In Classic Vehicle terms a ‘muscle’ car was most likely built in the United States between 1964 and 1972. It would have been clad in a mid-size or even ‘compact’ body with the biggest V8 engine under its ‘hood’ that its manufacturer could sneak past the regulators. As a hint of what rumbled beneath, most ‘muscle’ cars had an air-intake poking through the engine cover, some feeding two or three huge carburettors. They may also have come with a silly cartoon character as their logo, even a ‘Meep Meep’ horn as fitted to a model called the Roadrunner.
The concept of a low-cost car with a big engine and ‘youth appeal’ wasn’t new but Pontiac with its 1964 Tempest GTO seemed to strike a chord with buyers who weren’t enchanted by Ford’s narrow gutted and under-powered Mustang.
Four years after the GTO fostered a seemingly unstoppable trend, its own position was under threat. The 1968 car had grown in size and price and become pretty much irrelevant in a market addicted to ever-increasing levels of performance. Models feeding that addiction included Ford’s Torino, the Dodge Charger, Plymouth Super Bee and Buick GS.
Even more significant was the emergence of a ‘super muscle’ category with cars like the L71 Chevrolet Camaro, Boss 429 Mustang, Dodge Hemi Challenger and related Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda. These were some of the fastest street-legal cars ever made – certainly fastest accelerating – and cheaper to buy than imported sports cars with inferior performance.
Of course the party couldn’t last. By 1971 and with vehicle safety a hot topic in US political circles, pressure was on manufacturers to reign in the power race and improve the handling and braking abilities of their lead-tipped arrows. Something similar was also occurring in Australia,
Political reaction to high-performance models under development by local manufacturers saw changes to local Production Car race rules and considerable disquiet. Local cars, while certainly not dynamically perfect, handled with greater precision and predictability than American equivalents and they all came with front disc brakes and seat belts as standard fittings .
However, the legislators had their way and for a time it seemed that Australia would lose the ability to make cars that could (where legal) gobble a couple of hundred highway kilometres in the space of an hour.
During the 1980s and subsequent decades though, Australian manufacturers and their subsidiaries developed models that in every sense were ‘muscle’ cars. The HSV SV300 and W427, Ford’s revamped GTs and even the turbocharged Falcon G6E dwarfed the achievements of models from 1970s while providing absolutely docile family transport.
If you own a ‘muscle’ car of any age and it is very seldom used, Enthusiast Insurance has a policy that might suit you your needs.