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Is the Tesla Model S a Muscle Car??

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By Dave Ashton

Every time I hear a performance vehicle being referred to as a muscle car, I’m like a meerkat on high alert after hearing the warnings from the rest of the mob(apparently a group of meerkats is a mob…)

This shouldn’t really be a problem, but we all like to categorize and if something doesn’t fit a category, it needs to go into a different pigeonhole and that’s the end of it(..stomps feet). Also, referring to any car as a muscle car is really a homage, basically its saying that a vehicle is big and powerful enough to be in the category of the muscle car. It’s not directly thinking of any particular model of muscle car, rather the ethos of the machines.

So what’s now rattled my cage with someone using the term muscle car for another vehicle? This time it’s James May from The Grand Tour and previously Top Gear test driving the Tesla P100D. ‘The Tesla Model S P100D is the greatest muscle car America has ever produced — which means, it’s the greatest muscle car the world has ever produced,’ said May.

EV website like  jumped on the comment with glee as another example of the Tesla paving the way for the new era of automobiles and performance vehicles, ‘It also reinforces the point that Telsa succeeded not just in making a good electric car; it succeeded in making an excellent car, period.’ True, but this is comparing an EV vehicle to a vehicle with a huge V8 engine run-off gasoline and massively different torque curves. It’s like comparing a racehorse to a greyhound, both quick out of the blocks, but completely different animals.

What is a muscle car?
We’ve written about the definition of a muscle cars a few times on the website which you can check out here. The problem with the muscle car definition is there’s no definitive starting point, so the term is open to interpretation. There are dictionary definitions, but it seems there is no one person who first mentioned the term or where it was first seen in print. However, those familiar with the genre know what a muscle car isn’t, if that makes sense.

But let’s play devils advocate for a moment. The traditional view of a muscle car having the basic elements of an American V8 engine, two-door and should be accessible to the average worker still stands. Mention an electric vehicle and the traditional muscle car fan recoils like a vampire shown a bunch of garlic on a sunny day. But times are a changing.

The big three muscle car makers all have plans for at least their own hybrids or even fully electric vehicles. Chevrolet have been testing their Ecopo Camaro which is already doing the quarter-mile in roughly 9 seconds. Dodge and Ford both are plans in the works for their own versions in time, hybrids or fully electric. There are even independent makers like the Zombie Mustang by Bloodshed Motors which is already proving its worth on the dragstrip.

So if the big three muscle car makers are looking into electric, does the definition of the muscle car need to change or will it only ever refer to gasoline/petroleum driven vehicles? That’s really a question for time to decide, so we can only go off the situation we have now and that’s the traditional view and definition of a muscle car.

Could the Tesla be an electric muscle car or E-muscle? This is where it gets a bit more vague. The Ecopo Camaro is probably one of the purist forms of E-muscle at the moment, but can others come into the fold? There were plenty of other muscle car makers back in the day which have now disappeared, so could Tesla be in the new era? When you take away some of the primary ingredients of a muscle car such as the V8, labeling becomes tricky.

In the long term it may be that electric muscle cars are simply electrified versions of their V8 counterparts. If you don’t have a V8 equivalent it doesn’t count. Just like back in the day when a certain amount of performance muscle cars had to be sold to the public before they could compete on the track. In that respect, the Tesla does not have a V8 alternative.

In the future when muscle car makers are producing fully electric muscle cars, then the Tesla can sit the entrance exam, but for now the muscle car is still firmly in V8 territory. When we hear of other vehicles being referred to as ‘muscle cars,’ we have to bite our lips and think of it as an homage rather than a signed up member of the club.

This is a good thing as the countless performance vehicles out there that have been referred to as ‘muscle cars’ want that badge of honor and the ethos of the breed. It’s definitely what the muscle car stands for, almost more of an ethos and lifestyle rather than a bunch of mechanical bits. A proven point when many think of muscle cars as they were from the classic era with sloppy suspension and weighing a good few tonnes.

So, going back to playing the devil’s advocate theme in this article, if the Tesla model S is not currently an E-muscle car, what would it take to make it so if it ever could be? Please comment below.


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