Barrett-Jackson: Steve Mag's top five cars to watch in Reno 2014
JUL 30, 2014 9:32a ET
1) Lot No. 726: 1969 Dodge Super Bee two-door hardtop
When it comes to my tastes in muscle cars, I’m strictly a less-is-more guy. You can have your air conditioning, power windows, sliding moon roof, hood hinges and hub caps. I like ‘em stripped for action with minimal dead weight. That’s why this ’69-1/2 440 Six Pack Super Bee rings my bell. I love that Chrysler equipped every single one of them with an indestructible Dana 60 rear axle (even the torque-cushioned automatic transmission cars).
And, knowing that many drag racers immediately replace factory-styled wheels with aftermarket mags, they all rolled on basic 15×6 steelies. And that hood. Open all the time, the legendary Six Pack hood scoop is simply brutal. Just don’t forget to install the quartet of chrome hood pins or it’ll take flight at the top of First. One of 826 Six Pack Super Bee hardtops made, this example has the doomsday Hemi 4-speed stick with its ultra-duty 18-tooth input shaft. Dual-duty (street and strip) muscle cars simply do not get any meaner than this.
2) Lot No. 691: 1961 Chevrolet Corvette convertible
Every top 10 list must include a Corvette. For me, this ’61 dual quad roadster in Jewel Blue is very appealing. Next to Sateen Silver (747 made), it is the rarest color of ’61 with 855 sprayed this hue. I’m also attracted to this one because of its 4-speed manual transmission and final-year dual quad 283 under the hood. This one is the mild hydraulic cam unit with 245hp. Since 1956, if you wanted instant street credibility, you ordered the dual-quad engine. But when Chevrolet increased the standard Corvette engine to 327 cubes for ’62, the extra 44 inches bumped the base single 4-barrel engine to 250-hp. A second carburetor simply wasn’t needed anymore. And from GM’s point of view, eliminating the second carburetor cut production cost and brought an end to warranty headaches due to maladjustment.
So, as a final-year tribute to Corvette’s iconic dual-quad option, I’d add this one to my garage with a big smile.
3) Lot No. 702: 1970 Pontiac GTO convertible
Though originally born with a Turbo 400 automatic transmission, this sweet ’70 GTO drop top now has the so-much-more-fun 4-speed stick. Otherwise a numbers matching car with full PHS documentation, is there any muscle car alive that better captures the essence of a Friday night on Woodward Avenue than a black, ragtop 4-speed Goat? Only 3,784 of the 40,149 GTO’s made in 1970 were convertibles. You’d be in rare company, sharing the open air fun with a few of your best pals and a Doors 8-track playing, the action wouldn’t stop until nearly sunrise. Watching intently through the tinted windshield, the dim orange glow of the hood mounted tach triggering full throttle power shifts at 5500 rpm. The wail of the Ram Air 400 packing its cylinders with deep breaths of dense nighttime atmosphere … sign me up.
4) Lot No. 695: 1955 Chevrolet Nomad gasser
It’s no secret that I love straight axle gassers and nostalgia drag racing in general. So when I saw this incredibly rare ’55 Nomad – one of 8,386 built – done over with Sixties gasser elements, I freaked out! Sure, the Nomad is an iconic American design, an example of a GM Motorama dream car come to life. But over the years, have you noticed that pristine 100 point restorations generally bring about the same dollar amount as well done resto-mods and customs? But the modified cars are more enjoyable to drive.
On this gasser, I’m digging the retro-look mags, wide white tires, Sixties graphics with green-tinted windows and headlamp lenses and the nifty “4-Speed Clover” name pun. And yes, there’s a 4-on-the-floor ahead of the diamond-pleated front bench seat. The small block is mildly hopped and there’s A/C to keep things cool inside. Of the three years Chevy 2-door Nomads were in production (1955, ’56 and ’57), 1955 output was highest. There are plenty left to suit every taste. Also, the modifications done to this one are not permanent. A dedicated restorer could undo the gasser treatment and go back to showroom stock. But where’s the fun in that? I dig this Bowtie!
5) Lot No. 393: 1959 Oldsmobile 98 two-door coupe
Oldsmobile marketing men advertised the ’59 Olds 98’s thin-section roofline as the Scenicoupe, but a closer look reveals its commonality with the same year Chevrolet Impala “bubble top.” In fact, the basic form was shared with Chevrolet through 1962 and helped launch the cult of the 409. The contrasting red and white hues on this clean example are truly mouth-watering. I’d love to own it. The austerity of its painted steel wheels evokes Oldsmobile’s NASCAR presence of 1959. Driving a race prepped bubble … er, Scenicoupe with a 394 Olds Rocket, “Papa Lee” Petty won the inaugural 1959 Daytona 500. His number 42 Olds crossed the finish line opposite Johnny Beauchamp’s 430-cube Holman and Moody Thunderbird. The race was so close, Beauchamp was initially declared the winner until a review of the filmed race proved otherwise – four days later.