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Cars We Remember: Comparing modern-day muscle cars with their predecessors

Greg Zyla
More Content Now
Brian Hollister, of Elk Lake, Pennsylvania, has two Challengers in his car stable. One is a 1971 Challenger R/T 383 and a second a 2010 Challenger R/T Hemi. Both are manual transmission and in real fine shape.

Q: Greg I live in Elk Lake, near Montrose, Pennsylvania, and I read your column every week in the Susquehanna County Weekender and love it. I always find it very interesting and even though I consider myself to be a “car guy,” you frequently impart details about various vehicles or manufacturers that I was unaware of previously.

A couple of weeks ago you wrote: “In ending, there may not have been a better car crazy era than the 1960s to early 1970s, but when you look at the cars available from 1998 forward, the ‘muscle’ today is better than ever, and these new muscle cars are by far much better than anything that was built in the 1960s. Additionally, modern day Corvette, Challenger, Camaro and Mustang, all offer supercars with gobs of horsepower awaiting you in a car that is not only comfortable to drive, they offer all the modern amenities at a reasonable price.”

While I know you will probably get plenty of flack for making such a statement, I support you because everything you wrote is absolutely true. Being a teenager in the 70’s, I witnessed the muscle car craze and all of the beautiful cars it spawned. After graduating high school and getting a job I owned several of those great machines, including Camaros and Corvettes, but my favorite car was always the Dodge Challenger, which I thought was the best looking car of the era.

I eventually acquired a numbers matching Plum Crazy purple 1971 Challenger R/T, 383 factory high-performance engine with a Hurst four speed pistol grip with only 20,000 miles, which I still own. In 2010 the old girl looked lonely so I purchased a new 40th anniversary Lemon Twist yellow Challenger R/T with a six speed pistol grip to keep her company.

I love my ’71 Challenger. It is a gorgeous car with unmistakable, true muscle car rumble that makes your teeth vibrate. The acceleration is neck breaking, but once you get up to 80 mph the handling starts to get a little iffy and the ride is not exactly what one would describe as pleasant. The 2010 Challenger also has great acceleration and a much higher top speed. The ride is extremely comfortable, the handling is perfect. Further, it is equipped with all the amenities one could possibly desire in a vehicle.

As I stated before, I’m a “car guy” who will always love old cars and I own several, but they are not nearly as comfortable or reliable as the new vehicles available today. I drive my old Challenger around frequently when I’m going on short runs, but if I’m going on a trip of any length, I will always take one of my newer vehicles, more often than not the 2010 Challenger.

I’ve attached a couple of photos of my Challengers. and I just wanted you to know that even though what you wrote probably resulted in some disbelief and maybe even a cry of “blasphemy” there is at least one old muscle car guy who agrees that you are 100% correct in stating that the modern muscle cars are much better for every day driving than their predecessors.

Thanks for your column and please keep them coming.

- Brian Hollister, Elk Lake, Pennsylvania

A: Brian thanks for your well written letter and kind words. You’ll be happy to hear that of all the letters and emails I received about this subject, the only negatives came from owners of only the 1964 to 1974 muscle cars who did not own a modern day muscle car for comparison. Two of them had a Prius for their daily driver so these few responders are missing the boat with modern day muscle. So, let’s you and me agree that they can’t make a true comparison.

Most every letter I received from those who could make a comparison agreed with the same points you make, especially about the handling of the older cars when you get to 80 mph. One owner said they would never attempt going to a track day and trying to take a set of “S” curves with his older 1969 Camaro SS396, but his 2018 Camaro SS went through like any great sports car of the day. As for personal experience, I have a ’72 Challenger 440 R/T Tribute and as you note, when you hit 80 things start shaking and vibrating. If you keep going straight, all is OK like in a 13-second quarter mile, but don’t dare take it to Watkins Glen for a five lap track day run. You just won’t make it. I have a ’94 Trans Am and a ’98 Camaro Z28, and both would handle the fast laps just fine.

Other notes from my readers were brakes and gas mileage. Our older MOPARS are lots of fun. But your 2010 Challenger and my Z28 could easily churn out 24 MPG highway while our older Challengers are probably good for maybe 10-12 MPG and way less when we hammer them.

Suspension comparisons are pretty much a joke, as the older muscle cars have the old fashion leaf spring solid rears that never did much for handling. Also, seating comfort and amenities are fantastic in the modern varieties.

But with all this said there’s still nothing better than a Friday night run in our 1970s collector Challengers to the hamburger joint, a drive-in movie or an area car show.

Thanks again for your letter, and keep those Challengers in tip-top shape.

Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and Gannett Co. Inc. Contact him at greg@gregzyla.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.