2015 marked the end of muscle cars. Muscle cars (non-European, high-performance vehicles) were a five-decade trend in America. They had big, loud, and dirty V-8 engines, the first of which roared in the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket.
1950 to 1970 was the heyday of muscle cars (Mustang, Galaxy, Thunderbolt, Impala, Barracuda). But by 1970 high gas prices and the Clean Air Act made people re-think the wisdom in buying a car better suited for drag racing than picking up groceries.
Manufacturers still make what many consider a watered down version of muscle cars. These offer V-6 and smaller sized engines, fully compatible with new turbo technology that achieves the same level of horsepower as the V-8, but with better fuel economy.
Progress, personified, is what turbo technology is. Better for the environment, saves money and meets, if not exceeds, performance standards. What is not to like?
But there are a surprising number of people who want V-8 engines back. They miss the sound of the engines at Formula 1 races. They want them for towing capacity. Though experts tell us “the future belongs to fuel economy,” not everyone wants in.
Automakers, who are subject to rules around Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards, will be penalized if they don’t meet new standards (less than 54 MPG by 2025, fleet-wide). So this does not bode well for V-8 engines. But manufacturers are trying to figure out ways to meet the demand, by still offering them, but making them more expensive.
Question: Is it a matter of choice not to adopt new technology that makes our planet greener? Sure. But sometimes you have to take one for the team, or in this case, our planet. Standing in the way of progress is not something most people want to be remembered for, even if they are able to pay more for what they want.
Buying that V-8 engine and living like there is no tomorrow has its perks. But acting like you don’t owe anyone, anything is irresponsible in the long run. We get the society we make. Right now, I would love a trade-in on the one we have.
Muscle cars have a thing or two to teach us about leaving behind things that have outgrown their usefulness. Yes, they were fun. Yes, Grease would not have been as good of a movie without the drag racing. Yes, Starsky & Hutch was perhaps the finest television show of the 1980’s, in part because of that beautiful, red Gran Torino.
But it is 2016. We need to let go. We need to march ahead.