By on September 27, 2008

Yes, you little nimrods! The American muscle car does have a future! Detroit simply needs to stick to a few basic principles. The first thing it mustn’t forget is that any muscle car worth building will have a V-8, expensive fuel or no. To any camel admirers ready to start preaching the gospel of turbonium and other unnatural elements, I’ll just say that no other amount of cylinders or configuration can match the distinctive presence of a V-8 – especially a good ol’ American one. Sound MATTERS. Nothing brings out the hairy chested, knuckle dragging Neanderthal in me faster than a carnivorous sounding V-8. If it’s cammed up, it’s all over. I’d be ready to run the Mille Miglia after a vasectomy.

Proximo, a muscle car must be RWD. I believe that on any car, and specifically on those motivated by brute force, FWD is an abomination no more desirable than exchanging fluids with one of the half breeds on The Island of Dr. Moreau. But wait…AWD has its merits you say? Fine, just remember that a muscle car flaunts said muscle the old fashioned way. AWD is to one of these cars as another tattoo is to Kat Von D’s epidermis: unnecessary and ruinous. Transmission wise, a proper stick or a traditional slushbox is all that’s needed at muscle beach…paddle shifters here would be akin to vein augmentation surgery. And sorry, Dodge Charger. Sedans have no place in musclecardom. Leave the four door bruisers in the hands of coppers. Or piston heads of questionable character. Oh, and Ford? ALL muscle cars should have an IRS. Live axles are more modern than the suspension on Ben Hur’s chariot…but not by much. The drag strip crowd can fend for itself via the aftermarket. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

For the love of Benji, I wish Detroit would lighten its muscle cars up. The new Challenger’s a 2 ton pig. The Mustang and Camaro aren’t far behind. Ideally, these cars should weigh no more than 3,500 lbs. Weighing less, they could employ smaller motors while retaining impressive performance. The whole size thing is a bloody travesty. The Mustang, Camaro and Challenger are as big as they are because the big 2.8 have resorted to one-upmanship, plain and simple. It’s more than a horsepower race. Cost cutting, safety and emissions regs and platform sharing all factor in, yes, but providing more car (pork?) than the competition is the misguided ethos right now. Leave the bloat fest to the Accord, Camry, and Altima camps.

A smaller, lighter car needs less engine to get the job done. That’s a fact. Detroit needs to stop putting the biggest and dumbest V-8’s it can fit into its muscle cars.  The added complexity, cost and packaging issues of DOHC valve trains more than justify themselves. I’d rather have a 4.0+L, 7,000+ RPM DOHC fire breather than some big, dumb and slow push rod fossil any day. Yeah, pushrods have their benefits, I read up on the Corvette. But c’mon, brothers, at what cost progress? How many more improvements can be made to the same basic design? The constant improvement to and evolution of the basic design of the 911 is a marvel to behold. But even magnifying glass focused Porsche knew when to abandon its air cooled boxers. Change is inevitable. For nostalgia’s sake though, I will admit that in a classic muscle car, a push rod motor is in its natural habitat.

Speaking of nostalgia, trips down memory lane make me feel alive.  Those Sha Na Na and Leif Garrett clips on You Tube…never mind. Let me just say it. Whatever numbskull at Ford thought to go retro with the 2005 Mustang needs to be skinned alive and dipped in iodine. Twice. Enough with the friggin’ retro already! What a way to lead by example, Ford. What ever happened to imagination and creativity? And shame on you Chevy and Dodge for letting yourselves be lured into a fad that will eventually crash and burn as hard as one of those Libyan MiG’s that tried to do the tango with a Tomcat.

While the hybridization of just about every automotive segment continues apace, muscle cars should remain immune to this. Either you’re a carnivore or you ain’t. So yes, even in these conservation and efficiency conscious times, there indeed is a future for the American muscle car. We want and need them. Unlike the pick up trucks that are never used to haul or tow, or the SUV’s that never go off road, a muscle car’s existence and use is justifiable on just about any road, at any time. No other type of car could serve as a better antibiotic to the ills of fuelmiseritis and its bedfellows. You can bet your grandpa’s fillings on that.

[The above article is presented without editing.]

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19 Comments on “Muscle Car Writing Contest Finalist 1: Frank Rodgers Calls You a Nimrod...”


  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    Excellent job defining what is the essence of muscle car, but is there a market for it going forward?

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    “Unlike the pick up trucks that are never used to haul or tow, or the SUV’s that never go off road, a muscle car’s existence and use is justifiable on just about any road, at any time.”

    I like this sentence the best. Nice job!

  • avatar

    Well written, I agree that our modern muscle cars need to lose some weight.

  • avatar

    Nice editorial, but one comment:

    You recognize the bloated stature of all of today’s muscle cars but you won’t show love to the latest small block Chevy? Its lighter, more compact, has a lower center of gravity, easier to modify, cheaper to make, etc than any of its OHC V8 competition.

    I once saw an LS6 powered (80s) Porsche 911 at a car show. The owner said the SBC was lighter than the Porsche’s mill, and doubled the power.

    THAT’s advancement, baby.

  • avatar
    DearS

    I think the article is off on so many levels, yet its right on at the same time in ways that matter the most. Be smart, recognize what works and what does not. You don’t have to like something, but you don’t have to be complacent either. Great read, its really great. Again, wow is it not inline in some of the details I think, but the substance is there. I mean I came to the conclusion that I can call an M3 or my E30 a muscle/effective car and thats what works for me. I think I can understand the essence and substance of what I want in a car, something others were looking for in muscle cars back in the day. Thank you!

    I still think the C63 is a muscle car. I said your details are not inline with the substance of your editorial. Its the idea that a masculine (and feminine) car is more than functional for the sake of practicality that means something to me. That is substance. A coupe is personal, personal is important to me in a car celebrating masculinity (and femininity), still a 4 door can be personal also, but the idea has substance non the less. V8 I don’t need a V8 necessarily, but I need something that delivers, I need a car that delivers, things like sound, not just handling and practicality. Things like character, things that are pretty, things that resonate with me, and that is ok. I demand and stand up for such things. I have a right to ask for and expect such things. I see substance. RWD not FWD it says, recognize function right?. I don’t mind FWD’s faults to much though. Still Substance! Make cars lighter ie. form follows function no? Although the GTR and new TL will dismiss lighter cars toward their rear. Flaunt, I love to flaunt ie. sharing love and substance. An Integra type R will flaunt though. Same for the 4-door Accord Euro-R. You talk about creative efforts, keeping weight in check, tangible style etc etc… Yea I’m reminded it takes hard work, substance, and love to make things work. Thank you!

    Muscle cars should remain immune to BS, Hell Yea! That sounds like confidence, faith, clarity and manifestation. More substance. I guess we have a lot of substance. Muscle ie. masculinity manifested and femininity creative cars will continue to evolve because we want them to, because its our substance expressed and celebrated, our muscle.

  • avatar
    DearS

    I think encasing the substance one manifests into products of an era, company, or ideal is dysfunctional. It does not work, the substance transcends those things. A muscle car is not a car at all. Its a celebration of masculine action and feminine creativity. Hard work, creative efforts, courage, confidence, faith, intelligence and lightheartedness ie. compassion. Muscle cars were not perfect, just like us humans, but they still had a lot going for them. Cars just resonate with us, they remind of something we know but is hard to remember without them. Some thing we like to celebrate, but its perhaps impossible to celebrate without them. So we buy them, and make them and work on them. Its been important to protect our love, dreams, and ambitions, to defend who we are, that is why we are still talking about muscle cars.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I’m still not sure what sort of car we’re talking about here.

    You start by saying a muscle car has to have a V8. Preferably a carnivorous sounding one.

    Then you say muscle cars should be light, and have IRS. Then you go on to say how they could have smaller engines if they were lighter. You looking for a sports car with a V8 or a muscle car that handles well? Is there a difference?

    Is a ’63 Stingray a muscle car? I’ve never thought of it as such.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Chevy’s OHV V8s are smaller and lighter than a few DOHC V6s I believe.
    IRS? you’re way off here. No muscle car should have IRS. The problem with IRS is that every crappy “tuner” wants to cut his springs and lower his car so that the camber ends up at 30 degrees or so. A solid axle prevents “tuners” from doing this.

  • avatar
    blindfaith

    For the love of Benji, I wish Detroit would lighten its muscle cars up. The new Challenger’s a 2 ton pig. The Mustang and Camaro aren’t far behind. Ideally, these cars should weigh no more than 3,500 lbs.

    The fastest muscle car I ran and you beat GTO, 442, 383/426 road runners, 396 chevelle, mustang 428

    Was the Chevy II, 327 350 HP, weighted 2500 lbs
    Weight did wonders and I got 16 mpg. It was made of steel and wonder why all these cars weight is 3000lbs or more when we are using more aluminium

  • avatar
    blindfaith

    The Cobalt Turbocharged Intercooled 260 hp, 2 liter is just what you are talking about.

    When taken to Germany and tested on the winding get go track all the BMW, Corvettes, Audion, Honda and etc

    The Cobalt beat all them essentially costing under $ 60,000. Now GM puts out a GEM disguised as a cobalt for $20,000 and nobody talks about it.

    TRY it out Enjoy. I have and do. Reminds me of old times driving my sleeper CHEVY II

  • avatar
    davey49

    blindfaith- two reasons why a car of today the size of your Chevy II weighs 3500# as opposed to 2500#
    1. crash tests, crash your Chevy II into a wall at 35 MPH and the passenger compartment crumbles like a beer can, killing everyone. Walk up to any car built before 1985 or so and you’ll notice that all the door pillars(especially the A-pillar) are all rather thin. If the windshield were taken out you could probably wrap your hand around the entire A-pillar of an old car.
    You can say that a new car has more “metal per square inch” than an old one.
    2. silence, people want cars silent inside. That means double layers of steel (with rubber in between) and heavy foam or rubber insulation.
    It all adds up.

  • avatar

    davey49 : 1. crash tests, crash your Chevy II into a wall at 35 MPH and the passenger compartment crumbles like a beer can,

    There are little to no crumple zones in most Chevy IIs! Detroit didn’t even have collapsible steering columns until the second generation of the Chevy II. Not to mention everything back then was made out of metal. All (relatively speaking) of the crash energy goes directly to the passengers.

    2. silence, people want cars silent inside. That means double layers of steel (with rubber in between) and heavy foam or rubber insulation.
    It all adds up.

    Agreed, but since a large chunk of new cars are made of plastic, there’s a big weight offset here. I seriously doubt that’s a good reason for everything being so damn porky these days.

    My 3800lb Mark VIII is just as quiet as a 4200lb Challenger. Not to mention its much bigger inside. Hell, it might be quieter with the bullet-like aerodynamics.

    I like debating stuff.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    The added complexity, cost and packaging issues of DOHC valve trains more than justify themselves.

    Oh really? In a musclecar? How do you figure?

    As others have touched on….you want smaller and lighter, but go on to poo-poo the smallest, lightest, most efficient, most economical V8 on the market…the pushrod equipped GM V8.

    Leave the bulky DOHC’ers to the heavier luxo performance market….a “musclecar” is not about high tech, but rather smart, affordable performance, and the path to a smaller lightweight car HAS to start with a smaller lighter engine.

    The fact that an LS3 Chevy motor can make 440+ HP and get 28 mpg with a six speed in its current guise is already a remarkable achievement. And for a just few grand more…you can “cam it up” since the cylinder heads flow well enough to support well over 500 hp…and that’s before we add forced induction into the mix!

  • avatar
    JJ

    awesome dogs.

  • avatar
    blindfaith

    Chevy II crash tests via street:

    One rolled, at 80 mph, one lived one dies when he popped out of the car.

    4 guys traveling in subdivision too drunk to know it was a dead end street. They hit a brick porch doing around 60 mph driver died impaled by steering column. The other 3 were never right but lived all were around 18.

  • avatar
    KeithBates

    A smaller, lighter car needs less engine to get the job done. That’s a fact. Detroit needs to stop putting the biggest and dumbest V-8’s it can fit into its muscle cars.

    A funny thing happened in the mid ’70s, a captive import with V6 engine
    had the same performance as a domestic V8 engine, both were built by the same manufacturer, although one was built here in the US, and the other was built in Germany, Koln to be exact. The real problem was that the US based model was the performance car of the fleet, and the captive import was just there to flush out the other brands fleet… And the captive import had better manners…

    SteveL

  • avatar
    davey49

    Sajeev- I’m sure a bit of the Challenger’s noise is done on purpose.
    3800lb Mark VIII isn’t exactly light.
    I was thinking more like comparing a 1989 Accord at probably 2400-2500# compared to a 2006 Jetta at 3300#. Same relative size car.
    A lot of old time cars look to be stronger because the outer skin metal is thicker. The structure isn’t there though. If you were to take a saw and cut straight through a new car there would be twice as much metal to cut through.
    for all the people who want cars to be lighter- It isn’t like car makers want their cars to weigh over 3000#. The buying public has certain requirements that go against what “enthusiasts” would prefer. The car makers are doing the best they can.

  • avatar
    blindfaith

    If the frames, subframes, hoods, trunk lids, roof, inside crash rails, engine cradles, floor pans, crank shafts, rods, camshafts, fly wheels, blocks and heads all direct injected with highest possible PSI on injectors calipers turbo charged, and seat frames were made out of aluminum or carbon fiber. The cars would be as strong or stronger, engines would be more efficient with greater horse power. Get rid of old tech battery for lighter battery. The lighter the moving components inside an engine the quieter the engine. Weight would be reduced by 500 to 1000 pounds.

    A good engine should be able to idle at 300 rpm without bouncing all over the place. Broken engine mounts means a poorly balanced engine wasting energy, reducing life span and disturbing my phone calls due to noise.

    When steel crushes only the creases took energy from the crash the remaining flat areas were of no real benefit.

    The stupid public actually believes a car has to be heavy to stay on the ground when traveling at high way speeds.

    All of this is known to the car manufacturers!

    davey49 : Look around for insulation for heat and sound deadening material for car rebuilder. Look at the specs and the weight you will find it doesn’t weight that much and does a great job. Also if the car engines would be built properly the sound would be next to nothing from engine compartment and the weight would be reduced and proper airodynamics leads to no wind noise and this weighs nothing.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    My father-in-law has a collection of Dodge muscle cars. He use to own a ’70 440 Six-Pack Super Bee that he took me for a ride in. Within minutes he scared me on just pubic streets… LOL. But I cried worse when he sold it (for $65,000 in decent shape, but it had never been restored). Now that was a muscle car!


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