The Golden Era of Horsepower at Fort Lauderdale

With cheap fuel and a growing interest in motorsport, the mid-1960s to 1970s sparked the battle of horsepower between American automakers.

Andrew Miterko

The mention of “muscle car” will conjure a specific mental image in any car enthusiast regardless of age: the aural sensation of a thunderous V-8 engine rumbling to life, shoehorned into a two-door bodied street car, poised to eviscerate its rear tires in a display of brute power. Muscle cars were born from the hot rodding subculture’s philosophy of taking a small, light car and installing a large displacement engine for the purpose of increased straight-line speed. The rising popularity of two segments of motorsport in the 1950s – drag racing and NASCAR oval track racing – sparked the public’s interest for power and speed, and automakers began to take note. It wasn’t until the mid-1960s when the muscle car craze would fully take hold, but once it did, competition between automakers ramped up and the horsepower race was on. Muscle cars and American sports cars would see leaps in horsepower output over this time, as competition between manufacturers grew fiercer.

1966 Shelby GT350 H

Estimate: $180,000–$220,000

While technically a pony car, the Shelby GT350 H is a unique variation of the GT350 as the H stands for Hertz, the rental car company. Labeled the “Rent-A-Racer” program, 1,001 350 H models were produced and sent to Hertz locations around the country. They were identical to the GT350, aside from their distinctive standard paint scheme of black with gold stripes. This example was delivered to Hertz in Dayton, Ohio, and is believed to be only one of 12 Red/Gold cars left in existence.

1968 Shelby GT500 KR Convertible

Estimate: $175,000–$200,000

KR stands for “King of the Road”, and with upgrades in power and handling, the GT500 KR rightfully held the title. Its Ram Air equipped 428-cu. in. V-8 Cobra Jet engine produced 440 foot-pounds of torque at 3,400 RPM. The “Monte Carlo” bracing bar helped to support the massive torque by stiffening the chassis. Nineteen sixty-eight marked the first year the Shelby Mustang was available as a convertible, and only 21 of the KRs were produced with a white convertible top.

1969 Pontiac Trans Am “Ram Air III”

Estimate: $140,000–$160,000

The Trans Am performance and appearance package was offered as a $725 option at its launch in March 1969, and due to minimal advertising on Pontiac’s part, only 697 Trans Ams were produced. The Ram Air engine was fitted to 520 coupes, and only 114 of those would feature an automatic transmission, such as this example. Trans Ams featured a one-inch stabilizer bar with a more robust suspension, and Goodyear Polyglas tires on seven-inch wide wheels for drastically improved handling.

1970 Dodge Challenger RT V-code

Estimate: $150,000–$175,000

With its shaker hood and tremendous big-block power, the Challenger R/T cemented its image in the hearts and minds of fans. The “shaker” hood was essentially an attachment to the air cleaner that protruded through the hood and forced air directly into the engine, as opposed to the R/Ts standard dual scoop hood which fed air into the engine bay. The 440 six-pack featured three two barrel carburetors, and produced 390 hp with 480 foot-pounds of torque at a low 2,300 rpm.

1968 Dodge Charger “General Lee”

Estimate: $80,000–$100,000

Famous for its appearance in the television series The Dukes of Hazzard, the General Lee appears in every episode but one with its signature “Dixie” horn and confederate flag roof graphic. This example was used in the 2005 movie The Dukes of Hazzard and features an Edelbrock-carbureted V-8 engine mated to an automatic transmission with a B&M ratchet shifter.

1970 Mercury Cougar 428 Cobra Jet Eliminator

Estimate: $75,000–$90,000

While not as well known as its Mustang Mach One cousin, the Cougar 428 Cobra Jet Eliminator is no less aggressive. Mercury launched the Cougar as an upscale counterpart to the Mustang, featuring more luxurious interior appointments, standard hidden headlamps, and sequential tail lights. The Cobra Jet 428 was the top of the optional engine choices, producing 335 hp at 5,200 RPM. This example is also fitted with the optional C6 Merc-O-Matic automatic transmission and is only one of 59 produced in Competition Green with Black Houndstooth bucket seats.

1974 Pontiac Trans Am SD455

Estimate: $65,000–$85,000, Offered Without Reserve

For 1973 and 1974 production of the Firebird Trans Am, a special version of the 455-cu. in. engine was offered with a strengthened cylinder block with four-bolt main bearings, forged piston rods and forged aluminum pistons, and unique high-flow cylinder heads. This example is one of only 943 Super-Duties built for 1974, and is presented in extremely good condition with numbers-matching V-8 and automatic transmission.

1969 Camaro Z28

Estimate: $55,000–$65,000

The 1969 model-year Camaro featured nearly completely new body work, save for the hood and trunk lid, and would make for a lower, wider, and more aggressive appearance. The 302-cu. in. small block was capable of 290 hp, with 11:1 compression with forged internal components, and a Holley carburetor on a dual-plane intake manifold.

1970 Chevrolet Malibu

Estimate: $50,000–$60,000, Offered Without Reserve

The Chevelle received a total redesign for the 1968 model year, both with better styling, a shorter wheelbase, and more powerful engine packages. The 1970 production year further refined the styling, rear tail lights were mounted to the federally mandated bumpers, a cowl induction scoop was offered for better performance, and for the first time, the twin-racing stripes were offered. The 396-cu. in. big block V-8 offered for the SS package produced 375 hp and in this example is channeled to a 3.31:1 Posi-Traction rear end through a four-speed manual transmission.

1969 Dodge Super Bee

Estimate: $40,000–$45,000

Based on the Dodge Coronet two-door coupe, the Super Bee was Dodge’s low-priced muscle car. The 383-cu. in. “Magnum” engine produced 335 hp and 425 foot-pounds of torque, while the four-speed manual transmission received a Hurst Competition-Plus shifter and Hurst linkage.


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