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1960s icons muscle their way into Concours lineup

Mustang, Pontiac, others will be on display at Pacific University


by: COURTESY PHOTO: LEMAY AMERICAS CAR MUSEUM - This fully restored 1965 Ford Mustang convertible will be on display in Forest Grove, courtesy of the LeMay Americas Car Museum in Tacoma.The annual Forest Grove Concours d'Elegance is known for its immaculately restored classic cars, and this year's event will be no exception, with a special focus on the Art of Italian Motoring.

But the show will also mark the 50th anniversary of two very American cars, the Ford Mustang and the Pontiac GTO, a pair of icons of the 1960s. Aimed at young people, the Mustang and GTO sparked a pair of closely-related trends that lasted well into the 1970s.

The Mustang was the first entry in the so-called Pony Car Wars. Introduced halfway through the 1964 production year and based on the Ford Falcon economy car, the two-door Mustang was fresh and different, featuring a long hood, short trunk and sporty handling. And, when ordered with the optional 289 cubic inch V-8 engine and four-speed manual transmission, it was also fast.

Accompanied by unprecedented press coverage, the Mustang was an immediate hit, with more than one million built in the first 18 months. Similar cars soon followed from other Detroit manufacturers, including the AMC Javelin, Chevy Camaro, the Dodge Challenger, the Pontiac Firebird, and the revamped Plymouth Barracuda.

Bigger engines were added as options as the years went on, resulting in some of the most powerful but still affordable cars ever offered for sale.

A 1965 Mustang convertible will be on display at the show from the LeMay America's Car Museum in Tacoma. It is equipped with a 289 V8 with C-4 automatic transmission, power convertible top, and original factory option "Rally-Pac" tack and clock on steering column. The rare first full-year production car was restored by the couple who donated it to the museum.

The GTO is widely regarded as the first muscle car, defined as a stripped down midsize car with the largest available engine that will fit under the hood. In 1964, that was a Pontiac Lemans/Tempest equipped with a 389-cubic-inch engine, a four speed manual transmission and a heavy-duty cooling and ride package, with a name derived from Gran Turismo Omologato, an Italian term which means means officially certified for racing in the Grand tourer class. It was visually distinguished by a small hood scoop and twin chrome exhausts. by: COURTESY JOHN AND BEVERLY NOBEL - Joe Nobel and his wife Beverly will bring their restored, award-winning 1967 Pontiac GTO to the Concours dElegance on July 20.

Similar cars quickly followed based on the midsize Buick Special, Chevy Chevelle, Oldsmobile Cutlass and Plymouth Satellite. Like with the Pony Cars, bigger and bigger engines meant faster and faster models, eventually include the 455-cubic-inch-equipped GTO Judge and Cutlass 442 Hurst edition. They peaked with the limited edition Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird, which were produced to qualify for NASCAR races.

A fully restored 1967 Pontiac GTO will be on display at the show. It is owned by Joseph Nobel, who purchased it new from Parmenter Pontiac in Eugene. He and his wife Beverly drove it as their family car until 2000, when they decided to completely restore it. It is a matching numbers car a 400-cubic-inch V-8 and the original paperwork, owner manual and license plate. The car received Concours Gold and Original Owner's Awards at 2011 GTOAA International Meet in Portland.

Emission, noise and safety regulations eventually curtailed the Pony Car and Muscle Car competitions in the early 1970s, with the drive for better mileage spelling the end for most of them in a short time later. The Mustang has survived and been reborn as a hot selling retro model, however, while the GTO had one last gasp before General Motors pulled the plug on Pontiac a few years back.



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