Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Complete Book of American Muscle Supercars, book review

The first thing you'll immediately enjoy, the cover is cool because the hoods of the two cars on the cover bend up.

That is pretty cool. Book covers rarely have a cool gimmick like this

and the pre content pages, and the 1st page of each chapter, are all like this, striped. I dig that.

Ok, 1st impression: Damn, this is a good book with a lot of content. Some surprise content, a lot of thorough research, and good coverage of the past and present, and an amazing job of getting the rare stuff from the 80's and 90's covered.

But the errors in the editing might drive you nuts. Like the page (page 70) that starts to talk about Carroll Shelby's start in racing ends with the beginning of a sentence "His next" and on the next page the sentence doesn't continue.

Or the caption on page 137 being about Callaway Corvettes, but the photo is of a Trans Am.

Or the misspelling (only on a couple pages) of Ricaro, not Recaro

By the numbers:
221 pages
14 chapters
and there are a ton of photos
Takes about 7 hours to read

So, let me dive into why you'll enjoy this book anyway - wow, what a lot of cool cars to read all about. Who made them, how they got started, and what they did to make their cars cool.

Yenko, Balwin Motion, Callaway, Hurst, Shelby, Royal, Mr Norm, Nickey, Saleen, and a couple small businesses I've never heard of, PSA for example.

Some cool stuff I learned from reading, Royal Bobcats were the name of the car, not Catalina... and why? Because the letters stuck on the tailpanels of Bonnevilles and Catalinas could form the word Bobcat, and nothing else much that was cool.

Tom Hoover was racing a 66 Hemi Coronet, and put 1957 Fury hubcaps on it.

The Silver Bullet GTX, was owned by a Jimmy Addison who worked at a Sunoco gas station. It ran 10.30 in the 1/4, at 132 mph on slicks. With a 440.

The Silver Bullet GTX was so notorious around Detroit, that a Firebird was developed by Jim Wangers specifically to beat it, steal it's street credibility as the fastest car in town, and get the mojo, the Blackbird, a ’68 Firebird with a 462 cu in and Ram Air IV heads. In 1971 it was run on the track by PHR and it had mid 11s at 126. There was more in it, Wangers wasn't showing all his cards to the competition.

Yenko shotpeened the steering gear, (tie rods, steering knuckles, arms etc) and tuftrided the spindles. The stripes on the sYc Camaros were painted on by his daughter and her friends for 5 dollars a car.

Hedrick's 1969 sYc Yenko Camaro dominated super stock in the NHRA, 11.94 at 114, winning the title for Chevrolet, who wasn't going to be involved in racing due to their self imposed ban on racing, but Chevy still used this championship for self promotion and sent copies of the National Dragster to all the dealerships with Hedrik's Camaro on the cover.

Mr Norm found that a stock hi po 383 was only putting 180 hp to the ground, as he had put in a dyno into his shop, so he had the mechanics get it up to 235 for each hi po 383 powered car he sold, and dyno'd it in front of the customer.

All customers of Mr Norm became part of his club, and that got them into concerts and other things... and his favorite group was the Buckinghams, who were known for the songs "Hey Baby (they're playing our song)" and "Kind of a Drag" and were known by Billboard Magazine as the "Most Listened to Band in America"

Mr Norm was the 1st dealership to get ahold of the race hemi in 1964, put it into a Polara, and announced it was the only production car guaranteed to run 11s off  the showroom floor. Two years before the street hemi, and a year before the general availability of the race hemi.

Mr Norm was putting 6 pack carbs on Demons and Dusters, and topping them with a air filter top, that was a Ford part.

Joel Rosen of Motion Performance, and Baldwin Motion fame... chose the name Motion from an electronic ignition system part for Corvettes

In 1959 a rich Texan oilman named Laughlin bought 3 Corvette chassis and sent them to Carrozzeria Scaglietti. He kept one, gave the other two to his fellow Texans, Carroll Shelby, and to race car driver Jim Hall.

Phil Remington made the 1st Cobra Daytona coupe body, and the other 5 were made by Carrozzeria Gransport in Modena

Sunbeams (Alpine, Tiger) were named after Sir Malcolm Campbell's 1926 land speed record car which was also owned by the Rootes group

The Sunbeam Tiger was built by Jensen cars, not Sunbeam. That sort of makes sense when you consider they made the 383 powered interceptors

The Tiger sold for $3400, and won the 1964 B Production SCCA Championship over Jags, Vettes and Cobras, and won the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally

Carroll Shelby auctioned off a lot of his cars in 1995, but kept his Tiger

Shelby built 2.377 GT 350s in 1966, and 1001 were for Hertz, and 4 convertibles prototypes, 3 for Ford, and one for Kingston Trio singer Bob Shane. Bizarre huh? !

The editor of Sports Car Graphic was Jerry Titus, he had been the manager of the shop that maintained the birdcage Maserati that Shelby took to the win of the 1960 USAC Championship, and he took a GT 350R to within a second of Ken Miles time. Miles was Shelby's driver. Titus went on to be the 1967 SCCA Trans Am Champ.

The Shelby GLH caused BMW to pull their ads claiming the 535i was the fastest sedan sold in the US

When Shelby bought the remains of the bankrupt company that had the parts from his failed Series one, he tried to make and sell Series II, but they went from a proposed 100 thousand dollars to a 182 thou.

By 2006 Ford owned Hertz, and that is why they got GT350s again

The prototype Olds 442 was built by Doc Watson, and he built it with foldaway headlights from the GTO parts bin, and a wing that popped vertical to be an air brake when the bakes were applied. George Hurst loved it so much he chose it to use as his daily driver for a while

Hurst made 25,000 taxis for New York with lowered floors to meet the Taxi Authority passenger room requirements

Sunbeam Electric of Chicago had some strange reason to buy up shares of Hurst until they owned the majority, and forced George Hurst out

Saleen's secretary never assigned a serial number 6 to a car VIN, and they keep that tradition by never giving a new Saleen the 6th VIN

Callaway's 1st turbo kit was built in his garage for a BMW 320i while he was a driving instructor at Bondurant School of Driving

Reeve's Callaway took every car for a drive before selling them, making sure each one was flawless, and no other super car company has ever done that I've ever heard of, not Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, etc

The 1989 Indy Pace Car was the 20th Anniversary Trans Am was the first pure production car that paced the race, except Pontiac didn't build them. PAS did. Prototype Automotive Services.

The 20th Anniversary Turbo Trans Am was powered by a Buick GN turbo V6

The GMC Syclone was first given to ASC/McClaren to prototype, after PAS approached GM about making a fast S10. PAS learned about that, and made their own version... but they used the all wheel drive approach and a Buick GN engine. There was a drag race to determine who would get the contract.

For the production Syclone they used the Astro Van awd, it happened to be from the same chassis as the S-10/Sonoma

GM was sued by the collectors who had been promised that there would only be a limited number of the 454SS, and found that GM made a lot more than they'd said. (hadn't they heard about the "limited number" of the '78 pace car Corvette? )

BF Goodrich was so sure the Radial T/A was the most capable tire made, they put the street tire to the test in the 1970 and 71 SCCA Trans Am races, and won while competing against racing tires and stickier racing compounds, on Larry Dent's Firebird, and he won his class at Watkins Glen in 71. They then called his car the Tirebird

The Viper concept show car was built with help from Boyd Coddington, who made the tube chassis and supplied the rims. The engine was made from a pair of 360s by Roush

The SRT 4 Neon was fitted with Viper front seats

What is missing though, is the factory lightweights and factory race cars. Thunderbolts, Super Stock Darts, SS Barracudas, SS AMX, A19 Road Runners and Super Bees. Maybe those cars aren't meeting the descriptions of "American Muscle Supercars, as they are more drag racers than autocross racers.

you can page through the first 26 pages here:

least expensive place to buy seems to be Half Price Books for about 30 dollars

which is about the same price as Amazon

Since 1983, Tom Glatch has contributed hundreds of stories and photographs to major Corvette, Mustang, muscle car, and Mopar magazines. Tom grew up during the muscle car era, and his first car was a very quick 1970 Plymouth Duster 340. When not pursuing old muscle cars, Tom works for a Fortune 500 corporation as a data and systems analyst and developer.


  1. One of the ways to cut production costs was to use the 'Ricaro'. Although a cheap copy they were not fitted to all models. They mention this on page