Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: No such thing as a modern muscle car...

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,741

    No such thing as a modern muscle car...

    The new Chevy Camaro - and the Dodge Challenger - are many things, several of them very good things indeed. But they aren't muscle cars. That species of animal is extinct forever.

    Muscle cars were born at a unique moment in American history - the early 1960s - when it was still possible to build a machine with a six or seven liter engine with no concern whatever for how loud it was, how much pollution it belched or how much gas it drank.

    When there were no requirements that new cars be fitted with electronic safety nets ranging from air bags to ABS.

    Before regulators and "public interest" agitators made it legally impossible to purvey such unchained wildness to the general public at a cost not much above that of a basic economy car. The base price of a 1964 389 powered GTO, for example, was $3,200 or about $1,000 more than the cost of a base model Tempest economy coupe with a straight six engine.

    And both the grocery-getter Tempest and the V-8 GTO were cheap buys by modern standards - about the cost (in 2010 dollars) of the base V-6 versions of the 2010 Camaro, Mustang and Challenger. The V-8/performance versions of those cars cost the equivalent, in 1960s dollars, of 30-40 percent more than the sticker price of a car like the 1964 GTO.

    But there's more to it than just money.

    Challenger and Camaro certainly look the part. They are macho and big-tired and fitted with large and thumpy V-8 engines. But it is not the same.

    Their V-8s are as docile as they are powerful. They idle smoothly, do not overheat and pull plenty of vacuum to run AC, power brakes and other accessories. They are happy with automatic transmissions behind them.

    They can be driven by... anyone.

    And this is another key difference between then and now.

    Back in The Day, a car like a '69 SS 396 Chevelle or Ram Air III GTO was marginally house trained. They were sometimes scary to drive - and always dangerous by any modern standard. Just imagine it: A 4,000 pound car with a 400 hp V-8 riding on 14x7 wheels (15s if you were really lucky) with the equivalent, in modern terms, of 70-series tires that would be considered barely adequate underneath a modern econo-compact. Now mix in a leaf-spring/solid axle rear suspension and floaty, over-boosted steering, a clutch so stiff it was like doing leg presses at the gym and constantly worrying about overheating (a common problem with old school muscle cars, even when they were brand new), carb stumbles/backfires and "think ahead" disc/drum brakes just barely up to the job of stopping the car under ideal conditions. Stab 'em in a panic stop and the rear end would come around on you faster than a stepped-on rattlesnake. At high-speed, they would fade as routinely as a modern car's brakes effortlessly handle repeated high-speed stops from triple digit speeds.

    And no ABS or traction control or stability control to come between you and an early grave.

    That, of course, was a big part of the mystique.

    Muscle cars were absolutely dangerous and not for the less-than-skilled. Not so the new stuff.

    What we have in Camaro and Challenger are power coupes - not muscle cars.

    A muscle car, by definition, is dangerous and wild. It is rude, crude - and obnoxious, too. The closest thing to it that's remotely new is a hardtail Harley with straight pipes. Muscle cars were about two or three things, mainly - sideways skittering burnouts and hard chirps on the 1-2 and 2-3 upshifts down the quarter mile and the strutting presence of an obstreperous rooster when rolling slowly through the local drive-thru joint on Saturday nights with your buddies.

    Only a handful of real muscle cars even made a pretense of handling or braking ability; only one (and it was a latter-day survivor and one of the very last of its kind) even offered disc brakes all around (that would be the '78-'79 Pontiac Trans-Am with the optional WS6 suspension system).

    Not a single real muscle car ever came with traction or stability control - or air bags and ABS. These things and muscle cars are as mutually exclusive as George W. Bush and the rule of law.

    Of course, the new Challenger and Camaro have all the federally mandated safety stuff - like it or not. They also handle and brake as well as they go in a straight line. They also don't make your eyes water if you stand near the tailpipe, actually manage not-bad gas mileage - and your grandmother could drive one, if she had to.

    Which nicely proves the point that whatever these things are trying to be, they'll never be the real deal.

    Because they can't be.
    Last edited by Eric; 07-20-2009 at 09:34 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Auburn, CA & Reno, NV & Cold Springs Valley, NV
    Posts
    663
    Good riddance to the so-called Muscle cars that could not go above 45 MPH at 7000 feet elevation! Most of today's little four cylinder cars could wipe them out at higher elevations at a very small percentage of the fuel and pollution.

    -Don-

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,741
    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom View Post
    Good riddance to the so-called Muscle cars that could not go above 45 MPH at 7000 feet elevation! Most of today's little four cylinder cars could wipe them out at higher elevations at a very small percentage of the fuel and pollution.

    -Don-
    How many live over 7,000 ft. elevation?

    C'mon - they had their place (muscle cars). What I miss about them is what so many new cars lack - character and affordability.

    It is insane that we're expected to "invest" $30k and up in a car. (And that does not include the assorted taxes and upkeep costs associated with the vehicle.)

    No wonder so many are broke!

  4. #4
    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Auburn, CA & Reno, NV & Cold Springs Valley, NV
    Posts
    663
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    How many live over 7,000 ft. elevation?
    Even before we owned a home in Reno, we always felt the best test of a car's performance was going to Donner Summit.

    With many of the cars in the 1970's that had all types of guts at sea level would perform very poorly up there.Why have tons of power if it's not there when you need it the most? But even with today's small engine cars, there's no noticeable difference climbing a hill at 7,000 feet than at sea level.

    -Don- SSF, CA

  5. #5
    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Auburn, CA & Reno, NV & Cold Springs Valley, NV
    Posts
    663
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    How many live over 7,000 ft. elevation?
    It is insane that we're expected to "invest" $30k and up in a car. (And that does not include the assorted taxes and upkeep costs associated with the vehicle.)
    What's 30K today in 1970's dollars? Most things cost at least ten times as much since then. I think cars might be even cheaper today in real money.

    BTW, this house, in today's very poor housing market, is still worth well more than ten time what I paid in 1978! I also earn more than ten times as much.

    30K for a new car these days sound like a bargain compared to 1970 prices with our wadges back in those days.

    -Don-

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Posts
    335
    I agree with Don about the ~10X inflation factor, and the premium for performance is still ~50 pct over base economy models.

    I agree with Eric that new stuff is _way_ too civilized, but I do like having decent brakes.

    About altitude performance; fuel injection vs carburetors makes all the difference.

  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,741
    "What's 30K today in 1970's dollars? "

    Let's reverse it a little. According to my inflation calculator (see http://www.westegg.com/inflation/) $3,200 in 1964 dollars (and the cost of a brand-new 1964 GTO) works out to about $22k in today's money.

    In other words, the V-8 '64 GTO cost about as much as the base V-6 version of the 2010 Mustang, Challenger or Camaro. The comparable V-8 version is appx. 30-35 percent more, in inflation-adjusted dollars.

    But wait, there's more!

    In 1964, you did not necessarily have to buy car insurance as you must (by law) do today. A huge additional expense - especially for the typical young, single male who wants to buy such a car.

    Figure around $1,500-$2,000 annually to insure a new V-8 Challenger, Camaro or Mustang for the typical single guy in his 20s with a few tickets on his record.

    Next, personal property taxes on the car. Many states/counties impose these noxious assessments on every car you own every year you own it. The tax can be exorbitant because it is based on the current retail value of the car. So if it's a new car that cost $30k-plus (as a new V-8 Camaro/Challenger does) expect an annual tax bill of at least a few hundred dollars ever year.

    The two above add at least another $5k in ownership costs over say a 5-6 year period above and beyond the sticker price of the vehicle itself - costs that were negligible or nonexistent in 1964.

    Now let's add in the cost to maintain the new car - which most people cannot do themselves. Yes, new cars are less maintenance intensive, unlike the cars of the past. But the cars of the past were also easy/cheap to fix when they needed adjustment (or even a major repair). In a new car, if the transmission fails, the typical cost to replace is $2,000 or more. In contrast, a rebuilt TH350 or TH400 costs what, $800 or so? (And that's in today's money.) Etc.

    We could also address the issue of wages.

    Yes, the raw numbers have gone up - but the net (and buying power) has gone down a lot.

    FICA taxes, for example, are more than double what they were in the 1960s. That alone sucks off nearly 15 percent of every dollar you earn.
    Last edited by Eric; 07-19-2009 at 05:57 PM.

  8. #8
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    8

    Unhappy

    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom View Post
    Good riddance to the so-called Muscle cars that could not go above 45 MPH at 7000 feet elevation! Most of today's little four cylinder cars could wipe them out at higher elevations at a very small percentage of the fuel and pollution.

    -Don-
    That reminds me of a trip through Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park in 1977, driving my '65 390 Monteray. As I got near the top of Trail Ridge, I felt like I was towing a barge. Meanwhile, this guy in a Saab 900 Turbo flew past me with no apparent effort. I immediately thought of his turbocharger. I also remember my car stalling and I couldn't seem to start it, so I had to coast backwards with the car in reverse for several miles before it finally sputtered to life. Going backwards on trail Ridge was most unnerving, especially at the speed i needed to go for the automatic to help get the car started.

  9. #9
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,741
    Quote Originally Posted by Gareebee View Post

    That reminds me of a trip through Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park in 1977, driving my '65 390 Monteray. As I got near the top of Trail Ridge, I felt like I was towing a barge. Meanwhile, this guy in a Saab 900 Turbo flew past me with no apparent effort. I immediately thought of his turbocharger. I also remember my car stalling and I couldn't seem to start it, so I had to coast backwards with the car in reverse for several miles before it finally sputtered to life. Going backwards on trail Ridge was most unnerving, especially at the speed i needed to go for the automatic to help get the car started.
    It's a balance; ying and yang...

    What appeals to me about the old stuff is the lower cost and that just about anyone could work on them. And they had personality - which very few modern cars have, courtesy of the government's endless red tape (which has homogenized cars to an amazing extent).

    The new stuff wins hands-down on longevity, versatility, reliability. They don't need the frequent adjustment that the older stuff often required. But when something does go wrong, it's often both hard if not next to impossible for the average person to fix - and much more expensive to fix.

    So, you pays your money and you takes your choice!

Similar Threads

  1. The Worst Thing You Can Say in Modern America
    By Eric in forum Tea Party Talk...
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 11-06-2010, 07:24 AM
  2. 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8 the Perfect Modern Muscle Car
    By Disco Man in forum Performance/Muscle Cars
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 08-15-2009, 06:45 AM
  3. A Modern-day Inquisition
    By gail in forum Secession Talk
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 05-31-2008, 08:12 PM
  4. Modern YouTube Cheese
    By Disco Man in forum Video clips
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 04-09-2008, 07:22 AM
  5. Modern classics?
    By Eric in forum Classic Car Corner
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 06-10-2007, 08:25 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •