Muscle-car stamps; the Top 21 awards; and 3 for the road

Every now and again even the most connected among us—those who pay bills online and communicate via Facebook, Twitter, and email—need to come up with a first class US Postal Service stamp.

You can put me in the category of those who like to have an interesting stamp to put on those mailings. One arrived with last month’s release of a new series of forever first-class stamps entitled America on the Move: Muscle Cars Forever.

The release was made by Richard and Kyle Petty along with Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe at last month’s Daytona Speed Weeks.

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Featured cars are the 1966 Pontiac GTO, 1967 Shelby GT-500, 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona, 1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda, and the 1970 Chevelle SS.

Having the stamp won’t be quite as neat as owning one of the original iconic vehicles, but they’re worth at least an honorable mention as consolation prizes. And while the cars mostly had limited production runs, there will be 60 million of the stamps available.

“The Muscle Cars stamps celebrate an exciting era in American automotive history,” says Richard Petty. “These examples of raw power bring back fond memories for me and my family, a testament to how aerodynamics transformed racing. I’ve been around racing and muscle cars all my life. These stamps bring back the memories of our racing heritage in the ’60s and ’70s.This is a great way to share our stories, old and new, about the Petty history in racing.”

Previous issues in the series were ’50s Sporty Cars (2005) and ’50s Fins and Chrome (2008).

Pontiac’s GTO ushered in the muscle-car era when engineers dropped a 389 cubic-inch V-8 into an intermediate-size Pontiac Tempest LeMans and marketed it as the GTO option. The GTO became a separate model in 1966.

The 1967 Shelby GT-500 was more than just a Carroll Shelby-built racer. Its improved suspension softened the ride, resulting in a vehicle that was comfortable to drive on the highway as well as on the track. The car was both striking and rare; only 2,048 were built.

Dodge’s outrageously styled 1969 Charger Daytona was designed for the company’s (and Petty’s) NASCAR racing program. In order to qualify as a stock car, at least 500 had to be built. Dodge produced 503.

Among the Hemi ’Cuda’s audacious features was the Shaker hood scoop, which vibrated as air flowed through to the twin four-barrel carburetors. Colors included LemonTwist, Lime Light, andVitamin C. Fewer than 700 were produced.

The Chevelle SS (Super Sport) had optional 396 and 454 ci engines. Two versions of the 454 were available, one with 360 horsepower and the other with 450.

The Top 21?

The Top 10 long has been a ratings staple, one made more popular by late-night host David Letterman’s nightly list.

US News & World Report has made a franchise out of its annual college, grad school, automotive, and medical reports. It’s a reflection of the fragmenting of the auto industry that the magazine’s 2013 Best Cars for the Money list contains a winner in 21 categories.

Among the awards some items stood out:

• Ford had six winners for the second straight year: the Escape, Taurus, Fusion, Focus, Edge, and Fusion hybrid.

• Imports took 12 awards, 5 of them going to theToyota-Scion-Lexus brands.

• GM took the other three awards won by domestic brands: Buick Regal, Buick Verano, ChevroletTahoe.

• BMW, always a favorite among reviewers, won its first Best Car for the Money award for the X1 in the Luxury Compact SUV segment.

“There’s a misconception that a car that offers a good value is boring,” says Jamie Page Deaton, managing editor of US News Best Cars. “Our awards show thatacar can have good performance, the latest features, plenty of comfort, and still be a smart financial choice for the long haul.”

In compiling its winners, US News & World Report uses journalists’ reviews, J.D.Power & Associates reliability rankings, and five-year cost of ownership as calculated by TrueCar.com.

Three for the Road

Three stories came down the news turnpike recently, each of which caused me to wonder how developments will play out in the coming years.

OnStar signed a deal with AT&T to deliver 4G wireless services that could make GM vehicles—Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC—into rolling smartphones. There’s no guarantee that GM will make the new capability user-friendly, but the opportunity is there to transform OnStar’s proven safety features into the best connectivity package on the market.

Honda has sold more than five million CR-Vs worldwide since the compact SUV was introduced in 1995. Last week Honda announced it would start selling a 1.6-liter diesel-powered version in Europe. The high price of diesel fuel in the United States, combined with the added cost of diesel powertrains, keep many attractive vehicles such as this from our shores.

Subaru is funding a project with the Center for Pet Safety to find and develop the best safety restraints for pets. Subaru has had a successful long-running relationship with dog owners and dog lovers. This new effort is an admirable quest on an overlooked issue, because a 30- or 50-pound dog becomes a threatening projectile in a crash, endangering both the pet and others in the vehicle.