The Demon made a huge, fiery entry this week.
This was one of the most masterfully crafted debuts in the history of car promotions and it literally and figuratively set the car world on fire.
It also lit up the muscle car wars because the Ford-Chevy-Mopar battle raged full force within seconds of the Demon’s introduction—it was brilliant, effective and nostalgic all in one package.
There are many conflicting theories on when the contemporary muscle car era began. Some say it started with the ’53 Studebaker Starliner V-8; others say it was the ’49 Olds Rocket 88 while Mopar guys will definitely say the first muscle car was the ’55 Chrysler C-300.
The beginning of the muscle war is hard to pin down but the heat of the battle began in late 1963 with the debut of the 1964 Pontiac GTO. The Goat definitely set off a battle that would rage until 1971 and for me this was the golden era of the muscle car wars.
Prior to the GTO, Ford, GM and Chrysler were in a bloodbath at the track—particularly in the Super Stock class but these monsters were barely (if at all) street legal and ¼ mile guys were the only guys who owned most of them.
The GTO changed all that so track wars came to the street after Pontiac unleashed the Goat. Within a year, every intermediate or full-sized Detroit ride had an option box that included one for a brute force big block.
Ford countered with the 390 or 427 option, Chevy added a 396 or 427 and the Plymouth-Dodge Boys punched back with a 383, 440 or 426 Street Hemi. It was glorious.
The fist fight continued because Olds, Buick and Mercury jumped into the brawl and suddenly we were seeing numbers like 455 and 429 cubic inches.
American Motors didn’t hold coats in the late 60s muscle car wars. They plunked a 390 into a shortened 2-seater version of the Javelin and called it the AMX. These little street brawlers ambushed every one of the Big Three rides and left many of them looking at AMC dual exhausts.
Pontiac led the charge again when they bumped the GTO up to 455 cubic inches in 1970. Some refer to 1970 as the peak of the muscle car wars because every player had a brute force thug in the lineup but smog laws were on the horizon.
The muscle car never did go away—Chrysler cheated on lax truck emission standards in ’78, added a free-breathing 360 Police Interceptor and kept the muscle car (truck) philosophy alive for another year into 1979.
Fox body Mustangs and the Buick GNX gave us 80s versions of muscle cars so the concept never really died. The 1990s and 2000s saw horsepower spike to new, high-tech levels.
The Demon is another battle in the never-ending war and with it are numbers that are officially insane but the byproduct is clear—muscle cars are alive, well and ready to ignite new battles.
Call it glorious days of future past.
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