Muscle Car vs. Super Car: Where Do You Stand?

There's no argument when it comes to the Plymouth Roadrunner; it 100% muscle car.

There’s no argument when it comes to the Plymouth Roadrunner; it 100% muscle car.

Believe it or not, today there is a developing rift inside of American automotive circles. And it all circles around one question: What EXACTLY is the difference between an exotic class and/or supercar vs. a muscle car? On the surface, this question seems pretty easy. Muscle cars have a few distinctions that make them completely unique.

1. They are American. Muscle cars originated in America, so there are no exceptions. NONE!

2. They have a high horse power: low cost ratio.

3. The old “you know one when you see one” argument… Mustangs, classic Plymouths, etc.

4. Muscle cars are never, NEVER mid or rear engine and need to feature a V8.

Peter Henshaw agrees with these rules, too. In his book Muscle Cars, he defines the automobile as “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.”

With these designated rules, it should be pretty easy to label and define all of the potential vehicles, right?

Not so fast.

Over the course of history, there have been a number of different cars that bend the rules of the exotic/supercar vs. muscle argument, leaving gear heads in the debate trenches to figure it out.


The Shelby Mustang has its steering wheel on the right side!!!

One of the most baffling cars is the Shelby Cobra aka the Ford/Shelby Cobra. This car, which was originally produced in 1962, is an American-UK hybrid vehicle that stays in tune with all of the technicalities of a muscle car; it had a V8 American engine, two doors, powerful, etc. However, it was missing one HUGE thing: it wasn’t really American. It was built in England, and some versions even featured a steering wheel on the right side of the vehicle. Not to mention, the body was completely European, with the soft female Euro curves that were hugely popular at the time.

The Shelby Cobra isn’t the only car that bends the rules of the argument, either. Today, there is a split amongst debaters concerning whether or not the Viper is truly a muscle car. On paper, it has all of the qualifications, but some deem this car to be over engineered and overpriced, making it fall outside of the muscle car category. According to many, this car- along with others like the Saleen S7-  have to fall into the Super Car category.

The deeper that a person digs, the more these rules start to reek of bullshit, ehh?

But of course, there is no car that bends and warps the rules as much as the Equus Bass 770. Debuting at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, the Equus Bass 770 is considered by some to be the greatest technically built muscle car of all-time, clocking in at over 200 mph. In fact, Nelson Ireson of Motor Authority says, “[The Equus Bass 770] is all American, bred in Detroit, with the best bits of every classic muscle car, bundled into a thoroughly modern and wondrous package.”

However, it costs nearly 250,000 dollars!!! Which, according to our rules, would make it fall into the Super Car category.

Also, adding to its convoluted nature is the story behind the car. It is reported that the company’s anonymous European (uh oh, a no-no for muscle cars) owner started his factory in Detroit just to attain the “American” muscle car title.  This deliberate side-stepping of the American rules has to take away from its legitimacy as a pure muscle car, right?

It is cars like these that have been driving gear head fanatics completely nuts. The only way to settle this is through discussion. What does everybody think? Which of these cars deserves the American muscle distinction?

2 thoughts on “Muscle Car vs. Super Car: Where Do You Stand?

  1. I feel obligated to mention that the Viper is also technically a mid-engine car so it’s not a Muscle Car by the rules mentioned above as well. Otherwise everything else sounded great here. I’m still in favor of the Equus and Cobra being muscle cars but at that point it’s just nitpicking or semantics.


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