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Full Size Chevy Muscle Cars - Flexing Muscle

Jim Campisano Mar 30, 2007
Sucp_0701_01_z Super_chevy Front_view 2/1

Once upon a time, the phrase "full size muscle car" was redundant. All Detroit's performance machines (save for the Corvette), whether they were 409 and fuel-injected Chevys, Rocket 88 Oldsmobiles, or 406 and 427 Fords, came in one size: Large.

Then the automotive landscape started rapidly changing. In 1960 came the first domestic small cars, including the Chevrolet Corvair. Then there was an onslaught of intermediates, followed in April 1964 by the Mustang. None of these had any real power until the Pontiac GTO hit in '64. Once the GTO was unleashed, all bets were off. While hot rodders still clamored for Tri-five Chevys, the exploding youth market was turning on with new muscle machines like the SS396 Chevelle, the Rat-motored Camaros, and big-block Vettes.

Oh, you could still get an all-out full-size muscle car in the mid-'60s-think 427/425 Biscayne and as you'll see later in this issue 396 and 427 Impalas, but these cars were getting bigger and heavier with each new model year. When it comes to drag racing, weight is thy enemy, which (among other factors) made the late-'60s land yachts unappealing to the supercar customers of the day.

Funny thing is, though, the '55-57 Chevys and early '60s Impalas, Bel Airs, etc., were integral parts of the scene, both street and strip, through the end of the muscle car era. They were dirt cheap, plentiful, and there were thousands of parts available to fix them up (think junkyards, which used to be so common, as well as real, live speed shops-anyone remember them?).

And now we've come full circle. The '55-57 Chevys are now all 50 years old or more, and they are becoming more popular than ever. Cars Inc. out of Michigan is beginning production of complete reproduction frames and bodies so you will be able to build the '57 Chevy of your dreams without having to go through the hassle of resurrecting a rusted-out, overpriced hulk from the Eisenhower era. For the baby boomer who grew up lusting after 409 bubbletops and 327/4-speed Impalas, there is an entire industry developing new and improved suspension systems, body panels (those cars could rust quicker than a solid-lifter small-block could rev to redline) and interior goodies.

These factors have conspired to make full-size Chevrolets more popular and sought-after than they have been in decades. Old is new again, the styles run the gamut from down-in-the-weeds Pro Touring to tubbed-out Pro Street to period pieces, like the gasser-style '55 on the cover of this issue.

I hope you enjoy this salute to those kings of curbweight.

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