The American Musclecar; the history and techno-speak of a great style of cars.

Warning:  This post is very technical.  I promise in my next posts to decode the geeky stuff.                  

Just so you know, I am not misspelling musclecar and ponycar!  That is how they are spelled.  So no funny comments, please! 

 There are debates about which car was the first true musclecar.  This is like the chicken and the egg theory.  Which came first?  Some say the Chevrolet Corvette was the first, as it debuted in 1953.  Others say the Ford Thunderbird, which debuted in 1957.  Others say that it was the Pontiac GT0 which debuted in 1964.  I believe that it was the Ford Mustang, as the Corvette and T-Bird didn’t sell in large numbers.  The GT0 started going off the dealership lots when the 69’ Judge edition came out.  (Am I innocent, your honor??)  The Ford Mustang was the first of those to truly disappear off the dealership lots.  The proof is that more than 3 MILLION have been sold since 1965. 

 What makes a musclecar a musclecar?  Well, let me tell you.  A msuclecar is expected to have big, powerful engines and lots of power to do big, smoky burnouts without trying hard.  A musclecar is a two-door coupe with plenty of room under the hood for exhaust systems and a big, rumblin’ v8. 

 From my point of view, the musclecar started out with the Ford Mustang’s launch in 1965.  The Mustang appealed to an audience that was primarily young people in their late teens to their early twenties.  Mostly male.  They all had disposable income.  The Mustang originally came with your choice of a 200 cubic inch (4.0 liter) in-line six cylinder, a 289 cubic inch v8 (4.6 liter) with either a 3-speed automatic, a 3-speed manual (available with the 6 cylinder only) or a 4-speed manual (only with the v8) since the 3-speed automatic was available across the board.  There was also a convertible option and a “normal” coupe style or a fastback style. For three years, Ford’s hugely popular Mustang had no competition. 

 In 1969 the Pontiac Firebird and Chevrolet Camaro came out and were the first true competitors to the Mustang.  Also, the Dodge Challenger and Charger came out and were very popular, but not as popular as the Mustang.  Around the same time, Chevy came out with the Impala, which left the dealerships in herds.

In 1970, Ford introduced its first big engine in the Mustang; the legendary 302 cubic inch v8.  The funny thing was that the 302 was really 301 cubic inches and was therefore not the 5.0 liter v8 Ford promoted it as.  It was 4.9 liters.  Try saying “five point oh” and then say “four point nine”.  Which sounds more appealing?  Five point oh, right? 

Let’s drive over to the Chevrolet dealer and check out the Camaro.  The Camaro had the anemic Stovebelt in-line 6 as the base engine, but that dated back to the 1930’s, so Chevy put in the stuff of legends: the small-block v8.  That engine had become a popular drag/ hotrodding engine.  It also powered the Corvette, the awesome sports car.  The small-block engines had cubic inch sizes from 350 cubic inches (5.7 liters) to 427 cubic inches (7.0 liters).  Trivia moment! Did you know that the Stovebelt in-line 6 was called the Stovebelt after an engineer found out that the belts were the same belts that early gas stoves used? Probably not. 

Dodge, not to be outdone by the Chevy and Ford engines, had the 426 Hemi engine (7.0 liters).  All Chrysler/Dodge products with that engine came with a 4-speed manual transmission with an overdrive.  As on could expect, those cars were very FAST and won a lot of drag races.

Unfortunately, the 1970’s oil crisis meant that the EPA and the government tightened emissions standards and soon the previously anemic six cylinder engines were leaving the dealerships in large numbers.  After the oil crisis, the automakers never really recovered, the engines gave out less and less horsepower and torque.  Dodge’s Challenger became a front-wheel drive fuel efficient car that almost nobody bought.  Legendary car tuner, Carrol Shelby, slapped a turbocharger on it and soon it grew in sales numbers. 

In the 1990’s the automakers started getting back their old fame for their musclecars/ponycars and soon, with the exception of Dodge and Chrysler, started increasing their sales numbers, especially Ford with the Mustang.  The Mustang became so popular that Ford made what some, including me, think was a bad idea.  Ford put a 289 v8 back under the hood of the Mustang.  The 289 was less powerful than the 302. 

When the turn of the century happened, pretty much everything stayed the same until 2003.  In 2003 Chevy shocked fans by discontinuing the Camaro.  For seven years the Mustang had no competition whatsoever.  In 2005, the Mustang was redesigned and had a totally retro design that made it the most popular Ford ever.

In 2010, Chevy and Dodge brought back the Camaro, the Challenger and the Charger.  The Chrysler 300 was Chrysler’s answer to a musclecar and has been a good comeback car for Chrysler.  It had been around since 2005.  The Camaro was much more popular than the Challenger.  Dodge recently put a new 392 cubic inch v8 (6.4 liters) which is 0.3 liters larger than the 6.1 v8 that was previously the top engine in the Challenger.  Ford recently brought back the 5.0, except THIS time it is truly a 302 v8! 

 Today’s musclecar/ponycar offers speed, driving fun, all the modern comforts one expects in a modern car, powerful engines, and last of all, great looks.

Having sat in a Mustang GT500, I can report that it was an awesome experience.  You can tell how much power is in it by how big the speedometer is (175 mph) and the need for a boost gauge.  The interior is nice looking and comfortable, but a few too many hard plastics for my taste.  The exterior is smoking hot looking, especially in red with white stripes.  

The musclecar wars are just beginning with the Camaro Z28 coming out next year and all of the tuned Challengers.  They are also expected to look good in racecar form and win a lot.  The Challenger and Mustang both compete in NASCAR and win a lot. 

This is my brief history of the musclecar.  Plenty of books have been written about the history of the musclecar only.  The musclecar is one of my favorite styles of cars, and besides, I’m male.  I think I’ll just go out and buy a Mustang GT500.  That is, if my mom lets me…

Only in L.A. (or the unbelievable cars of Beverly Hills, CA)

 Where in the world can you see a few celebrities and lots of fabulous cars on any given day?

  1. Los Angeles, California.
  2. Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
  3. All of the above.

 None of the above answers are wrong, but personally, I would go with number 3.  Why?  Because there are many rich and famous in both Los Angeles and Dubai, so you can’t go wrong with whichever answer you choose.  But for today’s blog entry I am discussing something closer to me, geographically speaking.  Beverly Hills and the well known streets Beverly Drive, Canon and (of course), Rodeo Drive.

 So today I experienced a miracle, possibly from heaven.  I was sitting outside at a Beverly Hills Restaurant on Canon Drive, enjoying blue skies, near 80 degree weather and watching the world drive by (just like in the movies).  My mom asked me if there was any thing special parked on the street.  I responded with a negative.  Just the usual- a brand new Mercedes-Benz S400, a Jaguar XJ and a couple of Lexus’s (what IS the plural for Lexus?  Lexcii?).   And a Range Rover.  Nothing special.  My mom told me I was jaded.  I didn’t know what jaded meant, so I looked it up.  The definition for jaded is “dulled by surfeit.”  That means dulled by too much.  Sure, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is a very nice car, but I have seen soooo many that it is just another MBZ.  So I guess my mom was right about my being jaded.

 Then, a Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe (just a fancy name for a convertible) pulled up not 10 feet away from me.  That was a mesmerizing sight.  Then I saw THREE Rolls-Royces. Yes, that’s right!  T-H-R-E-E, all the same model and color!!  All within the hour and a half it took to eat.  Only in L.A.!

 I wanted to change the picture that TypePad had put up on my blog, so I went across the street and took some pictures of the Rolls-Royce.  Then the owner came up to me and asked if I was taking pictures of it.  Uh oh.  I replied, yes, and he said to click away as he was not going anywhere in a hurry.  I thanked him and was greatly relieved.  It could have gone entirely the other way.

 I also saw/heard about three Ferrari F430’s going down the street, but too fast for me to catch a picture of them.  Surprise!!  I also saw one getting towed.  That makes for a bad day!

 I saw quite a few Maybach’s.   Maybach is owned by Mercedes-Benz, so they look similar to an S-Class.   Many of the Maybach’s were being driven by the owners in t-shirts and shorts – this is L.A. after all!  It is truly amazing how many Porsche Panamera’s I saw today.  I estimated about 55-60, many of them white and a few chauffer-driven with the owners talking in the backseat on their iPhone 4G’s.  One can also see plenty of Bentley Continentals in a parking garage.  Bentleys are a dime a dozen here.  Okay, well maybe I exaggerate a bit! But really, only in L.A.!

 My Grandpa told me that there is a red Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport that parks regularly on Rodeo Drive.  We looked, but no luck.  I did see a Plymouth Prowler though.  He told me a story about a tourist who was having his picture taken in front of the Bugatti and left his fingerprints all over it.  The owner came out of a store steaming/screaming mad!  That would have been something to see!

 On the way up to my Grandma’s house in the Canyon, we pass by a house that parks their Maserati in the driveway sticking out onto the street, and their Porche on the street (which is narrow and twisty).  They do this because they park their Bentley Arnage and Rolls-Royce Ghost in the garage!  Only in L.A. do you park your Maserati on the street! Up the street, their neighbor parks his Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 on the street.  Before it used to be a Bentley Continental.  Maybe it was too slow for him.  Can you believe it?  Really, only in L.A.!!

 One day I will tell you about the game my sister and I play where we count the number of times we see a given car over the course of a day.  We have come up with some wild numbers.  You know what I am going to say.  Only in L.A.  And really, you’ve got to love it!  I LOVE L.A.

 Please feel free to post a comment on the blog.