When you ask someone to name some things they associate with the good ol’ USA, chances are the list will go a little something like this: baseball, apple pie and…a large-displacement engine crammed into a two-door car with smooth styling and great quarter-mile time. Okay, so that last one doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but most people often misunderstand the term “muscle car,” so it helps to be specific. Muscle cars have long been a part of the American fabric. For good reason too, they recognize our innate desire to drive fast and look good while doing so. But what makes a muscle car a muscle car? How can you tell the difference between a high-performance car and a high-performance muscle car?
America is known for pushing limits and this can be seen through its world reputation for creating and manufacturing high-performance vehicles that give you a lump in your throat every time you punch the gas pedal. Depending upon the type and your planned use for an old muscle car, car insurance can be nominally more expensive. When you have the power of 400-500 horses under your hood, slightly more pricey car insurance is understandable. Since the 50s, American manufacturers continually sought to put as much power as they could fit in a two-door car. Make no mistake; compared to other automobile manufacturers around the world, this is a uniquely American aspiration. Yes, you can get high-horsepower cars from other countries, but in order for it to be considered a true muscle car it must be made in America.
High Performance Engine
Horsepower, torque and the earth-trembling low pitch rumble are the defining characteristics of a muscle car’s high-performance engine. The precise numbers this definition translates to are up for debate. A muscle car’s true power and speed is the net combination between the amount of horsepower and the output of torque. It’s hard to pin down exact numbers for a muscle car engine, but generally vehicles with 350 horsepower (give or take 50 horsepower) and torque around 300 and above. Again, these numbers are a little fuzzy due to the fuzzy definition of a muscle car (check any online forum to see people disagreeing on what numbers constitute a “true” muscle car), but they are good general guidelines.
Stylistic differences between different muscle cars are vast, but they all have two doors (sorry four-door Dodge Charger, you don’t count) and a sleek, fast look to them. Hood and door scoops, a slightly raised back end, and a big front end for the big engine are all hallmarks of a muscle car. You can’t just throw on a nice pair of rims and a well-placed spoiler and consider a vehicle to look like a muscle car. The aesthetics of a well-designed muscle car are, to a certain degree, indescribable, but are one of those things that you know when you see it.
The actual term “muscle car” wasn’t used until after many of them had already hit the road. Consequently, the term is somewhat ambiguous. However, there are some benchmark characteristics that every muscle car has: it’s American made, contains a high-performance engine and unique styling.