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Retro Designs Were Great – But Where Do American Muscle Cars Go From Here?

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@WesLungwitz

Wes grew up around cars at the family business. He makes no attempt to hide his love of early 90s GM products, and still repents selling his sweet '94 Pontiac Sunbird a few years back.

When the big three domestic brands brought back the retro muscle car look a few years back, consumers responded positively. The Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger revived a little piece of the 60s and early 70s with a vintage, yet modern style. The American muscle car was back.

2016 chevy camaro

The 2016 Chevy Camaro, as rendered by Top Speed.

But now, working on almost a decade since the first retro style was introduced (2005 Mustang), it seems like car manufacturers are having a difficult time finding out where to go next. This was a danger I feared when these retro-inspired designs were introduced. Sure, they look great…but once you go retro, how do you keep the momentum going after that?

For proof of the difficulty manufacturers are having, we need look no further than the 2016 Chevy Camaro. While GM is trying to set this vehicle up as the next big thing in the segment, the spy shots we’ve seen so far suggest that the car looks almost identical to the current model. There are some subtle differences, but they are just further away from what I liked about the retro-modern design in the first place. So it just ends up being a worse version of the current style.

The new Mustang suffers from the same problem, in my opinion. Sure, it’s a little different from the past version, but not much. And again, it’s straying from some of the design cues that made the retro version so great.

Dodge finally made its first redesign of the modern day Challenger, but decided to milk the retro feel out for a bit, styling the newest version loosely on the ‘71 version of the car – a break from the ‘70 design of the previous edition. But how long can they keep going to the well?

1978 Ford Mustang II

1978 Ford Mustang II

I don’t have a good answer for what the manufacturers should be doing next. And I’m worried that they don’t really, either. Again, this was my fear when these retro models were introduced. I just hope they can avoid going down the path of mediocrity that defined American vehicles in the late 70s and 80s. In those days, the big three kept making small changes to the muscle car lineup, until they were shells of what they used to be. And I don’t even want to get into the Mustang II.

If you don’t know what I mean, just do an image search for either the Mustang or Camaro for any year in the late 70s, early 80s. And if you really want to get scared, do a search for the Dodge Challenger from ’78-’83 (last run before the current model). It was difficult for me to even include a photo of the car on this post. If you dare, scroll to the bottom of the page (and note the catchy tagline).

Can you see my concern? Let’s hope the designers have something up their sleeves for the future.

1979 Dodge Challenger ad

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1 Comment

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