Agood columnist gets readers thinking, and Diego Rosenberg has done just that recently. His ideas about “Muscle Car Baselines” (The Bottom End, Sept. and Oct. 2018) have prompted some interesting feedback from readers.
One message came from Bill Craft, referencing Diego’s September column about what kind of car can be considered a muscle car. We illustrated the column with a “Venn-like diagram” of overlapping circles that demonstrated Diego’s point: Fullsize, intermediate, compact, and ponycar models all have hi-po engines in common. So why can’t, say, a 428 Cobra Jet Mustang be both a ponycar and a muscle car?
The article was well thought out, and the Venn diagram was helpful. What constitutes a muscle car has been argued through the past 50 years! You actually helped clear up a few things, but I’m going to muddy the waters a bit more.
First, many people won’t even consider a four-door a muscle car, no matter what’s under the hood. Today’s examples would be the Charger, Jeep, and Chrysler 300. All three can be had with Hemis, and the first two can be ordered with Hellcat motors.
Some cars can fall into more than one category. Again, I’ll use a modern car as an example: The Corvette Z06s and ZR1s can be sports cars and supercars.
Are all supercars muscle cars?
Can you turn an ordinary car into a muscle car by engine modifications or swaps? What about the 318 Challengers, Darts, Barracudas, and Dusters? They don’t have high-powered engines. You can add some fancy stripes and wheels, but they still aren’t muscle cars.
What about muscle cars of the late 1970s, all of the 1980s, and early 1990s? I had a 1987 305 four-barrel Firebird that had nice stripes, wheels, and rear-window louvres. It sure looked fast but, 170 hp? Are you kidding me? Some of the Trans Ams, Vettes, and Camaros of the late 1970s had around 200 hp or less. Are they still muscle cars?
I think true car guys can appreciate all variations of muscle cars, and I love the cars you cover in your magazine. We know a muscle car when we see one. Or can we just call them cool cars?
When our October issue and its day-two Camaro cover car hit the newsstands, reader Michael McQueen had this to say about what makes a muscle car. As you will see, he shares some of the same thinking as Craft.
Well, I never thought I would see the day, we are finally going back to our roots, the true meaning of muscle car! Can we please get over the matching-number, VIN-code blah blah blah? Save that for Rare Finds. I love it, but the truth is, back in the day, that meant nothing.
I do have fond memories of 440 R/Ts, 340 Demon, Dart, Duster, Boss 302, and all the Chevy factory big- and small-blocks. But the car I remember most is the car I built at 21, my 1966 Malibu convertible. Out came the 283, in went a 427. Wow! I couldn’t wait to put that Impala SS427 emblem on the middle of that grille, and the skinny Cragars on the front. A muscle car was born.
My point is all muscle cars started as an option on a base model, period. Did that make my Malibu a clone? I think not. Ask the guy in that real SS396 I blew off what he thinks. I found out about 20 years ago as I stood on my soapbox and told all the car crowds that I had a real 1969 4-4-2 four-speed convertible, a super-rare car. Guess what? Nobody cared! And I had to ask myself, why do I care? You put the muscle in the motor if you wanted to.
Today I drive a fantastic 1970 four-speed GTO convertible that started life as a LeMans Sport that I built at half the cost. It’s just as nice or nicer than any so-called “real” GTO that rolls off a trailer, and nobody asks me if it has a 242 in the VIN.
Come on, guys, here’s your chance to turn the corner and embrace your name. Day two? Clones? Show your muscle!
If you’ve been a reader for any length of time you know we take a fairly broad view of what we think fits in a magazine named Muscle Car Review. We feature all sizes of cars that share a bond of high performance. Our historical emphasis means that most featured cars have muscular motors from the factory, but the growing interest in day-two mods will continue to blur that line.
I wonder if our parent corporation would consider a name change to Cool Car Review?
n This 1970 Chrysler 300 Hurst Edition isn’t a muscle car in the purest definition of the term, but it is rare, powerful, and cool as hell.Look for it in a future issue.