Wide-Open Muscle—The Rarest Muscle Car Convertibles
Book Review by Gary Smith
I get why someone would have the resources and inclination to check all of the boxes and have the factory build a turn-key drag racer. But also checking the convertible box doesn’t make sense. When the factory reinforces the structure to compensate for the lack of a top, they get heavier. Well, most performance car buyers must have agreed. But a few didn’t care. In some cases, a very few. Combine that with leaky tops and 400+ horsepower with no tires to speak of, and you get a high attrition rate. Few cars made minus the few left around equals rare.
Randy Leffingwell does a good job of succinctly telling the story of these rarest of the rare. For example, only twelve 1971 very politically incorrect Hemi ‘Cudas were made. Two went to Canada. Three went overseas. Seven stayed in the U.S. Only two of the twelve had Hurst shifter equipped 4-speeds. Keep in mind that these Hemi-equipped cars had challenging driveability at anything less than full throttle. Not to mention 490 pound-feet of torque. Or no weight in the back. The rear tires were there only to hold the back half of the car off the ground.
Only eight 1969 Pontiac Trans Am 400 Ram Air III convertibles were ordered, four with 4-speeds.
The 1965 Shelby 427 Cobra “Semi-Competition” roadster is worth a mention here. Two Holley 4-barrels fed fuel to a 425 horsepower monster that in the hands of Ken Miles was clocked going zero to 100 and back to zero in 13.8 seconds. Cobras were expensive. Shelby had only sold 16 competition cars (he needed to sell 100 to make them race legal in production SCCA and FIA production classes). What to do with 85 unsold Cobras? They dropped the price from $10,000 to $8,500, dropped the compression ratio enough to tolerate Sunoco 260, added some baffles to reduce the loud from ear-spitting to deafening, added electric cooling fans, and modified the bodies a bit for more tire clearance. Many of the S/Cs sold were used as race cars anyway.
The book is well written and worth a place on your shelf.