21st Century Muscle Car Wars

Back in the 1960’s there was a growing trend, buy a big American car and get it optioned with a big V8 engine and typically in 2 door models. Companies like General Motors had a performance vehicle for every one of their divisions like the Pontiac GTO, Chevrolet Chevelle SS and the Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 just to name a few that were similar in almost every way except for the badge. The biggest of the rivals was always the Chevy Camaro vs the Ford Mustang and attached to that rivalry was always the Mopar guys that had the Chrysler Corp. cars, such as the Dodge Charger, Challenger, Plymouth Barracuda. If you were a true Mopar man you knew what kind of Hemi to get. The 426 Hemi was and still is a marvel of an engine. In the early 70’s though Detroit went more from producing muscle to better emission standard cars because of growing conflicts between safety, insurance and gas oil prices. The last of the muscle cars did battle in the mid 70’s and they were so underpowered it made them weak to really try and do muscle car battles anymore. It was over. Chrysler stopped making the big powerful Hemi engines, Ford made the Mustang into a bargain gas saver and the Camaro was just humming along as best it could.

Now it’s all back. Dodge has started making big Hemi engines again and is bringing back the beast of all, the Challenger in a very good looking retro design while staying modern. The Camaro is back after leaving us in 2002 with a design that would make anyone scream in pleasure. There still is no word on the exact engines the Camaro will use, but we hear they will be big and credible. The Mustang is of course better than ever as you may have already read in my previous column about my brothers 2008 Mustang GT with an LSD, 3:55 rear end and HID’s.

With the release of the new Camaro, Chevrolet has a bid on saving its image. The new Chevy image has been thrown around with wasted efforts on front wheel drive layouts and cheap designs inside and out. With cars like the Impala and Malibu being dumb affordable mid-sized sedans with FWD (front wheel drive) Chevy has lots its performance image. Oh wait, how could I forget that they do have SS models of those cars? Please, don’t make me vomit anymore then I already am. They may be decently quick off the line but they are FWD and have horrible performance seats. Now, I know you have the seen the design for the new Camaro, and the Camaro convertible and I think that we would agree that it is every bit of what it should be, modern, retro, and easy to look at. Let’s face it, the concept/production model we’ve seen is already sexy and sporty enough that it doesn’t really need an engine to move. We are guaranteed at least one big V8 model, expect the Corvette’s 6.2l 430hp LS3 engine to make an appearance and also look for the 3.6l V6 with 252hp to be the entry Camaro model. Also expect a 4 speed automatic for V6 models and the Corvette’s 6 speed automatic with paddles to show up in V8 models with a standard 6 speed manual offered in all models.

We all know that Dodge killed the Charger name when they made it a 4 door with no option for a manual. At least the car is pretty quick and fun, but still it weighs too much and needs a manual tranny option. Here comes the Challenger to make up for that mistake. The first day that Dodge took official orders for the new Challenger it received 4,300, and has received roughly 6,000 to date with pricing starting at $40,095 according to Dodge and don’t be surprised if the dealerships mark them up an extra 10 grand. The official car will be released to us all in February and expected to hit dealerships and customers by May of 2008. The first production model to be offered will be the SRT-8 with the 6.1l Hemi that churns out 420hp. A standard automatic transmission will be the only tranny offered at first, and no one really knows if Chrysler will wimp out like they did with the Charger and only offer an auto, but, I think that they are smarter than that and they will offer a special 6 speed manual borrowed from the Viper SRT-10. There should be a 3.5l V6 model as the base and an R/T model with the 5.7l Hemi as the mid-level model.

I don’t think I really have to explain that the Mustang has had issues over the past, well all of its life really. Now though Ford has made the Mustang a car that provides all out fun. The kind of fun that you would expect from a classic muscle car, except this one actually turns the corner after the straight away, with the GT, GT500, GT500KR and the new Boss 302 to come soon. Ford is making cars that compete well with the cars that it never could really match up against. Also the new Bullitt Mustang is set to debut soon and it promises to be a GT with a little extra something to show for itself. This time around Ford has finally done the Bullitt justice by taking away all of the Ford and Mustang emblems, except for the one on the trunk, but that is all thank God. The new Mustang actually looks really good, even though I think the design can be freshened up in certain areas. The car is still enough of a muscle car to be good.

Could it get any better? I think not. Expect the 21st century muscle car wars to heat up in a way that it never had before. I see new battles between old and new at the drag strip and now battles on the road courses as well. Yes, I did say that the Mustang, Challenger and Camaro will see battles at the road course type tracks. Now with the cars built to handle when you turn the wheel there isn’t much to really stop them, other than the abilities of the driver. We will see a new day as well where the American muscle cars will start trying to do harder and better battles against the likes of cars like the BMW M3, which has always been a car that Mustangs and Camaros tried to toy with but never really hit the mark. Expect them to finally do us true justice in an all out race. The red, white and blue is back in full force ladies and gentleman. Go down to your nearest Chevy or Dodge dealership and put your order in for the new cars, or just go buy a nicely equipped Mustang GT with the LSD and 3:55 rear end at least.


Mustang photo courtesy of:

Camaro photo courtesy of:

Challenger photo courtesy of:

American flag courtesy of: