Yeah, so this is bound to ruffle some feathers. No point in beating around the bush, so here goes.

I don’t care for muscle cars. I don’t get them, and I don’t want one. I don’t care if you wanted one so bad when you were in high school in 1976, and as much as I love all forms of cars I cannot get my head around muscle cars. And never have.

For the moment, let’s not talk about newer muscle cars, or the modernized versions of the “classic” muscle cars from decades past. Let me begin my point with the golden era of muscle cars which, depending on who you ask, can be from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. I say it’s all three decades from 50’s thru 70’s. This thirty year span gave us some true classic vehicles from all parts of the globe. Ok, most parts anyway.

So what’s my issue? Well damn, where do I begin?

SIZE & WEIGHT Fine, in, say, 1952, you had massive cars everywhere. Since the decree by most automakers in that era was “Must be able to fit a living room couch as the front seat”, well, you can imagine why cars were massive. And, really, all that’s just dandy with me. After all, every era has it’s styles and fads. But we are talking performance cars, no? So, speaking of 1952, honestly, how hard was it for automotive engineers to determine that an M46 Patton tank is slower than a Ferrari Tipo 500, because of it’s size and weight?

This isn’t freaking rocket science.

“Performance” vehicles from the 50’s thru 70’s were basically all big and heavy. Those are not the necessary ingredients for vehicle performance. Yet for thirty years big and heavy persisted in muscle cars. As fas as I can tell, the solution that (at least American) automotive engineers opted for to get better performance was to keep making bigger, more powerful engines. I know large, bad ass sounding V8’s was one appeal of muscle cars, and I for one won’t argue with you there. But would you put Usain Bolt in body armor for his next 100m, and simply tell him to work out more and get crazy with steroids, if you didn’t absolutely have to?

Automakers finally got away from this in the 1980’s with the compact car explosion from the late 70’s went full force by then, but they failed to do anything worth a damn as the 80’s fads and styles clouded engineers thinking. Did I mention the 80’s was the cocaine decade?

RIDE HEIGHT. Why, oh why why why, did classic muscle cars sit two meters above the road? Yes that’s an exaggeration, I admit, but it still doesn’t mean that a 1970 Challenger needed to have the road clearance of a small truck. I don’t even want to analyze this, or hit up Google on the subject. Muscle cars ride too high, period. They look silly. Not one tarmac based motor sport features cars that ride that high, or anything close. And there are very good reasons for this.

Unbelievably, ride height generally increased on muscle cars from 1955 to 1975.

Modern muscle cars look a little better when it comes to ride height, but there is a reason why Saleen, Roush and others drop their tuned Mustangs at least an inch: It makes them look “good” and “normal”. As opposed to, you know, how they look from the factory: Bad.

HANDLING. It’s no secret that a classic muscle car handles like a cow. Even muscle car owners freely admit this, and for whatever reason it’s almost regarded as an endearing aspect of these cars.

Say what?

Going back to the whole “big and heavy” concern, muscle cars attack corners much like a flying bag of concrete mix attacks a spiral staircase. It never ends well. But here again is another example thirty odd years of wrong: Inaccurate, rudimentary suspension doing nothing to help the god awful steering problems. That is not an issue that should have persisted that long.

Didn’t they write a thousand pop songs in the 50’s about teens getting killed in performance cars while racing? Makes sense. They were sitting on a couch, with no seatbelt or head support, and driving a tank on tires at high speed. What could possibly go wrong?

Not mentioning gas mileage. All classic cars were awful about that.

I do like the modern versions of the Mustang, Camaro and Chargers. But they still need some mods to make them at least look the part of a performance car, in my opinion. The modern Challenger is still one of the stupidest looking cars on the road; it’s a god damn boat. A poorly designed boat. With Hummer caliber ride clearance.

Ford has, in recent years, acknowledged most of this and promises an amazing, stylish beast of a Mustang in the upcoming redesigned GT500’s. We shall see.

Now, let the flame wars and hate begin.

Nino Batista is a professional motoring photographer in the United States and is a U.S. partner/editor for GTspirit.com. Nino Batista on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ninobatistamotorphoto

19 COMMENTS

  1. Why? Have you ever heard of money? Its that thing companies make when they create a cheap product and sell it in mass quantities because everybody wants one. Its also that thing people save when they buy a cheap car that goes fast instead of a cheap car that doesn’t go fast. Money. Its available as paper and sometimes you can find it in small metal pieces. That is why

  2. This article is out of context. Tt’s like a teenager ranting. You’re viewing the classic muscle cars in context of our current time, not when they were made.

  3. I see the point of what you are saying, i am a big fan of european cars and own a few ones, but i can also tell you that the ford gt is an amazing car, and the handling is very good in opposition of what you say. Oh yes and then also, with my corvette zr1 i feel like the happiest driver in the world, just saying, and i am italian and drove all kind of cars, so i think your complains are very limited by taking certain example of muscle cars. I can also give you a few examples of shi**y european cars, look at the f430, it is a nice looking car but has, like we say in italian, “all smoke but no fire”, compared to the new 458 it looks almost funny. I invite you to test any european car in a good budget that can compare to a corvette zr1, anything from 458 to superleggera, that would be funny.

  4. No man you are totally wrong, there are many great muscle cars and it stand as a signature, have a great history and victories,……..

  5. Boy ! For once I’m seemingly 100% on board with everyone else on this one . First being the article is at best clueless and juvenile . Second being I love ( and have owned ) many euro exotica ….. but I still get a kick out of muscle cars ( the classics as well as the modern ) So why were the muscle cars of old so popular our erstwhile ever so out of touch author asks ? F-U-N . Period . Drive one and see for yourself . Took a real driver to get the most out of them and when you did well oh brother . As to the new ones ? Get a clue there Wingnut McNutless . The ZR1 will kick the ____ out of the MP4-12C … for half the price … the BOSS302 can hold its own against the mighty M3 …. and the new Viper will tear the eyelids out of anyone foolish enough to jump in and stand on it without a bit of time behind the wheel. Ugh ! Nothing like a MusclCarAPhobic’s whinging little article to start your day off wrong

  6. Oh yeah . And as Mr Haydervision stated so well . Have you ever oh sage author Mr McNutless taken the time to review the race record of say ….. the Shelby Cobra’s and Mustangs … the Falcon V8’s that cleaned up in your BTCC series of old .. as well as Rally …. the entire TransAm series here in the States ….. etc etc etc ? And ahhh hows about your ( UK ) attempts at building a muscle car … such as the Sunbeam Tiger etc etc etc .

    Re-reading this ( urp ) article I’ll assume not .

  7. And uhh . One more….. just to drill the point home .

    The most exclusive and sophisticated as well as durable car manufacture ever made in the UK . I’m talking of course about Bristol . Well guess what Mr McNutless . That’d be a muscle car under the bonnet ( Chrysler V8 era cars right up till Bristol’s demise ) Solid rear axel and all . e.g. A muscle car in a very well tailored and bespoke tuxedo .

  8. I am not giving history lesson but here is what muscle cars stands for

    The Facts
    • Muscle cars are a type of car produced mainly in the 1960s and 1970s by American automobile makers. They are categorized as muscle cars because of their large, high-performance V-8 engines, light weight and tire-shredding power. Designed to be a type of mass-produced drag-strip vehicle for the general public, muscle cars often shunned handling ability and luxury accessories, choosing instead to focus all resources on straight-line speed.



    The Rise of Muscle Cars
    • As automobiles became more accessible and widespread, American automobile manufacturers became increasingly concerned with performance as a way of distinguishing their cars from the competition, since during the 1950s, competition between the Big Three–Chrysler, GM and Ford–was ramping up. The performance war during this decade was won by Chrysler with the introduction of the Hemi engine and the C-300 model. Though the 300-horsepower engine raised the bar for performance vehicles, it was mild compared to what was coming.


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    The Muscle Car Era
    • In 1964, Pontiac formally began the muscle car era with the introduction of the GTO. Though this car had only 25 more horsepower than the C-300, its 389-cubic-inch engine was packed into a much smaller and lighter car. The result was a fast and affordable performance vehicle. Its popularity began a long competition between the Big Three to create the most powerful production vehicle. The next few years would see the introduction of many more powerful models, creating the golden age of the muscle car.



    The Decline of Muscle Cars
    • Muscle car production continued strong in the late 1960s and into the early 1970s, but pressure from political action groups and rising fuel prices began to hurt the muscle car’s image. The OPEC oil embargo and environmental concerns made the continued production of these gas-guzzling, high-displacement engines impossible. Also, Ralph Nader’s book, “Unsafe at Any Speed,” caused a national backlash against these dangerous cars. By 1975, most muscle cars had been discontinued or heavily downgraded, effectively ending the muscle car era.



    Muscle Cars Today
    • Muscle car culture has become a permanent part of American culture, with many magazines and TV programs dedicated to the topic. There are car enthusiast clubs across the nation that are dedicated to the preservation of these powerful classic cars. Intact original muscle car frames, bodies and engines have become exceptionally valuable, as restoration of these vehicles to their original factory condition has become a widespread practice.



    As i was saying, when you are talking a bout any thing represents a part of culture you better be fair and speak up facts it is unfair to just wipe every thing cause you hate it….honest no one gives a dam about what you think, but what i am trying to say here it is not wright to ignore muscle cars.

    stay cool my friend.

  9. You bring up some good points. But you have to understand the culture of the muscle car. Unlike hill climbing events, sports car racing, or rally racing that dominated Europe in those times. here in the States, drag racing was the main reason they build them. It was great power for the price. But I think you lack in respect to Detroit muscle, there have been some great european cars that relied on american muscle. Not to mention these “ugly” cars help fund the programs like the Ford racing team that althougth it was designed in the UK, it was American muscle that drove the GT40 to le mans, which beat Ferrari. Need I mention the Allard cars that were also very popular, some ran on Cadillac engines. How about the Cobra? Also Detroit muscle. I love the passion and history of European cars but there is something special about classic American muscle. So as a true gear head, your comments are idiotic because a true ppetrol head loves all forms of automobiles. Respect has to be earned, and American muscle cars have done far more then to earn it in the United States and Europe.

  10. Nino,

    It is pretty clear to me that you haven’t spent much time in America and seen what the car culture is like in the places Muscle cars were built for. It is nothing like Europe at all, and until you have experienced the places and people that made American Muscle, you won’t understand it.

    I spent the whole last summer out in Detroit, going to Woodward Avenue every weekend for car events…. the legendary place where the horsepower wars happened on American streets. There is a certain charm to Muscle cars, the allure is as much about the image as it is about the cars themselves. Muscle cars do lack in dynamics when compared to European cars, but they have their own character that evokes a childish enthusiasm from people…. not unlike some Lamborghinis.

    Look, I didn’t really understand it till recently either, but after spending some time in muscle car Mecca, I can honestly say that I get it now.

    As for this article, I don’t think you took the right approach. You just went out and bashed muscle cars from an standpoint of pure ignorance, rather than truly inquiring as to what it is about them that is so appealing to so many people. This simply isn’t good journalism, and I respect you less as a car person as a result. You are now just one of the countless idiots bantering from each side about how Euros are better, or Muscle cars are better, rather than a true car enthusiast who looks for the appeal in each, so that you might be able to appreciate all types of cars. For shame….

    What you need to realize is that cars actually evolved differently around the world, much like animals do. Each fit their own place and situation, and there are very good and interesting reasons as to why they ended up so differently. To be curious would be beneficial, but you are just a mere hater.

  11. And GTspirit, as a whole, this is a very subpar article that is not well backed up. You should seriously consider taking it down because it reflects badly on your publication as a whole.

    Informed criticism is fine, but this guy was purely ignorant on the subject of muscle cars.

    • @Nick, Nino is an American for the record ;), and we share stories that share the passion about cars. If you feel the same and want to share a column story on your experiences with sports cars, feel free to send it in and we are able to look at it and share it. The fact we opened the discussion and offer you a platform to discuss the opposite is our goal.

  12. I must say, I have to agree with this article. I can totally appreciate the “passion” for muscle cars, but I also don’t care to own one. New or old. I appreciate the history and the aesthetics of the era, and I’m grateful that there are people out there preserving them for future gernerations…..but as a driving enthusiast, I require more. Something that goes, handles AND STOPS.

    So what would I buy???, If I were to purchase a classic car, it’d be an early 911. Excellent weight/power ration, classic lines, vintage personality, and all the backroad excitment you can ask for.

  13. Clearly this article was written by an uninformed person, muscle cars are about (for the most part) drag racing, which they are very good at and depending on your set up can compete with many cars of the era. This article seems if it was written to provoke people, which I’m sure it has. I know it did me, I own a new challenger and wouldn’t trade it for a European “better” car. I tell you why, because they aren’t “better”. There is no “better”, there never has been. lap and quarter mile times aside. The reason these cars were and are built is because people love and want them. For some its about speed, for others it’s more about looks. But whoever wrote this article has no idea what they are talking about

  14. Big and heavy. Did you even research this. Wow. I expected more. Your right about a lot of things but from 64 to 72, heavy is not what a muscle car was. My 71 Chevelle SS weighs 3,386 stock with only spare and jack removed. My 70 Camaro RS is 3,226 also with spare and jack removed. By comparison, both cars are lighter then a WRX STI 4cyl and and MTS Evo 4cyl. The article and your opinions are yours. Maybe you own a Ferrari or Lamborghini. I cannot afford one of those supercars and even if I could, I wouldn't. So I I'll tell you why we love our muscle cars and why we as owners "get it". Its because I can build what I can't afford, because I have to have skill to drive it, and because it has a personality that gets me at least 20 thumbs up everytime I drive it. People are very passionate about muscle cars so next time at least do some research.

  15. This article is full of ignorance. As a journalist, you should have orchestrated this article in a more respectful, less bashing manner. “American Muscle” is part of America the great’s culture. This country gave birth to one of the greatest automobile cultures to have ever existed on fcae of the planet. I love American Muscle because I choose to, because it has that special appeal about it. If you truly were a car enthusiast instead of bashing 1 culture and appreciating another you’d appreciate all types…it’s what “enthusiasts” do. I am a proud owner of a 2016 392 HEMI SCAT PACK SHAKER Dodge Challenger. Challenger is my car and Dodge is my brand but not in any point of my life would I ever bash Ford, and Chevy for there Mustang and Camaro models. I appreciate every car that has appeal, personality to it. I am Mopar for life but truly understand the mighty and beastly iron machines that were created by Ford and Chevy. I salute American Muscle, I respect JDM, and I tip my hat to European car culture. The same cannot be said about you my friend, hopefully you educate yourself about enthusiast culture instead of putting on a blindfold and disrespecting our beloved American Muscle!

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