Earlier this month, in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, all the muscle cars you’ve ever dreamed about were all in one place at the 10th annual Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals. Held in the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, the November 17–18 event was a car lover’s feast, but choosing the coolest of the cool is a subjective endeavor.
But this eclectic mix just might blow your muscle mind.
Coolest Display: American Motors
The local AMC guys pulled out all the stops with this, replete with old dealership collateral advertising the 1971 Hornet SC/360 and more familiar AMC models. It was almost like visiting an actual dealership—they were all there, from the popular AMX, Javelin, SC/Rambler, and Rebel Machine to the Hurst-assisted S/S AMX. Of special note was the appearance of a Randall Hornet 401-XR, which was a 1972 AMC Hornet X modified by the Mesa, Arizona, dealership with a 6.6-liter engine and several other upgrades.
Coolest Unicorns: Buick GSX
The 1970 GSX was available in either Apollo White or Saturn Yellow, but Brad Conley brought his pearl white custom show car that predated the production version. The 1971 GSX featured an expanded color palette (Arctic White, Bittersweet Mist, Lime Mist, Stratomist Blue, and Cortez Gold), but of the 124 built, there were several special-ordered in other colors—Brad also owns the Regal Black Stage 1, plus a Fire Red example was in attendance. For 1972, the GSX was available in any color, but practically no one has seen any of the 44 built… until now.
Coolest Class of ’68 Grad: Chevy II L79
Among the cars at the 1968 reunion, one stood out as a symbol of how the industry was moving toward a big-block world: the Chevy II with the 327/325 L79. While the Bow Tie compact was all-new for 1968, the revamped Super Sport (featuring new engine offerings with the Camaro’s 350 or 396) overshadowed the stalwart small-block that made a name for itself two years earlier with Grumpy Jenkins. After 1274 L79s were built, Chevrolet quietly put it to rest.
As a major MCACN sponsor, Mecum received prime real estate in the convention center. Plenty of desirable vehicles were on display, from a brilliant black LS6 Chevelle SS 454 convertible to a 1965 A/FX Hemi Belvedere. But the car tugging at our sleeves was one of three GT500 built with a 427. Regular GT500s came with a 355-horsepower 428 Police Interceptor, but Shelby American installed this LeMans-spec 427 as a precursor to a planned batch of 50 that never materialized. After all, the price was creeping into Cobra territory.
Coolest Unexpected Guilty Pleasure: Ram Rod & W31 Invitational
Olds 4-4-2 who? These 350-equipped F85 and Cutlass S stormers may have been the Rocket Division’s trump cards. Built in 1968–70 (“Ram Rod 350” for 1968, and branded W31 for 1969–70), they consisted of a 325-hp small-block, a cam so radical that power brakes were non grata, and plenty of other special equipment including Oldsmobile’s famous air induction system (under the bumper for 1968–69, W25 fiberglass hood for 1970). In addition, members from the original MSU “Project W31” team were reunited after more than 45 years and delivered a presentation on their college “independent study” project.
Coolest Original Owner Car: 1971 Dodge Challenger
The Original & Long Term Owner Invitational was chock full of good cars, including an unusual 1967 Beaumont SD 396, but it was this original-owner vehicle in Premier Unveilings that caught our attention: a 1971 Challenger convertible, ordered with 383 Magnum, Pistol Grip four-speed, Shaker hood, and Spoiler Package. While the Challenger R/T hardtop continued on into 1971, the R/T convertible disappeared. This Challenger was as good as it got for ragtops, and the equipment on this one shows that’s no backhanded compliment.
People go crazy for Hemis and Six Packs, but perhaps the most interesting Mopar at MCACN was this 1972 Dart Swinger 340. In the U.S., this model was available from 1969–70, superseded by the Demon 340 in 1971. However, in Canada, Crosstown Motors in Edmonton, Alberta, and Crestview Dodge in Regina, Saskatchewan, ordered 65 cheapie Dart Swinger Specials with the hi-po small-block. In 1972, another 65 were ordered by Crosstown and Pembina Motors in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Cliff Guinand owns and designed the display for this special-order ‘72.
And in Memoriam: Steven Juliano
Steve is famous in the Mopar world for gathering the most impressive collection of dealer display material. He also had several wild goose chases tracking down one-off Mopar show cars from the 1970–71 Rapid Transit Caravan. On display at MCACN were a 1970 Hemi Road Runner, 1970 Duster 340 (in its restyled 1971 configuration), and 1971 Road Runner. Alas, Steve succumbed to cancer in October, so let’s bow our heads and remember the man and his contribution to the hobby.