Many of our favoritecar movies don’t feature American muscle cars. Some are racing flicks, like Grand Prix and Le Mans that take place in Europe. Others, like the moonshine classic Thunder Road with Robert Mitchem, predate the original muscle car era, which unofficially began in 1964 with the introduction of the Pontiac GTO. Even American Graffiti, arguably the best car movie ever made, is without American muscle since it takes place in 1962.
American muscle cars, like GTOs, SS Chevelles, and Dodge Chargers R/Ts, began showing up on the big screen in a big way in the late 1960s and they’ve been popular with Hollywood ever since. Maybe more so today than ever. When we decided to make this list of the best muscle car movies it was tough to narrow down our picks to the top 11, so we prioritized films that feature more than one notable car, and gave extra points for the use of authentic machines over clones. Did your favorite make the list? Let us know what belongs in a follow up.
When NASCAR was formed in 1948, the first season was filled with races featuring older, modified coupes from the prewar era. But when “Big” Bill France envisioned a stock car series, he wanted the cars on his racetracks to be real, stock cars. The rules were fairly simple for the first “strictly stock” season of ’49, stating that both the car and engine had to be available to the public. Racers, as they do, pushed the boundaries of the rulebook, eventually leading to homologation rules that stated manufacturers must sell a certain number of a car or engine to make it legal for competition. The number fluctuated over the course of the rule’s lifetime, larger or smaller when convenient to encourage competition (and manufacturer dollars) and sometimes determined through a formula, but 500 units was a rough average.
The fastest street cars made the fastest race cars, and machines like the 1949 Oldsmobile with Rocket V-8 power and the low-slung, aerodynamic Hudson Hornets of the early 1950s dominated. But there was clearly a cat-and-mouse game between NASCAR and manufacturers, both in an effort to control speeds and level the playing field. During 1957, NASCAR outlawed the use of “exotic and multi-carburetor induction systems,” which effectively outlawed the famed “Black Widow” Chevy, and the E-code and F-code Ford engines, for example. By the 1960s, as the street performance game was really heating up, wins on the NASCAR circuit meant sales in the showrooms, so many manufacturers were really pushing the rules, and France wasn’t enforcing his homologation regulations as strictly as he once was. In 1962, Pontiac’s championship-winning Super Duty 421 Catalina, for instance, wasn’t exactly homologated. Nor was Chevy’s “Mystery Motor” or Chrysler’s 426 Hemi, which dominated the 1964 season. These engines weren’t available at any dealership
.After the Hemi blew everyone’s doors off, and following the deaths of three superstars, Bill France laid down the law once again. Starting in 1965, NASCAR implemented rules dictating that all engines conform to a maximum displacement and be of a production design only, and only a single, four-barrel carburetor was allowed. There were several more details and updates to the rules and it all meant the free-for-all was over. To get extra speed on the track automakers quickly began creating homologation specials – street cars with sleeker aerodynamic bodies and more powerful engines to increase their performance. Here, we’ve chosen our 10 favorites and listed them in chronological order.
With the possible exceptions of Henry Ford and Mario Andretti, Carroll Shelby is America’s most famous automotive personality. That was probably true before the movie Ford v Ferrari hit it big last year, and it’s certainly the case in its wake. He’s been called America’s Enzo Ferrari. It was meant as a compliment, but the Texan hated his Italian rival and probably took it as a dig.Shelby was an accomplished race car driver and builder of great cars. His machines, many of which wore his name, have won on racetracks all over the world and commanded respect on the main streets of America for nearly 60 years. Although he accomplished great things later in his career, Carroll’s heyday was the 1960s, when he was building his original Cobras and Shelby Mustangs, and kicking Enzo’s ass with the Daytona Coupes and the GT40s. In tribute, here are 15 important Shelby Facts from that era everyone should know.
An on-track success, the Shelby Mustang GT350 would seem like a natural for the original Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, but it only appeared once. Organized by Car and Driver’s Brock Yates multiple times between 1971 and 1979, the races ran from New York City to Redondo Beach, California in Los Angeles. In the final event Rick Kopec, one of the founders of the Shelby American Automobile Club, and Robert Key, a psychologist from Southern California, entered Key’s Shelby, finishing in 38th place with a time of 48 hours and 53 minutes, a run that included a lengthy encounter with some New Jersey State Troopers. With 176,000 miles on it, the Mustang was far from new, and competed with a 3.00 rear end gear and a 32-gallon fuel tank they installed. Seven years earlier Pete Brock, the designer of the Shelby Daytona Coupe, competed with two others in a new Mercedes 280SEL sedan, finishing third in 37 hours and 33 minutes.
Small-block Cobra production
Many associate the Cobra with a monster big-block, but more were made with the smaller (and arguably better-matched) V-8. Shelby built 580 Cobras powered by the 271 horsepower High Performance 289 cubic inch small-block, the same solid-lifter engine found in 1965-1966 K-code Mustangs. Of those, one was a bare chassis. The street cars numbered 453 and about 30 got automatic transmissions. There were also 61 competition cars built included six Daytona coupes and four Dragonsnakes.
We can’t get enough of car movies. They’re like pizza, even when they’re pretty bad, they’re pretty good. From the campy flicks of the 1950s, like Hot Rods to Hell, to Hollywood’s latest, like Ford v Ferrari, we watch them all and we watch them over and over and over. And like you, we have our favorites.
Recently, we chose our favorite street racing films. This time we’re going to dive into the worst automotive gaffs in movie history, the mistakes made by the filmmakers that only us car geeks pick up and complain about.
Directors and stunt coordinators should give us a little more respect. They don’t think we notice when they goof up, but we always do
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974)
One of the great road films of the early 1970s, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry stars Peter Fonda and a salaciously cool 1969 440-powered Dodge Charger on slot mags with a “black racing stripe”. It was also painted Citron Yella (code GY3), a High Impact Dodge color from 1971 because Director John Hough wanted to make sure it jumped off the screen. But look closely: R/T badges come and go, and in some of the driving shots, the Mopar is a 1968 without the divider in the center of its grille.
Vanishing Point (1971)
Another legendary Mopar road film from that era is Vanishing Point, with doped-up ex-cop Kowalski (Barry Newman) racing through the west in a white 440-powered four-speed Dodge Challenger. Spoiler alert, the car is destroyed at the end when it loses a fight with a couple of bulldozers. During filming, Dodge loaned the production four cars, but look closely, it isn’t the E-body that hit those iron buckets, it was the shell of a 1967 Camaro filled with pyrotechnics.
During the horsepower wars of the original muscle car era, it wasn’t just the car companies duking it out for supremacy on the street and strip: Many dealers also got into the ring, adding cubic inches and horsepower over and above what the factory was offering. They were building some of the quickest muscle cars to ever hit the street, and many became legends in the process.High-performance dealer specials weren’t a new phenomenon.
They were happening before the 1964 Pontiac GTO ignited a wave of performance cars that lasted nearly a decade, but more dealers took up the cause as the decade rolled on, with some operations lasting into the early 1970s and beyond. At their height of popularity, there were dealerships across America performing engine swaps, offering bigger big blocks and long lists of other modifications. In many cases, the only limits were a buyer’s budget and common sense. Narrowing this list down to the top-10 dealer specials wasn’t easy. Did your favorite make the cut?
This small Chevy dealership in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, was run by race car driver and astute business man, Don Yenko. After making some news with his Corvair Stingers, Yenko partnered with drag racer Dick Harrell and started swapping 427 big-blocks into the new Camaro in 1967, often beginning with small-block cars. He called it the Yenko Super Camaro 450 and sold 54 that first year. The following year, he ordered the cars with the 396 big-blocks, which made the conversions easier, and sold 64.
f you grew up glued to the tube in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, you know Hollywood was car crazy. While your television screen was full of Italian exotics and big, bad American muscle cars from the General Lee to KITT, there were plenty of prime time pickup trucks, as well.
Many of the most popular television shows of the era that were famous for their star cars—The Rockford Files, CHiPs, and The Dukes of Hazzard, to name a few—also featured star trucks. Some hit shows, like The Fall Guy, were all about the pickup.
Here are our picks for the nine best TV pickup trucks of all time. Let us know if we missed any
The 9 best TV pickup trucks of all time
1977 GMC K15 Fenderside, CHiPs. …
1976 GMC Sierra K15 Wideside, The Rockford Files. …