September 29, 2022

Linkage Mag

Geared for the Automotive Life

Muscle Forever

A few weeks back, the USPS announced that they’s launched a new set of Pony Car Forever stamps. The stamps feature a ’69 Mustang Boss 302, a ’70 Challenger R/T, a ’69 Camaro Z/28, a ’67 Cougar XR-7 GT and a ’69 AMC Javelin SST, all artfully depicted in oil on canvas, displaying motion, smoke, glints of chrome and “FOREVER,” all in caps.

Now, I’m no stamp collector, but I have to admit that these are a lot more appealing than the cats or coffee cups that I tend to send off to my local gas company. But the stamps themselves, while awesome, are not what I find most compelling here. The timing is a lot more interesting.

See, at the same time that these stamps were being shown off at the Great American Stamp Show (yes, it’s a thing), Monterey Car Week was just wrapping up, and so was the Woodward Dream Cruise. At Woodward, Dodge unveiled their conceptual replacement for their outgoing muscle car icons — the Hemi-powered Charger and Challenger. The all-new Charger, whirring onto the scene with an illuminated Fratzog, looks the part of a burly muscle machine (or a ’66 Charger, if you ask me), and thanks to some creative piping and engineering thought, it also revs. I’m sure the thought is to capture some of that same appeal that’s powering the current collector car market — and extensions of it, such as those stamps.  

On the one hand, there’s growing reverence for the past among even non-car people, which ensures that original muscle is here to stay. On the other, here comes a new view of a muscle-based future.

The Internet was awash with commentary about that Charger as soon as the unveil was over. Some people loved the ideas behind the new direction, while others speculated on how hard a Hellcat V8 swap would be. A bunch of the comments centered around the noise, which if we’re being honest, is really just there to bridge the gap between where we are in the car world and where we’re likely going to end up. But Dodge is in a tough spot here — adding in noise to an electric muscle car is required in some ways, as any muscle car is all about the physical experience. What fun is something that doesn’t rumble and shake? Electric motors don’t really do that. But the noise is going to turn off some buyers, because they’ll see it as an add-on. For Stellantis, it’s really a damned if you do damned if you don’t scenario — but even so, it was a bold move, and one that a company with guts was going to have to take. Don’t forget that Dodge has built loyalty with tire smoke and blower whine. 

Like it or not, the Hellcat era is soon to be no more, replaced by something new. This concept Charger promises neck-bending performance and plenty of swagger, but without the typical fuel bill. I’ll reserve judgement on whether or not it’s compelling enough until I drive one for myself, and I don’t expect that to be anytime soon. There’s a lot of final edition special one-of-one Hellcats that need to be built and sold first. But as I mentioned in my column in Linkage #008, there’s just something about that Hellcat sound that’s worthy of reverence. Maybe it will get its own stamp, too.

In the midst of all that, I’ve been driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe this week — the gas-electric hybrid Jeep with a 25-mile electric-only range and a turbo engine as backup for those longer trips. At the same time I’ve been learning about the Jeep, I also finally found the time to start the brand-new 6.0L LS-based V8 in my project truck using Holley’s Terminator X ECU and software. I have one foot very much in each camp — as much as I love the rumble of the new, traditional V8 in my truck, there’s something really nice about not having to use gasoline for the mundane tasks of life. I didn’t expect to like the Jeep as much as I do, particularly for errands around town. Just plug it in when you’re not using it and it’s ready to go. There’s appeal in both approaches, even for me.

It’s a very interesting time to be into cars, as visions of the future are shifting and changing. Tech is rising to challenges set by those expectations of the future, as well as rose-colored views of the past. There will come a time in the not-too-distant future where you’ll probably have a foot in both camps, too — maybe you’ll be charging up a daily driver next to original muscle in your garage, and you’ll pick what you use based on the drive. Maybe you’ll turn amps into tire smoke instead of gallons. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll pay the electric bill for your electric muscle machine with a stamp featuring a sliding Cougar XR-7.

However it goes, the end of enthusiasm is nowhere in sight. 

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