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Is Your Muscle Car Cool Enough?

Is Your Muscle Car Cool Enough?
By Robert Kibbe

AMC-AMX (Orange Julep) image by Bull-Doser (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
AMC-AMX (Orange Julep) image by Bull-Doser (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Ahh, to be cool. Little kids grow up having no concept of “coolness”, and then they hit the 6th grade. From that point on, being “cool” is on the top of their to-do list. Muscle cars are perpetually cool. They’ve been cool since day #1, and their legend has grown ever since. A friend of mine (who grew up in the 1960’s) recently commented that there is nothing on the road as cool as a muscle car, and he said it in a way that that made it seem as certain as the fact that 2+2=4. The question I wonder is, how do you know if your muscle car is cool enough?

Just like the hallways of high school, one could argue that there is a pecking order of coolness when it comes to muscle cars. Being popular seemed to help make some people cool, but many cool people were never popular. Muscle cars are the same way. (As a side note I’ve seen a few of the popular kids from high school later in life…..and they don’t seem quite as cool as I remember.)

Having a popular model car (like a Mustang) gives it an instant coolness factor, while having a less popular model leaves it up to the car’s merits to determine it’s coolness. Let’s take a look at 3 muscle cars in particular and judge the Cool Factor…and then you can determine if it’s cool enough for you to drive!

Car #1 – 1st Gen Camaro (1967-1969)

1st generation (1967-1969) Camaro’s were popular the day they were unveiled. They were Chevy’s answer to the Mustang and were similar in that they were built off of an economy car (the Chevy II…where as the Mustang was built off of the Falcon). You could get one with a small block, a big block, one ready to drag race, or one ready to run the road course (Z/28 style). Just order it up and be sure to book a date for Friday night…which won’t be hard to do. They’re still popular today and are one of the most sought after by collectors and hot rodders.

High School Equivalent: The QB of the football team. Athletic. Great looking. He can bench press….uh, a Camaro. Girls dig that.

Car #2 – 1966-67 Dodge Charger

Early generation Mopars are kind of the Apple ‘Mac’ of muscle cars. A small percentage of muscle car guys love them with utter devotion and would drive nothing else. To them, driving a Ford or Chevy would be like cheating on their wives. That being said, the ’66-’67 Charger is a very cool car just from a styling and feature standpoint – the gauges alone are awesome – but it’s not for everyone. It didn’t sell with the popularity of the ’68-’70 models (or live on eternity thanks to the Dukes of Hazzard), but it does have it’s fans and can definitely hold it’s own against the competition.

High School Equivalent: The Captain of the Drumline. Not everyone knows him, but those that do know he’s got rhythm from head to toe. He’s jammin’ on drums with his buddies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Car #3 – AMX

And then there is that other guy. American Motors cars were always kind of a fifth wheel. Some of their passenger cars were dorky looking (the Pacer, the Gremlin, the Matador, etc.), but the AMX was genuinely good looking. It was just a little different than the norm, mainly due to it’s short wheel base (VERY short) and the fact that it was a 2-seater!

High School Equivalent: That one guy that wore a leather jacket and shades. No-one knew his name. I think he’s a famous artist now.

Summary:

So just why is it that we’re trying to determine if a muscle car is cool enough for you to drive? Well, quite honestly…what other reason would you have to drive one? They’re brash, noisy, smelly, and can be hard to drive at times. They hate being driven slowly and give you feelings of sheer joy and simultaneous terror while being pushed to the limits. They need constant wrenching and “tweaking” just to stay in fighting shape. Why on earth would you put up with all of that when you could drive a nice happy Toyota Camry? You know why….because just like the Fonz, muscle cars are cool, and coolness rubs off. So, in the end, if you think your muscle car is cool – it is. That’s all that matters. It’s cool enough. Remember though, if it’s popular, it’s probably already cool, but just like high school….some of the coolest people were never popular.

Robert Kibbe
The MuscleCar Place – Great Muscle Cars for Sale
http://www.themusclecarplace.com

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Top Five Classic Muscle Cars

Top Five Classic Muscle Cars
By Brian Edwards

Top Five Muscle Cars
1966 Dodge Charger image: by Jeremy3030 [CC2.0] via Wikimedia Commons 
Today the term muscle car refers for all sorts of cars with large engines and great performance. However, “back in the day” it described mid-sized automobiles that had big engines stuffed between the fender wells. Corvettes, Camaros, and Mustangs were not considered muscle cars by the purists. Even today many gear heads only consider the mid sized cars from the 1960’s as true muscle cars. Everything else is a sports car, pony car or just a plain old car.

So what was the most important of these original muscle cars? We have chosen five of the most popular cars for a retro comparison to determine the king of the hill. The selectees are the 1961 Chevy Impala SS, the 1964 Pontiac GTO, the 1964 Ford Fairlane, the 1966 Dodge Charger and the 1968 Plymouth Road Runner. Let the showdown begin.

1961 Chevy Impala SS

Many consider this the first true muscle car. A 409 cubic inch motor was dropped into the Chevy Impala and a legend was made. With the help of the Beach Boys and their song about the car (‘She’s so fine, my four-oh-nine’) it became an icon for the baby boomers. Chevy’s marketing for the car described it as designed “for young men on the move…(who) won’t settle for less than REAL driving excitement.”

Performance was very good for the era with Motor Trend driving one from zero to sixty on seven seconds and completing the quarter mile in 14 seconds at 98 mph. The car became a legend.

1964 Pontiac GTO

The GTO was another marketing success for General Motors. Although the car was not the fastest car on the market it quickly became successful as an all a round muscle car. It was relatively affordable, relatively fast and relatively handsome. Many consider it the first modern muscle car. Although that is debatable, it is definitely the first successful muscle car in terms of sales.

Performance was very good with Car Life and Motor Trend both measuring zero to sixty times of less than seven seconds and quarter mile times of around 14 seconds.

1964 Ford Fairlane

In 1964 the Fairlane was redesigned and the tail fins were removed. Other improvements included upgrades to the suspension in order to improve ride-quality. Interior enhancements included full carpeting for the floors and turn signals that turned themselves off after the steering wheel was turned. However, the big news for 1964 was the Thunderbolt. The Thunderbolt was one of fastest dragsters ever produced by a manufacturer. Ford stuffed a heavily modified 427 cubic inch engine with two four-barrel carburetors mounted on a high-riser manifold into the relatively light weight Fairlane. The car had a ram-air induction system with air vents mounted in openings in the grill left by deleting the inboard headlights.

Other modifications included: equal-length headers, a trunk-mounted battery, fiberglass hood, doors, fenders and front bumper, Plexiglass windows, and other lightweight options included deleting the rear door window winders, carpeting, radio, sealant, sun visors, armrests, jack, lug wrench, heater, soundproofing, and passenger side windshield wiper. Performance was amazing.

Gas Ronda dominated NHRA’s 1964 World Championship by running his Thunderbolt through the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds at 124 mph. Later, the NHRA changed the rules to require 500 models of a car to be manufactured for Super Stock competition, and Ford, which had been losing $1500 to $2000 on each Thunderbolt sold at the sticker price of $3900, gave up. In the end, it was the NHRA and its ability to change the rules that stopped the Ford from dominating the drag strips for many years.

Although the Fairlane faded form Ford’s performance spotlight as the Mustang took off. It came back in 1966 and 67 as a very nice looking car. Large engines ‘encouraged’ great performance numbers also.

1966 Dodge Charger

Although it resembled a Coronet with a fastback, the production Charger carried design cues from the Charger II concept car. Both maintained the swoopy fastback that was very popular during the mid-sixties. The electric shaver grill used fully rotating headlights that when opened or closed made the grill look like one-piece. Inside, the Charger used four individual bucket seats with a full length console from front to rear. The rear seats and console pad also folded down which allowed for more cargo room inside. In the rear the full length taillights carried the Charger name.

The car was radically different than anything else on the road and when fitted with a street Hemi it was one of the fastest cars on the road. A Hemi equipped car could do zero to sixty in less than seven seconds and the quarter mile in about 14 seconds. It was a big and radically designed car. And best of al, it was fast.

1968 Plymouth Road Runner

By 1968, muscle cars had become fast, luxurious and expensive. The young people that consisted of the primary market for these types of transportation had been priced out of the market. Plymouth recognized this and exploited to its fullest potential. First, the stripped down a Belvedere to its most basic form and then gave it a large motor. Then the marketing department found a simple way to change the image of the car from that of a bare bones racer to a unique automobile. A popular cartoon character and a unique horn was all that was need to bring this car to the masses.

The Road runner was an instant success. The combination of affordability plus outstanding performance had won the day again. Performance was remarkable with 13 second times for the Hemi and 15 second times for the base engine in the quarter mile.

The Winner

All five of these muscle cars were trend setters in their day. But the one that appeals to this author as the greatest of the early muscle cars is the 1966 Dodge Charger. It was a radical departure from the past with its fast back design and the four passenger bucket seats. It just looked like a muscle car. Performance was strong and the price was reasonable. The 1961 Chevy Impala Super Sport is a close second and if more had been made it may have actually won this little compression.

Read more about these great muscle cars at Muscle Cars [http://musclecarfacts.net/]

Muscle Cars [http://musclecarfacts.net/] is dedicated to providing information on all the great muscle cars of the past.

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