Here is our guide to what we think are the leading American muscle cars of all time that have influenced modern car design. Of course, it is debatable what is classed as a muscle car, but we’ve decided to go for the two-door sports coupes that boasted powerful engines designed for top performance, yet had more than two seats.
The American tradition of muscle cars can be traced back to the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, but the real height of their appeal was in the late 1960s to early 1970s. This period saw numerous leading brands produce their own take on the genre and led to some great designs.
Sadly, it was a combination of factors that triggered the decline in the popularity of muscle cars. The oil crisis and therefore the rise in fuel costs meant the cars were no longer a viable option for some, while insurance companies also started to increase premiums for high performance cars that had poor safety records.
First on the list is the Pontiac GTO which was produced from 1964 to 1974 and some experts claim the car was the trailblazer in the real muscle car trend.
The car was fitted with a roaring V8, imitation hood scoops, dual exhausts, a Hurst shifter, a race-ready look trim and the inclusion of the GTO title made it sound like a Ferrari.
In 1968, the Pontiac GTO was named Motor Trend Car of the Year, however, by 1974 the GTO’s popularity had declined with just 7,048 sold that year.
There was a nostalgic revival for the GTO model in 2004, but it was short-lived with the last model being produced in Australia on June 14th 2006.
The first Chevrolet Camaro was produced in 1966 and was designed as a rival to the popular Ford Mustang. Both cars were based on the same platform, as well as many of the same components as the Pontiac Firebird.
Last year, Chevrolet confirmed the sixth generation model of the Camaro as part of celebrations to mark the car’s 50th birthday.
This 2016 version will be built in the US and buyers will be able to choose from three engine versions – a 2.0-litre turbo-charged inline-four producing 275 bhp, a new 3.6-litre V6 making 335 bhp while the SS model is fitted with a 6.2-litre V8 offering 455 bhp.
The Ford Mustang was designed as a car to stand out and was aimed at motorists who didn’t want to drive the same mundane models of their parents’ generation.
In 1964, the Ford Mustang made its debut at New York World’s Fair and was on sale in dealer showrooms two months later. It also featured in that year’s James Bond film Goldfinger – helping to make its image even cooler.
Ford had predicted it would sell around 100,000 cars in the first 12 months following launch, but this was achieved in three months and 318,000 were sold by the end of the year.
Over the years, the success of the Mustang has been very much up and down, with some fans disappointed Ford moved away from the lightweight and speedy fun of the earlier models.
The sixth generation of the Mustang was recently announced and for the first time the car was produced with a right hand drive option to increase appeal outside of the US.
So what are the options if you are looking for an update version of the muscle car? Oddly, one of the choices in today’s market is the Cadillac CTS-V. Given Cadillac did not produce any muscle cars during the 1970s, it may seem a little left field, but arguably the CTS-V fits the bill with its 556 bhp and American feel.
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