Muscle Car

MUSCLE CAR SUMMARY

The “Muscle Car” has roots dating back to the late 1940’s, evolving out of hot rod culture and into a segment all its own. By the 1960’s and 1970’s, the term was broadly given to 2-door, 2-row American sport cars that boasted powerful V8 engines that sent power to the rear wheels. In true American spirit, muscle cars tended to carry relatively affordable price tags for their performance, especially in the straight line. It’s no wonder why muscle car culture is the backbone for several racing leagues, such as NASCAR, NHRA and even the SCCA, even to this day.

Presently, the muscle car genre continues to evolve, with current examples on sale shifting from the bare-bones take-it-or-leave it bar brawlers of the past to more refined grand touring cars with incredible duality. The result of which is that these cars can accelerate like never before, but can also corner exceptionally well, with the overall ride and interior refinement being exceptionally plush. They have also become considerably more expensive, with some of the most capable examples exceeding $70,000. Some even $100,000 when fully optioned. A far cry from their humble beginnings.

1968 Ford Mustang Bullitt

MUSCLE CAR HISTORY

Muscle car production began in the 50’s with the Oldsmobile Rocket 88, which was the first time a V8 was put into a smaller lighter chassis. Producing 135 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque the 88 won 8 out of 10 NASCAR races in the 1950 season. Ever since then, the muscle car has been developing from year to year. As time went on the cars got more and more of a racing pedigree, with the peak of the muscle car coming in the late 1960’s to the early-70’s. In that brief period of time, Detroit automakers gave us cars like the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and the Plymouth Road Runner. All of these vehicles were an answer to the Ford Mustang, which hit the market in 1964.

PONY CAR VERSUS MUSCLE CAR

The Mustang is the original “Pony Car,” and several automotive historians will vehemently agree that there’s a difference between the venerable Muscle Car and the sportier Pony Car. But as the segments have evolved, they have also blended, and customers that would have otherwise shopped one segment or the other are now assimilated into a single demographic, as evident by buyers cross shopping vehicles like the Ford Mustang with the four-door Dodge Charger.

Roadkill Nights 2019 Highlights
Photo Copyright MuscleCarsandTrucks.com

FALL AND RISE OF THE MUSCLE CAR

In the 70’s muscle cars began to see a decline, insurance rates going up, the 1970 Clean Air Act, and the OPEC Oil Embargo of 1973. by 1974, the muscle car segment was a shell of itself, with vehicles such as the Dodge Challenger being discontinued, and engine output in available cars otherwise being drastically reduced. Collectively, the 1970’s and 1980’s are considered to be the darkest time for American muscle cars due to damage done by stricter government regulations, fuel shortages, and regrettable corporate planning. Nevertheless, vehicles like the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro continued to soldier through the Malaise Era.

In the late 1980’s, new technology such as electronic fuel injection systems, turbochargers and advanced engine management controls helped pull muscle cars out of the dark ages by allowing for more power to be extracted from each drop of gasoline. For instance, the G-Body 1987 Buick Regal GNX used a turbocharged V6 engine that rivaled the performance of V8 engines at the time, even leapfrogging the Chevrolet Corvette as the quickest car in the GM fleet. By the 1990’s, the muscle car mojo was really starting to come back, with the introduction of engines such as the LT1, which helped the Camaro Z/28 at the time run a 14.2 second quarter mile from the factory. The pushrod small block V8 was also a highly tunable engine, and thus began to attract performance and aftermarket companies to the market shortly after.

By 2010, a new “golden age” of muscle cars was in full swing, thanks to the return of the Dodge Challenger, and the launch of the fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro (after a brief hiatus) to do battle with the never-discontinued Ford Mustang. Supporting the Mopar fleet is the Dodge Charger, which is considered to be the world’s only four-door muscle car on sale today. Sales wise, the segment as a whole appears to be shrinking, but the halo effect that muscle cars continue to bring to the showroom serves as a valuable marketing tool.

Muscle Car
2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon at US 131 Dragway – Photo Credit Manoli Katakis

THE MOST POWER MUSCLE CAR EVER BUILT

The most powerful muscle car so far ever created is the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon. When properly set up, the Dodge Demon could accelerate from 0–30 mph in 1.0 second, 0–60 mph in 2.3 seconds (2.0s with a rollout), 0–100 mph in 5.1 seconds, and the quarter mile in only 9.65 seconds at 140.09 mph. It featured a factory-limited top speed of 168 mph. Its 6.2-liter V8 “Demon” engine featured a 2.7-liter supercharger, rated at 808 hp with 91 octane gasoline and 840 hp and 770 lb-fto of torque with 100 octane fuel or higher. Only 3,300 Dodge Demons were made.

THE FUTURE OF MUSCLE CARS

For better or worse, future muscle cars will likely have electric variants to balance out their fuel-heavy V8 performance variants that remain sought after by customers. The first hints of this are the Mustang Lithium Concept, an potential Chevrolet Camaro EV teaser,  and comments from FCA executives that electrification is coming to the space. For now, the most powerful muscle car variants on sale today are the 650 horsepower sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, 717 horsepower Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Daytona 50th Anniversary Edition, the 760 horsepower S550 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, and 797 horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye.

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody. Photo copyright MuscleCarsandTrucks.com

MUSCLE CAR CONCEPTS

List to be updated.

Chevrolet Camaro Concept (2006)

Chevrolet eCOPO Camaro Concept (2018)

Ford Mustang Lithium Concept (2019)

Dodge Super Charger Concept (2017)

Dodge Challenger Shakedown Concept (2018)

MUSCLE CAR NEWS

Please visit our Muscle Car News page.

CURRENT MUSCLE CARS BY AUTOMAKER

General Motors

Chevrolet Camaro (Sixth-Generation)

Ford Motor Company

Ford Mustang (S550)

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Chrysler 300 (LX)

Dodge Charger (LX)

Dodge Challenger (LX)

Independent

Equus Bass 770

Electric Ford Mustang
Ford Mustang Lithium Concept. Photo copyright MuscleCarsAndTrucks.com

FUTURE MUSCLE CARS

General Motors

Seventh-Generation Chevrolet Camaro

Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing

Ford Motor Company

S650 Mustang

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Next-gen Charger

Next-gen Challenger

Chevrolet Camaro
The first production 1967 Camaro. Photo via Chevrolet

PAST MUSCLE CARS 

List to be updated.

General Motors

Buick Gran Sport & GTX
Buck Grand National & GNX

Cadillac CTS-V

Chevrolet Chevelle
Chevrolet El Camino SS
Chevrolet Impala
Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
Chevrolet Nova
Chevrolet SS Performance Sedan

Oldsmobile 442

Oldsmobile 88

Oldsmobile Toronado

Pontiac G8
Pontiac GTO
Pontiac Firebird & Trans Am

Pontiac Tempest

Pontiac Catalina

Pontiac Trans Am with aftermarket blower. Photo Copyright MuscleCarsandTrucks.com

Ford Motor Company

Ford Galaxie
Ford Fairlane
Ford Torino
Ford Thunderbird
Mercury Comet Cyclone

Mercury Cougar

Mercury Marauder

Chrysler/FCA

Dodge Dart

Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

Plymouth Barracuda

Plymouth Hornet

Plymouth Roadrunner

AMC AMX
AMC Javelin

Dodge 392 Hemi V8

MUSCLE CAR ENGINES 

For more information, visit our Engines page.

MUSCLE CAR SALES

For more information, visit our Muscle Car Sales page.

Muscle Car
Specialty Vehicle Engineering Yenko Camaro

NOTABLE MUSCLE CAR AFTERMARKET COMPANIES

Callaway Cars

Hennessey Performance Engineering

Lebanon Ford Performance

Lingenfelter Performance Engineering

Mallett Cars

Roadster Shop

Roush Performance

Shelby American

Specialty Vehicle Engineering

Speedkore Performance

Trans Am Depot

Ford Mustang Alley
Ford Mustang Alley at the 2019 Woodward Dream Cruise

NOTABLE MUSCLE CAR EVENTS

Camaro Fest

LX Spring Fest

One Lap Of America

Power Tour

PRI Show

Roadkill Nights

SEMA Show

Sturgis Mustang Rally

Texas Mile

Woodward Dream Cruise

Muscle Car
Mercury Cougar Eliminator @ Mustang Alley. Photo Copyright Musclecarsandtrucks.com

For information on American pickup trucks and SUVs, visit our Muscle Cars & Trucks page.