Born in the U.S.A: American car builders flexing their muscles

When looking at the different categories of car culture, Muscle cars occupy a special place,  American-made high performance cars with a V-8 power plant at their heart define the traditional muscle car. By taking a smaller framed car and equipping it with a beefy engine, American car manufacturers embodied the hot rod mindset of going fast and being loud.

Before WWII cars were generally conservative in their speed and styling. Once soldiers came home and started making families, there was demand for a breed of car big enough to transport the whole clan but also fun and fast to drive. There were many different makes and models at every price bracket and need available to consumers. Between 1965 and 1973, muscle cars had their heyday. However a couple key events in history put the brakes on the muscle car industry and manufacturing come to a grinding halt.

In 1970 Congress passed the first major Clean Air Act.  New standards required a 90% reduction in emissions from automobile engines.  The lifeblood of the muscle car engine, leaded gasoline, was a particular target.  Insurance companies began adding surcharges to these high powered cars, pushing the prices out of reach to the core muscle car consumer. Leaded gas was banned in 1973 as priorities changed from power to clean air. 

The other big hit that put the muscle car out to pasture, the 1973 oil embargo. The shortage of oil caused by the embargo shook the automotive industry as a whole but really pulled the rug out from under the low gas mileage muscle cars. They were simply too expensive to own by their primary consumer and faded from the market.

Today, many pay homage to this great period in American automotive style by restoring, racing and driving these beasts. Several car manufacturers continue the muscle car tradition with models based on the aggressive body lines and ‘mean’ front end features of the originals. We have a couple muscle car types here at the World of Speed in celebration of this classic category in car culture history.