You don’t have to be a millionaire to own a muscle car. There are plenty of cool models that we see on the road, at car shows
and at the auto restoration shop that will set your heart aflutter. Look for models older than 1972 and you’ll find some affordable options with plenty of horsepower and character.
1. 1973 Pontiac GTO and 1973–75 Pontiac Grand Am.
These babies have tons of style but won’t break the bank. In 1973, all of GM’s mid-size A-cars were designed with bigger, heavier colonnade-style bodies. Most were built with 230-hp, 400-cubic-inch (6.6 liter) V-8 engines, with optional 250-hp 455. You can easily get your hands on one of these
classics for between $12k and $17k.
2. 1971–75 Ford Maverick Grabber.
While it may not look like your typical muscle car, this vehicle is easy on the eye and boasts by a 210-gross-horsepower, two-barrel 302-cubic-inch (4.9 liter) V-8. We’ve seen them pass through the auto restoration shop with price tags lower than $12k.
3. 1979 Pontiac Firebird Formula 400 WS6.
While most late 70s Trans Ams will put your wallet in a quandary, the Formula from 1979 received less hype—yet 1979 is the only year this car was offered with the 220-hp true Pontiac 400 (6.6 liter) V-8. In addition, it boasts a WS6 handling package with four-wheel disc brakes and those coveted
snowflake alloy wheels as well. Only 24,851 Formulas were manufactured that year, though not all featured 400 and WS6. Still, you can find one with a price tag of around $16k and lower.
4. 1970–71 Ford Torino GT.
Built on the same mid-size chassis as its predecessors, these Torinos have nicer interiors and most come with 250-hp, 351-cubic-inch (5.8 liter) V-8. You can find these for anywhere between $12k and $19k.
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Believe it or not, there are many car enthusiasts that come into our classic car restoration shop in Los Angeles don’t know the difference between a pony car and a muscle car. You may have hard the terms used interchangeably and wondered if they were one and the same. In addition, many experts disagree on the definitions, making it even more difficult to know the difference. This week, we’ll discuss the definition of a pony car, while we compare the two classifications in our next blog.
Standard Classic Car Restoration Definition
The most standard definition of a pony car was inspired by the popular 1964 Ford Mustang: an American class of highly styled car that is compact and affordable yet bears a sporty or performance-oriented image. The term was coined by Dennis Shattuck, the Editor of Car Life magazine, based on the Mustang’s iconic logo of a stallion.
From that point forward, the term was used to describe members of its ranks. The template of these cars has several criteria, including two doors, room for four passengers, a short deck, a sporty long hood and open mouth styling. In addition, for a car to be a true pony car, it needs to be American made and built with mass production parts, which results in an affordable base price. In 1965, that price was around $2,500 and under. These pony cars also offered a bevy of upgrades that made it easy to personalize each car.
While the Mustang was the original pony car, a ton of competitors followed suit over the next few years, striving to compete with its style, performance and affordable price. Some excellent examples of other pony cars include the Pontiac Firebird, Plymouth Barracuda and AMC Javelin, and today’s Chevy Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and of course, the Ford Mustang.
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It’s 1965 and you’re in the grandstands at the Grand American race in Long Beach. Heat is kicking off the asphalt and sun is burning into your retinas. You hold a newspaper over your eyes to block the glare. What the hell is that coming up to the starting line? It looks like a midget delivery truck, red and covered with decals. Is it here to collect debris?
You can’t believe what you’re seeing. This little red wagon wants to race! The lights go green and the driver stomps on the accelerator. BOOM! The little red wagon blasts off the starting line with its nose in the air, full wheely. That wheely sure as hell isn’t slowing it down. It rips through the quarter mile in 11 seconds at 120 mph. You’re on your feet. You’re roaring. You can’t wait to see the little red wagon line’em up again.
You weren’t the only one to get jacked-up about the little guy that day. The Little Red Wagon gave birth to the wheelstanding era. It said (bleep) you to I think I can, I think I can and became an instant hot rod classic.
Why and how?
The 60’s were a time of extreme experimentation for drag racing. Chrysler wanted to sell more pick-ups and saw a chance for symbiosis. Using the A100 model as a jumping off point Jim Schaffer and John Collier made the adjustments needed to fit a 426 HEMI in the bed just behind the cabin.
They wanted a fast truck. The fact that they ended up with a wheely popping red devil was just a happy accident. One they didn’t discover until legendary driver Bill “Maverick” Golden got behind the wheel to film a commercial. The Little Red Wagon gave him a two-wheel thrill ride. Maverick fabricated a brake system that let him steer while the wheels were high. He hit the the road starting in Long Beach.
Everyone develops their passion for muscle car restoration for different reasons and from wide-ranging inspirations. For some, it was that chase scene in a classic action-packed movie or the teen idol they looked up to growing up. For others, it was a love handed down by their fathers or simply an innate instinct perked by the rumble of a perfectly tuned engine. We all took that spark, let is develop into something more and built our own identities around it: Chevy man, Ford guy, Camaro fanatic or Mustang aficionado.
On the subject of muscle car identities, here is a tough one for you. Would you rather…
Have anonymity: You can build your muscle car dream project but you can never tell or show a soul. No car is off limits; Shelby GT500KR, Olds 442, Dodge Charger; the choice is all yours. Starting with a rusted frame and a mess of an engine block, you prep and pamper until that baby shines. You take it out of the garage and rip it through windy mountain roads. It rumbles and roars and you want the world to see your masterpiece. But the world never will. The roads will always be empty.
Anti-Climax: You can build a string of legendary muscle car restorations, but you can never drive them. You are the host of a popular TV show. Muscle car enthusiasts across the country tune in week in and week out to see your handywork and to pay homage to the king. You rebuild cars for billionaires and dignitaries. You are lauded and revered. But when each project is finished, you have to turn over keys without ever turning over the engine. This is your curse.
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In a perfect muscle car restoration world, there would be no kit cars. Everything would be all original and every enthusiast would drive their dream with pride; elbow jutting out the window and sunglasses blocking the glare of a sun drenched open road.
Unfortunately for car lovers, not everyone has the cash to pull that off, and not every auto restoration projects are bound for Barrett-Jackson big bucks. When the question to kit or not to kit comes up, you simply have to do the math and determine what is realistic in your financial world and what other resources are available to you. If all original isn’t affordable or tracking down the parts is downright impossible—kit it. We won’t tell.
Here are a few of the most popular models for kit rebuilds:
1969 Chevy Camaro
Kits for this legendary vehicle are readily available in a variety of stages, all the way from bits and pieces to fully assembled. Please don’t shell out the cash for a fully assembled kit, you will break our muscle car lov’n hearts—it’s truly not necessary.
1968 Ford “Eleanor” Mustang
If you don’t like it, blame Nicolas Cage. The fact of the matter is this kit is popular all across the globe. If you have the engine and the frame, the body essentials will only run you about 8k. If you want the whole shebang, expect to spend upwards from 40k.
Early Sixties Corvettes
The early Corvettes are undeniably gorgeous and extremely popular. Deep down, we hope you don’t do this, but if you want to be a miser, kits that fit onto the frame of a Fiero or Miata are available. But come on, you’ll always know that you’re sitting on an itty bitty Mazda. Realistic kits cost 20k plus, but with them comes pride.
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|Photo Credit: hotrodhomepage.com
Considered just as American as baseball and apple pie, all hot rods start with something old. ut did you know that the sports surrounding them are almost one hundred years old?
While many associate drag racing and cruising with the grease monkeys of the 1950s, the sports actually predate the Second World War. Bored and broke teens in Southern California started buying up old Model T frames and souping them up to race in the dry lake beds north of the city. Street racing was also prevalent in the late 20’s and into the 30’s, but the desert lake beds are where the community and the movement really took root. Plus, during the Great Depression, new cars were too expensive, so many teens and young adults refurbished old cars from junk yards and swapped out their engines to build their own self-styled hot rods. They also stripped away heavy, unnecessary components to make them lighter and faster.
While hot rods have evolved significantly over the years, most of the cars from the old school days that were churning up dust were four-cylinder Ford Model Ts and Model As. They were cheap and easy to get, lightweight and easy to boost up. Simple fixes like higher compression and timing adjustments made for big speed increases. And, of course, the even simpler speed fix—strip off EVERYTHING you don’t need.
Today hot rod culture is a national obsession. Those old Model T and Model A, Ford’s are still top choices. Imagine the looks today’s rides would get from those desert racing Southern California teens!
Hot rod culture is still alive and well in Southern California. Look no further than our full service restoration garage to see the amazing work being done by Southland enthusiasts!
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The 1964 Pontiac GTO is the very essence of what American muscle cars are all about. It dominated the market throughout the 1960s and 1970s and was considered to be one of the first mass-produced muscle cars. The GTO blazed the trail for countless future hot rod restoration projects. To this day, it continues to be one of the most influential vehicles ever developed.
Packing a 325 horsepower 389 cubic inch V8, the GTO is a force to be reckoned with. Its three-speed Hurst manual floor shifter, dual exhausts, and sport suspension all gave the GTO unrivaled performance during its heyday. It is so powerful, in fact, that some people simply couldn’t handle it. According to Pontiac, “To be perfectly honest, the GTO is not everyone’s cup of tea. … Its suspension is firm, tuned more to the open road than to wafting gently over bumpy city streets. Its dual exhausts won’t win any prizes for whispering. And, unless you order it with our lazy 3.08 low-ratio rear axle, its gas economy won’t be anything to write home about.”
The 1964 GTO was so popular, in fact, that GM sold 6 times as many cars as predicted within the first six months. Demand far exceeded production capacity, which further added to the mystique of the vehicle. This demand came from a combination of low retail price and rave reviews in magazines. According to Car and Driver, the GTO was “virtually as good as the Ferrari GTO”. This is where Los Angeles car restoration shops like Brauns really shine. There are countless variations of the GTO on the market as hot rod enthusiasts have had decades to improve and upgrade their vehicles. Also, its legacy still lives on today with the recently released GTO models. This is one vehicle that has stood the test of time, and for good reason.
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Interested in a self driving car? We hope so because your next car will probably drive itself. The technology is already here, with Google’s Driverless cars! While that may sound exciting, it will probably be several years before autonomous cars available in major markets.
“Why so long?” you ask. Well, that’s a simple question with a complicated answer so we’ve documented a few reasons that cover some of the major points brought up in this debate.
First, consider the ethics that need to be hashed out and the subsequent laws that would have to be in place based on this ethical code before making these cars legally operable. Legal liability. Who is going to be responsible for a car that ‘T-boned another car by itself’? Yeah, right. The chances of an alibi like that holding in court? Unlikely it seems… but who knows! If the car is totally autonomous, the point is that they drive themselves…
Right? Well, that’s just it. Currently, these cars aren’t completely autonomous. There will still need to be some user involvement in the driving process. Essentially, it’ll be easier to deal with things like sitting in highway traffic. But other instances, like switching lanes, may still require some human interaction. So unfortunately, no snoozing on the way to work for you, but hopefully one day we’ll get there.
How will regular cars fare with autonomous cars on the road? That’s a great question—we’re not sure. But apparently the ominous, constantly progressive ‘they’ may be working on aftermarket systems that one can integrate into an older car (e.g. some classic muscle like a ’68 mustang) — giving it wi-fi capability and whatever it needs to communicate with autonomous systems. Talk about some serious auto restoration procedures. We’re certainly interested in that topic.
So these are just a few of the reasons it’ll take a few years to get our hands on these cars, but it’s all for the best. Hopefully by then, Brauns Automotive will be experts at aftermarket wi-fi system installation so we can continue to serve our customers with the best and most badass muscle car restoration services available.
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Whether you don’t even know what defines a muscle car or if you can rattle off the nitty gritty details like what chassis dyno testing is, we’re certain you can appreciate the sight when a true classic muscle car restoration drives past you or is on display. They’re beasty and loud yet at the same time beautiful and graceful—a classic muscle car gets everyone going at least a little bit.
Here are just a few of the greats:
1. Pontiac Firebird. Just the name reminds many of Burt Reynolds’ baby in Smokey and the Bandit and evokes images of those painted-hood icons of the ‘80s. A close relative of the Chevy Camaro, the Firebird actually dates way back to the ‘60s and is considered one of the best muscle cars on the market.
2. 1970 Boss 302 Mustang. This serious vehicle features the high-rev Boss 302 V8 engine, which was perfect for a little racing action with its ability to reach zero-to-60-mph sprint in less than seven seconds.
3. 1970 Hemi Barracuda. We had to include this hemi in this list—even those who haven’t a clue what chassis dyno testing is probably have heard of the infamous hemi. This car was completely redesigned in 1970 with five high-powered V8 engines that generated an unrivalled 425 horsepower.
4. 1970 Chevelle 454 SS. Ah, the Chevelle—one of the most classic of the bunch. This baby packs the engine—with about 7.4 liters to be exact—giving it tremendous power that was difficult to compete with. Still highest-output production car to date, this car and its engine was a force to be reckoned with when it came to power wars.
5. 1969 Dodge Charger. Everyone remembers the General Lee from the iconic television show, The Dukes of Hazzard—it was the baddest of the early Dodge Chargers. While its standard engine brought 375 horsepower, the 426 Hemi gave it a full 425.
Whether you’re a newbie to the muscle car world or are an expert in chassis dyno testing, we know you’ll take notice whenever one of these classics flies by.