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.
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