Muscle in mind. Muscle cars and Chris Chilton

Published: 20 August 2007

Happiness is watching a load of old 60s and 70s muscle cars pounding the quarter mile

You either get muscle cars or you don't. Dynamically they're mostly rubbish, but what you lose in steering feel, braking, body control, grip (you get the message), you make up for in other areas.

Obviously there's the V8 rumble and, in some but far from all cars, the performance to go with it. But I’m more interested in the bigger picture, how these cars became such a major part of US culture and how they were marketed, manufacturers taking turns trying to outdo each other with increasingly wild names, paint colours and performance gadgets to catch the attention of power-hungry baby boomers.

And Chrysler was at the forefront: in 1970, for example, you could buy a Plymouth Roadrunner in Moulin Rouge (Dodge’s version was Panther Pink) with a Pistol Grip gearknob shaped like half a gun and an Air Grabber hood. This last bit of kit was a special bonnet with a section that you could flip open to feed extra air to the carbs below. And by raising it you also revealed a cartoon shark’s open mouth, fangs and all, to scare the bloke in the next lane. Why can’t modern cars have that same sense of fun?

If you’re into this sort of stuff you will love the Mopar Euro Nationals held each year at Santa Pod. It’s a real treat to see these cars just parked but even better to see and hear them do what they were designed to do – pound the 1320 (that’s the standing quarter mile to you and me - in feet). Do yourself a favour and make a date in next year’s diary.

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker