Distinguished by a long slanted hood, a sloped urethane front end, small rear quarter windows and fastback style rear glass, the 1976 Chevelle Laguna S-3 ruled NASCAR in the mid-70s. Although the end of the muscle car era meant detuning the massive engines which distinguished muscle cars, others, like the Laguna S-3, spring the attention of NASCAR drivers for their aerodynamic figures. They're still venerated today by enthusiasts, garage junkies, and collectors who see the S-3 as the cherry on top of an adored age of American automobiles.
After engine size reductions were mandated by NASCAR in 1974, Junior Johnson's team, including hall-of-famer Cale Yarborough, began experimenting with the S-3's streamlined figure to see what performance secrets and race advantages it had in store. As a result, Cale won 9 races behind the wheel of his #11 S-3 to the first of 3 consecutive Winston Cup championships. Eventually, NASCAR deemed the 76 Laguna S-3 am "aero" model and banned it from future competition following the 1977 season - but that didn't stop Dale Earnhardt Jr. from snatching one off eBay.
It's his "all-time favorite car," Dale says in an interview with The Block. "Because of its connection to NASCAR and its history in the sport. Now it wasn't a car that a lot of people would be super familiar with, but it had a good couple of years of success. With Cale Yarborough in the mid-'70's when he was winning his three championships in a row, he was driving Lagunas. When Darrell Waltrip came one the scene and became more successful in the Gatorade car, he was driving some Lagunas. They were just a popular car around '76 and '77 for Chevrolet factory-backed teams in the sport. I think it's a neat car with cool character lines and it just has a great body style and a great name."
Despite the historical significance of the '76 Laguna, Dale admits it's still too good-looking to collect dust in his garage. So if you're around Mooresville, NC, keep an eye out for #88 in a '76.