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The Legacy Of Muscle Cars

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

The Legacy Of Muscle Cars

Levi Quinn
January 7, 2011

Levi Quinn

A familiar scene in legendary Americana is that of a guy, hair slicked back, with his arm around a pretty girl. What makes this scene complete is that the idealistic couple is not sitting in a house. They aren't sitting on a bench in the park, in a theater, at the movies, or even at a restaurant. They are sitting in a muscle car.

What is it about muscle cars that have so fascinated the American people for generations? No longer in production (unless you count the surprisingly sleek and modern GTO), these cars have been icons of American culture for years. Not only do they represent the bygone eras of carefree gas consumption, they also characterize the epitome of the American hunk. That's right, the American hunk. The guy in class that every girl wanted to date and that no one could seem to keep a hold of. The senior in high school that had more testosterone than even the football team could handle (think Danny from Greece).

If you consider American culture as a whole, it has always been fascinated with speed. Cars, motorcycles, dirtbikes, airplanes; anything that can go fast and look good while doing it is accepted as a source of entertainment and even, occasionally, a sign of stature. Basically, the more adrenaline a vehicle can induce the better. Muscle cars fit perfectly into this characterization. Their unsurpassed mechanical capabilities, compared with the capabilities of other cars of their day, made them a source of power among drivers who were looking to not only drive faster than every other car on the road, but who were interested in the social status associated with owning a muscle car. Faster and bigger than the other cars on the road, muscle cars not only got people from point a to point b, they made a statement while they did so.

Not only were these cars fast, they were adorned with wonderful paint jobs. Blue, black, and red were the most popular colors. Often, to augment the paint, flecks of glitter would be added to it before being sprayed onto the automobiles to make the cars shine in the sunlight. Unique graphics, including pinstripes and racing stripes, were designed to enhance the overall look of the vehicles. Racing, even illegal street racing, had a huge following. At night, on long deserted strips of road, teenagers would gather and put their muscle cars to the ultimate test. These cars were not only modes of transportation, they were sources of pride and honor for those who cared enough to truly appreciate and take care of them.

As a symbol of American culture and powerful machinery, muscle cars will forever be remember as icons. These cars have been featured in movies, music videos, books, advertisements, television shows, and the hearts of every American who has grown up around them. A source of adventure, speed, entertainment, and nostalgia, muscle cars have left a great and standing legacy in the books of Americana.

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