Classic Muscle Cars Vs. Modern Muscle Cars - Whats the Difference?

Muscle cars are always in vogue, with mint examples commanding prices at auction that would make Donald Trump’s toupee stand on end.

The General consensus is that the first muscle car was the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88. Equipped with a high-compression, 135 horsepower V-8 under the hood.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that muscle cars began to flourish.

Fast forward half a century where muscle cars are still striking fear into minivan driver’s. Although the muscle car attitude has stayed the same, a lot of the technology has changed.

We’ve put together a rundown of the top changes that have taken place between the era of the Beatles and the age of Taylor Swift.

Under the hood

Probably the biggest change under the hood is the introduction of computer controls and forced induction.  Forced induction adds more horsepower by either a supercharger or turbo charger

We now live in a world where cars have many computers onboard. Which enable such features as fuel injection, ignition, variable valve timing and much more.

Vintage muscle cars chugged around without computers onboard, delivering fuel via a carburetor. If you were born after the dinosaurs went extinct, you’ve probably never seen one for fuel and air delivery.

Ignition was controlled by a set of mechanical points inside the distributor. Timing was accomplished through vacuum advance.

Computer controls make have provided us with vehicles that get better gas mileage, last longer, and pollute less . Most importantly when it comes to muscle cars – produce more power.

Case in point; a 1967 Camaro with the top-of-the-line V-8 produced 375 hp, whereas the modern 6.2L V-8 Camaro makes a rip-roaring 455 hp.


Seatbelts didn’t become mandatory in vehicles until 1968 . Those were lap belts that would barely restrain a crash dummy! Airbags weren’t a requirement until 1998.

Vintage vehicles including muscle cars were made out of rigid steel, which didn’t give during an accident. This means the driver took the brunt of impact since the car didn’t crumple.

Modern vehicles are made out of aluminum. These modern cars have engineered crush points that fold in the event of an accident, keeping you safe.

Braking systems have come a long way, too. Almost all modern muscle cars are equipped with a four-wheel disc anti-lock braking system. Where old iron employed drum brake systems, that were far from having anti-lock technology.

Comfort and convenience

Forget cruise control, heated /cooled seats and entertaiment systems that look like they’re from Star Trek. Many vintage muscle cars didn’t even have power steering or power brakes!

Seats didn’t have headrests (which was also a safety issue) and while some cars offered power accessories as an option. Door locks, windows, etc, were of the “do it yourself” variety.

There was no booming AUX/MP3/USB /Bluetooth stereo or touch screen display. you were lucky if you got an 8-track player!

Under The Car

Muscle cars of the 1960s were only rear-wheel drive, as are most today.

The classics used a solid axle to transfer power to the pavement, which is becoming rarer and rarer nowadays.

The 2015 Camaro, for example, is fitted with an independent rear suspension. A host of electronics such as stability control and stability control ensure the best handling possible.

The handling ability of vintage muscle cars was dependent on the driving ability of the person behind the steering wheel.

There’s no denying the fact that vintage muscle cars are cool. They evoke emotions in people that modern, mass-produced metal and silicon never could. That being said, modern muscle cars outperform the classics in every way, which leaves the question; what do we really mean by “the good old days”?