United States domestic market

The term United States domestic market (USDM) is a term used chiefly by automotive enthusiasts to describe the United States' economic market for American-brand automobiles and parts.
Muscle car is a term used to refer to a variety of high-performance automobiles.The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines muscle cars as "any of a group of American-made 2-door sports coupes with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving."A large V8 engine is fitted in a 2-door, rear wheel drive, family-style mid-size or full-size car designed for four or more passengers. Sold at an affordable price, muscle cars are intended for mainly street use and occasional drag racing.They are distinct from two-seat sports cars and expensive 2+2 GTs intended for high-speed touring and road racing. Developed simultaneously in their own markets, muscle cars also emerged from manufacturers in Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.


According to Muscle Cars, a book written by Peter Henshaw, a "muscle car" is "exactly what the name implies. It is a product of the American car industry adhering to the hot rodder's philosophy of taking a small car and putting a large-displacement engine in it. The Muscle Car is Charles Atlas kicking sand in the face of the 98 horsepower weakling."[7] Henshaw further asserts that the muscle car was designed for straight-line speed, and did not have the "sophisticated chassis", "engineering integrity", or "lithe appearance" of European high-performance cars.
However, opinions vary as to whether high-performance full-size cars, compacts, and pony cars qualify as muscle cars.
The following is a list of classic muscle cars and their manufacturers (along with each make's corresponding pony car, where applicable):
Manufacturer Pony car Muscle car
AMC Javelin SST Machine
Buick none Gran Sport
Chevrolet Camaro Chevelle SS
Dodge Challenger Charger RT
Ford Mustang Torino GT
Oldsmobile none 442
Mercury Cougar Cyclone CJ
Plymouth Barracuda Road Runner
Pontiac Firebird GTO


Opinions on the origin of the muscle car vary, but the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, created in response to public interest in speed and power, is often cited as the first muscle car. It featured America's first high-compression overhead valve V8 in the smaller, lighter Oldsmobile 76/Chevy body for six-cylinder engines (as opposed to bigger Olds 98 luxury body).

Musclecars magazine wrote: "[t]he idea of putting a full-size V8 under the hood of an intermediate body and making it run like Jesse Owens in Berlin belongs to none other than Oldsmobile... [The] all-new ohv V8...Rocket engine quickly found its way into the lighter 76 series body, and in February 1949, the new 88 series was born."

The article continued: "Walt Woron of Motor Trend enjoyed the 'quick-flowing power...that pins you to your seat and keeps you there until you release your foot from the throttle [...] Olds dominated the performance landscape in 1950, including wins in the NASCAR Grand National division, Daytona Speed Weeks, and the 2100-plus-mile Carrera Panamericana. In (Belgium), an 88 won a production car race at Spa-Francorchamps [...] A husky V8 in a cleanly styled, lightweight coupe body, the original musclecar truly was the '49 Olds 88."

Jack Nerrad wrote in Driving Today, "the Rocket V-8 set the standard for every American V-8 engine that would follow it for at least three decades[...] With a displacement of 303 cubic inches and topped by a two-barrel carburetor, the first Rocket V-8 churned out 135 hp (101 kW; 137 PS) at 3,600 rpm and 263 pound-feet (357 N·m) of torque at a lazy 1800 rpm [and] no mid-range car in the world, save the Hudson Hornet, came close to the Rocket Olds performance potential..."

Nerad added that the Rocket 88 was "the hit of NASCAR’s 1950 season, winning eight of the 10 races. Given its lightning-like success, one could clearly make the case that the Olds 88 with its 135 horsepower (101 kW) V-8 was the first 'musclecar'..."

Steve Dulcich, writing in Popular Hot Rodding, also cites Oldsmobile, concurrently with Cadillac, as having "launched the modern era of the high-performance V-8 with the introduction of the 'Rocket 88' overhead-valve V8 in 1949."


Other manufacturers showcased performance hardware in flashy limited-edition models. Chrysler led the way with its 1955 C-300, an inspired blend of Hemi power and luxury-car trappings that became the new star of NASCAR. With 300 horsepower (224 kW), it was advertised as "America's Most Powerful Car".

Capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 9.8 seconds and reaching 130 miles per hour (209 km/h), the 1955 Chrysler 300 is also recognized as one of the best-handling cars of its era. Two years later, the Rambler Rebel was the fastest stock American sedan, according to Motor Trend.

The popularity and performance of muscle cars grew in the early 1960s, as Mopar (Dodge, Plymouth, and Chrysler) and Ford battled for supremacy in drag racing. The 1962 Dodge Dart 413 cu in (6.8 L) Max Wedge, for example, could run a 13-second 1/4-mile dragstrip at over 100 miles per hour (161 km/h). By 1964, General Motors' lineup boasted Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, and Pontiac muscle cars, and Buick fielded a muscle car entry a year later. For 1964 and 1965, Ford had its 427 cu in (7.0 L) Thunderbolts, and Mopar unveiled the 426 cu in (7.0 L) Hemi engine. The Pontiac GTO was an option package that included Pontiac's 389 cu in (6.4 L) V8 engine, floor-shifted transmission with Hurst shift linkage, and special trim. In 1966 the GTO became a model in its own right. The project, led by Pontiac division president John DeLorean, technically violated GM's policy, limiting its smaller cars to 330 cu in (5.4 L) displacement, but the new model proved more popular than expected, and inspired GM and its competitors to produce numerous imitators. The GTO itself was a response to the Dodge Polara 500 and the Plymouth Sport Fury, which in 1962 had been shrunk to intermediate size.

American Motors, though late entering the muscle car market, produced "an impressive array of performance cars in a relatively short time," said Motor Trend. "The first stirrings of AMC performance came in 1965, when the dramatic, if ungainly, Rambler Marlin fastback was introduced to battle the Ford Mustang and Plymouth Barracuda." Although the Marlin was a flop in terms of sales and initial performance, AMC gained some muscle-car credibility in 1967, when it made both the Marlin and the "more pedestrian" Rebel available with its new 280 hp (209 kW; 284 PS), 343 cu in (5.6 L) "Typhoon" V8. In 1968, the company offered two pony car muscle car contenders: the Javelin and its truncated two-seat variant, the AMX a sports car in the Grand Touring tradition.

Although the sales of true muscle cars were relatively modest by total Detroit production standards, they had value in publicity. Competition between manufacturers meant that buyers had the choice of ever-more powerful engines. A horsepower war was started that peaked in 1970, with some models advertising as much as 450 hp (336 kW; 456 PS).

Muscle cars attracted young customers into showrooms, and they bought the standard editions of these mid-size cars. To enhance the "halo" effect of these models, the manufacturers modified some of them into turn-key drag racers.

Ford built 200 lightweight Ford Galaxies for drag racing in 1963. All non-essential equipment was omitted. Modifications included fiberglass panels, aluminum bumpers, traction bars, and a competition-specification 427 cu in (7.0 L) engine factory rated at a conservative425 hp (317 kW; 431 PS). This full-size car could run the quarter mile in a little over 12 seconds. Also built in 1963 were 5,000 road-legal versions that could be used as every day drivers (Ford claimed 0-60 in less than 6 seconds for the similarly powered 1966 Galaxie 500XL 427).

Another Ford lightweight was the 1964 Ford Thunderbolt that utilized the mid-size Fairlane body. A stock Thunderbolt could run the quarter-mile (402 m) in 11.76 seconds at 122.7 mph (197.5 km/h),[18] and Gaspar "Gas" Ronda dominated the NHRAWorld Championship with his Thunderbolt with a best time of 11.6 seconds at 124 mph (200 km/h).[7] The Thunderbolt included the 427 engine with special exhausts; though technically legal for street use, the car was too "raucous" for the public roads, according to a Hot Rodmagazine quote, "for driving to and from the strip, let alone on the street in everyday use".[18] Massive traction bars, asymmetrical rear springs, and a trunk-mounted 95-pound (43 kg) bus battery were intended to maximize traction for the 500 bhp (373 kW)car.[18] Sun visors, exterior mirror, sound-deadener, armrests, jack, and lug wrench were omitted to save weight. The car was given lightweight Plexiglass windows, and early versions had fiberglass front body panels and bumpers, later changed to aluminum to meet NHRA regulations.[19] Base price was US$3,780.[18] A total of 111 Thunderbolts were built, and Ford contracted Dearborn Steel Tubing to help with assembly.[20]

In 1963, General Motors' Chevrolet division produced 57 full-size Impala coupes equipped with option package RPOZ-11,[21] which added $1237.40 to the vehicle base price. They were the only automobiles the division ever built expressly for drag racing. The package included a specially modified W series 409 engine, now displacing 427 cubic inches, and was officially rated at 430 bhp. Actual horsepower was approximately 480–520, depending on the state of tune and the available fuel.[citation needed] With a compression ratio of 13.5:1, tuning the engine for maximum horsepower required high-octane fuel.[citation needed] The RPOZ-11 package had numerous modifications to reduce weight, including aluminum hood, fenders, fan shroud, and bumpers. Sound-deadening material was removed, as were non-essentials such as heater and radio. Other racing features included a two-piece intake manifold, special exhaust manifolds, cylinder heads and pistons, a deep-sump oil pan, and cowl-induction air cleaner. The RPOZ-11 package was discontinued when General Motors ceased involvement in racing in 1964.

The 1964 Dodge 426 Hemi Lightweight produced over 500 bhp (370 kW). This "top drag racer" had an aluminium hood, lightweight front bumpers, fenders, doors and lower valance, magnesium front wheels, lightweight Dodge van seat, Lexan side windows, one windshield wiper, and no sun visors or sound deadening. Like other lightweights of the era, it came with a factory disclaimer: Designed for supervised acceleration trials. Not recommended for general everyday driving because of the compromises in the all-round characteristics which must be made for this type of vehicle.[19]

Also too "high-strung" for the street was Chrysler’s small-volume-production 1965 drag racer, the 550 bhp (410 kW) Plymouth Satellite 426 Hemi. Although the detuned 1966 version (the factory rating underestimated it at 425 bhp (317 kW) ) has been criticized for poor brakes and cornering, Car and Driver described it as "the best combination of brute performance and tractable street manners we've ever driven." The car's understated appearance belied its performance: it could run a 13.8-second quarter mile at 104 mph (167 km/h). Base price was $3,850.[22]

Likewise, Chevrolet eschewed flamboyant stripes for their 1969 Chevelle COPO 427. The car could run a 13.3 sec. quarter-mile at108 mph (174 km/h). Chevrolet rated the engine at 425 hp (317 kW), but the NHRA claimed a truer450 hp (340 kW).[23] It has been said that the 1969 COPO Chevelles were "among the most feared muscle cars of any day. And they didn't need any badges."[23] Base price was US$3,800.[23]

For 1970, Chevrolet offered the Chevelle SS 454, also at a base price of US$3,800. Its 454 cu in (7.4 L) engine was rated at 450 hp (336 kW), the highest factory rating at that time. Car Life magazine wrote: "It's fair to say that the Supercar as we know it may have gone as far as it's going."[24]

The general trend towards higher performance in factory-stock cars reflected the importance of the youth market. A key appeal of muscle cars was that they offered the American car culture relatively affordable and powerful street performance in models that could also be used for drag racing. But as size, optional equipment and luxury appointments increased, engines had to be more powerful to maintain performance levels, and the cars became more expensive.

In response to rising cost and weight, a secondary trend towards more basic "budget" muscle cars emerged in 1967 and 1968. These included the Plymouth Road Runner, the "original budget Supercar"; the Plymouth GTX, which at a base price of US$3,355 offered "as much performance-per-dollar as anything on the market, and more than most"; and the Dodge Super Bee. Manufacturers also offered bigger engines in their compact models, sometimes making them lighter, roomier, and faster than their own pony-car lines.

The 340 cu in (5.6 L)-powered 1970 Plymouth Duster was one of these smaller, more affordable cars. Based on the compact-sized Plymouth Valiant and priced at US$2,547, the 340 Duster posted a 6.0-second 0-60 mph (97 km/h)time and ran the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds at 94.3 mph (151.8 km/h). This "reasonably fast" compact muscle car had a stiff, slightly lowered suspension which, in the view of Hot Rod magazine at the time, let the car "ride in an acceptable fashion". However, a retrospective article by Consumer Guide referred to "a punishing ride" and trim that was "obviously low-budget." The 1970 model came with front disc brakes and without hood scoops. The only high-performance cues were dual exhausts and modest decals. Tom Gale, former Chrysler vice president of design, described the car as "a phenomenal success. It had a bulletproof chassis, was relatively lightweight, and had a good power train. These were 200,000-mile (320,000 km) cars." Hot Rod rated the Duster "one of the best, if not the best, dollar buy in a performance car" in 1970.

American Motors' mid-sized 1970 Rebel Machine, developed in consultation with Hurst Performance, was also built for normal street use. It had a 390 cu in (6.4 L) engine developing 340 hp (254 kW)—a "moderate performer"[30] that gave a 0-60 mph (97 km/h) time of 6.8 seconds and a quarter mile in 14.4 seconds at 99 mph (159 km/h). Early examples came in "patriotic" red, white, and blue.[32] Jack Nerad wrote in Driving Today that it was "a straight-up competitor to the GTO, et al. ... the engine was upgraded to 340 hp (254 kW; 345 PS) a four-barrel Motorcraft carburetor and other hot rod trickery. The torque figure was equally prodigious—430 pound-feet at a lazy 3600 rpm. In this car the engine was practically the entire story." With four-speed manual transmission, the car "could spring from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 6.4 seconds..." In Nerad's view, the car "somehow, someway deserves to be considered among the Greatest Cars of All Time." An article in Mopar Muscle said, "by far the most stunning thing for a car with this level of performance and standard equipment was the sticker of just US$3,475."

For comparison, the "plain wrapper"[35] 1969 Plymouth Road Runner, Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year, ran a 14.7 quarter at 100.6 mph (161.9 km/h) with the standard 383 cu in (6.3 L) engine after the addition of a high-performance factory camshaft plus non-standard, high-performance induction and exhaust manifolds, carburetor, and slick tires. In this form the car cost US$3,893. In 1968, Dodge's $3,027 Super Bee ran a 15-second quarter at 100 mph (160 km/h) on street tires with the same engine, only stock.

Hot Rod magazine categorized the 340 cu in (5.6 L) 1968 Plymouth Barracuda 4-seater as "a supercar, without any doubt attached...also a 'pony car', a compact and a workhorse" with enough rear seat leg- and head-room for "passengers to ride back there without distress", and "a flip-up door to the trunk area for ferrying some pretty sizeable loads of cargo". It could run a quarter mile in 13.33 seconds at 106.50 mph (171.40 km/h)on the drag strip. The base price was $2,796.00; the price as tested by Hot Rod was $3,652.

The muscle car market segment was in high gear "until shifting social attitudes, crippling insurance rates, the Clean Air Act and the fuel crisis removed the cars from the market in the early 1970s."[38] The OPEC oil embargo led to price controls and gasoline rationing, as well as higher prices. "Muscle cars quickly became unaffordable and impractical for many people."[39] The automobile insurance industry also levied surcharges on all high-powered models, an added cost that put many muscle cars out of reach of their intended buyers. Simultaneously, efforts to combat air pollution—a problem that grew more complicated in—focused Detroit's attention on emissions control.

A majority of muscle cars came optioned with high-compression powerplants-some as high as 11:1. Prior to the oil embargo, 100-octane fuel was common (e.g. Sunoco 260, Esso Extra, Chevron Custom Supreme, Super Shell, Texaco Sky Chief, Phillips 66 Flite Fuel, Amoco Super Premium, Gulf No-nox); however, following the passage of the Clean Air Act of 1970, octane ratings were lowered to 91-due in part to the removal of tetraethyllead as a valve lubricant. Unleaded gasoline was phased in as a result.

In the mid-1970s, some of the muscle car market converged into personal luxury performance cars. Some nameplates, such as Chevrolet's SS or Oldsmobile's 442, would become sport appearance packages (known in the mid to late 1970s as the vinyl and decal option-Plymouth's Road Runner was an upscale decor package for their Volare coupes). One of the last to be discontinued, a car that Car and Driver called "The Last of the Fast Ones", was Pontiac's Firebird Trans Am SD455model of 1973–1974.

Performance-type cars began to make a return in the United States during 1980s. Increases in production costs and tighter regulations governing pollution and safety, these vehicles were not designed to the formula of the traditional low-cost muscle cars. The introduction of electronic fuel injection and overdrive transmission for the remaining 1960s muscle car survivors, such as the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird, helped sustain a market share for them alongside personal luxury coupes with performance packages, such as the Buick Regal T-Type or Grand National, Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, and Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS circa 1983-88.

Related pickup trucks

Another related type of vehicle is the car-based pickup, known colloquially in Australia as a "ute" (short for "utility"). Holden and Ford Australia both make such vehicles, under the names Holden Ute and Ford Falcon Ute respectively. Examples of these in the U.S. are the performance versions of the Ford Ranchero, GMC Sprint / Caballero, and Chevrolet El Camino with high-output V8 engines, although these models are no longer in production.

Modern muscle cars

North America

In the late-1980s, there was resurgence in ponycar popularity with the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang, and in the early 1990s Fords SVT (Special Vehicle Team) program wanted to increase the power and performance. Ford’s 1995 SVT Cobra R was the first 300-horsepower vehicle, but was limited to 250 models. The GM and Ford market rivalry continued throughout the late 1990s, where Mustang Cobra and Camaro SS were both rated at 300+ horsepower for standard production models.

For larger cars available in the U.S., the full-size, 4-door Chevrolet Impala SS was available from 1994 to 1996 as a high-performance version of the Caprice, equipped with a Corvette-derived 5.7 L V8 LT1 engine and other specific performance features and body styling using the options found on the Caprice 9C1 police package. The Impala SS nameplate was resurrected in 2003 as a high-performance version of the standard Impala with larger and/or supercharged engines. General Motors discontinued its F-body pony-car models, the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird, after 2002, but brought back the GTO in 2004 as a rebadged Holden Monaro imported from Australia. Sales were poor and the "new" GTO was discontinued after three years. The Pontiac brand was eliminated after the 2010 model year. Ford's Special Vehicle Team also released the 2003 SVT Cobra, now supercharged, but stopped production after 2004 to make way for the new generation Mustang. For the 2012 model year, Ford brought back the Boss 302 with a 444 hp (331 kW) 5.0 V8.

For 2003 and 2004, Mercury revived its Marauder nameplate as a high-performance version Mercury Grand Marquis, based on the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. In 2005, a "retro-inspired" version of the pony car Ford Mustang drew its design cues from the original 1960s Mustangs. In 2007, Ford and Shelby also re-released a new G.T. 500, with Super Snake and King of the Road editions added in 2008. Saleen introduced a special edition echoing the Boss 302 Mustang, naming it the "S302 Parnelli Jones" after the Trans-Am series driver from the 1960s and 1970s, Parnelli Jones. A subsequent similar model followed with Dan Gurney's namesake.

In 2004, Chrysler introduced their LX platform that served as the platform for a new line of rear-wheel drive, V8-powered cars (using the new Hemi engine), including a four-door version of the Dodge Charger. It was also available as a station wagon (the Dodge Magnum) and the performance of the new models equaled many of the vintage muscle cars. Dodge revived two "classic" model names with the Charger: Daytona in 2006 and the Dodge Charger Super Bee in 2007.

GM's Cadillac division introduced the XLR roadster in 2004 that was produced alongside the Chevrolet Corvette in GM's manufacturing plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky. This led to the creation of the Cadillac V-series for the luxury CTS sedan, sold as the CTS-V.

Muscle car revival

In 2004, the Pontiac GTO was relaunched in the United States, a rebadged third generation Holden Monaro, and Chrysler debuted the 300C as a 2005 model. Its styling was borrowed from the original 1957 300C model. In 2005, Ford, as a precursor of this movement, introduced the new Mustang designed to resemble the original 1964.5 model. In 2008, Chrysler re-introduced the Dodge Challenger, which has strong design links to the 1970 model (i.e. featuring long lines not seen in vehicles and quad headlights). In 2009, Chevrolet released the new Camaro which bears some resemblance to the 1969 model. In 2010, Dodge re-introduced the Charger as a 2011 model. The Charger was first reborn in 2006 as a muscle car with its own unique stylings; however, the 2011 version of the Charger took many styling cues from the 1968-70 Charger, thus making the new Charger look more original than the 2006-2010 model. The Challenger was reborn in 2008 it shared common design elements with the first generation Challenger, despite being significantly longer and taller. The chassis is a modified (shortened wheelbase) version of the LX platform that underpins the 2006–Current Dodge Charger, 2005–2008 Dodge Magnum, and the 2005–Current Chrysler 300.

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