There are many debates that people will always argue over: which president is best suited to run the country, which sports team is truly better, who is the best athlete in the history of sports, and which vehicle is better. However, the argument over quality vehicles is truly unique. Rarely will people argue which version of a specific person was better, for example which Michael Jordan was better–circa 1991 or 1996. Normally debates center around specific categories, such as movies (_The Godfather_ or Star Wars), athletes (Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant Gordie Howe or Wayne Gretzky), musicians (Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson).

Within the automotive industry, these debates can polarize around the same car, just different years, for example the 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302 versus the 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302.

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302Boss 302

Source: (C) Ford Motor Company

Car, sports, movie, and music debates often pit one generation against another. The older generation will swear that Tiger Woods will never be as great as Jack Nicklaus. Generation X will say Wayne Gretzky was better than Gordie Howe. Many believe that modern vehicles can’t match classic cars produced in yesteryear; these drivers will always take a 1969 Boss 302 over a 2012.

These automotive debates generally crystallize around the muscle car segment. People do not debate which F-series truck is better, or whether the 1991 Ford Explorer is better than the 2011. For these daily driver vehicles, new is considered better than used. However, for muscle cars and pony cars, ‘better’ is truly a debate of generations.

The term “American Muscle Car” refers to a large mix of high performance vehicles. Specifically, the muscle car is associated with vehicles built in the 1960’s and 70’s that have a large displacement V8 engine in a medium-sized car. The key to the original muscle car was that its price was low so that average Americans could afford it. The affordability of the muscle car helped it gain popularity and it became mainstream, and is still seen in movies, and television shows today.

Partial List of Original Muscle Cars from U.S. Manufacturers

1962-1965 Dodge Dart

1964-1965 Pontiac Tempest Le Mans/GTO

1964-1965 Ford Thunderbolt

1965 Buick Riviera Gran Sport

1965-1969 Buick Skylark

1966-1967 Chevy II SS327

1965 – 1970 Dodge Coronet

1968-1969 Chevy II SS327

1965-1970 Plymouth Belvedere

1969 Ford Torino Cobra

1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS

1965-1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442

Muscle cars give car enthusiasts two different arguments: which is the best version of a muscle car (Dodge, Ford, or Chevrolet); and which muscle car is better, the modern version or the original. For the muscle car enthusiasts today, the new vehicle market gives the consumer a variety of choices. Consumers can buy different versions of the Ford mustang, V6 or GT, and then use their own vehicle knowledge to perform changes. Consumers can buy a Chevrolet Camaro with a high output engine that lends the feeling of driving a race car or speeding through the streets in a car chase. For the original Dodge enthusiast, consumers can choose between the Dodge Charger or the Dodge Challenger. Both vehicles tip their caps to the original model, but still have features which make them unique in the market today. The Dodge Challenger gives the consumers who fell in love with the Dukes of Hazard and General Lee an opportunity to live out their childhood fantasies as one of the Duke boys, while the Dodge Charger provides a four-door family car that offers the feel of a true sports car.

Dodge ChallengerDodge Challenger SRT

Source:(C) Chrysler Corp.

However, are the American Muscle cars of today better than the originals? This is a debate in which many true car connoisseurs would argue that the original are better, but the generation of 18-24-year-olds would prefer a version of the original muscle car with today’s technology. Two examples of this are the Ford Mustang Bullitt and the Ford Mustang BOSS 302.

The Ford Mustang over the years has gone through various facelifts and changes, however, the most recent Ford Mustang is a true homage to the classic. To appeal to consumers who yearn for the vehicle of their youth, Ford has launched special editions of their Mustang, including the Mustang Bullitt, an iconic edition designed with the classic Steve McQueen Ford Mustang Bullitt edition in mind. The Bullitt edition was a true car enthusiast’s model, featuring a variety of unique features including being lower to the ground, a new intake design, and special under-drive pulleys to increase the vehicle’s power.

Today, Ford has a special edition Mustang, the Boss 302, which was first produced in 1969. The original Boss 302 was named after an engine that was designed and built for racing. General Motors assisted with the original development of the Boss 302. In 1966 and ’67, Ford raced Mustangs in the Sports Car Club of America Trans-American Sedan Racing Series. It was not until 1967 that Chevrolet, a brand owned by General Motors, brought the Camaro Z28 to the market to compete with the Ford Mustang.

2012 Camaro SS2012 Camaro SS Source:(C) GM Corp.

Source:(C) GM Corp.

The Camaro competed with the Ford Mustang in all aspects, most importantly in the 1968 Trans American racing series. To once again compete in the racing series Ford developed a new 302 cubic engine. Larry Shinoda, a former GM employee working for Ford, helped create the style and design of the Ford Mustang, and came up with the name, Boss 302. Ford failed to win the 1969 Trans-America championship, but succeeded in 1970, and legend was born.

Ford is bringing the special edition Boss 302 Mustang back to the market for the model year 2012. The vehicle will feature manual transmission and the 5.0 liter V8 engine topping out at 444 horsepower. Like many muscle cars, there are changes to the engine’s torque and intake to give the vehicle a unique feel. Ford Mustang Boss 302 enthusiasts will surely argue whether the 1969 or 2012 is a better vehicle. Like the Tiger Woods Jack Nicklaus argument, both generations will prefer their edition.

As we continue to lose members of the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers, some of the marketing of muscle cars will shift to focus on Generation Y and Generation Z. Though these two generations value green technology, some members will want speed, power, and true American muscle. The key is to find what they want in a vehicle and the best way to market that to them, whether that is through movies like Transformers, TV Shows, or to show celebrities and sports stars driving them. As these two generations age and start to enter their higher income earning years, they will be looking for a vehicle that they identify with, which may be today’s version of a yesteryears muscle car.

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