On and off the trail with the Mixed Nuts four-wheelers
Recently we ran the story of Vern Pfannenstiel’s 1972 Ford Bronco factory-built with all sorts of 1973 Ford goodies. We also included a handful of his vintage off-road shots from Colorado and Utah, along with his memories of these four-decade-plus-past off-roading adventures. By popular demand—well, the Bronco piece was one of the most-read Hemmings online pieces that week, anyway—we asked Vern for some more shots, and to conjure up some memories of his time on the trails. Having seen the Bronco up close, it seems hard to believe that this is an original-paint truck, particularly after looking at Vern’s off-roading scrapbook. The Bronco is retired from off-road duties—it’s now a show pony in the greater Flagstaff, Arizona, area—but Vern was keen to relive the memories that helped make this Bronco his forever machine
“That’s Ed Keller’s Bronco; he’s the guy who knew about the ’72 Rangers, he’s the one who convinced me to get a Bronco, and he was the leader of the Mixed Nuts Four Wheelers crew in the ‘70s. It looks pink in this picture, but it’s really silver. He did the flares on my Bronco; he was an excellent mechanic, a great four-wheeler, and he helped me so much getting set up and teaching me how to be a good off-roader. You can see in this shot that the Bronco has a rollcage; it doesn’t anymore. I ddn’t want to use it but thought I’d better have it. Here it’s wearing 15×8 steelies and 31-10.50 tires. They looked good on there. Later I traded for 15×8 white-spoke wheels. The slot mags it wears now came along about five years ago.”
The glorious blaze of the muscle car started to fade pretty quickly in the early Seventies. One of the remaining flames in the gathering darkness was the Pontiac Firebird. The senior F-body raged against the dying of the light for as long as it could, using Pontiac’s formidable 455-cu.in. V-8. When it debuted in 1970, the 455 was perhaps the ultimate refinement of Pontiac’s original 287-cu.in. Strato-Streak design of the mid-’50s.
The 455 hung on through 1976, although it was steadily detuned from its debut at 370 (gross, but probably understated) horsepower at 4,600 rpm and 10.25:1 compression. Of course, 1970 is generally recognized as the pinnacle of power output in the muscle era, but while most automakers simply began to detune their performance engines with lower compression and milder camshaft profiles, Pontiac wasn’t willing to throw in the towel just yet.
The result was 1971’s 455 H.O. engine, a package engineered to maintain respectable horsepower output paired with substantial torque, while also utilizing a low compression ratio—8.4:1 to be precise. The ’71 455 H.O. featured Pontiac’s “round-port” cylinder heads, a term that refers to the shape of the exhaust ports. This design had previously been featured on some of Pontiac’s highest-performing engines, including the Ram Air II and Ram Air IV 400s. The performance-tuned 455 for 1970 was also referred to as an “H.O.” but it had used Pontiac’s standard D-port heads. The new-for-’71 round-port 455 H.O. also featured Pontiac’s high-flow exhaust manifolds and an aluminum intake
Firebird buyers could have also selected a lower-output 455 D-port engine during the 1971 season, but when the ’72 models came out, the only 455 offered in the Firebird was the H.O., which carried a new net rating of 300 horsepower at 4,000 rpm. Torque was down only slightly, however, from the 500 lb-ft at 3,100 rpm of the high-compression era to a still-respectable 415-lb-ft at 3,200 rpm.
The flip side of lowered compression ratios (and other de-smogging and fuel-efficiency efforts) was that in order to sell performance cars with increasingly less sheer power, the manufacturers that wanted to stay in the game had to focus on two things: style and handling. A certain subset of period cars took the stylistic excesses to a questionable extreme, but once again Pontiac excelled, pushing out its Firebird pony car in various degrees of economy, luxury, and performance—all very easy on the eyes.
The second prong of the period performance strategy was competent manners in more than just a straight line. The 1964 GTO has been justly criticized for its handling and undersized drum brakes. By 1972, thanks to several years of research in the SCCA’s competition laboratories (i.e., Trans-Am racing), the Wide Track gene had reasserted itself in time to save the excitement in the Firebird line
At the top of the performance heap was the appropriately named Trans Am, with its shaker hood scoop, spoilers, and race-car vibe. For those with a more buttoned-down taste, the Trans Am’s capabilities could be had in Formula trim.
The Formula sat just below the Trans Am in the Firebird hierarchy. At the bottom was the basic Firebird, a no-frills car that came standard with a 250-cu.in. six-cylinder and a column-shifted three-speed manual transmission. The step up from that was the Esprit, which offered essentially the same car with some upgrades, like extra sound deadening, deluxe interior appointments, and V-8 power: a two-barrel, single-exhaust, 350-cu.in. V-8 with 8.0:1 compression. To that, the Formula added a 1-1/8-inch front anti-sway bar, firmer shock absorbers, fatter tires (still on 14-inch wheels) and some distinctive visual features.
A Formula didn’t come standard with all the Trans Am goodies, for sure, but most were on the option list. The X-code 455 itself, for example, was the standard engine in the $4,300-ish T/A, but despite the Formula’s exotic, fiberglass, dual-snorkel hood, a dual-exhaust, 175-hp version of the Esprit’s standard engine was the Formula’s base mill. A four-barrel, 400-cu.in., 300-hp engine was a Formula-specific option as well, for those who perhaps didn’t have the financial wherewithal to purchase and insure a 455
Was it a cause of Tom Wolfe’s “‘Me’ Decade” or a byproduct? By the early 1970s, the 1969 Volkswagen ad that had cheekily suggested Americans should live below their means felt out of touch. Really, we were worthy of indulgence, and near-luxury automakers like Chrysler were happy to oblige. More of everything would prove the trend of the decade, and from the early days, the New Yorker Brougham offered consumers a unique interpretation of middle-class luxury.
The Imperial line had all but been absorbed into Chrysler by 1972, those well-appointed flagship two- and four-door hardtops built alongside lesser models instead of on a dedicated assembly line and marketed in the same brochure. Their unit-bodies were long-wheelbase variants of the parent company’s standard versions and bore minimal styling differentiation. At the same time, Chrysler’s eponymous models were creeping upmarket; the New Yorker Brougham offered nearly as many lavish trimmings as a Cadillac- or Lincoln-fighting Imperial LeBaron, in a slightly smaller (but, at 224.1 inches long over a 124-inch wheelbase, a still-generous) package.
This New Yorker Brougham remained in the possession of its original owner until 1994, by which time she’d driven it fewer than 22,000 miles. It now displays just under 23,500 miles and retains all its factory-original finishes and features. “A couple of scratches have been touched up, but I’ve never found evidence that any panel has been changed. I just think it was a nice lady’s go-to-church car, and from what we can tell, it accumulated pretty minimal mileage,” Jeff Stork explains. “This Chrysler remained in North Carolina, we believe in collector hands, until we brought it to California in 2018.”
As curator of the 80-car-strong Prescott Collection, Jeff is the primary caretaker of the time capsule Mopar and others of its ilk. This collection specializes in postwar American automobiles, with a particular emphasis on these four-door hardtops that are typically overlooked by other collectors. He tells us they sought this car both for its pristine condition and for its individualist interpretation of American luxury motoring in that era. “We wanted a 1972 because it was the first year of the New Yorker Brougham, and the last year of the original styling statement, with the loop front bumper that was gone in 1973.”
“This car represents a very interesting moment in American automotive history. It was the Broughamization of America… the automakers were ‘going for baroque,’” Jeff says with a laugh. “Suddenly everyone had these luxury offerings with upgraded cloth interiors and vinyl tops. You could get this in midsize cars like the Cutlass Supreme, and even in what had previously been the low-priced three with the Ford LTD and Chevy Caprice. The automakers were reaching up to see how many profitable features they could offer. This car reminds me of Marcus Welby, M.D.; I used to watch that show when I was a kid, and Welby drove a blue one. He was a caring doctor, and this Chrysler exudes upper-middle-class respectability.”
Sometimes all it takes is one photo to tell a vehicle’s story. The seller of this 1972 Chevrolet C10, for sale on Hemmings.com, included plenty of pictures showing its reportedly original green plaid interior, that period camper shell from the outside, even the factory options list. The one photo that encapsulates the pickup, however, shows the interior of the camper shell, still outfitted for the original owner’s last fishing trip. Not everything’s vintage in there–the fisherman obviously upgraded his equipment over time and added little personal touches here and there, but seemed to keep what worked for him, too–which tells us the fisherman wasn’t too precious about keeping it period correct, but he did maintain it well so he could keep using it for his getaways until relatively recently.
American Graffiti, the surprise summer blockbuster that ignited the career of filmmaker George Lucas (director and co-screenwriter), is one of the most car-saturated movies that is not explicitly about cars. Set in Modesto, California, at the tail end of summer 1962, it follows the exploits of a quartet of recent high-school grads: college-bound Curt Henderson (Richard Dreyfuss), class president Steve Bolander (Ron Howard), the nerdy Terry the Toad (Charles Martin Smith), and drag-racer John Milner (Paul Le Mat). The action takes place on a single night against a backdrop of endless cruising. Lucas made the movie in 1972, and it was highly autobiographical. In an interview in The New York Times, Lucas said of the film:
It all happened to me, but I sort of glamorized it. I spent four years of my life cruising the main street of my hometown, Modesto, California. I went through all that stuff, drove the cars, bought liquor, chased girls… a very American experience. I started out as Terry the Toad, but then I went on to be John Milner, the local drag race champion, and then I became Curt Henderson, the intellectual who goes to college. They were all composite characters, based on my life, and on the lives of friends of mine. Some were killed in Vietnam, and quite a number were killed in auto accidents
A 1972 DeTomaso Pantera is already a fast car. The red beauty in the photos here is a one-owner car in excellent shape. It is said to be one of the first U.S. market cars to be converted to GT5 styling in the 1980s. A few years after that, it went to Pantera Specialists in California for a lot more power.
The 1972 DeTomaso Pantera was fitted there with a pair of Rajay turbos and a B&M supercharger. The factory 351 cubic-inch Cleveland V8 was upgraded at the time to handle all the boost. The brakes were upgraded along with the suspension. The ZF 5-speed transmission was also upgraded to handle the power.
The Jeep Commando was directly based on the outgoing Jeepster Commando, however it featured a series of modifications designed to allow it to accommodate the AMC 232 and 258 six-cylinder engines and the 304 V8 engine.
THE JEEP COMMANDO – C104
American Motors Corporation (AMC) bought Kaiser in 1970, they immediately set about ensuring the Jeepster would be competitive in the rapidly growing early 4×4 SUV market genre. The likes of the Ford Bronco, the International Scout, the Chevrolet Blazer, Range Rover, and the Toyota Land Cruiser were proving stiff competition for the Commando which many considered a little dated.
We’ve been anxiously waiting to get the in garage with the Chevelle and it’s finally time! The first upgrade we are going to do is install gauges because the Chevelle currently only has a speedometer and a gas gauge. We will eventually run the engine on the dyno and we will be driving it harder than it has previously been driven, so we want to be able to track what is going on.
Allow us to introduce Project Chevelle! Brand new to the Speedway Motors’ family, this is our nearly all original 1972 Chevelle Malibu. We were lucky enough to find this stunning Chevelle from its original owner, Darrell Christensen, of Norfolk, Nebraska. It retains the original 307ci small block, factory drivetrain and suspension, and the original interior.
A 93-year-old Iowa man just got his wedding ring back after losing it inside the engine of his 1972 Oldsmobile 98 over 40 years ago, local Iowa news station KCRG and ABC News report. It’s a sad story, but it has somewhat of a happy ending.