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.
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