Car + Culture: The Story Behind Houston’s Food Trucks

Food truck culture has exploded in popularity in the past few years, with adventurous chefs trying their hand at every type of cuisine you could imagine, from sushi burritos to Turkish pizza. You’ll find the trucks circled up at local weekend events or parked outside your office just in time for the lunch rush. People now use them for food at weddings too! There’s good reason for the food truck’s popularity: the food is often delicious and cheap, and a restaurant with wheels is as convenient a meal as you can get.

Marco Novo owns Chef Units, a Houston-based business that makes the food trucks you know, love, and maybe even follow on Instagram. In our latest Car + Culture video, we see how his team takes your standard truck and turns it into a roving kitchen. Shout out to Houston locals, you might spot some food truck favorites in the video too.

Car + Culture: Going Off-Road in Albuquerque

Sometimes the best roads are just outside your doorstep. For off-roaders, the outdoors is an adventure zone, a place to test their vehicle’s chops and explore places few people get to see. For a select few, 4x4ing is more than that—it’s about community.

In our first Car + Culture video, we follow Jennifer as she and her club, the New Mexico 4Wheelers, work together to take on some of New Mexico’s tough terrain.

Jennifer took the time to talk with us about her experience growing up as an off-roader and some tips for those just getting started.

Advance: How long have you been off-roading?

Jennifer: My grandfather first got me interested with an off-road go-kart, and then I got into any type of car or truck when I was very young. I have been out in the forest and backcountry since I was a teen, with motorcycles and ATV’s and then 4-wheel-drive trucks. I got more involved when I got a Hummer and joined a club. 

What’s your favorite part of off-roading?

My favorite thing is getting to places that most people will not ever see or visit. It’s about enjoying and seeing so many interesting things and learning about the history of our country, and then continuing to learn more technical driving skills. 

You talk about respecting the land, how do you live that in your off-roading?

I respect our world by always setting a good example with picking up trash, cans, and tires to recycle every time I am out. I also help block illegal bypasses that get created so others don’t continue to use them when they should not. I participate with other clubs with clean-up projects and encourage others to join in. Of course, I always follow the Tread Lightly Principles.

Can you tell us about your club?

New Mexico 4-Wheelers has been around since 1958. It was originally know as the New Mexico Jeep Herders, but they changed and logo changed 20+ years ago. The group was started by some Jeep people who lived in the area back in 1958. I joined the club in March 2012 just two days after moving to Albuquerque, and I’ve been the program chair, trip chair, and currently president of the club as of August 2016.

We have 96 member families, or 165 people. But this doesn’t include the many children (or dogs!) who participate with us.

Looks like you have a great community. Can you tell us about it?

We are all out there to have a good time and with the variety of 4×4’s different skill and comfort levels it allows for everyone to be safe and still have fun. Our group welcomes new people and we try to coach them if needed.  

Got any good stories about having to fix your car out on the trail?

The worst breakdown I had was a very large slash in my tire, it was the inside tire on a shelf road with very steep grades on both sides with little room to walk around to pull the tire and put the spare on. There was plenty of help and someone around to get a photo immediately!

What’s your favorite route in Albuquerque?

It’s just north of Albuquerque, the Jemez Mountains, I like to go on any of the trails after leaving Jemez Pueblo and following the mountain road through Gilman, NM and the old railroad tunnels there. At that point you are in the forest with a variety of routes to take up and around the mountains.

Any tips for people who want to get into off-roading?

We have many people that come out after purchasing a new 4×4 and they start asking about tires, lift kits, gearing, all the recovery gear, and camping gear. There are lots of places and catalogs to buy accessories and there are lots of varieties of trails so we encourage people to try them before spending lots of additional money on their rigs. They may be happy with just some better off road tires, or they may enjoy rock crawling and want to go to very large tires.

My best tip would be find someone who will take you out for a ride and/or let you drive their 4×4 and see what types of trails you like. Find a club, because everyone will be willing to share what they have done or are in process of doing to their rigs.

How do people find out more about your club?

Visit our website at www.nm4w.org

 

Thanks for sharing, Jennifer!

 

Our Favorite American Muscle Cars of Each Decade

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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 Car: 1940s

1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88

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 horsepower 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

1955 Chevy Bel Air 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 horsepower 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 it’s 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 horsepower, 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.

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 horsepower—incredible for its time!

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

The Pony Cars: 1960s

1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429

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

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’s 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.

Diamonds in the Rough: 1980s

1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z

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

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

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

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.

Tell us, 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!

Get the lowdown on Car Stance – with Matt Phillips

If you’re into cars, you’ve probably heard something about the “Lowered Lifestyle,” or at least seen vehicles where the edge of a car’s or truck’s rims are tucked so closely beneath the fenders that you could barely slip your driver’s license in between them. What’s up with that?

Car stanceTo answer that question, we met up with Matt Phillips, the guru behind the Lowered Lifestyle website to find out more about this growing contemporary subculture—and its appeal. From the get-go, it became clear that Matt is addicted to the lifestyle. “At 3:00 a.m.,” he confesses with a laugh, “my very understanding girlfriend will tell me to give it a rest and stop working on my car or my website. I will have completely lost track of time.”

On the surface, the car stance movement is pretty straightforward. DIY’ers work on their vehicles to achieve tight fitment through the tweaking of suspension—that’s why you see such a tiny gap between wheels and fenders. Some people accomplish this through air suspension, where the air pressure is adjusted so that the car can be raised and lowered; sometimes the car is lowered so much that the vehicle isn’t drivable until it’s partially raised again. Other people go a cheaper route, using shortened springs, which aren’t adjustable.

This simple explanation doesn’t begin to cover the many creative ways that people accomplish their goals. For that, check out the amazing shots of cars with lowered suspension found on Lowered Lifestyle. “There’s a real thrill in doing something new with your car that’s never been done before,” Matt explains.

The car stance movement is more than a group of people working on vehicles.

It’s a real family, and the environment is welcoming and empowering.

“In one way,” Matt says, “this movement is obviously about cars. In another way, it isn’t at all. It’s about friendships.”

Matt points out the diverse groups that come together in stance, from a young guy with not much pocket change doing interesting things to his ride, to an older enthusiast who has the income to transform the most expensive of vehicles. “Bottom line, though,” Matt says, “is that everyone invests blood, sweat and tears.”

People reach out to help one another in this movement. Matt remembers how, in high school, he was the guy who didn’t know how to change his own oil and so he’d have to ask a friend to help. Now, Matt is at the center of the car stance movement, with a growing Facebook page that includes nearly 12,000 “Likes,” just a few months after launching. Ironically, through Facebook, he met up again with the same high school buddy who used to change his oil.

At car shows, like the upcoming SimplyClean4, people don’t compete with each another. The car culture is not about who has the nicest set of wheels. It’s about a passion for the projects.

Where is this contemporary subculture is going?

Car CultureAfter a few years of stagnation, Matt started noticing a real change in the movement. People used to focus on creating crazy paint jobs and installing giant sound systems. Now, a classier, more understated look is popular in these cars with lowered suspension, but it’s hard to know what will happen next. “Just when I think the outer limit of what’s possible in stance has been reached, someone thinks of a brand-new way to work with suspension, or finds a fresh way to take wheels that should be way too big for a car, and makes them work.”

Editor’s note: The car stance movement is all about doing it yourself—and choosing just the right quality auto parts to make it happen. Find what you need at Advance Auto Parts today.