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Thread: Are these things really muscle cars?

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Are these things really muscle cars?

    Are these things really muscle cars?
    By Eric Peters
    for immediate release

    You'd almost think it's 1967 -- not nearly 2007 -- given all the resurgent muscle car fever. The Shelby Mustang's back -- and a new Camaro is on the way. You can order up R/T Mopars with bumble-bee stripes and Hemi engines. Even the GTO made a comeback tour, albeit short-lived.

    But are these latter-day power coupes and sedans really muscle cars -- or something else entirely?

    My vote's for "something else entirely."

    Yes, the new power coupes and sedans have powerful engines and snorty styling. Almost without exception they are quicker and faster than any production-stock muscle car of the '60s and early '70s.

    But they are also completely civilized, easy to drive and -- a key thing -- safe if driven within anything like reason.

    The muscle cars of the '60s, on the other hand, were scary machines -- vehicular Visigoths that could easily get you killed. And often did. There was a definite connection between the high insurance rates these cars garnered and the number that ended up accordionized into telephone poles. Imagine a car with 300 or 400 horsepower -- and drum brakes without ABS. Riding on 14-inch steel wheels (15s, if you were driving a "sporty" model with the optional "handling" package) shod with skinny (by modern standards) bias-belted tires you wouldn't put on a Corolla today.

    These were twitchy, unbalanced, tricky-to-master cars that had an element of danger to them that simply doesn't exist in modern power coupes and sedans. It took real skill (and often, real balls) to drive one of those things all-out, or even close to all-out. No traction/stability control modulated the steamroller torque pouring off the crankshaft of a 440 Magnum Charger. The rear end would oftenget sideways on a hard one-two upshift in a big block muscle car; if you didn't have the native talent to deal with it, you often ended up sideways and in the ditch. That kind of thing is almost impossible in a new power coupe or sedan -- even with four or five hundred horsepower on tap. The clutch is easy to work (being hydraulic-assisted) and the electronic aids will keep you out of trouble. You almost have to be willfully suicidal to lose control of a modern power coupe -- a stark contrast to the old muscle cars, which were borderline uncontrollable and in the hands of an inexperienced driver, frequently lethal.

    But that was part of the attraction -- a big part of it, as those who were there can testify. It was a challenge, a thrill -- sort of like riding one of those mechanical bulls in a cowboy bar. A test of nerve; a right of passage. These were "men's cars" -- and that was why possession of one was so highly esteemed. Owning a Ram Air III GTO was for a youth of the '60s much the equivalent of a young Indian warrior earning his tomahawk and war paint. Both were ready for war.

    Today, you mainly see flabby middle-aged guys behind the wheel of power coupes and sedans like the Charger R/T and Shelby Mustang -- not surprising, given the $30-$40,000 price point of these cars. One reason the resurrected GTO died was that, unlike the originals, it was too high-priced for the 18-30 crowd -- the demographic sweet spot for muscle cars. As the song has it, "fast cars and freedom." Not mortgages, kids and a house in the 'burbs. It's fine to be nostalgic for muscle cars and relive "the day" by buying one of these latter-day power machines. But it's not the same thing as being young, free -- and holding the pistol-gripped shifter of a '69 Charger R/T.

    This is by no means a rant against today's power coupes and sedans. They are a blast to drive and fiercely capable. But to call them muscle cars cheapens the currency of the originals; it causes us to forget what made those fearsome cars so tantalizing -- like a hot stove you knew you shouldn't touch but went ahead and did anyway. Maybe you burned your finger -- but you never forgot the experience.

    It was the same way with the wild child rides of the classic muscle car era. No matter how quick an '07 Camaro may be, it won't duplicate the sounds and sensations, the panicky thrill of a '67 SS 396 Chevelle.

    It's just not the same -- and never can be again.

    END

  2. #2
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    Re: Are these things really muscle cars?

    I'll give you my stereo analogy: In the 70's and 80's one could put together a killer system, with high end components for a 'reasonable' amount. Now, one can pick up magazines that have $100,000 turn tables!!!!

    Same with cars. The cars of the past (say pre 1975) have some character, and value. The current day performance cars are in the $500,000+ range. Just like the stereo equipment, there's no top end. IMO, it's a market for shieks and Bill Gates types. There's nothing for the average guy. When it's nothing more than a pipe dream, how can one be interested?

    At 19 I actually owned a 428 SJC Torino. Today, what is there for a young guy to choose from?

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Are these things really muscle cars?

    " Today, what is there for a young guy to choose from?"

    Mostly import sport compacts like the Civic!

    I think the least expensive "traditional" (V-8/RWD) performance car available is the $25k Mustang GT - which of course is too expensive for most anyone in their early 20s.

    This is why the "rice burners" have become so popular among the younger set; like V-8/RWD performance cars once were, they're cheap, easily modified and, therefore, accessible.

    V-8/RWD cars no longer are - even for many of us "grown ups"!

    -Eric

  4. #4
    larryflew
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    Re: Are these things really muscle cars?

    Think a large part of this is that us baby boomers can afford a bit more and the nostalgic cars will sell. Many no longer want to work on cars but still want the power and looks of the old world with the reliability of the new?

    Like the forum so far other than I do prefer theads which are easer to follow but thats nit picking.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Are these things really muscle cars?

    Quote Originally Posted by larryflew
    Think a large part of this is that us baby boomers can afford a bit more and the nostalgic cars will sell. Many no longer want to work on cars but still want the power and looks of the old world with the reliability of the new?

    Like the forum so far other than I do prefer theads which are easer to follow but thats nit picking.
    Hi Larry,

    That's definitely a factor (Boomers, etc. reliving their youth). So-called "restification" (new engines/technology in old car bodies) is a growing trend. I don't approve. While a modern LS1 is a superb engine, installing it in a classic muscle car (for example, replacing your GTO's 389 with one) guts the heart of the muscle car and completely changes its personality. It now sounds and drives just like a new car. So whynot just buy a new car?

    Not my bag at all!

    PS - Thanks for the nice words on the page; we're trying to make it as good as we can...

  6. #6
    larryflew
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    Re: Are these things really muscle cars?

    must be the old fart in me but I don't mind the restification craze if it is done right. Right to me is looks like and sounds like but may be much more reliable etc like disc brakes, electronic ignition etc.

  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Are these things really muscle cars?

    Quote Originally Posted by dBrong
    I'll give you my stereo analogy: In the 70's and 80's one could put together a killer system, with high end components for a 'reasonable' amount. Now, one can pick up magazines that have $100,000 turn tables!!!!

    Same with cars. The cars of the past (say pre 1975) have some character, and value. The current day performance cars are in the $500,000+ range. Just like the stereo equipment, there's no top end. IMO, it's a market for shieks and Bill Gates types. There's nothing for the average guy. When it's nothing more than a pipe dream, how can one be interested?

    At 19 I actually owned a 428 SJC Torino. Today, what is there for a young guy to choose from?
    Amen to all that... on the other hand, maybe we're just getting old?

  8. #8
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Are these things really muscle cars?

    Quote Originally Posted by larryflew
    must be the old fart in me but I don't mind the restification craze if it is done right. Right to me is looks like and sounds like but may be much more reliable etc like disc brakes, electronic ignition etc.
    I understand the motivation, but it leaves me completely flat. Sure, it makes the old iron run better, go faster,more safely. But you've cut the heart out of them to do it...

    It's like climbing on board the Golden Hind or Mary Rose... and finding it's all a facade; that the sails are just there for show... that underneath the (fake) wood planks lies a modern gas turbine engine...

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    Re: Are these things really muscle cars?

    I don't mind "restification" if it involves making adjustments to the transmission, the suspension and steering. I think the engine should be left largely alone. Lets face it. "muscle cars" handled like puke.


  10. #10
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Are these things really muscle cars?

    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat
    I don't mind "restification" if it involves making adjustments to the transmission, the suspension and steering. I think the engine should be left largely alone. Lets face it. "muscle cars" handled like puke.

    Agreed! Replacing an original muscle car's engine (especially if it involves removing an engine that's no longer produced, such as a Buick or Pontiac V-8, for example) and replacing it with a modern engine just ruins the car completely for me. You've cut out the core of its being, its heart.

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