1971 Plymouth Barracuda 426 Hemi
The Plymouth Barracuda was the first pony car, which they introduced two weeks before the Ford Mustang. But despite its cool design and features, it was always in the shadows of the Mustang and Camaro. However, in 1970, a totally redesigned model arrived with the Dodge Challenger which Plymouth built using the same platform and engines. As with Dodge, the most powerful versions were the 440 Magnum with a 395 HP and a Hhemi 426, delivering 425 HP.
Most experts agree the Hemi engine produced a lot of advertised power. However, the real output was closer to 500 HP than to the declared 425 HP. But this engine option was quite expensive, costing about a third of the price of the car itself. That is why only a small number of Hemiemi-equipped Barracudas left the factory in 1970 and 1971. Most of its buyers were serious street racers who wanted one of the fastest muscle cars Plymouth ever built.
The Hemi 426 in the Plymouth Barracuda could sprint from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds. Interestingly, magazine testers back in the day said people could its performance with just a few simple modifications to the intake, ignition and carburetor jets. So, those tuned Barracudas could go even faster.
1971 Chevrolet Corvette ZR2
The Corvette was the only American sports car. It was true performance king ever since Chevrolet first released it in 1953. Over the years, Chevrolet produced some fast models that could beat anything coming from Europe. During the heyday of the muscle car era, Corvettes got big block power in the form of the mighty 396 and 427 V8 engines that ruled drag strips and boulevards all over the U.S.
As with all American cars, the early 70’s marked the last years of those powerful Corvettes before the dark ages of car performance commenced. The last hurrah was the ZR2 model with a big block 454 V8 and 425 HP. In that version, the Corvette was a true world-class sports car. It had fantastic acceleration with 0 to 60 mph taking only 5.3 seconds.
It also hit high top speeds. Due to relative lightness of the body, Corvette handled well and was successful on the race tracks, too.
1977 Porsche 911 Turbo
Looking for ways to make a little bit outdated 911 more relevant and faster, Porsche started experimenting with turbo technology. In the mid-70’s, Porsche was one of the first companies in the world to introduce a production model with that feature. Soon, the Porsche 911 Turbo established itself as one of the fastest cars around with a 3.3-liter flat six engine delivering 296 HP. Of course, since this was one of the first turbocharged cars, it was full of problems which Porsche later addressed in its newer versions.
The 911’s turbo lag was enormous. When you pressed the throttle, nothing happened for a few seconds before all 300 horses hit you in the face. The handling was sketchy since the majority of the weight was on the rear wheels. In sharp turns at high speeds, the car could easily skid over the front wheels because there was nothing to hold the front end on the pavement.
All in all, this was a dangerous car to drive, but it was also exciting. In fact, the performance and sounds coming from the back attracted many buyers. Those who were brave enough to drive the Porsche 911 Turbo flat out could top 160 mph. In addition, they could get from 0 to 60 mph in as little as 5.2 seconds, which was a big deal in 1977.
1970 Chevrolet El Camino 454 SS
When Ford introduced the Ranchero in 1957, Chevrolet didn’t have anything similar. Since Chevy and Ford are two of the car industry’s biggest arch-rivals, the Bowtie company introduced the El Camino two years later, in 1959. Like the Ranchero, the El Camino was half car – half truck. They built it on an Impala chassis and it shared most of its design, interior components, and engines. Arguably better looking than the Ranchero, the El Camino didn`t have the same market success and eventually they downsized it to a mid-size platform.
At the end of the 60’s and muscle car madness, the El Camino got the proper firepower and one special trim level, called the SS. Chevy introduced the El Camino SS in 1967. It included a 396 V8 engine with 325 HP. That was plenty of power for a midsize compact truck, so it provided a serious level of performance.
However, the first rule of the muscle car culture is that bigger is always better. So, for 1970, the El Camino SS got its ultimate update with a brutal 454 V8 engine. The mighty 454 V8 LS6 was a 7.4-liter Chevrolet big block engine with an official rating of 450 HP. The engine delivered around 500 HP in real life. It was a fire-breathing beast and one of the best engines of the muscle car era.
The El Camino SS engine provided significant performance figures close to the best regular muscle cars of the day. The 0 to 60 mph time took just 5.0 seconds. The biggest problem was the lightweight rear end. This meant that hard launches off the line produced much wheel spinning and smoke. The El Camino SS 454 was one of the first vehicles people recognized as a collector models, so they became quite sought after and desirable. Today, finding a true El Camino SS 454 is hard and they are expensive, as well.
1970 Monteverdi Hai 450 SS
Monteverdi was a Swiss manufacturer of high-end coupes and limousines. It became popular thanks to its elegant creations featuring, German quality, Italian styling and American engines. All models featured Chrysler engines which provided the raw power those European manufacturers of the period lacked.
After a line of beautiful Gran Turismo coupes, Peter Monteverdi, owner of the company decided to enter the supercar market. He wanted to produce a car with a rear-mounted Chrysler engine, low-profile body and high performance. The new model, called the Hai 450 SS was introduced in 1970. It featured a completely new chassis, body and had the famous Hemi 426 V8 engine in the back.
Monteverdi wanted the most powerful engine Mopar had to offer and in 1970, that was the mighty hemi engine. The car was called “Hai” which is a German word for shark. The 0 to 60 mph time took only 4.5 seconds, making it the quickest car of the era.
Despite delivering 450 HP and a superb performance, they presented the Hai 450 SS just as the automotive industry was sliding into recession, so buyers were hard to find. Eventually, one model sold at a high price and later, they produced two more. The decision to retire this model was also forced by Peter Monteverdi`s concern for customers. This car was so fast and aggressive, it became dangerous.
The 70’s were transformative for the U.S., and the cars of that era reflect that. Thanks to innovations of that decade, today’s cars are faster, safer and more efficient.