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Bar Talk: Can A Non-American Car Be Called A Muscle Car?

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There have been many cars over the years with ‘muscle car’ properties, some directly called muscle cars, but can a non-American vehicle be truly a muscle car?

It’s one of those never-ending debates where the moniker of muscle car has been slapped on everything from imports with slightly bigger engines to anything that looks like it has a little horsepower.

The term itself can’t be pinned down to one person, being born out of the post-war hot rodding scene which took a small, regular vehicle and added a large displacement engine, designed for straight-line speed, thus drag racing. Plus, the influence of the bootlegging era to have a high-powered car, faster than the cops of the time. This led on to legitimate racing needing more and more powerful engines.

The stand out vehicles that define the muscle car can be pinned to the 1949 Oldsmobile rocket 88 and the 1964 Pontiac Tempest GTO to a large degree. Mopar and Ford through these times were all fielding larger engine’d vehicles, from the 1962 Dodge Dart 413cu, to Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, Pontiac and Buick all having large displacement engine cars.
It wasn’t one day, suddenly there were muscle cars, it was a gradual progression, with the term popping up along the way.

The want for bigger and more powerful cars, lead up to the 1964 Pontiac Tempest GTO, which is probably the definitive landmark of the golden age of muscle cars – affordable vehicles, large displacement engines, great designs, most importantly, a car that could be easily worked on to be made bigger and faster.

This golden era lasted until the early 70s, until the oil crisis and high insurance costs cut the size of engines and the definitive muscle car designs of this era.

The next few decades have the same makes and models to an extent, but a shadow of their former selves, until the 2000s, where models like the Dodge Charger and Challenger, Mustang, Camaro and even the Chrysler 300C and Cadillac CTS-V brought back the muscle car platforms with the original ethos.

As history lessons go, the back history of the muscle car could arguably be longer than a copy of ‘War and Peace,’ but as definitions go, a true muscle car is an American vehicle with a high displacement engine (V8).
The definitions like it can only be a two-door, have been bent by the makes themselves producing four-door versions, such as the incredible 2015 Dodge hellcat Challenger and Charger and working on these modern cars is not nearly as easy as their older counterparts, but they are as close to their ancestor muscle cars as you can get.

This all means that other cars will be called muscle cars, say they have muscle, but unless it’s American, with a high displacement engine, ideally a V8, it’s basically….. Something else.

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