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10 Old Powerful cool cars with air-intake scoops

Ford Thunderbird Mk1 

The ‘thunder’ part of the name, the car had a 4.8-litre (292cu in) V8 motor under the bonnet, which sucked in air through a smallish but entirely functional bonnet scoop.

Aston Martin DB4 (1958-’63) 

The DB4 was a successor to the DB MkIII, it wasn’t a development of the earlier car. Indeed, it was completely new, and featured a platform chassis instead of the DB MkIII’s tubular offering. It also had a body designed by Italian styling house and coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring of Milan, and the looks of the car certainly raised a few eyebrows when it was unveiled in 1958, not least because of the large bonnet scoop.

Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray C2 427 (1967) 

 Rival Ford was laughing all the way to the bank with its Thunderbird, which vastly outsold the first ’Vette. Something had to be done, and so the C2 was offered as a coupé (a first for the Corvette), with radically different styling, including funky pop-up headlights and a split rear window. It even had bonnet vents, although these were non-functional, and a cool extra name: Sting Ray.

Chevrolet introduced a 7-litre (427cu in) big-block engine, and then in 1967 upgraded this with an L88, which produced an official 430bhp. However, unofficial estimates put this power output closer to 560bhp. This taller engine necessitated the fitment of a ‘Stinger’ bonnet that featured a stylish scoop to allow the unit to breathe better.

Pontiac Firebird Mk1 Ram Air (1969) 

 Back in 1967, Pontiac had lofty aims. It wanted to build a sports car based upon an outlandish-looking concept called the Banshee. the Pontiac machine might scavenge sales from the Corvette.

To soften the blow, GM offered compensation in the shape of the F-body coupé that would eventually become the Chevrolet Camaro. Still, the engineers managed, by giving the car four headlights, and incorporating the front bumper into the grille surround. Then, in 1969, the car’s final year on sale, Pontiac announced a sporty trim package, called the Trans Am (to celebrate the Trans Am Racing series).

Alfa Romeo Montreal (1970-’77) 

 Alfa Romeo was generally known for producing cars that were easy on the eye, but the Montreal was something special even for such a stylistically successful brand. The concept car was unveiled in 1967 at the Expo 67 fair in Montreal, Canada.

Under the bonnet, which featured a large scoop that wasn’t present on the concept car, lay a 2.6-litre V8 engine that produced 197bhp and drove the rear wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. However, as stunning-looking as the Montreal was, Alfa struggled to shift it, at least partly because the company chose to price it at a higher level than both the Jaguar E-type and Porsche 911 of the time.

Buick Gran Sport GS 455 (1969-’72)

 The Buick Gran Sport GS 455 is a fine example of the thinking ‘bigger’s better’. The name started off as a trim level on the 1965 Buick Skylark, but instead of the standard car’s 4.9-litre (300cu in) V8, the Gran Sport got a 6.6-litre (400cu in) unit. People loved it, and then in 1967 an adjustment of the Buick range meant that the Gran Sport became a model in its own right.

However, by the start of the 1970s, Buick could see the writing was on the wall for the muscle-car era, so decided to go out with a bang, and fitted a 7.5-litre (455cu in) V8 lump. This was claimed to produce 350bhp, while an optional Stage 1 trim increased this to 360bhp by including a huge four-barrel Quadrajet carburettor, which sucked in all the air it could through a couple of huge air scoops on the car’s bonnet.

Plymouth Road Runner Mk1 ‘Air Grabber’ (1968-’70) 

Platform sharing was commonplace in the US car business in the 1960s, so if you wanted a ‘mid-size’ car you could have a Dodge Super Bee, a Plymouth Satellite or a Plymouth GTX. Plymouth got in touch with Warner Brothers and paid $50,000 to use the Road Runner name, as well as sprinkling the odd graphic around the car.

The Road Runner was marketed as a cheaper entry-level machine, but nevertheless was one with a 6.3-litre (383cu in) V8 motor up front. However, for 1969, more power was deemed necessary, so Plymouth added an optional ‘Air Grabber’ bonnet scoop that was operated by a lever in the cabin. Pull the lever, up popped the scoop, up went the power. The Road Runner may have had few creature comforts, but it’s one of the most unusual muscle cars of all.

Plymouth Barracuda Mk3 (1970-’74)

 The Neil Young song lyric, and it’s a phrase that could easily be applied to the Hemi ’Cuda of 1970. Plymouth introduced the 7-litre (426cu in) V8 and the emissions regulations of 1971 would have greatly affected its power output, and the company didn’t want that, so chose to take it off sale instead.

There were plenty of other versions of the Barracuda available, and all had the option of a ‘shaker’ bonnet to force more air into the carburettors, plus a heavy-duty rear axle. American muscle cars of the time, emissions regulations had a savagely detrimental effect on performance, and sales took an enormous hit. Come 1974, the Barracuda’s day was done.

Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Mk2 (1970-’81)

 The second-generation Pontiac Firebird was late. It had been due to appear in 1969 for the 1970 model year, but tooling and engineering problems conspired to delay its introduction until February 1970. 

There were four models available, the base Firebird, the luxurious Firebird Esprit (as driven by 1970s TV detective Jim Rockford), the sporty Firebird Formula and the fire-breathing Firebird Trans Am, which featured the ‘shaker’ air intake poking up through the bonnet.

Early cars featured a flat rear window, but this wasn’t actually part of the design – the car was meant to have a wraparound rear window but sealing issues meant that this didn’t appear until 1975. The second-generation Trans Am continued for 11 years, through various facelifts, although the shaker bonnet remained a constant.

Chevrolet Camaro Z28 Mk2 (1970-’81)

 Many of the US brands throughout the 1960s and ’70s, badge engineering was king. And so it was with Chevrolet and Pontiac, because the Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird of the time were pretty similar.

Where the Trans Am became synonymous with the ‘shaker’ bonnet, the Camaro didn’t really have such a thing, until 1979, when the sporty Z28 model got a large duct in its bonnet. Unfortunately, this was a non-functional scoop, but in 1980 the car gained a rear-facing air induction scoop with a solenoid-operated flap that opened automatically when the driver put their foot to the floor.
This stage power from the 5.7-litre (350cu in) V8 was down to 175bhp due to emissions regulations, on top of which a federally mandated 85mph speedometer took even more of the excitement out of the driving experience.

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