History of Classic Cars, Trucks, and Motorcycles
If you're looking to find information on your favorite classic car, truck, or motorcycle, you've found the right place! Classic-Car-History provides in-depth articles and photos on all classic vehicles - muscle cars, sports cars, pony cars, exotics, trucks, and motorcycles, too. You'll find everything from flatheads of the Forties to the computerized and fuel-injected machines of the Eighties.
While you're here, spend a minute or two on our gallery pages, featuring hundreds of large, high-resolution photos collected from car shows, garages, race tracks and parking lots all across America.
This site was written by motorheads for motorheads - Enjoy!
History Of Automotive Performance
Shortly after World-War-Two, development of the modern overhead-valve V8 began. Automotive engineers were finding new ways to increase horsepower, and with better octane fuel available, higher-compression engines were now possible.
It was also at this time that new outlets for car performance started appearing, such as NASCAR oval tracks, Speed Trials at Florida's Daytona Beach, and straight-line acceleration runs at NHRA drag strips.
Oldsmobile was the first of the GM divisions to offer an OHV eight-cylinder engine, debuting their "Rocket V-8" in 1949. The 303-cid V8 featured a forged steel crank, aluminum pistons, and a dual-plane intake manifold, producing 135 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. Once placed inside Oldsmobile's lighter-bodied 76-series cars, the Rocket 88 series began, which dominated NASCAR's Grand National series for several years. The Rocket 88 is sometimes cited as the first muscle car.
Recognized as one of the Top-Ten engines of the 20th Century, Chevrolet's small-block V-8 was first offered in 1955. Originally displacing 265 cubic-inches and netting 195 horsepower, the venerable motor would be offered in numerous displacements over the next four decades. Under the hood of a 1970 Corvette, the LT-1 350 small-block produced 370 horsepower. It's size, power capability, and easy maintenance helped the Chevy small-block become the most successful engine in Motorsports racing history.
Ford's answer to the Chevy Corvette was not a bare-bones sports car, but rather an urbane and practical personal luxury car. The two-seat Thunderbird debuted in 1955, with Ford hoping to sell 10,000 T-birds that first year. Instead they found themselves unable to keep up with consumer demand, with production running into September. Over 16,000 first-year T-birds were sold. Meanwhile, over at GM, less than 5,000 Vettes were sold in its first three years. The Corvette would likely have been discontinued, but the success of the Thunderbird prompted Chevrolet to continue production.
Based on the New Yorker hardtop, the 1955 Chrysler 300 was fitted with heavy-duty suspension, lowered 1.5 inches, and given a 300 horsepower, 331-cid motor hemi-head motor. An optional dual 4-barrel carb setup was available, which produced 355 horsepower. Advertised as "America's Most Powerful Car", the 300 was not successful in sales, but very successful in competition, winning the NASCAR Grand National title, AAA Championship and finishing first-in-class at Daytona's Flying Mile in its first year.
The Studebaker company was in business for over a Century, but are perhaps best known for a model produced only eighteen months. The aerodynamic shape of the fiberglass-bodied Avanti, well-suited for high-speed runs, was the creation of industrial designer Raymond Loewy. Powered by a supercharged 289-cid V-8, a modified Avanti set numerous land speed records at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in 1963, including the flying-mile record of 168.15 mph.
On April 1st, 1964, Plymouth introduced the Barracuda, a compact fastback based on the 106-inch wheelbase Valiant model. Sales were lukewarm. Two weeks later, Ford debuted their new compact model, the Mustang. Affordable and stylish, it's good looks and youth-oriented marketing helped make it enormously successful. A GT performance model soon became available, giving the buyer a quick-ratio gearbox, stiffer front coils and rear springs, front disc brakes, and the K-code 271 horsepower 289-cid V-8. More than one-million Mustangs were sold in the first eighteen months of production. Because of its popularity, and the fact that it inspired so many competitors, the Mustang sits in automotive history as the original Pony car.
Although Pontiac wasn't the first car company to drop a big motor in a mid-sized car, they were the first to market a mid-sized car with a big motor. Rivaling anything on the road in straight-line acceleration, the 1964 Tempest-based GTO was wildly successful, prompting others to use the same basic formula. Every U.S. car manufacturer began packaging a factory hot rod with youth-oriented advertising, bringing about the muscle car phenomenon of the Sixties. Designed for straight-line speed, muscle cars lacked sophisticated chassis, brakes, and suspension, but they were durable, affordable, and fast.
The Muscle Car era was short-lived, but gave us some of the most collectible models in classic car history. One of Dodge's best was the 1967 Charger, available with either a 440 Magnum or 426 Hemi, two of the biggest, most powerful motors ever produced. It was the Hemi motor that powered the winged Plymouth Superbirds and Daytona Chargers which dominated the NASCAR racing circuit in 1969 and 1970.
One of the reasons the Chevrolet Camaro did not arrive until 1967 was that many GM executives believed the rear-engine, air-cooled Corvair, popular in the early Sixties, could compete in sales against the Ford Mustang. The Camaro arrived in 1967, quickly making up for lost time with the potent Z-28 package, which dominated the SCCA Trans-Am circuit in 1968 and 1969.
Always to have identity issues with its pony car stable-mate the Javelin, the 1968-1970 two-seat AMX was powered by a 390-cid, 315 horsepower V-8, which produced a tire-shredding 415 lb/ft of torque. At 3,000 pounds, the AMX was capable of zero-to-sixty times in under seven seconds, with quarter-mile times under 15 seconds.
European Sports Car History
When Jaguar introduced the XK-120 in 1948, only exotic race machines such as Alfa Romeo, Bugatti and Duesenberg were running double-overhead-cam engines. The twin-cam XK motor was a marvel of engineering, propelling the six-cylinder roadster to 120 miles-per-hour, making it the fastest production car of its day. The same DOHC engine would see another two decades of use, powering the 1961-1970 Jaguar XK-E .
The rear-engine, air-cooled Porsche 911 first appeared in 1965. Weighing 2,300 pounds, it displayed brisk handling, great braking, and was capable of speeds over 130 mph. With timeless styling, world-class engineering, and countless race wins, the 911 is considered by many to be the greatest of all classic sports cars.