What Defines True Muscle?

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A colleague of mine and I are having a discussion. I already tried to explain to him that the Mustang and Camaro are pony cars with no such luck. :banghead:
Now he seems to think that his new mustang (2003 GT) is a muscle car because he is setting it up to street race and now that it is pushing the power limits it is now American Muscle. I want to ask everyone's opinion on exactly what would define a true Muscle Car. Would a 2004 Dodge Viper with 500Hp be considered a musclecar? Is it the design and the era that defines true muscle or just the speed? You should already know where I stand but I want to see what everyone else thinks.
How would you define the Yenko Camaros? Would it be muscle or pony by true definition. I would consider this to be a gray area.

posted by  72Cutlass442

the car in my sig is the only true muscle car. there is no substitute for the GTO.

posted by  SuperJew

well, maybe the 442 :thumbs: :drool:

posted by  Satty101

I hope that's an attempt at humor. That's like saying a Civic is the only true economy car, not the first one to market just the first one most people took notice of and certainly not the only one.

This is a VERY difficult subject because of the many gray areas. We know what constitutes a pony car, what makes a muscle car and now you're adding a third category, American muscle. Don't get this confused with a muscle car just because they share a word.

I think we can all agree that a Viper would fall under the American muscle but it is surely not a muscle car. Herb Adams used to run a Tempest in the early days of the Trans-Am series but that didn't make it a pony car. A Boss 302 Mustang is absolutely a pony car but make it a 429 and that changes the entire personality and leans it toward muscle. Where would a Duster 340 fit into the mix?

I think this is one of those deals where the first thing that needs to happen is people have to understand the true definition behind the categories and the they're able to see and decypher the gray areas. Too many people just don't have a clue. Case in point, how many times have you seen the new GTO called a sports car, just in this forum? People without a clue.

So where has this rant taken us? There are some very specific guidelines for the categories mentioned above, but... Not every car can be pigeon holed into one of them. Someone once said "I can't define pornography, but I know it when I see it". I think that statement applies well to this subject.

posted by  vwhobo

i just have a question... how the hell do u consider the camaro to be a pony car and not a muscle car? thats amazing... and yes SJ the GTO is the ultimate muscle car... well in my eyes... Charger makes good comparison

posted by  gtofreak

I think that was very eloquent there VW. I wholeheartedly agree with what you say and thank you for putting that into words from a different perspective so that my co-worker could see that this is a valid view. I posed the question in the manner that I did because he was basically telling me what he wanted me to ask and so that it wouldn't influence an answer. I told him beforehand that no matter who it was to reply the really good answer would come from VWHobo,BWheels, or SuperJew (thanks for blowing that buildup SJ). Not to kiss a** or anything but I couldn't settle this argument without showing that there were other knowledgeable people with the same type of viewpoint and this hit the nail on the head. I appreciate it and my friend here will just have to keep trying. :screwy:
I do have to admit though that I never thought much of the difference between American Muscle and a Muscle Car.

posted by  72Cutlass442

A muscle car must be affordable to the masses. It must have a V8. It is based off of an intermediate sedan. It is normally based off of a non-performance oriented model.

Neither the viper nor the corvette are muscle cars, they are sports cars. They are high priced specialty cars.

A pony car becomes a muscle car when it gets the top of the line performance treatment. The Camaro is a pony car, the Z28 and SS is a muscle car. The firebird is a pony car unless it gets a 400. The mustang is a pony car, the GT's, Bosses, and Mach 1's are muscle.

The other side of a muscle car is that in strictest terms it is it must be based off of a regular production non-performance car. Hence the impala ss was muscle based off of the impala sedan. Even if the lesser model could get the same motor, the one with the badges is the one that becomes muscle.

And a 340 duster DOES qualify as muscle while a 'Cuda has to have something bigger than a 340 to be muscle.

Tempest qualifies as muscle. It was equivalent to the Buick GS which was based on the Skylark.

Alot of it is basd on interpretation, but those are the basic guidelines.


posted by  Hoxviii

Your guidelines if you chose to read them are somewhat contradictory. A Firebird has to have a 400 to be a muscle car but a Mustang can have a 302? A Tempest is the grocery getter the GTO was based on so not only was it not the equivilant of the GS but it also isn't a muscle car. On the other hand properly modified as so many are today it can certainly be considered American muscle.

What about a Buick GNX, surely a muscle car. Unfortunately it doesn't have a V8 so it can't be. And calling the Viper and the Vette sports cars, puleeze! Both are fine machines but they're too heavy, too big, basically too everything. If you want to see a sports car look at '50's and '60's Triumphs, MG's, Austin Healeys for examples.

It still goes back to what we've already have established. There are some very specific guidelines but there's still alot of gray area involved.

posted by  vwhobo

So true, vwhobo.

Cars like the hemi powered Dodge D500 of 1955-56 were actually advertised as "muscle cars." The GTO is considered the first true muscle car because it was an intermediate body with a big engine, though the Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt actually beat it to market by a few months. The Thunderbolt doesn't get the recognition as it wasn't really mass produced. there were full size musclecars before either of them, with the Impala SS 409 and 427 varieties on the streets as early as '60 (in 409 cid form). Chysler had Super Stock Dodges, the Chrysler letter cars, and the 426 Max Wedge cars out before the GTO, as well. Ford had fired back with the 406 and 427 Galaxies (in 1962, the Super High Output 406 with 3 2 BBl carbs was rated at 405 hp!). But even though these cars were muscular, and were used in drag racing and NASCAR, they aren't considered musclecars, either.

In the early '60s, domestic Compacts got into the muscle act. Ford's Falcon had a 260 cid V8 in the Sprint model (that was also available in the Mercury Comet S22 that was built from the same chassis and body shell). The Chevy II Nova was available with the 327, and the '62 Olds F85 Jetfire had teh world's first turbocharged production engine, a 215cid all aluminum V8 (within a month, Chevy's Corvair became the second production turbocharged car...). But those weren't musclecars, either.

The musclecar itself was then defined as an intermediate chassis 2 door sedan or convertible with a big block engine, primarily designed around drag racing or NASCAR. Compact or full size chassis cars were not considered true musclecars regardless of engine size. And cars based on handling (sports cars and GTs) were not musclecars, either, even if they got big engines.

The Mustang ushered in the age of the pony car, named, of course after it. Compact chassis (based on the Falcon, which was, at the time, Fords compact car. At 2300 lbs and no larger than a modern Civic, the Falcon was definitely a compact), small V8s and 6 cyl engines, and a sporty style that was useful for road racing and drag racing, it wasn't a brute force car to start with. Chevy followed with the Camaro and firebird, similarly off a variation of the Chevy II Nova chassis, which makes it a pony car as well. Dodge had the Dart and Barracuda, which were off the compact Valiant base.

Pony cars could get pretty muscular, as well, but due to them being initialy off of compact chassis, they were not considered "traditional" musclecars.

the GNX is a later iteration that is a lot like a traditional musclecar, being based off an intermediate chassis. But the turbo V6, while powerful, Wasn't really a big block V8, so it also misses as a traditional musclecar.

All of them, however, going back to the Dodge D500, were American Muscle. But not all of them were muscle cars, and not all of them were pony cars.

posted by  ChrisV

We agree 100% except for one fact. While it's true the class was named "pony car" after the Mustang, the Barracuda was the first car in the class, beating the Mustang by a few months.

posted by  vwhobo

I guess "pony car" sounds better than "fishy car." :banghead:

posted by  BavarianWheels

That is what I had hoped to see in this thread. The actual intellectuals are here to have a civilized conversation about what is muscle and what is not. I hate nothing more than when you have an idiot come in and make comments and then everyone burns them for 2 pages. I posed the question to prove a point but I knew that it would make for great conversation. I love this kind of stuff like you wouldn't know. This is what makes a forum great. The exchange of ideas, no matter how different, and the ability to agree to disagree. I think that the true Musclecar was defined by the era while all the others are what I now consider (thanks to VWHobo's enlightenment) to be just simply American Muscle. These are great machines in their own right but cannot, in my opinion, be classified with the rest of the "Musclecar" era. Also the question has come up, by my colleague, as to whether the 72 Cutlass with the 350 Rocket should be called musclecar or if, in fact, it must be a 442. I think the body style, the cubic inches, the driving experience, and the attitude behind the manufacturing purpose is what defines musclecars. This is just an opinion and therefore open to debate which is what makes it so great. You are good people from what I see so far. I am only 22 and although I have a good bit of experience with cars (all muscle, classic, or antique) I consider myself a novice in the grand scheme. Then again, if I thought I knew everything then I wouldn't be in this forum and would, in fact, be stupid for thinking myself more than I am. I anxiously await more dialogue from the wisemen.
P.S. I am sorry that I never did the "Introduce Yourself" forum but I figured that y'all would let it slide since I am not just some dumb newbie and I don't speak about something unless certain that I know the answer. However, I will be glad to do the intro if y'all think it is still necessary.

"I'm not drunk. . . well, yeah I am"

posted by  72Cutlass442

IMHO the Cutlass isn't a muscle car for the same reason the Tempest isn't. That was the purpose of the 442 and the GTO. However properly built they are certainly American muscle.

posted by  vwhobo

I have to agree. The whole point of a muscle car is that it's the fastest version of what you have to work with. That's another opinion based discussion but I share the same thoughts.

posted by  72Cutlass442

Completely true. And to be honest, since they were just compact based coupes, the Falcon and Chevy II should have been categorized the same way. The Barracuda was a GREAT sporty coupe. Unfortunately, it simply didn't sell enough to define the category, just as the hemi powered D500 was ignored as the first Muscle Car, even though it was advertised that way back in the '50s!

Mopar cars always seemed to draw the short straw, even with the 426 Max Wedge and Hemi cars...

posted by  ChrisV

While I agree in theory, I think there are exceptions. For example, factory built base level cars with the big engines and strongest suspensions count, I think. Hemi Belvederes are an example. They aren't the high trim level versions, like a GTX or Super Bee might be, but they are factory muscle cars. A Tempest or T37 factory built to or past GTO specs is a muscle car. It's a factory sleeper, in fact.

Of course, this starts opening up the opinions on "regular" factory muscle vs special order muscle, vs homebuilt muscle.

IMHO, any car that was based on the same chassis as factory musclecars could become a muscle car, while those built on different chassis could not. Thus, a Cutlass built past 442 specs is a musclecar, while a Corvette, even with an aluminum 427 and running 8s in the quarter mile, is not.

The main thing, however (and this is an issue in the Sports Car vs GT debate) is that it's not an insult to say a car is American Muscle, but not a Muscle Car. It's no more of an insult than to say that a coupe is not a station wagon.

posted by  ChrisV

in your own opinion, what does a vette classify as?

posted by  R34RB30DETTV

Corvettes are sports cars and GT cars (depending on if they have a fixed roof or not). Even if muscular, that's their primary function. It's not an intermediate chassis sedan, so it isn't a musclecar right off the bat.

I kind of hold to the old school definition of a sports car: a 2 seat, open car designed for combined road racing/street use. A GT is a sports car with a fixed roof (closed car) or 2+2 seating.

My favorite examples are:

MGB: sports car. Add a fixed roof and you have the MGB GT, a GT car. It's right in the name. Ferrari and Porsche do the same. That's why the fast Porsches carry the GT designation: 911 GT2 and 911 GT3. The carrera GT gets that name because Porsche believes that a mid engine car is a GT, as well. The Ferrari 250 GTO is a closed car, so it gets the GT designation in it's name, just like the Ferrari 250 SP is a sports car. it isn't an insult to cal a GT a GT. Usually, due to the better aerodynamics and chassis stiffness of the closed body, GT cars were faster than sports cars, even on the same chassis.

posted by  ChrisV

i see.. thanks. :thumbs:

posted by  R34RB30DETTV

It is my opinion, but I feel that todays cars are not True Muscle cars in that many are using smarter computers, and forced induction to attain greater speeds, not larger displacement. And I was raised that a muscle car was the biggest engine you could fit in a regular car.

I do know that because the GTO was such a huge sales success, Ford, Dodge/Chrysler, and the rest of GM looked around at what cars they had available to slap huge engines in and call Muscle cars. Hence the large number of big engine cars in the late 60's and early 70's.

posted by  Enan

How about a '67 Coronet with a 440, 4sp manual tranny, 8.75 rear? I'm doing the conversion on mine ASAP.......It's going to kick some serious @$$ :laughing:

posted by  DodgeRida67

Everyone has their own definition. Mine? Big ol 2dr coupe or convt. big engine, lots of HP, available and affordable to the general public. Must seat atleast 5 persons. :laughing:

posted by  lectroid

a muscle car to me is true power that can come stock and mostly all the old cars,yenko,GTO,vette,charger,..and of course you need a V8...

posted by  RUSTYL

a "muscle car" is any car built before the 1970's gas crisis that has a horsepower to weight ratio of 18 or higher.

302 HO   10 Feb 2012 05:22

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