Ford Motor Company used the Fox platform to create the Mustang. The Fox platform that underpinned the Mustang was a robust and versatile assembly and over the years, it had been tweaked to an inch of its lifetime.
Ford’s Internal performance division, Special Vehicle Team, SVT, had worked on creating special variants of the Mustangs over the years such as the SVO Mustang in 1984 and the 2002 SVT Cobra. For Ford management at Dearborn, it was more than evident that the performance continued to sell serious sports cars. After all the Mustang was an iconic American muscle car.
Ford kept releasing limited production Mustangs as the early 2000s came and went. The 2001 Mustang Bullitt GT and the 2003 and 2004 Mach 1 are perfect examples of this strategy. The Ford executives made the decision to invest resources to create a worthy successor to the old Fox platform Mustang. The SN 95, the next Mustang platform would be a wise business move as well. J Mays, the head designer at the Ford styling department, was in charge of creating the new Ford Mustang. J Mays felt a strong desire to create the next Mustang that had the looks and the image of the original Mustang.
There was a debate on selecting the old school but a proven front engine and rear-wheel drive setup or a new front-engine and front-wheel drive vehicle. When the Mustang enthusiasts go to know that their favorite car might end up as a front-wheel-drive car. Because of the outcry, this front-engine and front-wheel-drive platform would become the Probe.
Dearborn planned to release the new mustang for the 2005 model year and it retained the iconic styling cues of the first-generation Mustang paying homage to the long hood and short deck body proportions. The similarities continued with tri elemental taillights and a C stamping in the side sheet metal.
The new generation Mustang was made available with either a 4.0-liter V6 engine providing 210 horsepower or a 4.6-liter V8 rated at 300 horsepower. It had virtually no contest as the serious players such as the Dodge Challenger, and Pontiac GTO was long gone. The only threat that existed until the 2000s, the Chevrolet Camaro was also discontinued in 2002 after celebrating its 35th birthday. In other words, Ford Mustang was the new Sheriff in town as well as had to do the duties of the Deputy and the Judge.
Something interesting happened in 2011. Ford slipped a new V8 engine, code named Coyote, under the hood of the Mustang, and this new engine was a 5.0-liter DOHC engine that revived a famous engine displacement from the previous millennium, delivering a respectable 412 horsepower yet managed to keep the power distribution in a silky-smooth way. It was efficient as well. All the technology that went to this wasn’t exclusive to Mustang GT. Ford re-introduced the long-dead Boss 302 to the streets in 2011. The Boss 302 Mustang came with a tuned 5.0-liter V8 Coyote power-plant, delivering 440 horsepower, and the car was available in two variants. The regular and the Laguna Seca, a race-ready street-legal track machine.
You can read more on Ford SVO and SVT here and their influence on the American muscle car market.
In the original muscle car era, from the mid-60s to the early 1970s, there was another corporation that used to build brutal street machines. The Chrysler Motor Company. Since those gone yet not forgotten nostalgic days, Chrysler went through many managerial and ownership changes than any other automobile group.
In 1998, the Daimler group formed an alliance with Chrysler, resulting in the Daimler-Chrysler, a so-called merger of equals. With the depreciation of the USD, soon the Americans found out who was actually in control. Germans were moving the Chrysler forward to return to the reincarnated muscle car age. Chrysler’s LC platform, which derived from the venerable Mercedes Benz technology including the S-Class front suspension, E-Class rear suspension, and a Mercedes Benz-derived five-speed automatic transmission unit, were included in the underpinnings of the new ultimate muscle car, Dodge Challenger.
Dodge was determined to retain the iconic long hood and short deck proportions of the original 1970 Challenger, but the layout of the modern LC platform made this a little bit challenging. The driveline position was preset, and the position of the cowl is just the beginning of the challenges the engineers faced, yet they endured ahead.
The Challenger was unveiled for the 2008 model year but came in one configuration, a 6.1-liter SRT8. This approach taken by the Dodge was the very meaning of the American sense of coming out swinging. This Challenger SRT8 delivered a ground-shaking 425 horsepower and the 0-60 mph was just 5.1 seconds, making it one of the fastest road cars on the road at the time. The SRT-8 version of the Challenger had the same performance specs as the long-gone 426 cubic-inch V8 Hemi engine. It was the very essence of the new generation American Muscle car. Dodge Challenger had all the right attributes to become a serious American muscle car.
From the next year on, the Challenger was also available with a 5.7-liter Hemi engine. This 5.7-liter Hemi engine was released in 2003 to replace the Magnum 5.9-liter engine. Originally developed for the heavy-duty Dodge Ram pickup trucks, this power-plant comes with a built-in ingenious cylinder deactivation system to allow the engine to run on just four cylinders under light throttle. When the driver is in need of serious power, the engine instantly re-activated the cylinders that were loafing, to deliver a respectable 375 horsepower. This engine was mated with a six-speed manual transmission. This engine was installed into the Challenger R/T car starting in 2009.
Chrysler Group had a couple of other vehicles that were available with the Hemi and SRT8 performance engine options. The Dodge Magnum and the Chrysler 300. The Dodge Magnum was a station wagon that came with either a 5.7-liter Hemi engine or the 6.1-liter SRT-8 engine. It could haul a decent amount of luggage while keeping your whole family in comfort. Chrysler 300 was a full-sized four-door sedan equipped with either the 5.7-liter Hemi engine or the 6.1-liter SRT-8 engine.
Both Dodge Magnum and the Chrysler 300 were successful in the American muscle car market as well as in the performance field.
Since the retirement of the venerable Camaro back in 2002, General Motors was being constantly asked by enthusiasts for a return of the iconic blue-collar worker’s sports car. Eventually, the Camaro enthusiasts got even more humiliated by the Ford Mustang enthusiasts with the introduction of the new Mustang.
Unknown to everyone else, behind the scenes at General Motors, there was a troupe of hardcore muscle car enthusiasts who wanted nothing more than to create a car that could humiliate the Ford Mustang for once and for all.
The fifth-generation Camaro was initially planned back in 2004 and the final production version was unveiled in 2010. Chevrolet wanted to release both coupe and convertible versions at the same time, but the convertible didn’t meet the expectations of the top GM management. So, they had to delay it one year until the issues were addressed.
The all-new Camaro American muscle car came with either a 3.6-liter V6 engine or a 6.2-liter V8 engine. These engines delivered 312 horsepower and 426 horsepower respectively. Both these engines were mated to a six-speed manual transmission unit. The Camaro also shares the independent rear suspension setup, just like the Challenger. On the contrary, Mustang was a live-axle car.
Just like Dodge and Ford, Chevrolet also decided to pay homage to their heritage. At the 2011 SEMA in Los Angeles, a COPO Camaro was unveiled. This COPO Camaro was a race-only track machine that was built to battle the famous American muscle car Ford Mustang Cobra Jet on a drag strip. There were three power-plant options. A 4.0 liter and a 2.9-liter supercharged engine and a normally aspirated 427 cubic inch V8. This car came with a factory-fitted roll cage and a solid rear axle to distribute the power to the rear axle more effectively in a straight line.
In 2012, Chevrolet paid homage to their original ZL1 cars as well. They released the new ZL1 Camaro which was capable of running the quarter-mile in 12.1 seconds at a top speed of 117.4 mph. This car delivered 580 horsepower.
Camaro 1LE was unveiled in 2013. The original 1LE was a strong road racing car and the 2013 version also followed the same path. 1LE shared many components with the ZL1 Camaro of the previous year to improve the cornering and handling of the car. This car delivered 426 horsepower. Soon the Chevrolet Camaro become a serious contender in the American muscle car market.
You can read the following articles to learn more about one of the most iconic American muscle cars of all time.
American Muscle car performance enhancers like the Shelby Performance, Hennessy, and Saleen are around to improve the performance and handling of the big three American muscle cars.
Cadillac is a luxury brand that is famous for being the most luxurious brand owned by General Motors. GM uses the Cadillac brand name to introduce engineering advances and luxurious creature comforts. The Cadillac wasn’t interested in creating muscle cars back in the day. But, right now, Cadillac offers a new lineup of performance vehicles, the V series. Three vehicles on the Cadillac can be equipped with a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine which is capable of delivering 556 horsepower. The CTS sedan, the CTS Coupe, and the CTS station wagon. CTS cars are coming with either automatic or manual transmission units.
Back in 2005, Jeremy Clarkson, the controversial former Top Gear presenter, reviewed a Cadillac CTS V four-door sedan. It came with the same power source that you could find in a Chevrolet Corvette delivering 400 hp. It was capable of achieving 0-60mph in 4.3 seconds and he achieved a top speed of 163mph on their test track. These are of course impressive performance figures back in the day.
At first, Jeremy Clarkson was stereotypical about surely it must be one of those American muscle cars that are fast on a straight line but underperforming at cornering. To his surprise, Cadillac held up with an Audi S4 despite the fact that Audi S4 is a four-wheel-drive car with Stig behind the wheel. Cadillac Engineers developed the car at Nürburgring and this is why they were so successful at developing a car that is capable of being fast in the corners as well.
Though the Cadillac muscle cars are better handling than the other American muscle cars, Cadillac cars will always have to live in the shadows of serious players like the Camaro, Mustang, Challenger, Charger as they got more racing pedigree and a colorful history full of wins and celebrations. Who would have thought about seeing a muscle car made by Cadillac? Cadillac CTS V is by the very essence of it is a proper American muscle car.
It is safe to say that history is going to repeat itself at some point, whether it’s in a few years or few decades, an oil crisis will put a halt to these gas-guzzling monsters.
Electrification is undoubtedly the best alternative due to the lower cost of ownership and zero emissions. Mustang introduced an all-electric crossover influenced by the Mustang, then they came with a track-only all-electric super muscle car.
Chevrolet and Dodge are also planning to introduce hybrid and all-electric power trains in near future. It is more than evident that the future of American muscle cars is electrification.