Essay on Muscle Cars
My Love for Muscle Cars
Muscle cars (aka “supercars”) represent a glamorous era in the history of automobile manufacturing. During their years of mass production, they offered a unique driving experience, introduced new technologies to consumers and served as status symbols and as cultural icons. Today there are muscle cars “fanatics”, who turned these cars and the ideas behind them to a hobby or even a central element of their lives.
This paper will provide an overview on the main features of this type of cars, their technology and their influence on the industry and the auto market.
Exploring the term “muscle cars”
A muscle car is a generic name for numerous high-performance models that were mainly manufactured during the 60s-70s. They all share several features. First, they are equipped with large engines, mostly V8 calibration. Second, muscle cars are bigger and heavier than sport cars and usually had a sedan body.
Another difference between sport and muscle cars is their price; muscle cars offered racing-style mechanical features at much more affordable price than sport and luxury cars, although the latter may share the technical features of a muscle car, such as the engine and the general shape
Throughout the late 40s and early 50s, a new demand was created for performance and speed. The industry’s first response was the 1949 launch of the Oldsmobile Rocket 88 by General Motors. The main feature of the Rocket was a high-compression V8 engine with 135 horse power (hp), which GM also used in its Cadillac division the same year. The combination of strong engine and a light body was the foundation of a new trend on Detroit, and GM’s competitors quickly followed its lead. By 1955, Chrysler offered two models of that kind – the Hemi (whose production started in 1955) and, most importantly, the C-300, which offered no less than 300 hp on a V8 engine, more than a double than the Rocket.
Other car manufacturers joined the segment, introducing advancements in mechanics and design. Muscle cars gained great popularity, partially thanks due successful participation in NASCAR races. By the beginning of the 1960s, all major auto brands, such as Ford, Dodge and Pontiac offered muscle cars at the heart of their showrooms.
The category’s heroes
The consumers during the 50s, and also (although to a esser degree) during the 60s, were interested in big cars at all categories. Developers had to work hard the come up with stronger engines, not in order to increase power but merely to retain performance in the face of ever-growing weights.
However, three masculine cars went away from the trend and became the reference model for most of the industry.
The Pontiac Tempest GTO, Plymouth Roadrunner and Ford Mustang started both as marketing experiments and became a hit and a cultural icon. These models were smaller in size and were also much lighter than other V8 models. During the second half of the 1960s Detroit shifted its focus to smaller categories. A subset of small muscle cars has swashed the market. These compact but powerful sedans were named “pony cars”.
Muscle cars appeared in films and popular music. Their drivers had an image of “I do things my way”. Muscle cars were also the stars of illegal racing. Although the official Detroit was against such races, the companies helped them indirectly by offering improvements and parts.
Muscle cars did not greatly influence the companies’ bottom lines. However, they had a major impact on the image of the companies and were a part of the 60s revolution.
The next decade, however, marked the end of the category. Higher fuel prices, government regulations and soaring inflation have led consumers to look for cheaper and more efficient cars. Compact and reliable cars were imported from the Far East and Europe, leaving the automotive industry in a fight for survival to this very day.
Muscle cars today
One must consider muscle cars in regard to baby-boomers. They were high school students during the golden days of muscle cars and now, at their late 50s, many of them collect and restore classic muscle cars models as a hobby which takes them back to their youth. On the opinion of many, well-preserved muscle cars are much more eye-catching than fancy modern models. Online communities and specialized businesses supports this phenomenon, which keeps a piece of American car history on the road.
In this paper, I tried to summarize the major features of this car category. Although their sales never dominated the American car market, muscle cars introduced design concepts that were the basis for most of the big-sized powerful models produced today.