- Wow, those were still cars – 50 years of muscle cars
- Pontiac GTO, cult car with 348 hp
- Cars as the title characters in films
- 007 hunts villains with his Mustang
- Oil crisis ends the muscle car boom
Wow, those were still cars – 50 years of muscle cars
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American cult car: The era of muscle cars began in 1963 with the Pontiac GTO. With this up to 348 hp V8, the boys from the staid boulevard cruisers of the E…impressively drop off parents.
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Ford followed suit a year later. Racing legend Carroll Shelby transformed the Ford Mustang into a potent racing car. The Shelby GT 350 became a blockbuster.
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Actor Steve McQueen also drove a Mustang Fastback GT 390 in the most famous chase scene in film history in "Bullitt".
Source: Wieck / jfw
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Private racing became a recreational activity for young Americans. Of course, a Mustang was a must at such events.
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These powerful vehicles were even used as pace cars. In this case, a Plymouth Sport Fury Convertible drove in front of the race car as a backup vehicle.
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From the mid-1960s onwards, General Motors turned the rather staid Chevelle into a muscle car. With the abbreviation SS, which stood for Super Sport, and with up to 395 hp, that counted…This model is one of the affordable high-performance specimens.
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With the Camaro, Chevrolet found the right answer to the muscle car boom in 1967.
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With the Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 Convertible, you rarely stood in the rain. The additional designation 442 originally refers to its fourfold carburetor, its four-speed gearbox and the like…nd its two-pipe exhaust system.
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One of the most sought-after muscle cars was the Plymouth Barracuda, which was built until 1974. And even today the barracuda still has a large fan base.
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In the past few years there have been repeated rumors that the Chrysler Group would bring a new Barracuda onto the market.
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The Pontiac Firebird was developed on the basis of the Chevrolet Camaro. The Firebird celebrated its premiere in 1967. Together with the Chevrolet Camaro, after four model generations …ceased production in 2002.
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However, the Camaro has been built again since 2009. Since the American cult car and co-founder of the muscle car movement is also popular in Europe, it has been over for some time… offered by the official dealer network. The time of gray imports is over.
Today it is wide wheels or thick exhaust pipes that unmask upright limousines as horsepower giants. The performance explosion under the bonnet began with the muscle cars.
Und the desire for more performance is always tempting. If today the horsepower arms race has even reached the smallest classes and seemingly harmless European sedans with ever new power values far beyond the 500 horsepower mark outperform each other, this is the latest variant of a trial of strength that took place half a century ago then American "Big Four" General Motors (GM), Ford, Chrysler and American Motors (AMC) had started.
At that time the world was still in order in the USA – with boundless optimism, a flourishing economy and the pursuit of ever new records and best values under the sign of the stars and stripes. Under the youthful-looking President John F. Kennedy there was a spirit of optimism, which was also heralded by the development of the dense motorway network.
Not even European supercars should stand a chance against the new cars from Detroit. The name of the Pontiac GTO presented in 1963 already heralded this as the ancestor and trigger of the search for horsepower and torque. The letters GTO stood for “Gran Turismo Omologato”, a homologation model for racing series, but above all Pontiac wanted to create at least an emotional connection with the Vmax icon Ferrari 250 GTO with its GTO.
Pontiac GTO, cult car with 348 hp
Since the mid-1950s, Pontiac has been consistently converted into a sports brand that already stood for speed in its name with models such as Le Mans and Grand Prix. The first relatively affordable cult car of the baby boomers, however, was the GTO with a V8 with up to 348 hp, which actually managed to beat the Ferrari of the same name in the quarter-mile sprint.
With what appeared to be glowing red stripes on the tires, the mid-range coupe warned all racing rivals of the fire from the quadruple carburetor system. Almost 600 Newton meters of torque was enough for rubber signatures in the asphalt and the pole position among American performance cars. Neither Chrysler’s immediate counter-attempt with the compact Sport Fury and 7.0-liter Hemi-V8, nor the Ford Mustang presented in 1964 could change anything.
Although the Mustang made history as the first pony car and until then the most successful American sports coupe of all time, it initially lacked high-performance versions. And exactly these were now essential for fame and honor. No wonder that Mustang inventor Lee Iacocca was downright enthusiastic when Carroll Shelby bred the pony car into a racehorse in 1966.
Since the overpowering Cobra, the Texan has been considered a snake charmer by the Americans who could transform any harmless athlete into a power car. Shelby boosted the Mustang to up to 375 hp, enough to show its poisonous teeth to all Pontiac GTOs and even America’s only two-seater supercar, the Corvette Sting Ray.
And with the “Rent a Racer” campaign, the Shelby GT-350H made history among car rental companies. Hertz had ordered a special series of around 1000 Shelby painted black and marked with gold stripes, which were left to customers after special driver training.
Cars as the title characters in films
In 1967 the temperature curve of the “supercars”, as the fans called their favorites at the time, reached its first climax. With the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird, General Motors found the right answer to the Ford Mustang and at the same time made the up to 395 hp Chevelle Super Sport affordable for the masses as the first specially developed family-friendly supercar.
Now AMC also took part in the muscle games. One of the most spectacular muscle cars of all time was developed from the harmless Compact Javelin. While AMC today is almost exclusively associated with curious compacts like the Pacer or quirky Renault collaborations like the Premier, the Javelin ("throwing spear") struck the heart of all performance fetishists.
This was made possible from 1970 onwards by his role as the title favorite in Trans-Am races and special series with the autograph of Trans-Am champion Mark Donohue. Screamingly evil colors like "Big Bad Orange", wings and ram air hats paved the way for him.
Precisely on this, from 1967, the Plymouth Road Runner and from 1969 the bright red painted Pontiac GTO, which, as "The Judge", judged all rivals such as the Dodge Challenger introduced in the same year. At least the legendary film career of the Dodge and its sister model Charger with test bench values of more than 500 hp remained almost unmatched.
In the road movie "Vanishing Point" (German title "Vanishing Point San Francisco") ex-racing driver and ex-police officer Kowalski has to transport a Challenger R / T from Denver to San Francisco. He only has 15 hours to cover a distance of almost 4,000 kilometers, which results in an average speed of 266 km / h. It goes without saying that he can hardly do that and that European super athletes like a Jaguar E-Type are relegated to extras.
007 hunts villains with his Mustang
Porsche also only played the supporting role in perhaps the best-known automotive epic epic “Bullitt”. The ten-minute chase through San Francisco by Lieutenant Frank Bullitt (played by Steve McQueen) in his 68 Ford Mustang GT 390 against a Dodge Charger is legendary.
Another variety of the Mustang, the Mach 1, is the torque monster with the highest sales for muscle maniacs. Although the Ford did not break the sound barrier from which it was named, the Mustang in the 007 film "Diamond Fever" made James Bond faster than all villains. The Mustang’s sister model, the Mercury Cougar Eliminator, struck even more aggressive tones. Still, he couldn’t do anything against wing-armored monsters powered by Mopar from Chrysler.
However, Chrysler initially only responded to the fictional character of Dr. Olds, who made the Oldsmobile guys faster. But then the heraldic animal of New Mexico, the path cuckoo, made a career as a cartoon hero Road Runner on the most powerful Chrysler models.
Even the horn of the Plymouth Road Runner mimicked the "beep-beep" call of the fastest of all comic book heroes, who was always able to evade his pursuer Wile E. Coyote. Just as the Road Runner, with its almost meter-high rear wing, wild stripes paintwork and Ram Air hood, stormed away from all rivals so rapidly that only the Dodge Charger, the Nascar champion from 1969 and daring sister model of the Plymouth, could keep up.
Oil crisis ends the muscle car boom
In its most powerful version as a superbird, the Plymouth was the first muscle car to break the 200-mile barrier in 1971 (= 322 km / h). Back then the world record for production cars.
And at the same time the provisional end of this era of the automotive arms race. The exorbitantly high insurance premiums for supercars introduced in 1971 and the consumption and emissions regulations launched by the EPA in 1972 caused sales figures for muscle cars to plummet. When the first oil crisis exploded a year later for the big blocks, which sometimes consumed well over 30 liters per 100 kilometers, this led to the abrupt disappearance of muscle cars.
The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am alone held the flag high for the time being, but more through brute looks than performance. Only after the turn of the millennium did the icons of yore experience a revival. No competitor offers more power for the money than the current Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger.
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