When we did an article on the Japanese Datsun a couple weeks back, an interesting thing happened. Our Facebook community page came alive with a vigorous discussion on what could be one of the most debated topic over the face of the motoring planet: what REALLY defines a muscle car, and what is considered as the first? Depending on where you live geographically, such discussions can either end up in a hearty exchange of words that even you might not hear yourself speaking in your most bibulous state, or at its best end up in a good ‘ol fist fight. Some say that for a car to be muscle bound, an iconic V8 must be first shoehorned on a full or mid-sized family car, while others stressed performance as the chief determinant as long as it is all-American.
Sticking to these definitions, it was a debatable issue among many whether it is the 1949 Oldsmobile that holds the title of being the first ever muscle car to be built or the 1957 Rambler Rebel equipped with the controversial ‘electronic’ Bendix fuel injection. Chrysler’s 300 series were also considered as likely candidates in spite of its limited run in 1955, while others credit the beginning of the Golden Age of the muscle car era to the 1964 Pontiac GTO.
Whatever your take on the matter, there is no question that the ‘muscle car’ is an all American concept that gives premium to performance and power. However, we should be quick to point out that such emphasis on automotive virtues does not exclusively belong to the American mind set. Our Japanese friends can attest to that, so as the Brits and Aussies and others outside of America that is worth mentioning.
With that in mind, let’s revisit some of these high performance muscle rides that were at the top of their game in their respective homelands. True, most of these cars can be traced back to their early Ford histories but given how much welcomed they were in their home front, it seems that it doesn’t come as an issue anymore.
1972 Ford Falcon XA
This exclusively Australian 1972 Falcon XA started life as a Ford Falcon back in the 1960s, and was succeeded by the Falcon XB GT equipped with its 300bhp 5.8L V-8.
Australian-based Holden struck gold when GM allowed them access to their muscle cars’ engines. As a result, the GTS started to hit the streets of Monaro in 1968. Fitted with Chevrolet’s 350 cui (5.4-litre) V-8, the Holden Monaro GTS became a racing legend in the Australian Touring Car Championship.
1971 Chrysler Valiant Charger R/T
The 1971 Chrysler Valiant Charger may not be as quite aggressive as its American counterparts, but with a 4.3L Hemistraight six-engine, it was a formidable competitor against Ford and Holden.
1971 Jensen Interceptor
With the 330bhp 440 “six pack” (three two-barrel carburettors) muscular V-8, one can easily dismiss that the Jensen Interceptor hailed from Detroit. Though its engine was designed and built in Mopar land, the Interceptor itself was hand-built in England.
1968 Mercedes 300SEL 6.3
With a swapped all-American 6.3-litre V8, the Mercedes 300SEL kicks around at 250 horses hitting 0-60 in no more than six seconds and a top speed of 140mph, making it the fastest four-door in 1968.
1971 DeTomaso Pantera
The Italian-built mid-engined DeTomaso Pantera is perhaps more supercar than muscle car. However, a careful look at the facts will quickly reveal that the Pantera was equipped with a Ford 5.8-litre pushrod V8 when it made a debut in 1971.