Collector Car / Cars We Remember; Muscle Car Fords, show winning Dodge Dart and Pontiac Catalina SD chat

Collector Car / Cars We Remember; Muscle Car Fords, show winning Dodge Dart and Pontiac Catalina SD chatReader Giles Fronce from Utah owns this fabulous and rare 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger. The car has prestigious Grand National and Hershey show awards thanks to its rarity (only 700 ever built) and the owner’s excellent maintenance abilities. (Fronce Collection)

1961 Ford Galaxie Starliner anyone?

Q: Greg, in regards to your top Muscle Car List, I hope you will consider the ‘62 and ‘63 406 Ford Galaxies with Tri-power. I also invite you to attend our old car enthusiast’s breakfast meeting every Friday at 8 a.m. at the Town & Country Grille in Tunkhannock, Pa. We usually have 18-20 guys attending breakfast. Regards, Brian Severcool, Tunkhannock, Pa.

A: Brian, thanks for the invite and if I can ever organize my schedule to attend your breakfast I will surely try.

I also can promise you that a Ford has made the Top 10 Muscle Car list but you will have to wait until it appears (probably published after July 17) to find out exactly which year I chose. I will tell you this, however: I begin my Ford article mentioning the 1961 Ford with the 390, 401-horse Tri-Power although that year is not my final choice.

However, I always give extra kudos to the 1961 Ford Starliner, which featured a 352 block bored and stroked to 390-inches and called the Thunderbird 6V Special. It featured the same 10.6:1 compression ratio and solid lifter cam that the 375-horse single four-barrel option offered. The highlight, and hidden by the Ford factory team until the last few days of the NHRA “consumer available” final date mandate to be allowed to race at the inaugural ’61 Winternationals, Ford surprised the industry with the optional aluminum intake manifold and three Holley two-barrel carburetors, many of which arrived in the trunk and were bolted on by the dealers. The result was 401-horsepower, depending on your throttle foot’s input. 

Collector Car / Cars We Remember; Muscle Car Fords, show winning Dodge Dart and Pontiac Catalina SD chat

Of all the car designs from 1961, our author feels the 1961 Ford Galaxie Starliner was one of the very best exterior designs. When Ford announced a new Tri-Power setup on the Thunderbird Series V6 390 engine, it pushed the horsepower to 401, which was 26 more than the single four-barrel version. (Ford)

Coupled with some of the best exterior looks thanks to its smaller fins, round taillights and then finished off by Skyliner’s aerodynamic bubble-top roof, even at my young age of just 12 I felt Ford was the best design of 1961.   

Stay tuned for my report on which Ford made the Top 10 list, and thanks again for the invite.

National Show winning 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger

Hi Greg. I recently read a few of your articles and enjoyed them very much. My car is a rare Mopar you never see anymore, and especially notable is the package my Swinger has as in its day it was feared on the streets and became a giant killer.

My car is a 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger, one of 700 made. I bought a 1970 Swinger from Menlove Dodge in Bountiful, Utah for the sum of $2,970.00. The Swinger I have now is exactly the same as I had in 1970.

I found the one I have now from an individual in Scottsdale, Arizona after searching for one for 35 years. It had been professionally restored to original specs and is exactly the way it appeared originally on the showroom floor. It is a Grand National first prize winner from the AACA, Charlotte, N.C., and Hershey, Pa. 1998 Mopar Nationals 1st in class show winner and Mopar magazine cover car.

It also has won multiple other best of show, first place, and people’s choice awards. It is a daily driver and surprisingly corners very well, stops quickly, acceleration is quick and crisp and is more than just able to go in a straight line as quickly as possible. I believe for its time it was one of the better-built muscle cars for overall performance.

Collector Car / Cars We Remember; Muscle Car Fords, show winning Dodge Dart and Pontiac Catalina SD chat

The 340 engine in the Dart Swinger is the high performance version featuring 325 horsepower and special, large valve, cylinder heads. As is the exterior, the engine bay is spotless. (Fronce Collection)

The 340-inch V8 has a hydraulic camshaft with 325 horsepower and 340 lb. ft. of torques. The carb is a Carter four barrel and compression is 10.5 to 1. The valves are big at 2.02 on the intake and 2.25 exhaust. My Swinger is 4-speed equipped with a factory Hurst shifter connected to a 3.23 posi rear gear.

Plum Crazy paint, bumblebee stripes and Scat Pack emblem with wide oval tires make it look great on its best 13.32 second quarter mile run at 102.29. If this interests you enough to publish something about it, then that would be great.

Giles Fronce, Sandy, Utah.

Collector Car / Cars We Remember; Muscle Car Fords, show winning Dodge Dart and Pontiac Catalina SD chat

The show winning 1970 Dart Swinger’s interior features a factory 4-speed with Hurst shifter. Most Swingers’ with the 340 back ten were equipped with the TorqeFlite automatic. (Fronce Collection)

A: Giles, first my apologies as your letter got mixed-up in a wrong file and it’s been sitting since April of 2021, when I informed you I would feature your car in one of my columns. Also, thanks for the outstanding pictures of your national car show winning beauty. It clearly deserves the national car show awards.  

A good friend of mine had a 1968 Dart GTS 340 during my community college days and it was one of the “sleeper” cars in the area. That Dart defeated many a big block competitor in street trim form. The only add on I remember was a set of fender well headers, painted white of course, and he too turned low 13s in the quarter mile.

Hope you enjoy seeing your car in print and online and soon to be in Auto Round-Up magazine, too.

Reader reacts to ’62 Pontiac Catalina SD Top Muscle Car selection

Q: Greg, I enjoyed your July 2 Car Collector article, “Second in a Series of Top Muscle Cars the Fabulous 1962 Pontiac Catalina 421 SD”. This truly was a remarkable car for 1962. Its heavy-duty engine and drivetrain components are amazing for that time, creating 405 (maybe 460) horsepower and 425 ft. lbs. of torque.

This special model, however, was likely not a regular production option. To get the racing version its price tag nearly doubled. As you noted the base cost was $2,860 plus added $2,250 for the options, totaling $5,110. 

According to Internet sources, the median family income was $6,000 in ’62 while the average new car in 1962 was $2,500-$3,000. The $5,100 price tag of the Pontiac Catalina 421 SD was high back then and likely only purchased by very serious enthusiasts with racing in mind. The fact that only 130 of them were ordered with this option indicates the car was of limited production and not really meant to appeal to the general public.

Many of these types of cars came with little amenities and were often ordered without a heater, radio delete, no power steering, etc. The 4:30 posi rear gear, the only available rear on the 421 SD, likely would have been uncomfortable for the average person to drive on the street and highways.            

Keep up the series, and don’t overlook the great GM muscle cars like the GTO and Corvette. Most records indicate that it likely was the 1970 Chevelle SS 454 LS6 that was the top-rated horsepower car at the end of the muscle car era with 4,475 of these produced and sold to the general public. Of course there were also some ultra-high horsepower Mopars, Fords, the 1969 GM ZL1 427, and the famous L-88. Most of these, however, were very limited production and not meant for sale to the general public.       

Don’t forget Harley Earl, Ed Cole, Zora Arkus-Duntov and Bill Mitchell, all major contributors to GM design in the 50’s and ‘60s. Also, don’t overlook John DeLorean and the wonderful Pontiac GTOs of the ‘60’s. Keep up your good work! Thanks. Gary Latta, Vestal, N.Y.

Collector Car / Cars We Remember; Muscle Car Fords, show winning Dodge Dart and Pontiac Catalina SD chat

The 1962 Catalina 421 SD was indeed sought out by serious drag racers as reader Gary Latta from Vestal, N.Y. acknowledges. Pictured is the 421 SD 1/18 die cast of Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick from (Zyla collection)

A: Gary, what made this SD Pontiac so special is that it was listed on the 1962 option list for anyone to order. You are correct, however, that it appealed to drag racing racers first and foremost because of its outlandishly high price; nonetheless it was an official factory built option.

I can assure you that by the time my Top 10 list is complete, just about every car and individual you mention in your letter will be addressed in one form or another.

Thanks for being a regular reader of my column and your kind words.

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader interaction on collector cars, auto nostalgia and motorsports at

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