7 Muscle cars before the gto hagerty articles victaulic t gasket

Many consider Wangers the “the father of the GTO.” In 1964, he was a Senior Account Executive at Pontiac’s ad agency and an avid drag racer, both on the street and the track. Wangers used his automotive passion and marketing genius to make GTO a household name. He created the Pontiac’s legendary magazine ads, hired Ronny and the Daytonas to sing the pop hit Little GTO, and it was Wangers who sent Car and Driver a GTO powered by a larger-than-stock 421-cubic-inch engine for a road test cover story. He knew the car’s 0–60 mph time of 4.6 seconds was hogwash, but it put the car on the map.

Wangers, however, credits the Chrysler Corporation with the invention of the muscle car years earlier. “They were named the Plymouth Fury, the Dodge D-500, and the Desoto Adventurer,” he writes in his memoir, Glory Days: When Horsepower and Passion Ruled Detroit, published in 1998. “The most interesting thing about each of these cars was that, taking horsepower and weight into consideration, Chrysler was actually marketing the first true musclecars, almost 10 years ahead of their time.”

And Chrysler wasn’t alone. Between the introduction of these mid-1950s Mopars and the 1964 GTO there were other muscle cars trolling the boulevard—from Chevy, Ford, and others, even Pontiac. Here’s our list of top seven muscle cars that came before the GTO defined the segment: 1961 Chevy Impala SS

Before Wangers was promoting Pontiac’s performance image, he was working his marketing magic hyping Mopar’s first muscle cars, first creating provocative ads for the 260-hp 1956 Dodge D-500 and then the even hotter 1957 Plymouth Fury V-800. These cars were not Hemi powered. The 318-cu-in engine used what Chrysler called a polyspherical cylinder head, and the V-800 model was packing a dual-quad 290 hp version of the V-8. Wanger’s magazine ad depicted the big-finned Fury outrunning a small-block powered 1957 Chevy at the dragstrip.

Wangers wrote in his memoir, “The ad was designed to promote the Fury as a performance car on both the street and the drag strip.” The ad went on to describe the Fury’s new “racing type” torsion-bar front suspension, which helped the 1957 Fury win Motor Trend’s Car of the Year. The V-800 engine had over 9:1 compression and cost an additional $245. It was available in any body style, but the two-door Fury hardtop was by far the sexiest with its signature gold spear that ran down its flanks. 1961 Pontiac Catalina

By 1961, high performance was driving the industry and Pontiac’s resurgence from the brink of demise was in full swing. It started with the fuel-injected 1957 Bonneville and picked up steam with the all-new Bonneville and wide-track marketing that hit in 1959. In 1961 you could walk into a Pontiac dealer and buy a bubbletop Catalina on sexy eight-lug aluminum wheels, the industry’s first, and a 348-hp 389-cu-in V-8 with 10.75:1 compression, three two-barrel carburetors, a four-speed stick and factory installed tachometer.

It wasn’t the Super Duty 421-powered Catalina that Wangers was drag racing with the gang from Royal Pontiac, a performance oriented dealership in Royal, Michigan, in both the Super Stock manual and automatic classes. But it was close. And a 1961 tri-power Catalina became the first Royal Bobcat Pontiac, modified by the dealership for the street with thin head gaskets, progressive carburetor linkage, larger carb jets, recurved distributor, blocked intake manifold heat risers, and specific valve adjustment. 1961 Ford Starliner

When most people think about Ford street performance in the early 1960s, they think of the Galaxie. But before the Galaxie there was the 1961 Starliner. It was two-door hardtop model and had a sexy fastback roofline with thin C-pillars, a large backlight, and slick aero for Ford’s NASCAR and USAC teams. It was also the only Ford that could be ordered with an optional performance package that created one of Ford’s first muscle cars.

For $109, the package added Ford’s FE 390 big-block with over 10.5:1 compression, a solid lifter camshaft, a special heavy duty block, and magnafluxed crank, pistons, and connecting rods. The engine was rated 375 hp at 6000 rpm, and Ford fitted special valve train components to handle the high-rpm. According to the book Ford Total Performance, written by Martyn L. Schorr, you could replace the 390’s four-barrel carburetor with a tri-power setup available at Ford dealers for $260 plus installation. It would drive the power up to 401 hp. These special Starliners were only available with manual transmissions. 1955 Chrysler C-300

Released on March 4, 1963, the Beach Boys legendary hit Shut Down depicts a street race between a new split-window fuel-injected Sting Ray and a Max Wedge 413-powered Dodge Dart. As the lyrics go, “Declining numbers at an even rate, at the count of one we both accelerate, my Sting Ray is light, its slicks are starting to spin, but the 413s really diggin’ in.”

Considering the 1963 Corvette is one of the most beautiful cars of all time and the 1962 Dodge Dart is absolutely not, the Beach Boys’ decision to pit the Mopar as the Vette’s adversary speaks of the 413’s significance on the performance scene at the time. There were two versions of the Ramcharger 413 engine (Plymouth called it the Super Stock 413), one with 13.5:1 compression rated at 420 hp and a more streetable combination with 11:1 compression that was rated at 410 hp—still much more than the 360-hp Corvette. Both used dual quads and unique cross-ram intake manifolds with long runners to increase mid-range horsepower. Unfortunately, Dodge only built a little over 200 in 1962.