THE BOT­TOM END

Muscle Car Review - - Contents - By Diego Rosen­berg

At the time of this writ­ing, the Spe­cialty Equip­ment Mar­ket As­so­ci­a­tion Show is hap­pen­ing in Las Ve­gas. This trade event has gone from the halls of Dodger Sta­dium in 1967 to a hella-huge con­ven­tion that brings to­gether af­ter­mar­ket and orig­i­nal-equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers, me­dia, dis­trib­u­tors, builders and in­stall­ers, re­tail­ers, spe­cial­ists, and more. If you don’t have cre­den­tials to at­tend, you re­ally can’t imag­ine how bound­less the SEMA Show re­ally is.

In some re­spects, the mod­ern SEMA

Show is where the present meets the past. The mar­ket for Amer­i­can mus­cle and hot rods is as ro­bust as ever. Wit­ness Mopar’s an­nounce­ment of the Helle­phant, a su­per­charged Gen III Hemi crate mo­tor that pro­duces 1,000 hp and 950 lb-ft of torque. It makes the orig­i­nal Ele­phant ap­pear like a Slant Six. The 426ci en­gine con­sists of an all-alu­minum block, plug-and-play elec­tron­ics, an IHI su­per­charger, and forged in­ter­nals—and it will run on 93-oc­tane pump gas. LS who?

It re­ally isn’t news that we cur­rently live in a golden age of high per­for­mance. These days it is not un­usual to find a car (even a sedan) that hits 60 in un­der four sec­onds, which is much faster than the Lam­borgh­i­nis that plas­tered the wall of my bed­room three decades ago. Even Dodge’s top pro­duc­tion ve­hi­cle, the De­mon, has 840 hp on tap.

Back in 1970, which is gen­er­ally con­sid­ered the peak of the mus­cle car era, the top horse­power-pro­duc­ing en­gine de­liv­ered 450 gross on pa­per, which was likely around 350 net. Aside from safety ad­vo­cates speak­ing out against the danger of ir­re­spon­si­ble horse­power, ev­ery­one knew that the sky would come crash­ing down thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors like in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums, creep­ing emis­sions reg­u­la­tions, and an evolv­ing mar­ket.

With all this crazy horse­power to­day, are we ripe for change once again? Maybe, but per­haps for a dif­fer­ent rea­son.

The sur­face area of Earth is ap­prox­i­mately 196,940,000 square miles of land and water. Mankind built boats, and then ships, to bring the world closer to­gether. Horses and bug­gies re­fined the con­nec­tion be­tween peo­ple and land, with trains help­ing to boost com­merce and per­sonal trans­porta­tion on a wider scale. In terms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, the Pony Ex­press and the tele­graph brought Amer­ica’s ex­pand­ing bor­ders within a stone’s throw.

With the ad­vent of the 20th cen­tury, au­to­mo­biles and air­craft con­tin­ued the tra­jec­tory in reach­ing all cor­ners of the world. Then, to­wards the end of the 20th cen­tury, the In­ter­net con­tin­ued the glob­al­iza­tion process that’s been trending for mil­len­nia.

When you first en­coun­tered the In­ter­net, chances are it was like the Wild West, full of com­pet­ing browsers and search en­gines un­til its growth set­tled on sev­eral de­fin­i­tive stan­dards (much like any in­dus­try). The In­ter­net was some new­fan­gled way for peo­ple to con­nect with each other, on both per­sonal and busi­ness lev­els. As hob­by­ists, it has im­proved the qual­ity of our ex­pe­ri­ence dra­mat­i­cally. The pro­lif­er­a­tion of in­for­ma­tion via a myr­iad of me­dia has proven to be much more ef­fi­cient than tra­di­tional news­pa­pers, tele­vi­sion, or pe­ri­od­i­cals, like this one, de­liv­ered by the postal ser­vice. None­the­less, the at­mos­phere is such that it may be dif­fi­cult to dis­cern what’s good info and what’s not. In many ways, the In­ter­net is still the Wild West.

Even our pri­mary form of en­ter­tain­ment, tele­vi­sion, has changed in this con­nected world. No longer do we have to plan around prime time sched­ul­ing to view our fa­vorite shows, nor do we need to record a show so we won’t miss it. To­day we can get our fa­vorite shows on de­mand, some of which are not pro­duced by any of the ma­jor net­works or ca­ble chan­nels. The shows that pro­lif­er­ate on TV and other me­dia have changed (don’t for­get, there’s YouTube and this com­pany’s own mo­tortrend.com con­tent), with re­al­ity TV shows go­ing from a cu­rios­ity in the 1990s to main­stream guilty plea­sures to­day. And be­fore you poo-pooh the idea, don’t for­get your fa­vorite au­to­mo­tive show may be a re­al­ity show.

On Face­book or even your fa­vorite fo­rum, we can find our­selves sucked into a bar­rage of click­bait ar­ti­cles that pull us into ar­gu­ments about the Top 10 fastest mus­cle cars, or the kinds of “Mus­tangs suck! Ca­maros rule!” threads that drag down our hobby ex­pe­ri­ence. Clicks and fol­low­ers (for some rea­son, we’re told that’s im­por­tant) end up push­ing our beloved cars into sec­ond-billing sta­tus.

In­deed, lit­tle care is con­sid­ered for the in­tegrity of the cars we love. This race to the bot­tom ben­e­fits nei­ther you nor me. And we won­der why our youth doesn’t em­brace the mus­cle car hobby. There has been a gen­er­a­tional shift where young peo­ple mod­ify what’s plen­ti­ful to them, which are of­ten from an­other con­ti­nent. That is, if they drive at all, as many teens no longer have an in­ter­est in ob­tain­ing a li­cense.

So, has the in­ter­ac­tive world truly im­proved the qual­ity of our ex­pe­ri­ence? Per­haps we can im­prove the qual­ity of our in­ter­ac­tions, and make the hobby more wel­com­ing for all.

n The big­gest en­emy to 1,000 hp may be fel­low hob­by­ists.

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