The Complete Book of Classic Dodge and Plymouth Muscle: Every Model from 1960 to 1974 by Mike Mueller
published 2009, 2013 by MBI Publishing
288 pages, Flexibound
purchased new from bookstore
When I was a kid, my cousin Rob had a 1972 Dodge Charger Rallye with a 340, red with black stripes. In fact it looked very much like the car in this picture (borrowed from volocars.com):
For a kid who was into cars, it was pretty awesome getting to ride in such a cool-looking car, one of the last with a quick mill as the musclecar era died down. By the time I got my first car, Chrysler had long moved to front driving, 4-cylinder cars based on the K-car, and I got my V8 RWD fix with a Fox-body Mustang. But I always has a deep appreciation for the old Mopar muscle.
So when I saw Mike Mueller’s The Complete Book of Classic Dodge and Plymouth Muscle: Every Model from 1960 to 1974 I knew I had to pick it up. Truth is by the time I got this book, I already owned and read books by Mr. Mueller, in fact others in ‘The Complete Book of…’ series, and I’ve found each to be enjoyable to read and a valuable resource. There’s really a lot to like about this series and this Dodge and Plymouth edition is no exception.
For starters, it’s well organized – each model is contained in its chapter, and sectioned by model year. The introduction gives a preamble – the origins of the Hemi engine in the early 1950s (then known as Firepower) and the development of the famous Chrysler 300, starting with the C300 in 1955. From there, chapter 1 gives a somewhat quick overview of 1960-67, featuring the Chrysler 300F, Plymouth Sonoramic, Dodge D-500, the Max Wedge cars and then the Street Hemi Satellite cars. It’s something of a strange chapter, as save the Satellite, these cars are really full-sized and not the traditionally definitive mid-sized “muscle car”. That said, these are critical vehicles in understanding later Mopar muscle.
Each chapter begins with an overview of the model. If we take the Barracuda chapter as an example, much of the 3 pages to start that chapter discusses how the Barracuda was developed as a fastback Valiant that beat the Mustang to market but was fully eclipsed by Ford’s pony. Also found here is quotes from Car Life‘s review of the car…
The simple addition of a sweeping, fastback roofline…
seems to transform the mundane Valiant into a thing of purpose and poise.
… followed by further explanation…
... that 14.4-square-foot expanse of curved backlight… needed special reinforcement to
retain torsional rigidity and securely mount that heavy piece of safety glass.
The next page features the 1964, starting with an information box giving specs such as dimensions, base price, and standard equipment in terms of wheels, tires, suspension and brakes, and engine specs. As the intro pages covered much of the development, there’s a short narrative about the ’64 as well as large photos of a couple cars. Logically, 1965 follows with the newly-introduced Formula S model, with the same format, but with much more narrative prose which covers new options and model changes, including descriptions of the Performance Group and Sports Group options, as well as upgrades to the 273 cubic inch V8. Other models getting features are the 1966 through 1969 Formula S (each featured individually), 1969 440 Cuda, 1970 Hemi Cuda, 1970 AAR Cuda, and 1971-1974 Cuda (again each individually, although only getting about 1 page each).
The remaining chapters flow logically as the musclecars came to be – 1966-71 Charger, 1967-71 GTX and so on culminating with the 1970-74 Challenger. The pages are filled with great stories touching on styling, engineering, performance and marketing. Mueller has been writing about cars from this era for decades, and has access to Chrysler Historical, collectors, restorers and magazine editors who can provide loads of iside information that provide the context were developed in. The image on the pages are really great, mostly full-colour shots of restored or preserved specimens, though some era-correct promotional, marketing and racing pictures appear.
As I said, I think this is a great book. Criticisms are few. The captions on the pictures are somewhat hard to read. The font is small, light and printed in a percentage less than 100% black. And maybe I’d have hoped for more C-body cars. While not technically musclecars, I admit I really like the 300s and big-block Monacos and Furies. But that’s just a wish for more content.
Mike Mueller’s The Complete Book of Dodge and Plymouth Muscle delivers the goods and is a book I enjoy having in my collection. Highly recommended.
Pros: loaded with info, covers all the important models, great photography
Cons: photo captions can be difficult to read
Where to get it: new and used bookstores, Amazon