AutoTalk: The muscle car wars of the 1960’s.


Chart explaining the progression of the muscle car wars. (Note engine sizes. Also, take note of what models came in and which went out?

Zach Benedict, Beacon Blogger

Today’s theme on AutoTalk was about the muscle car wars of the 1960’s. For those of you not familiar, the muscle car wars were all about who had the biggest engine, and the fastest car with the largest amount of buyers. Cars such as the Buick Gran Sport, Chevrolet Camaro, Oldsmobile 442, Pontiac GTO, Plymouth Barracuda, and the Shelby Cobra all came to life in this time period. These cars were made from 1964-1972. In 1973, the world famous oil embargo shifted the direction of American auto makers from making horsepower to making fuel economy. In 1974, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas was 65 cents, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you went back just six years, it was only 30 cents a gallon for high test (Ultra 93 in today’s world).

The muscle car wars started with two brave little cars, the Oldsmobile 442, and the Pontiac GTO. 442 stood for 4 barrel carburetor, 400 cubic inch engine, and dual exhaust, and GTO stood for Gran Turismo Omologato. After the rest of the automotive market saw how great the success of the 442 and the GTO, most of Detroit hopped on board and began what would become the cubic inch race. Cubic inches are very technical terms for how big the engines are. In today’s world, we use liters of displacement. For example, a 400 cubic inch engine would be referred to today as a 6.6 liter engine.

Out of all the cars made, my top three are the Buick Gran Sport, the Ford Mustang, and the Plymouth Road Runner. I’ve mentioned this at least once in all my blogs, but Grandpa owned a Buick GS from day one, and when I first saw it two years ago, I fell in love instantly. Nothing tops riding in those vinyl bucket seats listening to that Muncie 4 speed wind up. The Ford Mustang is number two. I absolutely love the look of the early 60’s Mustangs. The body lines are so sharp and it’s just a fantastic look for those cars. Plymouth Road Runner is my number three. The Road Runner was the most simple muscle car for the late 60’s. Everything became so weighted down with an inflated price because of all the luxury options being added. The Road Runner brought the muscle car back; a simple design with a massive engine. Another thing I love is the sound of the horn, as it’s identical to the sound of the Road Runner. Nowhere else will you find a horn that sounds like that.

Once the direction of the auto market turned to making fuel economy, nothing exciting really came about until 1984, when Buick released the Grand National. It was the fastest production vehicle off the showroom floors. It had a 0-60 time of 4.9 seconds, which was just as fast as Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s, and other cars of that nature. The car only lasted until 1987, when the G-Body (last rear wheel drive) assembly plant closed. Buick didn’t have a front wheel drive platform that could handle the torque of their 3.8, 231 cubic inch, turbocharged V6 engine.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a new war of the muscle cars will be returning. With the Dodge Hellcat Challenger being released, it sparked Chevrolet to unveil the Z06 Corvette, with a 0-60 time of 2.95 seconds, which can beat Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s, and those other seven digit priced cars. Now I see that Ford is releasing a Mustang in 2015 with over 700 horsepower. If this captures the attention of the younger buyers, the rest of the Detroit automakers would be plain stupid to not get on board. I can only hope that the cars will be cheap, with a bare-bones interior, and a massively fast engine.


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A 1966 Pontiac GTO at a car show I attended over the summer
A 1966 Pontiac GTO at a car show I attended over the summer
My Dad in 2000 with his 1985 Buick Regal T-Type (Fraternal twin of Grand National
My Dad in 2000 with his 1985 Buick Regal T-Type (Fraternal twin of Grand National)


A 1966 Ford Mustang at a car show I attended over the summer
A 1967 Ford Mustang at a car show I attended over the summer