Chevrolet Bel Air

The Chevrolet Bel Air was a full-size vehicle produced from 1950 to 1975 in the United States, and until 1981 in Canada.  The concept of the Bel Air was to have a sporty hardtop convertible in their lineup.  This car was initially based on the Styline DeLuxe model from 1949.

1953 Bel Air

The first generation Bel Air was produced 1950 to 1954, though the Bel Air wouldn’t be its own model until 1953, when the lineup gained a 2-door coupe and 4-door sedan.  A 2-door convertible was also introduced.  This generation Bel Air was based on the GM A-body platform from 1936, shared with other models in the Chevrolet lineup (ie: Chevy 150, 210, Impala, etc.), and other GM models, such as the Pontiac Chieftain, Star Chief, Oldsmobile 76, and 88.  In this generation’s final year of production, 1954, the lineup gained a station wagon model.  Power came from the 215 CI (3.5L) Thriftmaster inline-6 and the 235 CI (3.9L) Blue Flame inline-6.  The Blue Flame 6 produced 125 horsepower.

1955 Bel Air

The Bel Air was revised in 1955.  The new model would still share the 1936 A-body platform with other GM vehicles like the previous generation model had.  As this was the case, the 115 inch wheelbase of the previous generation counterpart had been retained for this lineup, but was nearly 2 inches shorter in exterior length.  Hardtop, sedan, and station wagon models were standard throughout the lineup for the entire generation.  A new engine option was the 265 (4.3L) Small-Block V8, which was also featured in the Corvette.  The difference for the Bel Air’s 265 was that it produced 162 horsepower, versus the Corvette’s 195 horsepower.  The Bel Air was given a cosmetic update for 1956, and another for 1957.

1957 Bel Air hardtop

The 215 Thriftmaster and the 235 Blue Flame engines from the previous generation were available in this model, but two new V8s were introduced: the 265 CI (4.3L) and 283 CI (4.6L) Small Blocks.

For one year only, in 1958, Chevrolet produced its third generation Bel Air model.  This car transitioned to the more extensive full-size, rear-wheel-drive B-body platform.  This allowed the Bel Air to strongly resemble its platform twin, the Impala.  In addition to the hardtop, sedan, and convertible models, a coupe was introduced to the lineup.  A larger V8, the Big Block, was introduced.  This engine was good for anywhere between 250 to 315 horsepower.

The Bel Air was radically redesigned for its fourth generation in 1959.  This included a low-slung four-headlight design and curvier windshield/pillar design.  Engine choices were the 235 Blue Flame 6, 283 Small Block V8, and 348 Big Block V8.

1961 saw the debut of the fifth generation Bel Air.  The exterior dimension changes included a shortened length, although the wheelbase remained the same.  After that year, the 4-door hardtop was discontinued.  The Bel Air continued to be updated year after year, and the 1963 and 1964 models saw significant change.  It began to more resemble its platform counterparts, the Biscayne and Impala.

1969 Bel Air 4-door sedan

The 1965 Bel Air was not only cosmetically redesigned, but also slightly longer than its predecessor.  The wheelbase remained the same from the prior generation.  The body styles for this generation would range from 2-door and 4-door sedans and a 4-door wagon.  It would be this point onward that the Bel Air would offer little semblance to its namesake due to its strong resemblance to its other platform model counterparts.  Engine choices included two inline-sixes (230 and 250), and a range of Small Block and Big Block V8s.  In 1970, the wagon was renamed Townsman, and the 250 inline-6 developed 155 horsepower.  The top of the line that year was the 454 Big Block V8.

From 1971 to 1975, the Bel Air was practically the same as the contemporary generation Caprice.  The B-body platform had rubbed off on the Bel Air so much, that both the Bel Air and Caprice were assembled in the same Arlington (Texas), Oshawa, Ontario (Canada), and South Gate (California) assembly plants.  They even shared the same two Small Block V8s, the 350 and 400, as well as the 454 Big Block.  The Caprice and Impala proved to be more worthy mainstays in the Chevrolet lineup, and 1975 saw the final year of American production of the Bel Air.

Canada would see the “Bel Air” name continue on in 1976, in the same generation from 1970.  In 1977, the Canadian-only eighth generation debuted, still strongly resembling its Caprice/Impala counterparts.  These models were assembled in Baltimore, Maryland; Flint, Michigan; and Oshawa, Ontario in Canada.  The engine lineup consisted of a singular inline six, the 250, and 305 and 400 Small Block V8s.  A drop in sales spelled the end for the Bel Air altogether, and 1981 saw the final “Bel Air” in the Chevrolet lineup, America or Canada.

Plymouth Barracuda

The Plymouth Barracuda (called “Plymouth Valiant Barracuda” in Canada) was a muscle car produced by Chrysler Corporation from 1964 to 1974.

1966 Barracuda

 

When Chrysler Corp developed the first generation Barracuda from 1964 to 1966, they based it heavily on the Valiant model in the Plymouth lineup, sharing the same A-body platform.  Thus, the Canadian version of this car was named “Valiant Barracuda”.  The base engine choices for the United States and Canada were different: the Canadian Barracuda got the 170 CI (2.8L) Slant-6, while the American base had the 225 CI (3.7L) version.  An amped-up version of the Barracuda could have the 273 CI (4.5L) 90-degree V8 (codenamed “LA“).  The 273 in the 1964 Barracuda produced 180 horsepower, and could also be had with the optional Torqueflite automatic transmission.  In 1965, Plymouth introduced the “Formula S” package to the Barracuda, which included an upgraded version of the 273 V8, nicknamed Commando.  The Commando was capable of producing 235 horsepower, thanks to its 10.5:1 compression ratio and strengthened camshaft.  The Barracuda was restyled in 1966 before the debut of the second generation model.

1967 Barracuda

 

In 1967, Plymouth debuted the restyled second generation Barracuda, still based on the Valiant model, like the previous model.  A notable cosmetic feature on the ’67 model was a larger front-end air intake (grille) and a much curvier shape.  The chrome bumpers were also revised.  From this generation onward, a convertible was available in the lineup.  The 225 Slant-6 engine remained as the base engine, and in 1968, the 273 V8 was ditched and replaced with a larger 318 CI (5.2L) V8.  This 318 was also an “LA” engine, like the smaller 273 it replaced as the base V8.  Among one of the most powerful V8s produced for this generation was the 426 CI (7.0L) Hemi V8, developed for Super Stock drag racing cars assembled by Hurst Performance.  1969 saw the final year of production of the A-body Valiant-based Barracuda.

1970 Cuda
1971 Cuda convertible

Plymouth’s ultra muscle car was about the get more ultra: the 1970 edition of the Barracuda abandoned the tradition of being based on the Valiant (A-body) and instead shared the E-body platform with the Dodge Challenger.  Thus, this created a much larger vehicle than the previous compact size Valiant-based Barracudas.  Very often, this generation of Barracudas is nicknamed to a shortened “Cuda“.  The two base Slant-6 engines for the 1970 Barracuda were the then-new 198 CI (3.2L) and the 225 CI engines.  The “LA” V8 engines were 318 CI, 340, and 360.  The top-of-the-line V8 was the 426 CI Hemi, throwing 425 horsepower.  1971 saw a slight update to the Barracuda; namely, a cosmetic update which featured a four-headlight design for the front end.  The V8 engine options (including the 426 V8) remained the same from the year before.

The oil crisis of the early 1970s had inflicted upon the Plymouth Barracuda lineup (as well as other popular sports and muscle cars) a drop in engine and transmission options and power output.  The 1972 ‘Cuda went back to the two-headlight front end design like the 1970 model.  The diluted versions of the previously famous and powerful ‘Cudas had only three engine options for 1972, a 225 6-cylinder and two V8s: the 318 and a detuned version of the 340.  The 1973 Barracuda was available only with the 318 and 340 V8s, as that year, the 225 six was dropped.  Due to dropping sales, as well as the devastating effects of the oil crisis, the ‘Cuda ended production in April 1974.

AMC AMX

In 1966, American Motors introduced two prototype vehicles dubbed “AMX” and “AMX II”.  “AMX” stood for “American Motors experimental”, and in mid-year 1968, started production on the high performance AMX sports hatchback. The AMX was intended to be a cash-in for the popular muscle car market in the late 1960s, sporting high-power four-barrel V8 engines, a “four on the floor” 4-speed manual transmission, and a drivetrain configuration of front engine, rear wheel drive.  The first two years of this model would see the same fascia; however, 1970 saw a drastic redesign.

The engine choices for 1970 were the 360 CI (5.9L) four-barrel V8 and the 390 CI (6.4L) four-barrel V8.  The 360 was the smallest engine option for 1970, as it replaced the 343 (5.6 L) available years prior.  A December 1969 road test by Motor Trend saw a 390 AMX start to 60 mph (100 km/h) in 6.56 seconds and reach a quarter mile in 14.6 seconds at 92 mph (148 km/h).  The top speed is 110 mph (177 km/h).

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) named the AMX “best engineered car of the year” for both the 1969 and 1970 model years.  Counting all engine and transmission options, AMC had produced 4116 AMXs for 1970, and 19,134 units for the overall 3-year run.  The AMX lived on in 1971 as a Javelin model.