Book Review: Muscle Car   The Art of Power car history and auto shows car comparisons auto book reviews
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Krause Publications

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By Russell Purcell

Krause Publications has expanded its growing catalogue of automotive titles with a real gem dedicated to fans of the American muscle car. Muscle Car: The Art of Power takes a look at forty of the most popular (and significant) cars of the “Muscle Car Era” as determined by author John Gunnell.

The book is a little unconventional as it is not divided into chapters. Instead, the author has chosen to focus on nine manufacturers – American Motors (AMC), Dodge, Plymouth, Ford, Mercury, Pontiac, Chevrolet, Buick and Oldsmobile – and plough through the best each brand had to offer chronologically before moving on to the next brand. Surprisingly, this was not done alphabetically, but in the order you see listed above.

The first section includes the rarely seen duo of muscle cars produced by the now defunct American Motors Corporation. The first car featured is the 1969 AMC SS/AMX. This is a very rare bird, as only 52 of the cars were manufactured in a partnership with Hurst Performance Products in an effort to prepare the cars for drag racing. As a result, this car was only sold to NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) or AHRA (American Hot Rod Association) competitors, and as such, was not street legal. The SS/AMX option also meant that the car was sold “as is,” devoid of a warranty! The second AMC offering is the sleek 1974 Javelin 401, so named as it featured the massive 401 cubic-inch V8 under its hood, the most powerful V8 engine ever produced by the company.

Mopar fans have ten cars to drool over as Dodge and Plymouth were both major players in the muscle car arena. The 1965 Dodge Coronet helped kick off the company’s involvement in the segment followed by better known models of the Charger, Dart, and Challenger. Hemi power is the common theme here, and the mighty engines also provided the motivation for two of the Plymouth models featured in the book – 1968 Belvedere GTX and the 1971 Hemi ‘Cuda.

Ford’s section features as many Galaxies as Mustangs for a change, as it was this car and its 427 V8 that helped Ford establish its name as a performance brand through its participation in NASCAR. Similarly equipped cars like the 1967 Fairlane XL and the potent, homologation special, the 1969 Torino Talladega, are also examined. The two Mustangs are significant to say the least. We learn that Ford hired two of GM’s shining stars (“Bunkie” Knudsen and Larry Shinoda) to create the 1969 Boss 302 in response to the Chevrolet Camaro. The other pony is no less than the ultra-rare 1969 Mustang 428 SCJ. This car’s Super-Cobra-Jet engine was unmatched when it came to speed for a stock power plant.