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A Brief History Of Muscle Cars From 1949 – 1973

What are muscle cars?  Originally, muscle cars were defined as two door coupes that had a high performance engine, modified suspension and transmission and were considerably faster than their “stock” or factory versions.  Essentially, muscle cars are high horsepower lightweight automobiles.

The unofficial beginning of the muscle car era was in the late forties and fifties coinciding with the return of GIs after World War II.  There was a pent up demand for fast cars and, in 1949, GM introduced the Oldsmobile Rocket 88.  The Rocket 88 had a high compression overhead valve V-8 engine in a relatively light body.  GM used the same platform as the Oldsmobile 76 that had a smaller displacement V-6 motor.  This combination of light weight body married to a high performance engine defined the beginning of the Muscle Car Era.

 

The muscle cars were a by-product of the moonshiners and bootleggers of the 1920s, whose cars were modified to outrun the police.  Their cars were designed for speed, handling and cargo capacity.  By the 1940s, the moon shining business declined due to the repeal of Prohibition on December 5, 1933.  Moon shiners began to use their cars for racing and were the dominant force in street racing throughout the forties.  Their influence and the demand for faster cars directly influenced the development of the Oldsmobile Rocket 88.

 

So, the Muscle Car Era blossomed in the 1950s to fill a marketing niche for inexpensive fast cars.  In addition to the Rocket 88, Chrysler brought to market the Hemi V-8 and Chevrolet countered with their small block V-8.  The Hemi design produced more power than ever before, and the Chrysler 300 C, introduced in 1955, was the first Chrysler product with the Hemi engine.  It had 300 HP and was the most powerful car on the road.  GM introduced the small block V-8 in 1955, and employed the engine for the next fifty years.  The small block V-8 was an important factor in the evolution of muscle cars.

Lightweight cars with big, powerful engines were very fast in a straight line but had poor handling, and as a result, drag racing developed into a popular sport in the 1950s.  In 1954, Ford designed a new overhead valve V-8 engine, called the Y-block, that powered high end Ford and Mercury cars for the next ten years.

During the 1950s, the most popular cars for drag racing were Fords, Chevys, Pontiacs, Dodge and Chryslers.  It was during this period that “gassers” were introduced – it was a style of drag racing in the late 50s and 60s that used gasoline as fuel.  Drag racing accelerated in popularity in the 1960s and cars became more powerful each year.


Because manufacturers were pitted against each other in the quest to build faster cars, GM, Ford and Chrysler dropped all larger cars for drag racing and concentrated on building smaller, lighter weight vehicles.  The 1963 Pontiac Super Duty had a “swiss cheese” type frame with large, “stampel out” holes in its chassis rails, resulting in a much lighter car.

In 1964, Pontiac introduced the Pontiac Tempest GTO.  The GTO looked like a plain Tempest but had a large displacement, 389 cubic inch V-8 under the hood.  The GTO was fast and affordable at around $3200.  In its first year the company sold six times as many GTOs as projected for that year.  Ford introduced the 427 cubic inch V-8 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt that was made in limited quantity and was so fast that it was considered dangerous to drive.

In 1964, the Ford Mustang arrived and technically it was not considered a muscle car because it did not have a big displacement engine.  It wasn’t until 1967, when Ford upsized the Mustang V-8 to a big block 390 cubic inch V-8, that the Mustang was considered a true muscle car.  During this time period, GM introduced the Camaro and Pontiac Firebird and, in 1966, Plymouth introduced the Roadrunner and GTX with 426 Hemi engines.  Dodge came out  with the Dodge Charger 426 Hemi in 1966.  Also, in 1964, Chevrolet introduced the Chevelle SS 2 door coupe.  The Chevelle was very popular   in the 1960s and 1970s for street and drag racing.

The year 1968 brought stringent federal safety and emissions rules and standards.  Around this time, there was a new safety lobby led by Ralph Nader.  The new rules and standards didn’t affect the muscle car market as the Camaro, Firebird and Mustang were significantly upgraded.  GM cut the price of the Pontiac GTO and it was completely restyled.  The GTO came with floor shifting manual transmission and special GTO trim and tires.  Many people consider the GTO as the first true muscle car.

The “Golden Age” of muscle cars was the 1960s and early 1970s.  During this time, the “big three” auto manufacturers were in competition to produce fast and mean looking cars.  Muscle cars were affordable and were intended for street use and drag racing.  There was no concern for gas prices as premium gas was thirty five cents a gallon.  Muscle cars flourished and they were at their peak from 1964 – 1973.  Some of the other “hot” muscle cars were the:

1) 1967 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake

2) 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

3) 1969 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet with RAM air induction and functional hood scoops

4) 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS 454 cubic inch V8

5) 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda

6) 1970 and 1971 Dodge Challenger

7) 1968 to 1971 Chevrolet Nova SS coupe

Being a baby boomer, I owned an original 1971 Dodge Challenger with a 383 cubic inch, 300 HP engine, 4-speed close ratio transmission with “pistol grip” shifter and dual exhausts.  I have always loved cars and the Challenger was a once in a lifetime automobile!

 

In conclusion, muscle cars flourished during their Golden Era.  Cheap gas and affordable horsepower and a tremendous demand for faster and faster cars fueled an “explosion” of different muscle cars marketed by Chevy, Ford and Chrysler.  By 1974, the Golden Age of muscle cars was over because of the gas shortage in 1973 leading to much higher gas prices, rigid safety and emissions regulations and high insurance rates.  Consumers purchased small, gas efficient cars, and the high horsepower cars became a product of high priced sports cars, top of the line Camaros, Mustangs and Challengers and luxury cars.  Gone are the days with the $3000 and $4000 muscle cars.  But they were a blast to drive and they have left their legacy on car enthusiasts!

Happy Motoring!

Remember for your auto parts, please shop online from Amazon.com, Tirerack.com and Vividracing.com.

All Electric (Plug-In) Cars (EVs): A Brief History And Overview

What is an all-electric car (EV)?

An electric car is a car that is propelled by an electric motor, or motors, that run on batteries that have “stored” electric energy.  The batteries use energy according to the types of driving and the driver’s input (via acceleration and braking).

Electric cars are not a new idea.  Crude electric vehicles originated in the 1830s, and the first successful electric vehicle in the United States was introduced around 1890.  It was, essentially, a six-seat electric wagon.  By the early 1900s, electric vehicles accounted for approximately one third of the vehicles on the road.

But, because of advances in gasoline powered cars, demand for electric vehicles fizzled after the early 1900s.  Electric cars were, for a long time, more expensive to produce and they had a limited range.  Ford’s gasoline powered model T, introduced in 1908, was a break-through in the mass production of automobiles, selling for around $650 compared to an electric car selling for $1750.

There were few advancements in electric cars until the late 1960s to early 1970s.  Gasoline powered cars were dominant because of advances in engine technology and because gasoline was cheap.  And, the limited range of electric cars along with their much higher prices, suppressed demand for the vehicles.

Gas shortages, and escalating oil prices, in the late 1960s and 1970s, resulted in manufacturers and consumers to look for alternative sources of energy to power automobiles.   In 1976, Congress passed the Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Research Development and Demonstration Act.  This bill authorized the Department of Energy to support research and development of electric and hybrid cars.

There were modest advances in electric cars from the 1970s to the early 1990s.  The biggest obstacle was the limited range and top speed of the electric cars.  Conventional gasoline engine technology produced much more efficient and cleaner engines, so electric cars drew little interest during the time period.

In 1990, with the passage of the Clean Air Act Amendment and the 1992 Energy Policy Act, coupled with stricter California and Federal Government transportation emissions regulations, manufacturers started modifying existing cars and improving electric cars.  Electric cars now had better performance and many had extended their driving range to 60 miles, and, they were now better able to compete with the conventional gasoline powered cars.

The introduction of the Toyota Prius Hybrid in 1997 was the major breakthrough of mass production of electric cars in the United States.  In 2006, Tesla Motors announced plans to manufacture an all-electric luxury sports car that would go more than 200 miles on a single charge.  In 2010, Tesla received a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy toward establishing a manufacturing plant in California for the sole purpose of producing all-electric cars.  In the same year, Chevrolet introduced the Chevy Volt and Nissan introduced the Nissan Leaf.  The Volt was the first mass produced plug-in hybrid and the Nissan Leaf is an all-electric vehicle, or EV, meaning that it has an electric only propulsion system.

With the Recovery Act of 2009, The Energy Department invested over $115 million to help build a nation wide system of more than 18,000 charging stations in the United States.  The major auto companies, and other private businesses, installed public electric chargers at more than 8,000 separate locations with over 20,000 charging outlets.

The Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office supported new battery technology that improved plug-in electric battery range.  Their research helped develop the lithium-ion battery used in the Chevy Volt.  Over the past four years, The Department of Energy’s Investment in battery research has directly contributed to 50% savings in the battery costs of all electric vehicles which in turn has lowered the cost of producing all-electric cars (EVs).  This has resulted in making the all-electric cars more affordable to the average consumer.

 

There have never been as many choices of electric cars as there are today: 23 plug-in cars and 36 hybrid models available in all shapes and sizes.  Examples are the 2-seater Smart Ed, the mid-sized Ford C-max energy and the luxurious BMWi3 SUV.

With gasoline prices soaring, and the cost of EVs dropping, the demand for all-electric plug-in cars has escalated  There are now more than 234,000 plug-in electric cars, along with 3.3 million hybrid cars   on the road.

In summary,  the all-electric cars are here to stay because:

  1. There is a nation-wide system of charging stations with many more locations and chargers planned in the near future
  2. The ability to charge your car, in the the convenience of your own home, using the same 13 amp power supply as your vacuum cleaner or TV.
  3. They are more affordable.
  4. They have much longer battery range.
  5. They are virtually maintenance free.
  6. They are environmentally superior to gasoline powered vehicles because of their zero emissions.                                                                                                 * The future of  automobiles is here, now. *

Happy Motoring!

Remember for your auto parts, please shop online from Amazon.com, Tirerack.com, and Vividracing.com.  

Thank you,

Kreativecars.com

 

 

2019 Toyota Rav4: Review and Commentary

The new 2019 Toyota Rav 4 is the best Rav 4 since its introduction in 1995.  It has state-of-the art technology, a better quality interior, an array of safety features and the most comfort and convenience features ever in a Rav 4.

The new Rav 4 is slightly shorter, a bit wider and has a longer wheelbase.  It is available in front-wheel drive or all wheel drive.  Its standard engine is a 2.5 liter 4-cylinder, and, a new hybrid model will be arriving soon.  The new Rav 4 is slightly lower than last year’s model.  An 8-speed automatic is standard on all models.  The hybrid version will have a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

  • New Exterior Styling

Exterior Styling is more aggressive and edgy – more truck like.  There is a strong resemblance to the 4 Runner and Tacoma pickup.  Because of its longer wheelbase, it has a shorter front and rear overhang.  It has more “rugged” styled roof-rails.  The new Rav 4 has higher ground clearance.  Some models have a contrasting roof color.

 

  • All New Interior

*  The Rav 4 interior has higher quality materials, and it too has more “edgy” styling

*  7″ touchscreen is positioned on top of the dashboard

*  8″ touchscreen is included in an upgrade package.  The 8″ screen has an infotainment system with built in navigation

*   A digital display rear view mirror switches from a conventional mirror to a rear view monitor

*   Other upgrades include a panoramic roof, ventilated seats and hands-free power lift gate

  • Technology

*   Rear camera with a wide angle picture in the rear view mirror

*   7.0″ touchscreen is standard and comes with:

  • Apple Car Play
  • Amazon Alexa connectivity
  • Wi-Fi antenna

*   8.0″ touchscreen (optional and/or as part of upper trim levels) has

  • JBL audio system
  • Up to 5 USB ports and charging pad for Qi compatible devices
  • Higher trim levels have a 7.0 inch TFT display in the instrument cluster (driver’s line of sight)
  • Climate and comfort controls are located below infotainment screen
  • A control knob for different off-road drive modes is positioned next to the transmission lever.  This is a standard feature on all Rav 4 trim levels

*  Engine

  • Engine has been revised to produce 15% more horsepower than last year
  • The hybrid model will be more powerful than the standard 4-cylinder models
  • Expect considerably higher MPG than 4-cylinder models

*  Transmission

  • 8 – speed automatic on all 2.5 liter 4-cylinder models
  • Continuous variable transmission (CVT) on hybrid models

Note:  As of this writing, there are no specifics as to the different trim levels, and, there are no specifics as to which features go with each trim level.

*  Safety

All new Rav 4’s come with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 that has a bevy of safety features including:

  • Forward collision warning and mitigation with pedestrian detection
  • Advanced adaptive cruise control
  • Lane keeping assist with lane-trace assist
  • Lane departure warning
  • Auto high-beam headlights
  • Traffic sign reader
  • Optional blind-spot monitors, surround-view camera and rear cross-traffic braking

*  All-Wheel Drive System

  • New, all-wheel drive system features a rear drive train disconnect that deactivates the rear wheels when demand is low

– Benefit:  Improved highway MPG

Note:  Available on upper trim levels

  • The Hybrid All Wheel Drive model will feature its own all wheel drive system that sends more power to the wheels than the 4-cylinder (gasoline) models.

What Do We Like?

  • The new technology and safety features
  • The overall smoothness of the engine, transmission and ride quality
  • The terrific hybrid model’s MPG
  • The better quality interior materials and improved interior layout
  • The new multi-terrain control knob select system
  • The more rugged styling
  • The outstanding quality, fit and finish and reliability
  • The new all wheel drive system
  • More luxury features
  • One of the largest interior volumes in its class

Overall, the new 2019 Rav 4 is improved in every aspect.  It has a myriad of safety and comfort features.  It has more power and increased MPG.  It offers a new, top-of-the line hybrid model that incorporates all the new features and the highest MPG.  Above all, it is a Toyota:  highest reliability, high MPG, high resale value and equipped with an assortment of comfort, convenience and safety features.

Bottom line – You cannot go wrong with a Toyota.  Check out the new Toyota Rav 4.  They should be in Toyota showrooms now.

Happy Motoring!

Remember for your auto parts, please shop online from Amazon.com, Tirerack.com and Vividracing.com.

Thank you.

Kreativecars.com

Hybrid Cars: A Brief History – How They Work – Advantages

The Toyota Prius Hybrid, introduced in Japan in 1997, was the first mass produced hybrid car.  Honda’s Insight Hybrid came out in the United States and Japan in 1999.

A hybrid car is an automobile that combines an internal combustion engine and electric propulsion drive train.  Most hybrids employ a conventional 4-cylinder gasoline engine and electric generator.  This  combination is more efficient system in delivering power to the drive wheels.  The electric motor is superior at supplying torque,  that is, getting the car moving quickly.  The gasoline engine is best suited for maintaining the car’s momentum at higher speeds.  The combination of the two propulsion systems yields better fuel economy and cleaner emissions.  This “hybrid” system “switches” the two motors at optimum speeds to maximize fuel efficiency and performance.

Initially, hybrid cars were not that popular because they were priced considerably higher than conventional gasoline powered cars and production capability was limited.  Toyota and Honda had very few factories dedicated to producing hybrids.

I sold the Toyota Prius between 2000 and 2007 and the typical buyer was a high income customer who liked the idea of using less gas and expelling lower emissions.  The Prius was usually three to six thousand dollars more than comparably equipped, 4- cylinder gasoline Toyota Corollas.

But, the hybrid cars gained popularity as gasoline prices went up and down.  The hybrid cars became more comfortable to drive and came better equipped;  The idea of much better fuel mileage “caught on” in the eyes of the consumer.  The hybrid batteries are more compact in size and more powerful and, prices have moderated in that they are more “in line”  with non-hybrid cars.

Today, every manufacturer, including Toyota, Honda, Ford, GM, Fiat/Chrysler, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda and all the luxury brands offer sophisticated hybrid models.

An example of the efficiency of a hybrid automobile vs. a conventional 4-cylinder gasoline equipped car:

  • A 2018 Toyota Corolla LE
    • City:  28 mpg
    • Hwy: 36 mpg
    • Overall 32 mpg
  • A 2018 Toyota Prius (base model)
    • City: 54 mpg
    • Hwy: 50 mpg
    • Overall: 52 mpg
  • Hybrid cars are here to stay because:

(A)  They get far superior gas mileage.

(B) They give off far fewer emissions.

(C) Their batteries are smaller in size and more powerful.

(D) They are very well equipped.

(E) They have state-of-the-art interiors and beautiful exterior styling.

(F) Their pricing is more “in-line” with conventional powered cars.

Do yourself a favor;  Before you buy your next car, check out the new 2018/2019 hybrid models.  I think you will be quite happy in what you’ll find.

Happy Motoring!

 

Remember for your auto parts, please shop online from Amazon.com, Tirerack.com, and Vividracing.com.

Thank you.

Kreativecars.com

 

The Evolution of 4-Cylinder Engines

Four cylinder engines became popular in the 1970s and 1980s, primarily because of several major gasoline shortages.  Prior to that, American manufacturers traditionally offered V6 and V8 engines in their cars as American consumers were accustomed to powerful, gas consuming cars.

It wasn’t  until Toyota and Honda imported “econo boxes” into this country, starting in the 1970s, did American manufacturers realize that they had better change their thinking regarding engine size and fuel economy.  Toyota introduced the Corolla and Camry and Honda countered with their Accord and Civic.  The “sub-compact” Toyotas and Hondas all came with small block, lightweight 4-cylinder engines.

The Toyotas and Hondas were extremely popular, and, within a few years, captured up to 30% of the American auto market.  Their cars were in demand because they offered consumers an alternative from the large, heavy gas guzzling V6 and V8 cars that were the only cars on the market up until this time.  The imported Toyotas, Hondas, and Nissans were very reliable, low maintenance and, because of their small 4-cylinder engines, were much more fuel efficient and they were fun to drive!

Because of the tremendous sales gains of the imported cars in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, GM, Ford and Chrysler revamped their small car line-ups to compete.  Chevrolet introduced the Vega, Citation, Chevette and Cavalier.  Ford came out with the Pinto and the Maverick, while Chrysler offered the Plymouth Valiant.  What do these new American made cars have in common?  One, they were more compact in size and two, they all featured small displacement, more fuel efficient 4-cylinder engines.

Four cylinder engines have become more and more popular.  They are more refined and sophisticated and starting around the late 1990s and early 2000s, every manufacturer featured 4-cylinder engines as standard equipment in their sub-compact and compact models, and some mid-size and luxury models offered 4-cylinder versions as well.

As a result of advanced technology, the 4-cylinder engines in today’s cars are more powerful, are quieter, have higher displacement, more horsepower and torque and, at the same time, have considerably higher EPA fuel economy ratings.

Over the past fifteen or twenty years, Ford, Chevrolet (and GM),  Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Hyundai, Kia and others have developed “state-of-the art” 4-cylinder, turbo-charged engines.

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