In 1966, the Impala was the biggest seller for Chevrolet, even though the Caprice was dropped from the Impala line up and became a model by itself. The Impala was still a deluxe model, with color-accented body molding, front and rear wheel opening moldings, bright rocker trim, front fender “Impala” emblems, backup lights in the rear bumper, and a hood ornament with extending chrome accent.
The Super Sport Impala for 1966 was the recipient of a revised grille and all Impala’s received new rectangular taillights that replaced the three round units. Inside were new Strato bucket seats with seat backs that were both thinner and higher than the previous years, and there was a center console available with an optional gauge package. In a not-so-surprising event, sales of the 1966 Impala Super Sport dropped by more than 50-percent. This is attributed to the performance car market deviating from a past relationship of full-sized cars and becoming part of intermediate-sized models (think Chevelle). Another interesting note is that from 1964 through 1967, the Super Sport was a separate model, and carried its own VIN prefix (168 versus 164 for the standard Impala).
If you lived in a country where the driver sits on the “wrong” side of the car, your Impala was manufactured in Canada. These cars used a modified version of the 1965 Impala dash. Center-mounted radios and heaters were locally sourced, and the wipers parked in the center of the windshield unlike American-sold cars.
The 1966 Impala also introduced several variations on two new engines, the Turbo-Jet 396 cubic-inch and Turbo-Jet 427 cubic-inch big-blocks with a maximum output 325 and 425 horsepower respectively.
Se we’ve looked back and now we’re thinking, “what would happen if it were 1966 again?” We know what we would do, but if you could, how would you order your new Impala?
Article courtesy of Chevy Hardcore, written by Randy Bolig.
Fiberglass or steel? For most cars headed for volume production, the answer is obvious: Steel is inexpensive, easy to work with, and long lasting. But for AMC’s two-seater AMX, the inevitable comparisons to the Corvette made that decision a little tougher and worth the time and expense to build at least a couple prototype fiberglass AMXs, the last of which will head to auction this fall.
In the mid-1960s, the Chevrolet Corvette dominated the domestic two-seat sports car field – easy to do considering it had been essentially the only game in town for almost a decade. And then came along American Motors with its AMX concept, first exhibited at car shows as a non-running mockup in early 1966 and then as a Vignale-bodied runner in the latter half of the year.
A steel-bodied runner, that is. And if, all else being equal, performance came down to weight, wouldn’t it make sense to explore bodying the AMX in fiberglass? As Chris Zinn, author of AMX Photo Archive: From Concept to Reality, wrote, AMC’s chairman of the board, Robert Evans, believed so. In fact, he believed in fiberglass so much he took his ideas to at least a couple companies already working with the material – Bradley Automotive and Borg-Warner’s plastics division – before tasking the construction of a couple prototypes to a third company at about the same time that Vignale was working on that steel-bodied AMX.
Most sources peg that third company as Smith Inland in Ionia, Michigan, though Leon Dixon, who is currently researching the history of Creative Industries of Detroit, said it is Creative which built the prototypes. Given that Ionian Don Mitchell sold his fiberglass business to Ionia-based A.O. Smith in 1964 and that he had partial ownership of Creative, it’s no stretch to see how the companies could be intertwined.
As to how many of the fiberglass prototypes Smith/Creative built, some sources, including Zinn and Dixon, claim two. However, the current owners of one of the prototypes, Austin and Lee Hagerty, suggest it was three. Everybody seems to agree that the prototypes were sent to AMC’s proving grounds in Burlington, Wisconsin, where one was crash tested rather spectacularly. “The car just flew apart on impact and Mr. Evans said, ‘We can’t build a car like that – it’s unsafe,'” Zinn wrote.
Everybody also seems to agree that only one of the fiberglass prototypes remains extant, one fitted with a 343-cu.in. V-8, four-speed transmission, and a version of the Vignale AMX’s Rambleseat. Slated for destruction, it survived thanks in part to Domenick Jiardine, who had worked at the Kenosha AMC plant since the 1950s and whose brother, Joe, worked at the proving grounds. Jiardine, a line worker and old car collector, asked AMC president Bill Luneburg if he could have the doomed prototype. Luneburg told him a week later he could have it for $50.
The prototype has remained in Jiardine’s family since then, passing on to Jiardine’s nephew-in-law, Lee Hagerty, and Lee’s son Austin after Jiardine’s death in 2012. The next year we featured the prototype in the pages of Hemmings Classic Car, and now the Hagerty family has consigned the prototype to Mecum’s Chicago auction. Mecum has yet to release a pre-auction estimate for the car.
Mecum’s Chicago auction will take place October 8-10 in the Schaumburg Convention Center. For more information, visit Mecum.com.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Daniel Strohl.
When it comes to Fords with folding solid roofs, everybody thinks of the full-size Skyliner hardtops of the late 1950s, which are hugely collectible today. Fewer people realize that Ben Smith, one of the Skyliner’s original designers, developed a prototype of a retractable Mustang in 1966, but the idea didn’t fly and the car was almost certainly scrapped. He’d revisit the idea in the 1990s, producing a handful of prototypes from first-generation Mustangs, along with between 35 and 50 conversion kits, roughly 10 of which were built by his son David into complete cars. On October 17, one of these rare retractable-roof Mustangs heads to auction in Aurora, Nebraska.
Smith was involved in an early prototype of a retractable, a Lincoln Continental Mark II, that was fully functional but never saw the light of day. Its complex operating system, however, was incorporated nearly intact into the first production Skyliner of 1957.
Smith was rewarded by being promoted to chief engineer for Ford of Argentina, before William Clay Ford tapped him to be director of advanced packaging in Dearborn. By this time, Mustang fever was in full flight, and Ford was already looking for derivatives of its original three-box body style. The first was the 2+2 fastback, which Lee Iacocca approved on the spot. A variety of removable hardtop designs were considered, and Smith ultimately pitched the idea for a retractable Mustang—with some key differences.
From the outset, Smith intended his prototype to use a manual folding roof. He took a well-optioned 1965 Mustang and added torque boxes and rocker-panel reinforcement before slicing off the roof. The Mustang’s rear overhang was lengthened by 2.5 inches, so the top could stow in the trunk. But rather than retracting in one piece like the Skyliner’s roof did, Smith created a clamshell design that would fold in half, and could be retracted and stowed manually, using torsion bars to counterbalance the assembly. There were no wires, switches, solenoids or motors involved—at least, not until Ford brass reviewed the prototype and decided they wanted a powered version.
They got it, too, but the break-even estimates ultimately sacked the Mustang retractable. The power-roof version that Smith developed ultimately vanished while he was on overseas assignment for Ford.
Undeterred, Smith took an early retirement from Ford in 1968. In 1993 he bought a used 1966 Mustang and set about re-creating the prototype from the 1960s, again using a manual clamshell roof, which was shown at the national Mustang convocation in Charlotte in 1995.
Three prototypes were built, including a red 1966 with a black interior and a white roof; a powder blue 1965 with a blue interior; and a gunmetal gray car built for Ben A. Smith, another son. The project eventually evolved into conversion kits, incorporating Smith’s structural reinforcements, up to 50 of which were sold.
One of the Smith-designed retractable prototypes eventually wound its way into the 100-car collection of Nebraska native Harvey Bish, who reportedly purchased it from Ben Smith at a 1996 Barrett-Jackson auction. Described as a prototype, the car doesn’t fit the description of the three prototype cars built by Smith in the 1990s, although the door plate indicates that this car, a 1966 model, began life as a Y paint code car, finished in silver blue metallic.
Could this be prototype two, the “powder blue” car? If so, the top has been recovered, and both the car’s exterior and interior have changed colors. There’s also the matter of production year; the second prototype was a 1965, while this example is clearly a 1966. It can’t be the red car featured in the October 2005 issue of Hemmings Classic Car, as this was owned by Rae Smith, not Harvey Bish, when the article was published.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Less than 50 of these cars were ever built, making them rare by anyone’s standards, and a guaranteed attention-getter at any car show. The retractable Mustang will be offered at no reserve at the VanDerBrink sale, and Harvey will be on hand to reminisce with old car buffs. Find out more, including the wide-ranging inventory of cars being sold, by visiting VanDerBrinkAuctions.com.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Jim Donnelly.
1950s America was an age of cooperation and competition, of unlimited imagination and a blindingly bright future. We were racing the Russians to space while breaking the sound barrier on Earth, and automakers looked to jet turbine technology with eager eyes and open minds. This gave birth to a slew of turbine car concepts from both GM and Chrysler, and the 1958 Firebird III concept remains amongst the most memorial.
This 13-minute promotional video of the Firebird III turbine car remains an irrevocably American slice of nostalgia from a time when nothing seemed impossible, and jet-powered cars were just one of the many promises the future held.
First shown at the 1959 Motorama show and wearing a skin made from titanium (seriously), the Firebird III was the third of what would ultimately be six turbine-powered concept cars. Designed by the great Harvey J. Earl himself, the Firebird III looked more like a wingless jet fighter than a futuristic car with its two domed passenger cabins and seven fins/wings at the back end that made extensive use of one of GM’s earliest wind tunnels. It was what was under the hood that made the Firebird III something worth remembering though.
The Whirlfire GT-305 gas turbine engine was tapped to produce a then-impressive 225 horsepower at full-speed while delivering mediocre fuel economy (a big jump from the gas-guzzling nature of earlier turbine concepts). Also on board was a 10 horsepower two-cylinder engine to help run the accessories, and it featured numerous “cutting edge” technologies like anti-lock brakes, cruise control, and air conditioning. It also had a high-pressure air-oil suspension system that delivered a smoother ride than anything on the road.
Alas, once automakers figured out how to make cheap power from big-displacement V8 engines, interest in turbine cars quickly faded as GM, Ford, and Chrysler engaged in horsepower one upmanship. It’s crazy to think just how close America came to having turbine-powered automobiles though, and there’s be even been a renewal of interest as new technology allows for smaller and far more efficient turbines. A company called Wrightspeed has even developed a turbine-hybrid system for large trucks. Could turbine cars rise again?
Article courtesy of Street Legal TV, written by Chrid Demorro.