Best Muscle Cars
What is the difference between a Pony Car and a Muscle Car?
By Dave Ashton
There’s always been arguments between what exactly is a pony car and a muscle car. As there is no scientific starting point of a definite definition for both, it’s down to really digging through the history books and getting as close to an explanation as possible.
If you jump onto the likes of Wikipedia and look up muscle car or pony car, you get a variety of explanations. I have actually tried to edit the muscle car Wikipedia page as it currently says the origins of the term muscle car came from ‘supercar,’ but whoever edits this page, kicked me out. If any of you out there have an explanation of the linkage between the term muscle car and supercar please comment below. As far as I have researched, the supercar moniker was only used in passing comments rather than an actual labelling. We extensively moan about it here where you can also find our own research into the terms.
Anyways, back to the terminology. The pony car tag can be arguably traced back to the release of the 1965 Ford Mustang, with the ‘pony’ part probably coming from the horsey Mustang naming, although the name did actually come from the plane with the same name. The Camaro joined in this market and the term probably pointed towards a vehicle that was probably a lighter, compact and more sporty version of a muscle car. These vehicles got bigger and heavier as it got to the mid-70s and today, there really isn’t such a thing as a pony car, per se. So, the term is really for historical purposes.
You can check out this info graphic on our website about Pony cars to see their evolution.
However, some say that the modern Mustang, Camaro, Challenger and Charger are really modern pony cars, which adheres to the pony car principle of offering a vehicle that can have many engine options and still look like the top vehicle. If you take the original Plymouth Barracuda, some say you can lump that in as a pony car while others say it is a pure muscle car……hmmm.
We have written articles in the past which tried to slap a definition on the term muscle car, but essentially the term refers to an American vehicle, larger than a pony car, with a huge V8 engine with plenty of torque like the Dodge Charger. The idea was to have a powerful engine in a reasonably priced vehicle which could burn up the track in a straight line. It defined the mantra ‘no replacement for displacement.’
The vehicles were simple by today’s comparisons and were made for straight-line speed. There is also no definitive start point for the term, but whoever first came up with it, came up with one fantastic label for this breed of vehicle.
Today, it’s arguably the muscle car label that is bandied around the most, with possibly the Dodge Challenger being the nearest to a true muscle car today. A huge, powerful V8 engine all 707HP of it on a muscular body, still with a focus on straight-line speed. The upcoming Dodge Demon will also slot into being a modern-day muscle car.
If you look at the modern Ford Mustang, it can be both pony car and muscle car depending on who you ask. With an updated suspension and more track performance, the modern Ford Mustang is aiming to be more sports car like, but it still has its heritage in the pony car world.
The Camaro originally coming from the pony car camp has all the modern touches of a sports vehicle and is probably the least likely to be called a muscle car, but the name can still apply. if you look at the modern Mustang GT 350 and the Camaro ZL1, they are both arguably more sports vehicle, but still have a V8 at their heart, but won’t necessarily be called a pony or muscle car.
Therefore, if you’re considering modern vehicles from the big three, Chevrolet, Dodge and Ford as muscle or pony cars the definitions are a lot less clear than they were from the golden era. If you consider even some European sports machines are referred to as ‘Muscle’ by some then it’s no wonder that the terminology can get so mixed up.
Comment below what you think is a muscle or pony car.
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