Have you ever looked the name muscle car and wondered how it came to be? Muscle cars are among the most unique cars in the scene today. This applies not only to their look, having a near-uniform appearance across different car manufacturers, but also to their history as it`s full of interesting happenings which led to what it`s called today.
With one of the most iconic cars of this kind, the Pontiac GTO, celebrating its 55th anniversary this year, why not take a look at the history of these unique cars? Read what we have below to see how these cars got their name and how they became popular.
What is a Muscle Car?
To better understand the history of these cars, we should first discuss what makes a car a muscle. There are some specifications which need to get checked before you can consider a car as one of them.
For instance, it is a must that the car should have a rear-wheel drive. The reason for this is because the original design called for better handling in bad weather. The weight of the engine getting placed at the rear set of wheels made this possible.
Speaking of the engine, it`s common for these cars to have a V-shaped engine with 8 cylinders mounted on them. This gives them a large amount of horsepower to suit their purposes. This also allows for faster acceleration in a shorter amount of time.
The car`s body should also be lightweight to get qualified as one. This is because their original purpose was for street racing. The lighter weight meant more speed for the racers as they drove down the straight track.
Being affordable is another defining characteristic of these cars. This is possible because of its simplified design and because it doesn`t demand expensive materials to make one.
Purists also only consider cars manufactured between in the 1960s to the 1970s. This is the reason why modern muscle cars aren`t qualified to the majority of enthusiasts. Cars from the designated year which get remodeled to fit modern designs can still count as one of them, though.
Now, let`s move on to learning about their history.
1. The Original Muscle Car Name
The history of these cars began in 1949 when people were in the market for speed and were as competitive as they can get. Their competitiveness soon gave birth to drag races where each driver only needed to drive in a straight line. This sated their competitiveness while keeping it legal at a technical level.
Car manufacturers preyed on this trend and made the first-ever car design for street races. At the time, they got the name Supercar as they were faster than any traditional car at the time. They were also cheaper as being lightweight before meant using less metal, which is what made cars expensive before.
These supercars sated the competition people craved for in the time. Combined with the cheap gas prices back in the day, the trend, like the cars, showed no signs of slowing down.
Because they were lightweight though, it meant less safety for their drivers. Even though they were only used for street races, this design led to the next major event in their history.
2. The Prohibition
Street racing came to a brief stop in 1957 when AMA put a ban on sponsored races. This was a big turn as the manufacturers themselves promoted these races for the most part. Their goal was to have their customers buy their latest cars to have an edge over their competition.
The ban was because it was an unethical practice to make a profit at the expense of people`s safety. The Automobile Manufacturers Association decided to start implementing the ban after the most catastrophic accident happened during the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1955.
During the event, a racer brushed up against another driver going 150mph. To this day, it`s the biggest disaster to come from muscle racing.
While the ban was in place, regulations got implemented for automobiles and manufacturers. This involved raising the quality of materials of which supercars will get made. Soon enough, the ban got lifted and with the new regulations in place, supercars were a thing again.
3. The First Line of Classic Muscle Cars
With the ban lifted on 1963, speed racing was once again a popular trend among thrill-seekers. With the new guidelines though, the sport wasn`t as thrilling as before as cars were heavier thus slower. The trend was about to die out when Pontiac manufactured a car that would change the sport.
A year after the ban in 1964, Pontiac released their new car, the Tempest GTO. The Tempest had all the features and capabilities to make it a supercar but Pontiac marketed it as something else. This was the first time the term muscle car was ever coined.
They named it as such as it had supercar capabilities but could also withstand damage its predecessors couldn`t. It was a huge success as it sold over 6 times its projected numbers. Its iconic look is also the basis of other modern cars today.
4. The Transition to the Modern Era
These cars hit a small hiccup in the early 70s due to the changes concerning car emissions. The limits made way to the creation of low-lead fuel which was bad for the V8 engines supercars had. Not only that, but manufacturers were also forced to fit them with heavier bumpers and such.
All the changes cut down the performances of these vehicles, making them obsolete at the time. It wasn`t until the 90s when gas prices went down did these cars make a comeback. More advanced engines also made them as fast as they were even with all the weight they`re carrying.
There are even different variations for supercars today. For example, there are super trucks are now available today.
These boast speed, power, and stability while being functional. Pickup trucks are the most functional as they get fitted with mods like a speedliner bed liner.
Despite this though, drag racing isn`t something people look forward to today. As a result, these cars are more for show than for racing. There are still some people who hold street races though.
Learn About the History of Supercars Today
A muscle car is a vehicle with interesting specifications and history behind it. Learn what you need to learn about them here and understand why they`re unique today!
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