THE BOTTOM END
When I was a kid buying my first car book, Consumer Guide’s Cars of the 60s, there was a section in the back that showed production numbers by year and model. I tended to gravitate to rare cars like the 1963 Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster. If a certain car was cool, a rarer one would be cooler, right?
With adulthood, I have learned that rarity is not everything, yet enthusiasts enjoy learning how many vehicles were built like theirs. Where does the data come from?
When many of these books were written in the 1980s, the level of information was limited because muscle cars had just begun to come into their own. There were statistics published in magazine articles, such as the “fact” that 18 LS6 Chevelle ragtops were made in 1970, which have never been substantiated; never mind more than 18 documented examples exist. Other times, the factory promoted incorrect information, like the 1977 letter I’ve seen from Chrysler Historical that shows 108 Hemi GTX hardtops built in 1967 (the true number is more than 700, but more on that below). Many books contain the same information for over 35 years with few changes.
With all the folks at car shows, on forums, on eBay, and elsewhere touting rarity, how does a hobbyist know what is true? Here are some resources.
SS/AMX expert Tom Benvie has put several documents on TheAMCForum.com that show production numbers by year/model/ bodystyle/engine for 1968-1974. Other information seems to be scattered, with rumors of production documents being hoarded by collectors.
The Sloan Museum (sloanlongway.org/ automotive-research) will provide produc(galengovier.com) tion statistics for a fee. It should have all the neat stuff, like how many 1969 GS 400 convertibles were built in Burnished Brown (100). But given the manner in which Buick kept records, it’s also possible to discover certain combinations, like how many ragtops were built with the Stage 1/four-speed/ AC combo (7).
The GM Heritage Center (gmheritagecenter.com/gm-heritage-archive/ reference-collection) has pages upon pages of Chevrolet production information, but it’s all generalized. For instance, it lists the total of 1968 L72 427/425 fullsize vehicles regardless of model, body style, or transmission (568). Additionally, thanks to Tonawanda engine production reports, we know the transmission split of many muscle Bow Ties, including the 1970 LS6 SS 454s (as published in Dale McIntosh’s Chevelle Data and ID Guide). Plus, the National Corvette Restorers Society (chevymuscledocs.com/index) offers the Month Car Shipped Report that gives limited information for 1965-1972 Camaro, Chevelle, and Nova vehicles.
You can buy a By the Numbers book from Marti Auto Works for 1967-1973 Mustangs and Cougars. Or, if you wish to learn more about those or other 1967-2012 vehicles from Dearborn, you can order a Deluxe or Elite Marti Report (martiauto.com/martireports.cfm) for the actual invoice, plus more detailed production info. (The Deluxe will show color, color/interior, engine/transmission, and a random individual option, such as 11 1971 Torino Brougham two-door hardtops built with the optional Shaker.) As licensed by Ford, Marti has the most elaborate production records going, so for a fee you can discover how many red 1969 Mach 1 428 CJs were built with Drag Pack, 4.30 gears, four-speed, console, and AM/FM stereo radio.
Chrysler Historical Services has build records up to 1967 but usually doesn’t distribute production statistics. (Fax or mail requests only to Historical Services, 12501 Chrysler Freeway, CIMS: 410-11-21, Detroit, MI 48288; fax 313/252-2928). Galen Govier is the guru for that, but his stats are generally for U.S.-spec cars, which doesn’t reflect total production (meaning Canadian and export shipments are not included). Statistics and options are available, so it is possible to find out how many American-market ’Cudas came with Hemis or were painted Moulin Rouge, but to know the combination is impossible— people combining statistics are just making up numbers. Sonoramic, Max Wedge, and 1964-1965 Hemi information is available through Darrell Davis’ series of books (racehemi.maxwedge.com/dld).
The GM Heritage Center has no invoice records for muscle-era Oldsmobiles, but scattered production records can be found for 1964, 1967, and 1970-1973 for a fee. Some carry incomplete information, while others are detailed: for example, how many 4-4-2s were ordered with the W-27 aluminum rear? Production statistics only exist through June 1970 because the July document is missing, so total production can’t be known.
Give Jim Mattison’s PHS Automotive Services (phs-online.com) the VIN of your Pontiac and pay a fee, and you’ll receive the factory invoice or billing history that tells you everything about how your car was equipped new. Few brands are afforded this luxury, although if you want production numbers, reach out to the GM Heritage Center. Former Pontiac honcho Fred Simmonds deserves credit for compiling plenty of production information in 1989, but a lot remains undiscovered. Also helpful is the Pontiac-Oakland Museum (pontiacoaklandmuseum.org), as new statistics are coming to light thanks to Mike Noun’s research.
“The factory promoted incorrect information”
The GM Heritage Center can tell you how many Judges came with the Ram Air III and M20 four-speed, but it can’t tell you how many were Goldenrod Yellow.