RTOD 24JUN2008 – The New Muscle Car Era?

RTOD – The New Muscle Car Era?

REPRINT NOTE:  I took the time to rebuild the links from MySpace, and also added the accidently neglected Ford links. 

Yes, today’s topic is more cars. Who doesn’t like cars? If you say “I don’t like cars,” I can pretty much guarantee that you are lying. Yup. L-Y-I-N-G. See, everyone loves to look at cars, new ones, old ones, suped up ones, even beaters get looked at. You may disagree with their mode of propulsion, or their pollutants, or even quibble over the makes and models, but, almost everyone loves cars. Most people love to drive them more. Be it down the street for a loaf of bread, or cross-country to see how fast you can make it, people love it.

Yesterday, rolling home and musing my thoughts for the Electric Car RTOD, I was passing Holden Dodge, and, they have sitting in front of the store a brand new 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT, sporting the 6.1L Hemi engine. I nailed the brakes and turned the wheel so hard I almost spun the car out! Grand Prix’s don’t spin easy. (Okay, I’m exaggerating a little, but I did hit the brakes hard) I was lucky that it was after 8PM, because NO ONE came to bother me. I think it is a beautiful rendition of the old Plymouth Challenger, unfortunately, without the Plymouth part. It is still a work of mechanical beauty, clean, muscular lines, big tires, dual exhaust, big, open front grille. This car screams “Mash the pedal down!” Wow, it was a sweet car. Unfortunately, it still suffers the current Dodge/Chrysler flaw of a plastic-y interior, but it still looks nice in general. This car it overall a great re-introduction.

Ford redid the Mustang a few years back. They wanted to go with the Mach-1 look. Overall, the body looks nice. I didn’t care much for the interior, and the engine treatments are damn-near worthless until you get to the Boss and the Cobra treatments, and then, Growl!

Pontiac did its GTO, but, unfortunately, it was crushed under an outcry of “WAAAAAAAAAH!!!!” from its original’s supporters. The problem that everyone had was that it wasn’t big enough, and that it didn’t look like a GTO. Sporting the 5.7L, and then the 6.0L engine, beautifully smooth design, RWD, and the ability to kick the Mustang’s ass off the line didn’t help its longevity. They yanked it in 2006, citing plans to only run the production for three years. Recently, they re-introduced another muscular car, the Pontiac G8, sporting a RWD V8, aggressive and sharp styling, but four doors, making it a perfect family muscle machine.

More on the Dodge front, the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, and now deceased Dodge Magnum were all also introduced as new muscle. They all sported what was called the “Hemi,” though most Mopar enthusiasts called it the Baby Hemi, being much smaller than the original Hemi’s of old. I’m including them in the same bunk because, even with slight variances, they were pretty much the same car, rebadged and reworked for different purposes. All were RWD, and, again, begged for you to push the pedal down. I had the (dis)pleasure of test driving the car. They all suffer from the Chrysler Plastic bug, and I made the mistake of running the 2.7L V6, so I can’t give much perspective, but they were roomy, and, again, 4-door, making them the family muscle car.

Last to the show will the Chevy. For some reason, they are putting the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro out NEXT year, when it is REALLY important to do now. What, do they not want it to sell? Ah! Grr… Okay, this is a 2-door, another big V8, RWD, and looks mean and powerful. It should be released for 2009.

I bring up all these cars because they have something in common: They are Muscle Cars. A lot of them are “throw-backs,” meaning they try to invoke the feeling of yesteryears, bringing back the feeling of watching the brand-new ’68 Camaros and Early 70’s Mustangs. They are all RWD, and are meant to go hard and fast with their V8’s. By all obvious accounts, the muscle car is back, according to the auto industry.

And to all the import muscle people, I apologize about not adding your cars, but I don’t know much about them. I would include them otherwise. Sorry.

But, for as excited as I get, I have to look at it and say, is it really back? Is America really in the new Muscle Car Era?

There are a lot of things point to this not being the next real wave. First is that mortgages are failing quickly, jobs are disappearing, and money is no where to be found. Just because the cars are available doesn’t mean they are going to hit the roads. Another issue is the gas price increases. V-8’s historically use more gas to run, special proof-of-concept vehicles not-withstanding. Right now, everyone is concerned about fuel economy. A car that looks great and goes insanely fast but can’t go far on that gallon isn’t going to sell anywhere near as well as the car that will go eventually, and get there using half the fuel. At least not now. Another issue is that your tuner crowd (sorry JM) is looking at this and saying “No young person is going to want to buy this. This is going for only the old, die-hard muscleheads.” That is the mentality of the tuner crowd, that muscle will never be worth it, they’d rather make the car go fast by their own work.

On the flip-side, a lot of the early “tuners” are getting older. They are getting married, or starting families, sometimes both, but don’t want to lose their fast cars because of age. They are getting real jobs, where they can afford a newer, unmodified, but fast car. They want the bragging rights of the fastest dad on the block. Also, the slightly older generation will look at most of these cars and fondly remember their namesakes whizzing by with an earth-shaking roar, and want to sit in their modern counterparts, if only to sit. Even still, their fuel economy is actually pretty good when compared to muscle cars of old, and can even hold their own against some smaller engine V-6’s in some cases. Technology has progressed to help reduce actual fuel usage, in acceleration and cruise, making fuel not as much of a concern, but still a concern, just like every other car. Lastly, they have all made a sort of come-back recently for one reason or another. Many people have been wanting something that will be fun to drive while still being modern and fairly safe, or, with drifting becoming popular, rear wheel is cool again, even for tuners. Another point is that, with most tuners, they are front-wheel drive, which, while “safer,” is a drag on performance. With the RWD, your control of the vehicle can be more balanced, so long as you understand the difference in they way they drive, and the different needs in safety. Another point, some of these muscle cars are now four-door, so getting “da crew” in and out is much MUCH easier!

Whether people like it or not, I think the next muscle car age is upon us. The next series of fast cars with big engines is ready, the market is realistically available, so long as it is marketed right.  We’ll see what happens.  I hope it’s good! 

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