Last week, we featured an article about Car and Drivers’ pick of the twelve quickest cars that burned rubber during the 1960s. At this day and age when so many “top” lists have sprawled all over the internet, it’s somehow a relief to hear an automotive authority such as C/D’s that shares a word or two on what they think constitutes as the best of the best.
So in the tradition of testing the mettle of these cars that graced the pages and covers of Car and Driver since 1955, we are sharing another decade of rigorous testing that C/D has been known for. We’ll now go back at that obscurely bleak period of our automobile history when muscle-car power gradually and steadily declined towards the darker days of the malaise era of the American car’s performance. The era may have been dominated well by European ‘supercars’, and the US pre-gas crisis were leering in, but there are still a number of stalwart muscle cars that valiantly stood their ground and kept the flame burning (pun intended).
Credit goes to Car and Driver for chronicling these classics, as well for some of the photos and commentaries.
10. 1971 Chevrolet Corvette LS5 — 5.7 seconds
C/D; June, 1971: “On the 140-mph pass through Nevada in the LS5 we discovered that it would only run wide-open throttle for a few miles before it would overheat. When the subject came up later, [Corvette patron saint Zora Arkus] Duntov nodded — he knew it. It’s because of the radiator shroud. You have to have it at low speeds so the fan will be effective but at high speeds it sort of corks off the flow of air that would otherwise be rammed through the radiator. Duntov knows about discretion. It comes with age.”
9. 1970 Pontiac Trans Am — 5.7 seconds (tie); June, 1970
- 1978 Porsche 911 SC — 5.5 seconds (tie)
C/D; March, 1978: “At this writing, Porsche has sold approximately 190,000 cars in the United States, and roughly 40,000 of these were 911s of one sort or another. Since our test car, the 1978 911 SC, may well be the last new model in the 911 series—the last rear-engined Porsche, for that matter—we begin our examination of the car by asking a question. Have you ever driven a Porsche?
- 1972 Jaguar E-type V-12 — 5.5 seconds (tie); October, 1972
- 1971 De Tomaso Pantera — 5.5 seconds (tie)
C/D; August, 1971: “As you skim over the pavement in the Pantera you can’t help feeling smug. You hear the engine rumbling along from its station back by your shoulder blades—a mechanical arrangement even novitiate automotive visionaries will recognize as a little piece of tomorrow today. And the looks. Oh wow—like something that just rolled out of the Turin Show. In every lane for blocks you leave a wake of typical American motorists—all suckers for a pretty fender—with their necks wound up like rubber band airplane motors. No doubt about it. The Pantera is the very hottest item in this year’s automotive haute couture.”
- 1979 Porsche 911 Turbo — 5.4 seconds (tie); August, 1979
- 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS454 — 5.4 seconds (tie)
C/D; February, 1970: “The Chevelle was charging around the track, its ears laid back and its hood louver snapped open to battle position. In compliance with California noise laws the exhaust has been restricted to a benevolent rumble, but the air rushing into the carburetor to feed those 454 cubic inches sounded like it was trying to take half the landscape with it. The Chevelle is a big car, enormous on Lime Rock, a tight, twisty, 1.53-mile circuit normally inhabited by Formula Vees and other assorted fruit-cup racers, but it didn’t matter. Across the start-finish line at 110 mph, hard on the brakes for the Hook, wheels cocked in for the turn and clipping the infield grass at the apex—it seemed right at home. And it was doing very well, too. With a best lap of 1:08:00 it was the fastest non-race car that Jim Haynes, the track manager, could remember. The cornering speeds were good too 66.0 mph through the Hook and 61.4 mph through the Esses, a section with a left/ right transition that is difficult for softly sprung passenger cars.”
- 1971 Chevrolet Corvette LS6 — 5.3 seconds
C/D; June, 1971: “Steering gets plenty quick at 140 mph. And the suspension, which felt like flint on Sunset Strip, is supple, almost loose. In this high-velocity never-neverland all your senses need reorientation: A road that looks mirror flat pitches you violently up and down; the air makes tortured noises you hear right through the glass as it scrapes over the top of the windshield; an unseen force slowly twists and tortures the outside mirror until it surrenders and ends up pointing skyward.”