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Muscle Car Confidential

The coolest thing about Joe Oldham’s “Muscle Car Confidential” (Motorbooks International) is the unvarnished, unapologetic style in which it is written. Oldham pulls no punches and tells it like it was back in his day as a writer/test driver for the now defunct Magnum Royal Publications. This old East coast publishing house was mainly known for its porn but also put out a slew of car mags like “Hi-Performance Cars”, “Speed and Supercar”, and “Rodder and Superstock”. These titles were the East Coast answer to all the ruling California based enthusiast magazines. There was something appealing to the gritty New York style in the old Mag Royal stuff and to give it even more impact Oldham was given free reign to beat down the test cars and street race them on the infamous Connecting Highway in Queens New York.

What’s all this got to do with Mopars? Well, out of twenty chapters devoted to specific cars there are five on Mopes. Oldham makes no bones about being a GM fan and admits to having Al Kirschenbaum from Rockville Centre Dodge come along to get the most they could out of the Mopars they tested. The first one in the book is a ’69 440 ‘Cuda and you can imagine how merciless Oldham is on this car. Let’s face it, if you had slicks and a good driver it was incredibly fast at the strip but for anything else it was a disappointment right down to the shoddy quality control at he factory. Hemi cars get a similar bashing because they just didn’t run that well “out of the box” compared to a 440 or a GM product. Then again, Oldham’s favorite GM products were ones that had received super tuning at the hands of Royal Pontiac or Baldwin Motion on Long Island.

440 powered B-bodies get reviewed quite favorably and the 69 and 1/2 package was clearly Oldham’s favorite Mopar. The six-pack car receives a bit of Oldham venom due to the shift rods on the four speed getting bent during some manly shifting at the track. Even with bent shift rods the ‘Runner managed a 13.18 at 107.01 with 9.50 x15 slicks. The car Oldham bags on the most is now one of the most valuable muscle cars in the world: The 1970 Hemi ‘Cuda convertible. You’ll just have to go get the book for the story on this car and it’s a good one.

The rest of this book is worth the cover price for shots of the cars back in the day (and shots of a young Mopar Action editor in chief Cliff Gromer) and the chapter on New York street racing. The story of the ’71 Javelin will have you rolling with laughter as will the reprinted readers letter that begins with “you guys are assholes.” Reading this book is like hanging out with an uncle who has a bunch of good car stories to tell; the advantage of a book is that when you are tired of hearing the stories you can just close the cover. 

To purchase Muscle Car Confidential, go to Motorbooks.com.

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