Muscle car

This 1966 Pontiac GTO is an example of a classic muscle car

Muscle car is an American term used to refer to a variety of high-performance automobiles.[1] The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines muscle cars as "any of a group of American-made 2-door sports cars with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving."[2] A large V8 engine is fitted in a 2-door, rear wheel drive, family-style mid-size or full-size car designed for four or more passengers. Sold at an affordable price, muscle cars are intended for street use and occasional drag racing.[3][4][5][6] They are distinct from two-seat sports cars and expensive 2+2 GTs intended for high-speed touring and road racing.


According to Muscle Cars, a book written by Peter Henshaw, a "muscle car" is "exactly what the name implies. It is a product of the American car industry adhering to the hot rodder's philosophy of taking a small car and putting a large-displacement engine in it. The Muscle Car is Charles Atlas kicking sand in the face of the 98 horsepower weakling."[7] Henshaw further asserts that the muscle car was designed for straight-line speed, and did not have the "sophisticated chassis", "engineering integrity", or "lithe appearance" of European high-performance cars.[7]

In the United States, lightweight cars featuring high-performance engines were termed "supercar" before the classification of muscle car became popular.[8][9] For example, the 1957 Rebel's "potent mill turned the lightweight Rambler into a veritable supercar."[10] "From the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies, what we now think of as muscle cars were more commonly called 'Supercars,' often (though not always) spelled with a capital S."[11] This term described the "dragstrip bred" affordable mid-size cars of the 1960s and early 1970s that were equipped with large, powerful V8 engines and rear-wheel-drive.[12] "In 1966, the supercar became an official industry trend"[13] as the four domestic automakers "needed to cash in on the supercar market" with eye-catching, heart-stopping cars.[14] Examples of the use of the supercar description for the early muscle models include the May 1965 Car Life road test of the Pontiac GTO along with how "Hurst puts American Motors into the Supercar club with the 390 Rogue"[15] (the SC/Rambler) to fight in "the Supercar street racer gang" market segment.[16] Moreover, the "SC" in the model name stood for "SuperCar".[17]

The supercar market segment in the U.S. at the time included special versions of regular production models[18] that were positioned in several sizes and market segments (such as the "economy supercar"[19]), as well as limited edition, documented dealer-converted vehicles.[20] However, the supercar term by that time "had been diluted and branded with a meaning that did not respect the unique qualities of the 'muscle car'."[21]

Opinions vary as to whether high-performance full-size cars, compacts, and pony car qualify as muscle cars.[22]


1949 Rocket 88 engine
Hudson Hornet: Rocket 88's only competitor

Early production models

Opinions on the origin of the muscle car vary, but the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, created in response to public interest in speed and power, is often cited as the first muscle car. It featured America's first high-compression overhead valve V8 in the smaller, lighter Oldsmobile 76/Chevy body for six-cylinder engines (as opposed to bigger Olds 98 luxury body).[23]

Jack Nerrad wrote in Driving Today, "the Rocket V-8 set the standard for every American V-8 engine that would follow it for at least three decades[...] With a displacement of 303 cubic inches and topped by a two-barrel carburetor, the first Rocket V-8 churned out 135 hp (101 kW; 137 PS) at 3,600 rpm and 263 pound force-feet (357 N·m) of torque at a lazy 1800 rpm [and] no mid-range car in the world, except the Hudson Hornet, came close to the Rocket Olds performance potential..."

Nerad added that the Rocket 88 was "the hit of NASCAR’s 1950 season, winning eight of the 10 races. Given its lightning-like success, one could clearly make the case that the Olds 88 with its 135 horsepower (101 kW) V-8 was the first 'musclecar'..."[24]

Steve Dulcich, writing in Popular Hot Rodding, also cites Oldsmobile, concurrently with Cadillac, as having "launched the modern era of the high-performance V-8 with the introduction of the 'Rocket 88' overhead-valve V8 in 1949."[25]

1955 Chrysler C-300, "America's most powerful car", had 300 horsepower (220 kW)
America's fastest 1957 sedan: Rambler Rebel had lightweight unibody construction and V8 engine

Other manufacturers showcased performance hardware in limited-edition models. Chrysler led the way with its 1955 C-300, an inspired blend of Hemi power and luxury-car trappings that became the new star of NASCAR. With 300 hp (224 kW; 304 PS), it was advertised as "America's Most Powerful Car".[23]

Capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 9.8 seconds and reaching 130 miles per hour (209 km/h), the 1955 Chrysler 300 is also recognized as one of the best-handling cars of its era.[26]

Studebaker entered the muscle car scene in 1956 with the Golden Hawk powered by a 352 cu in (5.8 L) Packard V8 with 275 bhp (205 kW; 279 PS). For the 1957 model year, the Rambler Rebel was the fastest stock American sedan according to Motor Trend.[27] Musclecar Enthusiast magazine describes this was "what some people believe to be the very first muscle car."[28] the compact-sized (for the era) 255 hp (190 kW; 259 PS) unibody 1957 Rebel might be "better known had AMC been successful in their attempt to offer it with Bendix fuel injection."[28]

The popularity and performance of muscle cars grew in the early 1960s, as Mopar (Dodge, Plymouth, and Chrysler) and Ford battled for supremacy in drag racing. The 1962 Dodge Dart 413 cu in (6.8 L) Max Wedge, for example, could run a 13-second 1/4-mile dragstrip at over 100 miles per hour (161 km/h). In 1961 Chevrolet introduced the SS package on the Impala for $53.80, with included an optional 409 cu in v8 with 425 hp and upgraded brakes, tires, and suspension. By 1964, General Motors' lineup boasted Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, and Pontiac muscle cars, and Buick fielded a muscle car entry a year later. For 1964 and 1965, Ford had its 427 cu in (7.0 L) Thunderbolts, and Mopar unveiled the 426 cu in (7.0 L) Hemi engine. The Pontiac GTO was an option package that included Pontiac's 389 cu in (6.4 L) V8 engine, floor-shifted transmission with Hurst shift linkage, and special trim. In 1966 the GTO became a model in its own right. The project, led by Pontiac division president John DeLorean, technically violated GM's policy, limiting its smaller cars to 330 cu in (5.4 L) displacement, but the new model proved more popular than expected, and inspired GM and its competitors to produce numerous imitators.

American Motors, though late entering the 1960s muscle car market, produced "an impressive array of performance cars in a relatively short time," said Motor Trend. "The first stirrings of AMC performance came in 1965, when the dramatic, if ungainly, Rambler Marlin fastback was introduced to battle the Ford Mustang and Plymouth Barracuda."[29] Although the Marlin was a flop in terms of sales and initial performance, AMC gained some muscle-car credibility in 1967, when it made both the Marlin and the "more pedestrian" Rebel available with its new 280 hp (209 kW; 284 PS), 343 cu in (5.6 L) "Typhoon" V8. In 1968, the company offered two pony car muscle car contenders: the Javelin and its truncated two-seat variant, the AMX[29] a sports car in the Grand Touring tradition.[30]

Horsepower and marketing wars

Although the sales of true muscle cars were relatively modest by total Detroit production standards, they had value in publicity. Competition between manufacturers meant that buyers had the choice of ever-more powerful engines. A horsepower war was started that peaked in 1970, with some models advertising as much as 450 hp (336 kW; 456 PS).

Muscle cars attracted young customers into showrooms, and they bought the standard editions of these mid-size cars. To enhance the "halo" effect of these models, the manufacturers modified some of them into turn-key drag racers.

Ford built 200 lightweight Ford Galaxies for drag racing in 1963. All non-essential equipment was omitted. Modifications included fiberglass panels, aluminum bumpers, traction bars, and a competition-specification 427 cu in (7.0 L) engine factory rated at a conservative 425 hp (317 kW; 431 PS). This full-size car could run the quarter mile in a little over 12 seconds.[31] Also built in 1963 were 5,000 road-legal versions that could be used as every day drivers (Ford claimed 0-60 in less than 6 seconds for the similarly powered 1966 Galaxie 500XL 427).[7]

Street-legal drag racer: 1964 Ford Thunderbolt with 427 V8 in lightened midsize Ford Fairlane body

Another Ford lightweight was the 1964 Ford Thunderbolt that utilized the mid-size Fairlane body. A stock Thunderbolt could run the quarter-mile (402 m) in 11.76 seconds at 122.7 mph (197.5 km/h),[32] and Gaspar "Gas" Ronda dominated the NHRA World Championship with his Thunderbolt with a best time of 11.6 seconds at 124 mph (200 km/h).[7] The Thunderbolt included the 427 engine with special exhausts; though technically legal for street use, the car was too "raucous" for the public roads, according to a Hot Rod magazine quote, "for driving to and from the strip, let alone on the street in everyday use".[32] Massive traction bars, asymmetrical rear springs, and a trunk-mounted 95-pound (43 kg) bus battery were intended to maximize traction for the 500 bhp (373 kW)car.[32] Sun visors, exterior mirror, sound-deadener, armrests, jack, and lug wrench were omitted to save weight. The car was given lightweight Plexiglass windows, and early versions had fiberglass front body panels and bumpers, later changed to aluminum to meet NHRA regulations.[33] Base price was US$3,780.[32] A total of 111 Thunderbolts were built, and Ford contracted Dearborn Steel Tubing to help with assembly.[34]

In 1963, General Motors' Chevrolet division produced 57 full-size Impala coupes equipped with option package RPOZ-11,[35] which added $1237.40 to the vehicle base price. They were the only automobiles the division ever built expressly for drag racing. The package included a specially modified W series 409 engine, now displacing 427 cubic inches, and was officially rated at 430 bhp (321 kW). With a compression ratio of 13.5:1, the engine required high-octane fuel. The RPOZ-11 package had numerous modifications to reduce weight, including aluminum hood, fenders, fan shroud, and bumpers. Sound-deadening material was removed, as were non-essentials such as heater and radio. Other racing features included a two-piece intake manifold, special exhaust manifolds, cylinder heads and pistons, a deep-sump oil pan, and cowl-induction air cleaner. The RPOZ-11 package was discontinued when General Motors ceased involvement in racing in 1964.

The 1964 Dodge 426 Hemi Lightweight produced over 500 bhp (373 kW). This "top drag racer" had an aluminium hood, lightweight front bumpers, fenders, doors and lower valance, magnesium front wheels, lightweight Dodge van seat, Lexan side windows, one windshield wiper, and no sun visors or sound deadening. Like other lightweights of the era, it came with a factory disclaimer: Designed for supervised acceleration trials. Not recommended for general everyday driving because of the compromises in the all-round characteristics which must be made for this type of vehicle.[33]

Also too "high-strung" for the street was Chrysler’s small-volume-production 1965 drag racer, the 550 bhp (410 kW) Plymouth Satellite 426 Hemi. Although the detuned 1966 version (the factory rating underestimated it at 425 bhp (317 kW)) has been criticized for poor brakes and cornering, Car and Driver described it as "the best combination of brute performance and tractable street manners we've ever driven." The car's understated appearance belied its performance: it could run a 13.8-second quarter mile at 104 mph (167 km/h). Base price was $3,850.[36]

Likewise, Chevrolet eschewed flamboyant stripes for their 1969 Chevelle COPO 427. The car could run a 13.3 sec. quarter-mile at108 mph (174 km/h). Chevrolet rated the engine at 425 hp (317 kW), but the NHRA claimed a truer450 hp (340 kW).[37] The 1969 COPO Chevelles were "among the most feared muscle cars of any day. And they didn't need any badges."[37] Base price was US$3,800.[37]

For 1970, Chevrolet offered the Chevelle SS 454, also at a base price of US$3,800. Its 454 cu in (7.4 L) engine was rated at 450 hp (336 kW), the highest factory rating at that time. Car Life magazine wrote: "It's fair to say that the Supercar as we know it may have gone as far as it's going."[38]

The general trend towards higher performance in factory-stock cars reflected the importance of the youth market. A key appeal of muscle cars was that they offered the American car culture relatively affordable and powerful street performance in models that could also be used for drag racing. But as size, optional equipment and luxury appointments increased, engines had to be more powerful to maintain performance levels, and the cars became more expensive.

1970 Plymouth GTX 440: "more performance per dollar" than most other cars of its time

In response to rising cost and weight, a secondary trend towards more basic "budget" muscle cars emerged in 1967 and 1968. These included the Plymouth Road Runner, the "original budget Supercar";[39] the Plymouth GTX, which at a base price of US$3,355 offered "as much performance-per-dollar as anything on the market, and more than most";[40] and the Dodge Super Bee. Manufacturers also offered bigger engines in their compact models, sometimes making them lighter, roomier, and faster than their own pony-car lines.

The 340 cu in (5.6 L)-powered 1970 Plymouth Duster was one of these smaller, more affordable cars. Based on the compact-sized Plymouth Valiant and priced at US$2,547, the 340 Duster posted a 6.0-second 0-60 mph (97 km/h)time and ran the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds at 94.3 mph (151.8 km/h).[41] This "reasonably fast" compact muscle car had a stiff, slightly lowered suspension which, in the view of Hot Rod magazine at the time, let the car "ride in an acceptable fashion".[42] However, a retrospective article by Consumer Guide referred to "a punishing ride" and trim that was "obviously low-budget."[41] The 1970 model came with front disc brakes and without hood scoops. The only high-performance cues were dual exhausts and modest decals.[41] Tom Gale, former Chrysler vice president of design, described the car as "a phenomenal success. It had a bulletproof chassis, was relatively lightweight, and had a good power train. These were 200,000-mile (320,000 km) cars."[43] Hot Rod rated the Duster "one of the best, if not the best, dollar buy in a performance car" in 1970.[42]

"The Machine": factory-modified 1970 AMC Rebel ran 14.4-second quarter mile in stock trim

American Motors' mid-sized 1970 Rebel Machine, developed in consultation with Hurst Performance, was also built for normal street use. It had a 390 cu in (6.4 L) engine developing 340 hp (254 kW)—a "moderate performer"[44] that gave a 0-60 mph (97 km/h) time of 6.8 seconds and a quarter mile in 14.4 seconds at 99 mph (159 km/h).[45] Early examples came in "patriotic" red, white, and blue.[46] Jack Nerad wrote in Driving Today that it was "a straight-up competitor to the GTO, et al. ... the engine was upgraded to 340 hp (254 kW; 345 PS) a four-barrel Motorcraft carburetor and other hot rod trickery. The torque figure was equally prodigious—430 pound-feet at a lazy 3600 rpm. In this car the engine was practically the entire story." With four-speed manual transmission, the car "could spring from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 6.4 seconds..." In Nerad's view, the car "somehow, someway deserves to be considered among the Greatest Cars of All Time."[47] An article in Mopar Muscle said, "by far the most stunning thing for a car with this level of performance and standard equipment was the sticker of just US$3,475."[48]

The "plain wrapper"[49] 1969 Plymouth Road Runner, that was Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year, was modified with the addition of a high-performance factory camshaft plus non-standard, high-performance induction and exhaust manifolds, carburetor, and slick tires to run a 14.7 quarter at 100.6 mph (161.9 km/h) with its 383 cu in (6.3 L) engine. In this customized form, the car cost US$3,893.[39] In 1968, Dodge's $3,027 Super Bee ran a 15-second quarter at 100 mph (160 km/h) on street tires with the same engine, only stock.[50]

Hot Rod magazine categorized the 340 cu in (5.6 L) 1968 Plymouth Barracuda 4-seater as "a supercar, without any doubt attached...also a 'pony car', a compact and a workhorse" with enough rear seat leg- and head-room for "passengers to ride back there without distress", and "a flip-up door to the trunk area for ferrying some pretty sizeable loads of cargo". It could run a quarter mile in 13.33 seconds at 106.50 mph (171.40 km/h)on the drag strip. The base price was $2,796.00; the price as tested by Hot Rod was $3,652.[51]

Market segment decline

The muscle car market segment was in high gear "until shifting social attitudes, crippling insurance rates, the Clean Air Act and the fuel crisis removed the cars from the market in the early 1970s."[52] The OPEC oil embargo led to price controls and gasoline rationing, as well as higher prices. "Muscle cars quickly became unaffordable and impractical for many people."[53] The automobile insurance industry also levied surcharges on all high-powered models, an added cost that put many muscle cars out of reach of their intended buyers. Simultaneously, efforts to combat air pollution focused Detroit's attention on emissions control.

A majority of muscle cars came optioned with high-compression powerplants-some as high as 11:1. Prior to the oil embargo, 100-octane fuel was common (e.g. Sunoco 260, Esso Extra, Chevron Custom Supreme, Super Shell, Texaco Sky Chief, Phillips 66 Flite Fuel, Amoco Super Premium, Gulf No-nox); however, following the passage of the Clean Air Act of 1970, octane ratings were lowered to 91-due in part to the removal of tetraethyllead as a valve lubricant. Unleaded gasoline was phased in as a result.

In the mid-1970s, some of the muscle car market converged into personal luxury performance cars. Some nameplates, such as Chevrolet's SS or Oldsmobile's 442, would become sport appearance packages (known in the mid to late 1970s as the vinyl and decal option-Plymouth's Road Runner was an upscale decor package for their Volare coupes).


Australian muscle: 1970 Holden HG Monaro GTS 350 V8

Australia developed its own muscle cars around the same period, the big three manufacturers being Ford Australia, Holden or Holden Dealer Team (by then part of General Motors), and Chrysler Australia. The cars were specifically developed to run in the Armstrong 500 (miles) (now the Supercheap Auto Parts 1000km). The demise of these cars was brought about by a change in racing rules requiring that 200 examples had to be sold to the general public before the car could qualify (homologation). In 1972, the government banned supercars from the streets after two notable cases. The first instance was a Wheels magazine journalist driving at 150 mph (240 km/h) in a 1971 Ford XY Falcon GTHO Phase III 351 cu in (5.8 L).[54] While the car was getting exposure in the press, the second incident occurred in George Street, Sydney, when a young male was caught driving at an estimated 150 mph (240 km/h) through the busy street in a 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III, drag racing a Holden Monaro GTS 350. This was known in Australia as "The Supercar scare".[55][56]

Ford produced what is considered to be the first Australian muscle car in 1967, the 289 cu in (4.7 L) Windsor – powered Ford Falcon GTXR. Months later, in 1968, Australia would see its first homegrown two-door muscle car, the Holden Monaro GTS 327. Ford continued to release faster models, culminating in the Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III of 1971, which was powered by a factory modified 351 Cleveland. Along with its GT and GTHO models, Ford, starting with the XW model in 1969, introduced a "sporty" GS model, available across the Falcon range. The basic GS came with a 188 cu in (3.1 L) six-cylinder engine, but the 302 cu in (4.9 L) and 351 cu in (5.8 L) Windsor (replaced by the Cleveland engines for the XY) V8 engines were optional. Ford's larger, more luxurious Fairlane was also available with these engines and some were allegedly made with the same 4V 300 bhp (224 kW) 351 cu in (5.8 L) Cleveland engine used in the XY GT.

The XA GT was available in sedan and coupe body styles and while the GTHO Phase IV never went into production, 250 GTs were made with RPO 83 package which featured a long list of race-oriented upgrades for homologation purposes, including an uprated 351 Cleveland making an estimated 254kW (340 hp). The GT continued through the XB series but was discontinued for the XC series of 1976, leaving the GS package as the sole sporting option, which was available across all body styles.

General Motors Holden produced the Holden Monaro with 161 cu in (2.6 L), 186 cu in (3.0 L) (186 and 186S specification) 6-cylinder engines, 307 cu in (5.0 L), 327 cu in (5.4 L), and 350 cu in (5.7 L) Chevrolet smallblocks, and later 253 cu in (4.1 L) and 308 cu in (5.0 L) Holden V8. This was followed by the release of four high-performance Toranas, the LC GTR-XU1 (1970–1971), LJ GTR-XU1 (1972–1973), L34 (1975), and the A9X (1977).

The LC XU1 Torana was fitted with a 186 cu in (3.0 L) triple carbureted 6-cylinder engine, later increased with the release of the LJ model to 202 cu in (3.3 L), as opposed to the 308 cu in (5.0 L) single q­-barrel carbureted V8 in the SL/R 5000 L34, and SLR5000/SS A9X. There were many homologation changes over the four or so years of XU-1 production culminating in a special "Bathurst 1973" specification LJ XU-1.

The L34 was primarily an engine option released in 1975 on the lesser specification LH SL/R 5000 sedan of 1974, with the initial engine development carried out by Repco, the company famous for designing the V8 engine that took Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme to the 1966 and 1967 Formula One World Championships; a factory HO pack providing an upgraded camshaft, Holley carb, and other race ready items was also available. The basic L34 also gained other homologation features such as improved brakes and wheel arch flares. The A9X was an option on the LX SLR5000 sedan and the LX SS hatchback (2-door) and unlike the L34 package was not an engine performance upgrade, but a suspension, differential, and brake upgrade, as the L34 engine was already homologated for Group C use. Hence, the A9X had a basically standard 308ci engine.

Chrysler produced the R/T Valiant Charger from 1971 to 1973, when the R/Ts were discontinued; the dominant R/T models were the E38 and E49 with high-performance 265 cu in (4.3 L) Hemi engines featuring triple Weber carburetors.

Chrysler VH Valiant Charger R/T

Chrysler apparently considered a high-performance V8 program importing 338 340 cu in (5.6 L) V8 engines from the U.S. This high-performance project never went ahead, and the engines were subsequently fitted to the upmarket 770 model Charger. Initially, this model was designated "SE" E55 340 (V8) and only available with automatic transmission; with a model change to the VJ in 1973, the engine became an option, and the performance was lessened. All Chrysler performance Chargers were discontinued in 1974 with the end of high-performance, the 265 Hemi, and 340 V8 engines.

The Australian muscle car era is considered to have ended with the release of the Australian Design Rule regarding emissions in ADR27a in 1976. An exception to this rule was the small number of factory-built Bathurst 1000 homologation specials that were constructed after 1976; these are considered to be muscle cars. Examples of these homologation specials include the Torana A9X and the Bathurst Cobras.

Several highly modified high-performance road-going Commodores were produced by Peter Brock's HDT Special Vehicles through the early and mid-1980s. These "homologation specials" were produced to meet both Australian Group C and international Group A touring car racing regulations. Models included the VC Group C, the VH SS Group III with a 0–100 km/h of 8.6 seconds,[57] the Blue VK SS Group A, and the burgundy VL SS Group A (the VK and VL Group A cars were powered by a slightly de-stroked 304 cu in (4.9 L) version of the Holden V8 engine to allow the car to run at a lighter weight in touring car racing. The HDT also produced several 5.0 L V8 powered WB Statesmans released under the name Magnum. They also looked at developing a 5.0 L V8 powered Opel Monza in the mid-1980s (to be named the HDT Monza), although as the Monza was a 1970s model car and resembled the outdated Torana A9X Hatchback it never passed the planning stage.

Another related type of vehicle is the car-based pickup, known colloquially in Australia as a ute (short for utility). Holden and Ford Australia both make such vehicles, under the names Holden Ute and Ford Falcon Ute respectively. Examples of these in the U.S. were the performance versions of the Ford Ranchero, GMC Sprint / Caballero, and Chevrolet El Camino with high-output V8 engines, that are no longer in production.

In Australia, sport and recreation-oriented panel vans and utes were became immensely popular with younger buyers in the 1970s and played a part in the decline in the popularity of performance coupes there. By the middle of the decade, the manufacturers had caught onto this phenomenon and began marketing lifestyle-oriented vans and utilities from the factory. The Holden Sandman, introduced in 1974, is the most well-known of these cars; Ford competed with its Surferoo and Sundowner models, and the Sandman's popularity led to Chrysler introducing a panel van body style on the 1976 CL Valiant, with a range including sporting Drifter and Sports Pack models, although by this time the market for such vehicles had declined and relatively few Valiant panel vans were sold. Models were generally available with a range of six-cylinder and V8 engines, and often featured wild striping and graphics packages in addition to a wide variety of leisure-oriented options, and styling and trim borrowed from their muscle car counterparts. By the late 1970s, though, the van craze was in decline; a struggling Chrysler Australia discontinued its commercial vehicles altogether in 1978, and sales of the Sandman were in decline, with buyers often ordering their cars without the famous stripes and decals. Ford continued its Sundowner model in the new-generation XD Falcon in 1979 but few were sold.

Muscle car revival

Performance-type cars began to make a return in the United States during the 1980s. Increases in production costs and tighter regulations governing pollution and safety, these vehicles were not designed to the formula of the traditional low-cost muscle cars. The introduction of electronic fuel injection and overdrive transmission for the remaining 1960s muscle car survivors, such as the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Pontiac Firebird, helped sustain a market share for them alongside personal luxury coupes with performance packages, such as the Buick Regal T-Type or Grand National, Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, and Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS circa 1983-88. GM's personal luxury coupes (known as the G-body which also included the Oldsmobile 442 and Pontiac Grand Prix 2 + 2 by the late 1980s) were phased out in 1987 and 1988 where its GM10 (W-body) front wheel drive mass market vehicles were phased into production signaling an end to the surviving midsized body-on-frame RWD platform dating back to 1964.

GM's facelift of its B-platform vehicles in late 1990 (starting with the Chevrolet Caprice) resulted in the fusion of its then-9C1 police package repurposed into the short-lived 1994-96 Impala SS, using the LT1 engine from the Camaro and Corvette using cast iron heads. At the time of the revival of the Impala SS, sport utility vehicles were outselling passenger cars (from full sized body-on-frame passenger sedans to mass market vehicles) and GM phased out its B platform in late 1996. Ford Motor Company tested the waters by selling its version of the Mercury Grand Marquis (Mercury Marauder) in 2004, which was a slow seller. Like the Impala SS a decade earlier, the Marauder used the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor with a few body modifications fitted with 5-spoke alloy wheels.

In 2004, the Pontiac GTO was relaunched in the United States, a re-badged third generation Holden Monaro (considered as a captive import), and Chrysler debuted the 300C as a 2005 model. In 2005, Ford introduced the 'new' Mustang, designed to resemble the original 1965 2+2 ("fastback") model, it brought back the aggressive lines and colors of the original. In 2008, Chrysler re-introduced the Dodge Challenger, which features design links to the 1970 model. "We haven’t seen this kind of spontaneous, passionate response to a car since we unveiled the Dodge Viper concept in 1989," CEO Tom LaSorda said, "but it's easy to see what people like about the Dodge Challenger. It's bold, powerful and capable. It's a modern take on one of the most iconic muscle cars and sets a new standard for pure pony car."[58] A year later, running on that same sentiment, Chevrolet released the new designed 2009 Camaro, which bears some resemblance to the 1969 model.

The blend between old and new has fueled the muscle car revival. The mid-1960s muscle car era came to define what baby-boom men would expect from their automobiles.[59]

While the aging baby boom generation inspired the modern demand for classic-type American Muscle cars, the consumer market is much more diverse than it was in the 1960s and 1970s. Looking at modern muscle as a social trend, Ford and GM are the "innovators," followed by baby boom males in their 50s as "early adopters." The big bulge or "early majority" in the modern muscle movement comes from the men in their teens and early 20s. For these non-baby boomer consumers, the "cool" image is key.[60] In the 1960s "a car was not quite a car unless punching the accelerator resulted in screaming tires and the landscape blurring around you…" according to Brent Staples of The New York Times. Fuel was cheap and the staple of drag racing counterculture was to be fast and loud. Now being “cool,” fuel efficient, and cost effective is all a part of the package. Instead of fuel guzzling V8 engines, you see V6 or turbocharged I4 models. Despite the reduction in power, Detroit is successfully selling this package. The Camaro and Challenger saw a 13% and 11% spike in sales during June 2011, which "outpaced" the growth in sales of all other passenger cars, according to Autodata.[61]


Ford Australia and Holden are currently producing high-performance vehicles. For instance, Holden has its SS and SSV Commodores and Utilities, and HSV has more powerful Holden-based versions and has produced a limited edition HSV W427 – a Commodore fitted with the seven litre LS7 V8 from the C6 Corvette Z06 from 2008–2009.

Ford Performance Vehicles produces enhanced versions of the Ford Falcon under the FPV name. As of 2012, current models include supercharged V8 powered GS sedan and utility, supercharged V8 powered GT sedans, and turbocharged inline 6 cylinder F6 sedans and utility.

Holden Special Vehicles currently produces high-performance versions of various rear-drive Holden Commodore sedans. The HSV Clubsport R8 LSA currently has a 400 kW (536 hp) V8 engine and the HSV GTS a 430 kW (577 hp) V8 engine, with a 0 to 100 km/h time of 4.4 seconds. Vauxhall introduced the Monaro to the UK in 2004. This was a re-badged Holden Monaro fitted with a 5.7 L Chevrolet Corvette engine, or in VXR form with the engine bored out to 6.0 L. Sales were low and the model was withdrawn from the Vauxhall range in 2007.


The original "tire-burning" cars, such as the Chevrolet Camaro, AMC Machine, Buick Gran Sport, Dodge Charger R/T, Ford Mustang, Oldsmobile 4-4-2, Plymouth GTX, and Pontiac GTO, are "collector's items for classic car lovers".[62] Reproduction sheet metal parts and, in some cases, even complete body shells are available for purchase.

List of muscle cars

United States

Motor Trend identified the following models as "musclecars" in 1965:

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

Car and Driver also created a list of the 10 Best muscle cars for its January 1990 issue. The magazine focused on the engines and included:

Other muscle cars include the following:

Full-size muscle models

Mid-size muscle models

Compact muscle models

Pony car muscle models

Muscle trucks


Chrysler VH model

VJ model (R/T nomenclature dropped) were:











General Motors (Argentina)

Ford Motor Argentina

Chrysler-Fevre Argentina S.A.

IKA-Renault (Industrias Kaiser Argentina)

See also


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