1968 Cyclone Coupe
When Mercury redesigned the Cyclone for 1968, the division discontinued the convertible but added a contemporary fastback. Both Cyclone hardtop and fastback were available as base and GT models, with the fastback heavily overshadowing the coupe. Standard was a tepid 302 two-barrel, but big-blocks up to the 428 CJ were available to snag your attention. Only 1,368 of these obscurities were built (334 of them GTs), so it’s no surprise that the coupe met its demise at the end of the model year.
American Motors joined the highperformance fray in 1967 with the 280hp 343 Typhoon engine. The BorgWarner T10 four-speed was the only transmission for the compact American, creating a car that was practically one gene removed from the 390-powered SC/Rambler that appeared two years later. The 343 American was available as a demure 202 two-door sedan up to the snazzy Rogue convertible. Expert Mark Fletcher believes a little more than 100 were built, yet it’s a worthy Q-ship to keep on your radar.
F-85/Cutlass What’s interesting about these cars is that the basic 350 four-barrel (standard on Cutlass Supreme, optional otherwise) put out 310 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque, impressive for a pedestrian vehicle. The 1970 Rallye 350 made do with the same equipment but looked the part and is uncommon; these regular models have clean styling and are easy to find. It’s certainly no W-31, but the 350 responds well to mods and actually may be more impressive in terms of horsepower per cubic inch than the 4-4-2’s 455.
1970 Coronet Deluxe
Tired of overpriced Mopar cartoon cars, even 383s? Then here’s your solution. The Deluxe was the lowest Coronet on the totem pole, and the top engine available was the 330hp 383 four-barrel. This is like taking the “El Cheapo” Road Runner/Super Bee formula and distilling it even more. The 1970 model has unique styling, and if you opted for the four-speed you received a 5hp bump that made the 383 identical to the Super Bee’s. If you have trouble finding one of the 13 built (U.S.-spec), get inspired and build one.
The compact Falcon was discontinued at the end of 1969, but a slight economic recession at the dawn of 1970 gave Ford reason to introduce a cut-rate midsizer with a familiar name. The new Falcon offered the only pillared two-door among all Fairlane/Torino models, and then disappeared for 1971. The rare 429 CJ Falcon has received plenty of visibility, but have you seen a Falcon with the 300hp 351 Cleveland (even with a Shaker)? Back then, 373 people (per Marti Auto Works) sought fit to order one to try to fool the unsuspecting
An April 1969 Oldsmobile document titled “The Complete Automotive Performance Car Scene” reads: “Recently among younger enthusiasts, a trend has been developing appearance packages aside from power train considerations …” Automakers began to offer candy normally associated with performance cars for regular models: mags, custom steering wheels, racing mirrors, white-letter Wide Ovals, spoilers, monochromatic and blackout themes, and rear slats. The Cutlass could feature GT stripes and Super Stock II wheels with a six; the 1972 Plymouth Satellite coupe could have a 318 with the V24 hood and decklid stripes plus spoilers. You get the idea.
1968-1969 Tempest/ LeMans
The GTO got all the glory while another Pontiac performance A-Body flew under the radar: the 350 H.O. Rated at 320 horses in 1968 and upped 10 for 1969, this “High Output” engine created what could be considered Pontiac’s junior supercar, although it lacked any image, unlike the GTO. This may explain its obscurity despite 5,801 being built in 1968 and another 4,238 for 1969 (the bulk being LeMans versions). Hi-Performance Carsmagazine tested one with the Royal Bobcat package and scored a 14.35 e.t
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle
Chevys always command top dollar, and the 1970 Chevelle is among the most popular. So what’s it doing here? Because the bigblock was not restricted to the SS for 1970. The 402 (née 396) was available as RPO LS3 with 330 hp. Sure, you didn’t receive the SS’s domed hood and fancy gauges, but you could opt for D88 skunk stripes and look the part. Despite 9,338 402 Chevelles being built, they can be hard to come by, so consider the more numerous, affordable (and low-compression) 1971-1972s.
Malaise Muscle Cars
I was too young to know the 1970s sucked, but, like music from the era, there is so much that’s cool too. When manufacturers began to pretend that high performance never existed, they touted handling prowess instead. The 1975-1976 Buick “Free Spirit” pace cars, 1973-1977 Pontiac LeMans GTs, and 1974 Mercury Montego hardtop with the “daringly fresh” Montego Sports Appearance Group are unusual, rare, and need boosters to save them from obscurity.