Muscle car is a category of high-performance American cars designed to accelerate quickly. They are usually medium in size and have two doors, in addition to packing a hefty V8 engine. They were used to be all-wheel drive vehicles, until technological advances changed them.
General Motors is considered to be the first automaker to introduce a muscle car in 1949, after which, though, the term sank for over 15 years. Muscle car made a comeback in mid-1960s and early 1970s when some special edition vehicles were built and released for drag racing.
The inclusion of the term in various automobile magazines has generalized it to some extent. Ultimately, it becomes a marketing term that is pinned to road performance cars. According to some definitions, muscle car refers to a high-performance vehicle that is priced affordably thanks to its cheap base model.
Some magazines consider pony car and muscle car to be somewhat synonymous, especially for a pony car that is equipped with a high-powered engine. Due to these various interpretations, muscle car remains a debatable term. However, it usually has the following characteristics:
- Rear-wheel drive
- Has a two-door body style
- Made in the US
- Packs a big V8 engine configured to its maximum potential
- Relatively affordable
- Built to be a drag racer with street legal status
Sometimes people consider high-performance pony cars as muscle cars. Meanwhile, luxury cars are deemed too flashy to be included in this category, and sports cars also differ in many aspects to be considered muscle cars.
Other definitions refer to muscle cars as the modern embodiment of the hot rodding philosophy of cramming a large motor in a small engine compartment. This is done in order to boost the vehicle’s speed in a straight line.
Muscle Cars Were Once Supercars
Initially, muscle cars were also called “Supercars” in the US, and they were frequently mentioned with a capital S. Between the 1960s and 1970s, there were mid-size cars classified as “dragstrip bred”. These real-wheel drive vehicles pack large V8 engines and were labeled as Supercars.
In 1957, the Rambler Rebel came out as an early example of Supercar. 1966 saw this term as a rampant trend in the automobile industry. It was all thanks to some automakers willing to invest in the Supercar market by developing attractive, high-powered vehicles.
In a different time frame, the title Supercar was used during the emergence of early models of muscle cars including the Pontiac GTO. These models created a temporary market segment called “the Supercar street racer gang”. They competed in this segment for a while until time passed and drowned them.
The Supercar market segment in the US also offered some limited editions of regular models that were produced in several sizes and put in different classifications such as “Economy Supercar”. There were also dealer-tuned and special edition models released into the market.
By that time, however, the meaning of the Supercar term had been altered in a way that neglected the distinctive features of the muscle car.