Friday, April 10, 2015

Why your Hyundai is NOT a muscle car...

We need to set the record straight...

I don't know if it's just that people are too lazy to look stuff up or they just like being annoying but lately I've seen the term, "Muscle Car" applied to everything from trucks to 4 door sedans. 

And it's wrong...

What's most annoying, however, is to have a Camaro Z28 or a Mustang GT lumped in with the likes of a Hyundai anything.

Living in an ever more connected world has spread more than just American political ideology.  American culture itself has exuded influence over nations to whom the concept of an "American Culture" would have been an oxymoron a generation ago. 

Perhaps that's why people think a Hyundai is a Muscle car.  

Those people are confused...

The term "Muscle Car" is and forever will be a uniquely American idea exclusively applied to 2 door coupes with at least a V8 engine, rear wheel drive and manufactured in North America.  That's not arrogance, it's in the dictionary. 

Webster's says this about Muscle Cars:

 "any of a group of American-made 2-door sports coupes with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving"

I know that definition doesn't say anything about which set of wheels provides movement but trust me, no American "high performance", "Muscle Car" was ever propelled by anything but the rear wheels.

To be fair, however, I'll stick to Webster's precise definition of what a "Muscle Car" is for my little comparison.

Now, let's apply the 3 rules ( 2-door, American made, Powerful) to a pair of vehicles commonly (and often erroneously) labeled "Muscle Cars" by the  automotive press and see if they fit.  For illustration we'll use a Chevrolet Camaro and a Hyundai Genesis coupe. 

In the chart below, I'll put a check mark next to the 3 Primary factors if the car in question meets the criteria to be a true Muscle Car.

2 Door Coupe
American Made
Powerful Engine Available

From the chart we can see that the Genesis does not meet the criteria for 2 major reasons.  Reason one, it's manufactured in Korea not the U.S.  Yes, Hyundai makes cars in Alabama but not the Genesis coupe.  Hyundai is also not technically an "American" auto maker since they're a foreign corporation. 

Second, the powerful engine bit.  While the base engine in the current Camaro makes 326 HP with its V6 to the Genesis 346 HP V6, these days under 400 HP is considered pedestrian in anything but a minivan or a hybrid. 

The next step up in the Camaro line is the SS with a standard 426HP naturally aspirated V8 with available options all the way up to 580HP.  That's another mark of a muscle car.  It's frequently defined more by its power output than it's model.

The Genesis Coupe, comparatively,  retains the same 346 HP V6 throughout its trim levels even though its Sedan sibling, the "5.0," offers a 420HP V8 option.   

Why is that important? 

One tenet that isn't covered by Webster's simple definition is something any Muscle Car enthusiast knows all too well.  Muscle cars aren't about slalom courses, fuel economy or practicality.  They're about slapping a ridiculously overpowered engine into an otherwise spartan coupe and holding on for dear life when you mash the Go pedal. 

I mean, c'mon guys.  Does anyone really see practicality in a 580HP vehicle than can only carry 2 occupants comfortably, has the ride quality of a buckboard and gets worse mileage than a full size pickup truck?

I used to own a 2008 Mustang GT and the thing I always found hysterical about it was the child seat hooks behind the back seats.  I never had a need for them but if you do I can guarantee you won't be using them for long because Muscle Cars aren't about baby seats. They're about stroking that part of our psyche where explosions, video games, and thrill rides exist. 

The only thing that compares with such madness is the world of supercars sporting names like Ferrari, Bugatti and Pagani.  They too are completely impractical with the added characteristic of being  astronomically expensive.  If they have a child seat hook it's sure to be somebody's idea of a joke.  It's a world where you could pay upwards of half a million dollars for a vehicle without air conditioning, a radio or the ability to roll down the windows.

Still, we dream about them don't we.

That's the point.  Nobody gets excited about a Chevy Cruze or a Hyundai Accent no matter how many racing stripes or turbochargers they put on them.  Cars like that just make too much sense for those of us for whom the lizard parts of our brains exude an influence.

Muscle cars are about the antithesis of American (or anyone else's) societal norms of family and practicality.  They were born out of a 60's youth culture bent on rejecting everything their parents held dear.  It's a unique expression of American excess, individualism and lunacy that rings hollow anywhere else on the planet except for maybe Australia. 

They came up with Mad Max you know...

I hope this clears it up but I know it won't.