Ace of Base: American V8 Muscle

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

A few months ago, I promised the B&B they would never see American muscle cars in this Ace of Base series. Why? Well, it’s my firm belief the likes of Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger should be permanently equipped with a V8 engine and its accompanying sultry exhaust note.

I am here before you today not to break my promise, but — as I’ve said to my wife on occasion — to creatively keep my promise. Let’s find out what shoppers get for their cash in a no-option, V8-equipped example of the hairy-chested coupes hawked by the Detroit Three.

The muscle car wars is a feud as intense as the Hatfields and McCoys, and has been going on for nearly the same amount of time. It used to involve a few more players – AMC, for starters – but is now pared down to three manufacturers: Ford, Chevy, and Dodge. Generally, most folks are in one camp or another, with no in-between and bitter hatred for rivals. This assures my conclusions will summarily anger two-thirds of America’s muscle car fans. If, after reading this, you feel the need to rain hot motor oil upon me, please use 5W-20 so I can at least put it in my truck later.

2017 Dodge Challenger

Choosing the R/T trim is the cheapest way to get into an eight-cylinder Challenger. Equipped with the tried-and-proven 5.7-liter Hemi V8, drivers will find themselves in control of 375 horsepower, all of which are sent to 245 section, 20-inch hoops at the rear by way of a Tremec-sourced six-speed manual. Styled to look like a Dodge straight out of the ‘70s, the Challenger’s split chrome grille and appearance of quad, sealed-beam headlights evokes good memories of big lapels and pork-chop sideburns. The Hemi burble rounds out the retro scene.

Inside, a no-options R/T is equipped with a 5-inch uConnect infotainment system and not the good 8.4-inch screen, but the Challenger acquits itself with good-feeling leather wrapped around its steering wheel and shifter. Throwback gauges and deep-in-a-well seating position are also reminiscent of the ’70s. Buyers should expect to see a Monroney bearing a price of $32,890 plus $1,095 destination. That is the cheapest of all three cars.

While the Challenger has the lowest price, it also has the lowest horsepower rating and the greatest amount of pavement-pressing mass. Here is a handy chart detailing the curb weights of the three V8-equipped American muscle cars on sale today.

See why I can’t pick the Challenger? While the styling tugs on my sentimental heartstrings — I own two Dodges, remember — the 4,190-pound Challenger is seemingly hewn from a solid block of lead. Memo to Dodge: stop letting the Challenger run up to the ice cream truck every time it passes through the neighbourhood on a hot day.

That leaves the Mustang and Camaro. Gee. That’s a battle older than the ages, eh?

2017 Ford Mustang

Ford has imbued its base Mustang GT with the Fastback moniker, evoking misty-eyed memories of the ’60s when service was good and gas was cheap. Today’s drivers who select the base V8 Mustang will find themselves rollin’ in a five-point-oh that makes a remarkable 435 hp, all sent rearward via a six-speed manual to 18 inch, 235-width tires. Pay attention in parking lots; at Ford, like walking the dog, you’ll have to yank the (shifter’s) collar to find reverse. A stick-shift GT Fastback weighs 3,705 pounds.

The base V8 Mustang is priced at $33,195, plus $900 destination. Standard HID headlights will blind your oncoming enemies. Open the door, and one will find a tasty leather-wrapped wheel and shifter knob, manual climate control, and the el-cheapo stereo head unit. Drivers can call up the standard Track Apps to engage Ford’s electronic line lock to do apocalyptic burnouts. The Performance Package – bringing Brembo brakes, upgraded suspension, bigger meats, and a yaffle of stiffening braces – is a $2,995 option.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro

Many have complained about Camaro’s bunker-like visibility, but you’re only looking straight ahead down the drag strip or Woodward Avenue, right? Actually, that flippant statement blithely ignores the strides GM has made in Camaro’s handling, which can now confidently find its way around a corner or three. The standard 6.2-liter V8 puts out a whopping 455 hp, stirred with a six-speed manual. A rear-end stuffed with 3.73-ratio gearing (the best of our trio) and a curb weight of 3,685 pounds (also the best of our trio) ensures lightning off-the-line performance.

Twenty-inch hoops with summer runflats are part and parcel of the base V8 car, with wide 275 tires at the rear. Brembo brakes are along for the ride, too. Inside the bunker, GM makes the sensible choice to equip the thing with its large, 8-inch touchscreen equipped with SiriusXM and a backup camera. Priced at $36,905, GM slaps on a $995 destination fee.

Man, it’s a hard choice. Mustang … Camaro … Mustang … Camaro … I gotta go with the Mustang. It’s close though; the Camaro is a compelling package and I find it hard to say no to an extra 30 hp. But $3,800 is a big price difference. Considering that, one could spring for the Mustang’s optional Performance Package and still be money in pocket. Don’t though: that’ll break all the Ace of Base rules. Take the three grand and upgrade it to your own specifications … or use it for tires. With line lock, you’ll probably need ‘em.

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The models above is shown in Trump Bucks, absent of regional incentives and cash allowances. As always, your dealer may sell for less.

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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  • Pb35 Pb35 on Mar 15, 2017

    I picked up a 2017 Regal Peacock Green SS, 6mt no sunroof for for $39.2k last week. Overpriced at $49k but $39k? Deal of the century.

  • RedRocket RedRocket on Mar 16, 2017

    What, no mention of the base Mustang's burlap upholstery, 99% of the time found only in black on dealer lots? That interior feels worse than a 1968 base model Ford Custom sedan. Unfortunately, the Camaro is only slightly better.

  • Dave M. The Outback alternates between decent design and goofy design every generation. 2005 was attractive, 2010 goofy. 2015 decent. 2020 good, but the ‘23 refresh hideous.Looking forward to the Outback hybrid in ‘26…..
  • Lorenzo Subaru had the ideal wagon - in 1995. The Legacy Outback was a straight two-box design with rear quarter and back windows you could see out of, and was available in brown with a 5-speed manual, as God and TTAC commenters intended. It's nice they're not raising prices, but when you've lost the plot, does it matter?
  • Bkojote Remember a month a go when Cleveland wanted to create a more walkable Cleveland and TTAC's 'BIG GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM' dumbest and dullest all collectively crapped their diapers? Here's the thing- look on any American highway and it's littered with people who don't /want/ to be driving or shouldn't be. Look at every Becky on her phone during the morning commute in her Tucson, look at every Brad aggro driving his 84 month loan GMC. Hell look how many drivers nowadays can't even operate a headlight switch. You expect these people to understand a stoplight? In my neighborhood alone 4 people have been rear ended at lights from someone on their phone. Distracted driving over the past 10 years has spiked, and it's only going to get worse unless Becky has an alternative, because no judge is going to pull her license when 'she needs it to get to work!' but heaven forbid she not check fb/tiktok for 40 minutes a day.
  • Scott Shouldn't the The Italian Minister for Business be criticizing The Milano for being too ugly to be Italian?Better use of resources doing that....
  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.