Chapter 16

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Many of us who are interested in cars, have an affection for what is called Muscle Cars. This is a genre wherein a manufacturer takes an engine that was designed for a large car, and puts it into a small car, to create a little rocketmobile.

This practice goes way back of course. The song "Hot Rod Lincoln" was about a Model A Ford with a big Lincoln engine. The original hot rods were all made by guys with welding torches in their back yards, though, and the Muscle Cars were cars that you could just go to a dealer and buy all premade and ready to go.

In the early Fifties there was a fellow who had a little business installing Cadillac engines into Studebakers. It was called the Studillac. James Bond's American friend Felix Leiter drove one (in Diamonds are Forever). It wasn't really a production car, but almost.

We popularly think of the Pontiac GTO as the first production muscle car, and it certainly is the one that started the craze in the mid-Sixties. But of course it wasn't the first.

Do you know what the fastest sedan was in 1957, the high point of American automotive design? Surely the Chrysler 300C or something like that, right?

In 1957 Nash put their new 327 cubic-inch engine with fuel injection into the little Nash Rambler, and made the fastest car in America. A Nash Rambler.

Now, they never got the fuel injector to work right, and very few of these cars were sold. But they built them and sold them and it was the first real factory production big-engine-in-a-small-car in America.


The next, by the way, was the 1960 Thunderbird, a big car by today's standards but a relatively smaller car back then. You could get it with a 430 cubic-inch Lincoln engine, if you wanted. There was nothing else remotely like that combo anywhere.