In recent years, the value for the genre of American built automobiles known as “muscle cars” has leapt to the stratosphere and beyond placing them out of the reach of the average enthusiasts. However, for those who are willing to march to the tune of a different drummer there are still opportunities to enjoy the thrill of raw power at a fraction of the price. As an added bonus, ownership of one of these forgotten muscle cars almost certainly ensures you will stand out from the crowd at the next auto show.
If a blend of adequate, though not asphalt scorching, performance, fuel economy and unique styling is to determine your purchase look no further than the 1951 Studebaker Commander Starlight coupe. From its one of a kind bullet nosed grill to five-piece wrap around rear window it not likely to be mistaken for anything else on the road.
When outfitted with the then new overhead valve, 232.6 c.i.d. V8 engine, and three-speed manual transmission with overdrive you have a near perfect blend of performance, by early 1950 standards, and economy. Tested on a Mobilgas Economy Run a similarly equipped vehicle hit sixty miles per hour in a respectable 12.5 seconds and delivered fuel economy just under twenty eight miles per gallon.
Okay, this Studebaker may be stretching the term muscle car a bit far but perhaps the economy provided could offset the difference. If you still want a bit of the economy, something a little faster and still want something unique have you considered a 1972 Gremlin?
AMC was a marvel at creating something new from something old and selling everything but the squeal. Since the Gremlin was in essence a truncated Hornet, in the eyes of management it made perfect sense to offer six cylinder as well as eight cylinder versions.
To shoehorn a 304-c.i.d. V-8 engine into a Gremlin required extensive reengineering of the suspension and other structural components but the result was an oft-overlooked performer. So equipped the little subcompact was rated at 150 horsepower at 4,200 rpm and 245 ft.-lbs. of torque at 2,500 rpm.
AMC, with the exception of the Javelin, is not often associated with the term muscle car. With a history of fast cars that includes production of the fastest American built sedan in 1957 this is quite surprising.
Rare and expensive, unless compared to a hemi powered Barracuda, the 1957 Rambler Rebel was a one-year only sports model with production limited to a scant 1,500 units. The Nash Ambassador 327 c.i.d. V8 engine rated at 225-horse power propelled the relatively light, four-door hard top sedan like a rocket. Owners often bragged, and still do, that the Rebel rides well, handles swell and goes like …
Through the years, there were a handful of stylish, modestly hot performers produced by the maverick builder in Wisconsin such as the Rambler Rogue and the Marlin. However, there was one model produced in 1969 that truly deserved the moniker “muscle car.”
Garishly painted and trimmed in red, white, and blue the 1969 Hurst SC/Rambler was and is a standout when parked but sitting still is not its most attention getting aspect. Under the hood of these brightly painted, lightweight, two door hard top Rambler American bodies were the AMX version of the 315 horsepower, 390-c.i.d. V8 engines. Dual exhausts, power front disc brakes, four-speed transmission with Hurst shifter, limited slip differential, tachometer, and functional hood scoop rounded out the package.
The Rebel name reappeared in 1967 to replace the phased out Classic series. Listed among the options in the SST package were a 280 horsepower, 343-c.i.d. V8 engine that provided more than adequate acceleration.
The Rebel line with its optional SST package would continue through the 1960s with little fanfare. The came the limited edition Hurst Rambler Rebel Machine introduced at the National Hot Rod Championship Drag Race in Dallas, Texas during October of 1969.
All of the SST package options were standard equipment. In addition, they were equipped with power front disc brakes, Ram Air hood scoop, a 390-c.i.d. engine rated at a thundering 340 horsepower, dual exhaust, and heavy duty cooling system, and modified suspension.
Most AMC attempts at the production of performance vehicles were not quite as noticeable. Among the more notorious sleepers produced by this company was the 1971 Matador, successor to the Rebel series. Listed among the wide array of options was the “Go Machine Package” performance group. This included a four-speed transmission and 401-c.i.d. engine!
More than forty years have passed since the mighty Marauder, driven by Parnelli Jones, dominated stock car tracks in America. Today these once legendary Mercury’s are an almost forgotten chapter in American automotive history.
For 1964, Mercury presented buyers with a dizzying choice of eighteen models including the Monterrey, Montclair, and all new Park Lane available in either the Breezeway or Marauder sub series. The standard engines for all three were the 250 horsepower, 390-c.i.d. V8 but as Marauder series cars the engine was the Super 390 rated at 300 horsepower.
Confusing the issue was the available, for all full size Mercury’s, optional 390 Marauder Interceptor rated at 330 horsepower. For more speed and power there was also two 427-c.i.d. V8 engines available as options, one rated at 410 horsepower and the second rated at 425 horsepower.
In the October 1963 issue, Motor Trend commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of Mercury by pitting the 1939 Mercury against a 1964 Montclair Marauder equipped with the lowest horsepower 390-c.i.d. V8 engine and Merc-O-Matic transmission in a comparison drive. The 4,500-pound Marauder clipped sixty miles per hour in 12.8 seconds. However, a subsequent test with a 330 horsepower equipped car dropped the zero to sixty times to just under ten seconds.
The Marauder and the Gremlin X, the Rebel and the Dodge Demon all have several things in common. They are forgotten chapters in the history of post war Americas love for speed. For those who love speed, march to the tune of a different drummer, and whose budget is rather limited these cars and dozens of even more obscure factory hot rods are just waiting to be rediscovered.
If you enjoy Jim Hinckley\'s America, take a second to support jimhinckleysamerica on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!