What Are The Best Car Letters?

What Are The Best Car Letters?

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Volkswagen recently debuted the somewhat sporty ID.4 GTX, which is an affront. This thing doesn’t even have a Hemi!

Perhaps the target audience of the all-electric crossover is not the same as those in the market for a 1967 to 1971 Plymouth GTX. It might not even be the same as those who remember that from 1967 to 1971 Plymouth sold a model called the GTX.

Illustration for article titled What Are The Best Car Letters?

Photo: VW

The GTX sort of gets left out of a lot of muscle car histories, in part because it wasn’t all that much of a standout. It didn’t get a cool cartoon like the Road Runner, it wasn’t small and fun like a Mustang, nor was it big and brooding like a Charger or a 300. It was just a midsize car that had a ton of features and you could get one with a huge engine. The GTX was “positioned as Plymouth’s ‘gentleman’s’ hot rod,” as the excellent MuscleCarClub recounts, and “offered stylish performance for the discriminating buyer.” There was one very cool version, at least, per MuscleCarClub:

For those that wanted even more performance than a Hemi-powered GTX, Plymouth quietly offered a R023 version (Standard Belvederes were RH23 and GTX’s were RS23 – Dodge had a similar high performance version called W023) of the Hemi GTX. Called the “Super Stock” version, the R023 was not marketed by Plymouth and only serious racers would have heard of it or even consider ordering it. The R023 GTX was notable for what it didn’t have. The hubcaps, radio, heater, body insulation, and even the carpet pad and sealers were removed to save weight – several hundred pounds in fact.

Although their stripped appearance made them look more like a Plymouth Belvedere, they kept their GTX badges. Under the hood was the familiar 426 Hemi, hand-modified for performance with the addition of a transistorized ignition and a dual-point distributor with no vacuum advance, metal core-plug wires, Carter 4139 and 4140 Carbs, and a free-air system that sealed the breather to the underside of the hood – which made the big, wide hood scoop fully functional. Plymouth rated this heavily massaged Hemi at the same 425 bhp rating as the normal Hemi, which was under-rated to begin with. Plymouth built only 55 R023 GTX’s, making them quite rare today.

The Plymouth GTX was not my GTX, not the GTX of my heart. My GTX was the Mazda 323 GTX, a car I still adore.

Illustration for article titled What Are The Best Car Letters?

Photo: Mazda

In the 1980s, Group B was the top tier of international rallying, with fire-breathing Audis and Peugeots and Lancias racing flat-out deadly speed. After a series of prominent crashes, Group B was banned, and the lower-tier Group A became the top category into the 1990s. Manufacturers that had been in Group B promptly threw all their money at Group A, and the cars were quickly as fast (if not as powerful) as they’d ever been.

Before the big teams all came rushing into Group A, steamrolling everyone who had been competing when Group B was king, Mazda had its own period of dominance. Its Group A rally car, called the 323 GTX, was everything we love about old rally specials. It looked just like any wheezy naturally-aspirated, front-wheel-drive Japanese economy car, only the GTX got a turbo and all-wheel drive. It was a homologation special in the best sense. It wasn’t the fastest car, nor was it exactly bulletproof, but it had a little link to racing. It had that spark. It had that potential.

I nearly bought two non-running 323 GTXs some years ago with the intention of cobbling them together into one running car. It wouldn’t have cost me more than a few hundred bucks to dive into the project, but cooler heads prevailed and steered me toward a much more reliable vehicle instead. Given that I blew that thing up over the course of one weekend, it is perhaps best that I never got into the GTXs with their reputation for fragility.

It does all make me wonder what are the best car letters, the ones that keep getting used over and over, from GSis to GTOs.

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