The New Breed of Muscle Cars

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT

Just because it’s available doesn’t mean it’s controllable.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the three big automakers in the United States were engaged in an epic power struggle. Building the car with the most horsepower and the best ability to smoke tires was all part of the car culture back then.

It was a time of cheap gas and power that was fun, but manageable. Heck, even a car like the ’68 Barracuda produced 300 horsepower tops.

Today, the automakers are at it again, only this time their arsenal has gone nuclear.

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Holy Hellcat, the Horsepower Wars Just Got Real

Dodge Challenger Hellcat

This whole horsepower thing is officially out of control.

Before I really get into things, I’d like to point out a great irony: Automakers across the world are vying to create the most powerful street-legal cars ever available, with horsepower numbers and 0-60 times once reserved for only the most exclusive supercars. Five hundred horsepower was once the realm of fantasy but can now be had in just about any suburban garage across America.

At the same time, automakers are trying to sell the most fuel efficient hybrid and electric cars to econo-loving environmentalists. It’s the very definition of a double standard, yet we all seem to accept it.

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Two Way-Over-the-Top Shelby Mustangs

Shelby 1000, side view

The old chicken farmer has done it again—gotten the media all riled up over two Mustangs he will bring to the New York Auto Show. The street-version Shelby 1000 has 950 hp; the car for the track, 1,100 hp. Both are based on the 2012 GT500.

I’m more interested in what the new Viper, also to be revealed in New York, will show us, but you can be sure the Shelbys will draw big crowds.

The old 5.4-liter V8 gets rebuilt again—new crank, pistons, rods; the heads get “a flow job,” a fat supercharger is added—plus the car has a rebuilt suspension, bigger brakes, driveshaft and rear end. Muscle, baby, so you can smoke your tires at will.

The Shelby 1000 street version starts at $149,995 plus the cost of the GT500; the 1,100-hp track S/C starts at $154,995, plus your donor GT500, so you’re looking at well over $200,000.

The old guy with his patched-together body, a race driver, chili and deodorant merchandiser, litigator and maker of the greatest sports car hotrod of all time (the Cobra), has finally achieved his 1,000-hp goal for a car that simply doesn’t deserve it.

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