Is A Muscle Car A Good First Car? Not a chance


My first ride in a real muscle car was in a 1969 Dodge Challenger with 550 ponies under the hood. I have been driving fast cars since I was 19, and here in my late 30s, this car scared the bejeezus out of me. Thinking back, I wondered, is a muscle car is a good first car?

A muscle car is not a good first car, especially for a novice driver. This is due to the extreme power the engines produce. For a novice or inexperienced driver, a better choice would be a car with a smaller cubic inch engine and better safety features that are easier to control.  

Going back to the day, I climbed into the black and yellow monster. I get goosebumps. She had a dual exhaust system emitting a deep warning growl. As she kicked into gear and let those horses loose, we were going sideways down the street and what I thought was the engine whining was me screaming with a mix of fear and exhilaration.

American muscle car on street

Why Are Muscle Cars Not A Good First Car?

Muscle cars describe a variety of high-performance, powerful vehicles with V6, straight 6, V8, V10, or V12 engines. These engines are often boosted with turbochargers, dual turbochargers, and nitrous oxide. They are usually rear-wheel drive and have 2 or 4 doors.

Between the late 1950s and 1973 was the heyday of the American Muscle car era. The generation of youngsters in that era grew up with these powerful vehicles. The teens seemed to have a better understanding of the responsibility that comes with a car like that. The other reason was that they did not have the technology to upgrade the engines like they do today.

During the muscle car era, the teenagers learned to drive in muscle cars, got their driver’s licenses in the vehicles, and were familiar with the power of the engines. Today it would seem that the only reason for getting a muscle car is to see how fast you can go as quickly as possible.  

Turning your neighborhood street into a drag strip is not only illegal but can have disastrous consequences. Many teenagers and novice drivers have succumbed to car accidents because they lose control or error in judgment. A muscle car is not a good first car because they need respect and demand it from even the most experienced drivers.

Are Muscle Cars Safe To Drive?

Who doesn’t like speed? Ok, I guess that is a loaded and open-ended question. Let me rephrase- if you love muscle cars, chances are you love speed and power. Joined to that power and speed is the love of driving fast. Nothing wrong with that as long as you know, driving fast has risks attached.

Muscle cars were built for their power and go fast, but they were not built with safety as a priority. A collision in a muscle car will almost certainly cause grave injury or a fatality. Many muscle cars in that era did not have safety belts as it was not a requirement by law to have them installed.

Unless muscle cars are upgraded or modified to modern safety standards and regulations, they are not considered exceptionally safe to drive at speed or in adverse weather conditions. Muscle cars are considerably heavier vehicles to bring to a stop, and if there are no ABS brakes to assist stopping several thousand pounds, it is not safe to drive.

What Should You Know Before Buying A Muscle Car

#1 – All Your Money Will Be Spent On Fuel

Fuel is an obvious expenditure with any car, but you might need to buy a gas station or shares in one with a muscle car. Muscle cars have colossal gas tanks, and they use their content at an alarming rate. The right-side pedal weight will determine how quickly you need to spend cash at the next gas station.

How To Minimize Fuel Consumption In A Muscle Car;

  • Do regular services
  • Drive 10 mph below the speed limit
  • Buy a Prius

#2 – Any Extra Cash Will Be Spent On Special Car Oil

Muscle cars will require special engine oil. If the muscle car still has the original engine, chances are you will know that you cannot buy just any oil from the shelf. The older engines use flat tappet camshafts. They create a lot more friction compared to modern engines that use roller camshafts.

If you had to top up your muscle car engine with modern engine oil, you would damage the engine almost instantly. The oils have a high zinc content and are low on detergents. In short, that means it’s costly oil. Not only that, the transmissions of older muscle cars were made from yellow metals like brass and are quite soft and corrode quickly.

#3 – You Will Be The Center Of Attention Everywhere

Be prepared that everywhere you go; you will attract attention both wanted and unwanted. It may not seem so bad, but that will depend on your personality and grit. Your 89-year-old neighbor might not appreciate the thumping of all those pistons early morning.

Be ready to answer a myriad of questions about your pride and joy and repeat yourself like a broken record. What is certain is the town sheriff will be watching you closely.

#5 – You Will Become A Mechanic By-Proxy

Yes, that’s right, you will have to learn the basics of fundamental mechanics. Those horses you harbor under the hood need food and maintenance in the form of oil, filters, plugs, and a little time.

Working on your muscle car – while following the instruction manual, of course- will give you not only some joy and a little frustration but also an understanding of why the vehicle is so unique.

Muscle car

Are Muscle Cars Hard To Drive?

If you haven’t driven a muscle car and get behind the wheel the first time, you will see significant differences between classic/muscle and modern vehicles. Some differences are;

  • The braking system
  • The steering system
  • The dials and controls
  • Window winding system
  • Locking system
  • The exhaust system

If you are not familiar with the power of these vehicles, it can be overwhelming. Unless they are modernized, you’ll find the following things in contrast to modern vehicles;

Muscle cars –

  • Are wide and long
  • Don’t fit into most garages or parking bays
  • Are not fuel-efficient for everyday driving
  • Don’t have the latest safety features like airbags and safety belts
  • Have a vast turning circle
  • Can accelerate so fast it takes your breath away
  • Needs a longer distance to brake
  • Is wild and out of control in rainy weather

Insurance Costs

Insurance will really push this idea over the edge. Here’s a table showing just what you’ll be expected to pay for a modern muscle car. As an 18-year-old, the cost of insurance on a 10-15 year old muscle car is approximately $12000. And usually only available in 6-month blocks.

Model (2021)18-Year-Old Driver Cost 25-Year-Old Driver Cost
Dodge Charger$4580$2068
Dodge Challenger$4539$2049
Ford Mustang GT$5598$2527
Chevrolet Camaro SS$5463$2466
Source: Caredge.com

Conclusion

Nothing can stop you from buying a muscle car, but these are a few critical things to consider if it is your first car. Lots of cash, lots of gas, and speeding tickets go hand in hand with the purchase.  

Before buying any used vehicle, it’s always worth investing a few dollars to check the VIN number against the vehicle database. An audit with a company like VinAudit (links to VinAudit) will guard against Mileage fraud, Salvage rebuilds, Title washing, Vin cloning, and a ton of other uglies.

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Are Muscle Cars Hard to Drive? Know this before buying

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John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty-five years, and I've worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Landrover, and Jaguar dealerships. My passion is cars. I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of car ownership, including buying advice, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

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