Muscle car history

Muscle Cars brief history

The term of muscle car principally refers to American, Australian or South African V8 engine powered cars. These so called ‘muscle cars’ were high-performance cars and were designed for maximum torque, on the street or in drag racing competitions. Muscle cars incorporate a classic design, being a rear wheel driver mid-sized car, with a special trim. Muscle cars were distinguished from sport cars, not only by their size but also by their performances. Classic muscle cars have gone a long way since 1964, when the first muscle car took birth, and till the year of 1975. It’s a known fact that muscle cars were produced mainly in the US and in Australia, during that period.

Muscle Cars Origin

It was back in 1957 when someone came up with the idea of installing a powerful engine in a post WWII mid-sized car. This amazing idea was later put into practice by the AMC ( America Motors Corporation ) when they first showcased the Rambler Rebel.

Muscle cars - Rebel Rambler

This first muscle car was powered by AMC’s 327 in V8 225 horsepower 4 barrel carburetor ( fuel injection was optional at that time), and so made Rambler Rebel the first budget-priced mid-sized hot-rod.
Back then, the Rebel Rambler was promoted as the fasted 4 doored car in America, making the quarter mile in just 17 seconds.
With the coming years, the popularity of muscle cars only started to grow. In the early 60s, both Mopar ( Dodge, Plymouth and Chrysler) and Ford battled for drag racing supremacy. These were the true muscle cars, even considered Kings of the road back then.
The years to come, 1964 and ‘65, have only brought pleasant surprises to the scene of muscle car producers as Ford unveiled it’s 427 Thunderbolt

Muscle cars - Plymouth Roadrunner

and Mopar its 426 Hemi.

Muscle Cars - Charged Hemi

The affordability aspect of the muscle cars was soon to face a major problem due to the muscle cars increase in size, optional equipment, and plushness, forcing the addition of more and more powerful engines just to keep pace with performance
A backslash against this cost and growth led in 1967 and 1968 to a secondary trend of ‘budget muscle’ in the form of the Plymouth Roadrunner,

Muscle cars - Plymouth Roadrunner

Dodge Super Bee

Muscle Cars - Dodge Super Bee

and other cheaper models.

Muscle Cars Politics

During this period, the muscle cars’ performance soon became a liability. Two main factors contributed strongly to the decrease of interest in muscle cars amongst the population. One of them was Ralph Nader, who decried the irresponsibility of offering such powerful cars to the public sales, giving the fact that these muscle cars were especially targeting the young buyers.
The second factor that contributed to this decrease of interest, was the automobile insurance industry.
Muscle cars with their high power were underlining the marginal handling and breaking capacity of contemporary cars.
In response to that, the automobile insurance industry began levying punitive surcharges on all high powered models, soon pushing them out of their price range for potentially buyers.
The problems that Detroit was facing with air pollution, started to arise and turned their eyesight towards emission control rather than power. This problem was only emphasized in 1973 when the OPEC oil embargo led to price control and gasoline rationing.
With all of these external forces acting against it, the muscle car industry quickly evaporated.
Surviving muscle car models are now prized collectibles.

Australian Muscle cars

Three big manufacturers were dominating the market in Australia, Ford Australia, Holden or Holden Dealer Team (by then part of General Motors) and Chrysler Australia. Muscle cars industry actually took a different turn in Australia, they were cars especially designed to race in the Bathurst 500—then known as the Armstrong 500 (miles) race and later the Hardie Ferodo 500. Back then, muscle cars were supercars in every possible way, sheltering big powerful engines and a wide range of other racing options. The demise of these muscle cars were brought about by the racing rules of the time being that 200 examples had to be sold to the general public before the car could qualify. In 1972 this rule came to a head and the Government stepped in to ban muscle cars from the streets.
The first real muscle car was produced by Ford in 1967, that car being the 289 Windsor-powered XR Falcon.

Muscle Cars - Ford Falcon XR

Being also forced to keep pace with the trends, Ford was continuously releasing faster and faster cars, this climb culminated in 1971 with Australia’s most desirable car - Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III, powered back then by a 351 Cleveland engine.

Muscle Cars - Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III

Holden produced the famous Holden Monaro with 307, 327 and 350 Chevrolet smallblocks or 253 and 308 Holden V8s, followed by the release of 4 high-performance Toranas, the GTR-XU1 (1970–1973), SL/R 5000 (1974–1977), L34 (1974) and the A9X (1977). The XU-1 had originally installed a 186ci (3 litre) triple carburetored 6-cylinder engine, later increased to 202ci (3.3 litre), as opposed to the 308ci (5.0 litre) single quad-barrel carburetored V8 in the SL/R 5000, L34, and A9X.

Muscle Cars - Holden Monaro

Chrysler produced the R/T Valiant Charger from 1971 to 1973 when the R/Ts productions were stopped; the most demanded R/T models were the E38 and E49 with high performance 265ci Hemi engines incorporating triple Weber carburetors. Chrysler apparently considered a high-performance V8 program importing 350 340ci V8 engines from the USA.

Muscle Cars - R/T Valiant Charger

The Australian muscle car era was considered to have ended with the release of the Australian Design Rule regarding emissions in ADR27a back in ‘76.