Oldsmobile had no intention of being left behind and added a triple-carburetor set-up to the Rocket V8 in 1957, coaxing 300 hp (224 kW) from the 371-cu in (6.08-liter) J2 version. Chrysler had already beaten many of them to it with the 1951 “Firepower” V8, the first Hemi. Even with 180 hp (134 kW), its style was cramped by the heavy Saratoga into which Chrysler chose to fit it, but the Hemi’s day would come. A foretaste of that appeared with the Dodge “Red Ram” Hemi in 1955, with 193 hp (144 kW) from 270 cu in (4.42 liters) and the D-500 (more cubes, more horsepower) in the following year. Ford, apart from offering supercharged Thunderbirds for a while, seemed somewhat left out, which is rather ironic when one remembers that it was Ford’s original flathead that started the whole thing off. It was not until the energetic Lee Iacocca took over as general manager that Ford regained its performance image. But Ford (and AMC) was the exception. A power race had already begun long before the muscle car boom of the mid/late 1960s. By 1964, when the GTO was unveiled, muscular V8s of over 400 cu in (6.55 liters) were commonplace. Perhaps we should take a look at some of these “pre-muscle” muscle cars.

An Oldsmobile 88 four-door sedan from 1954. Its V8 engine was a great success for Oldsmobile.

The Forerunners 11

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