A Brief History of the Muscle Car

1950: Ford Thunderbird

1957 Ford Thunderbird.

Thunderbirds first made inroads into NASCAR racing in the 1959 season. The combination of the second-generation body style and the newly available 430 CID V8 took drivers Curtis Turner, Johnny Beauchamp, “Tiger” Tom Pistone, and Cotton Owens to victory lane. In the 1960 season, most teams returned to using the conventional full-sized Ford body style, and the T-Bird made only sporadic appearances through the rest of the 1960s, with no additional wins.

The Ford Thunderbird (colloquially called the T-Bird) is a personal luxury car produced by Ford from model years 1955 to 1997 and 2002 until 2005 across 11 distinct generations. Introduced as a two-seat convertible, the Thunderbird was produced in a variety of body configurations. These included a four-seat hardtop coupe, four-seat convertible, five-seat convertible and hardtop, four-door pillared hardtop sedan, six-passenger hardtop coupe, and five-passenger pillared coupe, with the final generation designed again as a two-seat convertible.

The Thunderbird entered production for the 1955 model year as a sporty two-seat convertible. Unlike the Chevrolet Corvette, it was not marketed as a sports car.  Ford positioned the Thunderbird as an upscale model and it is credited in developing a new market segment, the personal luxury car. For 1958, the Thunderbird was redesigned with a second row of seats. Succeeding generations became larger until the line was downsized in 1977, again in 1980, and once again in 1983. Sales were good until the 1990s when large two-door coupes became unpopular. Thunderbird production ceased at the end of 1997. Production of a revived two-seat Thunderbird was launched for the 2002 model year and continued through the 2005 model year. From its introduction in 1955 to its final phaseout in 2005, Ford produced over 4.4 million Thunderbirds.

1966: Dodge Challenger

1960 Dodge Challanger

Dodge’s early to mid-1970s factory-supported “Kit Car” program for short-track late-model stock car racing offered a choice of Challenger, and a few (less than 12) were made, but in 1974 Dodge ended the Challenger line and they went to the Dodge Dart Sports and Dodge Aspen bodies over a steel-tube chassis.

Introduced in the fall of 1969 for the 1970 model year, the Challenger was one of two Chrysler E-body cars, the other being the slightly smaller Plymouth Barracuda. Positioned to compete against the Mercury Cougar and Pontiac Firebird in the upper end of the pony car market segment, it was “a rather late response” to the Ford Mustang, which debuted in April 1964. Even so, Chrysler intended the new Challenger as the most potent pony car ever, and like the less expensive Barracuda, it was available in a staggering number of trim and option levels, and with virtually every engine in Chrysler’s inventory.

The Challenger T/A’s scored a few top-three finishes, but lack of a development budget and the short-lived Keith Black built 303 cu in (5.0 L) engines led to Dodge leaving the series at season’s end. The street version suffered from severe understeer in fast corners, largely due to the smaller front tires. A total of 2,399 T/As were made. A 1971 model using the 340 engine with a 4-barrel carburetor was planned and appeared in advertising but was not produced since Dodge had withdrawn from the race series.

1972: Pontiac Firebird

The first year of the second generation Firebird began offering a wider array of model subtypes and marked the appearance of the Firebird Esprit, and the Firebird Formula. The Firebird Esprit was offered as a luxury model that came with appearance options, the deluxe interior package, and a Pontiac 350 as standard equipment. The Formula was advertised as an alternative to the Trans Am and could be ordered with all the options available to the Trans Am with the exception of the fender flares, shaker scoop, and fender heat extractors.

The base model Firebird came equipped with a 155 hp (116 kW) 250 cu in (4.1 L) inline-six. The Firebird Esprit and the Firebird Formula came standard with the 255 hp (190 kW) 350 cu in (5.7 L). The Esprit could be upgraded to a two-barrel carbureted 400 cu in (6.6 L)265 hp (198 kW), while the Formula could be optioned to receive the L78 4 barrel 400 that produced 330 hp (250 kW) or the L74 Ram Air III 400 345 hp (257 kW).

^Double Cross, written by Henry C. Parke and directed by Michael Keusch. It was produced by Kelsey T. Howard, Michael Strange, Robert and William Vince for Entertainment Securities and Interglobal Productions, Inc., then released straight to Video on Wednesday, 29th of June, 1994

1982: Chevrolet Camaro

The 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Convertible was the first car of its kind to offer power steering, which is a big deal for muscle cars. This 1969 model has received many awards and recognition from organizations such as Classic Car Club of America (CCCA).

Number #62 of 69 produced, this is a unique example of Chevy Camaro ZL1 because it’s the only one that features Garnet red body paint and red interior. But the big surprise hides under the hood; this beast is packed with a serious ZL1 427HP aluminum engine.

Fun fact — this car was the personal company lease of John Herlitz, who is one of the main men responsible for this very car’s styling at just 27 years of age. The one-of-a-kind muscle car went through multiple owners from Brett Torino, to Darrell Davis (the Chairman of Chrysler Finance). The fantastic piece of Mopar history was restored to its natural beauty in 2002 by Cumins Restorations and then sold in 2015 at Mecum Monterey for an impressive $2.25 million.

1982 Chevrolet Camaro

1992: Ford Mustang

For the 1965 production year, Ford reached out to Carroll Shelby, a former race car driver turned automotive designer and asked him to create a Mustang equipped for the race track. (Ford and Shelby previously collaborated on the Cobra.) Ford began shipping white-shell, Mustang 289 fastbacks to Shelby American’s Los Angeles operation, which were then modified and reborn as the Shelby Mustang GT350.

In response to poor sales and escalating fuel prices during the early 1980s, a new Mustang was in development. It was to be a variant of the Mazda MX-6 assembled at AutoAlliance International in Flat Rock, Michigan. Enthusiasts wrote to Ford objecting to the proposed change to a front-wheel drive, Japanese-designed Mustang without a V8 option. The result was the continuation of the existing Mustang while the Mazda MX-6 variant had a last-minute name change from Mustang to Probe and was released as a 1989 model.

A car that needs no introduction, the Ford Mustang has endured the ever-changing automotive landscape spanning centuries and continues to come out on top. For real all-American-made appeal, the Mustang has a few stand-out models that immortalize the range. From the 1968 Fastback GT that takes the cake as one of the most iconic action movie sports cars ever to the modern 5.0 liter V8 muscle cars we’re familiar with today, they set the standard for good old American V8 muscle.

2002: Dodge Durango

Don’t shine a black light on any of the seats of my Durango. 2 wives, 3 kids, 5 dogs, and 4 cats have all been ferried around within its confines, and therefore just about every bodily fluid you can think of has been splashed or spilled somewhere in its interior.

Daughter #2 came home from the hospital in Durango, but it was a struggle to get to that milestone. She was 6 weeks early, and the day after she was born, she was rushed to the children’s hospital for emergency surgery for an intestinal blockage. It was a stressful time as the X was also not doing well post child-birth due to preeclampsia issues. So, for a couple of days, my routine was to drop my 2-year-old off at daycare, go to hospital #1 which was 20 miles in one direction to see the X, and then go to hospital #2, which was 40 miles in the opposite direction to see the baby and then go pick up my 2-year-old.

On February 17, 1998, in Nagano, Japan, the United States defeats Canada, 3-1, to win the gold medal in the first women’s hockey tournament held at the Winter Olympics. “After these Olympics, I hope the sport grows times a million,” American forward Katie King says. “Anyone who …read more

2012: Chevrolet Corvette

For 2002–03, though, Chevy had a double whammy. Pacing the 500 in 2002, the Corvette got an early start on celebrating its golden anniversary with a preview of its 2003 50th Anniversary model, distinguished by its Xirallic Crystal Red paint, champagne-colored wheels, Shale leather seats, Shale cloth top on convertibles, and of course plenty of “50th Anniversary” badges.

As a muscle car, Corvette does its best impression of a luxury sports car, with nothing spared in terms of interior options and finishes. In the arms race for horsepower over the last 10 years, however, Corvette takes a backseat to no one. The 2021 Corvette Z51, for instance, puts forth 495 horsepower. The fully revamped 2020 Corvette, featuring a mid-engine design, was named the Motor Trend Car of the Year. In the luxury sports car market, Corvette competes head-to-head with the Porsche 911 and BMW M4.

Chevrolet rushes the Corvette into production following the model’s debut at GM’s 1953 Motorama show. The two-seat roadster uses fiberglass body panels and relies on Chevy’s tried-and-true Blue Flame inline-six for motivation. While the six-cylinder powerplant produces 115 horses in Chevy’s sedan, the bow-tie brand tunes the engine to make 150 ponies in the Corvette. A two-speed automatic is the only transmission offered, and all of the cars are painted Polo White and wear a red interior. Chevrolet produces 300 Corvettes in 1953 and sells just 183 of them. Assign blame to the vehicle being neither civilized enough to be a true grand tourer nor engaging enough to appeal to the sports-car crowd.