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Electric vs. Muscle Cars: Why Does It Have to Be This Way?

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By Dave Ashton

As we have said a few times on our tinpot website, electric powertrains, they be coming. Like a Dam that has a small leak. The water flow is hardly noticeable at first, then it flows a little faster and before you know it, the whole might of the reservoir comes down.

At this point the influx of full EVs and hybrids is just a trickle in the grand scheme of things, but it seems muscle cars are a great example for the EV types to use as the nemesis poster boy for everything bad about the internal combustion engine. It’s not hard to see why. A reputation for old-style principles of huge horsepower from huge displacement engines. Modern muscle cars are almost depicted like they still have their 1969 engines installed instead of the more efficient, modern equivalents.

However, muscle cars are just a small sliver of the whole automotive market. There are also following the path of supercars by slowly introducing hybrid versions for the foreseeable future. Which means future muscle cars or E-muscle are going to slot into the performance side of things and be as eco-friendly as the rest. Strange transitional times we have at the moment, so lets see where we’re currently at and what the near future could possibly bring us.

Attitudes soon change
The golden eagle website performed a survey back in February 2018 for ‘America’s Top Dream Cars.’ What would have been 10 years ago a list of only muscle and supercars, is now a more broad mix which also include electrics. The Mustang is in at number one, with Tesla number two and the Jeep Wrangler at number three. Chevy and Dodge are in their with the Camaro, ‘Vette and Hellcat, but there’s also the Tesla Model X and even the Toyota Prius at number eight. The data is also split off into other subcategories, like gender, region and dream car traits.

EV’s don’t win across the board as you would think. Luxury and efficiency dominate, with comfort and convenience, size, safety and fuel efficiency being prized over full electrics.

Electric vs. the world
In any good hero movie, the lead character needs an enemy. For the current EV’s in the performance category, i.e. mostly Teslas, the muscle car is an ideal candidate. You will have to check out websites like who almost on a daily basis featured a video of a Tesla in a drag race with some sort of muscle car. These drag races have so much weighted in the favor of electrics it’s untrue, but more on this later.

Fully electric production muscle cars are probably a long way off, but custom built electrics – the best of the old and new are already in development. The UK based company Charge have a Ford Mustang which brings huge power and torque to a classic design. That’s 0-62 mph in just 3.09 seconds.

Chevy already have their eCOPO Camaro. Still a concept car, but it’s already throwing down 9 second quarter mile passes with the equivalent of 780 horsepower. The powertrain could also point to the future of electric crate engines. They also have the electric drift car the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro EL1 named ‘Freedom One’ making 515HP and 800 lb-ft of torque.

Even Arnie who likes his muscle cars and Hummers, has had a few of his vehicles converted to electric. The below video is clearly tongue in cheek, but like he stated on Jay Leno, ‘“It is not the car that is bad, it is the technology under the hood that is the polluter. Let’s improve the technology, so we can drive any car that we want.’
Is Arnie against his old V8’s? I guess not, but the ultimate government led initiatives are clearly pushing us all in the direction of all electrics if we like it or not. ‘Polluter’ seems to be the key word here. If V8’s could be made emissions free, everyone would be happy.

Performance versus Tin Cans
Even though the take-up of pure electrics and hybrids aren’t as fast as government initiatives would like, the market is already splitting into the E-performance and E-autonomous daily drive sectors.

Everyone from Aston Martin to VW have some form of hybrid or electric in the works. BMW with their concept M cars for instance, focusing on the driving experience of hybrids and electrics.
Dodge recently announced a catch up in the hybrid and electric side of things. The Hellcat in Charger and Challenger models could get hybrid powertrains in the future. Ford have a Mustang-inspired SUV for 2020, 16 pure electric models worldwide by 2022.

But what about our humble V8 engines? The muscle car models may continue, but what about all that raw excitement and heritage?
An article over at covers, ‘Gas-powered vs. Electric Cars: Which Is Faster?’ In summary quick and fast are two different things. ‘Quick’ is getting from A to B, while ‘Fast’ is the top speed. Ev’s are quicker, but not faster than ICE equivalents. So, an EV is quicker off the line, but ICEs are still better at sustaining those top speeds. It’s why always feature drag races against muscle cars. The EV’s are quick off the line, but can be overtaken pretty quickly at the top. Until EV’s develop a better transmission system, this will stay the case. Not a problem for the daily commuting EVs, but performance vehicles are a different matter.

V8 heritage will never go away.
Imagine a few decades from now. Automated electric tin boxes will drive us stress free to and from work. No more smog, silent roads, our planet is saved, love and harmony and all that. Utopia has been achieved…..hmmm.

Performance electric vehicles may become the norm., but there’s something missing, a lot missing. Raw vibrations and sounds, the smell…yes, the smell. We are essentially sensory creatures, so taking those elements away from the joys of driving, especially in a car with a V8 will result in a very sterile world.

V8 muscle cars will ultimately be a very niche part of the market. Oh, they already are. Maybe a special licence to use gasoline or adaptions to use another fuel source, but they will always be around. Cleanup the rest of the world’s polluters and all the rain forests being chopped down and there should be no reason why we can’t go for a blast in a huge supercharged V8.

The elephant in the room: what’s the alternative to the mighty V8? Lets see an ‘E-8’ instead of a ‘V8’ for future muscle cars. The best of the old and new, brought together. It’s going to take some careful planning and changes in perception, but E-muscle cars are a definite direction.

Dealing with Today
‘It’s going to get worse before it gets better,’ seems to be the writing on the wall. Emission laws, gas guzzlers taxes and insurance bills are going to do a lot of the short term, squeezing for muscle cars. European emissions rules have already put the clamps on future Corvette and Camaro sales because of the 6.2-liter small-block LT1 V8.

Hybrid muscle cars seem to the next step, then possibly all electrics, but makers also have an eye on their past heritage. The Rolling Stones could release a Dub Step album tomorrow which may get critical acclaim, but it may not please the fans who have been buying into their stuff for the last 300 years. It has to start with a slow integration, a few side projects, but then there’s always the case of alienating some of the fan base.

Tricky times ahead, but all petrol heads…. or is it ‘EV heads’ now, want the same thing. The best in car performance. Electric seems to be spoiling the party for the short term and using muscle cars as an anti-hero. But, just like when muscle cars first came out, they will always offer value for horsepower and raw fun. From now on its how to crowbar electric into that equation and beat present EV’s at their own game.


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