Return with us to those blissful days when Detroit's rule of the automotive roost was unchallenged by foes from east or west. In 1964 - the year suburban Detroit's Woodward Avenue became the country's favorite unofficial drag strip - Toyota was just breaking out of its Toyopet shell, and a fledgling Mercedes-Benz was still prepping for flight from the Studebaker-Packard nest. Hyundai didn't exist, and Nissan was pronounced "DAT-sun." The most energetic Porsche packed 145 hp.
The official muscle car clock started ticking when Pontiac blessed its '64 Tempest LeMans with a $295.90 GTO option. Unofficially, factory-supported backyard tuners had raced on Woodward and other Detroit avenues for years. When big-block American V-8s roar, there will be acceleration.
To put a fresh shine on Detroit's faded glory, we rousted three veteran street racers from the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan, where the cars spent last winter in repose, to strut their quarter-mile stuff at Milan Dragway near Ann Arbor. Upholding the spirit of street-racing competition, we drove each contender twenty miles on back roads to confirm that these are real road cars, not trailer queens on quarter-mile leashes.