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Muscle Car Definition



Introduction:


Perhaps the most common question people have is what exactly is a muscle car. The term wasn't even used until the late 1970s, in the 1960s there were often called "Super Cars" if called anything at all. Therefore, the actual definition of a muscle car, or which models were muscle cars, is a topic that is often disputed. Here is the general interpretation of what is a muscle car and what cars qualify, and which don't.


Vehicle Muscle Car? Classification Notes
AMC AMX Yes Pony Car Even though it only has two seats, because it is based on the Javalin, it is a muscle car
AMC Javelin No Pony Car Only the AMX variation or big block V8s are considered muscle cars
Buick GS Yes Intermediate Muscle Car Based on Buick Skylark
Buick Riviera No Personal Luxury Car Too expensive and big
Buick Skylark (non-GS) No Intermediate Car Only GS versions are considered muscle cars
Buick Wildcat No Fullsize Car Too large
Chevrolet Camaro Yes Pony car Only SS and Z28 models are considered muscle cars
Chevrolet Chevelle SS Yes Intermediate Muscle Car Only SS versions are considered muscle cars
Chevrolet Chevelle (non-SS) No Intermediate Only SS versions are considered muscle cars
Chevrolet Corvette No Sports Car The two seats, fiberglass body, and high price make it a sports car.
Chevrolet Impala SS Yes Fullsize Muscle Car Only SS versions are considered muscle cars
Chevrolet Monte Carlo No Personal Luxury Too expensive
Chevrolet Nova Yes Compact Car Only SS versions are considered muscle cars
Chrysler 300 Letter Cars No Personal Luxury Way too expensive and luxurious
Dodge Challenger Yes Pony Car Only R/T versions are considered muscle cars
Dodge Charger Yes Intermediate Muscle Car Only R/T versions are considered muscle cars
Dodge Coronet Yes Fullsize Muscle Car Only R/T versions are considered muscle cars
Dodge Dart Yes Compact Only Darts with 383 or 440 engines are considered muscle cars
Dodge Daytona Yes Specialty Muscle Cars -
Dodge Super Bee Yes Intermediate Muscle Car -
Ford Fairlane / Torino GT/Cobra Yes Intermediate Muscle Car Only GT and Cobra models are considered muscle cars
Ford Galaxie Yes Fullsize muscle Only Galaxies with 390 engines or larger are considered muscle cars
Ford Mustang Yes Pony Car GTs, Mach 1's and Boss Mustangs are considered muscle cars
Mercury Comet / Cyclone Yes Intermediate Only GTs and Cyclones are considered muscle cars
Mercury Cougar Yes Pony Car Only GTs, Eliminators, and Boss engine models are considered muscle cars
Oldsmobile 442 Yes Intermediate Muscle Car -
Oldsmobile Cutlass No Intermediate Only 442 models are considered muscle cars
Plymouth Barracuda No Pony car Only 'Cuda models are considered muscle cars
Plymouth 'Cuda Yes Pony car 'Cudas with 340s are generally not considered muscle cars
Plymouth Duster Yes Compact Muscle Car Only Dusters with 340s are considered muscle cars
Plymouth GTX Yes Intermediate Muscle Car -
Plymouth Road Runner Yes Intermediate Muscle Car -
Plymouth Superbird Yes Specialty Muscle Car -
Pontiac Catalina 2+2 Yes Fullsize Muscle Car Only Catalinas with 400+ cid engines are considered muscle cars
Pontiac Firebird Yes Pony Car Only Firebirds with 400 cid engines are considered muscle cars
Pontiac Grand Prix No Personal Luxury Too expensive
Pontiac GTO Yes Intermediate Muscle Car The first true muscle car



Strict Definition of a Muscle Car:


A muscle car, by the strictest definition, is an intermediate sized, performance oriented model, powered by a large V8 engine, at an affordable price. Most of these models were based on "regular" production vehicles. These vehicles are generally not considered muscle cars, even when equipped with large V8s. If there was a high performance version available, it gets the credit, and not the vehicle that it was based on.

Examples: Buick GS, Chevrolete Chevelle SS, Dodge Charger R/T, Ford Torino/Cobra, Plymouth GTX, Plymouth Road Runner, Oldsmobile 442, Pontiac GTO


Fullsize Muscle Car:


The strict definition only includes intermediate size vehicles. In reality, performance oriented intermediate size vehicles didn't appear until 1964. Before then, manufacturers took existing fullsize vehicles and added extra performance to them. Because of this, the early fullsize performance vehicles are generally considered muscle cars.

Examples: Chevrolet Impala (SS only), Ford Galaxie (with 390 + cid engines only), Dodge Coronet (R/Ts only), etc.


Pony Cars and Compact Cars:


In addition to fullsize and intermediate muscle cars, a number of smaller vehicles started appearing on the automotive performance scene. These new "pony cars" and compact cars are generally considered muscle cars only if they have the top of the line performance engines and options.

Examples: Chevrolet Camaro (SS and Z28 models only), Ford Mustang (GTs and Boss only), Plymouth 'Cudas (no Barracudas), AMC Javelin, etc.


Personal Luxury Cars and Luxury Cars:


Although there were several personal luxury vehicles with performance engines and options, their heavy weight and high sticker prices went against the low cost performance definition of muscle cars. Therefore, they are not considered muscle cars.

Examples: Buick Riviera, Chrysler 300 Letter Cars, Pontiac Grand Prix, etc.


Two Seat Sports Cars:


Two seat sports cars such as the Chevrolet Corvette and the Ford Thunderbird are not considered muscle cars due to their high price and specialty nature. The only exception is the AMC AMX as it was relatively cheap, and was based on the AMC Javalin pony car.

Examples: AMC AMX, etc.








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