Classic Muscle Cars Are A Joke By Today’s Standards

There is no denying that the dawn of the V8 muscle car in the 1960s certainly changed things. High horsepower vehicles, growling deeply, and moving metal quickly down the road was a definite attraction to automotive enthusiasts and well as the regular consumer. In today’s market, however, those old cars are a joke. 

There’s nothing wrong with showing respect to where the automotive industry has come from. We certainly can not deny that the muscle cars of decades past influenced the future and fueled a greater love affair with the American automobile for years to come. Mention the Pontiac GTO, Ford Mustang, Plymouth Barracuda, and many people have their heart skip a beat to this day. 

Muscle Cars
Classic Muscle Cars from GM |

Yesterday is gone. The industry learned lessons and moved on. It was Colin Powell who said, “Always focus on the front windshield and not the review mirror.” Those lessons were, horsepower sells, but terrible gas mileage and pollution are bad news. This was even more apparent with the oil embargoes of the 1970s and clean air regulations that were enforced on the automotive industry during the same period of time.

Horsepower took a big hit, and catalytic converters were installed to reduce smog and pollution in general. The side effect was that a 375 horsepower V8 Ford Cobrajet Mustang from 1971 became by 1979 a meager 139 horsepower, 5.0-liter V8 Mustang. The “Muscle” in “Muscle Car” became just a category name only. This was happening to all vehicles of the age, not just the Mustang.

Catalytic converters
DETROIT: GENERAL MOTORS, CATALYTIC CONVERTER. Used to scrub the vehicle exhaust of harmful pollutants | Photo by Reuter Raymond/Sygma via Getty Images

Engineers do what engineers do. They see a problem and work at it until they develop a solution. Over time, engineers learned how to restore more and more power while limiting pollution concerns. Additionally, the engineers improved efficiencies in the engines, improving fuel economy.

The fuel crisis and smog regulation of the 1970s had their toll. But, the result of engineering wizardry is that in 2019 the Ford Mustang was had from the factory with a 5.0-liter V8 that pumped out 460 horsepower, or in Shelby GT500 trim with 760 supercharged horsepower from a 5.2-liter engine.

2020 Shelby GT500
CHICAGO – FEBRUARY 08: 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is on display at the 111th Annual Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois on February 8, 2019. | Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The same thing happened with rivals such as the Plymouth Barracuda. It was available in 1971 with the legendary 426 Hemi V8 that delivered 425 horsepower. Although the Barracuda is no longer made, it’s family member, the Dodge Challenger is with us. It is also a serious powerhouse, a 2019 Challenger Demon is capable of 840 supercharged horsepower from the factory.

Many enthusiasts long for the days past when the original muscle cars were in horsepower wars and circling the streets. Giving honor to origins is respectful. But, there’s a difference between recognizing where one has come from and one wanting to continue to live back there. The truth is, today’s cars are more powerful, less toxic on the atmosphere, and more fuel-efficient.

2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody
2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody | Dodge

Here’s the parting thought, today’s cars also have power windows, power steering, power brakes, and air conditioning standard. Those conveniences were add-ons at the birth of the muscle car. So, an original car, or a new one? The choice is yours.