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Just now, Rigid1 said:

Working on this today, needs a reverse light installed to pass NY inspection.


Is that a real Cobra or a Kit car?  My brother used to work for a company that did kit cars back in the early 2000's.  Had a lot of fun test drives!

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9 minutes ago, Mag6240 said:

Is that a real Cobra or a Kit car?  My brother used to work for a company that did kit cars back in the early 2000's.  Had a lot of fun test drives!

It's a kit, one of the Shelby authorized kits though, car rips good

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A Brief History of the Chevy II V-8 Engine Swap


In a market sector already inhabited by Studebaker and Rambler economy cars, the Big Three, Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler's compact car debut took place in late 1959. The new car buying public were anxious for something that was smaller, more affordable, and economical on gasoline from the Big Three. Hot rodders were taking notice of the new compacts, too, but not for the same reasons.


Every automotive trend starts somewhere, and it was at the dawn of compact cars in 1960 that spawned muscle cars in the mid-1960s. Interestingly, the horsepower race between the two most notorious rivals, Ford and Chevrolet, took a little longer in the compact arena to escalate, but developments were happening behind the scenes. In short, this article is about Genuine Chevrolet Parts' 19621963 Chevy II V-8 engine swap kit, but first we'll get into setting the stage for what brought the Chevy II V-8 swap kit into General Motors authorized production.

Hot rodders always want more horsepower, so right away as published in the August 1960 issue of MotorTrend magazine, people started doing hop-ups and V-8 engine swaps. Shedding curb weight increases a car's horsepower-to-weight ratio without having to increase horsepower, hence shedding curb weight and then adding a more powerful V-8 engine was the perfect formula for higher performance. In 1961 General Motors' Pontiac Tempest and Chevy Corvair fired the first rounds within GM's internal horsepower war, offering optional higher compression and hotter camshafts that boosted horsepower.

It didn't take long before General Motors' in-house horsepower race escalated in 1962 with Oldsmobile, Buick, and Pontiac divisions offering their own versions of Buick's new 215-cubic-inch V-8. Oldsmobile took the horsepower lead, offering a turbocharged 215 for its 1962 F-85 Cutlass. In Ford versus Chevrolet, things started out with Ford introducing the Falcon on September 2, 1959, and Chevrolet followed with the radically different Corvair in late fall of 1959. Chevrolet decided it needed to go toe to toe with the Ford Falcon in sales and debuted the Chevy II on September 29, 1961, engineering a platform the general public would consider as comparing apples to apples.

The demand for Chevy II V-8 engine swap kits never slowed and created a niche for aftermarket parts manufacturers to fill. Two of the companies producing parts to do Chevy II V-8 engine swaps early on were Speedway Motors and Trans Dapt. In the 21st century, Classic Performance Products (CPP) offers everything from basic Chevy II V-8 engine swap kits to complete front and rear upgraded suspension, brakes, and steering systems in complete kit form.

1962 Chevy II V-8 Engine Swap Fuel Injected 327 Corvette

001 1962 chevy II v 8 swap kit 327 fi corvette engine

Chevy offered two power teams for the debut of its 1962 Chevy II a base 153-inch four-cylinder engine or an optional 194-inch six-cylinder engine. Pictured are Bill Thomas Race Cars ready to swap the six-banger for a 1962 fuel-injected 327-inch Corvette engine.


1962 Chevy II V-8 Engine Swap Genuine Chevrolet Parts Kit

002 1962 chevy II V 8 swap kit bill thomas race cars

HOT ROD tech editor Ray Brock and Bill Thomas with a pre-production 1962 Chevy II V-8 engine swap kit. Chevy's Chevy II V-8 swap kit was available over the parts counter at Chevrolet dealers and could be dealer installed if a person wished.

1962 Chevy II V-8 Engine Swap Kit Four-Speed Trans Bubble

003 1962 Chevy II floor bump

This is the Chevy part number 3792164 transmission tunnel bubble Chevy included in the 196263 V-8 engine swap kit. Bill Thomas got his hands on a pre-production V-8 engine swap kit and had to fabricate an oil pan to fit. Chevy later included a correct oil pan in the kit released to the public.

1962 Chevy II V-8 Engine Swap Catalog Page Proves Kit Existed

004 chevy II v 8 swap kit parts catalog page

The 1962 Chevy II V-8 engine swap kit available at Chevrolet dealers is so rare some say it never existed, but this page from the 1962 CorvairChevy parts catalog confirms the kit did exist. Extremely rare is a Chevrolet dealer work order that proves a V-8 swap kit was dealer installed.

"Bad Bascom" Bill Thomas Race Cars' Corvette Powered Chevy II

005 chevy II bad bascom

Estimates are Bill Thomas Race Cars constructed half a dozen 1962 Chevy IIs with Chevrolet's V-8 conversions kits installing the new for 1962 327-inch Corvette engine. Color photos would be easier to confirm the first 1962 Chevy II Nova Thomas converted with Chevy's Genuine Chevrolet Parts' became "Bad Bascom."

1962 Chevy II Nova "Bad Bascom" With 327-Inch Corvette Engine


Pure factory experimental DNA powering "Bad Bascom" with Corvette blood under the hood and in the rearend with 1963 Corvette IRS. Bill Thomas Race Cars' 1962 Chevy II Nova two-door hardtop was built to road race and featured a prototype Corvette IRS differential.

007 1962 Chevy II Bad Bascom Riverside


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The Forgotten Story of the Wild Concept Car That Led to the Very First Mustang

Updated: 17 May 2021, 11:29 UTC • Published: 10 May 2021, 09:39 UTC • By: 
This month, we’re celebrating one of the most famous nameplates in automotive history, the iconic Mustang. Throughout a series of articles dedicated to the legendary car, we’ll take an in-depth look at how the first generation evolved through the years. Before we examine the production models, let’s begin by remembering the spectacular concept car that introduced the Mustang to the world.
1962 Ford Mustang I Concept
It all begins in the summer of 1962 when a committee of Ford managers called the Fairlane Group was assembled to analyze market trends and suggest new products.

That year, the Blue Oval’s car lineup included the family-oriented 4d Station Wagon, the compact Falcon, the intermediate Fairlane, the full-size Galaxie, and the luxurious Thunderbird. All of them were great vehicles but younger buyers wanted something faster, and more fun to drive.

With this in mind, the group led by vice-president and general manager Lee Iacocca commissioned the development of a radical concept car that would test the feasibility of a sportier car.
1962 Ford Mustang I Concept
A team of designers that included Philip T. Clark, John Najjar, and Eugene Bordinat created a spectacular clay model in about three weeks. It had a 90-inch (2,286.0 mm) wheelbase while measuring 48 inches (1,219 mm) at the front and 49 inches (1,245 mm) at the rear.

Meanwhile, another team of engineers highlighted by Roy Lunn and Herb Misch brought the concept to life. They created a detailed, but non-functional fiberglass mock-up, and a fully functional car by the end of the summer.

The result was a stunning roadster with an aluminum body created by racecar builders Troutman-Barnes of Culver City, California. It featured an integrated roll bar, a low, race car-inspired plastic windshield a telescoping steering wheel, and adjustable foot pedals.
1962 Ford Mustang I Concept
The space frame chassis was built to accommodate a fully independent suspension system, rack and pinion steering, and front disc brakes. Power came from a mid-mounted 91 cu. in. (1.5-liter) V4 engine produced by Ford Germany for the European Taunus. The unit was cooled using two separate radiators fitted on both sides of the car and was linked to a 4-speed manual.

Ford lead designer and aviation enthusiast John Najjar proposed the name “Mustang” because certain design cues of the show car reminded him of a P-51 Mustang fighter plane. Ford executives liked the suggestion and the name stuck.

It debuted on the Watkins Glen racetrack in New York on October 7, 1962, with Formula One driver Dan Gurney at the wheel. He drove it for a non-competitive demonstration lap, reportedly reaching speeds that exceeded 120 mph (193 kph) much to the delight of everyone in attendance.
1962 Ford Mustang I Concept
he automotive press was in awe, writing that Ford was preparing to launch a rival for the Corvette and soon the Mustang was the main talking point among all car enthusiasts.

The Mustang concept was heavily promoted in the following months, appearing at many car shows and automotive events. Ford even took it on a tour of U.S. colleges to get feedback from younger generations.

Although everybody loved it, it was deemed too complex and extravagant to become a successful series production vehicle, but it confirmed that the company needed a small sports car in its lineup. This eventually led to the birth of the first-generation Mustang which we’ll cover at length in the upcoming articles dedicated to the legendary nameplate. 
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How a Ford dealer created the 428 Cobra Jet

t’s possible you’ve never heard of Tasca Ford, but the performance-oriented dealership certainly left a lasting impression on Ford—and the Mustang. In 1967, Bob Tasca Sr. combined race-proven engineering with factory Ford parts to create a high-performance Mustang supercar dubbed the KR-8. The Tasca-tuned combination worked so well that Ford pushed the engine into production Mustangs as the 428 Cobra Jet.

Although the original Ford Mustang was a hit with younger crowds from its inception, by ’67 there was competition in the pony car field. Chevrolet had shifted its performance focus away from the Corvair and onto the new Camaro. The Mustang underwent a restyle that brought a size and weight increase, and the engine bay was now able to accept larger V-8 engines between the shock towers. Ford offered its 390-cid FE-series 320-hp Thunderbird Special V-8 for 1967, but there was a problem. Performance.

The 390 might have been acceptable in a personal luxury Thunderbird or full-size station wagon, but under the Mustang’s hood it was no match for a Camaro packing a high-winding, deep-breathing 327-cid small block V-8. And it certainly wasn’t enough against the Pontiac GTO or big-block Plymouth GTX. Word of its shortcoming quickly spread and sales lagged, prompting Rhode Island-based Tasca to come up with a performance fix for the heavy, low-revving 390 Mustang.

After tuning the 390 engine as far as it could go, Tasca turned to mechanic and drag racer Bill Gilbert for a solution that offered customers improved performance without costing too much. In theory, the high-performance Ford 427 V-8 could be had as a $622 option, but few young Mustang buyers were willing or able to fork over that kind of cash—the equivalent of $5,000 today—for a high-strung engine. Those who could usually opted for the Shelby Mustang. Gilbert came up with a formula that combined high-flow 427-sourced cylinder heads with a police-fleet tough 428-cid rotating assembly.


Noting that the 427-powered Galaxie got a considerable bump in performance from 1963 to ’64, Gilbert reached out to an engineering contact at Ford and determined that the performance increase was all due to changes in the cylinder heads. The bad news was that 427 cylinder heads would not fit the 390 block. In a stroke of genius, Tasca ordered a factory stock 428 Police Interceptor short-block assembly from Ford and discovered through creative fitting that the 427 heads would work on the 428 short-block with little more than piston notching for larger valves. “I flycut the pistons right in the block,” Gilbert said.

He sorted out camshaft specs and placed a call to another insider at Ford—Poppa “Sully” Sullivan, who set up the machines and purpose ground a camshaft for the KR-8 combination that Tasca dubbed the C-Stock cam. The engine was equipped with a 427 oil pump and recurved 427 distributor, then topped with an aluminum dual-plane intake manifold and single Holley 735 CFM carburetor, fed by a dual-snorkel air cleaner. With a modified C-6 automatic transmission and suspension modifications, the formerly sleepy Mustang became the 7,000-rpm “King of the Road.”

Tasca used measured drag strip and real-world street testing over dynamometer-based tuning. “We didn’t have a dyno back then, but we had our own test called the ‘10-Second Test,’” Gilbert said. “It didn’t make any difference whether it was this car or that car or whatever car—you made the comparison test on that vehicle. Every time you did something to it, you’d run the 10-Second Test again. Was it faster or slower? That was our barometer.”

Tasca Jr. said the test began with a rolling start. “I’d go 20 miles per hour,” he said. “Bob Andreozzi would have the stopwatch, and as soon as I hit it, I’d count ‘8-9-10’ and look at the speedometer.” The KR-8 tested faster than baseline across the board.

Tasca Sr. drove the KR-8 from Rhode Island to Dearborn as proof of concept and for testing against some 427-powered factory specials. With a closed exhaust and street tires, the Tasca KR-8 ran a low 13-second quarter-mile at 105 miles per hour. Ford officials were so impressed they wouldn’t let the car head back to Rhode Island with the KR-8 powertrain. Tasca drove it home with a 427 from the Ford GT40 Le Mans program, backed by a Gilbert-modified C-6 transmission. After Ford dissected the KR-8 combination, Tasca answered any criticism of engine tolerances and piston-to-wall clearances by reminding the corporate guys that the 428 short block was a Ford factory part.

Additionally persuaded by thousands of impromptu inquiries about the 428 setup (Mustang fans simply tore out an article in Hot Rod magazine and mailed it), Ford Motor Company put the KR-8 engine into production. It was installed in the ‘68 Mustang as the 428 Cobra Jet. In a full-circle experience, Ford shipped Tasca Ford an early production selection of 10 Cobra Jet Mustangs in white. Bob Tasca asked Gilbert to weigh all 10 and chose the two lightest and best-running examples. One was converted by Holman-Moody into the 11-second Tasca Ford Cobra Jet Super Stock drag car; the other became the unbeatable “Street Bertha.”

Ford's Cobra Jet History | Cobra Jet Mustang | Ford Performance - YouTube

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Engine History: The OHC V12 Engine That Cadillac Almost Built


Cadillac V12 a

first posted 12/18/2013)     Imagine lifting the hood of a 1967 Cadillac, and seeing this alloy SOHC V12 nestled there. It’s hardly a far-fetched notion. In the mid sixties, Cadillac came very close to replacing its aging V8 engine with a modern OHC V12. There have been references to this program, but there was almost no photographic evidence of these intriguing engines. A while back, blog.hemmings finally convinced Cadillac to send them some detailed pictures and more information.


Six prototypes were built in 1963 and 1964, all with a 60-degree bank, chain driven camshafts and hydraulic finger followers. The initial displacement was 7.4 liters, but an 8.2 was also built, which corresponds exactly to the size of the new V8 engine that eventually was built instead of the V12. Various induction systems were tried, including single four-barrel, dual four-barrel, and triple two-barrel carburetors, as well as fuel injection. Output was between 295 to 394 horsepower, and from 418 to 506 lb.ft. of torque.


ccording to historian Karl Ludvigsen, the V12 engines were planned to make their initial appearance in the new FWD Eldorado in 1967. GM drivetrain engineers at that time were considering a transverse engine orientation for the FWD system, and protested that the V12 would be too long. But supposedly they then relented, and switched to a longitudinal FWD system which could have accommodated the V12. But then the V12 program was killed, “due to the poor performance of the test engines and due to a predicted inability for the engine to meet anticipated emission controls”

What seems odd to me about that statement from Ludvigsen is that I have never heard of GM’s Toronado FWD program considering transverse engines, as Olds had been working on FWD prototypes since 1960 or earlier, and to the best of my knowledge, they were all longitudinal. Certainly Cadillac couldn’t have been considering their own FWD system; that just makes no sense.

As it turned out, the V12 died for other reasons. But it sure makes for fascinating speculation to think of a whole generation of Cadillacs with V12s under their hoods. It came mighty close to happening.

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Although the Chevrolet Corvette may have received the lion's share of America's mid-engine sports car hype, General Motors wasn't the only automaker investigating the more exotic side of the street.

American Motors Corporation, the Wisconsin-based perennial number four to Detroit's Big Three, had big dreams at the end of the 1960s to stop their market share slide and become legitimate contenders in the minds of domestic buyers. High performance was intended as a key aspect of the brand's image makeover, and it was decided that a halo model that would devastate the competition in terms of both speed and style was exactly what AMC needed.

AMC AMX/3 in yellow front 3/4 view

Enter the AMX/3, perhaps the rarest American sports car of the early 1970s. Despite never making its intended impact on AMC's fortunes, the story of the AMX/3 is filled with intriguing twists and turns that point to what might have been for the last major independent American automaker to survive into the 80s.


By 1967 AMC had a non-running concept car, the AMX/2, that it felt represented the best path forward for winning the hearts and minds of enthusiasts. Based on an unbuilt Le Mans racer, the car's sleek aerofoil appearance and muscular rear haunches hinted at its mid-engine design, which was in keeping with the string of exotics hailing from Europe in the same era.

Although head of design Dick Teague's AMX/2 shape was sexy, the company's executives didn't want to take any chances and insisted that Italian superstar Giorgetto Giugiaro be given a crack at the next iteration of the vehicle too. The 'best' body would win.

AMC AMX/3 rear 3/4 view

he squeeze was on for Teague and his team. Unwilling to rest on their laurels, even with the impressive looks of the AMX/2 already drawing major heat from the public, the group put together what they felt was an improved version of the car (dubbed the AMX/3) and readied it for presentation. They needn't have worried, as Giugiaro's entry into the AMX sweepstakes was a half-baked, underwhelming foam-carved block that was leagues away from what Teague had already built, cutting his vision out of contention.

So Many Cooks

With the shape of the AMX/3 set, American Motors turned to the nuts and bolts of getting it built. Unable to handle this type of low-volume, semi-monocoque production itself, it turned first to Karmann, then to BMW, then finally Giotto Bizzarini to engineer a steel-bodied solution to get the AMX/3 on the road. Although the latter would make important contributions, the pendulum somehow swung back to Giugiaro and ItalDesign, which would also play a part alongside Bizzarini in initially designing a running and driving version of the car.

AMC AMX/3 side profile

BMW had tapped out of the engineering process, but it was still interested in helping AMC with some aspects of the project—particularly if it meant making a partnership with a company that could offer it North American factory space in the future. Initially, the company would work to verify the quality of the Italian-produced prototypes, but this role would expand to include a fair amount of input on how the vehicle drove and how it was eventually constructed.

Cutting Edge Engineering

As a car with many parents, the AMX/3 faced numerous challenges that would each play a part in keeping it from ever reaching a showroom. American Motors had planned to put a large V8 engine in the AMX/3, but was immediately confronted not just with cooling challenges but also issues finding a transaxle that would fit, how to balance the weight of the car fore and aft, and how to stuff a fuel tank inside its tight wheelbase.

AMC AMX/3 rear view in red

Still, each of these issues was solved, and the car marched forward through testing. A prototype would run the track at Monza in 1970 and turn over 170 miles per hour in the process, thrilling AMC executives. With 340 hp from a 390 cubic in V8, the lightweight AMX/3 was proving itself to be every bit the Euro-fighter that had originally been envisioned. The vehicle was announced to the public that same year.

It's here that 'what might have been' clashed with the realities of the market. After taking a look at the bill for building the AMX/3, American Motors realized that it would have to charge a whopping $12,000 for each car, which was thousands more than its most direct competitor, the De Tomaso Pantera, and multiples of any other AMC price tag in the showroom.

AMC AMX/3 front view in red

This quickly scuttled plans to build close to 5,000 examples a year, with that number narrowing to under 50. At that price, however, AMC would be in tough to cover development and production costs together—particularly after the revelation that the U.S. market was about to legislate clunky 5-mph bumper requirements, which would require a further retooling of the AMX/3's shape. Only five vehicles were built, largely for testing, before the entire program was shut down.

The Start Of The Slide?

It's hard to say whether the AMX/3 would have reversed AMC's fortunes in the 1970s. There's no doubt that the prestige associated with such a headline-grabbing car would have polished the brand's image, but whether production cars would have enjoyed the reliability and durability required to keep owners happy is a big unknown in an era where quality control on exotic technology was still in it infancy. In the face of the upcoming energy crunch and EPA pollution regulations, who's to say how long American Motors could have kept the AMX/3 viable?

AMC AMX/3 front view in yellow

Most of the original AMX/3 models are still around today, and do occasionally change hands among diehard collectors. Strangely, it's only recently that the car has attracted the kind of seven-figure pricing one would expect from such a unique piece of American automotive history. Given the hype surrounding the C8 Corvette, and the spotlight shone on its own mid-engine progenitors at Chevrolet, the AMX/3's value has nowhere to go but up.



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A front side view of a 1966 2-seater Mustang

DEARBORN, Mich. – Because Ford Performance serves as the home for Blue Oval enthusiasts both inside and outside of Ford Motor Company, our vehicle interests range from everything preserved in the Ford Archives to everything in Ford dealer showrooms, both now and in the future. And because we connect with enthusiast owners from across the globe, there’s little we haven’t seen or heard about – especially for those of us who’ve logged 20 years or more at Ford. But every once and a while, we come across something that stumps our inner circle.

That’s when it comes time to ask the real experts – you. Yes, the real history of Ford isn’t housed in some corporate museum – it’s stored in your garages. Fact is, many owners of classic Fords know more about their cars than even many so-called historians, and sometimes we tap into that knowledge base to help us uncover mysteries that we can’t solve on our own.

A side view of a 2-seater Mustang

hat’s why we’re asking you to help us identify the project car seen in the four Ford Design Studio photos shown here, taken on May 2, 1966. We first got a look at these photos some five years ago, when Dean Weber, then head of Ford Archives but now retired, had sent them to Mustang author and columnist John Clor at Ford Performance and longtime Mustang marketing and PR guru John Clinard of Ford’s West Coast Public Affairs office. Weber’s email had read:

“Gentlemen: As you know, I am a big Ford Motor Company fan, but not really a motor-head. I was going through some scans and these jumped out at me -- Did we know that in ’66 Ford was working on a 2-seater, mid-engine Mustang? It might have been re-skinned as the Mach 2 Concept, but at this point it was definitely a Mustang . . .  Maybe this is well-known among the cognoscenti, I just didn’t know about it. Did either of you?”

It was quite unusual to get a note like that from Weber, longtime manager of The Ford Archives who had also shepherded its moves from the basement of Ford World Headquarters to temporary quarters in Ford’s Schaefer Court Complex and finally to its permanent home in Henry Ford’s historic and recently restored Ford Engineering Laboratory building in Dearborn. That’s because for so many years Weber had helped countless authors, writers and marketers sift through all of the Ford historical images associated with Mustang. He has an encyclopedic memory and has either seen or at least knows of most everything in Ford’s vast files.

A closeup of the engine and spare tire under the hood of a Mustang

Clor, who had himself spent hours at Archives looking for historic photos when researching his own two hardbound Mustang books, responded with this email:

“Wow! Unreal! I have NEVER seen these shots or anything even REMOTELY like them before … almost look like they were part of [Eugene] Bordinat’s previous Allegro project? I bet either Hal Sperlich or Gale Halderman would know; mind if I show these photos to them and see if they can remember? After all, they were both down there in the Design Studio at the time.”

Clinard, whose decades of exposure to the Mustang hobby in California gives him an unparalleled depth of historical acumen, concurred with Clor’s response, emailing back with:

“My thoughts exactly. I’ve never seen or heard of this car. So cool! I showed it to Greg Hutting, veteran designer here in the Irvine studio. He identified the location as the ‘International Studio’ in Dearborn but said he had never seen this property before!”

Clor contacted Sperlich, Halderman and former Ford Design VP Jack Telnack. Telnack admitted he didn’t know of any mid-engine 1966 Mustang project, and Sperlich, the product planner who spearheaded the original Mustang program, also drew a blank while offering a guess:

“Hi John!” Sperlich wrote. “The only thing I can think is that this might have something to do with the drivable version of the Ford Research mid-ship car that was used as a Mustang tease.”

A rear end view of a 2-seater Mustang on display

But Halderman, the principal stylist of the original Mustang, didn’t agree in his response:

“That midship ‘Mustang I Concept’ was a few years before this and was a one-off not based on a production Mustang. While those photos were certainly taken in the rarely toured International Studio, I don’t recall seeing this. Perhaps you could ask Roy Lunn?”

A portrait of a red Mustang 1

Asking Lunn was a good suggestion, as he was known as “Godfather of the GT40,” and was involved with every mid-engine vehicle program at Ford during his career. Clor just so happened to have been in touch with author Marty Schorr, who at the time was putting together a special Ford luncheon in Lunn’s honor at the Lakewood Ranch Country Club in Sarasota, Florida. So Clor asked if Schorr could show the photos to Lunn at that event.

A photo of a dark colored Mustang

Unfortunately, Lunn (who had passed away a short time later) could not provide Schorr with any details after looking at printouts of the photos, saying only, “Sorry, I’m not sure what that is . . .”

Clor spent the next year asking select Ford retirees if they knew anything about the photos but to no avail. The guess floated by Weber in his initial email -- that it could have been the origins of the 1967 Mach 2 Concept car -- was ruled out after Clor had spotted a MotorCities.org blog post in December of 2016. In it, a story by auto industry veteran and historian Wayne Ferens about the Mach 2 had contained information that would indicate the 1966 Mustang in these photos was NOT the basis for the Mach 2.

A man and a woman admiring a Mach 2

In Ferens’ story, entitled, “Ford's Experimental Mach 2 For 1967...The One (Mustang?) That Got Away,” he stated that “The initial concept was completed in Ford's Dearborn design studio under the watchful eye of Eugene Bordinat Jr., then V.P. of Styling and the Ford Engineering Center, but the final construction and assembly was done at the Kar Kraft facility under the direction of Ed Hull. Kar Kraft was an independent company located in Dearborn, but owned by Ford and used for special projects and race car preparation. The Mach 2 is a highly modified two-seater on a shortened version of a 1967 Mustang convertible floor pan.”

The Mustang in these photos is clearly made from a 1966 body, and when Ferens went on to say in his story that the Mach 2’s front end consisted of “a square steel-tubed frame,” it became clear that this 1966 mid-engine two-seater was not the same as the ’67 Mustang convertible-based Mach 2 that Ford introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in spring of 1967. (Afterward, Ferens contends, the Mach 2 was placed in storage until 1970 and then disappeared.)

So the mystery surrounding these lone four photos from the Ford Archives continues. Unless, that is, YOU or someone you know can shed some light on this 1966 mid-engine two-seater Mustang project car. Email us any info you may have to ClubHub@Ford.com and we’ll see if we can get the real story behind this cool prototype out to the Mustang world. So the next time someone tells you they know everything about the Ford Mustang, just show them these photos. If you can validate what they say and become the one to unlock this mystery for us, we’ll give you and your source full credit -- and will even send you a special prize. Good luck!    

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Pontiac Trans Am 303 CI motor.  The first Trans Am's were raced with a Chevy 302 motor to stay under the SCCA 305 CI limit.

This 1969 Pontiac is the first Trans Am ever built.

Story and photos by John Gunnell

Kevin Beal of Spotford, N.H., is the owner of the very first Pontiac Firebird production car to get the Trans Am package. This particular car is a bit out of the ordinary owing to its early build, so let’s first look at what the 1969 Trans Am represented before getting into the unique details behind the first example.

The 1969 Pontiac Trans Am

The Trans Am — a true Pontiac muscle machine — started out as a sports-racing car. It was planned as a competitor in the sedan class of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Trans-American Cup series. Indeed, a shortened version of the name of that racing series was used for the car, and Pontiac paid the SCCA a $5 per car royalty for its use.

The racing version was originally planned to be powered by an ultra-high-performance, low-compression 303-cid small-block V-8. The engine was designed specifically to “fit” the displacement limits of the Trans-American Cup racing class. Only 25 of these engines were built, and they were sold to competitors as a replacement to the 400-cid big-block V-8s originally fitted at the factory.

Pontiac was happy to add to the stable in 1969 as show in this advertisement.

The base 400 HO engine (which Pontiac engineers called the Ram Air III V-8) was used in 634 of the Trans Ams. The Ram Air III cars included just eight convertibles. Of the 634 cars, 114 had a manual gear box (including four of the convertibles). Fifty-five other cars (all coupes) came with an optional Ram Air IV engine, which cost $390 extra. Of these, nine cars had Turbo Hydra-Matic transmissions and the others had the base three-speed or optional four-speed manual transmissions.

The Trans Am package for base Firebirds was given the option code WS4 and included the Ram Air III engine, a three-speed heavy-duty floor shifter, functional hood scoops, heavy-duty running gear, special interior and exterior trim, a rear deck lid airfoil, full-length body stripes and front fender air extractors.

The Trans Am was introduced at the Chicago Auto Show.

All 1969 Trans Ams, excluding one all-silver prototype, were Cameo White with blue stripes. The silver prototype was fitted with the 303-cid V-8 that underwent extensive testing by Motor Trend in its October 1969 issue. With their 303-cid V-8, Motor Trend reviewers claimed to have dusted a 396 Camaro, Hemi GTX and a “batch of Sting Rays.”


“There can be only one first time you go into a sweeper at an even 100 and come out at 120 and the ’Vette behind is now much further (sic) behind,” wrote the Motor Trend editors. “It’s as stable at two miles a minute as most cars are at one, yet it does not ride rough-as-a-cob, jarring eye teeth at low speeds. This car has no right to do what it does, or go like it goes....” They recorded a standing quarter-mile time of 16.37 seconds at 93.5 mph and a 0-60-mph time of 8.83 seconds for their 303-cid-powered Trans Am; 100 mph was reached at a bit over the 18-second mark.

Base Trans Ams that folks bought off their local Pontiac dealer had the Ram Air III with 335 hp at 5000 rpm and 430 lbs.-ft. of torque at 3400 rpm. Ram Air IV-optioned cars had 345 hp at 5400 rpm and 430 lbs.-ft. of torque at 3700 rpm.

The 400-cid-powered Trans Ams were found to be better suited for drag racing than road racing. They could do the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds at 101 mph. Prices for the WS4 Trans Am option varied by body style and transmission, but were around $725. That put the Trans Am sport coupe’s window sticker at around $3,556. The convertibles were base-priced at about $3,770.

Base Trans Ams came with standard steel disc wheels. Some had their stripes running over the rear spoiler; some below it. A rare option is the Code 293 special custom interior with gold leather seat bolsters.

An Early T/A

What makes Kevin Beal’s car so interesting is that it was built very early in the model year. In fact, the production of this vehicle was so early in the Trans Am run that the option code and pricing for the mid-year-introduced Trans Am had not even been finalized at the time the car was built. Because of this, the car’s original invoice was incorrect and it was later re-invoiced to point out that the car was a Trans Am.

The invoice for the first Trans Am; the car required two, the second correcting the very early invoice.

Jim Mattison of Pontiac Historic Services (www.phs-online.com) researched this car for Beal and verified it as the first production Trans Am. He said the car was produced at the Van Nuys Assembly Plant in Van Nuys, Calif., on April 29, 1969. The car carries VIN 223379L118850.

“The production of this vehicle was so early that the option code and pricing for the Trans Am had not been finalized,” Mattison said. “Not until this vehicle was sold as an out-of-services company car on July 20, 1970, did the Trans Am option #322 appear on the updated invoice to Front Pontiac Sales, Inc., in Perrysburg, Ohio, for delivery to the first retail customer.”

The updated invoice issued by Pontiac in 1970.

All 1969 Trans Am were built at one of two assembly plants: Van Nuys or Norwood, Ohio.

“The first 1969 Trans Am built at the Norwood Assembly Plant was VIN 223379N101553, produced on May 29, 1969, a full month after the production of the Van Nuys car,” reported Mattison.

The documents that Mattison referenced in his certification letter were duplicates of the car’s original and replacement invoices. So even though there is only one “first Trans Am,” there are two separate invoices for the car. So it goes in the mysterious world of muscle machines.

Today, top examples of the 1969 Pontiac Trans Am coupe generally sell for $75,000 to $125,000, depending on the options and condition. As the first Trans Am, the value of Beal’s car ranks with the eight convertibles — priceless.


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First SOHC-Powered Mustang?

Hindsight: Stuff a SOHC in it! Clandestine drag testing session on New Year’s Eve 1964

Rob KinnanWriter

Nov 17, 2016

1964 Mustang Cammer 427 SOHC

Ever wondered how a 427 SOHC engine fits in a 1965 Mustang? It’s tight! We found this photo in the TEN archives, taken by Darryl Norenberg who turned the film into Petersen Publishing’s photo lab on New Year’s Eve, December 1964. It’s part of a clandestine evening test session at Pomona featuring this ’65 Mustang fastback stuffed full of 427 Cammer. Here, the hood (complete with reverse teardrop scoop) is removed to expose the massive powerplant. The guys in the photo are Little Dick Brannan and Big Charlie Gray, and the car is the #1 A/FX Mustang built by Dearborn Steel Tubing. It had a single four-barrel carb for this Pomona test, but later had dual quads and became the Stark Hickey Goldfinger car.

1964 mustang cammer 427 sohc

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On 5/23/2023 at 2:08 PM, Blackstar said:

Opening this man’s pool today. My father built the pool in the late 70’s.

But here in the little detached garage is a 56 Vette. He says it hasn’t run in 3 years but I think it’s been sitting longer. He’s 84 and will die with it. He restored it in the early 80’s. Hood is open to run the battery charger. He says he’s working on it.



oh, and the Challenger on the street is his. He says it came out the back door of Dodge’s offices in Texas and 40 extra hp over a stock one. He hopes to turn high 13’s in the 1/4 this summer.

Cool old dude.



I had to go see Tony on Monday. He had a leak in his pool. My lead guy and I spent 4 hours there digging up lines and replacing fittings. Tony sat in a chair watching and telling stories.  At the end he says "What's the price and you know I'm paying cash."

I said "For you Tony, $500."

Good deal. I'll deliver it to your lady by the end of the week.

I got the call this afternoon from his wife. Tony had a heart attack last night. It was bad. They pulled the plug this morning. She said he had gone to the bank yesterday and my cash was in an envelope at the house.


RIP Tony.

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Mires Family RXL's

The Mires family from out west got a pile of RXL’s back in the day when their dad was owed some money for farm work he did for another farmer. Instead of payment, the family got one 440 RXL, two 340 Superstockers, and one rolling chassis. The Mires two boys raced the sleds in the Western states for several years and did well with them. They also didn’t change hardly anything on them.

I’ve known about these sleds for a very long time as Mrs. Mires hunted me down to ask questions about the machines a long time ago. Back then, several people were offering a lot of money for them, so she began to wonder what they were worth. I let her know if she ever wanted to let them go, I would, of course, be interested.

One super stocker and the rolling chassis sold years ago, and the rolling chassis turned out to be Jerry Bunke’s 1978 350 factory racer. No one knew that until the Derby Archives came along. I saw the sled around 2008 and through it was something, but there wasn’t enough on it to identify it as anything other than an exciting superstock. It is now in a private collection.

The other super stocker snowmobile and the 440 recently sold to a Karolyn Eastman for a record amount. The 440 was in fact, Steve Thorsen’s 1977 440 World Championship winning sled. I had been tracking this sled for a very long time and was disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to add it to the stable, as I think this sled is one of, if not the snowmobile that helped define Steve Thorsen as one of the greatest racers of all time.

I’m grateful it still exists that the Mires family kept it running and took such good care of it over the years.



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Wild Bill Gelbke and Roadog

Looking through the 120+ year history of motorcycle design, with hundreds of different brands, probably thousands of unique offerings, you’d think everyone could find what they want. But unsatisfied, some riders still feel the need to venture into custom bike building. William “Wild Bill” Gelbke was one of those who needed more, bigger and different in his personal ride.
Much like Friedl Munch, designer of the Munch Mammoth,  Bill went outside motorcycling for his engine. From 1966 to 1973, Munch used a range of four cylinder NSU car engines. Gelbke employed a four cylnder Chevrolet II car engine, its PowerGlide transmission and a cut down Chevy truck differential moving power to a chain driving a wide rear wheel.
Standing next to RoaDog, permanently on display at the National Motorcycle Museum you may sense Gelbke was schooled in engineering, but he also worked at McDonnell Douglas in California. Needing outlets for his motorcycle building passion, he also had bike shops in Illinois and Indiana. Taking all he was worth, the restless inventor sought to build a dependable, long distance cruiser, even start production on them.
Probably not finding any available component up to the task, Gelbke designed his own massive leading link, or “Earles” type fork, similar to those on Greeves and BMW motorcycles. His aviation experience lead Bill to use chrome moly steel tubing for the very long frame which is nicely bent and welded. (Just imagine laying out the components, frame pieces and building this in your shop.)
Gelbke is said to have racked up 20,000 miles in the first year RoaDog was on the road, and given the lack of high tech we see  in today’s bikes, teething issues were few. Then, with Gelbke’s death due to a domestic dispute, RoaDog went into hiding.
Buzz Walneck, publisher and swap meet promoter, knew of the bike from its early days and went on a hunt to locate it, asking his readers for tips. RoaDog, it turned out was with Gelbke’s mother, safe in a garage. Up for a challenge, Buzz bought RoaDog, made the machine roadworthy and set about learning to ride it, which is captured in a video. Buzz refreshed us all on what its like to ride it using four hydraulic jack/stands, and planning turns around its 17 foot length, limited steering lock and shear mass; RoaDog is reported to weigh almost 3300 pounds, more than the entire car its engine came from!
As did Munch, Gelbke wanted a fast, comfortable touring bike, able to take him great distances. Munch went into limited production and today his interesting machines, using almost entirely designed to purpose components, are highly sought after. Gelbke made a few versions of his design, each more refined than the last but never realized his dream. But we can appreciate the man and his machines when we walk the length of RoaDog noting his use of available components combining them in an interesting way using his engineering and fabrication skills. Colorful, creative and ambitious describe this man who was also, no doubt, one highly skilled rider!
If you’d like a copy of Buzz Walneck’s detailed book about RoaDog, “WildBill” Gelbke, the Museum Store has a copy ready for you.
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Ford’s Secret Mid-Engine Boss 429 Mustang

1969 Mustang Mach I rear window viewREVISED AND UPDATED — In 1969, Ford built a single prototype for a mid-engined version of the Boss 429 Mustang. Here’s the true story behind this wild machine—with an intriguing update.


We’ve told some of this tale before here at Mac’s Motor City Garage, including it in the feature Five Forgotten Ford Mustangs (April 14, 2014) and posting a stand-alone feature in May 2015. Here’s the latest. Built by Ford Motor Company’s Special Vehicles unit and its private Detroit-area skunkworks, Kar Kraft, this fascinating 1969 project was known internally as the LID Mustang. The LID initials signified Low Investment Drivetrain—a mid-engine configuration done on the cheap, using as many off-the-shelf components as possible.

One well-known issue with the production Boss 429 Mustang of 1969-1970 (1,358 examples built) was its poor weight distribution, the result of cramming a big, iron-block hemi V8 between the front wheels of a light, short-wheelbase chassis. The LID concept addressed this problem by relocating the engine from the front to directly over the rear wheels. Here’s how the deed was done.

1969 Mustang LID drivetrain

A standard Boss 429 engine and C6 automatic transmission were turned around backward and installed in a fabricated, removable rear subframe, with the engine centered directly over the rear axle centerline. A custom-built transfer case, similar to a marine drive, turned the output 180 degrees and fed it to a 9-inch Ford rear axle, which was converted to independent operation with articulated half shafts and u-joints. A special axle housing incorporated an engine mount and pickup points for the Koni coilover shocks and rear control arms. The modular, drop-out layout was obviously devised with low-volume production in mind—and at a much lower cost than the conventional solution, an exotic and expensive European transaxle.

1969 Mustang Mach I LID left side

On the outside, the LID Mustang was trimmed not like a Boss 429 but like a standard 1969 Mach I Sportsroof, with little to give away the revised engine location. Note: There was even a hood scoop up front. The stamped steel wheels, eight inches wide at the rear and six inches in the front, were reverse offset (in front-wheel drive fashion) to preserve the stock track width, then disguised with full wheel covers taken from the Lincoln parts bin. The rear seat was removed and the area trimmed with black carpeting, while up front, the former engine compartment housed the battery, radiator, and air-conditioning condenser, with electric fans to provide cooling.

1969 LID Mustang rear hatch

For access to the big V8 out back, the rear glass was replaced with a Sports Slat rear louver assembly mounted on hinges and folding struts. The LID project was a complete success in this way: The Boss 429’s static weight distribution was reversed from 60/40 percent front to 40/60 rear. But to the engineers’ surprise, except for a reduction of wheelspin, there was no significant improvement in performance. With that discovery, the LID Mustang program was stopped in its tracks. However, the car was fully operational and street legal. You can see it in action here in this awesome home movie recorded by Kar Kraft employee Larry Lawrence back in ’69.

So what was the fate of the lone mid-engine Boss 429? According to a short article on the beast in the December 1970 issue of Motor Trend, at that point it was awaiting its appointment with the crusher at a Detroit-area salvage yard. Since the unique Mustang hasn’t been seen since, we presume that’s where this story ends.

UPDATE — Well, that’s where the story ended when we first published it in May of 2015. But since then, we’ve received some very interesting info from multiple and highly credible sources who worked at Ford at the time. Not so fast, the insiders tell us: There’s an excellent chance the LID Mustang wasn’t destroyed. In fact, they doubt that happened at all.

Here’s what’s known for sure: After its test program was completed, the car was sent to a fenced-in bullpen at of the Dearborn Proving Grounds, and there it sat with some other discarded test mules as the months stretched into a year or more. From there the Mustang was supposed to be sent to the shredder but instead, our moles assert, the car simply disappeared one day—poof. So we shouldn’t be surprised, they say, if the one-of-a-kind Mustang has simply been sitting in a private garage somewhere in Dearborn or Allen Park for the past 40-odd years, and one day it reappears. We’ll be looking forward to that day.


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