The American muscle car was introduced to satisfy the ever-increasing appetite for power and speed. The recipe for meeting this demand needed the following ingredients:
(1) a light weight body
Modifications for Moonshiners Turns to Street Racing
The need for speed began in the 1920’s during the prohibition period. The bootleggers of the time began doing modifications on their cars in such a way that would enable them to outrun the police. After the end of prohibition, fast cars were no longer needed to evade the police. The former moonshiners turned to racing one another; thus the era of street drag racing began. Auto manufactures picked up the trend and created the muscle car for public consumption.
The Rocket 88
The first muscle car came about in 1949 with the introduction of the Oldsmobile Rocket 88. Meeting the basic requirements for a muscle car, the Rocket 88 had the light Olds body combined with a high-compression V8 engine. It wasn’t until 1955 that the next high-performance car came on the market. The Chrysler C-300, that could reach speeds up to 130 mph, was a luxury car with a big engine that could go from zero to sixty in just under 10 seconds.
The Muscle’s Golden Era
The sixties were undoubtedly the decade of the muscle car. The Dodge Dart, and the Ford Thunderbolt were sought after by drag racers, but due to the limited market, and the fact that the Thunderbolt was considered dangerous to drive, very few were sold. The Impala Super Sport was the only car that fit the muscle car description that was offered to the public. But, in 1964, the star of the muscle car class appeared. Enter the Pontiac GTO. The looks and performance of the classic GTO puts it in the minds of many collectors first place in its class. The Ford Mustang, the first of the pony cars, also became extremely popular. Following the Mustang were many other similar vehicles, such as the Chevelle Super Sport and the Olds 442. In 1967 the wildly popular Camaros and Firebirds were introduced by General Motors, followed by Chrysler with the Challenger and the Barracuda in 1970.
The End of Muscle Madness
There were several factors that contributed to the demise of the high performance muscle cars. With the rise of gas prices and insurance premiums, the public’s need for speed and performance gave way to the desire for a more economical ride. Manufacturers modified the magnificent muscles to meet public demand for economy. In addition, new federal emission and safety regulations caused manufacturers to introduce elements to their cars that reduced performance.
The Muscle Car Returns
A newly designed Ford Mustang appeared in 2005 and Chrysler introduced a new Charger that could be purchased with a HEMI engine. Dodge recreated a new retro-look Challenger, but the new Dodge Dart does not look like the original model and is considered an economy car. The popular Chevy Camaro is back with 580hp in its top model. A first for Cadillac is a new muscle car, the CTS-V, which is notable for being the fastest sedan on the market today.