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Muscle Cars: Losing Mass, Momentum

  • May 9, 2008
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Okay, let me run some names by you:

camaro copy.jpg

Pop quiz, hot shot: What decade is it?

So, as you might have guessed, what with my little list and Stephanie’s Dodge Challenger review yesterday, we’re talking about muscle cars this week at VehicleVoice. It’s uncharted territory for me, because I’ve never thought of muscle cars as being particularly relevant to the under-30 generation.
Sure, we know them by sight, but when we were growing up and taking rides in daddy’s new car and later on getting our own vehicles, muscle was … well, let’s say “dormant,” because “dead” is such an ugly word. No, the ‘80s and ‘90s were not kind to muscle cars. The best we had was the Mustang, and I don’t even want to talk about what that was like between 1987 and 1993.

Never again.

People under 30 don’t remember any muscle models as hot, new cars. They’re either lovingly preserved collectors items we can’t afford to touch, let alone buy, or they’re down at the other end of the auto food chain: hard-used, hand-me-down beaters we used as first cars and then wrecked six months after getting our licenses. Our cool, street-racing older cousins (I didn’t have one, but it would have been awesome if I had.) drove light, nimble imports, not brawny, badass Detroit rolling iron. Muscle didn’t really enter the conversation.
It’s to the point that last night I had an argument with my brother and my roommate (same guy) about what constitutes a muscle car, and it devolved into actual shouting. In a world where muscle was still a driving force, we probably would have just known. (Granted, this fight eventually expanded to encompass the difference between a roadster and a regular convertible, prescriptivist grammar, L’Académie française, the merits of the gold standard, why Papa Smurf could beat up Wolverine (I beg to differ – ed.), and whose turn it is to do the dishes, so there may have been deeper forces at work.)
I know there are people my age who come from gearhead families or who found their calling in the high school auto shop and have loved muscle cars all their lives. I’m not really talking about them, though. This is more about what the mainstream finds appealing, and, more importantly, what the mainstream is willing to buy.
And here we could run into kind of a problem: Most young people don’t know a whole hell of a lot about muscle cars, and the auto industry isn’t exactly going out of its way to get us excited about them. There was a purpose to the list at the top of this post – other than filling some space with pretty pictures, that is. The majority of the new generation of muscle cars is made up of resurrected models that were popular among the generations preceding us.
Okay, world. We get it. No one matters but baby boomers, and no one will matter until we’re totally sure cryogenics is a crock and the last person born between 1945 and 1965 is allowed to thaw out and gracelessly slide from this mortal coil. We got the picture years ago. But automakers, could you at least pretend you’re marketing to someone else for once? (Could the upcoming Camaro, with its starring role in The Transformers, count as a muscle car with broader age appeal? – ed.)

All the muscle I can afford

All right, time to wrap this up. What have we learned today?
1) If muscle cars are really going to come back, someone’s got to make a move to make them exciting for people who are too young to remember “Starsky and Hutch” in its first run.
2) My brother couldn’t tell a muscle car from a sports car if his life depended on it.
3) All my posts turn into bitter rants, and I may need therapy.

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