Muscle car

From Academic Kids

Missing image
The Pontiac GTO started the muscle car trend. Pictured is the Pontiac GTO Judge, introduced in 1969.

Muscle cars are high-performance automobiles made primarily in Detroit from 1964 to 1974. Car manufacturers placed large V8 engines in mid-sized cars, giving them quite startling performance and setting off intense competition between manufacturers to produce the most powerful and extreme machine. The 1973 OPEC oil embargo, stricter air pollution laws and insurance premiums killed most muscle car models, though they are actively collected and restored.

Although auto makers such as Chrysler had occasionally experimented with placing a high performance V-8 in a lighter mid-size platform, and full-size cars such as the Ford Galaxie and Chevrolet Impala had high-performance models, Pontiac usually gets credit for starting the muscle car trend with its Pontiac GTO, based on the rather more pedestrian Pontiac Tempest. Spearheaded by Pontiac division president John De Lorean, the GTO proved far more popular than expected, and inspired a host of imitations and a general trend towards performance, both in the true 'muscle car' class of intermediate vehicles, and also the smaller pony cars like the Ford Mustang, Plymouth Barracuda and AMC AMX, and more luxurious and expensive vehicles such as the Buick Riviera.

However, a large part of the appeal behind muscle cars was that they were mostly inexpensive models young drivers could afford. For instance, Chevrolet placed an extremely large 396 cubic inch (6.5 Liter) engine in its compact Nova. In today's terms this would be equivalent to attempting to make a Chevy Prizm with a Corvette motor (though the performance gains would be vastly different in such a project today as smaller, modern engines can use newer technology to produce vastly more power than their same-sized counterparts from the muscle car era). Mopar also had several low-cost models, such as the Dodge Super Bee and Plymouth Road Runner.

Between 1964 and 1970, Detroit auto makers were in competition for the bragging rights to the most powerful motor. Power numbers generally hit their peak in 1970; the Chevelle SS 454 from that year is generally considered to have had the highest advertised output, producing 450 horsepower (336 kW) from a 454 cubic inch (7.4 Liter) engine. By 1971, muscle cars began to fall out of favor and disappear, with one of the last muscle car holdouts being Pontiac's Trans Am 1973 and 1974 SD455 model (while the SD455 was considered the last muscle car, the Trans Am nameplate continued until 2002).

While fast (sometimes extremely fast) in a straight line, most had primitive brakes and suspension (compared with modern vehicles and also European sports cars of the time), and tires which were inadequate to handle the acceleration and speeds the engines made capable. These inadequacies have all been to some degree addressed by after-market suppliers, of course.


Outside the US

Australia developed its own muscle car tradition around the same period, though many were modified four-door sedans rather than two-door coupes. The most famous were the Holden Monaro, the Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III of 1971, the Valiant Charger, and the two highest performance Holden Toranas, the SLR 5000 and the XU-1.

Holden Special Vehicles currently produces high-performance versions of various rear-drive Holden Commodore sedans and Monaro coupes, fitted with highly modified American V8 engines, and are perhaps one of the closest contemporary equivalents to the classic American muscle car — fast, exciting, but relatively crude automobiles (though with far more attention to handling and brakes than the originals).

In the UK, the muscle car itself never gained a significant market, but it certainly influenced British manufacturers, with models such as the Ford Capri and Vauxhall Firenza directly inspired by American designs. Later, both Ford and Vauxhall continued the tradition of producing high performance variants of its family cars, though often these had more subtle styling than the traditional muscle car, though with some notable exceptions. The more European influenced hot hatch has largely occupied this segment of the market since the early 1980s.

In the US, General Motors recently discontinued its Camaro and Trans Am models, leaving the Ford Mustang the last surviving semi-muscle car built in the states. In 2004 the Pontiac GTO returned to the market as a rebadged Holden Monaro imported from Australia.

American muscle cars

Road & Track identified the following models as "musclecars" in 1965:

Other later muscle cars include the following:

See also

External links


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