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HOW THE AMERICAN MUSCLE CAR GREW UP

Muscle cars are as American as apple pie and often associated with stock car racing, drag racing, and street rod racing. There is some debate over which car was, exactly, the “first” muscle car, but loosely defined, they are factory-built sport coupes with powerful engines in a midsize package. Related pony cars, such as the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, are generally smaller cars with roughly the same description otherwise.

The general consensus is that the first muscle car of this definition was the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88. This car was a first on many levels, not the least of which was its introduction of the first high-compression overhead valve V8. It had a 303-cubic inch engine displacement, a two-barrel carburetor, and an output of 135 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque split in a relatively wide power band of RPM (3,600 and 1,800 respectively). This gave it powerful low-end speed from its torque and high end muscle with horsepower. This was a winning combination at the time, as evidenced by the car’s near-sweep of the 1950 NASCAR season with eight wins out of ten races.

In 1951, Hudson introduced the ground-breaking Hornet, which even today holds legendary status as a renowned race car. Although its production period was limited thanks to the financial shakiness of Hudson, the car recently made a comeback on the big screen in the popular animated series Cars.

More to come with next blog on how the muscle car grew up

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