Few decades can compare to the 1960s, when muscle cars, music and milestones all made huge and lasting impressions on people. From sad times like the 1963 Kennedy assassination to uplifting times like the moon landing in 1969, living in the 1960s was special.

Although civil rights unrest and the Vietnam War split many of us apart, it was the music and muscle cars that banded us together — so much so that even today’s youths are fans of the music and cars from the 1960s.

Be it Motown, the surf sound, rock ‘n’ roll, country, ballads or instrumentals, no other time period can match the diversity of hit music the 1960s afforded people of all ages. Cruising in your car needed tunes from The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, The Ronettes, Shangri-Las and other groups jamming from the AM radio. This sound also spurred millions of vinyl record sales in both single “45” and full album form.

The successful bands and musicians also enjoyed a major income move-up thanks to a new invention called the 8-track tape player, which debuted in the mid-1960s and became the No. 1 car and truck audio addition. Once installed, you could purchase the 8-track tapes of your favorite groups that would allow instant musical gratification thanks to The Four Seasons, Spanky & Our Gang, The Rascals and the Temptations, all bellowing sweet sounds from your 8-track’s quad speaker setup.

This brings us to the cars of the Sixties in all their glory. No one disputes it was the Detroit-built, 400-plus-horsepower muscle cars that took center stage on the nation’s boulevards. Owners would deliver your food on roller skates. If you didn’t stop by the local hangout with your car, you were missing a grand time.
The highly polished muscle cars back then were usually equipped with Cragar S/S, Keystone or “chrome reverse” wheels, all of which shined with brilliance against the evening illumination. The tires were raised white letter “Polyglass” editions, until the rear tires were removed in favor of a set of M&H slicks for the after-midnight gatherings.

Performance additions included exhaust headers, usually painted in flat white heat paint be it fender well exit or under-carriage type. Further, if you were really part of the performance in-crowd back then, chatter included words like Isky, Holley, Crane, Edelbrock, Weiand, Mallory and Hedman, which were dead giveaways that a car owner could back up his high-performance talk.

Although there are those who point to the full-size performance cars of the day like a 1962 Chevy 409, 1963 Dodge 426 or 1964 Ford 427 as the harbinger of the muscle car, few will dispute that Detroit was unprepared for what was to come in 1964. Specifically, thanks to a Pontiac advertising executive and drag racer by the name of Jim Wangers and the blessing of John DeLorean, then the top guy at Pontiac, the duo produced the very first mid-size muscle car that made its appearance as the 1964 Pontiac GTO.

Noting a boom in muscle cars sales, Detroit hurriedly adapted and over the next eight years served up the Chevelle SS396, Boss 302 / 429 Mustang, Plymouth GTX 440/Hemi, Roadrunner 383/Hemi, Mustang/Cougar 428 Cobra Jet, Dodge R/T 440 and Super Bee 383 / 426, and even wilder creations like a 440 Six Pack Super Bee or Roadrunner. Also noteworthy are the Buick Gran Sport, AMC Scrambler 390, Javelin/ AMX 390, AMC Hornet 360, Hurst W30 442 Oldsmobile, Camaro Z28 and ultimate muscle creations Corvette L88, Mustang Shelby GT 350 / 500 and 426 Plymouth Hemi Cuda and Dodge Hemi Challenger, the latter two built at the end of 1969 as 1970 models.

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The best of the best in muscle cars and music not only banded a generation together regardless of race or religion, it spawned multi-billion-dollar businesses like the automotive aftermarket, the collector car/muscle car trade and the oldies-but-goodies music industry, where the songs of the 1960s play daily on modern playback devices, radios and television.

It really was the best of times for muscle cars and music.

-- Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other GateHouse media publications. He welcomes reader comments at greg@gregzyla.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.