Every year the CARS Inc. open house and car show seems to grow a little larger, expanding its footprint with more cars, more enthusiasts, and more out-the-backdoor deals from its 65,000-square-foot Detroit-area headquarters/warehouse. The 2016 event looked like the biggest ever, with about 400 registered vehicles.
CARS Inc. was founded 40 years ago by a couple of guys looking for restoration parts for their own Tri-Five Chevys. They started by scouring Chevy dealers’ parts departments, independent trim shops, and other places where N.O.S. parts might be found, collecting all they could find. The company quickly became known for its inventory of original parts—particularly interior trim and upholstery—which were initially sold through swap meets. It grew from there.
After four decades most of those N.O.S. part were gobbled up, but CARS Inc. remains one of the premier outlets for classic Chevy restoration parts as well as parts from the muscle car era. It also manufactures reproductions of many of the more popular parts, including the interior pieces that helped get the company off the ground back when Jimmy Carter was asking everyone to put on a sweater and embroidered satin baseball jackets were somehow a thing.
Today, CARS Inc.’s catalog contains more than 30,000 parts for vintage Chevy cars and trucks. But the open house is indeed open to everyone, and that’s why we’ve been regulars for years. The range of GM, Mopar, and FoMoCo muscle on display is diverse. Due to the company’s proximity to Canada, there are always a couple of interesting entries from the Great White North, including a 1965 Acadian Beaumont Sport Deluxe we stumbled upon this year. It is one of only 23 built with the L79 327/350 engine and four-speed transmission.
We also noted a higher number of second-generation muscle cars in attendance, including a gorgeous 10,000-mile Camaro IROC-Z and a 1987 Grand National that drew plenty of attention from Gen-X enthusiasts. As their disposable income grows, so will their interest in these and other 1980s muscle cars, we expect. Perhaps that next generation of cars and enthusiasts will propel CARS Inc. into the next 40 years. We salute the company’s success to date and have already marked our calendar for the first Saturday in June next year.
The 1970 Trans Am was unique in many ways. It was the only year of the second generation offered with the 12-bolt rear axle, and it was the last year for the Ram Air engine option—an option found on this Lucerne Blue example that Bob Ryzok drove to the show. The 1970 model was also the only year there wasn’t an engine callout on the shaker scoop.
We didn’t get much info on Ron Bauer’s 1963 Impala SS convertible, but all we needed to know was what we saw: a red-on-red drop-top with a four-speed and the optional dash-mounted tachometer. Bring on Woodward Avenue.
Vernon Scherrer is the first and only owner of this 1971 Plymouth GTX. The 75,000-mile Mopar is a 440-four-barrel car with the built TorqueFlite transmission. It was his family car for the first eight years, and he wisely took the advice of a friend who warned against selling it for only $1,000 back in the 1980s. Smart friend.
Here is one you don’t see every day: a 1965 Acadian Beaumont Sport Deluxe. It was a Canada-exclusive model that used the Chevelle body, Chevy engine, and a Pontiac Tempest/Le Mans-based interior. This one is as rare as they come, with an original L79 327/four-speed powertrain. Just 23 cars were so-built. This one, owned by Joe Lizon, has only 33,000 miles.
Ron Gabrish’s 1972 Challenger Rallye stood out with its gorgeous Hemi Orange paint, chrome Magnum 500 wheels, and tasteful accessories, including the Challenger T/A front and rear spoilers. It is an original 340/four-speed car, too.
Another great one-owner muscle car at the show was Bob Kessler’s 1969 Impala SS427. With fewer than 50,000 miles on the clock, it is a fullsize blast of big-block fun. The L36-code 427, with “porcupine” heads, was rated at 390 hp. Interestingly, the heavy hauler was only available with a somewhat lazy 3.07 rear axle when paired with the three-speed automatic.
Joe Willingham found this original Judge back in 1989, but it only recently emerged from a two-year restoration, one that saw the original black exterior change to Orbit Orange. Under the hood is a very healthy 400 that Willingham estimates is pushing about 600 horses to the rear axle.
Generation Xers are starting to snap up the cars of their youth, and this 1987 Camaro IROC-Z is a prime example of next-generation muscle. Surprisingly, only 3,452 were built that year, making it a pretty rare IROC, this one even more so with only 10,000 original miles. It belongs to Carl Mack, who showed up with a Van Halen cassette in the tape deck.
The 1970 Torino Cobra flew under the radar with most customers, as the Mach I and Boss Mustangs grabbed all the attention back in the day. While more than 40,000 1970 Mach I models were sold and more than 7,000 Boss 302s, only about 7,600 1970 Torino Cobras were built. This Grabber Yellow example belongs to George Stajniak and runs a 429/four-speed combination.
Tom Burkett bought this 1968 Camaro SS from his brother in 1972, when he was only 16. It is an original MX-code 396/350hp car with a four-speed and 12-bolt Posi. The 74,000-mile pony car looks fresh from the paint shop, too, but it was last painted way back in 1986.
Rod Brown’s 1965 Coronet has that vintage street/strip aesthetic, with the muscle to back it up: a 426 Hemi with a cross-ram intake topped with a pair of AFBs. It is backed by a track-ready TorqueFlite, and there are no pesky power-robbing accessories such as power steering or power brakes, either. The steel wheels complete the bare-knuckles look.
The long, low lines of the 1964 Galaxie and the big, round taillights combine for one of the best-looking hind ends of the era. Jerry Nolan’s Rangoon Red car was originally sold in Seattle before making its way to the Midwest more than 20 years ago. The engine is a four-barrel 289 hooked to a column-shifted three-speed and spinning a set of 3.25 gears.
John Leahy’s 1961 Catalina is a piece of local muscle car history. It was originally sold at Royal Pontiac, in Royal Oak, Michigan, and equipped with the 421 Tri-power engine, a Muncie four-speed, and a 3.42-geared Posi axle. Leahy showed an original timeslip from Detroit Dragway, where it ran 13-flat at 110 mph.
Bart DeVita rumbled through the grounds in this 427-powered 1967 Impala SS. The engine sported a high-rise aluminum intake and a big Holley four-barrel and headers, and channeled its torque through a Turbo 400 trans and out to a 12-bolt Posi rear axle.
Tom Milanov has owned this 1967 Nova SS for about seven years and performed most of the mechanical restoration himself. The car has an L30-code 327 (275 hp) and four-speed transmission, and it looks great in Butternut Yellow.
The slightly scruffy look to Tom Katona’s 1971 Challenger convertible suggests he is not shy about driving it, rain or shine. Under the hood is a 440 Six Pack. The interior is updated with contemporary seats and a modern audio system, amenities that make long drives more comfortable for this well-used muscle car.
Patrick Tarbet’s 1977 Trans Am looks mostly original from the outside, but it packs a well-built, four-speed-backed 455 under the shaker scoop. Buford T. Justice would have had a hard time keeping up with this modified TA.
Tom Griffin’s 1963 Impala nostalgia Super Stocker runs a dual-quad 409 and an automatic transmission—and looks ready to challenge any Max Wedge Mopars that may be lurking about.
Straddling the line between muscle and utility is M. Cooks’ 1972 big-block El Camino SS (RPO Z15). It looked like the 402-cube LS3 engine to us, which was available with the cowl induction hood. It was rated at 240 hp and packed enough torque to haul in every sense of the word.
Another nice A-Body at the show was Darrell Greene’s 1970 Chevelle SS454, which looked great in Champagne Gold, black stripes, and black vinyl roof. The LS5 454 was rated at 360 hp. There were, of course, two 454 engines offered in 1970: the 360hp LS5 (4,298 built) and the 450hp LS6 (4,475 built).
One more great 1963 Impala SS at the show was the hardtop model that belonged to Bob and Mona Taffs. It wasn’t a 409 car, but it sported a four-speed transmission, bucket seats, and a console. Very nice.