I suppose I should get the dreaded issue of style out of the way first. Why dreaded? I feel better equipped to try to build a time machine than I am to describe anything so personal as style. Ask anyone who has ever attempted to help me with graphics and they’ll tell you that I completely useless in conveying my option regarding a visual issue. What I can attempt to describe is what has influenced me in my feelings towards muscle cars.
Regular readers know that one of my earliest memories as a child were automotive. More specifically, they involved a red, white and blue 1969 AMX that my Dad raced. it was a new car that was built to race off the showroom floor. That gives you an idea when I started hanging out around muscle cars. Naturally, the competition were cars like Mustangs and Camaros. On the big weekends, we might even see the Challenger along with the rest of the Trans Am circus. Images that were indelibly burnt into my young brain. In high school. I knew guys with monsters from the big 3 and even an AMX thrown into the mix. I still loved those cars. How could I not?
Visually, the subsequent Mustangs didn’t do much for me style wise until the last body when Ford returned the car to it’s roots and my view of the Camaro was much the same. Sure they had some neat equipment in the mid 80’s, but they had nowhere near the impact of the original car. Challenger? What Challenger. Ok, so that had the Mitsubishi based car that was shared with the Plymouth Sapporo but I doubt anybody actually considers this a Challenger.
What we have here before us are three cars whose lineage stretches back to the same point in time. While many of today’s consumers don’t remember when these cars were common on the roads, just as many of us have fond memories of those days. How well do the new cars translate into the modern world.
When the 5th generation Mustang came to market as the 2005 Mustang, there were a number of styling cues that screamed 1966. From the general overall shape to small things like the shape & size of the rear quarter windows, there was no mistaking that this was a Mustang. It was also a Mustang that unabashedly drew upon the family history. For 2010, the Mustang received a serious interior & exterior refresh while remaining on the same platform. Fortunately for those of us with an eye to the past, this refresh was an evolution of the shape rather than a replacement and many of the historical elements remain.
In recent years, Chrysler created quite a stir with the retro inspired PT Cruiser. When it was announced that they would be bringing a modern Challenger to market, it made sense for them to look to the past for inspiration also. Where the PT was not a recreation of any specific vehicle however, the Challenger was to draw heavily on it’s namesake. So much so in fact, that at a quick glance one might confuse the two. Take a moment to focus and there are many differences, not the least of which is size. The current body is longer and taller, yet it looks very much like the original. There may be a tad less chrome, but it is still there in all the right places. Our SXT tester had spindly 5 spoke wheels that look like a modern interpretation of the Rostyle wheels that some option packages wore back in the day and even had a chrome fuel filler door.
The first generation Camaro, first seen in late ’66 as a ’67 model was a distinctive, muscular shape that was really unlike anything else on the market. The second gen car sort of bubbled out into a more rounded shape that held little resemblance to the original. The 3rd and 4th gen variants really had little to indicate a relationship to either of those cars. There was a gap of roughly 7 years between the end of production of the 4th gen cars until the 5th generation, 2010 models started rolling into showrooms. It might have been tempting for designers to attempt to recreate that tough looking ancestor but instead they took inspiration from it and created a modern fighter that shows the family lines without copying them.
So which one wins?
You didn’t actually expect me to draw a conclusion on the style topic did you? I can honestly say I like all 3, but for different reasons. The 2010 Mustang is a classic shape that looks like a continuation of the original concept. If Bill & Ted traveled from San Dimas in 1966 to 2010 anywhere, they would recognize this as a Mustang. Immediately. The Challenger is larger than the original by a hefty margin but the shape is there. Long time Mopar fans should and would be fans of this car too. Bill & Ted? They would figure it out. The 2010 Camaro might just be the hottest shape The General has ever produced and there is no question what inspired it but, would the boys in the phone booth know what it is? I’m not sure if they would.
Working from home, I get to spend part of my mornings and afternoons doing the school pick ups and drop offs. I suppose that any discussion of style or cool factor would be somewhat lacking if I didn’t mention the reaction of the kids. Our boys and their friends think all 3 are cool, but one car causes them all to freak out. One car caused all the guys at our daughter’s high school to stare as is Megan Fox was nekkid on the hood.
That car was the 2010 Camaro.