These two great American car companies have been slugging it out for decades. So let’s finally put it to the test, examine the evidence, and declare a winner.
The story really starts just after World War I. It was called “The Great War” and eventually America got in it, we kicked ass, and we won. After the war everyone was happy, countries around the world all wanted to do business with us, and intelligent American industrialists quickly built their empires. Times in America were very good.
Then along came World War II. They called it “The War To End All Wars”, and after suffering a few early sucker punches, America once again responded with a resounding global victory. All the soldiers, sailors, marines, and pilots came home to warm welcomes and good jobs. America experienced an economic prosperity it had never felt previously. Now even the average man had enough money to provide for his family and still afford a toy or two for himself.
So right about this time both Ford and Chevy released smaller affordable cars with big throbbing V-8 engines under the hood. Let the muscle car competition begin.
Let us start with the ’57 Chevy. It has to be considered an American standard when it comes to muscle cars. It is, of course, a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. Chevy introduced the Bel Air in 1955, and it was the first Chevy to have a V-8 engine since 1918. In ’55 and ’56 production was low but sales were good enough that they decided to go big production for the ’57 model year. Thus, the iconic ’57 entered the market as a new car.
It had everything you wanted and needed. It was affordable. It ran great. It could comfortably haul around a family of four or more. It had a classic yet distinctive look. It even came in a fun variety of colors. Plus, it came with that monster V-8. Eventually over the years it was found to have been built well enough that many of them survived a decade or more before their first restoration.
The ’57 Chevy had one other thing that endeared it to the muscle car fans and that was plenty of room under the hood for tweeking, or as we called it back then “Souping it up.”
Ford Motor Company did not sit idly by. By 1960 the Fairlane, the Falcon, and the Galaxie all offered a big bad V-8 as a stock option. Ford found it was quite easy to compete for muscle heads and ended up topping the market in the middle sixties by delivering the first of the Mustang series.
The Mustang was such a hot fun car that it dominated the market for years. You can’t even just say Mustang. You have to mention things like the Mustang Cobra and the Mustang GT. By the middle sixties it seemed the whole world was driving muscle cars and the Mustang was leading the pack.
It was a very light car with a low center of gravity and a well designed chassis. When you powered it up with a V-8 it could really haul ass. Its looks were so distinctive that even one who was not a gear head could recognize the Mustang from hundreds of feet away. It came in a fabulous array of color choices, and the black vinyl roof looked great. In our opinion it was the first car to make the tail lights stylish, and it had a gas cap that was the envy of every pump jockey in the world.
It even boasted some radical technology. For instance, before there was an intermittent setting on your windshield wipers, you could only choose off, slow, or fast. There was just no convenient setting for when it was misting out or just barely raining. Ford came up with an ingenious solution that it put in early Mustangs that allowed you an extra button that could be activated by your left foot. When you stomped that button the wipers went back and forth just once! How cool was that? Of course, it was short lived because other technology (that intermittent button) soon took over.
Somehow Ford managed to still make the Mustang affordable, and they produced enough that it became an instant classic muscle car and its presence was felt at the top of the chart for years.
Chevy had to do something so by 1967 they released the awesome Impala with plenty of style of its own. It was faster than a speeding bullet while still maintaining just enough size and charm to be considered a family vehicle.
That year, 1967 just happened to be the year of the first Super Bowl. For the first time ever the NFL champions faced off with the upstart champions of the AFL to determine the best football team in the world, and every commercial break was stuffed with short films featuring Mustangs or Impalas.
It seemed the battle would rage on for Ford Vs Chevy for ever, but both companies also felt challenges from other car companies. It was still a time of prosperity in America so sleek, fast, exotic, foreign imports could be seen on every highway and in every American town. Additionally there were some other American offers worth mentioning such as; GTO, Trans Am, Javelin, Charger, Challenger, Superbird, and Firebird.
Let’s also not forget that the movie industry played a part in determining which company gets the Muscle Car King crown. Way back in 1968 Steve McQueen drove a Mustang in “Bullitt” which was for all practical purposes one long exciting chase scene. There were of course many, many more movies staring four wheeled muscle stars. Remember, even Bumblebee, the star of the Transformer Movie Series is a Camaro. So once again Ford and Chevy find themselves in a muscle car competition.
With all of this data though, our real mission today is to pick a clear winner. Is it Ford or is it Chevy? Who will win the title? Who is King of the Muscle Cars?
It would be hard to not give the crown to Ford, simply because of their classic, the Mustang. The car has so much going for it and it wins in almost every aspect of being an iconic American Muscle Car. So many of us have so many memories of riding around in Mustangs and having so much fun.
So we were just about to call this one and set the crown atop a Ford Mustang and then we re-read the beginning of this story. You see, so far we have truthfully and faithfully reported on the best AFFORDABLE muscle cars, because, to us, cost has always been an important factor. But this mission was not to name the king of the affordable muscle cars, rather it was to name the king of the muscle cars.
In this story so far we have conveniently left out one particular muscle car simply because it was never known for its affordability. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we present you with the iconic American classic muscle car, the Chevrolet Corvette.
If ever a car deserved the honorific “Muscle Car” it would be the Corvette. You take a wide but short two-seater frame, give it a light fiberglass body, outfit it with a racing transmission, and power it with a huge V-8, you just can’t miss.
Unfortunately for the Corvette, or maybe fortunately depending on how big your own personal bank account was, it was quite expensive compared to other cars on the market. Additionally, insurance companies never really trusted that fiberglass body so insurance rates were always really steep for Vette owners.
Despite the cost, the Corvette, in its many annual flavors, is definitely the best of the best muscle cars, the best of the American muscle cars, and it wins for Chevy our official title of Muscle Car King!