Getting to Know John Force

John Force is a legendary NHRA racer, team owner of John Force Racing, and proud father of racers Courtney, Ashley, and Brittany, and father-in-law to Rob Hight. He started racing in 1978 and is still going strong—but did you know he almost quit the sport before winning 10 championships in a row?

We sat down with John to talk about his famed racing career, his successful team and family, and what he likes to do off the track.

john-force

Interview with John “Brute” Force

1. What compelled you to start racing? And what keeps you going?

I played high school football as a quarterback, and I liked the camaraderie as a team. Drag racing allows me the opportunity to be with teams and race and hear the cheer of the crowd. My family has gotten involved in it, my daughters, my son-in-law—and maybe in the future my grandchildren. But I love it. I love the competition. I love the camaraderie. I love the cheer of the crowd when you win. Even the battle of defeat is a motivation for me to get up and fight harder. I’ve loved NHRA my whole life, and I’ve watched drag racing since I was in high school. That’s why I always say, “I’ll do it until I drop,” and I guess I will.

2. Sixteen-times NHRA champions! Any seasons that stand out—from overcoming obstacles or everything seeming to go right?

When you look at my career, there have always been crossroads. In my early days, when you run out of money and then you get a call to go and run a match, that just carries you. My crash in 2007—when I broke my arms and legs—was a setback where they thought I may not drive again. But I overcame that and came back and won the championship in 2010. That was big.

Losing financially is the biggest thing that can put you out of business, and I lost two great partners a couple of years ago. But Auto Club and Mac Tools always stood by me, and I was lucky enough to get Advance Auto Parts, PEAK, Monster Energy, and Chevrolet.

I’ve been really lucky to overcome those obstacles and get to do what I love to do. It’s a lot of work, but we’re getting it done.

3. Did you always plan for your children to join the “family business?” How is it having them on the JFR team?

You never know what your children are going to do, but I knew when they were old enough to get a driver’s license. Ashley, Brittany, and Courtney all wanted to go to Frank Hawley’s Driving School. They wanted to drive Super Comp, and then they went to A/Fuel. They evolved into it, and now I’m really proud to be a part of it. I love having Brittany in Top Fuel with Monster Energy, Courtney in Funny Car with Advance Auto Parts, and me with PEAK. And Ashley raced with us, too. Racing with my kids, yeah, it’s a gut-ache for my wife Laurie and me, the fear of them getting hurt. But to watch them do something they love to do and then to see the win lights come on. I’m excited about it, and I’m ready for 2017.

4. What would you tell people who never heard of NHRA racing? What’s the best way to describe it?

It’s P.T. Barnum at 300 mph. I’ve seen the circus. It’s the Greatest Show on Earth, but so is drag racing. It’s 10,000 horsepower. It’s nitromethane and fire belching out the pipes.It’s the cheer of the crowd. Nighttime qualifying is unbelievable. It’s two people racing each other, which is different from running in a pack like NASCAR and IndyCar. It’s you against the driver in the other lane. Four times on race day, if you’re lucky.

“I really don’t have hobbies. I don’t golf: I’m terrible. I tried it once and drove the beer cart, so that was OK.”

5. What are your “off the track” hobbies?

When I was young and raising a family, and got off work after driving a truck, I took my race car to the track. Now, I go to the race track and work every day in the business I love. I really don’t have hobbies. I don’t golf: I’m terrible. I tried it once and drove the beer cart, so that was okay. I’ve got a car collection of Chevrolets, Corvettes, Harley-Davidsons, and different cars. But I don’t have time to drive those.

If I was going to claim a hobby, it would be this: Taking my grandkids to the movies and to the park and spending time at home with them.

You can follow the John Force Racing team by checking out their full racing schedule. If you want more Force Racing news, see our interview with Courtney Force and a tour of her dragster car.

Do you agree with John that drag racing is the “Greatest Show on Earth?” Let us know what you think.

DIYers Paradise: Garage Condos for the Ultimate Car Enthusiasts

 

We recently sat down with Bruno Silikowski to talk about his pet project, the AutoMotorPlex in Chanhassen, Minnesota. What is the AutoMotorPlex, you ask? Picture the love child of a Lamborghini and an Airstream RV—but without the wheels. It’s 146 units of dream garage and luxury condo in one. Silikowski filled us in on why this car-loving community has been so successful and talked about some of the incredible vehicles that call it home.

Silikowski has driven everything from Italian sports cars to a Volkswagen Beetle. But the one that captured his heart, the car that makes his eyes light up when he talks about it, is a 1974 Triumph TR6. He says he bought the car to train his kids to drive stick shift. But he loved it so much he kept it.

“It’s visceral,” he says. “It’s raw. There’s nothing refined about it. It’s just fun.”

Unlike his beloved TR6, Silikowski’s AutoMotorPlex is more refined than raw, but it’s still a heck of a lot of fun too.
AutoMotorPlex aerial shot

AutoMotorPlex Ferraris

AutoMotorPlex garage

AutoMotorPlex interior

Want the full story? Stop over at the AutoMotorPlex website for a look at some of their jaw-dropping units and four-wheeled residents.

Thanks to Christa Hogan, who collaborated on this article.

Car History: A Tour of Art Deco Cars From the ’30s and ’40s

The automobiles of the 1930s and ’40s were mysterious machines. They had evolved from clunky motorized carriages to comfortable, reliable forms of transportation. Yet they were still far removed from their full potential. Looking to the future for inspiration, a group of engineers from Europe and North America set out to design vehicles that would redefine the paradigm. Tapping into the Art Deco artistic movement of the era, these engineers tinkered and dreamed, producing vehicles that were both beautiful and ahead of their time.

And so the Art Deco car was born.

The Future Of Our Past

Laws were different then. Fenders could be sculpted into flowing curves of metal, with safety performance as an afterthought. Doors and their arrangement were optional; windshields could be rolled down for pure, open driving; and dorsal fins could protrude from rear windows. The engineers did keep function in mind, however, as these vehicles were extremely wind resistant and agile compared to the competition (balanced weight distribution, unibody frames, advanced handling and suspension, etc.). The 1935 Chrysler Imperial Model C-2 Airflow, for example, was designed by Carl Breer using wind tunnel testing and input from aviation founder Orville Wright.

undefinedTalbot-Lago T-150C-SS Teardrop, 1938. Photo © 2016 Peter Harholdt.

Sadly, like most things ahead of their time, the majority of the Art Deco vehicles weren’t understood by the market, and sales floundered. Some never made it past the concept stage. It took the automotive industry decades to catch up to these designs. Even now, one can argue that these vehicles are more modern than what’s currently on the road. Today, automotive engineers are forced to meet the confines of safety and emissions standards, with art being secondary. This is of course a benefit to all drivers. But…there is something romantic about a vehicle free of restrictions.

undefinedBMW R7 Concept Motorcycle, 1934. Photo © 2016 Peter Harholdt.

The Art Deco period was a time when engineers had the freedom to sculpt vehicles to their wildest imagination. It was a movement that will most likely never be reproduced in our lifetime. Too modern at their inception, and tragically now too far behind, the Art Deco cars sit gleaming under museum lights. They serve as reminders of what could have been and inspiration for what can be achieved.

 

The Exhibition at North Carolina Museum of Art

To view some of these rolling sculptures in person, visit the North Carolina Museum of Art. The exhibition, “Rolling Sculpture: Art Deco Cars from the 1930s and ’40s,” curated by renowned automotive journalist Ken Gross, runs through January, 15, 2017. You can also view the full gallery of the 16 cars and three motorcycles below.

Buggati Type 57S Aerolithe, 1935. © 2016 Joe Wiecha.

Chrysler Imperial Model C-2 Airflow, 1935. Photo © 2016 Peter Harholdt.

Chrysler Thunderbolt, 1941. Photo © 2016 Michael Furman.

Delahaye 135M Figoni Roadster, 1938. Photo © 2016 Scott Williamson, Photodesign Studios.

Edsel Ford’s Model 40 Speedster, 1934. Photo © 2016 Peter Harholdt.

Henderson KJ Streamline, 1930. Photo © 2016 Peter Harholdt.

Hispano-Suiza H6B “Xenia,” 1938. Photo © 2016 Peter Harholdt.

Indian Model 441, 1941. Photo © 2016 Peter Harholdt.

Packard Twelve Model 1106, 1934. Photo © 2016 Peter Harholdt.

Peugeot 402

Peugeot 402 Darl’mat Coupe, 1936. Photo © 2016 Michael Furman.

Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow, 1933. Photo © 2016 Peter Harholdt.

Tatra T87, 1940. Photo © 2016 Peter Harholdt.

Ruxton Model C, 1930. Photo © 2016 Peter Harholdt.

voisine_c28_clair_re__1936

Voisin C28 Clairiere, 1936. Photo © 2016 Michael Furman.

 

Best of Speed Perks 2016

Take a look back at the all the exciting Speed Perks events we held in 2016. From Daytona Bike Week, to Coca-Cola 600 race day, to NFL Legends meet and greets, it’s been a great year for Members!

Racing

Several lucky members won VIP trips to either the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway or the NASCAR Championships at Homestead-Miami Speedway. They were treated to an all-paid vacation and got to experience the race up close and personal, meeting drivers and touring the pit area.

Coca-Cola 600

Members enjoyed the exhilarating race in Speed Perks style. A highlight was meeting country singer Lee Brice backstage at the opening day concert.

Homestead-Miami

As if being at the NASCAR Championships wasn’t enough, our members got to meet drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Alex Bowman (Advance Auto Parts #88 car), and Brandon Jones (Rain-X #33 car) at the track.
88-car

Atlanta Formula Drift

Driver Ryan Tuerck paid a visit to Advance Auto Parts before his Formula Drift race in Atlanta, inviting Speed Perks Members to the race for autographs and a tour of his ride.

Exclusive Events

Outside the track, members got to enjoy great experiences like meeting three NFL legends, riding with “Tig” and “Bobby” from Sons of Anarchy at Daytona Bike Week, and getting free gear from our partners.

NFL Tailgate

NFL Legends Terry Bradshaw, Barry Sanders, and Dan Marino each paid a visit to a local Advance store, signing autographs for our members and posing for photos.
Terry Bradshaw
Terry Bradshaw
Barry Sanders
Barry Sanders
Dan Marino
Dan Marino

Sons of Anarchy Ride

Our biker members were invited to ride alongside “Tig” and “Bobby” from Sons of Anarchy during Daytona Bike Week. Both stars hung around for the after party at the Daytona Advance store!Speed-Perks-Bike-Week

Excitement for 2017

We had a blast last year and 2017 is gearing up to be even better for members. Keep your eyes peeled as tons of great events are coming your way!

Not a Speed Perks Member? Join for free and start getting rewarded with exclusive coupons and experiences!

What do you think of our Speed Perks events? Did you attend one or are planning to in 2017? Comment below and let us know if there are any other events you’d like us to look at.

Skip the Beach: Our Top 5 Mountain Road Trips

Labor Day Weekend is often seen as the last goodbye to summer beach trips. Which means beachgoers encounter sweltering traffic jams, crowded beaches, and higher hotel rates. But there’s another way to enjoy the late summer holiday: head to the mountains.

The air is crisper, the temperatures are cooler—a nice break from the heat. Mountains are naturally isolated, so you’re sure to find peace and relaxation, even along the busier routes. Our favorite mountain road trips include some popular spots, while others are hidden gems on the map. They represent many regions of the country, so pack up the family vehicle and hit the alpine roads to enjoy the scenery and fresh air.

5. Porcupine Mountains, MI

Top Five Mountain Road Trips

Tucked away on the southern banks of Lake Superior lie the Porcupine Mountains. The Porkies are home to more than 90 austere waterfalls. You may recognize two of the Porkies’ most notable waterfalls, Bond Falls and Agate Falls, from a national ad campaign for certain sport-utility vehicles. Find the falls just off Highways 28 and 45. Continue on Highway 45 at dusk for a chance to view the mysterious Paulding Light in the distance. Local legend claims the light is the ghost of an old railroad brakeman waving his lantern in warning. The Midwest’s Porkies rank at number five on our list.

4. Great Smoky Mountains, NC and TN

Top Five Mountain Road Trips

The Great Smoky Mountains, often shrouded in mist, straddle the North Carolina and Tennessee border and offer some of the most awesome views in the southeast, as well as some of the most technical roads we’ve driven. Visitors to the observation tower at Clingmans Dome (follow Clingmans Dome Road) are rewarded with a 100-mile view. Motorists embarking on the meandering 11-mile drive through Cades Cove may think they’ve stepped back in time. Enjoy the cove’s numerous historic sites, pristine environment, and abundant wildlife. The Great Smoky Mountains come in at number four.

3. Adirondack State Park, NY

Top Five Mountain Road Trips

Drive north on New York’s I-87 until you hit Lake George and go west from there to find Adirondack State Park, nestled between Schroon Lake and Lake Placid, the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics. The Adirondacks host the state’s highest peak, Mount Marcy at 5,343 ft., and offer plenty of scenic driving on Route 73 through timber forests, alpine meadows, and quaint towns (think Adirondack chairs). This northeast Appalachian drive comes in at number three.

2. Lake Tahoe, CA/NV

Top Five Mountain Road Trips

Drive west, between the peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and you will find the sparkling turquoise waters of Lake Tahoe. Also home to the 1960 Winter Olympics, Lake Tahoe sits at 6,255 ft. elevation and is so large that the California-Nevada border runs through its center. If you’re coming from California, I-80 to a curvy Rt. 89 will get you the north end of the lake. Then follow 89 to South Lake Tahoe and take a moment to stop at the breathtaking Emerald Bay viewpoint. From Nevada, you can start from Carson City and follow the steep and spiraled climb up Rt. 50. You’re in for an inspiring drive no matter which state you’re coming from. Tahoe ranks at number two on our list.

1. Going to the Sun Road, Montana

Top Five Mountain Road Trips

In the heart of Glacier National Park, this 33-mile stretch of alpine road carves through the peaks and gorges of the northern Rocky Mountains. Stunning views of 10,000 ft. mountains, pristine lakes, misty water falls, and lush forest make up the scenery. The Sun Road is aptly named as you gain elevation driving through mountain tunnels and along stone bridges with steep valleys hugging the road’s edge. This breathtaking drive ranks as our number one alpine road in the U.S.

Do you have any favorite mountain road trips you’ve taken? Share in the comments.

Our First Cars: Three Revs For High School Cars

Your first car is special. It’s your first time driving on the road alone; your first grownup date with your sweetheart; and really, your first true form of independence. It may not have been the newest or most luxurious, but your high school car represented something more than just a vehicle—it kindled the pioneer spirit that Model T drivers had when they were able to expand their world. Your first car allowed you to explore the long roads ahead of you.

Advance Auto Parts | Our First Cars

The Cars That Taught Us (Some) Responsibility

But let’s not get too sappy here. High school cars came with first speeding tickets, first flat tires, and first repair bills. It wasn’t until years later, though, that we could look back and truly appreciate our first rides. We learned how to drive on them, but more importantly, we learned responsibility from owning them. A new set of tires cost us a whole summer job’s pay. Not having washer fluid when we were stuck behind a muddy construction truck meant we started regularly checking the fluid reservoir. In hindsight, we probably all wish that we had treated our high school cars better, because they gave us more than we ever returned.

A member at our church had posted the car for sale, and I begged him to sell me the car, even though I didn’t have the money or a driver’s license.

So with junior and senior year starting this September for new drivers across the country, let’s leave our first cars with an overdue parting gift, and I’m sure many of you are in the same boat vehicle. Call it an ode to our first cars. Let’s share the best and the worst parts. To get the party started, a few of us at Advance have volunteered our high school car stories!

Ode to First Cars

Advance Auto Parts | Our First Cars

“My first car was a 1972 Plymouth SCAMP. I started saving for the car when I was 14, and bought the car shortly after getting my first real job right after I got my driver’s license at 16. A member at our church had posted the car for sale, and I begged him to sell me the car, even though I didn’t have the money or a driver’s license. He finally agreed and I gave him a token $50 deposit. It was a 2-door hardtop, Gloss Red with a 318hp eight-cylinder engine, with lots of rust and I still paid $900 for it. My friends nick-named it the ‘Red Rocket,’ but it was a rocket that I never knew how fast I was going in because I could never get the speedometer to work. Nevertheless, it served me well through my high school years and I didn’t get a single speeding ticket, although I got stopped four times. I just told the officer my speedometer cable broke, and they let me off with warnings.” -Greg M.

Advance Auto Parts | Our First Cars

“My first car was a 1991 Chevy Corsica. I got it in the fall of 1995 when I was a junior. I could often be seen driving around with three hubcaps because they were plastic and fell off a lot. It didn’t run the greatest, only had an AM/FM radio, and there were NO automatic features. But that’s ok, its unreliability helped me get my very first cell phone in case I broke down on my way home from college.” – Lorie P.

“I got my first car, a 1980 Chevy Camaro, when I was 17 with a loan from my dad. My mom actually found the car in our small town newspaper. We bought it from a widow who was selling her late husband’s car. Her husband was the original owner and had only put 36,000 miles on it. I actually got to take the car for a short test drive down the street. When my dad and I got home after looking at the car I remember rationalizing the price to him. The Camaro was my daily driver for the next 13 years.” – Byron N.

Advance Auto Parts | Our First Cars

“My first car was a 1988 Toyota Camry—a hand-me-down from my stepdad that had the automatic sliding seat belts that forced you into safety mode once you shut the door. Everything about this car was gray. Gray paint, gray upholstery, gray carpet. I named him Steely Dan and drove him back and forth from Virginia to Tennessee for college until he finally kicked the bucket my junior year.” – Sarah M.

“My first car I ever drove in high school was a 1986 CJ7 Jeep with a manual transmission. I was so excited and relentlessly begged my parents to buy it for me even though I had never driven a manual before. My parents didn’t think it was a good idea, but I insisted. After all, how hard is it to learn to drive a stick shift on an old Jeep? About a week after they bought me the Jeep, I was begging them to sell it. I quickly realized that I was too afraid to actually drive it on the road. I have been driving an automatic ever since.” – Whitney S.

Advance Auto Parts | Our First Cars

“My first car was one that I had no business driving as a teen in the Midwest: a green 1974 Alfa Romeo Spider. It was loud, occasionally started in winter with an oil pan electric heater, super fun in the spring and fall, sweaty in the summer. Some people never learn, like me, so now I have a blue ’74 Spider.” – Richard M.

“I had a white 1977 Malibu Classic that my dad gave me. I bought chrome hubcaps and had someone in town paint it red for me. Then I took it to the new car wash and the high pressure water peeled off huge strips of paint! I was near tears because I had saved all of the money from my summer job to get the car painted. I had to drive it around with big strips of white paint showing through for quite some time.” – Dave K.

“My first car was a 2001 Dodge Neon R/T, handed down to me from my father. It was a neat little car, all black with a five-speed manual transmission and a decent engine. I did my share of stupid stuff until I got older and wiser, like fishtailing wet turns using my e-brake, burning my clutch disc and tires by popping into first gear at 6,000 RPMs, and going 8,000 miles without an oil change on conventional (gulp…sorry, car!).” – Neil B.

Share Your High School Car Story

What was your first car? Were you parking a block from school so no one could see it or were you washing and waxing it every week? Share your stories and photos on our Facebook page or reply in the comments.

Featured Road Trip: Grand Canyon National Park

SunsetThere’s nothing like a summer road trip. The warm sea breeze flying through your hair as you cruise down the coast. The fresh, piney air as you trek up mountain roads. The glint of sunlight and vast expanses as you drive through desert highways. This is why you wake up early in the morning to beat the traffic.

Grand Canyon Road Trip

Our featured road trip for this summer is making the trek up to Grand Canyon National Park. The beauty of this natural wonder needs to be appreciated up close, where the immense cliffs and ravines will leave you awestruck. The surrounding amenities of campgrounds, hotels, general stores, and restaurants gives you plenty of creature comforts so you’re not totally lost in the wild.

Grand Canyon National Park

There are plenty of roads that will take you there, but our favorite route is starting from Phoenix, AZ. This three-and-a-half hour trip has shifting landscapes and breathtaking views throughout, even before you get to the canyon. As you drive out of the city on I-17, you find yourself in the desert, surrounded by tall cacti as far as the eye can see. You climb elevation and next you’re cruising by the red cliffs and hills of Sedona, where the desert meets ponderosa pine trees.

Further, you climb to Flagstaff, where you’re in the thick of alpine forest and near the base of Humphrey’s Peak, the highest mountain in Arizona at over 12,000 ft. Drive through more forests and then a stretch of plateau grasslands before a final climb in elevation, where the Grand Canyon awaits you.

Summer Road Trip Tip: If your A/C is blowing warm air and the A/C condenser is working properly, then your problem is most likely low refrigerant. Make a stop at Advance for canned refrigerant with a gauge and hose—ask for one with leak-sealers if you suspect a leak. You can quickly recharge your A/C and get cold air back instantly, making your road trip comfortable again. Get the full A/C recharge details.

Detours and the Scenic Routes

Grand Canyon National Park

You may want to stop at the famous vineyards in Sedona and the Native American pueblo sites at Wupatki National Monument by Flagstaff. If you like mountain roads with a view, take the scenic drive on Rte. 180 instead of Highway 40 as you’re approaching Grand Canyon National Park. Once you get to the Grand Canyon Village, check out the sights from nearby Mather Point. Make sure you leave time to drive east on Desert View Dr. over to Desert View Watchtower. This road is right along the edge of the canyon with great sightseeing at Grandview Point and Lipan Point.

Share Your Road Trip

This road trip is an American classic that we hope you and your family will get to experience. If you’ve made this trip or are planning to hit the road, share a photo and your story on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear about the vehicle that got you there and the fun detours you took along the way!

Our Favorite American Muscle Cars of Each Decade

The fireworks may be shooting off this weekend in celebration of our nation’s birthday, but it always sounds like the 4th of July to us when we hear the rumble and exhaust of a 650 hp V8 engine. What better way to honor the holiday than to pay homage to the beasts on four wheels that have come out of Michigan, Kentucky, and Ohio over the years.

American muscle cars have evolved throughout the decades as technology improved and styling cues shifted, but they have always stayed true to their powerhouse DNA. The result is a legacy of over 60 years that has made for one heck of a ride. Read on to find out which muscle cars we picked as our favorites from each decade.

The “first” muscle cars: 1940s

1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 | Photo via Barrett-Jackson

After the first American-made car appeared in 1893, plenty of other high-revving vehicles began popping up on our roads (think early race cars and gangster getaway cars). But it wasn’t until Oldsmobile’s 1949 Rocket 88 that the first true American muscle car arrived. Designed with a revolutionary overhead valve concept V8 engine, the Rocket 88 output 135 hp and 283 lb·ft torque on a light and nimble chassis, boasting more power and better fuel economy than its peers.

The Rocket dominated NASCAR that year and into the early ’50s, taking on the moniker, “King of NASCAR,” and paving the way for all muscle cars to come.

 The “fabulous” muscle cars: 1950s

1955 Chevy Classic V8

The muscle cars of the fabulous ’50s were all about pastel colors, whitewall tires, front bench seats, and convertible roof options. But make no mistake, these pioneer muscle cars had plenty of power under their long hoods. Thanks to a post-war boom in automotive sales, car manufacturers began loading up the hp and stretching cars’ limits. The most notable muscle car of this decade was the 1955 Chevy Classic V8.

The ’55 Chevy’s success came from its small-block 265 cu V8 engine, which was so reliable that it would become the foundation of Chevrolet’s muscle cars for the decades to come. Able to hit 195 hp, the ’55 Chevy found a place in the garages of millions of auto enthusiasts, accounting for nearly 23% of all car sales that year. This was the car that turned us onto muscle cars. And we’ve never looked back.

Able to hit 195 hp, the ’55 Chevy found a place in the garages of millions of auto enthusiasts, accounting for nearly 23% of all car sales that year.

Runners-Up:

  • 1956 Mercury Montclair
    The Montclair featured a 260 hp V8 engine that put out plenty of power and had the 1950s classic look.
  • 1958 Packard Hawk
    Long wing panels, a hood scoop, and a supercharged 275 hp engine makes this Hawk a true ’50s muscle car.
  • 1959 Chrysler 300E
    Maybe ahead of its time, the 300E fell flat on sales, but has now become a rare gem among collectors. The 300E could belt out 380 hp—incredible for its time!

The pony cars: 1960s

1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429

The Ford Mustang hit the market in 1964, ushering in the era of pony cars—powerful compact cars—and creating a wave of competition that unleashed many of the muscle cars that we’ve come to love. It was the golden age for auto enthusiasts.

The Mustang looked fiercest with fastback, rear-end styling, made famous in 1968’s action film, Bullit. The “Boss 9” Mustang takes home the prize as our favorite Mustang with its hood scoop and 429 cu, 375 hp V8 engine. Ford has played around with different Mustang bodies and styles throughout the years, but a recurring theme is that they always wind up going back to this generation of Mustangs for inspiration. A true testament to the original pony car.

Runners-Up:

  • 1968 Dodge Charger R/T
    A true muscle car if there ever was one. The second-generation Charger was introduced for 1968 and ran through 1970, and gained fame via the TV show, The Dukes of Hazzard (1969 Charger) and the first Fast and Furious movie (1970 Charger).
  • 1969 Plymouth Road Runner 426 Hemi
    The working man or woman’s muscle car. It didn’t have the flashy looks or steep price tag, but its engine was pure Hemi power.
  • 1969 Chevy Nova SS
    Quick and balanced. The Nova was ahead of its time in weight distribution during a period when muscle cars were getting longer and heavier. The Nova proved bigger isn’t always better.

End of the Golden Age: 1970s

1970 Dodge Challenger T/A

At the turn of the decade, muscle cars weren’t just becoming more powerful, they were downright menacing on the streets. Dodge launched the Challenger in 1970, a late addition to the party, but it epitomized the golden era of muscle cars with its balance of a big, bold design and high-performing engine and suspension. The 1970s Dodge Challenger R/T came to fame as the getaway car in 1971 film, Vanishing Point. However, its 440 c.i. V8 engine, which unleashed 375 hp (considered a conservative rating), was the real show stealer.

Things were getting good when the global oil crisis and stricter emission laws forced car manufacturers to abruptly abandon large gas-hungry engines and turn their focus on developing more economical cars. The Challenger’s production halted in 1974, along with many other muscle cars of the golden era.

Runners-Up:

  • 1970 Chevrolet LS6 Chevelle
    At 450 hp and 500 lb·ft torque, it was the king of the streets. It’s cousin, the Camaro, went on to achieve greater success, but the Chevelle will always be a legend in its own right.
  • 1970 Plymouth Hemi Barracuda
    The first Barracuda came to market two weeks before the Mustang—it just could never surpass its junior competitor in sales and was stopped in 1974, never to return. This lost muscle car is still talked about by auto enthusiasts to this day.
  • 1971 AMC Javelin AMX
    The Javelin AMX didn’t have the biggest engine block, but it could hold its own thanks to its race-inspired design (its racing model won the 1971 and 1972 Trans Am Series championships). It was also the first pony car to be used by law enforcement agencies for highway patrol.

Dodge launched the Challenger in 1970, a late addition to the party, but it epitomized the golden era of muscle cars with its balance of a big, bold design and high-performing engine and suspension.

Diamonds in the rough: 1980s

1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z

The ’80s were not kind to domestic car manufacturers. Detroit’s technology hadn’t caught up fast enough to deal with the new emission and safety laws, allowing European and Asian manufacturers to outperform most American cars in the market. Thankfully there were a few diamonds in the rough: muscle cars engineered by teams who adapted to the times, allowing US cars to go neck and neck with the sporty BMWs and Nissans that were hitting the streets.

The 1985 Camaro IROC-Z was one of these cars. With stunningly sleek good looks, race-tuned handling and suspension, and a five-liter tuned port injection V8 engine rated at 215 hp, the Camaro proved that American muscle cars were able to incorporate new technology and market demands while still retaining their historic roots.

Runners-Up:

  • 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
    Redesigned for 1982, the Firebird Trans Am became an icon of the “sexy” ’80s culture with its low, sleek lines, pop-up headlights and blacked-out taillights. It also starred as KITT in Knight Rider.
  • 1987 Buick Regal GNX
    What was lost in the early ’70s was found in the late ’80s with the Regal GNX. Brute power that could beat Porches and Ferraris on the strip. Its boxy looks on the other hand, couldn’t quite match up.
  • 1983 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
    This street-legal version of NASCAR’s famed model was a success among racing fans. Its aero-influenced styling tweaks and “High Output” (for the time), 305 c.i. 180-hp V8, made it feel like it was always race day.

Back to muscle: 1990s

1996 Dodge Viper GTS Coupe

American muscle cars regained some pep to their step in the ’90s, going back to the ’60s playbook in style and power but with the added bonus of engineering advancements. The Dodge Viper debuted in 1992 and instantly became the muscle car. Featuring an aluminum 8L V10 engine that output 400 hp and 465 lb·ft torque, this lightweight roadster could withstand 1 lateral g-force on turns.

The Viper’s most endearing factor, however, was its simplicity. There was no traction control or anti-lock brakes—the early models didn’t even feature airbags or air conditioning. The driver was connected with the car, without any electronics or modern aids to interfere, and it made for a pureness that only early muscle cars could match. Novice drivers were often bit by the Viper on high speeds, but those who could charm the snake were in for an exhilarating ride.

Dodge released the second generation Viper in 1996, offering a GTS Coupe model with a “double bubble” roof that made the car famous. This Viper had 50 more horsepower and a few concessions including airbags, air conditioning, and even power windows.

There was no traction control or anti-lock brakes—the early models didn’t even feature airbags or air conditioning.

Runners-Up:

  • 1992 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor
    This was the car that got our hearts racing, and not always in the good way. With a 4.6L V8 engine that output 210 hp, this rear-wheel drive sedan could catch speeding cars faster than you could say, “Miranda Rights.”
  • 1991 Chevrolet Camaro 5.7 V8 Z28
    While import cars were still lapping most domestics, the Camaro held true in the ’90s and reminded the world that American muscle cars could go with the best of them. This ’91 model rewards the Camaro with a second listing.
  • 1996 Ford Mustang Cobra
    Sporting a 32-valve, DOHC V8 making 305 horsepower, the 1996 Cobra signaled a new sophistication and performance level for Ford’s iconic pony car.

Millennial refinement: 2000s

2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Like we could forget the Vette. Launched in 1953 from Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Chevrolet Corvette has been a legendary American muscle car throughout the decades. From its sleek and sophisticated Stingray styling to its powerful and balanced V8 engine, the Vette is the definition of the cool muscle car. In 2009, it somehow became even better with the release of the ZR1.

The ZR1 was given a supercharged 6.2L V8 engine that output 638 hp and 604 lb·ft torque—the most powerful engine ever put into a sports car by GM at the time. With a top speed of 205 mph, 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds, and 0-100 mph in 7.6 seconds, the ZR1 could chop contemporary Porsche 911 Turbo and Ferrari F430 imports on any given day. Our favorite feature on this Vette was the clear carbon-fiber hood panel that gave onlookers a glimpse of the beastly engine inside.

The 2000s refined American muscle cars, adding a layer of technological sophistication. The end products were things of beauty.

Runners-Up:

  • 2007 Dodge Charger SRT-8 Super Bee
    Dodge rediscovered its muscle roots in the 2000s, bringing back famed muscle cars such as the Charger and Super Bee. Built as a Charger but modified as a limited-edition Super Bee version, this blast from the past output 425 hp from its V8 Hemi engine.
  • 2005 Ford GT
    What started as a concept car based off Ford’s 1960s GT40 race cars, became a reality in 2005. This mid-engine, retro-inspired supercar put out blazing fast speeds.
  • 2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS-6
    Making our list a second time, the Firebird Trans Am was at the peak of its powers by this time, its last year of production. Able to hit 60 mph in about 5 seconds flat and run the quarter-mile in the mid-13s, this bird could certainly fly.

Modern technology meets raw power: 2010s

2016 Cadillac CTS-V

Like the 2000s, this current generation of muscle cars has benefited from evolving automotive technology. Instead of fighting a losing battle against emission standards circa the ’70s and ’80s, engineers now battle against each other on making the most powerful yet efficient engine. This age of technology has produced supercars that have broken every track record on the books.

And so, for this decade’s American muscle car, we’ve chosen a brand that used to be associated with quiet sophistication rather than high-octane performance. The 2016 Cadillac CTS-V may come from the makers of the DeVille, the steady sedan for well-to-do professionals for generations, but the 640 hp engine under the CTS-V’s hood is anything but retirement-age friendly. The CTS models have become progressively faster each year since introduced in 2002—as if the engineers were trying to sneak the horsepower numbers by the bosses—until finally, the 2009–2016 CTS-V generation appeared, muscles flexing.

The ’16 CTS-V sprints to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and reaches a top speed of 200 mph. The Eaton-supercharged 6.2L V8 engine outputs 630 lb·ft torque on top of the 640 hp. Built with track days in mind, Brembo brakes, race-tuned suspension, carbon fiber hood and panels, and a quad exhaust make the CTS-V a force to be reckoned with. It may not have the spartan and reckless qualities of earlier muscle cars, but the numbers don’t lie. This is a muscle car that will roar down the highway, it just so happens to come in a luxurious package.

Not since the ’60s and ’70s have we seen so many rumbling, high-throttle cars in a single decade. Best of all, many of them are faster versions of models from our favorite bygone era. We can’t wait to see what the 2020s will bring.

Built with track days in mind, Brembo brakes, race-tuned suspension, carbon fiber hood and panels, and a quad exhaust make the CTS-V a force to be reckoned with.

Runners-Up:

  • 2016 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
    707 horsepower. Need we say more? This monster has the most horsepower available on a production car to date thanks to its 6.2L V8 Hemi engine. The Challenger SRT Hellcat looks, sounds, and drives mean.
  • 2015 EQUUS BASS770
    If you took the best qualities from each of the ’60s pony cars and built them into one car, you’d get the EQUUS BASS770. Handcrafted by American engineers, this vehicle pays homage to that golden era while adding a supercharged V8 engine to make sure it can giddy-up with the modern-day guys.
  • 2016 Corvette Z06
    Like the Mustang, Camaro, Charger, and Challenger, the Vette deserves a second listing. The ’16 Z06 outputs 650 hp and can run 0-60 mph in only 2.95 seconds. We don’t take it lightly when saying this model is their best looking yet.

Do you agree with our choices? Which favorite muscle car did we miss? For more muscle car fun, take this short quiz to find out which decade of American muscle cars best fits your style!