Let me cut right to the chase: the great thing about classic muscle cars was how damn honest they were. What you saw was what you got. These things were built for speed, but they weren’t trying to be all fancy about it like a Ferrari. Take a common man’s car, drop in a big ol’ V8, and lay some rubber. Then add some muscle car parts if you got bored. That’s all there was to it. I still can’t get enough of ‘em.
Now look at what we’re dealing with these days. You’ve got traction control to keep our tires from spinning. Computer screens in the dashboard, because God forbid we have to sit somewhere for a while without some gadget to stare at. And don’t get me started on all these safety standards that keep getting in the way. Hell, you can’t even hang your arm out the window anymore because the doorsill’s too high.
But stop the presses, because they got these so-called modern muscle cars nowadays, right? Chevrolet Camaro SS, Dodge Challenger R/T, Ford Mustang GT. All-American coupes with big V8s, just like the classic muscle cars we drove back in the day.
Well, I got to wondering whether they could make an old gearhead smile, so I went down to the dealerships to find the best muscle car on the market. Manual transmission, windows down, foot to the floor. Put these things through their paces. Not that anyone’s asking for my opinion, but here’s how I figure they stack up.
3. 2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS
To me, there’s not much that’s “retro” about this Chevy. Yeah, you can get a four-pack of gauges inside like the old cars had, but from the outside, the 2013 Camaro looks like a Hot Wheels car my son played with growing up. The original ‘60s Camaro was beautiful. This one’s a cartoon character.
Don’t get me wrong, the power’s still there. Big time. Wood the throttle and you’ve got 426 horses to play with. The exhaust sounds like it can barely breathe, but you can still find plenty of muscle car parts in 2013. I’m thinking a nice cat-back Flowmaster would do the trick.
But you’d still have to crane your neck to see out of this thing. Visibility’s terrible, and the doorsill is at my shoulder. Wham bam, no thank you, ma’am.
2. 2013 Dodge Challenger R/T
Now we’re talkin’. This thing’s huge, just like Challengers used to be. It sounds great right from the factory; love that V8 burble out the back like old school muscle cars. The ride’s super smooth, unlike the overly stiff Camaro. You can even fit adults in the back, and there’s plenty of room for their stuff in the trunk.
So why isn’t it number one? Simple: I like a car that I can toss around a little. Just think about the movie Bullitt. Remember how McQueen was in a fastback Mustang, and the guys chasing him were in a Dodge that took up half the road? I don’t need to tell you which car had the upper hand. The new Challenger’s an honest muscle car, that’s for sure, but I want something that’s at home in tight corners, too.
1. 2013 Ford Mustang GT
I keep telling people I’ll never buy a new car again, but tell you what, this modern Mustang muscle car had me thinking twice. You gotta hear the noises this V8 makes, first of all. They say that Ford did something funny with the intake to make it sound better, and you know what, I don’t even care. I could listen to this thing run toward redline all day.
But the best thing about the 2013 Mustang muscle car is that it’s a sports car, too. See, even the sportiest Mustang muscle car from the ‘60s was happiest when the road was straight. But this new one, my goodness, it’ll go around a corner with the best of ‘em. It’s smaller than the other two, so that helps, and the visibility’s better as well.
Truth is, the Mustang’s still got an electronic throttle, electric power steering, and a whole bunch of other unnecessary stuff that gets between me and the road. Those are rental car parts, not muscle car parts. I don’t think this Ford could ever really win my heart.
But if you ask me what’s the best muscle car today for getting an old car guy’s heart pumping, the answer’s clear. Now that I’ve driven one, I’ll always give a nod of respect when I see a new Mustang GT drive by.
Editor’s note: If your DIY routine includes maintaining muscle cars and other prime examples of American Steel, look to Advance Auto Parts for the best in tools, parts and accessories. Get your order fast—buy online, pick up in store.
I’m a very simple guy. I like a cold beer and a bloody burger, and I love old muscle cars. Nothing sexier to me than a ‘66 GTO, although it’s hard to beat a fastback Mustang for classic American looks. And of course, AC/DC. It’s always a chore for me when I’m hauling down the highway to decide which I’d rather listen to: the opening riff of “Back in Black” or the rumble of an American V8.
Being a classic car guy, I’m always kinda unsatisfied. I can always upgrade to a higher-performance air filter or some lowering springs, maybe some adjustable shocks or an aftermarket exhaust system to add a few more horses. Some of these upgrades can be handled by anyone with a willingness to get their hands dirty, while others require some more specialized equipment and knowledge.
Let’s start with the basics: wheels and tires. They’re a snap to upgrade and you’ll immediately notice an improvement in handling.
When you drive, you only have four points of direct contact with the road (your car tires), and the information transmitted between them and your hands on the wheel makes all the difference in how connected you feel to the road, and how confident you feel going around corners. Think of a car like a band. You’ve got your steering, braking, handling and suspension, which work together as a team. Plus, each can be upgraded for more performance.
Most modern car manufacturers engineer car tires and wheels for three things: ride, comfort and — these days — fuel mileage. The only trick is that if you improve in one area, you’re likely to suffer in another. You want a sweet summer tire with a high sidewall? It’ll help your car handle better, but you’ll feel more of the road, you’ll have to be more careful when it rains and you may lose a few mpg’s in the process.
More road feel means exactly that: for better or worse. You’ll be more in tune to the road for driving, but you’ll also feel more of the bumps and imperfections. And since summer tires are designed differently from winter or all-season tires, they’re not designed to repel rain but rather stick better to a hot road.
The other good thing about wheels and tires is there are so many places that offer car tires online so you can really improve the look of your ride as well. Plus, many offer side-by-side comparisons, so when you shop for car tires online you can hopefully find top-rated tires.
We’re even seeing customization from original equipment manufacturers, where they’ll offer a new car with a couple different wheel and tire sizes and a variety of different wheel looks so you can customize it right from the factory.
Bear in mind that aftermarket tires will be anywhere from a little to a lot more expensive, but you’ll see noticeable differences in your handling and grip.
And once you get that going, you may suddenly find yourself looking into lowering springs, a suspension upgrade, or maybe even some adjustable shocks. The bottom line is your imagination and, of course, your wallet.
Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts carries a wide selection of tire supplies and digital tire gauges, performance quality brakes and suspension parts, plus tons of other quality auto parts to get your projects in gear. Get your order fast—buy online, pick up in store, in 30 minutes!
Graphic courtesy of Sven’s World of Wheels.
I work a lot of long hours. I start early and often finish late, and as anyone around me (particularly my wife) knows, I drink a lot of coffee. It’s the sweet black elixir that keeps me going and helps me through the day.
Speaking of precious elixirs (You were waiting for that, weren’t you?), engine oil—commonly known as motor oil—is the same thing for cars. Your car’s engine is a series of complicated, hot, fast-moving parts, and engine oil is what keeps all those parts lubricated and running smoothly. As the parts heat up, so does the oil, so it’s very important to have the right type of motor oil, in the right amount, and keep it changed regularly.
The bottom line is, pay attention to the specifications in your owner’s manual and you’ll be happier than my wife during a sale at Macy’s. Buy the correct type of engine oil, in the correct weight. Some manufacturers specifically recommend synthetic motor oil, and if you use a different kind, it could void your warranty. Weight has to do with the temperatures in which you run your car (winter or summer) and also how thick the oil becomes when heated. Bear in mind that you don’t want it too thick when it’s cold or too thin when the engine heats up. This is particularly important in new cars, where the tolerances (gaps between moving parts) can be extremely thin, so you want to make sure the oil isn’t thicker than recommended.
If you’re committed to a lot of do-it-yourself jobs, changing your own engine oil is very easy and relatively painless (although it can get really messy) but even if your mechanic changes your engine oil as a part of your regular service, it’s never a bad idea to keep a quart in your car and do a quick check of your oil levels when you fill your tank up…just be careful, as your engine gets VERY hot and its really best to check oil when the engine is cooler. So make gassing up and checking oil your first stop.
Just make sure the motor oil quart has certification on it from whatever your manual recommends: likely the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) and preferably the API (American Petroleum Institute). They regulate and make sure the oil is of good quality and thickness.
The bottom line is, your car needs engine oil the way you need water (or I need coffee). It’s very easy to keep an eye on the engine oil and change it regularly for many years of happy, reliable engine life. Happy motoring.
Editor’s Note: Advance Auto Parts can assist you in finding the optimal engine oil, plus all of the right tools such as jacks, oil drain pans, gloves and more—to ensure the job goes smoothly. On top of that, Advance Auto Parts also recycles used motor oil. So after you perform an oil change, bring your used oil back to the store for clean and easy recycling.