Muscle Cars, No Midlife Crisis Required
Detroit muscle-car mania is back.
For the first time since the Carter administration, three big Detroit brands, Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge, all offer rear-wheel-drive coupes that boast a distinctively American blend of in-your-face styling and big horsepower numbers.How big? Try a 444-horsepower 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302, which can be ordered with a special "Laguna Seca" package that essentially makes it a street-legal race car. Or consider the forthcoming 2012 Chevy Camaro ZL1 that will deliver 550 horsepower from its supercharged V-8. Meanwhile, Chrysler LLC offers a Dodge Challenger model with a 470-horsepower Hemi engine that can run from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under five seconds.
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"It's the attitude of the customer," less than demographics, says Mustang brand manager Jim Owens, who has a customized Mustang of his own that packs 650 horsepower under the hood. It is an attitude that says, "Hey, look at me!" he adds.
For Detroit car makers that were struggling to survive just two years ago, the buzz generated by muscle cars provides a much-needed shot in the arm for their brands. The official Mustang Facebook page, for instance, has more than 1.5 million followers—about twice as many as the Ford Motor Co. Facebook page.
But similar to the mid-1970s, when fuel prices soared and new regulations forced auto makers to shift strategies, a cloud is gathering over the muscle-car party just as it is revs up. Amid gyrating gas prices, the Obama administration is pushing a proposal that could boost fuel-economy standards to 56 or 60 mpg by 2025, leaving muscle-car makers with some tough choices down the road.