Muscle cars were starting to die out in the mid 1970s, and they were a distant memory by the 80s. The Mustang and Camaro bounced up and down in the car game throughout the 1990s and 2000s, and there were actually some great examples that were made. It wasn’t until the mid 2000s that the retro styling was applied to the modern muscle car. Everything is bound to make a comeback, right? Lets take a look at some brand new muscle cars for the 2014 model year and compare them to what they were 40 years ago back in 1974.
The Challenger was Dodges answer to the Camaro and Mustang. 1974 was actually the last year of the first generation Challenger, and made a comeback a few years later as a subcompact car. Fail. All Challengers in 1974 had V8s under the hood. Sales figures were very low due to high gas prices and the fact that insurance rates were bumping up for performance cars. Take a walk into a Dodge dealership today and you will see that a brand new Challenger looks quite similar to ones of days past. Multiple engines are offered for the 2014 model including a 6.4L Hemi V8. This is a very customizable car today, and be sure to take a look on Dodges website to see all the configurations that are offered. I’d be all set with a R/T Classic in Header Orange. Classic styles with modern performance. Take a look at this example if you prefer a ’74.
Everyone loves Mustangs, and they are one of the most recognizable cars around. The Mustang was already 10 years old in 1974, and it was actually the year the second generation debuted. Call me a jerk, but this thing was a pile of shit. Gone are the days of big V8s, burning rubber, and drag races. The 1974 Mustang was much shorter and lighter than the previous year. It was also a little light under the hood because only 4 and 6 cylinders were offered, with the most powerful being a 2.8L V6 that produced 105 horsepower. Banged out the quarter mile in just under 20 seconds. See what I mean about muscle cars dying off by the mid 70s? Now lets talk about 2014. Skip over the V6 models because those are useless. The GT is equipped with a 5.0 that produces 420 horsepower, and the Shelby GT500 has a 6.2 that is supercharged making 662 horsepower. The Mustang is similar to the Challenger when it comes to customizing. There are plenty of colors to choose from and wheels to pick out. Its pretty obvious that the better car here is the 2014, where as both of the Challengers we previously talked about were just as good.
Here is some more Mopar love. The Dart was well into its fourth generation in 1974. This car is actually quite similar to the 2014 model that Dodge currently offers. The Dart was never a big time muscle car like a Chevelle or Charger, but more of a sporty, compact sedan (coupes were offered as well). Sales were up due to the oil embargo in 1973, and the Dart proved to be a favorite. Economical, yet fun to drive. Even though it is the last car I would choose in this article, the Dart still impresses me with the Sport model that had a 360 5.9L V8. Considered an entry level muscle car, the Dart will always be loved by Mopar guys and car guys alike. The Dart was resurrected in 2012 as a 2013 model, and proved to be exactly what it was back in 1974. The top of the line GT model features a 2.4L 4 cylinder good for 184 horsepower, and shows us that it is still a good entry level sports coupe. Muscle car not so much.
We’re going to focus on the Z28 here, which was the flagship model back in 1974. The ’74 model was facelifted, received new bumpers due to federal standards, and looked a bit different than it had in 1973. The Z28 was the last one offered for a few years, and included sport mirrors, optional decals, an updated suspension, and a 350 V8 that made 245 horsepower. Nothing crazy, and nothing compared to the 2014. The new one will be available this spring and offers buyers, drivers, and dreamers a 7.0L V8 that is rated for 500 horsepower. Performance is the main focus with the new Z28, and people should only buy it if they are planning on driving it like it is made for. The air conditioner has been removed, thinner rear glass is used, all seats are manual, the trunk carpet and sound deadening is also removed, and there is no stereo. Only one speaker is being kept for the seatbelt chime. This is a true performance car, and sets the bar on how all performance cars should be built.
1974 was yet again another final year for a vehicle. The 3rd generation saw its last year in 1974, and is considered the last “muscle car Charger” until it was reintroduced in 2006. The ’74 was nothing to write home about, and was yet another sign that muscle cars were truly dead. The Charger was dwindling down due to high insurance rates, government regulations, and the oil crisis. The ’74 was nothing compared to what it had been, and was now geared towards competing with luxury sports coupes such as the Chevrolet Monte Carlo. You could get an optional 440 Magnum under the hood that produced 275 horsepower and this was the last of the Charger being a true muscle car. The Charger for 2014 is a hell of a lot different than it was 40 years ago, and it is a hell of a lot better all around. We all know that the biggest difference between new Chargers and the old ones is that the newbies have an additional two doors. Engine options include a 3.6 V6 with 292 horsepower, a 5.7 V8 with 370 horsepower, and a 6.4 V8 with 470 horsepower.
This is another obvious choice when deciding whether to get a new or old Charger. The new one clearly has the upper hand in this battle, whereas its brother the Challenger can both be well desired as a 2014 or 1974.
It’s interesting seeing muscle cars of today compared to what they were 40 years ago in 1974. What is more interesting is to see how much the muscle car declined in the mid ’70s due to all the issues we discussed. What will happen to the muscle cars of today? Will they live on or just be a phase?