Muscle cars: take two

Performance autos are revving up for a comeback

The energy crisis killed the muscle car 40 years ago. Now, with gas prices hitting new highs each week, muscle cars are more beloved than ever.

No one ever said love was logical.

At last summer’s Russo & Steele Sports and Muscle Show in Monterey, Calif., classic muscle cars went for up to 100 times their original list prices.

A 1965 Shelby GT 350 R sold for $473,000, a 1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda Hemi found a buyer at $242,000 and a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T Hemi went for $198,000.

Pretty heady stuff for what began as sedans on steroids. Even sitcom dad Mike Brady did his errands in a Dodge Challenger.

The spinout came in 1973, when OPEC decided to stop shipping oil to the U.S, and soon the Mustang II rode on a Pinto chassis.

“By the mid-70s, these cars were trading on names only,” says Ken Gross, former director of the Petersen Automotive Museum. “They still had decals and trick wheels, but the horsepower was gone.”

Detroit is now cashing in on the second honeymoon with a new generation of performance autos. Their V8 engines are faster than ever, but they’re a little more fuel efficient. However, for the true believers, to focus on issues like fuel economy is to miss the point.

“I never drive it,” says the local owner of a mint-condition 1968 Shelby GT, who let V Life Weekend photograph his car on the condition that he not be identified. “I’ll probably die in that car. It’s a sickness.”

Running the numbers:

2007 Ford Shelby Cobra GT 500 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8
2005 Pontiac GTO
1968 Ford Shelby Cobra GT 500-KR
List: $4,860
0 to 60: 6 seconds
Horsepower: 335
MPG: 9/11

2007 Ford Shelby Cobra GT 500
List: Just under $40,000
0 to 60: About 4 seconds
Horsepower: 450
MPG: Not yet released; car slated for sale summer 2006

1968 Dodge Charger R/T Hemi
List: $4,800
0 to 60: 5.3 seconds
Horsepower: 425
MPG: 9/12

2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8
List: $35,320
0 to 60: 5 seconds
Horsepower: 425
MPG: 14/20

1966 Pontiac GTO
List: $3,600
0 to 60: 6.5 seconds
Horsepower: 335
MPG: 14

2005 Pontiac GTO
List: $32,299
0 to 60: 4.6 seconds
Horsepower: 400
MPG: 17/25

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