Simanaitis Says

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AUTOMOTIVE MUSCLE—PUT IN PERSPCTIVE

A BRIEF recollection of automotive muscle confirms the current idiocy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Scott Pruitt wanting to dial back the auto industries’ hard-earned, if occasionally grudging, advances in performance, economy, and emissions.

The following images from R&T, February 1967.

My source for this is R&T, February 1967, which contained road tests of three high-performance cars of the era: the Shelby GT 500, Chevrolet Corvette, and Dodge Coronet R/T. (This last one, a novel name, even without an “&.” )

R&T called this first car “a more civilized vehicle than the original GT 350 from which it descended.” The second one was termed “the Corvette for the thinking driver.” And no less an authority than R&T’s Henry N. Manney said that the third was “a mighty fine car that could hold up its head in any company.”

That is, each car was, in its own way, a 1967 state of the automotive art. What follows are tidbits of data putting them in modern perspective.

The 1967 Shelby GT 500 started with a Ford Mustang fastback, deleted a little chrome trim, added some instrumentation, and fitted a fiberglass hood with functioning scoop, beneath which resided a 428-cu.-in. (7014-cc) V-8 producing 355 hp.

All this came at an as-tested price of $5114 in 1967, about $39,000 in today’s dollar, according to the CPI Inflation Calculator.

“The car is extremely easy to drive,” reported R&T. “The engine lights off with a whump, there’s a cluck-jump when the shift lever is moved into gear, and if you mash on the gas pedal, you’ll GO.”

“The GT 500 also recorded the highest fuel consumption of any street version car we’ve tested in years. In over 800 miles, we averaged 9.8 mpg.”

The average price of gasoline in the U.S. in 1967 was 33¢/gallon. This is equivalent to $2.51 today, and so much for people fondly remembering “the good old days.”

The 1967 Chevrolet Corvette “Sting Ray is in its fifth and probably last year with that name and body style,” wrote R&T, “and it finally looks the way we thought it should have in the first place. All the funny business—the fake vents, extraneous emblems and simulated-something-or-other wheel covers—is gone…”

“For this test,” R&T continued, “we selected an almost basic version of the Corvette: a convertible hardtop with the standard 300-bhp 327 engine, 4-speed gearbox and power assists.”

“it is a credit to the American way of doing things that the performance is achieved in a remarkably silent, smooth and economical manner.” To wit, 0-60-mph acceleration in 7.8 seconds and an average fuel consumption of 15.4 mpg.”

R&T’s Vette had a 1967 as-tested price of $4824. Figure around $37,000 in today’s dollars. This is coincidently only a bit more than the average transaction price of a new car today.

The 1967 Dodge Coronet R/T was not the apocryphal domestic car: R&T’s Henry N. Manney wrote, “All our cousins on the other side of the water seem to think that Detroit iron is a lot of ill-handling rubbish fit only for towing horse trailers or transporting quantities of Irish tinkers.”

After driving the car up to Monterey Weekend and back, Manney countered, “Generally speaking, the Dodge R/T was a great improvement over the general run of American machinery (or foreign, for that matter) with its powerful yet smooth engine, evident stiffness of the body structure, first class visibility all around, thought-out suspension, and evidence of good quality control.”

The Coronet R/T had a 440-cu.in. (7206-cc) V-8 producing 375 hp and propelled it from standstill to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds. This hopped-up version had an as-tested price of $3900, around $30,000 in today’s dollar. Depending upon how often Manney exercised the accelerator, R&T reported its fuel consumption as 10-14 mpg.

The 2018 Toyota Camry XSE V6 is a 301-hp “family Camry,” to recall another early ad moniker. It posts EPA City/Highway values of 28 and 39 mpg, respectively. It reaches 60 mph from a standstill in 5.8 seconds. A fully loaded XSE V6 tested by Car and Driver goes for $38,059. And, of course, the Toyota Camry XSE V6 meets all the complex regulations of safety and environment required of 2018 automobiles.

Image from Car and Driver, December 2017.

Clearly the auto industry hasn’t rested over the past five decades. In the near term, I rest my case about Pruitt’s idiotic actions. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018

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