The Mighty Muscle Car: Museum features rumbling machines from ’64 to ’70

By M. Soctt Morris / NEMS Daily Journal



For a brief shining moment in automotive history, Detroit said, “Let there be muscle cars.”
According to Allen McDaniel, curator of the Tupelo Automobile Museum, these mighty, rumbling beasts were created from 1964 to 1970.
“These were extremely powerful, real fast and tough cars,” McDaniel said. “It was all about that power to weight ratio. A 400-horsepower engine in a 2,700-pound body – Is that going to be faster than 400 horsepower in a 4,000-pound body?”
You’ll still find Camaros, Chevelles, GTOs and others from the muscle car era on American roads. Until Jan. 29, you’ll also find them on display at the Tupelo Automobile Museum.
McDaniel traces the age of the muscle car back to 1964, when Pontiac put a 389 engine in a LeMans body, creating a vehicle that instantly appealed to young Baby Boomers.
“In 1964, in my little town where I lived, this guy bought a ’64 GTO,” McDaniel said. “He raced everybody and their brother, and he beat everybody and their brother.”
That fellow’s reign lasted until someone else bought a ’66 Chevelle.
“That kind of toppled him off the hill,” McDaniel said.

On loan
On Tuesday, Sam Herring of Tupelo dropped off his son’s ’68 Dodge Charger for the exhibit.
“He always liked the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ on TV, so he got a Dodge Charger when he was 15,” Herring said. “He was such a good kid in school – he didn’t cause me any trouble – so I bought him that. For his high school graduation, I got it painted for him.”
There aren’t too many people John David Herring would trust with the car, but McDaniel is one of them.
“He knows it’s in good hands,” Sam Herring said.
John Clayton of Chesterville planned to include his 1970 SS Chevelle in the exhibit.
“I sort of grew up with the Chevelle,” he said, “so that’s what I like.”
McDaniel said 1970 was the tail end of the muscle car era. Gasoline prices and push back from insurance companies contributed to the change.
“In ’71-72, they lowered compression ratios and put smog equipment on the cars,” McDaniel said. “It just really took the muscle away from them.”
That’s not to say the mighty rumbling machines are extinct.
The cars you’ll see at the museum aren’t really museum pieces, though today’s owners are surely more careful with all of that muscle than owners were back in the day.
“I’m telling you,” McDaniel said with a wide grin. “These were all about speed.”

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com.