What and why are Muscle Cars?


What..that depends on whom you ask. The standard answer would be the mid size cars produced from 1964 through the 1971 model year that were created and marketed towards the performance oriented automobile buyer.

But that would be too simple.  The reason for the start year is because most experts contend that the muscle car started with the Pontiac GTO.  Myself and others feel it actually started earlier than that.  The 413 Max wedge powered Dodge Dart was on the scene 2 years prior in 1962 and by the time John Delorean and his designers converted a Tempest into a GTO, every NHRA and IHRA track in the country had already seen the little Dodge Dart rewrite every track record.  And they did it as stock vehicles.  Even today some of these cars troll the strips across America to keep their legend alive.  And save for  the replacement Dart created in 1968 with the introduction of the famed 426 Hemi into the Dart chassis by the factory, the 413 Max Wedge would still be the utmost performance car ever produced by an American auto-maker.  Remember that Yenko and Shelby and all those “ultimate” muscle cars were modified vehicles and not true factory production vehicles.  So whatever the start date of the Muscle Car Era was is debate-able but it ended in 1971.  That is the vote of 99.9% of people who collect and own these vehicles.  That was the year that all American car manufacturers cut their engine compression ratios and the horsepower was gone.  1970 saw the change from gross horsepower to net horsepower ratings and some people think that meant power was taken away then, but it was merely the required rating system that changed.  The fact gets more confusing because most notable the Mopar Hemi’s saw the same Horsepower ratings both in 1970 and in 1971, so a lot of people assume that Dodge and Plymouth were the only companies to not cut power from their top engine.  The fact was that while Mopar had been claiming 425 horsepower from this motor; they and everyone else knew these hemi’s were a lot higher than that, and so the net rating required in 1971 was actually just closer to reality.

The why part of the Muscle Car phenomenom is a little harder to explain.  To understand means you need to not only drive one of these vehicles but understand the context of the time period.  The hot rods of the 50’s were created from the earlier vehicles and most of these homemade cars were never designed nor intended to run 90 or 100 miles per hour on the open road.  Add the fact that organized racing was occuring all across the country and this was the ideal opportunity for car manufacturers to showcase and promote their products to the American car buyers.  By 1966 nearly every Car Manufacturer in America had at least one model that was a Muscle Car and several makers had 3 or 4 or even more.

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One Response to “What and why are Muscle Cars?”

  1. matt Says:

    This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

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