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Of the cars I've owned, the 454/450 Chevelle really worked best as an all-around car. Plenty of room for people and stuff, reasonably quiet, and they really seem to have a handle on dealing with a batch of weight in the front. Cars like 428CJ Mustangs, etc. really handle handle like pigs. With an M-22 they sound really cool, too.
(Plus you get the cool little trap door on the hood).
And...I was unlucky enough to pick up a " Speed Contest" ticket in a buddy's when I was in high school.
Those are NOT a good ticket to get!
But, at least some of those had disc brakes and could stop pretty well.
The early goats were pretty weak in that department...scary!
Those 383 lightweight Plymouths were to be respected! They were real sleepers.
A punk in our high school thought his 65 Mustang - 289/271 H.P. was pretty hot stuff until he made the mistake of racing a classmate who happened to be driving his GRANDMOTHER'S 65 Belevedere 4 door stripper sedan.
Happilly, this event took place on our main drag with LOTS of people watching...hehehe..
In another race I remember, a friend had a 63 Impala SS with the 250/327 and 4speed. He'd put on three twos, and the thing sounded and felt alot faster than it was. Anyway, he decided to go off against another friend in his 383 Belvedere with Torqueflite, from a rolling start on the freeway. After the race, my friend with the 383 asked the guy in the Impala, "were you really trying?" It was no contest.
Those old Plmouths had marginal brakes and front ends that would eat ball joints and tie rod ends.
Otherwise they were pretty tough especially when coupled to a Torqueflight as they usually were.
If Grandma ever knew...that Belvedere could lay a patch of rubber almost from one stoplight to the next!
Try that with an Expedition.
2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD, 2023 Maverick hybrid Lariat luxury package.
The original muscle car term refers to an intermediate (mid-size) body car with a big V8 performance engine. So much for the Camaro being a muscle car. It's not an intermediate body.
Webster defines muscle car as "any of a group of American-made 2-door sports coupes with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving".
So much for convertibles, 2-door sedan roofs and Super Sport El Caminos.
Under the new definition, surely a Honda Vtec with a 9 foot Red Baron wing and a 7" exhaust tip would be considered 21st century muscle ... no?
I think to qualify as a "muscle" car, even if we change the characteristics to suit modern cars, that the quality of "brutal power" has to apply...in a sense, more power than you could ever really use on a practical day to day basis. The idea of "excess" is inherent to the muscle car concept I think.
Webster is out to lunch.
Interestingly enough, the purist publication Musclecar Review would agree with you Mr Shiftright. They have adopted the more liberal definition of the word.
Example: If everything is called beautiful, than really nothing is beautiful, because the word has been rendered meaningless.
"Liberal" meaning categorize them all as subsets, as opposed to classifying them as some purists do under musclecar, ponycar and sportscar. I've had people call my El Caminos as just about everything (including some rather unflattering adjectives).
Take the 1970 LS-6 SS454 El Camino. If you equip one with the same performance options as the LS-6 Chevelle (that's key), it will run on it's door. Hotrod proved that by reportedly running a 13.44 in 1970. Does anyone ever bring this car up when discussing the top fastest musclecars? No! Top fastest trucks? Hell No! If you call it (and it's sister GMC Sprint) a truck (like the DMV), you will suffer the ire of both GMC Syclone and Ford Lightning owners. The Syclone owners want to be known as the fastest GM trucks. Ford Lightning owners and Ford fans will outright vilify you. They have laid claim to the fastest truck title. If you include the El Camino, that title goes down the toilet, so to speak.
MuscleCar? MuscleTruck? Here comes the hate mail! lol ...
Remember, the first muscle cars were the Chrysler 300 Letter Series, the Plymouth Fury's, DeSoto Adventurers, Dodge D-500's, Impala SS.
Size doesn't necessarily determine a muscle car, as they were available as compacts (Dart GTS, Nova SS, etc), Midsize (Coronet R/T, Roadrunner, GTO, Cyclone, Talladega, etc), and, to a much lesser extent, full-size (Impala SS, Catalina 2+2, Marauder, etc)
I guess to me, a muscle car still has some practicality to it, versus a "pony" car, the Mustang/Camaro/Challenger/Barracuda crowd...where the car was built all for style and less for any practicality. Some of the earlier Barracudas could be pretty practical, compared to a Camaro or Mustang, though.
I used to have people call my '69 Dart GT 225 a muscle car, and the sad thing is, compared to what they were driving at the time, it was!
I'm not bringing this up to say anyone is "wrong", but only to keep the term "pure" or as clear as possible. If anyone can call anything a muscle car, then the term loses all meaning...suddenly, as we liberalize our definitions more and more, Hyundais with K&N filters will become muscle cars because Eddie in Iowa says so.
I think a big part of the musclecar definition is that they were relatively affordable and easy to drive on the street. You didn't have to be Briggs Cunningham to buy one, and they didn't foul their plugs and shake your fillings out at a stoplight.
Chrysler 300s and even 409s were expensive cars--certainly the engines were--and highly tuned, happier on the track than the street.
A big part of the GTO formula was a big engine with manageable carburetion--single four-barrel or three very simple 2-barrels--and a warm but very streetable hydraulic cam. Pontiac had some great cams in those days, including the "068" they used with trips and the Ram Air III. The heads were also upgrades over the standard 389. And that was about it. Those engines weren't built to rev, and that kept the cost and complexity down.
Ford was a great example of how not to do it. First their top Fairlane engine was the 427/425, way too much engine for the mass market. The base engine was basically the same 390 they used in Galaxies, too little engine. They finally got it right with the 428 CJ.
I used to hang out with/bother a guy that sold and restored GTOs. He had a customer, just a high-school kid, who got the GTO religion and asked him to build a world-beater 389. It had tri-power, 400 heads--and a solid-lifer Isky cam, a street/strip cam.
I was there when the kid took delivery, and even with four of us in the car it was seriously quick, but no quicker around the block than a stock tri-power. It idled like it had a vacuum leak and, as the dealer said, "of course it'll foul the plugs".
A few minutes later I passed the kid sitting at a stoplight and he looked like he'd been kicked in the groin. He knew he's crossed the line from musclecar to hot rod, from just enough to too much, and pretty much ruined the car for cruising and going to school and work.
It's my theory that musclecars were kind of like SUVs are now, more about image than reality. Not many SUV owners take their truck off road, and they wouldn't be happy living with the compromises it takes to make a truck a real off-roader. Not many musclecar owners actually raced at the strip, or would have been happy with the kind of car it took to win consistently at the strip.
Maybe it's for the best you didn't get musclecar religion. Nigel would be wearing a Your Brain on Ford t-shirt, and you'd be writing musclecar articles using phrases like "pavement ripping" and "asphalt pounding". The horror...
However, go to a car show and look at the classics you see there (25 years or older) and the antiques (30 plus years).
Many of these cars are termed "hot rods" yet that name originally applied to t-buckets, etc. that were modified to "get up and move".
So, many of todays hotrods and muscle cars are simply a car that came with a v-8 and had potential to "flat get with it" when the hammer was down.
www.gmforums.com is another good place for answers to questions about trans oils, mods for power, or general discussion of GM CArs, trucks as well.
The budget musclecar was the GT-37, standard with the 350-2v (exciting!) and 3-speed with floor shift. I think this was 1970, and by then there wasn't a Pontiac 350-4v. The next engine up was the GTO 400, and I think any of the optional GTO engines were also available on the GT-37. One of the eastern musclecar mags did a test of a '71 GT-37 400 back then and they were a little underwhelmed. As Ezrapon says, by then the Pontiac 400 intermediate really wasn't the hot set-up.
The first Pontiac budget musclecar was a one-off built by Royal Pontiac and tested I think in Hot Rod, a '68 Le Mans with a massaged 350-4v with one of the GTO cams (068?), 4-speed and 3.90s. Obviously intended to compete with the Road Runner (and the Cutlass W-31) but never went into production. The Pontiac 350 had decent breathing but the long stroke (same as the 400 stroke) kept it from competing with the better smallblocks. Besides, smallblock musclecars never really caught on.
What killed the GTO initially was weight and expense, and maybe being number one for a few years--they sold over 100k in '67. What finally finished the GTO was what finished musclecars in general--rising insurance rates, crude emissions controls and just a shift in consumer tastes. Most musclecars were bought as image cars, much like SUVS now, and that only lasts a while. The next trend in intermediates was "personal luxury" and that's why Pontiac was into that in a big way with the redesigned GP, and did very well with it.
Just to show Pontiac's shift towards personal luxury, the '71 midsize lineup was broken down into T-37, Lemans, Lemans Sport, GTO, and Judge. For '72, it became simply Lemans and Luxury Lemans. Lemans Sport became a $164 option package and GTO was a $344 option package. They also had a package called GT for $231.
By that time, the Pontiac 350 was listed at 250 hp gross for 1971, 160 net for '72. Shows how inflated gross hp was, but I think GM also cut compression that year, which would throw things off.
Another interesting bit of trivia...for '72, the Ventura had a Chevy 307 as the standard V-8 in 49 states, but in California it had the Pontiac 350. Maybe this is an indication that the Pontiac engine was a cleaner burning engine than the Chevy?
BTW GTO sales were about 96k in '66, their best year.
Don't know why the 350 had an easier time with California's smog regs. Might be because a small bore/long stroke engine has an easier time with NOX--I forget why now, something about the combustion chamber being smaller relative to the size of the cylinder I think.
I heard somewhere that once the bore of an engine gets over 4.00 inches, that it gets very difficult to get it to burn clean. But then again, the Ford 302 had a 4.00" bore, and was used up until very recently, so I guess it's possible!
The Cat and the Bonneville got just plain ugly. At a car show I saw a tempest with a special designation maybe a gt 37, I can't remember, but it had the nasty 455 with all the goodies it was a 70,71,or 72 model. The Pontiac guys at the show raved about it's power and how rare it was. In 1972, all GM cars changed thier HP rating system from the fly wheel to the rear wheels. The exact same 71 400 @ 350 HP would be 290 HP in 72, due only to the rating system. In the same context, a 345 HP 2001 vette would rate out at around 400 HP in the 60's. Make no mistake about it, with computers, fuel injection, and tire technology, we are living in the golden years of performance right now. It won't last. I suffered in the late 70's and 80's for performance. Ford and chevy are better than ever right now, but again the writing is on the wall and it spells the end of performance. The camaro/firebird demise is the first nail in the coffin right behind the stealth, 300zx, RX7, and SS impala.
But I think performance won't go away...it'll just change....you need less horsepower these days because cars are lighter and handling and tires so much better. But your average showroom hot turbo coupe will beat most old muscle cars senseless except for a few terrifying big blocks...and even then, many ordinary modern sedans can outrun an old Hemi on top speed.