You Wanted It, Now You Hate It: Make Up Your Flipping Minds On Modern Muscle Cars

You Wanted It, Now You Hate It: Make Up Your Flipping Minds On Modern Muscle Cars

(Words by Bryan McTaggart) – I remember 1992, when Chevrolet took the new (and rather ugly) Orca-bodied Caprice, opened up the rear wheelwells, shoved a 500ci V8 under the hood, and took a cue from Buick’s catalog and painted the thing all black. It was so popular at the 1992 SEMA and NADA shows that the decision was made. Two years later, the car went into production and even though the engine choice had been neutered to a 260hp LT1, the car sold well. It had a street presence that couldn’t be denied (though, with a cop car sibling, you could see it was the family delinquent with no help whatsoever).

Fast forward to 2004. Bob Lutz had spent years trying to import a Holden after reading a Car and Driver article that they had written about the Commodore SS. He gets his way, and Pontiac gets a revived GTO. For all of their work, all GM got was bitching. “It’s too bland.” “It looks like a Grand Am.” Waah, waah, waah…the next import, the G8, barely did any better.

It’s now 2014. The second Supercar era, which somehow came back to life in the mid-80’s and really kicked into gear in the mid-‘00s is on in full swing. Mustang, Camaro, and now Challenger can be had with 600+hp, a number that used to be the strutting point for show cars and race cars, and they can be had with any creature comfort your little heart desires. Except, there is so much bitching about them going on that I wouldn’t be shocked if the end of the fun doesn’t come from Big Brother, but instead from the Picture 7manufacturers themselves, when they finally throw their hands up in the air and scream, “F*** it! Fine! Here’s your Camry knockoff! SHUT UP!”

The Camaro’s roof is too low. The older Mustangs feel too cheap. The upcoming Mustang looks like a Fusion. The Challenger is fat. A W-body?! HA! They drive the wrong wheels! The Charger has too many doors. Give me a break!

Have you actually, honestly driven one? ANY of them should satisfy your gearhead itch! I’m banned from a dealership in Carbondale, Illinois after “test-driving” both a 5.7 and 6.0 GTO so hard that I ended up buying the dealership tires. I had a Challenger Trak Pak for all of a week before a Dodge dealership called it back after I couldn’t cough up an additional $3,000 on top of everything else I had put down. I’ve owned a 2001 Regal GS with the blower motor, 2005 Mustang GT, 2006 Monte Carlo SS, and 2006 Chrysler 300C. I’ve driven the GTO’s, the 4th and 5th Gen Camaros, and some hot-rodded Subarus. All of them offer exactly what I’ve been looking for in a car. Ok, maybe the Subies could use some legroom…

I understand weight being an issue with the newer cars, so let’s address that. The last time I’m aware that a stripper model was available to the public en masse was the 1995 Ford Mustang GTS, which basically was a stripped V6 Mustang with the GT’s V8, running gear and suspension, and instrument cluster. Sounds good so far? It could be ordered as stripped or optioned as the person wanted. It was the spiritual successor to the LX package for the Fox Mustang, which was well-received. However, Ford barely moved 6,000 of them before ending that program. So, in short: NOBODY wants a stripped model except the most hardcore racers.

When the launch of a 600+hp car with a manual transmission is met with nothing but complaints, something is wrong. And I’ll be absolutely damned if it’s with that car. I’d donate one of my most treasured body parts to science in order to afford that Hellcat. There are a lot of people who would love to own that car, or any of the newer musclecars, for that matter. But the complaining continues. Keep it up, guys, and soon I bet it looks like 1977 all over again in the dealerships.


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33 thoughts on “You Wanted It, Now You Hate It: Make Up Your Flipping Minds On Modern Muscle Cars

  1. kingcrunch

    Is it still all about Ford, Chevy and Fiat, errm Chrysler/Dodge only?

    What about the “muscle cars” the Europeans (BMW, Mercedes, Audi) throw into the equation?
    Does the limitation to “U.S. made” cars still apply?

    In the 60s and 70s no big (taking exotics out of the equation) european car manufacturer had anything similar in their lineup but that changed…
    Does this apply new rules for the new muscle car era?

    I am really curious and: no offense meant!

    1. Bryan McTaggart

      Good point. I was on a vent when I wrote this. The issue I personally have with Euro cars is that while they have fast cars, no doubt, that other than maybe the E46 M3, E39 M5, and TVR Cerbera Speed 8, there isn’t much I get excited about. It’s just a personal thing, no offense meant from here either.

      My main focus is after decades of begging for fast cars, all I hear anymore is complaining. Doesn’t matter where the car came from. And I’m sure you know the best one for a Euro car: “It ain’t American.”

  2. Matt Cramer

    Want, yes.

    Can afford, no.

    It probably doesn’t help that enthusiasts are a notoriously tricky group to market to – after all, this is a group that can and will press something 25 years old into service as a daily driver if they can’t justify the cost of a new car.

    1. nxpress62

      Need a like button for this. By the time I buy a ss camaro, pay the tags, insurance and taxes, and buy another set of tires (priced 20″ lately?) to replace the set that won’t last 30000 miles I won’t be able to afford gas to drive it.

  3. Bryan McTaggart

    Dead-on, Matt. Here in a minute I’m gonna go fire up my 30-year old car and run errands.

  4. 38P

    As one of the few commenters here who actually drives daily (and at times races, autocrosses, and “open tracks”) one of the new 400+ h.p. supercars, I know first hand how many “traditionalists” seem to loathe them at every opportunity.

    The new cars, of course, offer outstanding performance, if you measure such things by historical antecedents. The idea that you can commute every day in a car that will run 12s or better with a mere tire change, card fuel economy better than any ’60s six-cylinder compact, and waste the Beach Boys’ legendary 409 or other Detroit “super stock” from back in the day (with probably 1/100th of the environmental impact) is simply astounding. Nobody in the doldrums of the mid-1970s would have predicted it.

    The real problems are price, supply, and social backlash.

    1. Price — The new supercars are now so expensive that the demographics which could afford such cars in the ’60s and even the ’80s are mostly “priced out” of ownership.

    The costly need to develop new aftermarket parts and emissions-certify them also dramatically escalates the end cost of modifying a newish car. This tends to separate those who can “pony up” for one of the new supercars from the “grassroots” of the sport. It also raises barriers to youth entry and is a factor in the “graying” of the hobby.

    2. Supply — Fuel economy and emissions regulations artificially limit the supplies of V8s, and the OEMs and dealers seem to relish the inevitable customer gouging that this involves.

    3. Social backlash — Human nature is often to dismiss, disregard, and show disdain for things that we cannot have. It’s a defense mechanism for our natural tendency toward covetousness. Thus, those who scrimp, save, work hard and struggle to obtain and compete in a modern supercar are often socially “dissed,” even as those who struggle with inferior, and lesser-performing “traditional” equipment are often celebrated. Such “backlash” is hardly a new phenomenon, but it seems to be escalating as the gap between the supercar “haves” and the subconsciously covetous “have nots” increases.

    These are just one owner’s thoughts on the subject. Feel free to disagree.

    1. mike Armstrong

      Muscle cars of the day are a wonderful thing. Lots of horsepower, good looks, reliable electronics, (most all electronic controls have been around for years now, so they are refined, tried and trued) Have superb handling despite their weight. I list after just about any of them. The problem is their cost. When you see a price tag on a Camaro that is larger than a Corvette or loaded Caddie, it’s a hard thing to swallow.

      For the record, I can see some of the complaints thrown out there. But I am grateful that muscle cars are still being made even if it is in small numbers. I’d rather walk or ride my bike before you’d ever see me in a Camry or similar boring jelly bean car. Have you priced one of those vehicles “comfortably” optioned? That blown Challenger isn’t all that far off in price.

    2. Bob

      I agree !00%. No can afford. I can’t wait till the new Mustang comes out. I really cant wait till the new version of a GT 500 comes out. I would also give up certain body parts to own one of the last GT500’s. It would do no good for me to own one because after the first set of tires wore out I wouldn’t even be able to afford the new tires for the dang thing. I have driven some of the new muscle cars and they are absoluty freaking awesome to drive. especially the modified ones. I got to drive one of the newer Corvettes with some mods done to it and it was STUPID Fast for the street. It could break the tires loose at 60 mph. It was more car than most people can handle. I’ve built and driven plenty of the old school cars. Cut my teeth on 66 and 67 Chevy IIs back in the 70s. built plenty of the 5.0 Mustang fox body cars too. They were fun, but the new ones are fun AND reliable.

  5. 38P

    One more thing . . . .

    The “cake mix” analogy:

    I read somewhere that even though cake mix manufacturers could easily make “just add water” mixes, market research suggested that home bakers wanted to add ingredients for themselves . . . so that they could take more credit for the end product. Thus, most cake mixes require the addition of eggs and other ingredients.

    For some, the new supercars are a bit too much like an expertly-crafted cake from a professional baker. Unlike, say . . . the 1980s 5.0 Mustang . . . which was more of a cheap “cake mix” that provided owners something they had to “finish” for themselves, some believe the modern supercars don’t leave as much room for affordable “home-baked” hot rodding.

    Thus, maybe what most really want isn’t a pre-packaged F-16-on-wheels, but rather an affordable, easy-to-modify, rear wheel drive “mix” car that can be cheaply hopped-up by those with average budgets and self-taught driveway mechanic skills.

    1. Matt Cramer

      Apparently, the real problem with “just add water” cake mixes was that they tasted terrible.

      And I haven’t found a cake mix yet that can compete with the chocolate cake recipe in Mark Bitteman’s “How to Cook Anything.” Adding melted chocolate to the batter makes a huge difference you can’t pull off with a boxed mix. Sorry for the thread jack. 🙂

      If we wanted to bring things back to the cake mix analogy – buy or build can both be a means to an end. And while building can deliver some additional satisfaction, “buy” has its own convenience in not having to fiddle with the car to get it complete and on the road. The new cars aren’t the equivalent of a just add water cake mix that tastes like powdered eggs. I’d be quite content with one out of the box.

      1. 38P

        The snopes article includes this interesting segment:

        “Dichter rightly perceived the overwhelming weight of the moral and emotional imperative to bake cakes from scratch. His research spurred countless ads and magazine articles aimed at persuading women to differentiate between the plain cake layers — “merely step number one,” according to Living — and the finished masterpiece. ‘Now, success in cakemaking is packaged right along with the precision ingredients,’ Myrna Johnston assured readers of Better Homes & Gardens in 1953. ‘You can put your effort into glorifying your cake with frosting, dreaming up an exciting trim that puts your own label on it.’ For modern women, these authorities proclaimed, the real art of baking began after the cake emerged from the oven.”

        I strongly suspect there is a similar psychology at work in the minds of a fair number of Bangshifters.

        Recall that the grassroots of hot rodding emerged from improving the performance of rather common, pedestrian vehicles (mostly Model Ts, Model As, flathead V8s and later low- and medium-priced OHVs) to rival and exceed more pricey and exotic “thoroughbred” machinery.

        Detroit, of course, saw big profit in the “youth market” and crashed the party in the 1950s and 1960s (to which even the mythical John Milner seems to imply a lament in “American Grafitti” (1973) — echoing a tension in the hobby that Pete Petersen’s minions likely suppressed in the magazines of the day because they enjoyed big advertising subsidies from the “Big Three.” Moreover, American performance cars in Petersen’s day were far less finished and showroom-stock capable than today’s supercars.

        But the “overwhelming weight of the moral and emotional imperative” certainly has waxed strongly since at least the late 1980s toward “scratch-baked” performance cars.

  6. onefastpony

    People that are happy usually don’t say much. Those that aren’t just complain, bitch, moan, complain more, whine, complain again and think the rest of us actually care. For every 1 that complains there may be 10 with the same issue, but for every 1 with a positive comment there are probably 100 that agree.
    At my work they have a “like button” after articles and an area for comments. Yes, not much different from facebook. You will see a lot of people like an article, but you won’t read a lot of comments saying they like it. You will read a lot of complaining.


    Added opinion on the stripper models… I think the dealers are intentionally stifling the sales since they probably make about $0.05 profit on them and don’t want the hassle of ordering something in because they aren’t got to stock a stripper model unless they are a Tasca or some other dealer with a major reputation on performance sales.

    Look at the Lincoln LS, arguably the most advanced chassis Ford had build to date, decent enough power (just shy of a 300hp V8), nice styling… dealers just didn’t push them and the walk ins to a Lincoln Mercury dealership were there for a Town Car or an absolutely base model Sable or Mystique.

    1. Bob

      Unfortunatly the LS was a very unreliable POS. I think that has more to do with the failure of the LS. I know, I work for Lincoln and I drive an LS. I like the car and I was able to buy one cheap because of their problems, no one wants them any more. Why did I buy one? I got it cheap and I can fix it on the cheap because of my job. BUT! it is fun to drive.

  8. Matt

    It would be awesome to own a modern muscle car, but I cannot afford one. Even the basic, low horsepower wannabee’s are too expensive. However, I can seem to justify a 60’s “project car” that may sit for upteen years while I work on it. I don’t think it’s so much the haves and have nots, but more of the can and can’t affords.

    Also, I prefer the older interiors. No matter what the modern muscle cars look like outside, their interiors remind me of my wifes Traverse. Just my opinion.

  9. Matt

    By the way, I don’t have ill feelings towards those who can afford the newer muscle cars, rather the manufacturers for pricing them out of most consumers reach.

    1. 38P

      Example: 2015 Mustang GT MSRP will START at $32,925 (and how many profit-hungry dealers will actually order the $33,000 base V8s?)

      (By way of comparison, a 5.0 Mustang GT in 1985 had a base MSRP of $9,449 ($20,819 in “downsized” 2014 dollars)

      Of course, the OEMs need to throttle demand for V8s and push 3- and 4-cylinder FWDs to meet fuel economy targets . . .

      Heavy and obvious profit-taking on RWD V8s will certainly do that, to the detriment of younger and more blue-collar Bangshifters.

  10. Mopar or No Car

    It’s the target market, stupid

    It should be obvious to all that the Big Three are targeting people who always wanted a vintage Mustang/Camaro/Challenger. That means primarily OLD people. Buyers get high performance along with creature comfort and streetability, concepts that did not coexist in the American pantheon in the ’60s/’70s but are a must have for modern buyers. If you wanted that you had to spend big, big bucks on a Jag or BMW with a 3.0 race engine. We, the Milner wannabes, diss the modern American muscle car because it is in fact a “gentleman’s sports car” more often driven by someone who reminds us of our grandfathers.

    Meanwhile, there are a lot more gearheads bolting HP on to Hondas than on to Buicks. Why? Bang for the buck.

    I just got rid of a Chrysler-badged supercar that was, in fact, 100% Mercedes under the skin. More horsepower than a pre-smog 440 and only weighed 3220 lbs. Why will I not drive a Chally? Because it’s a porker masquerading as a race car. If you need 450+ hp just to break the 1 hp per 10 lbs. barrier it’s not the engine that’s the problem, it’s the car.

    1. 38P

      1. Are you suggesting that — absent the headwinds of excessive regulation and in a true, competitive free market — that there is no longer any market for a cheap RWD V8 performance car?

      2. Are you really suggesting that:

      a. “Old people” who are in the market for performance cars all want and can afford to spend $35,000 to $70,000+ just to obtain “satisfaction” and

      b. “Young people” all eschew weight-adding options?

      (BTW, that’s something I’ll ponder anew next time some pimply, backwards-hat, tattoo-covered mope wearing an Eminem “wife-beater” shirt pulls up next to me rattling everyone’s windows (and entertainingly buzzing all of his primered “imports” sheet metal, floppy “Boeing” wing, and ill-fitting faux carbon-fiber body kit) with 1,000 lbs. of “amps” and “subs” . . . . )

      3. The import tuner market isn’t near collapse** and yields more “bang for the buck” than a RWD V8?

      ** Another sign of “import tuner” market distress is the impending cancellation of the “legendary” Mitsubishi Evo . . . .

      1. Mopar or No Car

        1. No
        2. a. Can’t answer, three questions rolled into one b. No
        3. Yes

        Dancing around the point, which is Ford/GM/Chrysler are selling retroporkers to baby boomers and that’s why we diss them. That was, IIRC, the question.

    2. Matt Cramer

      Just about EVERY new car you can buy is going to be a “gentleman’s sports car” compared to things from the muscle car era. My ’66 Dart had only a few “luxury” options from the factory – variable speed wipers, AM radio, and power steering. The brakes aren’t boosted (didn’t even seem to need a booster when I converted to discs), no A/C, crank windows – I don’t believe it even came with side view mirrors. You’re not going to find a new econobox that stripped down. Even cars explicitly aimed at a younger market like the Scion FRS are pretty well loaded these days.

  11. 3nine6

    For me, it’s all about the $$$. Also, my current muscle car has no A/C, no killer sound system, etc. I have no need for those extras. The new Z/28 charges a premium for the things you DON’T receive. Having worked in manufacturing, I understand that low production runs mean higher costs, but how did we do it in the 60’s and 70’s?

  12. scott liggett

    The one thing that the manufacturers do well is market research. Sure, every knuckle dragging cretin say they want a 600 hp Camaro with no power options and no AC. But in reality, very few would actually buy one.

    Second, the price of a modern muscle car is no longer in the realm of a blue collar worker like it was 40 years ago. The car companies have made them cars of the elite, i.e. the rich. They have marketed them as the cars behind the velvet ropes just like the hottie starlet in the Hollywood party.

    Third, none are really the old muscle car. Although the Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger have similar looks of the ones of the ’60 and ’70’s, they don’t look EXACTLY like them. That’s what irks people the most. It’s not a 2014 Challenger that looks exaclty like the 1970 they fell in love with as teenagers.

    1. 38P

      “The one thing that the manufacturers do well is market research.”

      Scott, I’m going to respectfully disagree.

      Edsel was the infamous product of “market research.” So have been a whole host of sleds over the past half-century which utterly and completely missed any target niche. Could one really laud the accuracy of “market research” that yielded such current flops as the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet? (photo-Google it)

      The dirty secret is that the Detroit OEMs can’t afford to sell cheap RWD V8s anymore because they pretty much already sell all the V8s that will fit under their escalating fuel economy averages . . . And they’d just be forgoing easy profits from themselves and their greed-soaked dealers.

      If an OEM can only sell 50,000 V8 cars without completely blowing up their CAFE average, what bean-counter would recommend popping out any “strippers” at $20,000, when all 50,000 can be profit-laden $35,000 to $70,000+ units?

  13. Schtauffer

    I want a Hellcat like I want life itself. I need a Hellcat like a I need an extra hole in my head.

  14. John T

    While the idea of a 600 hp new car is more appealing than a 150 hp smog era V8, cost weight etc are all very large disincentives but I think it goes a little deeper than that – I believe these new cars are the antithesis of being bangshifty..beaters, ratrods, older stuff done on a budget has more personality because by necessity the owner has HAD to do something about no power, no brakes and a zillion other problems. In doing so, each owner brings his own personality to the vehicle…so by the time its finished you wind up with something very interesting for others. I like the idea of Veyrons, for example. I’d love to drive one. Do I want to own one? Not really, all the work’s been done. What am I going to do in the driveway to make a Veyron (or many of the new muscle cars) more powerful or better? Could I even afford one? Nope. If I did lay all that cash out, would I want to cut into it? nope. I think that, at least for me, is where the appeal ends. Look at LS motors – hell, they’re powerful, capable etc – and widely disliked because theyre not particularly interesting – modern muscle cars are very similar and are , by and large, owned by people that would struggle to change a tyre much less actually modify it. (Here in Australia, don’t know about you guys, but its also frowned upon)

  15. S3bird

    I would love to be in the position to buy any of the big three muscle cars new (I would seriously be happy with any of them, just want a V8/Stick Shift car).

    The harsh reality is that the price of admission has me out of the running except for maybe a 10 year old model (good luck with financing).

    1. John T

      see theres the thing…. `just want a V8/stick shift car ‘ me too, in fact like most of us on here I could never afford to just go buy a new one – so I built one. Started with a 6 cyl car, bought a $500 Fairlane for its 351 Cleveland, sold the leftovers and made a profit, and ended up with a car I love and modify all the time. BTW it cost me $1,300, spent maybe 2 grand more, regularly turn down $30k offers (OK, big part of that is picking a car that just went up and up in desirability and therefore value) Contrast that with buying a new one with eleventeen air bags and speakers for a zillion bucks and watch it depreciate every day.

  16. Anthony

    I think the economy and fuel prices in our country arent helping anything. I see a lot of new Muscle and even the base models out on the road though mostly Challengers and Camaro and a real lot of Chargers.

  17. Michael L Cunningham

    My modified 5.7 GTO (Judge Dredd) is driven daily and I get comments and looks about it EVERYDAY… but they’re rare to see on the road. Plenty of MoPar and Fords out there but they DON’T standout. I think that’s the main bitch point.

  18. cyclone03

    The problem with the Edsel was the “market research” at the time told Ford what women wanted in a car. The problem was Men had the money and short of color (maybe) that was all the input women got in a cars purchase.
    Ford put EVERYTHING they had in that car for women, but it was about another 15 years before women started buying cars for themselves.

    This seems to be the goto topic here at BS,the truth is USAF A1C Cyclone03 could afford a new 85 Mustang LS and race it at least 2 times a week at Firebird,break it and fix it without a credit card,add gears,cam,carb,headers,tires,etc,etc…..with cash.

    What cars are our young 20 somethings doing those things with? Valid question I’m not in that world and my daughters are not either.
    I still see paper plates on Mustangs,Camaros,Challengers in the dorm parking lots on base but they are mostly high optioned 6’s over V8’s,and I don’t see shoe polish on the windows Thursday mornings .

    I do see shoe polish on Subaru’s,Mitsbishi’s and Hondas though so maybe I do know the answer…..

    Us old parents are still asked about what car to get by our kids but because of cost and time to recover that cost we tend to advise them to get a car that will serve their needs the longest so maybe that 2 door “pony car” may not be the best solution for a younger driver getting their first new car ,when we know that in their next 5 years most likely they will have the greatest changes they have had in life.
    That said….

    I told both of my daughters to not settle buy what you want and F the rest, have fun first you only have a few more years before things start to “matter”, and no matter what don’t settle.

  19. Nitromike66

    I don’t fit in or can’t see out of any of the new cars and I can’t justify spending that kind of money on a car that is just going to depreciate in value. I’m looking at buying a 55′ Chevy right now, 383 stroker, 700R4, Ford 9″, PS, 4 wheel disc brakes and it won’t look like all the other cars I see every day on my commute.

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