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Definition of muscle car.

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Posted · Report post

I had this discussion with lot of people and read some articles about it,not even the "experts" seem

to agree on what defines it and what is the first. Some say the first was the 57 300C,other again

say it was the 63 GTO. Thought i`d ask here because from some threads there seem to be people

with some serious knowledge about US cars from the 60s and 70s. Sure,maby you dont have the

definition power but maby somthing being said makes everything fall into place and make sense.

Any ideas?

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Posted · Report post

Generally speaking, most consider a "true" muscle car to be an intermediate size car with a large/high performance displacement engine, usually over 380 cid, and built between 1964 and 1972. However, the term is open to discretion, as there are cars that by definition, are not "muscle cars" that tend to get included, for example, the Camaro, Mustang, 'Cuda, and all the other Pony Cars. I have also seen sports cars, like the Corvette and Cobra included (Muscle Car Review 100 Fastest Muscle Cars). The you have all the full size cars that tend to get included on some lists, like the Z11 Impala and the Max Wedge Plymouths.

As far as which was was first, gets a bit muddy there. By definition, that title should go to the 1964 GTO (there was no '63), but then again, some consider the '57 300 the "first". Others consider the '55 Chevrolet V8. Then, going further back, I have heard of some folks considering the 1932 Ford Model 18 as the first muscle car, usually citing Clyde Barrows preference for using them as getaway cars because of their superior speed to other low priced cars. I've even seen Deusenbergs put on some lists.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

A lot of folks define a Muscle Car as an intermediate with the engine from a full-size. To me that means the 49 Olds 88 is the first*. But I think that the 64 GTO really launched the Muscle Car as an actual genre of car and it became something that all the manufacturers had to offer in their lineup to stay competitive.

*actually it would be the 1936 Buick Century, which paired the big Roadmaster's straight-8 with the Special's smaller body. But the Olds had a V-8. What muscle car doesn't have a V-8?

Edited by Brett Barrow

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Posted · Report post

I think Bill has it right, intermediate body (light weight) together with large c.i. motor. I remember the term first coming about to describe the GTO and expanding when competing companies came out with their versions (GM A-bodies, Ford Fairlanes and Torinos, Roadrunners, AMC Hornets, etc.). I've also heard Duesenbergs mentioned, as well as the '50 Olds and some '30s Lincolns. All depends on your point of view I guess.

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Posted · Report post

One horsepower per cubic inch or more.

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The sad thing is people will apply the term to any car they happen to like. :rolleyes: But, as Bill stated, the '64 GTO was the first as well as the car that the term was coined after. Any car before '64 simply doesn't apply.

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A lot of people don't consider any type of Mustang a muscle car, but the BOSS 429 was a beast. I would also consider non-muscle cars that have been modded with big motors and stuff to be a muscle car.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

One horsepower per cubic inch or more.

So you're saying that the 64 GTO - 389ci/348hp w/ Tri-Power- a car that pretty much everybody would say is a muscle car was not really a muscle car, but a 57 De Soto - 354ci/354hp - a car that I doubt anyone would ever classify as a "muscle car" actually was? That's a new one.

edit - by that calculation my 2002 PT Cruiser 2.4L(146ci)/150hp is a muscle car!

Or maybe you meant that the first cars to break the 1hp/ci barrier were the first muscle cars?

Edited by Brett Barrow

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Posted · Report post

This question has been debated here several times already. And every time, we came to the same conclusion:

There is no single, universal definition of "muscle car" that everyone agrees on. And there never will be.

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Hemmong's Muscle Machines magazine seems to cover many different types of cars. I suppose we could call the 64 GTO the "official" start of the term "muscle car", but the list of "muscle machines" covers a wider assortment. 1957 AMC Rambler Rebel is considered an early muscle machine. My grandfather had a 69 GS Buick, but it wasn't. It was a Skylark Custom that had all the same bits a GS had. Nothing on the car called out GS and had no hood bulge. You could order that if you knew the codes and had a savvy car dealer friend.

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Posted · Report post

I think Harry is dead on. You really can't take a series of numbers and use them to define a muscle car. It is a lot like art. I can't tell you what it is, but I know one when I see one. Probably the best way to describe it is to be a bit more general. Notice I said describe and not define. That is a major difference. A muscle car will be able to produce prodigious amounts of torque and get it on the pavement to produce excellent acceleration, preferably stoplight to stoplight but 0-60's and 1/4 mile times are also a measure. The body and chassis is more than likely a lighter weight, mid to lower priced model so that it is affordable. The old bang for the buck measure. Early muscle cars were sleepers. Cars that you wouldn't expect to be pavement pounders. Later versions had exterior appointments and names to go along with the "muscle car" image. Owners of muscle cars were always involved in heated discussions about who had the fasted brand which generally resulted in a side by side challenge. Every one had an opinion about what was the best.

So, to say a muscle car is defined by a specific set of facts just isn't possible. Everyone had a favorite and a least favorite and would argue for hours over it. It was as much about attitude as it was about hardware.

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Posted · Report post

The cheapest car made by a particular manufacture stuffed with the largest engine they make. Some paint fluff, but no suspension modifications allowed.

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The cheapest car made by a particular manufacture stuffed with the largest engine they make.

That combination is impossible in most cases.

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Posted · Report post

Power to weight ratio....light weight car with too much horse power...perfect. I would say it would have to handle well too for the speeds its capable of though.

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Power to weight ratio....light weight car with too much horse power...perfect. I would say it would have to handle well too for the speeds its capable of though.

Most '60s-'70s muscle cars were known for their lousy handling!

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A lot of people don't consider any type of Mustang a muscle car, but the BOSS 429 was a beast. I would also consider non-muscle cars that have been modded with big motors and stuff to be a muscle car.

And many think the same about Corvettes.

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Most '60s-'70s muscle cars were known for their lousy handling!

Handling was not my issue .... Trying to get the damned thing stopped? Now that was a whooooole different story ! Lmao !

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Posted · Report post

I read years ago 1hp for every 10lbs of car

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This question has been debated here several times already. And every time, we came to the same conclusion:

There is no single, universal definition of "muscle car" that everyone agrees on. And there never will be.

I have to agree with Harry on this..

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Handling was not my issue .... Trying to get the damned thing stopped? Now that was a whooooole different story ! Lmao !

Yeah, muscle cars were good in the "go" department, not so much in the "stop" department! :lol:

I have a '67 Impale 327. Not really a "muscle car," but a perfect example of '60s engineering. I remember the first time I took the car for a test drive and tried to stop. I thought the brakes were broken! :lol:

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as far as I am concerned, muscle car means light car [relatively speaking], big cubic inches. as mentioned, pony car/intermediate body with biggest power plant available. won't stop, won't steer, but when the tires 'hook', it goes like stink :D

that is my definition anyway.

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Yeah, muscle cars were good in the "go" department, not so much in the "stop" department! :lol:

I have a '67 Impale 327. Not really a "muscle car," but a perfect example of '60s engineering. I remember the first time I took the car for a test drive and tried to stop. I thought the brakes were broken! :lol:

I rebuilt a 350 Rocket for my '72 Cutlass , going 30 over with oversized iron pistons . I played a bit more with the exhaust / mufflers by going with a larger diameter system , boosted the electronics , etc . Nothing major there . Problem being , no consideration towards the braking system with the added horsepower and speed !

There were a few times at the onset where I actually believed that I would have to Flintstone it ! Lol !

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There were a few times at the onset where I actually believed that I would have to Flintstone it ! Lol !

I know what you mean! When you're driving a car with '60s-'70s era brakes, you have to plan your stops ahead of time! :lol:

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Tell me about it! My daily driver has '50s era brakes, 4 wheel drum, no power assist, and is a single circuit brake system on top of it. definitely have to plan the stops. Fortunately for me, I have a nice big ol' size 14 that puts plenty of force on the whoa pedal!

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Posted · Report post

One horsepower per cubic inch or more.

Like Brett pointed out, not only would that cover his PT Cruiser, but it would more accurately, at least, cover the '85 Lebaron GTS and '88 Shadow ES I had ( 132ci I-4 with 146hp in both, the GTS was the equivalent of an Intermediate and the Shadow was lighter still) and even moreso with my '12 200 Touring (220ci V-6 with 283hp in what could also be argued to be an intermediate.............and should be able to run a legit mid 14 sec quarter mile.) ;)

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