By on June 5, 2008

08-20l-i4-lnf-sol-lor.jpgLooks like Farago and I inadvertently kicked open a can of worms yesterday when discussing the new/maybe one day Camaro. Robert maintained that Bob Lutz is an "Idiot" for even suggesting a 4-banger muscle car. For my part I defended Lutz (dirty, i feel so dirty), because I happen to love the engine he's talking about. See, the 2.0-liter turbocharged and intercooled EcoTec I4 puts out a robust 260 horsepower and a rotund 260 lb-ft of torque. And that's currently. Rumor has it that Chevy will be boring the EcoTec out to 2.5-liters, which could easily net the engine 50 more hp, meaning that the base Camaro would have more juice than the 4th gen V8 F-body. Of course, if you need more, get the LS3-powered range topper. Point is, does cylinder count matter? Really?

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94 Comments on “Question of the Day: Do Muscle Cars Need a V8?...”


  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    As far as I can tell, today’s prototypical muscle car is Godzilla. How many cylinders does it have?

  • avatar
    86er

    I suppose it has a lot to do with how far interested parties are willing to blur the categories. Sports car fans would be more willing to put up with a high-revving cammer like the forthcoming 2.5 EcoTec (which will have to rev high because the Camaro is supposed to be in the 3800-4000 lb range). Muscle car fans? Who knows.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    The muscle car market is a backward looking, nostalgia market.

    The answer? Yes. Sadly.

    IMHO,

    Bunter

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    One quick point. The EcoTec would shave off a bunch of weight. Putting the Camaro at around 3,600 pounds.

  • avatar
    Maeloch

    I don’t see why having the base engine a turbocharged 4-cylinder would be any worse then a V6 as long as the range toping Camaro has a V8.

  • avatar

    Jonny Lieberman

    Camaro @ 3600lb? What next? You’re going to tell me that they did a rear independant suspension?

    If the Camaro was 3600lb with fully independant suspension, they may have a real sports car on their hands, V8 or I4.

  • avatar

    Does a muscle car have to have ancient muscle car technology (’60s) to qualify? What exactly IS the definition of a muscle car? Could an electric or a hybrid be a muscle car? My impulse would be to define the muscle car based on performance, not technology, but I’m not a muscle car afficionado, and so I leave the defining to those who are.

  • avatar
    tigeraid

    I define a muscle car as a rwd, v8 powered AMERICAN car designed primarily for straightline performance. As such, a PONY CAR, like a Camaro Z/28, Mustang Boss 302, etc etc which competed in Trans-Am, is not a muscle car. On the other hand, one could argue the ZL-1 Camaro was definitely a muscle car, as it was definitely a drag racer.

    As such, I have NO problem with a Turbo 4cyl Camaro… I just have a problem calling it a muscle car. The V8 versions would be. Call the 4cyl version a sport coupe, or something.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Eitan: The new Camaro has fully independent suspension at all 4-corners.

    I think you are thinking of Mustangs…

  • avatar

    Jonny Lieberman:

    I’m thinking of the OLD Camaro, I honestly don’t know much about the new one.

    But with that being said, Turbo 4? 275-300HP from that would be a modder’s dream. You could up the boost easily for massive hoonage.

    Turbo 4 Vs V8? Isn’t a muscle car about HP and 0-60? If the Turbo 4 goes fast, isn’t that enough?

  • avatar
    seoultrain

    Looking at V8 vs. 4cyl turbo:

    #1 reason to get the V8: the sound.
    #2 reason to get the V8: low-end power.

    Neither can be replicated by a 2.5L 4-cylinder turbo, which, btw, I’m a fan of, just not in muscle cars.

    As for I4T vs. V6, it really doesn’t matter. Neither are genuine anyway.

  • avatar
    Alex Rodriguez

    I don’t see a problem with having base models with less than a V-8. As far as Dinosaur, please tell me how a naturally aspirated V-8 cranking out 380 horses and getting 23MPG is a “Dinosaur.”

    That “Dinosaur,” the new 5.7 Hemi, will be standard on the 2009 Challenger R/T. So is the fully independent suspension.

  • avatar
    TomAnderson

    V8s are great, but I would consider this a muscle car:
    http://www.jaj.com/space/efrazier/images/gnx.jpg

    Same with this:
    http://home.pon.net/hunnicutt/images/SVOmustang.jpg

    And, at the risk of drawing the banhammer, this:
    http://www.soulserpentmedia.com/DodgeShelby/Images/86GLHS284.jpg

    As long as something has an impressive power/weight ratio and at least four seats, I’d consider it a muscle car. Not a traditional muscle car, but a muscle car nonetheless.

  • avatar
    tigeraid

    Eitan:

    see my post above–a muscle car is NOT all about HP and 0-60, it’s about the look and feel of a muscle car. Otherwise, virtually every performance car on the planet could be called a “muscle car.” The definition of a muscle car includes a V8 because of the sound and the torque it provides.

  • avatar
    Theodore

    I tend to take a utilitarian view of engines – a vehicle should have as much engine as it needs. That’s why I joined in Lutz’ defense: to me it’s about the power numbers, not the cylinder count. Or, put another way, under the hood I prefer function to form.

    As was pointed out by others, a big, rumbling V8 is part of a muscle car’s character. You’ve got to have one in the lineup. But I don’t see any reason why a turbo four couldn’t replace a V6 in the base models. The buyer passing up the V8 probably won’t care whether he gets six cylinders or four, and the turbo motor might – might – attract a younger demographic.

    Of course, if you don’t believe anybody under 50 is going to buy a retro-Camaro anyway, there isn’t much point to offering anything but the V8.

  • avatar
    TTACFanatic

    This is largely anecdotal and refreshed in my mind through the magic that is Wikipedia, but didn’t Ford already go down this path and fail with the Ford Probe (1st Generation).

    I’m not saying that the Probe was a bad car but as a then possible Mustang replacement it was a complete failure; primarily due to the fact that the Probe was not small car with a big engine, it was a small car with a small turbo-charged engine.

  • avatar
    N85523

    I think V-8’s are part of what makes a muscle car. It’s not a handling car, it’s simply meant to go quickly in a straight line and (very importantly) sound good doing it. The turbo four in question may be an excellent mill and a good application for the car, but the sound would be all wrong and that’s not what baby boomers and high-school football stars want.

  • avatar
    blautens

    I would say yes, a muscle car must have a V8, but then I thought about the Buick GNX…that might be the sole exception.

  • avatar
    tigeraid

    The GNX was definitely the sole exception, but it has the torque and, to a lesser extent, the sound of a V8 anyway.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    1989 SHO!!!!
    Who needs a V-8

  • avatar

    Muscle cars need V8 engines; the throaty rumble and rich torque laydown are what makes a muscle car a muscle car. I think a more pertinent question would be “Do gearheads/car lovers need muscle cars?”

    The age of the muscle car is over, just as the age of the steam tractor is over. Big thirsty V8s are an antiquated motive force; the future is light, powerful and efficient. I’d look at a turbo-4 Camaro if it was a good handler. Maybe my 50 year old father wouldn’t, but people my age are going to have money within the next 10 years and carmakers are going to have to stop catering exclusively to reminiscing boomers.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    A definition of terms is needed here to continue…

    A musclecar is a heavy, ill-handling passenger vehicle whose bloated weight is offset by a massive iron V8 engine producing oodles of hosepower and more importantly, torque.

    A sportscar is a light, nimble 2-seat or 2+2 coupe which relies on a high-revving engine that provides enough horsepower at speed to bring the vehicle’s handling to life.

    Now, what’s a Camaro?

    Historically?

    Well, kinda sorta a musclecar (Yenko, SS), and kinda sorta a sportscar (Z28).

    Dang it. I’ve gotten nowhere. Already. Again.

    Wait, that’s not Lieberman’s question. He asks, does a MUSCLECAR need a V8?

    And by the definitions provided above: Yes, it does.

    Otherwise, it’s a sportscar.

    And they’re not the same thing. At all.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    I hate the term “muscle car”. It’s only used by pimply teenagers and rotund old men with skullets. These fine folks only care about solid rears, V8’s, drum brakes, and Chargers with two doors. The answer is therefore yes, otherwise we would never get these guys to shut-up. Nothing wrong though with a T4 in a touring model, though.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    As long as it can spin the tires. And chirp going into second and hopefully 3rd as well. You need some torque at 3000rpm. But that engine may have it. The v8 burble is nice though. All things considered I think I would prefer a Camaro with an NA v8 over a turboed up 4 cylinder. The weight loss is nice though. I can’t decide!

  • avatar
    hansbos

    I think it’s the wrong Question of the Day. A more sensible one would be “Does anyone need a muscle car?”

  • avatar

    Yes it has to have a v8. Not that it wouldn’t be nice as well with a turbo 4 or 6 but i wouldn’t call it a muscle car, and the few people in this country willing to buy something like a camaro, mustang, challenger wouldn’t accept less for the most part. Though i also agree with the trans am cars not being muscle cars either, but these new “pony” cars really are the full size cars of todays market so they fit the bill if you ask me.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Define “muscle car”.

    Is it an outrageously overpowered “mortal” car like the Neon SRT-4, Evo or STI? Or is it the direct heirs to the lineage of the heavy, over-engined fullsizers from the 1960s, in which case the relatively svelte Mustang (!!!!) ponycar wouldn’t count, but the >4000lb Charallengers do and the Camaro would walk the line. I’ll call the former the “modern” and the latter the “classic”
    musclecar for the purpose of this post.

    In either case, no, it doesn’t need one unless you’re really hung up on the sound.

    If your definition is the latter one, I don’t know if a turbo four is a good replacement, though, as driven like a musclecar would be, it’ll get the same awful mileage. And while you definitely will have issues shoehorning a big V8 into the engine compartment of an Impreza, the classic musclecar doesn’t need the packaging advantages and only mildly benefits from the mass reduction. A better choice for a classic, in my opinion, would be an unblown four that serves as the “Secretary’s Car” edition. Since it’s being bought for image anyway, who cares if it’s 0-60 in 11?

  • avatar
    canfood

    hmmm, how’s that old saying go again?

    There’s no replacement for displacement.

    A muscle car without a V8? what’s next, a 4 door coupe? A porsche SUV?

    oh wait…nevermind

  • avatar
    alex_rashev

    OHhh god.

    The whole idea of a muscle car is taking a small(er) car, and stuffing a cheap giant V8 in it, to come up with the fastest 0-60 in its (affordable)price bracket.

    Lest you forget, some of the fastest Mustangs in the 80’s were turbo 4’s.

  • avatar

    Jonny Lieberman: One quick point. The EcoTec would shave off a bunch of weight. Putting the Camaro at around 3,600 pounds.

    3,600lbs may be be fair by Chrysler LX platform standards, but that’s a land yacht by a Camaro’s definition. A four banger will be revving and sucking gas just to preserve momentum in that tank.

    And a Muscle car without a V8 isn’t one. The sound alone is the price of admission. Pontiac I-6s, Buick and Ford turbos are just stopgap measures for the real thing.

    Just look how well the Mustang SVO sold compared to its 5.0 brother.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    I don’t see any issue with it…it’s a niche market with only certain consumers. They want a muscle car because it has a V8. These cars could return even better performance if they weren’t so heavy or inefficiently designed. And then you can use a the smaller V8s and do just fine. A high-torque V8 with tall highway gears does very well in terms of fuel mileage…look at the Vette.

  • avatar
    AGR

    If a muscle car is responding to “nostalgia” it should have a V8 for the sake of nostalgia.

    If a muscle car is responding to the “future” it should be light, and embody modern high performance components.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    I think the Camaro would be great with a 2.4L V8. You’d satisfy the guys who want a V8 but don’t really care how much power they have as long as it’s ‘adequate’ while offering the LSx to the die-hards. It’d make CAFE happy too.

  • avatar
    Wunsch

    It seems to me that a turbo 4 in the base model, and a V8 in the top model, would nicely broaden the Camaro’s potential market. You’ve got a good throaty V8 sound for those who are looking for a nostalgic muscle car, and yet a highly tunable modern approach for younger buyers who don’t have that same nostalgia. Win-win.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    Yes, a muscle car must have a V8.

    And they don’t have to be american. I define the category to include the european/japanse muscle as well, like the V8 powered Mercs and BMW:s, like BMW M5 and MB CLS 500. Or the Lexus IS-F for that matter. A Camaro with a four is not a muscle car, however potent it is.

  • avatar
    Maeloch

    I think to be called a muscle car, it would have to have a V8, however, the base models of the Camaro (and other “pony” cars) are not muscle cars.

    I tend to think of “muscle cars” as a normal car with a big engine. As far as I know (and I may not, since it was technically before my time), muscle cars were created when American car makers took otherwise normal cars and fitted them with huge engines. Later on they developed into independent models, but they typically didn’t handle much better then the normal cars.

    Of course, most normal cars of today handle as well as older sports cars (though the tactile experience is very different). So today’s muscle cars can handle impressively, but their emphasis is still on big engines and straight line performance.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    A muscle car is not a sports car. A muscle car is pretty much what Domestic Hearse described it as.

    A Camaro is a specific type of a muscle car: 2 door coupe, rear drive, and eight cylinders, but for the six-cylinder secretary’s version.

    If GM wants to develop a rear drive sporty coupe with a turbo 4, that’s fine if they can sell it. But the Camaro has a specific legacy, and that ain’t it. A four-cylinder Camaro would be Brand Suicide 101.

    The Probe analogy is a good one. It’s fortunate that Ford didn’t call it a Mustang, or label it as a muscle car. If you’re going to sell heritage, then sell heritage.

  • avatar
    seabrjim

    Gotta be a v8. I will buy a muscle car later this year, but not new. When a 69 coronet on CARS ON LINE comes from $35,000 to $20,000 then I will have my muscle car like the one i had in my early 20’s. And boy, are the prices really starting to tumble!

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Sajeev: 3,600lbs may be be fair by Chrysler LX platform standards, but that’s a land yacht by a Camaro’s definition. A four banger will be revving and sucking gas just to preserve momentum in that tank.

    Not if it has the kind of torque and hp that we’re talking about 260/260 (or more). And turbo engines intrinsically rev lower than a normaly-aspirated engine, due to the enhance torque curve. They’re rarely “revvers”.

    Sajeev:Just look how well the Mustang SVO sold compared to its 5.0 brother.

    Not a fair comparison. The SVO was positioned well above the 5.0, and was a pricey piece. The 4 cyl. Camaro would be the base engine.

    I think the blown four would do surprisingly well in the Camaro. Everyone has memories of the weak, turbo-lagging engines of the eighties in mind. The SVO started out with 170hp, almost 100 less than this engine. These modern high-torque low-lag turbo fours ARE the future; get used to them, and don’t make assumptions about them that are out of date.

  • avatar
    Orian

    If a “muscle car” has to have an 8 in it, then it’s time to put that horse out to pasture. There are plenty of sports cars with less cylinders that are faster stock than a lot of the old “muscle cars”.

    Legacy and heritage only go so far in the market these days. The Thunderbird, Prowler, and SSR all flopped tremendously. The saving grace for the Mustang was that it was never taken out of production and has remained relatively cheap.

  • avatar
    Maeloch

    I think that the Probe’s main problem was that it was front-wheel drive. The Probe may have been slated to replace the Mustang as Ford’s performance car, I don’t think it was ever meant to be a muscle car. I doubt that they would have ever called it a Mustang.

  • avatar
    tigeraid

    alex_rashev

    Absolutely, the SVO Mustang was quick as hell. And still not a muscle car. As you may recall, it also had a “european-inspired” suspension and “european styling.” It’s a sports car, or sports coupe, NOT a muscle car.

    Toyota Supra? Turbo 6 cylinder, Japanese, handles well. SPORTS CAR, not a muscle car.

    Porsche 911? 6 cylinder, German, handles great. GT Car, NOT a muscle car.

    Dodge Viper? V10, American, handles well, 2 seats. SPORTS CAR, not a muscle car.

    Corvette? V8, American, handles well, 2 seats. SPORTS CAR, not a muscle car.

    ’69 Z/28, AAR ‘Cuda, Boss 302 Mustang? Small displacement high-revving V8, American, built for handling and road racing. PONY CAR, not a muscle car.

    ’69 ZL-1 Camaro, Hemi ‘Cuda? Big block V8s, heavy as hell, don’t handle at all, drag racers. MUSCLE CARS.

    ’70 Chevelle, ’86 Monte Carlo (slow, but still), ’96 Impala SS, ’69 Super Bee, ’69 Fairlane? Muscle cars.

  • avatar
    DragDog

    A “muscle car” must have a V8. A big part of the fun is the sound and torque curve of a V8. There are other kinds of fun cars, and that’s great, but if it’s not a V8 it’s not a “muscle car”.

    Maybe the age of muscle cars is over and GM is being forced to convert the Camaro into a different kind of enthusiast vehicle. If that’s the case, it’s a sad day for people that like muscle cars; people that don’t shouldn’t really care.

    From the 80s on muscle cars were on dedicated platforms and needed non-performance trims (aka “secretary models”) to be viable. These have always had utilitarian engines, and really all that matters is “adequate” acceleration and economy. The 2.0T would provide this, as would many other options.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    i would call it the Hyundai Coupe Killer. if its fast who cares…99.9% of the buyers are buying it because of the looks anyway.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    no, a muscle car just has to have a lot of power. That’s the concept here. Is there anyone out there going to tell me the Buick Grand National/T-Type/GNX wasn’t a muslce car just because it had a 231ci V6? Or the 20th Anniversary Trans Am? Or the GMC Syclone/Typhoon?

    No, it’s about power – specifically low-end power. While a Mustang Cobra and an NSX are about equally fast, the Mustang’s the muscle car – it’s the rambunctious inefficient but fun one – loads of power down low.

    Case in point: currently, Australia’s most bad-ass muscle car has a six cylinder. HPV’s Typhoon uses a variation of the Ford Barra 4.0L I6, and it has the highest torque output of any Australian vehicle.

    So who cares about cylinder count? it’s how much power, and where it’s made.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    When my youthful auto enthusiasm was just getting started in the 60’s, to my mind the term muscle car was given to those models that had (with few exceptions) an oversized motor installed with trim and model designations to set them apart from their sedan/coupe bothers
    In all of my reading car mags, and the performance numbers, pretty much any car that could go 0-60 in 7 seconds or less, and the 1/4 mile in 15 seconds or less was such a car.
    That is still my benchmark, any car with, or exceeding those stats are muscle cars, and today the number and variety of different models that meet or exceed this is amazing.
    Bottom line to the question of this article? No, a “muscle car” does not need a V-8 unless nostalgic motives are in play. In the 60’s low specific output motors meant that only large V-8s had the kind of power to achieve that kind of acceleration. The real measure of a “muscle car” today should be its power to weight ratio, not a stereotyped cylinder count/configuration in a boutique body style.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    it’s how much power, and where it’s made.

    No, it’s more than that. The core of the muscle car genre is the engine rumble and the low-end torque. You can’t get that from a four-cylinder engine.

    A muscle car also have to have rear-wheel drive, and it can’t have interior packaging too far removed from that of a normal passenger car.

    (Yes, I think that the last Camaro lost the spirit of the muscle car concept. The interior was too cramped and the platform slung too low to be true to the legacy. The seating height should be comparable to that of a sedan.)

  • avatar
    brownie

    Most American consumers don’t know what “forced induction” is, but they can count, and they know that 8 > 4. So if you actually know something about cars, you probably know that a 2.0L engine + boost can result in completely insane power (witness Group B). However, if you are just a dude who knows nothing but hopes that a fast car will make him look younger, relive his youth, etc., i.e. the majority of buyers in almost all market segments including performance cars, then all you know is bigger is better. So you’ve gotta have that V8.

    That state of affairs ain’t gonna change without a massive marketing/education effort.

  • avatar
    Patrick

    For its core market, it is more important that it have a V8 (and RWD) than it is for it to be fast, safe, or reliable.

    While they may sell a lot of V6s or even turbo 4s, the core market would pick a 190 hp V8 over a 350 hp twin turbo V6.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    A muscle car without a V8 is not a muscle car, plain and simple. The public won’t accept it. I’d rather have Chevrolet cancel the development of the Camaro than see it become some CAFE-castrated abomination, no matter how much horsepower you can squeeze out of the Ecotec.

  • avatar

    I’ve never had a muscle car but I drive a Mercedes C230 with a 4 cylinder Kompressor. The car is five years old and still fast enough to scare me on a regular basis. I think it’s in the 7’s at 0-60. The thing is almost paid off and I went into see about a new one but Benz doesn’t make the engine any more
    (the sound of me scratching my head)…

  • avatar

    Technically no. The only reason why people think muscle cars need V8s is because they were at their peak in the 1960’s when engine technology required 8 cylinders to get the needed horsepower. If you want to break it down, the term muscle for automobiles just means power and torque(and I guess a large body size). Today you can easily get well enough power and torque from a turbocharged six or if you want to prowl along four cylinder territory, then do so. If a V8 is needed to satisfy the pistonheads then fine, just as long as they prefer to swallow the fuel bill.

  • avatar
    Maeloch

    As a sports car guy, I couldn’t figure out why anyone would choose a “muscle car” over a sports car (or sports sedan).

    Then I thought that maybe that the reason is price. You can buy inexpensive sports cars, but they tend to be a little short on power (not that it is a bad thing. I’ll take handling over power any day). Originally, the muscle cars were born when you took an otherwise cheap car and then updated only the engine performance to keep the price low. The reason all classic muscle cars are big is because America didn’t make any small cars.

    There are many modern cars that fill that same niche, but you can’t call them muscle cars. The Mazdaspeed3, Dodge Neon SRT/4, Subaru Impreza WRX, VW GTI, etc. . . are all spiritual successors of muscle cars because they provide a lot of performance for a low price.

    Therefore, today’s “muscle cars” cash in on the nostalgia of muscle cars (big cars with big engines) rather than the spirit of muscle cars (cheap performance). The core market for today’s muscle cars are the original target market of the original muscle cars, except now they are all 40 years older and 40 years richer.

    With that in mind, I wonder if buying and keeping a WRX STi for 40 years would be an “investment” for when today’s young men are reaching retirement age and nostalgic for the desirable cars from their past?

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    And in this seeming dawning of the post guzzler era with gas quite possibly never dipping below $3/gal, and the 35mpg standards looming who wants to bet the Camaro will be a sales success for GM? Another strike against it is that even in the 80’s when sports coupes sold well, they had a very short restyling cycle time because their styling gat stale and fell out of vogue rapidly. I cynically predict the Camaro will sell well for about three weeks and then fall off rapidly and steadily.
    I’ll also bet that the 260 hp turbo 4 will generate acceleration figures equivalent to the stock 1968 302 z-28.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    if they make them LOOK identical 9/10 buyers wont care.

    they also need to make the base model perform well. they cant dumb it down and make people feel like they are getting an inferior car. its needs to handle and brake and look just as good as the top of the line one.

    I think they did a good job with the G8 and G8 GT. Not much visual difference so you dont feel like a loser for getting the V6.

    The V6 mustang looks to bland next to a GT. you can pick out a V6 coming down the road. They need to give it the larger wheels and a hood scoop and all that stuff that makes the GT look good.

    the scary part is that Detroit doesnt seem to understand that. They think less performance = less style. which is why we cant get an attractive looking small car from the D3.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Both the phrase “muscle car” and the muscle car itself are tired anachronisms.

    Why is GM wasting scarce resources on building this low-volume, 16mpg car? Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    In these times, GM should be spending every spare dime coming up with *practical* solutions to the current transportation problems. Let’s divert the Camaro resources towards making the Aveo a Fit-beater. Now there’s a good idea!

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Sometimes I wonder how successful the Plymouth Prowler would’ve been if Chrysler had blessed it with a V8 instead of those Intrepid V6 engines.

  • avatar
    Adamatari

    If I were GM, I’d be more worried about tuners with experience on turbo engines taking the I4 turbo and just beating the crap out of the V8. Especially if they make it a 2.5l. Look at some of the ridiculous tuned sport compacts out there making 400 or 500hp out of turbo I4 engines!

    The image problem is “muscle car or tuner car” more than anything. A turbo I4 doesn’t fit the “muscle car” image, but that image is dated. Originally muscle cars were the fast, desirable cars every teenage wanted. Now, however, people in their teens and 20s talk about sport compacts. The V8 muscle car market is awash in nostalgia. A powerful I4 Camaro that can handle might gain a real market as a modern performance car, and that’s got to count for somthing.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    I don’t know about anyone else but I associate the words “muscle car” with “torque.” Whether it be a diesel six that produces 400 ft-lb of torque or a traditional pushrod V8, I’d consider a muscle car something with neck-snapping torque.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    A muscle car should have as essential equipment, a V8, rear wheel drive, 6 speed manual trans, and relatively modest weight/proportions. From there, some variation can be had. One, while being American would be a plus, it does not have to be. The Japanese have no pedigree in this arena, but that really will only be an issue with those who are American loyalists. Two, it is ok, and preferable IMO to add technology. Straight line performance is key, but it should not be the only criteria. Crisp handling, IRS, and killer brakes should be part of the package. Package the options so that you can get a decent price without unwanted equipment and keep the weight down.

  • avatar

    @brownie
    8>4 but 4+forced induction=8 right.. i follow so far.. so what would 8+forced induction equal?

    And beyond all that.. You might as well ask if a pure electric car could be a muscle car. NO. Even if what is a muscle car “should be put to pasture” it doesn’t change what a muscle car is. The big dumb meat heads in school were often not the strongest or fastest.. but they looked the toughest and meanest and could beat the crap out of most people. The best description of a muscle car i ever read was from Hemmings Muscle Mag.. describing a 70 challenger “it looked so mean small children ran away crying”. Its looks and sound reguardless of how superficial they may be.
    When its not too hard (just expensive) to make any car do a 10 second quarter mile i don’t think you can call performance the benchmark for what is a muscle car.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I see nothing wrong with putting a turbo 4 in a car, just don’t call it a muscle car. A muscle car is about nostalgia, the look, the sound, and the straight line performance. To acheive all three, you need the V8. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like a light weight car with a turbo 4, or that a turbo 4 car can’t be a good or even great car. Just not a muscle car.

  • avatar
    John Williams

    Now, what’s a Camaro?

    Historically?

    Historically, a pony car. It was unveiled to go toe to toe with the Mustang, another pony car built as a cheaper (and rather popular) alternative to the average muscle car. Seeing a turbocharged I4 in it wouldn’t bother me at all, but would probably bother me if there was one in the Camaro, considering the two dreaded words that bring back painful memories for most:

    Iron Duke.

  • avatar
    Mervich

    Here’s the skinny. The term “muscle car” is a thing of the past…it’s a nostalgia thing from 35 or 40 years ago that had the ingredients of straight line “faster than stink”, apparently massive torque (which, in reality, was mostly just a lousy suspension) and the ever-intoxicating V8 burble (combined, the experience ranks up there with the first time ya got laid). A straight six, back then, was a thing of ignominy. Fast forward to 2008, a stock BMW 335i with its sweet spinning straight six will shame 99% of all the muscle era cars. I don’t believe the term “muscle car” even applies anymore, except in reminiscence. Now, the ballgame has everything from W12’s to I4’s that will meet the task as well or much better AND will do it in more than just a straight line!

  • avatar

    Uh, yes. A V8 is a must but that’s not the only thing.

    How is having a V8 looking backward when basically every other company out there like BMW and Mercedes flaunt hugely powerful V8 engines then sell them for a price that only the rich can afford? That’s the epitome of backward looking. I’m a little apalled to be honest.

    The definition of a muscle car is a car from Ford, GM or Chrysler that is RWD and emphasizes acceleration over everything else though they may or may not handle. They are American, flashy, proud blue-collar cars offering excitement and something to covet for the every man.

    Not only do muscle cars require V8s, they are also required to have affordable V8 models and the type of distinct, standout styling that the brand names are known for. The Mustang, Camaro and Challenger all carry the looks that made them famous and are each unique, you will never mistake them for anything else. The muscle car hasn’t looked better since it was invented.

    When a company tries to redefine the muscle car, it always fails. That’s like trying to redefine a sports car or a pickup truck. Learn from history.

    GM attempted to tell us the GTO is a car that emphasizes “Euro-ness” like a BMW, it failed miserably. We all knew it wasn’t a real, authentic GTO (though it was a good car and the Aussies know what a good American-style muscle car is, that’s all the produce and buy).

    Ford and GM have tried four cylinder Mustang and Camaro models before, each have monumentally failed.

    People who want muscle cars want V8s. People who want fuel-sipping four cylinders buy something else designed for those engines and MPG in mind. They do not, nor they ever will go buy a Camaro or Mustang if they’re looking for maximum MPG. The V6 models always languish longer on lots, the current example is the Pontiac G8. It’s easy to find a V6 model, the V8 model is the one people drawn to that car want and buy right away. It’s been the same for other muscle cars as well.

    The only exception the rule was the Buick Grand National and the current Ford Falcon turbo in Australia. Both cars are clean-slate names that made their muscle car reputations from turbocharged V6s. The Grand National didn’t carry a name from the past and attempt to redefine it, it was it’s own unique muscle car.
    However, both cars use quite a bit of fuel, just as much as a modern V8.

    I owned a Grand National for ten years (and my screen name is derived from the Buick logo becuase of that car) and it was a glorious machine ticking all the correct muscle car checkmarks. The V6 sounded proper, not like a V8, but nowhere near as bad as the popping four cylinders. It also averaged about 12mpg per tank driven like it was engineered to be driven.

    If you want power and performance out of a car, you will always pay for it at the pump. There’s no affordable modern car that gets around that.

    The irony of today’s hi-po V6s and turbocharged fours is that they do not deliver high average MPG numbers. They average consumption in the mid to high teens. What’s progressive about small engines that use just as much fuel as V8s and work harder to move the vehicle? There’s no appeal in that.

    I currently have a 400HP LS2 car with a manual that averages 17-19MPG, hardly fuel guzzling for a powerful V8 and it provides effortless performance without waiting for boost to build. I have a friend with an Subaru WRX STi, it averages 17MPG. I have another with a Mazdaspeed3 that doesn’t do any better. My sister’s G35 also returns 16MPG. If you want to play, you have to pay.

    Robert is once again correct about Lutz. GM needs to keep the four cylinder nonsense out of the Camaro. The substantial Camaro fanbase that wants, buys and supports this car does not want that engine anywhere near it. GM has pissed on them enough for discontinuing the car in order to make a quick buck to milk SUVs to death earlier this decade and it’s still fresh in the memories of this group.

    Ford has the right idea, offer a new V8 in the Mustang and a powerful turbocharged V6 too. Not that V6 will save any fuel but it’s an interesting alternative that doesn’t devolve the car down into Fast and the Furious, woofing, farting, boosting four cylinder territory.

    Richard Hammond’s piece in Top Gear about Muscle Cars is a must-read for many of you. He’s British and he seems to understand the allure of muscle cars much better than many Americans do.

    http://www.topgear.com/content/features/stories/2008/04/stories/06/2.html

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    current mustang v8 gets 15/23, that sucks if u wanna actually drive the thing. sweet engine, but in teh land of 6 dollar gasoline, it becomes rediculous. I would like a ‘stang with a smaller engine, so long as it was a fun one – so it could be driven like a mustang without bankrupting me.

    yournamehere has hit it on the head

  • avatar
    DearS

    Mervich…..Awesome post. I was looking for those kind of words.

    I don’t care what its called, I wan’t a V8 Camaro and all other Camaros. I like the GTO, hopefully Camaro is better. An Audi V8 seems to me like the best engine possible. I’m not sure a 4-cylinder will match the character of the car well. What ever, I’ll need to wait and see. I mean I do support building a 4cyl, just not sure how much I will like it.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    Probably. It’s an old and honorable American tradition. Put the biggest block in the smallest possible car, et voila!
    Many makes claim the concept. In 1936, the first Buick Century used that formula (Roadmaster engine in the Special-size body) to create a sedan capable of hitting 100 MPH. The ’49 Olds 88 did the same thing, this time with the hot new ohv V8 (the Century began as a straight eight). The ’55 Chrysler 300 had the mighty hemi V8, altho the body certainly wasn’t small (or light).
    No, the concept hit the motoring public’s consciousness (and thus, motoring scribes’) with the ’64 Pontiac GTO. Small (Tempest) body, big Bonneville block. The rest, as they say, is history.

  • avatar

    I also find it funny that the “progressive” turbocharged engine non-muscle car people here think would make the Camaro desirable only returns about 20MPG average in the Solstice, which is a small, light, sports car. Supposedly superior? Absolutely not.

    What does everyone think that turbo four will return in a big muscle car like the Camaro? I can tell you that it won’t be pretty and it would give some pump shock to the whole 10 people fooled into buying the thing if GM goes through with it.

    Meanwhile those enjoying the LS3 Camaro will average high teens per tank just as those who bought the four cylinder. Except they’ll have eight cylinders producing an awesome American soundtrack, endless mind-bending torque and a world of cheap hot-rod parts and endless tuning potential.

    GM already makes dedicated four cylinder sports and performance cars. None of which are exactly flying off the lot in our time of high fuel prices. Why isn’t anyone here saying that’s the way to go and buying a Cobalt SS turbo, Saturn Sky Redline, Pontiac Solstice GXP or the upcoming HHR SS?

    Redefining or saying muscle cars are old or outdated or nostalgia is like saying the same thing about Coca-Cola, baseball, hamburgers and the US Constitution.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    I’m old enough to have ridden in and driven late ’60s muscle cars when they were new or within a few years of being new. 1967 big block Corvette, ’68 and ’69 Chargers, ’67, ’68, ’69 Chevelle SS, ’60s Shelby ‘Stang, 350/396 1st-gen Camaros, among others. I didn’t own them but I got wheel time just before and at the onset of my licensed years. Not to mention that my Dad’s big bore Oldsmobile and Pontiac ’60s sedans weren’t slouches in the context of their time. So this is the starting context for what follows.

    What constitutes a muscle car and muscle car performance is contextual. By the standards of my current 443hp Cadillac XLR-V, those original era muscle cars were both slow and incompetent handlers. My 1996 Corvette LT4 is still muscular, quick and fast by current standards. Even my former 1996 SVT Cobra at 305hp could humiliate most of the classics but was light years beyond their dynamic behavior, and I was able to modify it to nearly sports-car capabilities. But back-tracking a few years earlier, my former 1993 SVT Cobra at 235hp was equally exciting though slower than what came after it. Yeah, all these references are V8 powered, but they also each had distinct feel and character.

    By any measure, the ’80s era Buick Grand National and GNX were muscle cars for their time despite having blown V6 mills. Same for the earlier Ford Mustang SVO which is the true inspiration for an Ecotec Turbo Camaro, the Pony having been a turbo 4 in the waning days of fuel worry just before Detroit’s EFI V8 resurgence. The Fox body SVO had the admirable qualities of a relatively lightweight unibody, simple but dynamically supple chassis/suspension, and temporally impressive oomph from the pressured I-4.

    Earlier, a Triumph GT-6 felt pretty muscular, as did the TR-6 and the Big Healeys.

    So, while a V8 does have a special combination of sound, kick and fury, it’s not essential to the muscle car. The key is accessible torque shoving low-to-moderate weight and sufficient power on top to deliver a wild finish. The modern iteration will handle admirably rather than plow.

    I’d welcome muscle cars leveraging the Ecotec Turbo and similar, if the cars they are bolted in get their bloat trimmed. There’s no reason an electric car can’t have muscle car attributes, but current technology won’t allow the fun to last very long. Theoretically, a Volt SS should be feasible, perhaps by stepping up to a more robust generator/charger combined with more batteries accommodated by the classic muscle car attribute of vestigial back seat space.

    I’ll never lose enthusiasm for the classic V8 mill, but as long as the torque (twist is the key) is on tap, muscle cars can be formulated from judicious mass reduction and appropriate power for accelerative performance in the fives. But a muscle car also has to look the part. If visual drama and implied aggression aren’t in the deal, it’s not a muscle car. Even in suede paint and a smattering of bondo in a high school parking lot years later, a muscle car still looks imposing and dramatic.

    Phil

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Does it matter? If fuel stays at $4 and above, the new Camaro is toast no matter what. The muscle car boom of the 60s crashed and burned against the fuel shocks of the 70s. After a few decades of stable gas prices, people forgot and nostalgia created an echo-boom for muscle cars.

    Guess what folks, the 70s are back. There was a good reason for building that horrid little hot selling car called the Mustang II. Sure it was a POS, but it was right for the time. Next up, the Vega II and New Pinto.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Vega II- I like that
    Muscle cars should have a V8-yes
    The Camaro is not a muscle car- It doesn’t need a V8
    The people who are saying that “muscle car” is an old term or nostalgia need to pay more attention.
    You know all those big German cars with badges that say AMG, M or S?
    All muscle cars.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Can’t imagine a 2.5 Ecotec would be very smooth, how do they plan on pulling that one off?

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The AMGs and such are very low volume high priced cars. Traditional muscle cars were within the price reach of regular folks. Now of course the originals are fetching crazy prices, but when new they were inexpensive.

  • avatar
    Nicodemus

    The Aussie mags are hailing the new Ford Falcon FPV F6 as the greatest Aussie Muscle-Car of all time.

    It’s a 4litre Turbo Inline Six….

  • avatar
    Scorched Earth

    No shit, a V8 is completely necessary for a muscle car. It’s practically the definition. A turbo four like the EcoTec makes it an awesome car, but it’s no longer a muscle car…completely different category. The cylinder count (and more importantly, the issue of forced induction vs. NA) affects the personality of the car, which in turn affects the appeal.

    So to answer your question, muscle cars need V8s. Which is why the traditional muscle car will die and be replaced by awesome cars like the Camaro turbo 4.

  • avatar
    chanman

    With all this focus on the sound of the V-8 muscle car, does that mean that quiet a quiet V-8 would automatically dismiss a car from muscle car status?

  • avatar
    DragDog

    With all this focus on the sound of the V-8 muscle car, does that mean that quiet a quiet V-8 would automatically dismiss a car from muscle car status?

    Probably. Tuning a car for quietness is not in the muscle car spirit. A Cadillac STS and Crown Vic are not muscle cars because they emphasize a number of comfort/refinement factors including quietness.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    A Cadillac STS and Crown Vic are not muscle cars because they emphasize a number of comfort/refinement factors including quietness.

    Ahh, but then there was the mellifluous Mercury Marauder version of the Panther, and the present-day Cadillac STS-V with its straight-flow discharge when the muffler vacuum valves open wide.

    Phil

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    IMO, an American Muscle car (are there any other kind?) is best served by a V8. I believe this because I have little evidence that anything from Detroit with less than 8 cylinders will run long enough to become a “classic” muscle car.

    Even if left in a garage, wiped with a diaper, and taken out only on one beautiful day a month to run the engine gently.

  • avatar

    You’re right Landcrusher, nobody will want to keep an American car longer than a few years unless it has a V8 under the hood, that has always been true throughout history.

    Muscle cars are the one type of car only American automakers can deliver and people really want. They are as important and legendary as the Corvette, Wrangler and Mustang. The Mustang itself is an American icon. They are really more than basic transportation, they have soul, charisma and character unlike anything else on the road.

    I’m happy to see that those of us who truly love muscle cars have so many modern choices right now and it will be sad when they are taken away. That shouldn’t happen. Had the Big Three not put all their eggs in the 4×4 basket to make a quick and dirty profit they wouldn’t be in the mess that they’re in now and it wouldn’t threaten some of their most loyal enthusiasts who are muscle car fanatics.

    Any automaker or company that really knows their heritage and draws on it to continually produce things people covet and that they are known for prosper. Everyone knows the Mustang, what it is, and that it’s Ford. Can you say the same about the Fusion? Does anyone care? No, it’s an appliance.

    People want style, power and charisma from American cars. The Asians already make better four-door, four-wheeled appliances than everyone else.

    That’s why it pains me when the Big Three try to match them at it, that’s not what they should be doing. The Malibu looks very Japanese, why would I buy it over a Mazda6? Or an Accord? Or Sonata? The Camaro is much more American, much more Chevrolet to me than cars like the Blandpala (what a travesty to the name) and Malibu are right now.

    Shamefully GM won’t redesign the Impala to be a proper Impala anymore, which would have included real standout styling with classic Imapal cues, RWD and an available stonking good American V8. Something more than the disposable, Japanese-wannabe car it is now.

    When American automakers deliver distinctly American cars people come and they covet them, the Camaro is no different than the Corvette in that respect and it’s one nameplate, one car that GM cannot afford to screw up this time around. GM has hurt us enough by discontinuing it in the first place, a four cylinder version would only add insult to injury and many are already being drawn away by the Mustang and Challenger.

  • avatar

    I have a hard time saying that the later Buick Turbo Grand Nationals and GNX were not “proper” muscle cars, so I’m going to have to say no.

  • avatar
    TaxedAndConfused

    “Muscle Cars” as in those American things designed only to go in a straight line – then probably yes if only for “Iconic” reasons.

    Sports or performance cars don’t NEED a V8 and big 4 bangers can work well – see Ford Focus ST for a worked example.

  • avatar
    Nicodemus

    American Muscle car (are there any other kind?)”

    Aussie ones!

  • avatar
    mdf

    A “muscle car” is nostalgia. A cultural artifact. To that extent, it probably does indeed “need” a V8.

    However, as soon as most of the nostalgia infected baby-boomer generation dies off, so will the ‘need’ for muscle cars. And “classic rock” radio stations.

    Finally, something we can all look forward to!

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    Everyone has their own definition of what constitutes a “muscle car”. There probably would’ve been almost as much response if you asked whether a “muscle car” can have 4-doors or front-wheel drive.

    If the auto manufacturers are touting a new car as a “muscle car”, the important thing is that they design it so that the largest cross-section of potential customers also see it as a muscle car. That is true for the styling as well as the performance aspect. That’s the only way the car will be successful.

    Based on the majority of previous posts, I think it’s safe to say that a a turbocharged V6 can get a pass today IF it has the torque to impress. However, put a 4-cyl in there and many will ask “Where’s the other half of the engine?” regardless of actual performance figures.

    That’s not to say that the Camaro, Challenger, Mustang shouldn’t also be offered with a smaller engine. Don’t make that their only engine choice though, even if the performance numbers are there. You can’t force the public to change their perceptions.

    Before the Buick Grand National came along, I doubt many people would’ve considered a car with a turbo-6 to be a muscle car. That car was a game-changer. If a turbo-4 version can go head-to-head with the bigger engines today, leave it to the buying public to come to their own conclusion as to whether this now constitutes a muscle car.

    I’ll add that I liked the comment that many AMG Mercedes, Alpina BMWs, etc. could be considered modern muscle cars. That jives well with my own thoughts on what constitutes a muscle car.

    As far as the EcoTec I4 engine, 260 ft-lb of torque does not a muscle car make, in my opinion. The 1987 GNX (the version that could beat an ’87 Vette in the quarter mile) had 360 ft-lb. The new Charger R/T has 390 ft-lb, the Mustang GT 320 ft-lb. If GM can get the torque over 300 ft-lb and keep the car’s weight down for decent power/weight ratio, then maybe they could pull it off.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    A muscle car without a V8 is a rock band without a lead guitarist.

    And classic rock is the only good rock music left. When that dies out, all will be lost.

  • avatar
    garllo

    I grew up with the 60’s “Muscle Cars” and they were referred to as Muscle Cars because of the awsome performance. That was 40 years ago. I love driving my C5 Corvette. The LS V8 is “all the time torque” however my son has a Mazdaspeed6 with a direct injected turbo charged engine and although it’s not quite a Corvette it still does a pretty good job of forcing your eyeballs back into your head! Do you need a V8? I don’t think so, as I said times have changed and technology with it.

  • avatar
    serpico

    It’s not a muscle car if it doesn’t have a V8.

  • avatar

    YES a muscle car must have a V8

    you can’t just look at raw horsepower figures – those are meant to trick you into buying the car or looking good on paper.

    The real issue is power delivery.

    A) A 4 banger is going to be low displacement, you’re going to have to bring the revs up to reach the meat of the powerband (even with variable valve timing and direct injection)

    B) A turbo is going to have lag. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it – even if its drastically reduced with small turbos, dual ball bearings, direct injection and variable turbine vane geometry – you’re still looking at even a small window of lag.

    Contrasting this to a V8 which delivers all its power low down and delivers that torque RIGHT NOW in ANY GEAR. Nothing can touch the lazy lope and robust power delivery of a large displacement V8.

  • avatar

    The Grand National is an exception because it was a brand new name with no ghosts from the past to live up to.

    It didn’t take off until the car was tuned to provide the performance to match it’s sinister black styling. If was reintroduced today a potent turbocharged V6 would be required as would the color black and sinister styling reminiscent of the original. Grand National fans like me and muscle car nuts would accept no less as a true Grand National.

    If a car’s reputation, image and history is made from V8 power it must always offer V8 power, like the Camaro, Corvette, Challenger and Mustang. There’s no getting away from or redefining that, doing so destroys those cars and people won’t buy them.

  • avatar
    Mj0lnir

    Does a muscle car “need” a V8?

    No, and the GNX proved it.

    That’s a different question than whether or not the Camaro base motor should be the turbo 4.

    The answer to that question is also “no”.

  • avatar
    Busbodger

    So the same car with similar performance and a four banger turbo isn’t a muscle car like the same car with a V-8 huh?

    Maybe the four banger ought to come with a better suspension package and the V-8 can come with drum brakes all the way around…

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    Muscle cars were defined by having big V8s. That being said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with offering the Ecotec turbo 4 in the Camaro. It makes the car lighter and with fuel efficiency being all the (mandatory) craze, it certainly helps GM to reach that 35 mpg CAFE standard. Besides, with the power available from these engines, GM might just supercede the V6 and just offer the turbo four as the base engine. Certainly a nice redefinition of what a muscle car can be. Now if only Chrysler could do the same and offer the turbo 2.4 in the Caliber SRT4 in the Challenger. Now THAT would be a nice thing.


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