To those of a certain vintage, the term “muscle car” will always refer to those legendary vehicles from the late 1960s to the early ’70s. Big, bellowing and brawny, the traditional muscle car was a straight-line bludgeon, gloriously lacking in refinement and nose-heavy with the gigantic big-block mill contained within.
Thanks to prodigious leaps in technology, cleverly engineered turbochargers and compression cranked to levels we’d never before imagined — modern-day performance cars aren’t necessarily all about displacement. Tiny four-cylinder hatchbacks are pumping out horsepower never dreamed of in the big-block era, with masterfully engineered suspensions ensuring athletic ability to match.
If you’re on the hunt for horsepower, the Canadian International AutoShow will more than fulfill your fantasies. Vintage and traditional performance cars are well-represented by the hot rod showcase, and the Exotics display is a veritable bonanza of cubic centimetres and curvaceous sheet metal. Although it’s no longer a Dodge, the SRT Viper returns more voluptuously sculpted and ridiculously well-endowed with an 8.4-L V10 producing 640 hp and 600 lb.-ft. of torque. Definitely one of the titans of horsepower — but is it really muscle car?
For the true aficionado, the dyed-in-the-wool muscle car devotee raised on Jegs and Edelbrock, nothing but Detroit iron will do.
Fortunately, there are several resurrected examples bearing the hallowed names of those halcyon days of big block horsepower. And just like their forebears, they’ve got the cubic centimetres to boast about. Oh, they’ve evolved a little — their cabins boast the latest in technology and creature comforts and, for the most part, there’s nothing primitive about their suspension set-ups — but most of them evoke the spirit of their predecessors.
Here are just a few examples you’ll see at the show:
Ford whipped classic fastback Mustang fans into a near frenzy when it first released images of the 2005 pony car. Never had a retro model so convincingly recreated the look and essence of the original, while having evolved into a superior car overall. Since then, Ford’s capitalized on the pony’s success by releasing every conceivable derivative from the Bullitt to the Hertz Mustang.
For those who revel in pure straight-line fury — to hell with finesse — the 2013 GT 500 is a burly recreation of Carroll Shelby’s most prodigiously endowed Mustang, with 662 hp and 631 lb.-ft. of torque. The thundering 5.8-L V8 with its delicious supercharged high note, is accompanied by a lovely basso-profundo bark from twin ovoid pipes.
The 2013 Boss 302 is considered by many to be the best Mustang ever built. Not a “reworked GT,” the Boss 302 was built, according to chief engineer Dave Pericak, “as a complete 1-G lateral race car with one goal: to beat the BMW M3 at Laguna Seca Raceway.” Powered by a 5.0-L V8 that’s been retuned with more aggressively ground cams and boasting a huge torque range, the Boss 302 pulls like a freight train throughout the powerband. It rides on a heavily tuned suspension with revised spring and damper rates and as a result, handles a twisty road course as well as any German-bred sports sedan.
It’s been four decades since a white Challenger R/T plunged to a fiery end in the movie .
And the Challenger’s recreation in 2007 fanned the flames of its fan base with a much publicized countdown until the 2008 Chicago Auto Show debut.
With its extra long nose, short deck and characteristic grille, the Challenger bears uncanny resemblance to the iconic original Mopar. And just like those pavement pounding muscle cars of the ’70s, the Challenger is available in a variety of trim levels, from boulevard cruiser to the snarling and track ready SRT8 392.
Making an appearance on the Toronto show floor is the 2013 Dodge Challenger R/T Blacktop Edition.
While the Blacktop package has been available mainly as a set of appearance enhancements for other Dodge vehicles, it’s more than skin-deep on the pony car. Matte-finished black paint, gloss black grill and wheels lend it a rather sinister air. Underhood is the 5.7-L Hemi, another familiar name from muscle cars’ glory days. It produces 375 hp and 410 lb.-ft. of torque, which can be paired with either a six-speed Tremec gearbox, or a five-speed automatic. The R/T Blacktop also features a “Super Track Pak” consisting of sport-tuned steering, heavy duty brakes, a more aggressively tuned suspension system with monotone shocks — and the ability to turn the stability control system off completely.
2014 Corvette C7
It’s already being hailed as the finest Corvette ever produced. Making its Canadian debut at the Toronto Auto Show, the 2013 Corvette C7 has been graced with the hallowed “Stingray” badge, the first one to bear the designation since 1969. One of the most highly anticipated reveals on this year’s auto show circuit, the C7 has evolved into a more sophisticated interpretation of the muscle car, bordering on the exotic. Sharp, sculpted edges, vents and inlets were all engineered with the goal of improved performance. The front end is stylish, yet aggressive — the grille wears a futuristic snarl. LED headlamps add more visual flair, while the sharply carved rump, with its controversially square tail lights, is more than a little Camaro-esque. Lighter, stiffer and technologically more advanced — the C7 should handle better than any of its predecessors.
While there’s an available six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, most enthusiasts will opt for the seven-speed manual. Purists will decry its new rev-matching downshift technology, which virtually eliminates the need for heel ’n’ toe, but weekend trackday participants will no doubt embrace its ability to make them look like heroes.
Its light weight combined with cylinder deactivation and variable valve timing helps the C7 claim an estimated rating of 9.0L/100 km making it the most fuel-efficient ’Vette ever.
Yet with an output of 450 hp/450 lb.-ft. of torque from an all-new, 6.2-L, direct-injection V8, the new Stingray is all-muscle.
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