You Just Have To Love That Classic Muscle Car

 by Harvey Ong

1970 GTO Judge

1970 GTO Judge

They're tough. They're masculine. They're high-performance. Those words often come to mind when one speaks of the classic muscle car. These vehicles are considered some of the finest examples of the time when American automobile production had reached its zenith. The classic muscle car, with its trim design and unusual suitability for drag racing, has attained a fame that has earned it a place as one of the signature vehicle design movements of modern automobile history.

The classic muscle car design is one that does not emphasize power over appearance. Instead, the design embraces both the power of the machine and the aesthetics of the design. These cars have larger engines than conventional automobiles, are bigger than the average sports car, and have a toughness of frame that other types of cars don't have. The typical definition of what a muscle car is tends to exclude any cars made outside Australia and the US, and even then, only cars made in the years between 1964 to 1973. Among some of the more popular models are the Dodge Charger, the Chevrolet El Camino, and the Plymouth Road Runner.

These machines enjoyed the peak of their popularity in the car market almost immediately after being introduced. They cashed in on the growth of the racing trend among the youth market, which was only an emerging market in terms of spending power at the time. Taking advantage of that trend, the manufacturing companies began to design tougher cars that appealed to the sense of aesthetics that the youth market had and combined it with technical and performance statistics that made them suited for street racing. While, initially, the implementation of the new designs and technical upgrades nearly doubled the costs of the car, many companies eventually developed "budget muscle" models that compromised some of the performance and design aspects in favor of reducing costs. In time, both the classic muscle car and budget muscle car designs were accepted into the market and began to drive their way into the American driver's psyche.

Sadly, politicians caught on to the trend and effectively killed the classic muscle car by pointing out the inherent dangers of such powerful engines in vehicles being targeted to the youth. Some opponents pointed out the fact that the muscle cars did not have the same braking and turning capacity as other cars and stated that it was a major safety risk. Insurance companies also increased their rates and charges on all high-powered models of automobiles, effectively making any prospective buyers turn away because the muscle cars were out of their budget. For the most part, the makes and models were retired, though some were reinvented as luxury cars instead. Environmental concerns also began to wear away at the power of the muscle car era as control over engine emissions was placed ahead of power and performance as the priority for engine design.

However, there have been some attempts at reviving the original classic muscle car. The Mercury Marauder, the Ford Crown Victoria, and even the Pontiac GTO are considered models intended to recapture the magic of the classic muscle car years. While they have not yet come back with the same force they once had when they originally appeared, reports show that there is still a market for them. Despite sharing the same attacks over environmental concerns that the modern SUVs are getting, manufacturers are still producing limited quantities of the modern muscle cars.

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Article Source: Oct. 23, 2006

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