Dodge Demon: The Second Death of the Muscle Car?
In an age of lightning quick DCT transmissions, magnetorheological dampers, and super-lightweight carbon fiber construction, the niche of the beloved “muscle car” seems to be narrowing year by year. The European competition has driven our American automotive innovation to new heights through the likes of the Ford GT, Corvette, and Dodge’s Viper. However, with 840 horsepower and break-neck acceleration through an unbelievable quarter mile time, does the upcoming Dodge Demon stand to bear that title alone? Before you jump at my neck for the thought, take a look back at the first “death” of the American muscle car.
Ahh, the 60’s, an age of newfound enlightenment in American culture and an industrious time in the American workplace. The streets roared with big block v8’s, singing the anthems of Mopar, Ford, and Chevy. The automotive industry was in the midst of a heated horsepower war between the three juggernauts. During this time, the car enthusiast would witness exaggerated claims of 300 horsepower ratings, to understated claims of 450 horsepower, in the short span of a decade or so. However, if the law of gravity is to teach us anything, it is that whatever is up, will inevitably come down. Enter the fuel crisis and Clean Air Act of the early 70’s, where the affordable muscle car had become a parasitic lawn ornament for the majority of the population. Replaced by the cheap plastic and fuel injected counterparts that riddled the 80s and 90s, the tough, rugged and obscenely powerful vehicles of the golden age of muscle cars were no more.
Now, contra to dear Isaac Newton’s thoughts on gravity, a popular saying dictates that when one hits rock bottom… Ford will make a new mustang?
It’s 2005 and all things “retro” are now trendy. In this spirit, Ford redesigns the Ford Mustang in new retro, and thus, trendy styling. Powered by the familiar 4.6 liter V8 making a respectable 300 horsies, the new mustang dawned the second coming of the American muscle car. Dodge was quick to follow with their Charger model the next year, but things didn’t get interesting until a few years later. In 2010 Chevy launch the return of the Camaro, and while the Challenger technically debuted first, in never reached the hype of the 5th generation Camaro. 426 horsepower from the Corvette’s LS3 and reminiscent of the 60’s Camaro, it hit the market like a nuclear bomb. What Ford had set in motion with muscle car in looks, was now muscle car in practice. If this seems familiar, it should. This was the new age of the American Muscle car, beginning in 2005 until 2018?
Now that we are up to speed, let us gander forward to 2018. The 6th generation Camaro has grown into a track monster, with the new ZL1 proudly lapping track faster than a 911 utilizing a 10 speed automatic transmission and space age suspension tech. The refresh of the Mustang is expected to utilize the same for better track performance. Do we see the trend? Muscle cars worried about lap times? The one black sheep? The Dodge Challenger/Charger. Beginning with the Hellcat in 2015, Dodge began its resounding middle finger to the direction the American muscle Car has been headed in. 707 horsepower good for absolutely nothing other than a beautiful roar and new tires every 2 weeks. And if the Hellcat was a middle finger, the Demon is a swift kick in ass. You cannot help but commend the Mopar brand by sticking true to the heritage of the American muscle car. Unfortunately, if rumors are to be believed, Dodge is well due for a refresh of the Challenger and Charger, and is expected to finish out this decade with the current models and then follow suit with the other brands, improving lap times and fuel economy.
So, there you have it, the end of our second age of the muscle car. The first, death by economy. The second, death through innovation.
-Joe Jennings, 4/23/2017