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BLOG: Rise of the Machines

By Scott Newman, 16 Jan 2015 Features

BLOG: Rise of the Machines

Are we entering a new golden era of muscle cars?

And just like that, seemingly out of nowhere, America finds itself atop the performance car world again.

During a previous life spent at MOTOR’s classic car sister mag, Unique Cars, the majority of my time was spent researching and then writing about all manner of US performance metal from the ’60s and ’70s.

Many people look back on this era with fondness and rightly so; the muscle car scene was booming and every manufacturer was itching to get in on the act. Corvette L88, Camaro Z/28, Chevelle SS 454, Mustang Cobra Jet, Galaxie 427, Challenger 426 Hemi, Superbird – you could easily write a list as long as your arm of cars that would lay rubber the entire length of the quarter mile.

The reason for such nostalgia is that we’d never see the likes of such prolific performance again. Except we will. In fact, we’re seeing it right now.

This week’s Detroit Motor Show hammered home the realisation that we’re currently living through another golden era of US performance.

I’m not referring to the new Ford GT, though the arrival of a new world-class supercar is indicative of the confidence and momentum currently being felt – the foam at the very crest of the wave, if you will.

No, what I’m referring to is the explosion of relatively affordable muscle cars offering lunatic performance. Even the current king of the hill, Chevrolet’s Corvette Z06, only costs the same as a Porsche Cayman GTS in its homeland – and it’s got 485kW/881Nm, ferchrissakes!

Everywhere you look there are wild performance cars with comedy specifications. Ford just unveiled its Shelby GT350R with (Aussie-made) carbon fibre wheels; Chevrolet has the insane Z06 and Camaro Z/28, a 1725kg ‘track car’ with 305mm-wide rubber all ’round; Cadillac offers two V-series sedans, the most powerful of which has 477kW/855Nm.

Best of all, though, and most redolent of the halcyon days of muscle car madness, are Dodge’s Challenger and Charger Hellcat twins. For the price of a base C63 AMG Coupe, you can drive away in a car with 527kW/881Nm – LOL.

This resurgence is all the more remarkable given many of these vehicles would have been conceived with the US car industry still reeling from the effects of the GFC.

Of course, none of these cars are exactly the most refined machines out there, but all offer a slightly unhinged rawness increasingly being lost by the majority of the rest of the world. The real sad news is, private imports aside, none of these vehicles are currently offered in Australia.

However, that’s going to change by the end of the decade, with Ford’s Mustang obviously arriving by year’s end and GM confirming Holden will have a V8-powered rear-drive coupe offering in showrooms come 2018.

Regardless, the fact the America is so interested in producing awesome cars again can only be good news for enthusiasts, and with US auto makers now largely free from crippling post-GFC debt, we’re excited to see what they come up with next.