“Oh when will their glory fade, Oh the dying charge they made.” Tennyson may well have been referencing the glory days of our Midwestern boyhood. The days we spent as kids at US-30 Drag Strip in NWI and the Great Lakes Drag Strip in Union Grove, Wisconsin. (Great Lakes remains open though US 30 in Hobart is only a faded memory. Revival efforts have been tried and failed.
On February 22, 2013 the USPS released a special limited edition of forever stamps dedicated by Race Driver Richard Petty to celebrate the “muscle cars” of the 1960s and 1970s. Long before “Grease” was a movie and “Happy Days” was a popular television show, the drive-in teenage lifestyle was lived for real on summer weekends. And muscle cars were out-of-reach for most baby boomer families. Though few teenagers could actually drive the cars, all teenagers could admire the cars.
So the cars created shaped the culture, especially pop music. The first muscle car, a 1966 Pontiac GTO gave us “Little GTO” by Ronnie and the Daytonas. Surfer rock was as much about cars as catching a wave. Beach Boys hits including “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” “I Get Around,” and “Fun, Fun, Fun,” got more specific about the cars than the girls.
When the Shelby GT 500 Mustang came out in 1967, a moment was defined in Detroit and car companies started competing to produce the ultimate muscle car. Chrysler blew everybody away with the 1969 Charger Daytona. There were only 503 Charger Daytonas made and that was because NASCAR required that the carmaker had to commercially manufacture more than 500 cars. The car in the picture on the stamp is owned by one of the lucky 503 who lives in Detroit, Michigan. The Dodge Charger Daytona kicked butt and won the 1969 Talladega NASCAR motor speedway event. A limited number of Chargers also had a 426-cubic-inch hemi-engine.
Chevrolet answered with their muscle car entry a 1970 Chevelle, Super Sport with a standard 396-cubic-inch engine, but you could upgrade to a 450-Horsepower LS-6. It was amazing.
Of course, there were other hot cars, Chevy Corvettes had a 427-cubic-inch engine but these were only for rich kids, as Jan and Dean told us in “Dead Man’s Curve.”
The next best car with a stamp features a 1970 Plymouth “Hemi” Barracuda. This car was 425-Horsepower monster. By then, Chrysler had incorporated interesting paint schemes which are immortalized on the new stamps too. The1965 Plymouth Barracuda Formula S with a 4-speed and a hot 273-cubic-inch engine was a popular car around the South Side of Chicago then because it could get rubber in three gears and beat a lot of Mustangs. One of the best cars back in the day was a 1968 Dodge RT with a 440-Magnum engine. Chrysler products rocked during this time as the game changed from exhaust to carburation and sparkplugs for power.
The USPS is to be commended for selecting these unforgettable cars and also Artist Tom Fritz who has truly brought out the feel, the roar, the excitement, even the smell of burning rubber in his work. Though the stamps are Fritz's first postal commemoration series, he had previously been commissioned by Harley Davidson to paint their 100th anniversary painting.
Most men will love that the post office selected this nostalgia trip. To purchase Muscle Car Forever Stamps go on the USPS home site to purchase where you can also order special commemorative editions of the stamps, which are suitable for framing.