By on July 5, 2012

The Wall Street Journal’s Driver’s Seat touches on the muscle car segment, and whether they’ll fall pitfall to rising gas prices in the future, CAFE regulations or some combination of the two. Among the solutions brought up in the article – by Chrysler executives, no less – is “a high output four-cylinder engine”.

There’s no doubt that the current crop of V6 muscle cars is better than ever; the constant chorus of “V6 Mustang $19,995 FTW!!!111″ may get tiresome, but there’s no doubt that the value proposition is there – and it really is a good car. The V6 Challenger with the Pentastar V6 is an often overlooked entrant, and the Camaro V6 is an honest effort, even if it’s not very good.

But to me, and many others, a true muscle car always has been and always will be about the V8 engine, and the intangible qualities that surround it. There’s the sound, the knowledge of all that power under the hood, but also the sheer profligacy and belligerence of the whole package. For an urbanite like myself, the V8 muscle car is a blatant rejection of the current zeitgeist; “sustainability”, the foodie movement, cycling, the push towards mass urbanization, doomsday theories of catastrophic climate change and fossil fuel depletion.The Mustang 5.0 (or the Boss, or the Shelby, or the Challenger SRT8) is unapologetic about being enormous, offensively loud and a deliberate misallocation of precious resources.

The irony is that while the wackier proponents of those theories are seeking a Rousseauian return to a mythical state of nature (where we live in harmony with the earth and our fellow man in a communitarian, kale-saturated paradise) that never really existed, I feel the same way about muscle cars. They evoke feelings of that era in between The Pill and the discovery of HIV, when optimism, not irony, was the spirit of the times, when my Grandfather left his MG Magnette in England and came to this continent. Without fail, he ordered his cars with a V8 engine, because he could, whether it was his first American car, a 1962 Pontiac, or his last, a 79 Caprice with a 350.

Even as someone who grew up during the apogee of the import tuner movement, who finds the same intoxication in a shrieking VTEC four-cylinder that a Boomer would in a big-block V8, the idea of a muscle car with fewer than 8 cylinders just doesn’t sit right with me. A V6 muscle car is a a 370Z. A turbo 4, as great as it is, is still something I associate with Nissan 240SXs and long nights in a damp garage trying to make it “JDM”. There are exceptions; the Buick Grand National is a legend, full stop. A Mustang with the 3.5L Ecoboost is a dream of mine. But then, you’d turn the key, and rather than hear that sublime gurggling, and the machine gun blatt as you leave the light, all that’s there is the subtle whistle of compressors and bypass valves. The F-150 Ecoboost I have now is just fine without the two extra cylinders. The blown V6 does just what I need and may even be better than the available V8s. But a muscle car is not a work truck. I don’t need to tell any of you this. But you can keep telling me how great the V6 ‘Stang is. I won’t disagree.

 

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

77 Comments on “QOTD: Can Muscle Cars Do More With Less (Cylinders)?...”


  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    A true muscle car has to have a V8. It isn’t just about power, it’s also about smoothness. I would not buy a V6 Mustang/Camaro/Challanger because it is just a cramped V6 car, not a performance vehicle.

  • avatar
    redav

    IMO, the whole muscle-car = V8 thing misses the forest for the trees.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      So your saying????? WRX STi = modern musclecar? SRT4? Evo X? RX8? M3?, M5? GT-R, 911 GT2 RS, Aventadore? Veyron? Throw us a bone here redav.

      Just being facetious for the most part, but I would be interested in your take on what a musclecar is?

      As for Mustangs and Camaros not being musclcars, I’d disagree for after 66 for the Mustang (in Shelby GT500 trim you could get the 428 IIRC) and the Camaro was available from the get go with a 396, IMO the big block pony cars certainly fit the description of a muscle car despite not being a mid size coupe.

      I suppose the term has been somewhat bastardized much like the term “sports car” which it seems is everything from a Yaris with a few vinyl stripes, some cool alloy wheels and T-rated tires on up to the aforementioned Bugatti Veyron and (speaking of musclecars) has essentially come to define any car with performance pretensions and is equipped with a V8.

      Frankly I’m fine with that since I’ve variously heard that either the real musclecars died off in the 60′s and 70′s to the real musclecars are only coming out of Germany now (so I guess its any 2 or 4 door high tech gadget laden sedan/coupe that has a comparitively high horsepower engine that has spent long periods of gestation on the ‘ring – yes read that as dripping with sarcasm).

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Let’s invent an arbitrary category, give it arbitrary requirements, and debate whether a car fits into the category as if there was something fundamental about the very existence of the category.

        I don’t define “muscle car.” I couldn’t care less what label someone else uses (and whose *opinion* doesn’t change the car in any way). A V6 Mustang is a V6 Mustang. If it is christened a “muscle car,” it is a V6 Mustang, and if it is not called a “muscle car,” it is still a V6 Mustang.

        Of what value is the debate over some irrelevant label? It’s as stupid as debating whether a car is a wagon or hatch because the rear window isn’t vertical and the third window isn’t full-size. It’s as stupid as the racist criticisms of black athletes/actors ‘trying to be white.’ If you like a car for its unique set of characteristics, buy it & enjoy it. If someone gets bent because of what other’s call his car, (or if the rapper du jour isn’t ‘black enough’), that’s his loss.

        Labeling–especially labeling based on features instead of function–causes people to focus on the tiny things, and then they miss the big picture.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    If we lose V8′s we’ll lose tiny bits of our souls.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    3 letters for you: SHO
    oh, and GNX, but you said that one.

    I personally don’t care how many cylinders a car has, and my favorite ones that I’ve owned have all had 4 and revved really high.

    I understand the need to have V8s, and even that there is something lost with that burble dissappearing. But muscle cars can do more with less, and it’s been proven in the past. The question is whether the public will actually buy them.

    • 0 avatar
      smokingclutch

      Sure they can do more with less, but that’s kind of defeating the point. Muscle cars aren’t about pure speed, at least not anymore. They’re about an experience. Even the chassis are contrived – there’s no longer any cheap RWD sedans to base them on, so now they’re either purpose-build (Mustang) or based on more expensive and larger RWD chassis that impose their own compromises (Camaro and Challenger).

      I drove all three entrants before I bought my Challenger, and I picked the one I did because it felt like the most authentic muscle car experience. It’s sized much more like a Chevelle than a pony car (much like the original, actually) and I like it that way. If I wanted a sports car this time around, I’d have bought a sports car.

  • avatar
    potatobreath

    I wonder how a Cyclone 3.7 would fare in a Crown Victoria…

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      If somebody hasn’t tried it they will, the Panther is a BOF design so I don’t think it would be too hard for the determined hot rod builder to figure out engine mounting and the like.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    I see a few kids with the new Camaros… I can’t help but think that they would have actually gone for the Z, but they got the American Iron to be ostentatious… there’s something about it that’s akin to the hipster irony for the sake of irony… sort of like “Look at me!!! *Wink*Wink*”

    If the muscle car is going to live one, somebody is going to have to save it from itself. When 7litre v-8′s start hitting the market, you know it’s not going to last. That’s why I’ve always thought that bikes had it right… you have very tightly defined categories… 600cc, 750cc, 1000cc, because that’s what a bike in that class ought to have. Race on Sunday, sell on Monday. Anything more than that like the 1300cc class and you don’t have the air of legitimacy that competition brings.

    So in other words, if you have a 5litre v-8, then I go for a 6litre for bragging rights, I win, but everybody loses because the war escalates and the muscle car becomes an irrelevant dinosaur. If you have a 5litre v-8 and I go with a more efficient v-6, I lose, you have bigger bragging rights and I’ve shot myself in the foot.

    However… if everybody goes to a 4-litre v-8, everybody wins… muscle cars becomes less irrelevant and can live on. Yes, it’s a very ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ sort of thing.

    (Soft spot in heart for 3rd Gen Trans-Am. For no apparently good reason.)

  • avatar
    PaulVincent

    fewer

  • avatar
    carguy

    Can blown sixes and fours propel cars as fast as V8s can? Probably but that is not the point. As much as it is about speed, the muscle car is as much about attitude and presence and the luscious exhaust note of a V8 engine enhances both.

    However, it is possible to build a true V6 muscle car (like the GNX) but manufacturers will simply have to work much harder to compensate for the charisma gap that the absence of a V8 leaves.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Having come of age as a driver during the heyday of the muscle cars (mid-1960s), I think you’ve got it about right. A muscle car is, as John Z. DeLorean, the creator of the GTO, realized, a fashion statement. The statement is the appearance of massive power. So, the design elements are: (1) engine noise/sound, (2) straight-line acceleration, (3) vehicle size, (4) big tires, and (5) dual exhaust. While any number of modern forced-induction engines can supply element number 2, they cannot supply element number 1. The requisite muscle car engine noise/sound can only be supplied by displacement, and the point of entry is somewhere between 4.5 and 5 liters; although the really good sound doesn’t come until you get to 6 or 7 liters of displacement. Displacement relates to pitch, and the muscle car sound requires a low pitched, throbbing bass-heavy exhaust sound than can not come from smaller displacement.

    A “muscle car” is not a sports car. It is a little big, clumsy and awkward for a road course. “Track day” for a muscle car doesn’t exist, if that means taking it out to a race track. What you do with a muscle car is take it out to a drag strip — that’s “track day.”

    And, at the risk of being a pedant: Mustangs, Camaros and the like were never “muscle” cars. They were supposed to be more like sports cars, with a vestigial back seat (which, actually, many sports cars of the era also head).

    A muscle car is a sedan or a coupe on a sedan body with a back seat functional for adults. Thus, the GTO, the Olds 4-4-2, the Chevelle SS396, the Plymouth Hemi, the Dodge 440 Charger, the Buick Grand National (a sort of muscle car for the 80s) were “muscle cars” by that definition.

    When (or if) cars stop being objects of display (like jewelry, clothing, etc), there will be no more muscle cars. And, to the extent that CAFE or gasoline prices puts an effective limit on engine displacement somewhere less the 4.6 liters, then there will be no more muscle car in the classic sense. That said, there will still be fast sedans but being powered by relatively small forced induction and/or high revving engines, they will not be capable of producing that intimidating “muscle car” sound.

    That said, a number of sixes and fours are capable of producing a satisfying sound in their own right.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      I can’t really build on this post, it’s pitch-perfect, pun intended.

      I would only add or emphasize the importance of torque. Sure you can get “torque” from a turbo, and a nice flat curve at that, but for some people it’s naturally aspirated or nothing.

      If you can’t have that torque come on immediately, and I mean as soon as foot touches gas (and I mean gas not diesel), you’re in a different framework.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      I agree that sound is the main argument for a V-8. I have never heard a V-6 that I like. Having owned several sixes, only the BMW I-6 had a decent sound. Maybe its the uneven firing of a 90-degree V-6. Nissan 370Z’s sound awful, just plain harsh. Turbos chop up the sound pulses, so most sound like nothing, except the WRX with that weird flat four half muffled sound from running the turbo off of one bank. NA inline fours also sound ok, half a V-8 after all. Oh, and the V-10 Vipers also sound terrible, unique, but bad.

      • 0 avatar
        potatobreath

        I loved the sound of the Toyota 1MZ-FE 60-degree V6 past 4000 rpm in the Camry. Wish that car came with a manual transmission instead though; not too keen on revving an auto.

        The Lexus 1UZ-FE V8 is fantastic, but it’s far more supercar than muscle car. Like packing a V6 in a current pony car kinda note, but maybe the car sounds differently inside than outside under acceleration.

        I’m not a fan of the Nissan VQ35DE.

      • 0 avatar
        typ901

        I think the Flat-6 in a 911 sounds pretty damn good, and appropriate for that car; although it is not a muscle car in the classic sense they move quite well

    • 0 avatar
      Sir Tonk

      So would the Marauder qualify as the last great muscle car, with the Impala SS and Roadmaster before it?

      Maybe the G8, or the new Caprice, but they’re not big enough in my opinion.

      • 0 avatar
        nikita

        The original Pontiac GTO rode on a 115 inch wheelbase and tipped the scales at about 3300lb, so those are probably close. One problem with comparing modern cars is the lack of 2-door models, so you end up with more of a sport sedan instead of muscle car. Big sedans back then, like the Impala SS, were not considered muscle cars, it was the intermediates. Today, I would make an exception for the downsized ’62-’64 Fury, but those pre-dated the GTO.

      • 0 avatar
        Mrb00st

        I’m thinking the last Impala SS (like 2009?) would qualify too.

  • avatar
    Sky_Render

    “The Mustang 5.0 is unapologetic about being enormous, offensively loud and a deliberate misallocation of precious resources.”

    As much as I LOL’d at this statement, I have to say that getting 27 MPG out of a V8 Pony Car with over 400 horsepower doesn’t exactly seem like a misallocation of resources to me. Hell, my 5.0 gets far better fuel economy than all those soccer moms in their essyoovees.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    -Emphasis on straight line acceleration
    -Rear wheel drive
    -High performance/price ratio
    -Long hood and short deck
    -Bold, muscular styling
    -Budget, stripped interiors

    All of these factors trump the V8 as defining characteristics of a muscle car. With the base engines in modern compact cars putting out more HP than a late ’70′s 5.0 Mustang it isn’t fair to exclude 4 and 6 cyl engines from the party. At one point small block equipped cars weren’t considered true muscle cars so I think the size and type of power plant can change as long as the performance is there.

  • avatar
    86er

    “The irony is that while the wackier proponents of those theories are seeking a Rousseauian return to a mythical state of nature…”

    Sounds better than a Hobbesian state of nature.

    To the thrust of the article, I don’t know if the “muscle car” market has ever really changed. The rarest, fastest, etc. were always in the hands of a small few, and the flotsam and jetsam drove 383 Satellites and Coronet R/Ts and pretended to be somebody.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    “For an urbanite like myself, the V8 muscle car is a blatant rejection of the current zeitgeist; “sustainability”, the foodie movement, cycling, the push towards mass urbanization, doomsday theories of catastrophic climate change and fossil fuel depletion.”

    This statement implies a woeful and ignorant hypocrisy among the so-called “Greenies.” Before the environmental movement became a Nazi-fied faith-based religious movement, their stereotypical vehicle of choice was the VW Van.

    Stand behind one of the babies someday and time yourself how long you can stand the absolutely eye-glazing, choking level of wide-open pollution….. and THAT is running it on the unleaded gasoline of today….not its diet of leaded that it was designed for. Next, ask yourself why the Naderites focused on the Corvair as the supreme evil of their time, when VW’s had the same (or worse) deadly swing axle design, coupled with a FAR worse center of gravity and laughable front-end protection.

    Now compare these abominations with the villified Muscle Car of today:

    - It doesn’t matter which one you choose; a Shelby GT-500, an SRT-8 Challenger, or a ZL1 Camaro, a ZR1 Vette…..or even a supercharged Porsche Cayenne S …. will get superior gas mileage over that VW Van with a daisy in the dash.

    - If you nosed one of the above-cars up to the back of that VW van, and piped the VW’s exhaust directly into the intake of one of these “wasteful” “anti-social” vehicles, it would drastically reduce the level of pollutants.

    You see these ignorant clowns to this day driving around with a smug, self-righteous sneer, apt to jump out of their aging VW and key an unsuspecting SUV.

    • 0 avatar
      rwb

      Green strawmen?

    • 0 avatar
      dejal1

      Talk about moving the goalposts.

      A car from the 60s pollutes more and is not as safe as a car from 201Xs!!!

      Who knew.

      Why didn’t you compare the pollution output and gas mileage of a muscle car from the 60s to those VWs?

      The only time I see an aging VW these days is at a car show.

      You sound like you’d like to see them off the road. Great, but we have to crush the muscle cars from the 60s also.

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      The VWs, and especially the VW vans of the time didn’t have enough power for any kind of oversteer, snap or otherwise. Corvairs were sports cars … well they were sporty-ish anyway, and GMs nickel and diming of the design resulted in a car that was significantly less safe than its contemporaries, including anything made by Volkswagon at the time. Partly because it had almost twice the power of the Beetles (80 or 95 hp base engine depending on year vs 50 or 54 for the bug)

      Today’s GT-500s, SRT-8s, ZL1s (and all other cars of today) are infinitely safer and cleaner for the environment than their 60′s and 70s predecessors. You can thank any number of Greenies and Naders for that fact that you can take a new car out in the LA basin, be able to see through the air to drive it, and if you were to wrap it around a tree, you’ll probably walk away from it with a few cuts and bruises. Believe it.

      There’s more than a enough “smug, self-righteous sneer” here without assigning it to others.

    • 0 avatar
      jdowmiller

      …and it’s posts like Larry P2′s that have encouraged me to no longer frequent this website

  • avatar
    challenger2012

    It is not can muscle cars do more with less. It is they will do more with less. With the price of gas going forever up along with mandated MPG rules, smaller is the only choice. This makes me glad I purchased my 5.7 Hemi, while you can still buy one.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    A “muscle car” is a constantly moving target based on the highest output cars currently on the market. Right now a “muscle car” has to have at least 400 HP. The Nissan 370Z is not a muscle car but the GTR is. A 911 Turbo definitely is, and a Carerra S might be (it does hit the 400 mark). A muscle car does not have to have a V8, but it does have to have a LOT of power.

    But that doesn’t mean that power is a good thing. It can’t often be used on the streets, and it wastes a lot of money in additional cost for the same car, and in gas. The interior that is decent in a $20,000 Mustang V6 is crap in a $42,000 Boss 302. Does getting up to a bit over the 35, 45 or 55 mph speed limit a bit quicker make up for that?

    By definition “muscle cars” cannot have less power. But RWD coupes can. And are often better for it.

    The idea that the only Mustang worth buying is a V8 is just as stupid as the idea that the only 3-series worth buying is an M3, the idea that the only Corvette worth buying is a ZR-1 or the idea that the only 911 worth buying is a Turbo.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      I think the point about the V8 Mustang being the only one worth buying is not related to its performance. The V-6 seems plenty quick and may handle even better if you add all of the GT suspension bits. The point is, with a V-6 Mustang you have a heavier, slower version of a 370Z (i.e. neither car really carries more than 1 passenger). The V-8 doesn’t carry any more people, but it has insane straight line performance and the wonderful V-8 sound. It makes a statement that the V-6 doesn’t. And let’s face it, all of these cars are purchased because they make a statement. Practical, they are not.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        What is not practical about a car that can be tracked, autocrossed, used as a daily driver and fit 4 people in a pinch? The 370Z is not that much better, or lighter, than a V6 Mustang for the premium. As opposed to base Corvette, which will kill a Mustang GT.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      You cant base the definition of “muscle car” purely on HP, by that logic then the Veyron and the Genesis sedan would be muscle cars too. Muscle car is a throwback term, to the heyday of the 60s and 70s when Detroit put out crude cars with big engines, thats it. A “modern day muscle car” is sort of an oxymoron, since the modern cars we have today are worlds above what you could get in the 70s. They exist now to give you a little of that feel of the old days, they have to be loud, with lots of attitude, too much power is never enough, and they require a V8. Thats the point. Trying to turn them into “sports cars” will take away the feel.

      Its pretty simple, you either get it or you don’t. If you would prefer a Porsche or a 370Z or a GTR or a Genesis coupe, etc, then you are not looking for a muscle car. Even a V6 Mustang isnt a muscle car, it just happens to be a bargain sports car thats a bit too heavy and a tad too crude.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        The Veyron is without a doubt a muscle car. It is THE Muscle car. It has not one but two V8s. And it is a fat two ton+ pig.

        The Genesis sedan with the 5.0 also is, Just like AMGs are.

        In the 60′s and 70′s HP is all that mattered to a “muscle car”, and it is all that should still matter for that definition.

        The question is whether it matters if a car fits that definition.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        No, its the ultimate sports car, or really the ultimate posuer car, made to get attention and show people how rich you are. The AMGs are not muscle cars either, they are sports sedans, they corner as well as they accelerate. The Gen-5.0 isn’t all that good at either thing, its a luxury espress.

        But, you are right, it doesn’t really matter what label you use or prefer. People will buy what they like.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    IMHO big V-8s were a kind of a cop out way to get power with some serious penalties: fuel inefficiency, and a massive lump of metal in front end that messed up handling. This is why when I was in high school in 1968, I so loved the 302 z-28. It was a small v-8 that could wallop many of the 400+ CID v-8′s of the time, and did by being in a very wild state of tune, as in running strongly in the 7000 rpm range, astonishing rpms at the time.
    Getting high power out of smaller displacement involves far more complexity and quality of engineering, and therefore is always more interesting, as well as efficient too.
    When I bought my 1990 Mitsu eclipse turbo, that was the ultimate to my mindat that time. Here was a 122 CID engine that was a close match to the stock standard ’68 z-28 in performance, and it averaged 30 MPG! Heaven!
    I will acknowledge that the sound of a burbling V-8 sets off lots of visceral pleasure for many of the posters here, and to them I say enjoy your big v-8.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Splitting hairs, perhaps, but I think of the Mustang/Camaro/Challenger trio, only the Mustang is available in Six/Stick. The Chevy and Dodge only offer stick with a V-8.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      The V6 Camaro can be had with a 6-speed manual. I didn’t consider it because I don’t fit in it (I’m too tall), but it is a nice car. The steel wheels look menacing, and it comes with Bluetooth. It is much more of a GT than a sports car.

  • avatar
    hidrotule2001

    It seems like a muscle car is, by definition, an American-made sports coup with a big engine. Take out the V8 and you can still have a sports coup, but it’s not a muscle car anymore.

    That’s not to say there isn’t a place for blown 4-cylinder sports cars, they just aren’t muscle cars (ala Genesis Coup 2.0T).

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      Does “American-made” refer to the country or continent? If the country then the Camaro and Challenger are excluded.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        It refers to Ford/GM/Chrysler, since they were the only ones to make muscle cars in the 60s and 70s. I guess a case could be made for AMC if they still existed, and probably the Australian companies that still make some bad ass muscle cars in the true tradition.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        Substitute AMC for AMG. If an Italian company can make a muscle car in Canada then I don’t know why anyone with enough HP should be excluded.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        They are excluded because they have no history, and thier cars are too good at everything. A true muscle car is all about history and tradition. The AMG V8 sounds amazing, makes amazing power, but the rest of the car is just as well engineered, its overtly expensive and it doesnt have “attitude”.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        An AMG has the same fundamental limitation as a Camaro or a Challenger. It is fat pig based on a heavy sedan. Mercedes just puts more money into trying to overcome that.

        And an AMG Black Series has plenty of “attitude” in its body kit.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        It is exactly that money and that engineering, and esp the price, that makes them not muscle cars.

        But its like I said above, you either get it or you don’t. If you want to call every European or Japanese car on the planet with over 400hp a muscle car, go ahead. If everyone “got it”, then muscle cars wouldn’t be cool.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        There is something cool about making a muscle car cost $40,000 instead of $140,000, but the extra $100,000 does not negate it being a muscle car.

        I am not the first to allege that foreign cars can indeed be muscle cars. AMG “muscle car” gets almost one million hits on google.

  • avatar
    SimonAlberta

    Well, I know where everyone is coming from re the sound a V8 makes but….the most awesome engine sounds I’ve ever heard came from a turbo-charged Audi Quattro 5-cylinder Group B rally car at full chat through a forest, at night, at over 120 mph….nothing to touch that…

  • avatar
    Pch101

    In my view, a muscle car is a high-powered V-8 two-door built on the underpinnings of a RWD family car.

    This segment is effectively already close to dead, since the large family car concept that served as the basis for many of the muscle cars has gone the way of the dinosaurs. Today, we have some souped-up pony cars, but I wouldn’t consider pony cars and muscle cars to be quite in the same category.

    In any case, the muscle car represented a compromise of sorts, with horsepower bolted to otherwise mundane parts. Those sorts of compromises are no longer required, thanks to today’s technology — today, you can get considerable horsepower, plus decent handling and fair fuel economy, in a variety of other packages.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      “In my view, a muscle car is a high-powered V-8 two-door built on the underpinnings of a RWD family car.”

      So an M3 or a C63 or an S5 pre-V6 switch? Ok, fine, the A4 is an all wheel drive family car, not a rear wheel drive one, so I will only include the M3 and C63.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “So an M3 or a C63 or an S5 pre-V6 switch?”

        None of those are muscle cars. A muscle car is a specific genre of car, not just a euphemism for any car that can go fast.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        Then fix your definition. The M3 and C63 are high-powered V-8 two-door cars built on the underpinnings of a RWD family car.

        And they are compromised compared to something like a Corvette or a Cayman.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “The M3 and C63 are high-powered V-8 two-door cars built on the underpinnings of a RWD family car.”

        The M3 is built on a 3-series platform. The 3er is a sports sedan.

        The C63 is built on a C-class platform. The C-class is a sports sedan.

        “Family car” also has a particular meaning. It suggests that the car is large, affordable and, in the case of the US, sold with a domestic badge.

        “Sports sedan” also has a particular meaning. They may have two or four doors, are almost always German, and are almost never American.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        European cabbies will be very excited to hear of their 1.8 liter diesel cabs are sports sedans, while Pontiac G8 owners will be sad to hear that their cars are not sports sedans. Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata owners will be confused that, lacking a domestic badge, they do not own family sedans.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Either you understand terminology, or you don’t.

        A “sports sedan” is a sedan that is designed with good handling as a priority. It may or may not have much power. BMW invented the class.

        A “muscle car” was an approach that Detroit used to upsell medium- to large-sized sedans with two-door body styles and extra motor.

        A “family car” in this context was a large affordable RWD sedan, a style of car that basically doesn’t exist anymore now that the Panther platform is gone.

        That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other types of sports or sporty cars, or that there aren’t other cars with power, or that there aren’t other cars that can carry families. The terminology is not literal. These are just descriptive terms for particular genres.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        I understand the terminology, I’m just not buying it. The sport sedan part sounds like an early 1990s C&D article. BMW did not invent sedans designed to handle well with the neue klasse. See the Hudson Hornet, Pontiac Tempest, Chevrolet Corvair and many others. And what grew out of the Tempest? The GTO. The first “muscle car.” “Sports sedan” is just a marketing term that the German automakers got away with because by the end of the 1970s Detroit let its cars fall to shit enough that a German housewife/taxi driver sedan could be sold to Americans as an expensive “sports sedan” with a straight face.

        “A ‘muscle car’ was an approach that Detroit used to upsell medium- to large-sized sedans with two-door body styles and extra motor.” Change Detroit to Germany and you have the exact strategy of AMG and the M division.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “I understand the terminology”

        It doesn’t seem that you do. Conventional usage determines the definition of words. You’re trying to get the rest of use to use terminology in a way that only you use it.

        One can debate the specific requirements of what exactly distinguishes a “muscle car” from other types of cars — the post is asking whether the V-8 is a mandatory component of it — but nobody credible defines it as broadly as you do.

  • avatar
    JMII

    A V6 with a blower would be enough “muscle” car for me. However I grew up with strong running 4s (Prelude, Eclipse). I currently have a V8… in my truck, and given its gas mileage there are days I wish I had gotten the V6. Modern V6s make the power of yesterdays V8s with the fuel mileage of older 4s. I’ve read articles of people who favor the V6 Pony cars just due to the weight savings, because (as we all know) car’s aren’t getting any lighter these days.

    The V6 in my Z sounds pretty good, until a ‘Vette or ‘Stang with exhaust works pulls up alongside. Then I have to hide my head. However to me the Z is not a muscle car, it has no back seat and doesn’t have the in-your-face attitude / stance a car like the Mustang, Camaro or Challenger has. That’s fine, I bought the Z because its small, sleak and nimble. Its quick and very sporting on a track, clearly its not a tire eating drag strip monster.

  • avatar
    slance66

    Agree with Derek that there is something different about the so called “muscle car”. There was a period in the 80′s when I’d argue there were none being made. The Smokey & The Bandit T/A is a muscle car, even if it isn’t any faster than a Maxima, or a modern V6 Camry. So no, it’s not a real muscle car without the V8. That doesn’t mean that a real muscle car is a better car. Very often it isn’t.

    Looking at the 3 American companies, they produce only one real sports car, and it is a V8 monster itself. The question the WSJ may be posing is whether an American brands can take the Mustang/Camaro/Challenger and make it something akin to a 2 door 3 Series or an Alfa Brea. Sure they can. It it would probably be a damned good car. But it won’t be a muscle car. I love the current crop for nostalgia purposes, but my God, the current Camaro is a gigantic waste of metal. They could cut the weight by 400 pounds and keep the inside the same size. Fitting a six, or turbo six if needed, would make it plenty fast.

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      Actually have to agree with you there, my friends late 70′s T/A with either a 7.6 or 6.7 liter engine (and the fake hood scoop, didn’t force air into anything, was just screwed on) could be taken by a stock 944. Now my neighbors 928, with a 944 turbo hooked up under the hood and a turbo from the old single turbo 911′s mounted underneith the car somehow (did away with the intercooler requirements) and was mechanically governed at 200 mph, now that was a muscle car, also a death trap in my opinion, think we got to about 160, when those little tires began to lose thier grip and I shoved transmission into neautral.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Didn’t Chrysler already try something like that. The Neon had the highest specific output of any engine they had made. Didn’t seem to go over very well did it.

    I was around during the muscle car era but didn’t own one because in my opinion, they didn’t work very well either. They just went fast but got really poor mileage. Now I own a 57 Chevy with a 283 and you know what? At 13mpg it sets parked an awful lot.

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      You mean the SRT4 engine? I don’t recall the base iron block SOHC 2.0 being any great feat of engineering, particularly when paired with a 3 speed auto in the early cars. As for the SRT-4, well, that was a turbo 2.4 that made 215 horsepower when released (later got bumped to 240). Compare that to an actual engineering marvel of an engine, the 2.0 liter motor in the Honda s2000 made 240 horses without a turbo. Now that’s cherry picking an example, but that’s the first thing which comes to mind when I hear the phrase “the highest specific output of any engine they had made.” Anyway, Neon was a made cheap penalty box compact using outdated and unsophisticated leftover parts, and is not a muscle car or a replacement for a muscle car in any way shape or form. The SRT-4 was designed to compete with the import tuner 4 cylinder crowd, which it actually did surprisingly well given its relative crudeness.

      • 0 avatar
        wstarvingteacher

        Chrysler said that at the time. They own it – not me.

        I never said it was the best and I do not think it was. The first muscle cars came from the attempt to overpower a smaller car (389 in a Tempest). I think the Hot rod neon was originated with the same type of thought. I don’t think it worked out well. They seem to do well at lemons races and badly on the street.

        I actually think we probably agree. I thought at first it was a good idea but came to think not so much.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Honestly I would rather a turbocharged small displacement low feature V8 than a high tech turbo 4. Make it OHV, maybe throw in a crude cylinder shut down system, whatever. But it needs that V8 sound. That is the whole point.

  • avatar

    Point 1:
    I’m not sure we need to pre-suppose the death of V8s. Increased efficiency through direct injection, cylinder deactivation, start/stop, forced induction and/or hybridization make more sense in the long run than lopping off 2 cylinders.

    Point 2:
    I know I’m a sub-category of a sub-category, but I don’t really see the point of a modern muscle car.

    If I want a slow, thirsty, rumbly car whose existence is justified by style, panache and nostalgia, I’ll buy a _real_ muscle car for a fraction the price of today’s offerings.

    Point 3:
    Being the least muscle-car-y of the bunch, I see the Mustang continuing to do well without a V8, as it can (and already does) hold its own as a sports car. Conversely, there’s no reason for a V6 Challenger or Camaro to exist.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      The real question is whether the inferior platforms of the Camaro and Challenger mean there is no reason for the V6es to exist, or no reason for the V8s to exist.

      A Mustang is a better track car and a better drag car (especially with the bemoaned live axle). Those are the areas where there is an argument for the V8. On the street a 300+ HP V6 is fine.

      Viewed generously the Camaro and Challenger are great (for the money) grand touring cars, with their huge wheelbases (particularly the Challenger) independent rear suspensions (which are more of a luxury feature than a performance feature) and right wheel drive. There is no need for a V8 to soak up highway miles. It just means stopping for gas more often.

      Viewed cynically they are posuer cars. No need for a V8 to pose.

      • 0 avatar

        Aside from the “get a real muscle car” argument, I get the Challenger.

        A new SRT 392 is a perfect gnarly burnout machine (to copy Murilee’s review) that cruises in a straight line with authority and a nice comfy ride. The latest version has cylinder deactivation, so it doesn’t use 8 cylinders to cruise down the highway, just to do all the requisite muscle car stuff.

        To that end, I’d say the V8 is mandatory to the Challenger’s raison d’etre. 392 might not be the mandatory number, but 8 is.

      • 0 avatar
        rnc

        What about the ford design that uses dual injecton (direct for gas and port for ethonal to cool the cyl.) Allows for alot more boost and power from lower displacement and increase in MPG at the same time (octane is a rating of stability in relation to pressure and temp.) All they would need to develop at this point is system to seperate small amounts of ethanol from “american” gas to feed the port injectors. And you have the best of both worlds.

    • 0 avatar

      To follow up on my Point 1, my ’64 Falcon has a 4.3 liter engine (260ci) and certainly sounds and feels the part for a muscle car. It’s plenty loud and burble-y at 8.5:1 compression, a small 4bbl carb, stock manifolds and cheap dual exhaust.

      It gets 20+mpg on the freeway when driven judiciously.

      Imagine a similar engine with direct injection, roller valvetrain and cylinder deactivation. The sound and feel could still be there, but with less guilt attached.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        The V8 is not going to die, it is just going to move up in exclusivity. Witness the R8 having a base V8 while the S5 was moved to a blown V6.

        The problem with “making it work” for the V8 is that the market doesn’t care. It just wants the most efficient, powerful engine. It is not going to pay for an aesthetic number. Whatever provides a given HP and torque combination with the lowest emissions and lowest cost will win.

        My understanding is that the most efficient single piston displacement is 600 cc. That puts the optimal engine sizes at:

        V8: 4.8 liters
        V6: 3.6 liters
        I4: 2.4 liters
        I3: 1.8 liters

        I3 engines have not had much success in the sub 2 liter class, probably because they are rough and, for now, scream poverty (just like an I4 used to). But I don’t see V8s creeping down into the 4 liter or less range.

        Deactivation could help, and the 90 degree V4 that is left after deactivation is an inherently balanced engine, but deactivation has not yet lead to huge efficiency gains. For it to really work well it would have to be a user selectable mode, the computer is never going to be able to predict whether the driver wants power or efficiency. User selectability would also make deactivation work with stick. But the EPA is loath to give credit to user selectable settings.

  • avatar

    I agree with the author. +I’ve been lucky enough to see 1 or 2 vintage examples in good shape, Led Zeppelin in the 8-Track and everything.

    But, as’ been said here more than 1x, the tectonics are increasingly evolving right out from under anyone who cared about them.

    Soon, even the youngest people commenting here on the righteous burble will be mouldering under atrocious sunhats and Tommy Bahama shirts with the remains of the walking dead over at Barrett-Jackson’s.

  • avatar

    This is third-hand knowledge, but, allegedly, the next gen Mustang engine options will be:

    I4 Turbo
    V6 Turbo
    V8

    Seems like everyone will be happy.

  • avatar
    Ion

    IDK, The 3.7l in the mustang is more like the ’64 1/2 Mustang which was more of a sorta sporty coupe. It wasn’t till 67 that the Mustang became associated with high performance and that notion didn’t stick through out some of the other generations anyway.

    That said the 3.7 is no slouch when it comes to performance. It can hang with cars in and way above its price range (heres looking at you G37ipl ). The 5.0 though?, ‘sfar as I’m concerned to 5.0 is king of the road.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Muscle and pony cars deserve the best engine configuration out there and the V8 is as good as it ever got. It’s not just about the burble, rumble or power down low, but also engine simplicity, reliability and longevity.

    Of course, specialty limited editions like the GNX and SVO get a pass, but anything that’ll take a V8 will better.

    Actually, today’s V8s are pretty darn fuel efficient if you’d care to look. Way more fuel efficient than boosted 4s or 6s when you consider smiles per gallon.

  • avatar
    DearS

    MX-5 with V6 = power to weight fun. don’t need V8.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Problem with the V6 in the miata is that the motors do so well with foced induction (at least the first and second gen), and the GM LS V8′s dont bring a weight penalty that destroys the ballance of the car. I would love to have the old school Probe GT V6, or a modern duratec under my 90′s hood, but the LS series motor is probably cheaper to swap in and not much heavier. And if I don’t have to have that V8 Burble a turbo gives great results without the swap headaches.

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      Back when Ford was still married to Mazda, I wondered why they didn’t sell a version of the Miata with a wheel flares, hood stripes and a v8 and call it a Cobra. Or at least a decent v6.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India