August 1964. John, Paul, George and Ringo landed on American soil for the first time ever. They brought with them Beatlemania — crowds of swooning, sometimes fainting, fans — that would sweep the US of A. It sparked what came to be known as the British Invasion, swinging the tide of American dominance in rock and roll, changing the world’s musical landscape forever; imagine a world without Oasis, and the hundreds of mangled Wonderwall covers?
But just a few months prior, in April 1964, Ford debuted a car that definitely put Detroit back in the spotlight. A car so ubiquitous it became America’s best-selling compact car in six weeks, going on to sell over a million units in two years! The Mustang, after the Model T, is arguably the Blue Oval’s greatest contribution to cars, and next to the hamburger, America’s most fun contribution to the world. While the muscle car may have been pioneered before it, it brought the formula back to popularity — a 2+2 body style, big engine up front, rear-wheel drive — as the original Pony car with the added benefit of being smaller, and more agile than a traditional muscle car.
It’s a formula that nearly every car manufacturer around the world has tried their hand at since, and the three cars we have lined up on a rainy day at the NATRAX, India’s best testing facility, bear testament to just how far the muscle car has come. Granted, it’s also a reminder that in 2021, just one of these cars is still on sale, having made the switch to forced induction several years prior. The other two, the ones with large block, naturally-aspirated V8s, aren’t. And that in a year where I’ve already driven more electric cars in three months than I have in three years, it’s almost privilege to drive a car that’s still all engine, with no turbos or superchargers boosting it, let alone two. It makes me wonder how much longer we’ll be able to celebrate good ol’ fossil power in our anniversary issues, leave alone on our cover. With everything that’s changing, it’s a good reminder of why we’re enthusiasts in the first place — and the muscle car holds a special place in my heart, as I’m sure it does for scores of other enthusiasts. Who hasn’t grown up lusting after a ‘Stang, a Camaro, Challenger, Firebird, or Chevelle to hang out in, tail first around every corner, big V8 soundtrack booming? Even the very names of the true blue muscle cars are cooler.
The Mustang itself, in its new generation which first came to India in 2016, was a bit of a revelation. This particular car’s novel registration plates are a fitting tribute to its roots — it may have finally moved on from a live rear axle (after near 50 years of being a resolute stickler for tradition) with the new-gen, but it most definitely is a ‘Stang right down to the affinity it has for getting its tail out every single chance it gets.
Lexus’ RC F is Japan throwing their hat in the ring, a brawnier rear-wheel drive coupe than the likes of anything from the (now defunct) SC, LC or even RC line-up. One look at its origami body panels and (optional) exposed carbonfibre-weave hood and roof tell you it’s already a more advanced take on the muscle car, packing the most powerful 5.0-litre V8 Lexus has ever built! Of course, it wouldn’t be a Lexus if it wasn’t also comfortable. Or stuffed with technology. The RC F has the distinction of being the first ever front engined, rear-wheel-drive car in history to offer a torque transfer system. Enter the TVD, or the torque vectoring differential — a seamless transitioning between the electronic and mechanical to variably split torque between the left and right rear wheels to help controlled drifts, so that you don’t end up on YouTube in a video titled “Muscle car fails”.
In the German corner, we have the ultimate expression of the Germans’ take on the muscle car — the Jekyll and Hyde Mercedes-AMG E63 S. Twin-turbos. Hot V8. Valved exhaust. Air suspension. Rear-wheel drive, but optionally. Yup, the Germans have perfected the muscle car formula in a proper four-door sedan, and given it all-wheel drive, but with the option of decoupling power from the front wheels, directing all its monstrous torque to the rear wheels. Of course, the way you do that is by selecting the aptly named Drift mode from the widescreen touchscreen infotainment. It doesn’t get any more cutting edge than this, though it doesn’t really tick the ‘affordable’ box in the list of muscle car requirements.
Donuts for days
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