The dawn of the muscle car era in the post war automotive world has been a point of debate for car guys.


Many car guys lean toward the 1964 Pontiac GTO as ground zero for the muscle car concept from Detroit, but that idea is not universally accepted by all car guys.


The big block Chevrolet SS preceded the Goat in the early 60s with a beefed-up 409 truck motor option that made some serious noise on the streets- and even on the radio with a Beach Boys song in 1962.




The 413 Chrysler engine was also available in Mopars before the 389 Goat in ’64, while Ford muscled up the 406 for its 1962 models.


Some car guys believe that the post-war muscle car war actually began in the mid- late 50s when Chrysler bumped up the displacement and horsepower in the Chrysler letter cars. A 392 Hemi in a 1957 Chrysler 300 made legendary car guy and famous car writer Tom McCahill swoon like a love-struck school girl.




Uncle Tom pushed his test car to 140 mph during a wild speed spree in the 300 and became a lifetime believer in the cars. The 0-60 time in the big Chrysler was under 10 seconds, a feat that was exciting and new to big production cars from Detroit at the time.


McCahill loved the sheer brute force of the early big block Hemi and was not afraid to put it through the paces. He was a big man who undoubtedly loved the big cabin in the Chrysler 300, plus he was sold on its torsion bar suspension and positive steering from its 50s-era engineering.




There is no simple answer to the dawn of the muscle car era, but a convincing case could be made for the 392 Hemi letter cars from Chrysler in the late 50s. However the idea of a dedicated muscle car segment of the automotive world may well have begun with the GTO.


jan12-mus64 gto-1


The first GTO was smaller, lighter and nimbler than its full size big block competition in 1964. It was designed specifically for a younger buyer who wanted a signature car that was not designed to haul a big load of kids.


jan12-musjim pix 153-1


The Goat was born for life on the street-not supermarket parking lots, and it thrived on ample speed-not ample trunk space for groceries.


The simple answer might be that the 1964 GTO marked the start of a dedicated muscle car philosophy that continued into the early 70s, while the 1950s  Chrysler letter cars were early pioneers in the muscle movement.


A 392 Hemi got the big Mopars to the movement early and in a hurry during the 50s.


Jim Sutherland

More car stories, photos and articles athttps://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/