Tuesday, May 11, 2010

VW K70

VW K70, 1970

The Volkswagen K70 (pronounced as "ka siebzig" in German) is a sedan automobile produced by both NSU and Volkswagen from 1969 to 1974. The K70 was the first VW to have a front-mounted watercooled engine.

The K70 was originally developed by NSU as a smaller brother to the more famous Ro 80, the main difference being that the K70 used a conventional piston engine instead of the Ro80's more complicated Wankel rotary engine. The name "K70" referred to the fact that the engine had a power output of 70 hp (52 kW), the "K" denoting the German word "Kolben", meaning Piston.

In 1969, just as the car was about to be launched, NSU was taken over by Volkswagen, who integrated the Neckarsulm company with Auto-Union/Audi, which it had acquired in 1964. VW was in desperate need for a new family sedan to replace the unsuccessful Type 4, which itself was intended to replace the Beetle. Thinking that the K70, featuring front wheel drive and modern styling, was the perfect way to transform its image, the Wolfsburg firm quickly scrapped publicity material showing the K70 badged as an NSU, and instead put it into production as a Volkswagen.

Despite the different badging, buyers tarred the K70 with the same brush as its unreliable Ro 80 sister car, leading to poor sales. The K70 became notorious for serious corrosion problems, and very few have survived as a result. It was replaced in 1973 by the Audi-based Volkswagen Passat.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Chevrolet Camaro

Chevrolet Camaro, 1967

Chevrolet Camaro, 1967

The Chevrolet Camaro was introduced in North America by the Chevrolet Motor Division of General Motors at the start of the 1967 model year as competition for the Ford Mustang. Camaro advertising would first be found on AM top-40 stations of the day - stations which appealed to young adults. Although it was technically a compact car (by the standards of the time), the Camaro, like the entire class of Mustang competitors, was soon known as a pony car. It may also be classified as an intermediate touring car, a sports car, or a muscle car. The car shared the same platform and major components with the Pontiac Firebird, also introduced in 1967. Production of both cars ceased in 2002 with only the Camaro going back into production in 2009.

The car's name was contrived with no meaning, GM researchers reportedly found the word in a French dictionary as a slang term for "friend" or "companion." In some automotive periodicals before official release, it was code-named "Panther." Historical examples exist of Chevrolet product managers being asked by the automotive press "what is a Camaro?", with the tongue-in-cheek answer being "a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs," a sideways reference to the competing Ford Mustang.

The Camaro was the flagship for Chevrolet, and was for many years one of its most popular models. If its frequent inclusion in automotive enthusiast magazines is any indication, the Chevy Camaro is one of the most popular cars for modification in automotive history.

Sharing some mechanicals with the upcoming 1968 Chevrolet Nova, the Camaro featured a unibody structure, combined with a sub-frame supporting the front end. Chevrolet offered the car in only two body styles, a coupe and convertible.

The RS included many cosmetic changes such as RS badging, hidden headlights, revised taillights, and exterior rocker trim.

The SS included a modified 5.7L (350) V8 engine (first engine of that size by Chevrolet), and the L35 396(6.5L) big-block V8 was also available. The SS featured non-functional air inlets on the hood, special striping and SS badging on the grille, gas cap, and horn button. It was possible to order both the SS and RS to receive a Camaro SS/RS. In 1967, a Camaro SS/RSS convertible with a 396(6.5L) engine paced the Indianapolis 500 race.

The 'Z/28' option code was introduced in December 1966 for the 1967 model year. This option package wasn't mentioned in any sales literature, so it was unknown to most buyers. The only way to order the Z/28 was to order a base Camaro with the Z28 option, front disc brakes, power steering and a Muncie 4-speed manual transmission. The Z/28 featured a unique 302(4.9L) small-block engine, designed specifically to race in the Trans Am racing series (which required engines smaller than 305(5.0L) and public availability of the car. Advertised power of this engine was listed at 290hp (216kW) while actual dynometer readings rated it at 360 to 400hp (269 to 298kW). The Z/28 also came with upgraded suspension and racing stripes on the hood. It was possible to combine the Z/28 package with the RS package. Only 602 Z/28s were sold in 1967. Contrary to popular belief, 1967 Z/28s did not have raised cowl induction hoods like 1969 Z/28s did. In 1967, the 1967 Z28 received air from a cowl plenum duct attached to the side of the air cleaner that ran to the firewall and got air from the cowl vents. The hood was a standard flat hood. 1967 Z/28s had 15 in. Rally wheels, while all other 1967 Camaros had 14 in. wheels. The Z/28 could be combined with the RS appearance package.

The Camaro's standard drivetrain was a 3.8L (230kW) Straight-6 engine rated at 140hp (104kW) and backed by a Saginaw three-speed manual transmission. A Muncie four-speed manual was also available. The 2-speed "Powerglide" automatic transmission was a popular option in 1967 and 1968 until the three-speed "Turbo Hydra-Matic 350" replaced it starting in 1969. The TH350 was also an option on SS396 cars from late 1967 onwards.

The 290hp (216kW), 5.7L (350) V8 first saw duty in the 1967 Camaro and virtually every engine in the Chevrolet lineup was offered as an option.

Production numbers:
+ RS: 64,842
+ SS: 34,411
+ Z28: 602
+ Total: 220,906

Chevrolet Impala Super Sport

Chevrolet Impala Super Sport, 1966

Chevrolet Impala Super Sport, 1966

The Impala was introduced in 1958 as a new up-level, sporty trim package created for Bel Air coupes and convertibles. Unique to the model were its six taillights, which set it apart from lower trim levels with only two lights on a side. This classic styling cue would become its trademark. It was named for a southern African antelope. The Impala became a separate model in 1959 in both two and four-door versions and became the best selling car in the Chevy product line. For 1960, it became the best-selling automobile in the United States and held that position for the next decade. From 1958 until 1996, Impala sales were in excess of 13 million units, more than any other full-size car in the history of the automobile. In 1965, the Impala set an all-time industry annual sales record of more than 1 million units, which has never been bettered.

In 1965, Chevrolet introduced the Impala Caprice. Beginning with the four-door hardtop sedan body, Impala Caprices received unique upholstery, wood grained accents on the dash board and specialty pulls on the insides of the doors. A one year model, the Impala Caprice was reintroduced as the Chevrolet Caprice in 1966, taking the top position in the Chevrolet lineup. The Impala however, remained Chevrolet's top-selling model until late 1970s. During the 1969 model year, for example, Impala production topped Caprice production by 611,000 units.

The 1971 redesign introduced the largest Impala. The Impala's chassis would not be this extensively changed again until the introduction of the 2000 Impala. The Impala would remain Chevrolet's best-selling model until 1977.

The Impala is often credited with starting the muscle car era, although the credit for that really goes to Pontiac when it released the GTO. In the 1960s, gasoline was cheap and consumer demand for power exceeded the need for efficiency. Buyers were clamoring for as much room, performance, amenities and quality as they could get for their dollars. Afraid it would lose out to an in house competition, Chevy released its muscle car, the SS, soon after. In 1961, the Impala SS (Super Sport) was introduced to the market. The SS badge was to become Chevrolet's signature of performance on many models, though it has often been an appearance package only. The Impala's SS package in 1961 was truly a performance package, beginning with the high-performance 348 in³ (5.7 L) engines (available with 305, 340, and 350 hp (230, 255 and 260 kW)) or the new 409 in³ (6.7 L), which was available with up to 425 hp. The package also inclued upgraded tires on station wagon wheels, springs, shocks and special sintered metallic brake linings. Starting in 1962, the Impala SS could be had with any engine available in the Impala, right down to the 235 in³ 135 hp inline-6. With one exception, from this point until 1969, the SS was an appearance package only, though the heavy-duty parts and big engines could still be ordered.

The exception was the Z24 option package available in combination with the standard Z03 Super Sport package. Starting in 1967, through 1969, buyers of Z24s Impalas got cars badged as "SS427" models. The SS427 included heavy duty suspension and other performance goodies, as well as a Turbo-Jet 427 in either L36 or L72 variations. Special SS427 badging inside and out were the rule, but few were sold, since "muscle car" enthusiasts were looking toward big-block intermediates like the Chevelle SS396 and Plymouth Hemi Roadrunners, which were lighter and subsequently faster off the line. Interestingly, Z24 cars could be ordered without the Z03 SS package, which meant SS427 equipment but no bucket seats or center console.

The Impala SS could be identified by SS emblems on the rear fenders and trunk lid. The Impala SS became its own series (separate model rather than an option package) for 1964. In 1968, the Impala SS once more became an option package rather than having its own model. In 1969, the Impala SS was only available as the Z24 (SS427), coming only with a 427 in³V8 of 390 or 425 hp. This was the final year for the Impala SS until 1994.