Appreciating the Muscle Car

Do you love muscle cars? Because we sure do!

So what’s the definition of a muscle car, anyway? A muscle car is defined by the combination of a lightweight body and a powerful engine. While you may associate muscle cars with the 60s and 70s, muscle cars were actually born into the American car industry in 1949. The public at that time was demanding speed, and so Oldsmobile came up with the very first muscle car: the Rocket 88. 

That first muscle car in 1949 shared some similarities with previous cars (in this case, it had the same body as the Oldsmobile 76, which was originally designed for a six-cylinder engine) but the Rocket 88 had some key differences. This lightweight car had a high-compression overhead valve V8, and its combination of a fast engine and light body established the precedent for the muscle cars to come. In the NASCAR circuit in 1950, the Rocket 88 absolutely dominated races, and from there, the thrill for speed became unstoppable.

After the Rocket 88 came the Chrysler Corporation Hemi and the Chevrolet small-block V8 in the 1950s, and so many terrific and ever-faster cars were continually added to the market from that time forward.

The muscle car industry had its ups and downs. It actually came to a stop for a time in 1957 when the Automobile Manufacturers Association put a ban on factory sponsorships. Can you imagine? No advertising performance-related components of passenger cars. They couldn’t even publicize the results of races or make any kind of association between their cars and car racing. That ban was finally lifted in 1963 (thank goodness) but it’s probably one of the main reasons why we usually think of muscle cars as 60s and 70s cars and not as much from the 50s.

If you want to look up some cars from the time after the ban that have some interesting history, here are a few that are worth reading about:

  • 1963 Pontiac Super Duty
  • 1964 Pontiac Tempest GTO
  • 1964 Ford Thunderbolt
  • 1964 Ford Mustang (a “pony car,” not truly a muscle car)
  • 1967 Ford Mustang

Unfortunately, things did take a turn in the 70s when the government put in new emission limits. Carmakers had to start making low-lead fuel cars. Insurance companies also increased their rates for “unsafe” muscle cars. This all resulted in a decreased demand for muscle cars, and most of them were discontinued by 1975.  Sure, there were still a few like the Plymouth Road Runner, but really these weren’t built for speed, just the look.

We’re awfully sorry for the turn that the market had to take, even if there were some good environmental reasons behind it, but really this has made us appreciate muscle cars even more. Muscle cars of the 50s-70s really capture a particular spirit that we find enthralling. We absolutely love these cars, and it’s such a pleasure for us to get to work with them every day!

If you have a muscle car that needs work, give us a call. We can guarantee that we’ll take care of it with loving hands and a deep appreciation that you won’t come by at just any auto shop.


Muscle Cars
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