976 model year – Mark J McCourt @Hemmings

First-generation Capri, built in Germany for the American market and sold here in Lincoln-Mercury dealerships, had proven massively popular, and was still selling well in the spring of 1974, when its restyled, hatchback-equipped Capri II came online

It was during a recent conversation about Capri II values for a Hemmings Stock Exchange feature that Ford Capri racer, Capri Club North America founder, and proprietor of Capri parts specialist firm Team Blitz, Norm Murdock, told me the fascinating story as to why we sometimes see Capri IIs in the U.S. with build dates of 1974 and 1975, for a model whose first official year on our market was 1976.

As Norm explained, Ford of Germany actually built both generations of Capris at the same time in 1974, in the same plant. For virtually all markets outside of North America, 1973 had been the final model year of the first-generation car, with the exception of the racing homologation-special RS3100 that was sold in late 1973-early 1974; that was the only Mark I Capri available for purchase during the 1974 model year in the U.K./Europe. The vast majority of the 1974 Capris built were Capri IIs, and aside from that RS, all first-gen 1974 cars built that year were exclusively for our market.

During those years in North America, tightening Environmental Protection Agency and Department Of Transportation certification processes created emissions mandates that nearly all automakers were forced to meet by adapting exhaust gas recirculation and catalytic converter systems.”Ford, in 1973, had just been fined what was at the time, the most severe penalty by the EPA for shortcutting its emissions certifications, and had suffered a big civil settlement,

” Norm explains. “When the Capri II debuted in Europe, it was not ready for prime time in North America.”Our ‘official’ first model year for the Capri II in North America was 1976. But in my collection of Capris, I have a November of 1974-built car. They were building them for North America in 1974, but they were embargoed voluntarily by Ford, stored in gigantic holding lots until they were allowed to sell them: I assume they were kept in Detroit, and out in lots by the East Coast/West Coast shipyards.” [Note, the lead image does not show one of these lots, but is a European representative image of a Ford holding lot.]

Read on

6 ways the 1974 GTO broke new ground (for better or for worse) – Thomas A. DeMauro @Hemmings


The 1964 GTO enjoys legendary status, having been credited with kick-starting the muscle car era, and it remains a revered collectible. Conversely, the 1974 example has been viewed as the Goat that ended that same era, resulting in fewer fans and lower resale values. The Ventura’s compact economy car status, its close kinship to Chevrolet’s Nova, its smaller engine than found in previous GTOs, and the climate in which it was introduced are a few reasons that are typically cited.

To be fair, any car produced for 1974 faced difficult circumstances. Insurance companies had been cracking down on muscle cars for years, hiking rates and putting them financially out of reach of many potential buyers. Additionally, in a continuing effort to reduce pollution, federal emissions standards were becoming more stringent. Compression ratios started dropping in 1971 to burn cleaner low-lead and unleaded fuel but that also reduced power. Federal safety regulations were increasing occupant protection in a crash, but also added weight in many instances, further degrading performance and economy. The advancing bumper requirements also influenced styling.

Read on 

Related – The Humbler: 1970 GTO’s vacuum-operated exhaust was ahead of its time