Muscle cars were slow.

I mean, the classic-era ones from the 1960s and '70s. Very few of them made it to 60 mph in less than seven seconds. Most were 15 second quarter-milers, which today is Toyota Camry V-6 territory.

No kidding.

I know it's not in line with the image - lumpy cams, tire-frying burnouts, menacing hood scoops and all that. But I am here to tell it like it is - and the dread truth is that most of the '60s and '70s-era muscle cars were only quick by the standards of their time - and would be considered merely peppy today.

Here are some stats:

* 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T Hemi, 426 CID -

0-60, 6.7 seconds; quarter mile, 13.9 seconds

* 1969 Chevy Camaro Z28, 302 CID -

0-60, 7.4 seconds; quarter mile, 15.2 seconds

* 1970 Buick GSX Stage 1 455 CID -

0-60, 6.4 seconds; quarter-mile, 13.9 seconds

* 1970 Oldsmobile 442 W30 455 CID -

0-60, 6.8 seconds; quarter-mile, 14.2 seconds

* 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air III 400 CID -

0-60, 6.6 seconds; quarter-mile, 14.6 seconds

A 2010 Mustang GT can get to 60 mph in just over 5 seconds flat. A new Camaro SS is even quicker, around 4.7 seconds. Either one completely outclasses the cars above - quickness-wise, anyhow.

And to put a finer point on it: The stats mentioned reflect the times of the meanest factory stock muscle cars - models equipped with the largest or highest-performance engines available at the time, like the mighty 426 Hemi, in the case of the Chryslers.

The same cars with the standard (and usually, less powerful) engine were considerably slower.

A 383 Super Bee or GTX was a mid-15 second car. Small block muscle cars slotted in closer to 16 seconds.

That was typical of the time.

But that's not what people remember. They bask in the glow of the much-hyped magazine profiles - and the completely not-representative performance of specially tuned "ringers" or barely streetable dealer-modifed cars like the Yenko Super Camaros and Royal Bobcat Pontiacs.

Some of those cars did run 12s - or even 11s.

But they did it on drag slicks, with race gas in the tank, "super tunes," open headers, wild camshaft profiles and rear axle ratios that would never work on public roads

Few mass-produced/factory built muscle cars of the '60s or '70s ever came close to that kind of performance.

Today, you can get a production Camaro SS into the 12s without in any way hurting its street driveabilty.

None of this is intended as a slam of classic-era muscle cars. They have style - and sheer presence - that arguably outclasses anything modern. You can work on them yourself, too - and it's easy to extract more performance with a few choice modifications. They are also great investments that appreciate in value - whereas that new Mustang GT you just bought for $30,000 will probably be worth barely half that in five years' time.

But, dammit Jim, they are unholy fast (easy 150 mph top speeds, factory stock and fully warranted and with the AC running) and usually can be counted on to run for 100,00-plus miles before you even begin to see puffs of blue smoke curling out of the tailpipe.

Most of the '60s and '70s-era stuff was seriously tired by 50,000 miles.

I have an old muscle car myself (bright orange '76 Trans-Am with 455 V-8) and love it dearly. But it would get its proverbial doors blown off by a new muscle car - and if I tried to drive it every day, it would be a rust-eaten, smoke-spewing hulk within three or four years.

To make it as quick as a modern muscle car would require some significant modifications. To match the handling/braking, some even more serious mods. To achieve the same body integrity and overall durability would be all-but-impossible without completely re-engineering the car - in which case it would be "old" in name only.

So, I keep it for the memories and because of the way it makes me smile whenever I slide behind the non-air-bag-equipped Formula spoked steering wheel, key the ancient V-8 to life and sniff the uncontrolled byproducts of internal combustion.

I remember the good old days - but I don't idealize them unduly.

And I am grateful for how good we've got it today!