Traditional muscle cars aren’t getting cheaper, which has made them increasingly difficult to own and enjoy on a casual basis. With the original era ending nearly half a century ago, solid driver-condition cars—the ones that should, in theory, be available at reasonable cost and in ready-to-run condition— have become scarce, leaving buyers to choose between big-money restored examples or basket-case projects that still command thousands.
Furthering the conundrum, those “project car” examples of traditional muscle models that need work before they can hit the local cruise spot are also not trading hands inexpensively. In fact, the costs of acquiring one and then getting it up to proper levels of form and function often exceeds their value when completed, leaving the owner “upside down” in his or her investment.
Plenty of enthusiasts are okay with this—they’ll happily put in the time and money to get their dream muscle car in their garage and up to spec. But what about those of us who just want to get out there and have some fun in a proper front-engine/rear-drive car that rumbles?
We’re suggesting a cost-effective alternative that aligns perfectly with the aforementioned casual approach to muscle motoring: performance cars of the ’80s and ’90s
.After the original muscle era was snuffed by the conflagration of safety laws and emissions regulations (plus the first fuel crisis of 1973), brand-new muscle choices were soon winnowed down to Corvettes, Trans Ams, and a few others, all of them paling in comparison to their earlier forms. That sharp end to an exciting time later drove enthusiasts to pine for those original muscle cars, eventually driving up prices, fueled by nostalgia and a desire for real power. But everything is cyclical, and Detroit finally circled back to making models that would interest muscle fans. Only this time, the evolution has continued since around 1982—modern muscle cars seem to just keep getting better.
This has had two lasting effects: First, it has made several-year-old models depreciate more quickly as the latest/greatest offerings provide increased output and other features. Second, since this next wave of factory muscle has been going on for close to 40 years, there are lots of next-generation gearheads who are now feeling tinges of nostalgia for a different time—yep, the ’80s, ’90s, and even the early 2000s.