High-Tech Heft: Why Detroit’s Heavy Metal Got Heavier

If you’re reading this, then the great conflagration known as the muscle car wars of the mid-1960’s-early‘70s, stands as a crucial time in history. The first soldiers in this battle were mid-size cars, fitted with full-size engines, like the fabled Pontiac Tempest/LeMans-GTO, but by 1967, the pony car class started by Ford’s Mustang flared into open war, as GM’s famed F-body duo, the Camaro, and Firebird took-up arms.

Even with skirmishes fought from the ’80’s, through the early 2000’s, the second great war of muscle began in 2008 with the appearance of Dodge’s all-new, retro Challenger and followed in 2010 by Chevy’s fifth-gen Camaro and Ford’s fifth-iteration Mustang joining the fray.

All pony cars by origin, the three combatants have evolved into much more balanced machines than their iconic predecessors, gaining significant weight in the process. Unlike people, however, cars don’t sit on the couch, popping Pringles. If they gain poundage, it’s usually for good reasons.

In 1970, the average curb weight for each of our fighting trio in V8-powered guise, was around 3,300-lbs, with topless versions tacking-on more to that total. Today, the Camaro and Mustang, both tip the scales at around 3,800-lbs in coupe form and the Challenger, always the heftier of the bunch, surpasses two-tons at over 4,000-lbs.

Why the extra paunch you ask, especially since lighter-weight materials and more efficient production methods have come into play? Well, today’s models are loaded-down with comfort/ convenience and safety features, along with a level of sound-deadening material the heyday cars could only dream of. They have larger brake and suspension components, miles more wiring, and larger overall frame structures. By and large, they’re longer, wider and taller, while still presenting the exterior style we love and meeting stricter government mandates.

In a nutshell, today’s muscle/pony cars have a level of technology and build-quality that has catapulted them from fun to drive enthusiast cars, to world-class machines; in the opinion of this author, it was definitely worth the “weight”.

Author:  Andrew Nussbaum

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