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TOP MUSCLE
The Rarest Cars From America’s Fastest Decade

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Jun 1, 2014

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

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(photography by Randy Leffingwell)

BOOK REVIEW TOP MUSCLE The Rarest Cars From America’s Fastest Decade By Darwin Holmstrom Photography by Randy Leffingwell 224 pages, 9.875 x 11.25 inches 217 photos (all color) EAN (ISBN-13) 979-0760345146 Motorbooks $50.00 (USA) Review by Doug Stokes Sometimes you CAN tell a book by its cover. In this case, you can judge its quality by just looking at the spine. This book, very accurately entitled Top Muscle, has its one-two pairing punch spelled out on the cover: The names Holmstrom and Leffingwell printed there in (fairly) bold type. Many car people out there will recognize those names as two of the very best at their jobs: Darwin Holmstrom on keyboard for the information about the machines, and Randy Leffingwell on lenses and light equipment for the pictures. Between them, they bring some of the very coolest of the cool cars from the classic era of big American muscle to life. Here’s the deal in this one: these cars are all from the incredible 600-car Brothers Collection and none of these cars are (as yet) on any sort of public view. That’s got to be a pretty good signal that the twenty-five culled out for this book are going to be something… Well, “special” works for me. Again, and with many of the publications that we’ve enjoyed over the years from Motorbooks, the visuals simply explode into one’s eyes—especially when they’re the work of a true artist like the great Randy Leffingwell. I’m sure that writer Holmstrom understands that. But I’m also sure that photographer Leffingwell will tell you that the written information, the straight skinny on the rolling stock, is a dead-nuts 50-50 proposition, a team effort that makes a book like this not only beautiful, but an important historic document. This is truly textbook great car exposition, every shot tells a story and every ‘graph provides expert color commentary. These are classic muscle cars from the legendary no-holds-barred era of the mid-late 60’s and early 70’s. All of them can be easily classified as icons, a number of them are single-digit examples of the model, we are honestly privileged to see this many gathered in one place. The book is divided up pretty equally between the big three: alphabetically: Ford-Mercury-Shelby, General Motors, and Mopar/AMC. Each marque’s section is divided into short chapters, one for each of the featured machines. Besides the year and model name/designations below the last number in (parenthesis) is the official number of how many of the particular machines in question were manufactured. As you’ll see, all of these cars were built in limited quantities. We could easily overuse the term “special”, we’ll try not to. In the GM section they are: 1970 Buick GNX Stage 1 (118), 1965 Chevrolet Z16 Chevelle Malibu SS396 (1), 1968 Yenko Super Camaro (64*), (are you drooling yet?) 1969 Douglass-Yenko Super Camaro (25*), 1970 Chevrolet LS6 Chevelle SS454 (4,475), 1970 Oldsmobile 442 W-30 Convertible (96), 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge Convertible (366), 1969 Pontiac Trans-Am Convertible (8), and 19701/2 Pontiac Trans Am Ram Air IV(59).

1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird coupe

1970 Plymouth Superbird (Randy Leffingwell)

The Ford-Mercury-Shelby features seven stalwarts, each easily as amazing as the GM list … and they are: 1966 Ford Lightweight 427 Fairlane (57), 1966 Ford Galaxie Hardtop 500XL R-Code (49), 1968 Shelby GT500KR (1,053), 1969 Ford Mustang 390 Mach 1 (2), 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 (849), 1970 Ford Torino Cobra 429 SCJ Drag Pack Convertible (“between 4 and 10”), and 1968 Mercury Cougar GT-E 427 (101) … a tasty baker’s six pack if ever there was! One more treasure trove, this time it’s the Mopar/AMC garden of delights … including: 1970 AMC Javelin Trans Am (100 even), 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona (433), 1970 Dodge Challenger Hemi (2), 1970 Dodge Challenger Hemi Convertible (as if the tin top was not enough) (12), 1963 Plymouth Sport Fury 426 Max Wedge (not stated), 1969 Plymouth A12 Road Runner 440-6 (not stated), 1970 Plymouth Superbird (93), 1971 Plymouth ‘Cuds Hemi Convertible (11), and finally, 1971 Plymouth Road Runner Hemi (28)… nine of the nicest ever from Chrysler. *approximately Personal favorites, one each from each group? Okay. Let’s see, I’ll take the 1970 Chevy LS6 Chevelle from the GM group. 450 horsepower, a nice even 500 pounds-foot of torque, and body work that still turns my head whenever I see a clean example, regardless of what’s under the hood. That 1970 RW&B Trans Am Javelin Mark Donohue tribute/homologation model is my choice from the Mopar section. They really built 100 for sale to the public and there are only 32 known to exist. Anybody got a line on number 33 for me? And from the Blue Oval pages: The 1966 Ford Fairlane 427. This factory special lightweight had it all under its special fiberglass hood: a 427 pumping out 425 horsepower and almost 500 pounds of torque. Built exclusively to win on drag strips (no power assist for steering or brakes!) but I’d still like to have one to run down to the Fresh and Easy every now and again. Leffingwell’s list of top selling books about cars that he’s penned and shot is (very) long and (very well) honored. An acknowledged master of available light photography, Leffingwell has here tried (and beautifully mastered may I add) a whole new style of lighting, and he graciously adds a demi-chapter on how it is done. It’s called “painting” a car with light, and involves the unlighted subject machine being posed almost in the dark, locking down the camera, and then using very long exposures and a moving light source to bathe the car with light thus layering the exposure and producing stunning photo-portraits that seem to shimmer with excitement and anticipation. As mentioned early, Holstrom’s text is more than just informative; it has almost a loving tone that shows a high level of respect and intimate knowledge of the machinery as well as the times. An acknowledged expert on the subject, he wastes few words getting to the point, and the point is celebrating two dozen and one incredibly rare and incredibly muscular motorcars. The above duo is a true pair to draw to. Their professional views of these twenty-five automobiles is beautifully matched-up and superbly presented here. –DS

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Ad for the 1966 Ford with a 427 cuibic inch engine (Randy Leffingwell)

To purchase the book from Amazon, click here.

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