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Throwback Products We Love: Muscle Cars


In 2008, the world got its Challenger back.

The classic American muscle car. Guys wanted to drive them and other automobiles developed inferiority complexes because of them.

The first official muscle car to hit the pavement was the 1964 Pontiac GTO, developed by none other than John DeLorean-yes, the same John DeLorean who engineered the car made famous in "Back to the Future" before he was arrested for attempting to sell $24 million worth of cocaine to an undercover agent in a bid to save his company.

Everyone has their favorite-there are "Ford Guys," "Chevy Guys," and "Mopar Guys," Mopar being a catchall term for Dodge/Chrysler hot rods derived from the name of the company's motor parts division.

While the 1970 Chevelle SS (GM) and the Ford Boss 429 Mustang (F) are prime examples of pure American…American-ness, the Dodge Challenger R/T was so utterly tough, it practically frightened the bejeezus out of children and small animals.

The car was produced at the Hamtramck, Michigan plant, and could be ordered with the legendary Hemi engine-so named for its hemispherical combustion chambers-and a number of street-racing options, like Edelbrock intakes, Holley carbs, Hurst pistol-grip shifters, and high-performance exhaust systems that not only increased power, but, equally as importantly, let everyone in the neighborhood know you were coming.

With a sticker price well under $5,000 and a gallon of gas selling for about 30 cents, the Challenger was within reach of most greasers with a bad attitude and a valid driver's license.

Then, in the early 1970s, the American muscle car began to hit the skids.

Between the Arab oil embargo of 1973, government smog and safety regulations, and increasing insurance premiums, smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles were being phased in as the Challengers and Chevelles of the world were being phased out.

In came the Ford Pinto. The Chevy Vega. And the Plymouth Scamp. Dull, boring, anemic rides that would get you from Point A to Point B, but that was about all.

By the early-to-mid 2000s, gas prices had started to stabilize and gearheads began demanding horsepower once again. Detroit muscle was once again in demand. Some went for true authenticity, buying well-kept classics or restoring them on their own. Prices for specimens in mint condition were being sold for tens, sometimes hundreds, of thousands of dollars.

That's when the automakers began to take notice of a new (old?) market they could tap back into, and reintroduced the automobiles that people didn't just hear coming, they felt them.

In 2008, the world got its Challenger back, in the form of the new SRT-8, with a teeth-rattling 425hp 6.1 liter motor.

The 2011 Challenger proves that, while the car may have been absent from showrooms for three decades, it remained on people's minds. This year's model, which will sell for around $40,000, is even more powerful than the one trotted out in '08, with a 392-cubic inch HEMI V8 powertrain, 475 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque.

The 2011 Challenger SRT8 gets about 17 mpg, a true throwback to the mileage numbers of yesteryear. But valve and cylinder tweaks help the new 6.4-liter V8 deliver up to 20% better fuel economy than the 2010 Challenger SRT8 6.1 liter V8.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is that too many cooks didn't enter today's Challenger's kitchen and spoil the broth:

I can barely tear my hand away from my heart.
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