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2010 Dodge Challenger R/T Classic (left) and 2010 Dodge Challenger SE Rallye (right)
2010 Dodge Challenger R/T Classic (left) and 2010 Dodge Challenger SE Rallye (right)

Rob's Garage

Muscle cars in 2010, are they mad? Add to ...

Rob, I'm noticing a proliferation of so-called pony or muscle cars lately. In an age of fuel economy focus, noise pollution and family haulability, I'm also wondering, what are the manufacturers thinking?

As a 40 year old who is trying to be a good eco-citizen, I can't wrap my head around the need or the purpose of these types of cars.

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Can you please add your two cents as to why these cars justifiable?

Thanks, Ron

First off Ron, the manufacturers know that anyone south of 55 years of age probably won't understand. To have an appreciation of these cars you pretty much had to be in your mid-teens through the late 1960s. This was the heyday of the muscle and pony car era that was dominated by Ford, General Motors, Plymouth and Dodge.

Second, you'll have to drop 30-large to equip one of these cars in a way that brings back memories of days gone past. The manufacturers also know that the typical young family can't and won't afford this kind of coin on a "toy."

With that housekeeping out of the way, I can assure you that as someone who grew up during this era, these cars are a ton of fun. Not fun from a handling perspective, because unless you pony up for suspension upgrades, they are more about the sizzle than the steak. Their primary function is to look cool and make the driver feel as though he looks cool (sorry, yes he, because almost all of the buyers of these cars are male).

That said, I have had the opportunity to drive the 2010 Dodge Challenger RT and I have to say that modern technology has definitely found its way onto the build sheet of this car. The last time I climbed behind the wheel of a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive, pistol-gripped stick-shift car was the summer of 1973. I had just bought a 1969 Plymouth GTX 440 with a six pack and a humungous pistol grip shifter in it.

Compared to the Challenger I'm driving now, the GTX could no longer be considered a daily driver. Imagine trying to drive a 3600 pound, roly poly car suspended on marshmallows with a stick shifter as big as an oar and brakes best described as inadequate.

The new Challenger is a boulevard cruiser in the best sense. Comfortable, easy to drive and best of all - it sounds as cool as it looks. My only complaints are:

• The steering wheel does not tilt down enough - almost a throw-back to my old GTX with a steering wheel that was a skinny as a spaghetti noodle and the diameter of a transit bus.

• Back seat entry is best accessed from the passenger side and once the front seat is moved forward out of the way, it does not return to its previous setting - it has to be fully re-adjusted.

But that's it. As I said, this car and those like it - the Mustang and Camaro - were not designed with back seat passengers in mind.

Ron, these cars are not about cookie cutter looks, fuel sipping and family hauling, they're all about putting the passion back into the hum-drum commute and looking cool while doing so.

I feel sorry for those that did not experience the high water mark in North American iron, muscle car production. You missed one helluva ride.

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