Saturday, July 22, 2017
When it comes to pony cars like the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, and Plymouth Barracuda we expect big V8 motors, 4 on the floor manual transmission, and famed models in limited quality. GT's, Z28's, Trans-Am's, T/A's, you name it and that's what diecast manufacturers have provided for each Pony Car that is created. What about the lower-end of the spectrum, you know the cars that have only six cylinders, base models, secretary cars, rental lot queens? Well as it turns out they were once and gone and if one was to pop up somewhere it would be restomodded into a proper V8 pony car. M2 Machines has found a way to deal with that having the option to make several different models on one tool and they have done some neat variations. Six-cylinders is nothing new as some past 1950's trucks and cars have that option and the Camaro and Mustang have had the I-6 motor once before, but not in a complete six-car set that includes two Mustang's, two F-body GM cars, one Plymouth, and oddly one Nova in the mix. I assembled all of them together to see how they are done and see which one is the best of the group.
The F-body GM cars are the best looking ones of the group even in their base model forms. The Camaro continues with a less tame look that has chrome lace wheel covers and a uniform paint job. The round headlights in grille and taillights are shared with other Camaro's so it doesn't seem as far off as a SS Camaro would look. The Firebird is probably the best looker of the bunch: looks like a six-cylinder car? Nope it has the Sprint package with the group's sole aluminum chrome wheels, hood mounted tachometer and sleek black with red interior deco. It has a sharp-nose front with twin nostrils and quad headlights while the rear has slit taillights and plenty of badging. Even the way the side marker lights are merged into the front and rear fenders are crafty. The Barracuda stands out with a bright orange paint that would look right at home at any other MOPAR, right down to the color-matching steel wheels. The fastback look is sleek with taillight bar in rear and split grille at front. The ride height sits too high. The 1965 Mustang fastback can look like a GT without looking under the hood. The classic fastback profile with large front grille, round headlights, and tri taillights are all Mustang classic touches and the 5-spoke wheel with white wall tires would look good on any Mustang model, though the white lines on the tires are not properly round. The 1968 Mustang has a vastly different look with a basic look and steel wheels that match the color of the car. This one has a more aggressive front-end and coved rear taillight panel. The Nova is the least impressive as it has a typical burgundy color, square corners, and 5-spoke wheel covers that have already seen duty in past Nova models.
All of these cars provide seating for five with some having a front bench seat and others (most of them) front buckets. some have the rear bench seat in the fold down position. The Camaro stays true with the white interior and black dashboard of other Camaro models and is nicely done. The shifter is now the automatic basket handle. The Firebird's red interior takes it up to another level with a floor manual shifter and a rear bench seat that is folded down. The Nova has the roomiest interior of the bunch with seating for six with a front bench seat. The Barracuda keeps its sporty dash layout and bucket seats with floor shifter while the rear bench is folded down to the largest cargo area. The 1965 Mustang has that twin pod dashboard with 3-spoke steering wheel and shifter that seem a bit big for this interior. The rear bench is in the down position. The 1968 has the same thing but with a more updated interior and proper-size steering wheel. The front has a bench seat with the transmission shifter as a column-mount, while the rear bench seat is in the down position.
All cars have the Inline-six configurations and output power is far from the 300 plus horsepower found in the V8 models. The Camaro has a 250 CID I-6 that produced 155 horsepower through a two-speed automatic transmission. The Firebird uses a rather unique engine: the only over head cam engine in the group, a 230 producing 160 horsepower through a 3-speed manual transmission. The Nova uses the 194 CID I-6 that produced an estimated 160 horsepower through a two-speed automatic transmission. The Barracuda uses a unique slant-six motor that borrows cues from the Max Wedge motors with the carberator on the opposite side of the cylinder row. the 225 CID produces 145 horsepower through a 3-speed manual transmission. The Mustang's use the same I-6 motors with slight differences. The 1965 has a 200 CID I-6 that produces 130 horsepower through a three-speed manual transmission, while the 1968 has the same motor making 15 less horsepower through a two-speed automatic transmission. Yeah, not that much power going on here!
Acceleration and Braking
The Firebird was the best sprinter of the group with plenty of power and light weight to get up to speed. The slow 1968 Mustang was surprisingly quick besting the 1965 Mustang. The Nova was the slowest due to its size, while the Barracuda was quick as well. The Barracuda suffers from nose dive thanks to the tall ride height and makes the longest braking stop. The Camaro was not as swift as the Firebird, but managed to pull off a better stopping distance than its platform mate. The 1968 Mustang also manages to make a better stopping distance than the 1965, while the Nova was about mid-pack. One thing to note that all do not have great brakes as these low-end cars all had drums on all four wheels instead of the front disc rear drums of higher-end models so expect poor braking from all.
At least they can better off handle well with all that weight lifted from the larger V8 motors at the front. Here the Firebird again shines with great handling and little body roll, and the Camaro also does the same thing. The F-body cars have the best platforms for cornering and it still shows here in six-cylinder models. The 1965 Mustang was a bit swiftier than the 1968 even if it was not as smooth-riding as the 1968 Mustang was. The Nova was underwhelming just like the styling as it has a lot of mass to move around. Finally, the Barracuda's tall ride height would come back to haunt it as it has lots of body roll and the rear-end could swing around in tight corners at high speed.
Hmmm, yeah features on lower-trim models is not that exciting, but here the Firebird is an easy winner with the sporty Sprint package giving this low-end model some style. The Camaro would benefit from the same Firebird package to spruce up a few key areas in an otherwise fantastic casting. The 1968 Mustang, despite being a bland-looking trim model, actually looks pretty good for this casting while the 1965 suffers from a lot of quality control problems. The Barracuda looks good in orange and has that V8 look to it, but the stance is too high and the car does look a bit boxy at some angles. The Nova was unimpressive as it too was boxy and has that been there, done than look to it.
Well these are all entry-level vehicles at a good advantage point, so all would win this category. For the cheapest I believe the 1968 Mustang and 1969 Camaro would lead the pack, followed by the 1965 Mustang, 1969 Barracuda, 1967 Nova, and then the 1968 Firebird as the most expensive due to its Sprint package, but then again order could change. Problem is unlike the V8 breathen no one keeps record of how much a base model pony car cost back in the day that I know of.
Sixth-place goes to the 1969 Plymouth Barracuda: It has that sharp look in orange with the powerful slant-six, but it's tall ride height hampers handling and the casting has a few rough edges in it. Fifth-place goes to the 1967 Chevy Nova: A non-pony car of the group that is more better as a commuter car than a low-buck performance car. Fourth-place goes to the 1965 Ford Mustang: It has that classic Mustang fastback look with great details set off by poor quality control. Third-place goes to the 1968 Mustang: While it may look less appealing than it's 1965 cousin it has much better quality and a better ride. Second-place goes to the 1969 Camaro: It has great looks and handling, but it lacks the sporty trim that the Pontiac offers. First-place winner goes to the 1968 Pontiac Firebird Sprint: It has the look of a true pony car along with great handling. It is truely the best car of the group, the Firebird wins!