If the GTO wasn’t the first muscle car, then what was?

My mom almost bought a 61 Newport 2 Dr HT, but waited and got a 1964 300 2 Dr HT. It was a great car, with about the most comfortable seats I have ever enjoyed. I had a 59 DeSoto 2 Dr HT and I sold it for $250 back in about 1966–wish I had been able to keep so many of these old cars I had over the years.

I also vote for the 1956 Stude Golden Hawk. They shoe-horned a big Packard 352 ci V8 with a Carter WCFB 4 bbl (some dealers installed dual quads from the Packard Caribbean at the owner’s request) and dual exhaust into the lightweight Stude “K” model hardtop coupe. It was rated @ only 275 HP but the torque was massive and the weight was well below the Chrysler 300 letter cars. The drawback was that it was quite nose-heavy, making cornering, stopping and rear wheel traction an issue.

I had one that was upgraded to a Packard 374 ci mill with an Isky “3/4” cam and 3 speed OD trans…quite fun in a straight line.

Just because a vehicle is fast doesn’t make it a muscle car.

I personally see a Golden Hawk more as a personal-luxury car.

I guess it’s all in the definition. I’ve always thought of a muscle car as taking a smaller, lighter car in the Mfg’s lineup and putting in a larger engine from the Mfg’s big car lineup. Such is the case with the 1956 GH…the smaller, lighter Stude “K” body fitted with the largest engine S/P Corp had at that time, the Packard V8. Much like the GTO was basically the smaller Tempest/LeMans fitted with the 389 from the full-sized Pontiac lineup.

A 1936 Century is not a muscle car, despite being a car with a smaller wheelbase and the engine from its bigger brethren.

The success of the GTO had nothing to do with being a Bonneville engine in a Tempest. Rather, it took performance from the race track (NHRA and NASCAR) to the street. It spawned a host of imitators. Did the Studebaker do that?

No, it was just a car that, a year later, would eschew the Packard engine.

As said, it depends on one’s definition…by yours, the Chrysler 300 letter cars were not muscle cars? Yes, the Packard V8 was too heavy for the “K” body cars, the next year they were replaced with a Stude sourced 289 with a blower…same HP, less TQ.

Just curious, how did the GTO take performance from the race track to the street? AFAIK, the GTO was on the street before it showed up on any drag strip, and I don’t recall it ever being entered in NASCAR like the big Pontiacs were.

No, there was no mass market for muscle cars in the 1950’s hence no imitators, but actually, Studebaker did set performance records…the Avanti R3 (piloted by Andy Granatelli) held the showroom production car land speed record of 170 MPH for 25 years https://www.theavanti.com/r1007.html

Well, I would think it would be cut/dry on what a muscle car is, but I know that there are people who say, “A Boss 429 is a pony car, not a muscle car!”

And I would vehemently disagree with them.

But imagine it’s 1963. You run a company that has had huge success developing a performance image. Your cars are killer both in NASCAR and drag racing…and then the bosses say no more racing. No more Super Dutys.

Kinda a bummer, right?

That’s what made the GTO so profound. It took all that image developed from racing and marketing, and brought it to the street. Anyone could buy a GTO and drive it to the Circle-K. Could you do that with a SD 421 Catalina? Would be very difficult.

And the GTO spawned the 4-4-2. The Gran Sport. The SS 396. The Fairlane GT. The Cyclone GT. The GTX. The Coronet R/T. Shall I go on?

So, no, the C-300 is not a muscle car. Sure, it was borne from racing, but 17-second quarters don’t cut it. And it was expensive. It’s a performance car, but not a muscle car. I may be willing to say it’s a prototypical muscle car, but I—one guy—have never made up my mind on that.

Studebaker was all-in with performance at one point, prob #3 behind Pontiac and Chevy. If the company had only continued with performance after December 1963, the evolution of the market may have been very different.

Well said, thank you. I did forget to mention Stude’s True Muscle Cars, the 1963 and 1964 R2 & R3 Larks. They consistently perform at the top of the Pure Stock Muscle Car Drags. Stripped down 2 door sedans, factory equipt with the R2 & R3 engines. The R3 engine was hand built by the Granatellis and was a $2000 option, almost as much as the Plane Jane car it resided in.


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Thank you!

I’m the announcer at the Pure Stock Drags.

That’s great, I plan to attend one day. I’m sure you’ve seen the “Plain Brown Wrapper” and Ted Harbit’s “Tomato” run. I believe George Krem’s Lark held the class record at one point, and consistently outran cars with much larger displacement and “factory” HP ratings.

Back to “What is a Muscle Car”, I’m sure there are as many definitions as there are ppl expressing them.

Yeah, I’ve known them from the beginning, and BP is about as knowledgable as any marque specialist I’ve known.

I wrote a book a few years ago and included a Studebaker chapter with elbow grease from them. Couldn’t have done it without them.

I would have to say my parents '63 Buick Riviera! Luxury, Muscle, at least.

I’ve only talked to Ted on the phone years ago when buying parts or getting advice, but he is an encyclopedia of information on Stude performance, and a real nice guy.

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My grandad also had a 63. Beautiful car but the downside was the Dynaflo trans. They corrected that with the 64 model equipped with a turbo hydramatic.

The first muscle car was the max wedge 413 ci Plymouth Savoy in 1962 - midsize car, full size engine built to race and beat the Chevy 409 cars. The article is confusing fast cars with ‘muscle cars’.

Plymouth didn’t consider the Savoy a mid-size car. The only car that fit that definition was the Fairlane.

And the Plymouth was a race car. If you include the Plymouth, why not a '61 409 Chevy? At least it was more streetable, which was the essence of the GTO.

The Savoy was mostly manufactured as a straight six economy commuter vehicle, I consider the 413 max wedge version the first musclecar - big block in lightweight two door form factor. They were raced because the power to wight ratio was so compelling

You can make the same claim about a 409 Biscayne.

I agree - in my opinion the 409 Chevy and the max wedge mopar response was the dawn of the muscle car era, terrific engines in modest commuter vehicle packages

GM started this craze in 1949 or 50 with the Olds coupe. They stuffed the new OHV Olds engine into a Chevy sized coupe body and rest is pure automotive history.