Cars and the image they present have held the hearts and minds of many people around the world captive for decades. The roar of the engine, the luxury of the interior, and the style of the body have been the topic of many garage conversations. They have been remade, redone, and redesigned with each passing generation but the one factor that keeps most people interested, the key factor that intrigues most bystanders, is speed.
Ever since the prospect of racing cars began, the concept of speed has been kept in the minds of many of the manufacturers. Different companies in different countries have interpreted this idea differently to create different products. American companies, in the later half of the 20th century, took this in a uniquely American direction towards that of the infamous muscle car.
Muscle cars were developed in the late 1940’s but ever since than have found a niche market of interested car aficionados looking for speed. They were comprised of lightweight bodies encased around a heavy, powerful engine. One of the first muscle cars to gain traction in the States was the Shelby Cobra in 1966. This convertible was capable of reaching over 400 horsepower crossing the quarter mile in 12.2 seconds- an extraordinary feat at the time.
By the 1970’s many manufacturers were producing competitive muscle cars. Plymouth was famous for producing the Hemi powered Road Runner and Barracuda. The Hemi’s used were powerful engines that have since become synonymous with muscle cars. Dodge has used these engines, too, with their Charger, made famous by the television series The Dukes of Hazard, and Super Bee. The Super Bee earned a nickname, “Six Pack,” because of the three double barrel carbs in the engine, and was renowned for its handling.
Some of the household names of muscle cars have lasted through the generations like the Chevrolet Corvette. Since the 60’s and continuing strong and fast today, the Corvette has undergone several evolutions throughout varying styles and trends. Despite these reiterations, the Corvette has remained amongst the fastest with the 2001 Z-06 reaching speeds up to 112 mph.
Ford has also had a horse in the race with its Mustang. The Mustang comes in many varieties like the Cobra, and GT. Over the past 20 years it has been widely produced and distributed but it can still pack a wallop. The 2013 Mustang GT500 contains a 5.8-liter injection causing 662 horses to reach 0-60 in 3.5 seconds. Its quarter mile record is just shy of 12 seconds.
These cars are getting faster and faster while still being street legal but the real competition of speed is not being done on the road. The Bonneville Salt Flats is home to many of the land speed records. In 1970, it held the Blue Flame, a rocket powered vehicle that screamed over 600 mph. that record has been dwarfed many times over but has since been given up to the ThrustSSC in 1997 that reached over 760 mph. It was also the first time a land-based vehicle has reached supersonic speeds.
Speed has always been a dream of hobbyists and professional manufacturers. The combination of engine power and size has led to the development of muscle cars like the Shelby and the Mustang. Muscle cars are famous in the United States but are now being developed by major car companies worldwide. The race for speed is a never ending pursuit.