Letter Perfect: New stamps flex their ‘Muscle’

The new Muscle Cars postage stamps to go on sale Friday, Feb. 22, celebrate an exciting era in American automotive history. Typically equipped with big, powerful engines, these high-performance vehicles first roared onto our roads in the 1960s.

The stamps feature five iconic muscle cars: the 1966 Pontiac GTO, the 1967 Shelby GT-500, the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona, the 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda, and the 1970 Chevelle SS.

Artist Tom Fritz based his artwork on photographs of the cars, using bright-colored oil paints on hardboard to try to “capture the emotive quality” of each one. Growing up in Southern California, Fritz became familiar with the power of muscle cars and calls these paintings “a projection of my memories of the vehicles.”

Muscle Cars is the third issuance in the America on the Move series. The stamps were designed by art director Carl T. Herrman. The first two issuances in the series were 50s Sporty Cars (2005) and 50s Fins and Chrome (2008).

The Muscle Cars stamps are being issued as Forever® stamps in self-adhesive sheets of 20 (4 of each design). Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.

 

1970 Chevelle SS

f-2013-musclecar-chevelleWith features like optional twin racing stripes, the 1970 Chevelle SS looked fierce. SS stood for Super Sport, a fitting designation for the car, which had serious power. A 396-cubic-inch engine was available, but a 454-cubic-inch engine option gave the 1970 Chevelle SS credibility among muscle car enthusiasts. Two versions of the 454 engine were available: the 360-horsepower LS-5 and the 450-horsepower LS-6. For its sheer power, the latter has become legendary among car buffs.

The LS-6-propelled 1970 Chevelle SS was lightning quick. It finished in the 13-second range in quarter-mile tests. Optional Cowl Induction, a flap on the bulged hood that allowed cold air to flow into the engine, added even more kick. In addition to its impressive road performance, the 1970 Chevelle SS was also known for its unique style. Available as a coupe or a convertible, the 1970 Chevelle SS featured a black grille and SS emblems on both the grille and the rear bumper.

 

1969 Dodge Charger Daytona

f-2013-musclecar-69dodgechargerdaytonahemicudaThe outrageously styled 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona was designed to dominate on the racetrack. The car, which underwent wind-tunnel testing before its release, took the checkered flag at its NASCAR debut in September 1969 at Alabama International Motor Speedway in Talladega. The production version of the car was powered by a standard 440-cubic-inch, 375-horsepower Magnum engine. A limited number of Daytonas were also available with a 426-cubic-inch Hemi, a race-inspired engine Chrysler introduced earlier that decade. (Chrysler first used a version of the Hemi — a high-performance engine with hemispherical combustion chambers — in automobiles in the 1950s.)

Concealed headlights, fender-mounted scoops, a nearly two-foot tall, rear-mounted wing, and an 18-inch nose piece helped boost aerodynamics. Other signature touches were thick body stripes containing the word “DAYTONA.” The distinctive vehicles were not easy to come by. In order to qualify for NASCAR racing, at least 500 Daytonas had to be made available for purchase. Only 503 were produced.

 

1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda

f-2013-musclecar-1970hemicudaThe 1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda, a performance-oriented alter-ego of the standard 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, oozed power. The car’s 426-cubic-inch Hemi engine was a 425-horsepower beast. The car was part of what Plymouth called “The Rapid Transit System.” The 1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda was “our angriest, slipperiest-looking body shell wrapped around ol’ King Kong hisself,” one advertisement bellowed.

One of the 1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda’s more audacious features was a Shaker hood scoop, which vibrated as air flowed through to the engine’s two four-barrel carburetors. The car’s styling was an extension of its bold ethos. It was available in a variety of eye-popping color choices, such as Lemon Twist, Lime Light, and Vitamin C. Hockey-stick shaped stripes denoting engine size, a shifter handle shaped like a pistol grip, and bucket seats were also offered. The model is also a rare specimen: Fewer than 700 were produced.

 

1966 Pontiac GTO

f-2013-66gtoThe Pontiac GTO ushered in the American muscle-car era in the mid-1960s, just as the baby boomers began to come of age. The first GTO was born when engineers dropped a 389-cubic-inch V8 engine, which was built for a full-size sedan, into an intermediate-size Pontiac Tempest LeMans. Initially offered simply as an option on the Tempest LeMans, the GTO — which in Italian stood for Gran Turismo Omologato, or in English, Grand Touring Homologated — became its own model in 1966.

Available as a hardtop, coupe, or convertible, the 1966 Pontiac GTO was equipped with a standard 335-horsepower V8 engine. The “Goat” could really move; in tests, it went from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 6.8 seconds. It also looked much different than its predecessors. Starting in 1966, the car featured curvy styling and a split grille. That model year, sales of the distinctive GTO peaked.

 

1967 Shelby GT-500

f-2013-musclecar-67shelbyManufacturer Carroll Shelby’s take on the Ford Mustang reflected his roots as a racecar driver. The 1967 Shelby GT-500 was powered by a 428-cubic-inch, 355-horsepower Police Interceptor engine. The car also featured a rear spoiler and optional dealer-installed LeMans stripes. Rocker panel stripes came standard on the 1967 Shelby GT-500, which also sported grille-mounted headlights. A scooped fiberglass hood, extended nose, and interior roll bar and shoulder harnesses further enhanced the racecar feel.

The 1967 Shelby GT-500 was more than just a racer. The improved suspension softened the ride, resulting in a vehicle that was comfortable to drive on the highway as well as on the track. The car was both striking and rare; only 2,048 were built. A customized or original version of the 1967 Shelby GT-500 has appeared in contemporary movies and magazines, rekindling American pop culture’s fascination with the model. In 2007, Ford reintroduced the Shelby GT-500 into the Mustang model lineup.

 

Vote for your favorite Muscle Cars stamp at facebook.com/USPSstamps & view offerings to pre-order now!

  • “Shelby®” and “GT-500®” are registered trademarks of Carroll Shelby Licensing, Inc. used under license.
  • Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda are trademarks of Chrysler Group LLC.
  • General Motors Chevelle and Pontiac Trademarks used under license to the USPS.
  • MUSTANG is a registered trademark of Ford Motor Company.

 

Muscle car fans should check out Muscle Cars – Inside & Out from Old Cars Weekly:

W7229You’ll Love This If:

  1. You love the ‘highway hellions’
  2. You want flip through muscle car photos and history
  3. You are interested in learning about the greatest muscle cars ever built

Muscle Cars – Inside & Out includes:

  • Standard Catalog of American Muscle Cars 1960-1972 CD
  • Nothin’ But Muscle
  • Muscle Car: The Art of Power

 

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