Muscle Cars Forever
U.S. Postal Service honors iconic rides
Story provided - April 25, 2013 10:00 AM
(left to right) Kyle Petty, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and Richard Petty hold sheets of stamps, unveiled at the Daytona International Speedway.
Petty, his son Kyle, and Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe dedicated the limited-edition stamps at the Daytona International Speedway where “The King” won a record seven Daytona 500 championships.
Typically equipped with big, powerful engines, these high-performance vehicles began roaring across America in the 1960s. The limited edition stamps feature five iconic muscle cars: the ’66 Pontiac GTO, the ’67 Shelby GT-500, the ’69 Dodge Charger Daytona, the ’70 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda and the ’70 Chevelle SS.
“The Muscle Cars stamps celebrate an exciting era in American automotive history,” said Richard Petty. “These examples of raw power bring back fond memories for me and my family, a testament to how aerodynamics transformed racing. I’ve been around racing and muscle cars all my life. These stamps bring back the memories of our racing heritage in the ’60s and ’70s. This is a great way to share our stories, old and new, about the Petty history in racing.”
“The muscle cars gave everyday Americans the opportunity to experience the rush of driving a fast, powerful car,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. “Just looking at the stamps evokes a feeling of speed. As Forever stamps, they’ll always be good for mailing a First-Class letter any time in the future. And when you think about it, that’s fitting. Because these stamps — just like the great cars they represent — are timeless.”
The Muscle Cars Forever stamps are the third issuance in the America on the Move stamp series. The artwork was created by Tom Fritz of Newbury Park, California, under the art direction of Carl T. Herrman of North Las Vegas, Nevada. Other issuances in the series, ’50s Sporty Cars (2005) followed by ’50s Fins and Chrome (2008), were the work of artist Art Fitzpatrick of Carlsbad, California.
The Muscle Cars stamps are being issued as Forever stamps in self-adhesive sheets of 20 (four of each design). Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce price.
1969 Dodge Charger Daytona
The outrageously styled 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona was designed to dominate on the racetrack. The car, which underwent wind tunnel testing before its release, took the checkered flag at its NASCAR debut in September 1969 at Alabama International Motor Speedway in Talladega. The production version of the car was powered by a standard 440-cubic-inch, 375-horsepower Magnum engine. A limited number of Daytonas also were available with a 426-cubic-inch Hemi, a race-inspired engine Chrysler introduced earlier that decade. Chrysler first used a version of the Hemi — a high-performance engine with hemispherical combustion chambers — in automobiles in the 1950s.
Concealed headlights, fender-mounted scoops, a nearly two-foot tall, rear-mounted wing and an 18-inch nose piece helped boost aerodynamics. Other signature touches were thick body stripes containing the word “DAYTONA.” The distinctive vehicles were not easy to come by. In order to qualify for NASCAR racing, at least 500 Daytonas had to be made available for purchase. Only 503 were produced.
1966 Pontiac GTO
The Pontiac GTO ushered in the American muscle car era in the mid-1960s, just as the first baby boomers began to come of age. The first GTO was born when engineers dropped a 389-cubic-inch V-8 engine, which was built for a full-size sedan, into an intermediate-size Pontiac Tempest LeMans. Initially offered simply as an option on the Tempest LeMans, the GTO — which in Italian stood for Gran Turismo Omologato, or in English, Grand Touring Homologated — became its own model in 1966.
Available as a hardtop, coupe or convertible, the 1966 Pontiac GTO was equipped with a standard 335-horsepower V-8 engine. The “Goat” could really move. In tests, it went from 0 to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds. It also looked much different than its predecessors. Starting in 1966, the car featured curvy Coke-bottle styling and a split grille.
1967 Shelby GT-500
Manufacturer Carroll Shelby’s take on the Ford Mustang reflected his roots as a race car driver. The 1967 Shelby GT-500 was powered by a 428-cubic-inch, 355-horsepower Police Interceptor engine. The car also featured a rear spoiler and optional dealer-installed LeMans stripes. Rocker panel stripes came standard on the 1967 Shelby GT-500, which also sported grille-mounted headlights. A scooped fiberglass hood, extended nose, and interior roll bar and shoulder harnesses further enhanced the race car feel.
The 1967 Shelby GT-500 was more than just a racer. The improved suspension softened the ride, resulting in a vehicle that was comfortable to drive on the highway as well as on the track. The car was both striking and rare; only 2,048 were built. A customized or original version of the 1967 Shelby GT-500 has appeared in contemporary movies and magazines, rekindling American pop culture’s fascination with the model. In 2007, Ford reintroduced the Shelby GT-500 into the Mustang model lineup.
1970 Chevelle SS
With features like optional twin racing stripes, the 1970 Chevelle SS looked fierce. SS stood for Super Sport, a fitting designation for this powerful car. A 396-cubic-inch engine was available, but a 454-cubic-inch engine option gave the 1970 Chevelle SS credibility among muscle car enthusiasts. Two versions of the 454 engine were available: the 360-horsepower LS-5 and the 450-horsepower LS-6. For its sheer power, the latter has become legendary among car buffs.
The LS-6-propelled 1970 Chevelle SS was enough to finish in the 13-second range in quarter-mile tests. Optional Cowl Induction, a flap on the bulged hood that allowed cold air to flow into the engine, added even more kick. In addition to its impressive road performance, the 1970 Chevelle SS also was known for its unique style. Available as a coupe or a convertible, it featured a black grille and SS emblems on both the grille and the rear bumper.
1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda
The 1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda, a performance-oriented alter-ego of the standard 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, oozed power. The car’s 426-cubic-inch Hemi engine was a 425-horsepower beast. The car was part of what Plymouth called “The Rapid Transit System.” The 1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda was “our angriest, slipperiest-looking body shell wrapped around ol’ King Kong hisself,” one advertisement bellowed.
One of the 1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda’s more audacious features was a Shaker hood scoop, which vibrated as air flowed through to the engine’s two four-barrel carburetors. The car’s styling was an extension of its bold ethos. It was available in a variety of eye-popping color choices, such as Lemon Twist, Lime Light and Vitamin C. Hockey-stick shaped stripes denoting engine size, a shifter handle shaped like a pistol grip and bucket seats also were offered. The model also is a rare specimen, as fewer than 700 were produced.