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Real ’60s Muscle Cars Going Hardcore Off Roading

These are all real muscle cars, not a body shell mounted on a truck frame. And these muscle cars have taken on Baja, Africa, and the Alps. Check ’em out.

All these cars retain their original body and chassis – some are even unibody designs and were raced that way. There are no truck chassis slid under some poor Chevelle here. Just real muscles, upgraded for the task, and taking on the elements.

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1963 Chevrolet Corvette

This ’63 Corvette, built into a replica of a Grand Sport, competed in the grueling East African Safari Rally and the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico. It’s powered by a Chevrolet 327 CID small block V8 that produces 330 hp, topped by a single Holley 4150 four-barrel carb. The engine is backed by a close-ratio Muncie M22 “rock crusher” four-speed and a Chevy limited slip with a 3.55:1 ring and pinion. The brakes have been updated to Wilwood six-piston calipers on the front, four-piston the rear, and the suspension has been fitted with modern adjustable shock absorbers.

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1964 Ford Galaxie 427

At first glance you might think this 1964 Ford Galaxie is all race car, but there’s a surprising amount of original Ford to it. Both the body and the frame as the same as what came out of the factory (together). The engine is a 427, but not based on the FE big block, but rather a bored and stroked 351 Windsor. The transmission is a Ford top loader and the rear end is, what else?, a Ford nine-inch.  Granted the suspension has been redesigned for off-road racing, with 13″ of travel, so there’s not much Galaxie left there. All up this beast weighs in a 5,500 lbs., a full ton more than the original Galaxie.

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1969 AMC SC/rambler

With the model’s success in drag racing, AMC wanted to conquer another arena so it shipped 10 new Hurst-prepared ‘69 SC/Rambler two-door hardtops to actor James Garner’s shop for preparation for the Baja 500. The cars were already equipped with potent 390ci 4bbl engines, though a few engine builder tricks raised hp from 315 to 410. Suspension upgrades were mild by today’s standards – a few truck parts and double shocks. Garner’s AIR team built 10 SC/ramblers: nine four speeds and one automatic. Two were equipped with Jeep four-wheel drive and were running in the experimental category. The two-wheel drive cars finished first, third, and fifth in class. After the race, there was a falling out between Garner and one of the major supporters, and the program collapsed. The whereabouts of only one car is known: one of the four-wheel drive cars is in unrestored condition in Canada. Others were either sold off or donated to colleges (two went to Chaffey College, both later wrecked).

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1968 Mustang 302

Ian Duncan is a native Kenyan and a highly-regarded rally driver. When the Eastern African Safari Rally (EASR) was still a WRC event the Toyota factory team hired him as a ringer for the rally and he delivered them a win (his only WRC win). Now he competes in vintage rallies and in 2009 he took on the EASR – now a historic rally – in a 1968 Mustang GT coupe built in his shops. It’s powered by a 400 hp 302 V8 and backed up by a 4-speed top loader manual transmission. Since the rules reflect the period, massive changes are not allowed. Brakes are stock rotors and calipers and suspension is pretyy much as delivered, except for shock and springs. Skid plates and roll cage are definitely part of the build for the ‘Stang to survive flying across the wilds of Kenya and Tanzania. He and his crew did a great job as he won overall in 2009.

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1969 Oldsmobile 4-4-2

After the AMC deal fell after, James Garner hooked-up up with Vic Hickey. Vic acquired two cars through George Hurst, who connected him with Oldsmobile. Vic secured a production 1969 4-4-2, and a pre-production ’70 model. The 4-4-2 received a number of modifications for that year’s Baja 1000: opening up each of the wheel wells a full inch to allow sufficient wheel travel, while the chassis was lifted three inches for more clearance. Heavy -duty upper and lower ball joints were installed installed, the upper and lower control arms were reinforced and 3/4 ton Chevy pickup truck spindles were used up front. A roll cage was installed, and a 50-gallon fuel cell replaced the stock tank. Racing seats for Garner and his co-driver were installed, a custom instrument panel fabricated, and a stock W-31 Olds 350 CID engine was blueprinted, producing close to 400 hp. Given that the car was sponsored by Goodyear, painted Goodyear blue, it was named the Goodyear Grabber. Goodyear tires rounded out the package, mounted on Cragar wheels. Garner finished second in class that year, and could have won except for a silly mistake.

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1970 Chevrolet Camaro

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Monte Carlo Rally, the WRC event that spans hundreds of miles across the frozen Alps mid-winter, slogging through snow storm, sliding across black ice. In the early 1970s a French race driver by the name of Jean-Pierre Rouget entered what we believe to be a 350 small block V8 powered 1970 Camaro in the 1973 Monte Carlo Rally. Based on the results we could track down the car didn’t finish the event. The driver, though, was the real deal, competing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans several times in a 454 Corvette and winning several important French over-the-road races in that era.

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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