In 1968, American Motors entered the rapidly expanding U.S. pony car market with a worthy competitor to the Ford Mustang: the Javelin.
As we’ve often noted here at Mac’s Motor City Garage, in the mid-1960s American Motors was hard at work reinventing itself—from a maker of small, plain economy cars to a full-line automobile manufacturer with a complete range of vehicles. Products like the Marlin and the Rogue signaled that the company was catching up with American car buyers of the ’60s. But with the introduction of the AMC Javelin in September of 1967, the automotive press truly sat up and took notice. Car Life magazine, for one, called the new Mustang fighter an “all-American image buster.”
This American Motors ad (above) draws the obvious parallels between the Javelin and the Mustang. Obviously, the Javelin was aimed squarely at the hot-selling Ford product and its pony car competitors. In features and pricing the two cars were quite similar, but AMC, true to form, claimed the Javelin had the edge in practical details like trunk space and legroom. It’s interesting to note that the Mustang and the Javelin were created pretty much the same way. Just as the Mustang shared its basic platform and components with the compact Ford Falcon, the Javelin owed much to the Rambler American underneath.
The Javelin rode on a unit-construction chassis with a 109-inch wheelbase, three inches longer than the American, while sharing the American’s coil-tower front suspension and Hotchkiss drive at the rear with open driveshaft and parallel leaf springs. Exterior sheet metal was based on two AMC Project IV show cars of 1966, the two-seat AMX and four-seat AMX II, with the concept originating as a two-place coupe by AMC designer Charles Mashigan.
The Javelin was offered in but a single body style, a coupe with a sloping roofline that split the difference between a fastback and a traditional two-door notchback. There was no convertible. At midyear in ’68 AMC brought out its two-seat variant of the Javelin, the AMX. (See our feature on the AMX here.) That’s the reverse of the original product lineage, interestingly enough. In the AMC styling studios, the two-seater came first. Naturally, the four-seater offered far more potential sales volume.
Two key elements of the pony car theme, as pioneered in the Mustang, were upscale interior appointments and a wide variety of drivetrain choices. Following that template, the Javelin’s cockpit was fairly luxurious, for a Rambler anyway, with bucket seats, embossed vinyl, and full-pile carpeting. For $105, the optional SST package included upgraded cabin materials and twin beltline stripes on the exterior.
Powertrain options included a 232 CID inline six with your choice of three-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission, while the eight-cylinder options included a pair of 290 CID V8s engines (with two or four-barrel carburetors) and the 343 CID mill with 280 horsepower. The V8s could be matched to a Borg-Warner T10 four-speed manual gearbox or the Shift-Command three-speed automatic with console or column shifter. The big 390 CID V8 from the Ambassador with 315 hp became available at midyear. But meanwhile, check this out: When Car Life road-tested a 343-powered Javelin SST for its December 1967 issue, it reported a quarter-mile time of 15.4 seconds at 93 mph. That’s impressive performance for the smaller V8, aided no doubt by the four-speed gearbox and sporty 3.54:1 final drive ratio. This was no granny car.
Javelin production for the inaugural 1968 model year totaled a little more than 55,000 cars, barely a drop in the bucket compared to the Ford Mustang and its 317,000-plus sales that season. But for tiny American Motors and its total model-year production of not quite 273,000 cars in ’68, the Javelin was a solid hit, and the company began planning a second-generation pony car for 1971-74.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
We’re seeing many hot rods with great looking drilled and/or slotted rotors behind big billet as well as forged wheels. There’s no question that they look trick, but what is the straight story on how they work? Are they better than plain rotors, or worse? In the real world of street driven cars, will they help my stopping power? Rather than listen to a lot of opinions, let’s look at the science behind these questions by getting info from the experts at Wilwood brakes and ECI.
Mike Skelly of Wilwood offered us a little history on the origin of drilled rotors. As road racing tires allowed greater track speeds in the 1960s, race teams began seeing a great loss in brake capability. In that era of organic and asbestos based pad friction material, a problem occurred with the adhesives used to fasten the pad to the steel backing plates. As the temperature of the pads increased, the adhesive would break down and cause a layer of gas to form between the rotor and the pads. That vapor layer retained heat in the rotor and acted as an “air-bearing” high-pressure area between the pad and rotor. By drilling holes in the rotor surface, those gasses were able to be dissipated into the vented center of the rotor, no longer interfering with the pad to rotor friction. Racers also liked the idea that the rotating mass of the rotor was reduced, causing a small advantage of less inertia during acceleration and braking.
Slotting the rotor is felt to have its greatest effect removing worn off pad debris from the rotor surface. The relatively sharp edges of the slots are also considered as an aid in resolving the pad glazing that can occur at high temperatures. Fresh pad material is then exposed for better braking action at the cost of faster pad wear due to the constant renewing of the pad surface. The conclusion is that slotting may improve braking, with little chance of loss.
Since asbestos based brake pads were outlawed in the nineties, new materials and bonding adhesives have been developed. The now common ceramic based pads do not produce the outgassing problem in any conceivable street use, so there is no real function-based reason to use drilled rotors. Slotted rotors may still be useful in their ability to remove pad glazing but consequently produce faster pad wear. That spells more brake dust on your wheels, which can be corrosive to aluminum wheels, as are many of the chemical cleaners used to remove that dust. Since most hot rods are not driven hard enough to get hot enough to glaze the pads, slotted rotors may offer little in the way of better brake function.
Heat damaged brake rotor
It’s important to recall that a major function of the rotor is to transfer heat out of the brake system. The laws of Physics tell us that energy can be moved and converted to other forms of energy, but never destroyed. That means the kinetic energy (rotating mass) of the rolling wheel and tire are resisted by the brakes, which convert that motion energy into heat energy. That heat is then dissipated into the air by the cooling of the caliper body and rotor. Think of the rotor as the radiator for the brake system. That’s why brake fluids with higher temperature tolerances were developed, and why vented rotors are common today.
Following that heat transfer logic tells us that a rotor with more mass can absorb more heat energy than a lighter rotor of the same design. That is an advantage of larger diameter rotors, along with the greater leverage of increased size. The problem with regard to our question of drilled and slotted rotors is that those practices act to reduce the mass of the rotor, reducing the desired heat transfer. Some rodders have correctly stated that the rotor surface area is increased by drilling or slotting, but the issue in heat transfer is mass, not surface area. It does seem that a greater rotor surface area may allow a faster cool down after the heavy braking has stopped, but the issue is more about heat transfer during braking due to rotor total mass.
It is the experience based opinion of every single brake expert I have consulted, that the loss of rotor mass due to drilling and slotting creates more brake loss than any possible gains due to degassing or faster cooling of the surface area. There is no better authority on hot rod brakes than Ralph Lisena at ECI. Ralph agrees that practical street driven vehicles rarely encounter the high heat conditions that make drilled or slotted rotors beneficial from a strictly functional stand point.
For the street, you want a heavier, larger diameter rotor. As a case in point, the ’73-’87 Chevy pickups offered a light duty one-inch thick front rotor, and a heavy duty option that was one and a quarter-inch thick. Since both were ttwelve-inchdiameter cast iron vented rotors, using calipers of the same piston bore and using the same pads, the conclusion we draw is that GM engineers agreed that the larger rotor mass would produce the desired better brakes for heavier loads.
So we seem to be back to the idea that the major issue in brake system heat transfer is the rotor mass. Outgassing of heated brake pads is not an issue in any conceivable street application. Therefore, drilling the rotors may cause a very small loss of braking power, rather than an increase. But, we may be over thinking a small issue. The consensus among experts is that there will be little effect either way in the real world. So, if you like the way they look, go for it. You’ll have the racy look, and the car should stop just fine. In fact, I just got thirteen-inch Wilwood rotors for my own ’57 Chevy “Smokey Yunick” Tribute AutoCross car. I’ll run it hard in the Goodguys AutoCross series, so we’ll take Wilwood’s advice to run slotted, but not drilled rotors.
Article courtesy of Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, written by Brent Vandevort.
For 1958 the tagline at Plymouth was “The Star of the Forward Look,” and for once this was no idle ad agency boast.
The tagline for this 1958 Plymouth campaign (below) was “The Star of the Forward Look,” and in this case we’re inclined to agree. As well as any single Chrysler product could, the ’58 Plymouth exemplified Virgil Exner’s Forward Look design theme, which began with the 1955 models but really took off in 1957. In that year the entire Chrysler Corporation product line sported low, sleek rooflines and the most dramatic tail fins in the industry, throwing the General Motors styling team into a panic. (See our feature on the 1957 Plymouths here.) For ’58, Plymouth received a minor facelift with quad headlamps—which the front end had clearly been designed for in the first place—and now the look was complete.
In watching the clip below, you could be forgiven for assuming that the Fury Hardtop Coupe was the only Plymouth offered that year. But actually there was a broad product lineup with the Plaza as the base model, the Savoy holding down the midrange, and the Belvedere (and Fury) at the top of the heap. Available engines included the trusty flathead six with 132 hp, a pair of 318 CID poly-head V8s, and the Golden Commando 350 CID V8, while the Powerflite (two-speed) and Torqueflite (three-speed) automatic transmissions included standard push-button controls.
Actually, in ’58 Plymouth was the star of the show at Chrysler Corporation from more than one angle. With model year production of almost 444,000 units, Plymouth continued to hold down the number three slot in the Motor City sales charts, trailing only Ford and Chevrolet. And meanwhile, Plymouth sold more cars than the rest of the Chrysler divisions combined, demonstrating the size and scale of the “low-priced three,” as the category was known in the U.S. auto industry at the time. Video follows.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Here’s the selling story for the Ford Motor Company’s middle-luxury Mercury division for 1958.
This 1958 Mercury commercial takes us back to that familiar time when the American automobile was sold by the inch and by the pound. Bigger was better, and “longer, lower, and wider” was another way to say “new and improved.” Cars kept growing all through the 1950s, and by ’58 they had nearly reached their zenith in size and weight. In this spot, a wacky stunt featuring rodeo star Wag Blessing is used to demonstrate (purportedly) that the Mercury has “the solid, comfort ride of a big, heavy car.”
Indeed. Through a good part of the decade, the Mercury brand was marketed under the tagline “The Big M,” and the 1958 models were true to form. The senior Park Lane, introduced at midyear to compete with the Buick Roadmaster, rolled on a 125-inch wheelbase, sporting an overall length of 220.2 inches. (Wheelbase for the rest of the line was 122 inches.) Two new V8s built on Ford’s MEL architecture were offered in 383 and 430 cubic-inch displacements, and there was a Super Marauder version of the 430 boasting three two-barrel carbs and 400 horsepower—one of the most powerful engines of the ’50s. Along with much of the industry, Mercury had joined the push-button transmission craze—read about Merc-O-Matic Keyboard Control here.
Despite the ambitious product lineup, 1958 was not a banner year for Mercury, nor for the Motor City’s middle-luxury class in general. Sales tanked as the nation suffered through its first real post-World War II recession (at the time, labeled the “Eisenhower recession”). Production for the Mercury brand slipped more than 50 percent, prompting a complete rethink of the division’s product strategy and Turnpike Cruiser styling theme. But for the moment, let’s enjoy the rough-riding demonstration by Wag Blessing. Video below.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
In 1965, there was still one passenger car in the United States that offered a standard L-head engine: the Rambler American.
The basic L-head engine design—with its valves in the block, not in the head—enjoyed a long and productive life in the Motor City. From the age of the Model T (1909-27) all through the depression years, the L-head (also known as a side-valve abroad and as a flathead in American slang) was by far the industry’s favored layout. There were always other valvetrain configurations, of course, but the popular L-head was simple, rugged, and with its minimal component count, inexpensive to manufacture.
That changed after World War II, when the availability of high-octane gasoline drove the shift to high-compression, overhead-valve engines, led by the Cadillac and Oldsmobile V8s of 1949. (Read about the ’49 Rocket V8 here.) Soon the entire industry went overhead. From there, a few manufacturers pressed on with flathead engines for their low-priced models (Chrysler through 1959, for example) but by 1965, excluding commercial and industrial engines, there was only one civilian passenger car left in the U.S. auto industry with L-head power: the modest Rambler American.
The ’65 Rambler American’s flathead six, which displaced 195.6 cubic inches and was rated at 90 hp that year, was closely based on the Nash 600 engine introduced way back in 1941. While the artwork above is a bit cartoonish, it nicely illustrates the Nash 600’s key features. There was no intake manifold as such; rather, the intake ports were integrated into the cylinder block and head and the carburetor bolted on top. Meanwhile, the exhaust manifold was simply a stamped steel tube, more or less, that clamped to the side of the block. Though the exhaust tube was prone to corrosion and blowout it was easy enough to replace, and overall, the Nash six was a marvel of simplicity and ruggedness. When Nash was merged with Hudson to become American Motors on May 1, 1954, the little L-head six carried on. From its original displacement of 172.6 cubic inches, it was enlarged to 184 CID in 1953 and 195.6 CID in 1955.
Through all these years, Nash and AMC also offered overhead-valve sixes and V8s, but the L-head six served as the company’s low-price leader, allowing AMC to offer the compact Rambler American at an extremely low price—at times the automaker advertised the lowest-priced car in America. To shave costs even closer to the bone, the L-head ultimately sported a tiny industrial air filter instead of a proper silencer (below). But nothing is forever, and when American Motors introduced a new and advanced 232 CID straight six in 1964, the little flathead’s days were numbered. For 1965, the side-valve six was available only in the Rambler American 220 and 330 series, the company’s most basic and stripped-down models. And then it was gone.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
This good-looking but seldom seen 1969 show car, the Super Cobra, was the work of the ultra-talented GM and Ford designer Larry Shinoda.
Larry Shinoda wasn’t at the Ford Motor Company very long, barely more than a year, but he made quite a splash while he was there. In May of 1968 the gifted General Motors stylist followed his friend and boss Bunkie Knudsen to Ford, where Knudsen was appointed president, only to be fired in September of 1969 shortly after Knudsen was forced out. But while he was there, Shinoda designed the Boss 302 and Boss 429 Mustangs and the Torino Talladega, to name a few, and a whole fleet of concepts and show cars including this one: the Ford Super Cobra.
Construction of the Super Cobra has been credited here and there to the Italian coachbuilder Vignale of Turin, but we’re not certain about that. Based on a production Fairlane fastback, the coupe bore a strong familial resemblance to another Shinoda showpiece from ’69, the Ranchero Scrambler. (See our feature on the Scrambler here.) According to the press materials, the production Fairlane SportsRoof top was chopped two inches and the nose was stretched eight inches, giving the Super Cobra a dramatic, almost missile-like profile. A familiar Ford marketing tagline in those days was “The Going Thing,” and Shinoda clearly had a talent for producing vehicles that looked the part.
The Super Cobra was powered by Ford’s hot 428 cubic-inch Cobra Jet V8, sporting a taller version of the production Shaker through-the-hood air-scoop assembly. The two-tone cabin upholstery was described as “Candy Murano and Hot Red,” the better to complement the eyeball-searing Candy Apple Red exterior paint. The equally exuberant rear end treatment (below) featured a louvered backlite, a Shinoda trademark, and a wraparound spoiler with full-width tail lamp assembly. The machine made its debut at the Chicago Auto Show in February of 1969 and was also displayed at the Detroit Auto Show, but disappeared from public view not long after that. What became of the car? We don’t know this, but it’s reasonable to suspect that when Shinoda was terminated at the Ford Motor Company, the Super Cobra was dismissed as well.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Art and photos courtesy of the Ford Motor Company Archives.
The fertile imaginations of automotive designers have produced awe-inspiring renderings of idea cars with thought-provoking innovations. The freedom to explore new horizons, without having to be overly concerned about current production viability which could stymie creativity, has fostered positive results like those shown here.
Ford designer Charlie McHose, who's also known for conceiving the body enhancements for the legendary 1967 Shelby G.T. 500, made these Mustang concept drawings of what would become the Mach 1 experimental car, as FoMoCo referred to it at the time. Because the renderings likely pushed the limits of what was feasible, even for a concept car, the actual Mach 1 built for show duty in late 1966 didn’t incorporate a number of the ideas depicted.
Nevertheless, it was still quite the attention grabber with some GT40 traits incorporated, a dramatically lowered roofline, two-seat layout, and flip-out toll windows. Mirrors were added to the fixed side windows and large quick-release gas caps were installed. The front and rear treatments were revised, but they differed somewhat from the renderings. Additionally, the Shelby-like lamps in the grille, the power dome hood, and the lower scoop shown in the lead drawing in this article weren’t used on the Mach 1. More intriguing elements presented in the renderings are discussed in the captions below.
The professional legacy of Charlie McHose endures in the remarkable designs he created at Ford. Fortunately, we can still appreciate these works of art and what their creator had envisioned in them. Just imagine blasting out of your local Ford dealer’s lot in a Mustang with the styling and equipment depicted here.
A one-piece front clip that raised via remote control using electric motors would have been a crowd pleaser on the show circuit, but the finished Mach 1 concept didn’t have it. So too, would the Weber-carbureted 427, yet the multiple press releases we’ve seen regarding the show car don’t mention the engine.
The backlite with "laminated opaque strips" to keep the sun and heat out but retain proper vision and the rear spoiler that could serve as an airbrake were pretty ambitious, yet fun to consider. Though neither made it to the show car, a ducktail rear spoiler was added as part of the 1968 revisions.
The restyled for 1968 version of the Mach 1 did receive a hatchback that could be “opened hydraulically from inside the car,” according to Ford.
First shown with the frontend design above, the Mach 1's extensive restyling for 1968 is obvious in the color photo below.
The front and rear revisions are evident in the profile as well.
The new hatchback and ducktail spoiler, as well as the revised exhaust outlets for 1968 are shown below.
Article courtesy of Hemmings, written by Thomas A. DeMauro.
Between 1956 and 1964, the carmakers of the Motor City had a brief but serious fling with push-button driving.
Today we look back on the 1950s as a quiet time, but there was plenty enough going on. After all, the ’50s managed to include the Jet Age, the Atomic Age, the Television Age, the Push-Button Age. Change was upon us. And with pushbuttons, now every convenience of mid-20th century life was right at our fingertips. Or at least that was the theory, as suddenly all our gadgets from televisions to kitchen appliances were sporting push-button controls. And sure enough, the push-button fad quickly jumped over to the auto industry in 1956, when the Chrysler Corporation adopted push-button gear selectors for all its passenger cars.
But just to illustrate that seldom is anything new in the car business, this wasn’t the first push-button gear selector. Way back in 1914, the Vulcan Electric Shift was adopted by Haynes, Pullman, and a few other carmakers. The Vulcan system, which used column-mounted pushbuttons and a series of solenoids to actuate a conventional manual transmission, proved to be a flop and was immediately withdrawn from the market. Which brings us to 1956.
While Chrysler wasn’t the only carmaker to offer it, as we shall see, it was by far the major promoter of the push-button gear selector, offering the feature on all its automatic-transmission cars from 1956 through 1964. A ’56 DeSoto is shown above, but all the Chrysler brands used similar controls on the left side of the dash—Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler, Imperial. There were various names; Dodge called its version Magic Touch.
While a number of button arrangements (horizontal, vertical, diagonal) were used through the years, the controls were all mechanical, with a steel push/pull cable between the shifter assembly in the dash and the Powerflite (two-speed) or Torqueflite (three-speed) transmission. Note that originally, there was no P for Park. Chrysler later added an internal parking pawl mechanism to the transmission and a dash lever to operate it.
While the selector worked perfectly fine, it was dropped by Chrysler for 1965 in favor of a conventional column (or floor) lever. There are many theories as to why, but strictly from a product perspective, we can see that over time, the feature progressed from innovative to novel to merely odd. It didn’t seem to attract many buyers at the end, but it may well have discouraged some. In Chrysler advertising, the feature had all but disappeared a few years earlier.
Packard also stepped up with a push-button gearchange in 1956, which it called the Electronic Selector. Standard on the flagship Caribbean and optional ($52) on the rest of the Packard line, it mounted to the steering column on a stalk, above. Unlike the Chrysler system and just as the name indicates, the Packard system, supplied by Autolite, was electrically operated rather than mechanical, with a beefy 12-volt motor to rotate the transmission’s hydraulic shift valve. And going Chrysler one better, Packard included a Park button. When the Detroit-built Packards were discontinued at the end of the ’56 model year and production moved to South Bend, Indiana, that was the end of the Electronic Selector as well.
Introduced on E-Day, September 4, 1957, the 1958 Edsel featured a push-button gearchange that was branded as Teletouch Drive. Like Packard’s, the Edsel system employed an electric motor to shift the automatic transmission’s gears, but with the added innovation (headache, some would say) of steering wheel-mounted buttons. Alas, Teletouch had a few bugs in it, an especially painful problem in the launch of a bold new product like the Edsel. The feature was dropped for 1959.
Even little American Motors got in on the act with a push-button dash control for the top-of-the-line Rambler Ambassador. Called Telovac and developed by Borg-Warner, which also supplied AMC with its Flash-O-Matic automatic transmissions, the feature was offered from 1958 to 1962. Like Chrysler, the Rambler used a separate control for Park.
Ford’s Mercury division joined the push-button crowd with a straightforward system called Keyboard Control, then upped the ante for 1958 with the elaborate setup above. Multi-Drive Keyboard Control, as it was called, included two drive ranges, “performance” and “cruising,” along with a hill-control feature for the Merc-O-Matic transmission. Multi-Drive was continued in 1959, but the push-button dash console was replaced with a traditional column-mounted lever.
It’s interesting to note that while the Mercury and Edsel divisions of the Ford Motor Company gave pushbuttons a try, the Ford and Lincoln divisions never did. Until recently, that is: The 2018 Lincoln Navigator shown below sports a dash-mounted push-button array. Now that automatic transmissions are fly-by-wire with no mechanical linkage, pushbuttons make more sense than they ever did. (The user interface can be anything: buttons, a dial, an icon on a touchscreen.) In this form, we’ll probably be seeing pushbuttons for many years to come.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
The Chevrolet Impala was all new for 1965—inside and out. With some show-biz trickery, here General Motors managed to show off both at the same time.
This 1965 Chevy spot (below) uses cinematic razzle-dazzle to promote the major news at the bow-tie division that year: a totally redesigned chassis. In the previous product cycle (’58-’64) the full-size Chevy cars employed an X-frame aka backbone chassis, a short-lived engineering trend at General Motors that was adopted by the other GM car brands as well. The Safety Girder frame, as Chevy called it, was prone to corrosion and drew fire from safety critics, who declared it lacked side-impact protection. For ’65, Chevrolet stuck with body-on-frame construction and coil springs at all four corners, but adopted a more conventional perimeter frame to support the assembly.
In those days, Chevrolet was a bit jet-happy in its product messaging—Turbo-Jet engines, Ramjet fuel injection, and so on—and here the theme continues with “jet smooth ride.” (It was the jet age, after all.) Exterior sheet metal was entirely new as well, the work of the Chevrolet Styling Studio group led by Irv Rybicki, who would later replace Bill Mitchell as VP of GM design. The narrator is Joel Aldred, the familiar voice of Chevrolet on radio and television. In the ad biz, he was called “the man with the $100,000 voice” and was known for delivering his lines without cue cards in a single take. Video below.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.