February 28, 2024

Linkage Mag

Geared for the Automotive Life

More Than Just American Muscle Opens at The Audrain

When the Audrain Automobile Museum opens the doors for its latest exhibit, “More Than Just American Muscle” on Saturday, June 17th, visitors will be surrounded by American, English, and European muscle cars from the early 1950s through 1970s.  The exhibit will run through September 10th, 2023. 

The exhibit showcases the muscle car era, which started in the late 1940s and evolved into the ’50s, with the introduction of cars such as the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, 1955 Chrysler 300 and 1958 Chevrolet Impala.

American muscle from the 1960s with their powerful big block engines and the Pontiac GTO, which officially began the era, will be prominently displayed.  English and European muscle cars will also share the museum’s floor. The 1968 Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada (pictured below) was bred from a racing lineage of Italian design and styling, married to a Chevrolet Corvette engine.

The museum’s intimate gallery will feature in total 17 cars and a 2006 Harley Davidson VRXSC V-Rod Destroyer drag racer to represent American motorcycle muscle. 

A few muscle cars of note on display are:

The 1953 Allard J2X. Allard was one of the first British sports cars after World War II to target the American sports car market. The original J2 version was a top motorsport competitor on courses such as Pebble Beach in the 1940s. The Allard was imported as a light chassis and body, then fitted with Cadillac 331 or Chrysler FirePower (Hemi) V8 engine, creating a high power-to-weight ratio. This set the groundwork for the Sunbeam Tiger and AC Cobra of the early 1960s and helped set the groundwork for the high-horsepower cars of the late ’60s and early ’70s. 

A 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe 427. 1967 marked the final year of the second-generation Chevrolet Corvette, which acquired the “Sting Ray” model name at its 1963 debut. A radical departure from previous years, the Sting Ray featured an all-new fiberglass body shape with retractable headlights and refined suspension for better handling, along with a variety of high-performance engine options. The car on display features the famous 427-ci big block — the largest offered in 1967.

Zora Arkus-Duntov served as the lead performance engineer for the Corvette during this period, and there was a single element of the driving experience he was insistent on including with the new Corvette: Independent rear suspension. This completely modernized the performance of the Corvette over the first generation, transforming the platform into a world-class sports car. 

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon. Based off the already ludicrous Hellcat, the Demon is a more powerful drag racing focused muscle car. The latest incarnation of the Demon was the first street legal production car to have a 0-60 time in under 2.3 seconds and featured 1.8gs of acceleration. It could complete the quarter mile in a blisteringly quick 9.65 seconds at 140 mph, giving it the fastest quarter mile time of any production car at the time. It was so fast that it was banned by the NHRA because it did not have a certified roll cage and racing harness from the factory. Impressively, the Demon was the first production car to do a wheelie.

“The muscle car era is commonly identified as big thundering American cars from the 1960s and ’70s that can only go fast in a straight line,” said Donald Osborne, Audrain’s CEO. “The muscle car era really started its evolution back in the late 1940s and ’50s with the introduction of cars such as the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, 1955 Chrysler 300 and the Chevrolet Impala. By the 1960s, powerful big block engines were being built on assembly lines across America, and the rivalry between manufacturers was fierce. With the release of the Pontiac Tempest in 1964, the muscle car era had officially begun. The English and Europeans are also well represented.“

“Our exhibit showcases the best of the muscle car era, from brute horsepower street cars and cars that with minor modifications also raced in the Trans-Am Championship and NHRA drag racing,” said David de Muzio, Audrain’s Executive Director and Chief Curator. “There is something for everyone who enjoys ground pounding cars that have literally left their mark in automotive history.  We like to ask visitors, what is a Muscle car to you?”

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