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Hood scoops became a necessity on muscle cars of the 1960's and 1970's as the monster V8 engines powering these vehicles needed cooler air. Pontiac found early on that making the hood scoops functional and funneling cooler air to the carburetor gave a dramatic boost in power. Things just kept getting bigger after that.
Cooling the engine is not the only function of a hood scoop. The engine bay area is about 50 degrees warmer than the ambient temperature, so funneling cooler air from outside to the carburetor increases power. The colder air is, the more density it has which means more oxygen per unit of volume. More oxygen available means you can oxidise more fuel per combustion cycle, creating more power.
The hood scoop mainly started as a decorational piece, as the early ones were non-functioning on most models. Many times what looks like some kind of a scoop is really a way to "nestle" in a large engine that really doesn't fit under the hood. From what I have read over the years, Packard is basically the first American auto manufacturer to put functional hood scoops onto a stock car, the 1952 Packard Caribbean. (If anyone can confirm or deny this, it'd be appreciated.)
Most early hood scoops that were functional, did not create much performance boost because of their size. You really need a large opening, and it needs to be at the right height, usually well above the hood. Aerodynamics plays a large role; If the scoops are built low and into the hood, air just "slips" over them, and not into them. Smaller scoops can work better if they are in the front of the car, near the front of the hood, again because of aerodynamics. The air is forced into them before slipping over the car.
Some of the best working scoops are cowl scoops (#5 - 1964 Ford Thunderbolt). These are reversed so the opening is near the windshield where the windshield creates a high pressure area, forcing air into the scoop. As a personal taste, I prefer the looks of the front facing scoop so this list is full of them.
Onto my list...
#13) 1955-1957 Ford Thunderbird
Yes I know, the Ford Thunderbird was not technically a muscle car, nor was the mid 1950's the muscle car generation, but I had to squeeze this model in. I have always liked the small little scoop, and it was the beginning of seeing the hood scoop on more models. Most believe the hood scoop was non-functional, BUT they had a removable block-off plate that was suggested to be removed for summer driving.
#12) 1968 Ford Shelby Mustang Cobra GT500KR
The 1968 Cobra Mustang GT500 was pretty cool with a 428 Police Interceptor engine, but the GT500KR had the 428 Cobra Jet engine, making it just a tad cooler in my mind. That engine needed some major amount of cooler air, hence the dual scoops. This is a good example of the scoops being in the front of the hood, forcing air in before it slips over the hood and car.
#11) 1969 Dodge A12 Super Bee
A12-optioned Super Bees are highly collectible today and can command some premium dollars, but they were originally built by Dodge for "affordable horsepower". The standard 383 Dodge Coronet engine was upgraded to a "440 6 Pack" including badging. Supposedly only 20% of all A12 optioned Super Bee's built are still around.
#10) 1969 Pontiac Trans Am
These scoops aren't as big as some of the others on this list, but they are the finishing touch to the beginning of the ever popular Pontiac Trans Am. The hood lines from the scoops over the hood make for a great look.
#9) 1968 Dodge Super Stock Dart 426 Hemi
Probably the widest factory scoop that I know of, the 1968 Dodge Super Stock Dart 426 Hemi was almost unbeatable on the strip or street. Much of the car was made with fiberglass, and of the 60 built only a few are known to still exist.
#8) 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A
Grrr, another suitcase sized front facing scoop. The Challenger was Dodge's answer to the Mustand and Camaro, and the T/A was built to race in the Sports Car Club of America's Trans American Sedan Championship in 1970. The consumer model was possibly more powerful with the 440 6 Pack that was available.
#7) 1971 Pontiac GTO
I have always liked the look of the 1971 Pontiac GTO with it's twin front scoops and the large pointed grill. Unfortunately this was nearing the height of hood scoops, as the power of muscle cars went downhill after this year. The pending oil embargo's, new emission standards, and rising insurance premiums caused output to be lowered considerably, eliminating the need for scoops.
#6) 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429
The Boss 302 was cool, but the 429 with that intimidating scoop was the real deal. Rated at 375 horsepower by Ford, true output was over 500 horsepower. The 429 Boss was only built for 1969 and 1970 model years, and only 859 were built making them highly collectible today.
#5) 1964 Ford Thunderbolt
Yes, this photo of a 1964 Ford Thunderbolt is a stock model. The Thunderbolt was built by Ford for drag racing, basically a street legal drag racer that wasn't so "street friendly". Ford crammed the 427 into a Ford Fairlane with the help of Dearborn Steel Tubing. Only 100 were built in 1964, mainly for racing only.
#4) 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 427
Squeezing a 427 into a little Corvette is sweet, but the looks of the 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray with it's scoop and colored band over it really make it shine. This may be one of my favorite cars of all time, and my favorite 'Vette.
#3) 1970 Plymouth AAR 'Cuda
It was tough not to make this #1, especially with this photo (I love the color combo and design). Similar to the Dodge Challenger T/A, the 1970 Plymouth AAR 'Cuda was built to race in the Sports Car Club of America's Trans American Sedan Championship in 1970. A little over 2,700 models were produced, and are highly collectible today.
#2) 1969 AMC SC/Rambler
1969 would be the last year for the AMC Rambler, so AMC let it go with red, white, and blue style. The SC/Rambler was a pure racing machine with no available options, period. SC/Ramblers created so much attention to the showrooms, that some dealers refused to carry them. They brought in crowds, but they were mostly young gawkers, and kept away the customers that would actually be buying.
They had two paint schemes available at different times throughout the year. The red sided pattern was thought to be too "bold" early on, and attracted too much attention to it on the streets, especially the police. However the coolest part of this setup is the arrow pointing towards the scoop with the "390 in.: label, and the word "Air" on the scoop itself. Like the air doesn't know where to go when you are going 100 MPH.
#1) 1969 Hurst/Oldsmobile
Twin mailboxes. That is the term used by many fans of the large Oldsmobile 442 scoops, with the Hurst models being my ultimate favorite with the color combo. Oldsmobile got away with installing a 455 engine by having it installed offsite and basically buying them back, before distributing them to dealerships. Demand was off the charts, but sales were limited by how many could be built. Only 914 were built, two of them being convertibles. My dream car (which I will never own) is a 1969 Hurst/Oldsmobile convertible. MAYBE a standard model could be mine someday.
Here's my list, I'm sure it will constantly change as it was a very difficult list to dwindle down to 13. What models would you add that I missed? I would like to hear your comments.
About the Author
Daniel Fehn is a web designer, a huge classic car and truck fan, and a wannabe mechanic currently living in Minneapolis, MN. I designed and built timelessrides.com so I could share my enthusiasm for classic vehicles, and created the classified ads section for all to buy and sell their rides for FREE.
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