Vauxhall VXR Maloo 2012 665x297

The end for the muscle car?

Any regular reader will know that I’m a big fan of American cars. Not necessarily the run of the mill motors like the Toyota Camry or Chevrolet Cruze, but the traditional muscle cars with unnecessarily large V8 engines that don’t actually produce that much power.CHAL Banner

We don’t get much of that kind of thing in the UK, with the closest generally being the louder cars from AMG. Sadly they come with price tags that match the noise, missing one of the points of a muscle car.

Muscle cars have some very simple rules. They have to have two doors, a powerful engine and be reasonably affordable.

At £55,000, the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, the cheapest AMG you can currently buy, fails on the last count. In fact there are very few cars that could qualify as muscle cars in the UK, and that is not surprising given the kinds of roads and traffic we face here.

Vauxhall VXR Maloo 2012 SidewaysOne company that keeps trying to crack the non-existent muscle car market is, surprisingly, Vauxhall. Over the last ten years or so they’ve brought over small numbers of Australian Holden cars, rebadged them as Vauxhalls and put them up for sale. The Monaro was their first effort, but since then there’s been a steady flow of bonkers models that now includes the incredible Maloo.

If you don’t know the Maloo, think of an old Vauxhall Omega that’s been modernised. Now turn it in to a two seater pickup and then fit a 6.2 litre V8 engine in the front.

It is utterly pointless, embarrassingly loud, environmentally unapologetic and brilliant fun. Sadly, it is also the wrong side of £50,000 now, so doesn’t count.

Vauxhall’s sibling brand over at Chevrolet has had a better stab at things. Alongside the bread and butter motoring afforded by the likes of the Cruze, Aveo and Captiva, they have also taken the opportunity to order a few cars from their American counterparts.

That means you can now officially buy a Corvette in the UK, although as it only seats two and costs close to £70,000 it very definitely doesn’t count.

Chevrolet Camaro Convertible 2012 FrontThe Camaro does though, ticking all the boxes.

It seats four, just about, so that is the first criteria sorted. There is also a huge, and very thirsty, V8 engine up front, so that is the second box ticked.

At £35,000 it may not be considered cheap, but it certainly is the cheapest way to get in to a powerful V8 engined car.

Granted, it’s not actually a very good car, but it does what a muscle car should do. The biggest flaw for buyers here though is the fact it is a left hand drive model only.

The grand daddy of the muscle car is undoubtedly the Ford Mustang, although at this point a handful will say it’s a pony car. Strictly speaking that is right, but we Brits don’t really know the difference.

Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang 2012 Front LeftIntroduced in 1964, the Mustang was an immediate hit with the Americans, selling more than 400,000 in its first year of production. From then on there have been almost quarterly updates to the car, with special editions, upgrades, changes, new models and so on.

Sadly they never sold the Mustang over here, but the most recent model introduced in 2005 gained quite a following and, thanks to good exchange rates and cheap prices in the US, a significant number made their way over here.

From there being around 500 Mustangs in the country in 2004, there’s now an estimated 1,400 rumbling up and down the motorways, the driver on the wrong side.

Finally though, Ford has seen that there is demand for the car here and are looking to produce an official right hand drive version of the 2014 model.
For possibly the first time ever, you’ll be able to buy a muscle car that is suited to the UK. Those powerful looks, the low(ish) purchase price and that rumbling, thirsty, noisy and awesome V8 engi… wait, what?

Mercedes SLS AMG 2012 ProfileSeemingly in fear of upsetting somebody somewhere, Ford have already said the big old V8 lump won’t make it in to the European Mustang. Instead there’ll be a 2.3 litre four cylinder engine that will undoubtedly find its way in to the Mondeo and maybe Focus.

Powerful it may be, with a reported output of around 300 bhp, but it misses the point by some margin.

Muscle cars aren’t bought by sensible people who keep an eye on CO2 emissions in case it puts their car up a tax band. They’re bought by enthusiasts who want the drama, the excitement of driving something unsophisticated, agricultural even, and seemingly almost extinct.

After 50 years, perhaps the world has had enough of the muscle car. If it has, that would be a crying shame.

[button link=”” color=”orange”]This article was first published at on 11 March 2013.[/button]

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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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