Engine sounds that will shake you to the core. Aggressive looks that make everyone admire these machines. Staples of the American automobile industry. Yes, today we are talking muscle cars, baby!
When Europeans think of American cars they don’t picture a Ford Escort. Nope. What comes to their mind is a mighty beast, such as the Mustang. Natural selection has determined these monsters will make their ripple through history.
Although muscle cars were way more popular back in the day, there is sort of a resurgence nowadays. It started in the early 2000s and hadn’t died since. But is there a market for these cars in Europe? Let’s see.
Don’t Europeans have their own muscle?
Let’s clear this question first. It all depends on how you look at it. To be honest, many European vehicles can fit in the broader description of a muscle. Are they considered such though? Not really.
Europeans think of cars more in terms of their use. It means that broadly speaking you’ll find three kinds of vehicles there – regular everyday cars, sports cars, and luxury cars. If you are willing to break these down even further, sure, you could label some of them as “muscle.” But most people don’t.
Even official company websites market their American muscle as sports cars in Europe. The term “muscle” is nowhere to be found. So there you have it.
With all that being said, the European demand for aggressive-looking, high-torque, high-power vehicles is on the rise. A lot of German car manufacturers have come up with their own versions of would-be muscle cars. So it won’t come as a surprise if the term sticks in the near future.
The most popular American muscle cars
Let me first say that I won’t be covering the classic models. I want to focus on vehicles you can get your hands on today. For a reasonable price that is.
Furthermore, for the sake of brevity, I will have to include similar models under one heading. So don’t get mad if I don’t mention every single Camaro or Shelby variant. But let’s get going!
Ford Mustang – The true American stallion
This car easily makes the top 3 of the most popular muscle cars in Europe. It has many variations, but the iconic logo has a place in every car enthusiast’s heart on the east side of the Atlantic. And that is the non-Shelby variant.
Interestingly, the Ford Mustang isn’t even among the most powerful or most expensive muscles. But is it beautiful? Of course. Add that to the fact that the new Mustang GT can get from zero to sixty in 4.3s, and you have a beast of a car. It also comes heavily sprinkled with the American spirit.
The Mustang gets a fair amount of love in Europe. It is among the best-selling “sporty” vehicles in Germany. Its UK version isn’t far behind either. And due to its reasonable price, many young people find it quite affordable. So it is indeed a good opening pick for today’s list.
As for the Shelby iterations, many of which aren’t even called Mustangs anymore – they are mostly left for Americans to enjoy. I’ll tell you why later, but here’s a hint: European regulations.
Chevrolet Camaro – You can never get enough
Camaro is another model that sits well in the minds of Europeans. There are so many variations of it that I can’t do it justice. Whatever you go with though, one thing is for certain – that’s the real muscle.
An interesting is the division in opinions people have about this vehicle. There is a very devout group of enthusiasts who fervently defend the old (read “classic”) look of this machine. Then again, fans of the new visual iteration aren’t a small number either.
While I don’t have any specific figures, it is almost certain that the Camaro sells a bit worse than the Mustang. This applies to both the US and European markets. But that’s largely due to the fair price difference. Still, it more than deserves a spot on our list.
Dodge Challenger – What muscle is all about
Many people consider this model to be the go-to muscle car of the modern age. Why? Because for a lot of folks it’s the only modern vehicle that can be called a true heir to the muscles of old. One reason is that it’s not afraid to have a not-so-modern look. The other? Power!
Its technical specs are a thing to behold. There are models, which exceed 700 HP. Impressive! But what does this mean in the real world? 3.5s to 60mph! This is what I call fast.
Sadly though, Dodge doesn’t sell well in Europe. They no longer market the latest Challenger models (among many others) on The Old Continent. So the only way to get one is through imports. But the price increase that comes with it isn’t small, which makes it hard to beat what Ford and Chevrolet are currently offering.
However, not being the most purchased vehicle doesn’t make it less famous. People still know it, and enthusiasts have a place in their hearts for it. So does our list!
Dodge Charger – The controversial pick
I know that this model has a bit of controversy about it. First, there is the whole debate of whether it’s a muscle at all. Some people consider it a sporty sedan, for others, it is way too big to be called a muscle. But then again, the new 707 HP Hellcat model doesn’t really sound like a family car.
But do Europeans know it? They sure do. Not as much as the previous three though. It often gets mistaken for a Challenger. And just like it, it isn’t marketed in Europe. Which is sad, because it could have been more affordable than a top of the line Camaro.
It is quite the opposite in the US. Millennials have quite the love for Dodge and the Charger in particular. So let’s give our respect to this beast.
Why aren’t there more muscle cars in Europe?
We have exhausted our list of muscle cars. Yes, that’s right. I know there are more worthy mentions, but most of them aren’t known in Europe. And there is an actual reason why this is the case.
Remember that we mentioned Shelby isn’t really sold on The Old Continent? And that Dodge has withdrawn from marketing their latest models there? A big reason is European regulations.
A car in Europe has to have a certain level of efficiency and is not to surpass the set exhaust emissions. If it does, you have to pay quite the premium for it (i.e. high taxes and all that).
But how come Camaro and Mustang find their way on the market? It’s because they manufacture specially designed European models. And sometimes they differ quite a lot from their US counterparts.
Exhaust emissions are just the beginning. A lot of times the European models have less horsepower, better mile-per-gallon ratio, and use different materials in their manufacturing process.
This begs the question if we can even consider such cars “American muscle”. But really, can we stamp a nationality to any car?
What is the alternative?
Frankly speaking, there probably isn’t one. Think about it, what makes a muscle car? Some would say the sound of the engine, for example. But it comes at a price: higher fuel consumption, higher exhaust emissions, etc.
Yet, there are some models, which have tried to look the part. The Mustang EcoBoost is one such. But would you consider it a muscle? Most people wouldn’t. And I don’t blame them.
With muscle cars there is something more than looks – it’s the spirit. The American spirit. And of course, we don’t want a dead pony; we want a state-of-the-art, roaring-like-thunder beast of a machine. But you just don’t get that by compromising.
However, Europeans see it differently. They want a safe car, which is fast, meets the regulations and doesn’t use up fuel as much. Did we also mention that it has to be fast?
Well, “fast” has a different meaning on The Old Continent. It’s not all about horsepower. If it feels good, accelerates well, and gives you the chills. It’s fast enough. Exactly how fast is not important.
That’s why EcoBoost has a nice niche market there. And do you know what else has such a market? Tesla.
Yes, the company doesn’t have muscle cars. Some would even consider it a stretch to say it produces speed-oriented vehicles. But with 400+ horsepower under the hood, it’s not far off to say that Tesla offers some pretty solid choices. And Europeans are digging them.
Considering everything we’ve said so far, is this even a surprise? People in the UK, Germany, France, and the like aren’t raised on big, bulky, high-throttle vehicles. What they are actually used to is more luxurious, compact, but fast cars.
Tesla S can be found in many variations, some with a lot of luxury in mind. And engine power is pretty great, as we mention. But with an SUV and another luxury model on the horizon, Tesla is more likely to take on the European market than the likes of Dodge.
So there you have it. Muscles have their place in Europe, but it might not hold for long. Specially designed Mustangs and Camaros may still be around in ten years, but European manufacturers continue to run the show. Japanese vehicles are close after, and Tesla is a rising star.
Ladies and gents, we may be on the brink of a complete muscle car redesign once again. Strict environmental regulations may hit the US as well. What will happen to our favorite cars then? I don’t know.
But I do know I am looking forward to an environment-friendly, lightning-fast, engine-roaring beast. And yes, if it could keep its horsepower of 700+, it would be great.