American Muscle: Ford, Dodge, and Chevy
America’s muscle car era peaked during the 1960s, but a new era may soon be returning thanks to the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, and Chevy Camaro.
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Back during the 1950s through the mid 1970s, Detroit automakers produced several cars that were out and out “muscle” cars. These types of vehicles shared the same characteristics: they were two door coupes with souped up engines, responsive transmissions, an aggressive exterior design, and a sporty interior. High fuel prices and changing tastes eventually limited sales to the point where only a few models were produced beyond that period of time. Today, muscle car mania is back, despite even higher gas prices. Thanks to the Ford Mustang and to a lesser extent to sedan and wagon models from Dodge, there is new interest in a category long given up. The future is bright for the muscle car segment as one more manufacturer, Chevrolet, considers bringing back one of its darlings of yesteryear, the Camaro.
Besides the Ford Mustang there were a whole host of vehicles produced that at one time or another might have been considered a muscle car. In addition to the Mustang, the Ford Fairlane 500 and Ford Torino did duty; the Mercury Montego was another model; Chevrolet produced the Camaro and Corvette; Pontiac the GTO, Firebird, and Tempest; Olds the 442; American Motors’ had its Javelin; Plymouth had the ‘Cuda, and Dodge produced the Challenger and the Charger. Today, only the Mustang and Corvette survives although the Dodge Charger has returned as a four door muscle car along with its sibling, the hot Dodge Magnum wagon.
Interestedly, it took Ford’s redoing of the Mustang for the 2005 model year to stir the current muscle car era craze. Styled after Mustangs built in the 1960s, the current Mustang embraces a retro look while incorporating contemporary technology. The result has been that the Mustang currently sells its entire 150,000 model capacity without incentives.
The Mustang has been inspiring DaimlerChrysler to go ahead with a retro cruiser of its own. The Dodge Challenger concept car, appearing at auto shows across the USA, has been a huge hit and Chrysler plans on bringing the V8 hemi powered model back in 2009. In addition, General Motors is considering giving its blessing on the Camaro, another car also making the rounds of the USA auto show circuit.
So, isn’t it silly to bring back such gas hogs? Back during the early 1970s, the then current crop of muscle cars averaged only 10-12 miles to the gallon around town and 15 or 16 miles per gallon on the highway. Thanks to computer technology and efficiency, even the Corvette returns a highly respectable 28 miles to the gallon the highway. So, although fuel mileage will certainly be lower than many other models, the new group of muscle cars will still better the previous generation cars with fuel mileage 80% or more above the cars from the 1970s.
Fortunately, we still live in a fairly free country and what the consumer wants, the consumer gets. So, V8 powered muscle cars mated to 6 speed manu-matic transmissions, with sport handling, bucket seats, and better fuel economy will likely appeal to many. No, they won’t be exact duplicates of yesterday’s muscle cars, but they will provide the nostalgia and power that motorists seek. I can’t wait!