The escalating power wars in Detroit these days have brought the muscle car back to the forefront of the automotive industry—right where muscle cars belong. And though the era of muscle cars is in full swing once more, it's hard to imagine a time when there wasn't a solid contingent of gearheads swooning over every classic beast that rolled by them, V8 roaring and tires squealing.
But the quintessential image of a guy in blue jeans and a white t-shirt working on his vintage Mustang, Camaro, or Charger has gone by the wayside almost as solidly as the disappointing products that Detroit cranked out for much of the 1980s and 1990s. Gone are the choked-down carbs, emissions-restricted inline-fours, and the greasers; in once more are superchargers, turbochargers, and massive V8 powerplants cranking out power figures that would have made any musclehead in the 1960s envious.
Alongside the modernization of the muscle car—and the slow pivot towards muscle cars that can actually perform in anything other than a straight line, as well—has come an influx of female fans who love their monsters, both new and used. Whether they're piloting a brand-spanking-new Challenger Hellcat or a modded-out, twin-turbocharged Camaro, these ladies are a welcome presence in a world classically dominated by bulging biceps, guttural grunts, and burning rubber.
Whether popping a clutch is more difficult in high heels or not, these muscle car girls are determined to prove that beauty can still go right along with the beast.
The modern iteration of the Dodge Challenger actually seems like it takes up the mantle of the original Charger (especially considering how much Vin Diesel has pumped up the model in the Fast and Furious films). But regardless of whether a two-door or four-door Charger sounds right, there's no denying that Dodge has hit the nail on the head with the Challenger. Especially in Hellcat Redeye or Demon form, the current Challenger is one of the more potent factory cars ever made—before it receives any help from backyard tuners, as this one looks to have gotten.
24 Tuned Up
This Chevrolet Camaro looks serious built—although from the outside, it would be hard to suspect exactly what's going on under the hood. Those wide rear tires, after all, could just be another stylistic addition to a muscle car. But look closely and a full roll cage becomes apparent in the cockpit and with the hood up, two big air intakes clearly lead to a pair of turbochargers. The hood looks to have a couple of air vents to feed those snails, which should transform this awesome Camaro into something truly special.
23 Modern Bodywork
The differences between the current Dodge Charger and the original muscle car are extensive. The modern iteration has added a new set of doors, to be sure, but today's engine options, suspension setups, fuel efficiency ratings, and interior amenities certainly make the cars a ton of fun on the road (while allowing enough room for the family). Similarly, modern beauty standards have changed enough—whether or not it's because everyone now has a camera-phone in their pocket is a serious question—that someone thought it was okay to ruin a Charger with lots of plastic all over the exterior.
22 Charging Up
Whether a classic Charger or Challenger is a better car is an argument that could keep gearheads up all night, laughing and bickering until the sun comes up. Yep, Vin Diesel's Charger in the Fast and Furious films helped solidify what a downright monster the model is. But hey, that Yenko Camaro that Paul Walker drove was pretty sweet, too. This brown Charger bears a color that was more at home on a 1980s Cadillac—and yet it still looks ready to rumble as soon as the conductor hat-wearing fan moves right on out of the way.
21 Don't Look Back In Anger
Anyone who owns a modern Chevrolet Camaro probably finds themselves looking back at their car as they walk away from a parking spot—and who could blame them? Especially if they've got one that's been massively worked on like this tune-job. It may not be a true track monster like a ZL-1 but this Camaro brings serious presence without committing fully to the ridiculous Stance Nation style that's ruined so many cars. Blacked out in every way except its evil red eyes, this machine goes perfectly with a little black dress.
20 Remember, Remember
The movie V for Vendetta brought the graphic novel of the same name to life and benefitted from amazing performances by Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving. But the real result of the movie may have been the return of Guy Fawkes masks to the forefront of rebel culture. Whether or not this Guy Fawkes actually poses a threat to society in her matching white Camaro seems like a dubious question—but there's no doubting the awesome expression of pulling that tantalizing mask down over her face while mashing on the throttle like Guy Fawkes trying to escape the Parliament building.
19 Super Snake
The rumble of a V8 out of a modern Mustang's exhaust sounds magical in the way that few cars have been able to stir heartstrings over the past few decades. Waking up the neighbors has never been so fun, nor so affordable. Current Ford Mustangs start at around $26,000 and there are so many different iterations on the market that it can make anyone's head spin. Whether a Shelby GT350, GT500, California Special, or a Bullitt sounds better, rest assured that the snarling engine under the hood is going feel all the better with a stick shift—and maybe a black dress and high heels to go along with it.
18 A Trip To Monte Carlo
At the same time as the more well-known Buick Grand National, Chevy had their fourth-gen Monte Carlo, which could be purchased in SS trim. But unlike the SS trims of the early Camaro and even the El Camino, the Monte Carlo SS was never a seriously beefy motor vehicle and couldn't really stand toe-to-toe with the Grand National. Depending on the model year, horsepower peaked anywhere from only 150 to 165. It still had plenty of style, though, and with a model in front of it like this one, who cares about the model year's faults?
Dressing in all black with a white Dodge Challenger is a good exercise in contrasting styles. But no one's actually going to pay any attention to someone's outfit when the Challenger Hellcat starts its engine and that roar begins to deafen every eardrum within forty feet. No, everyone's just going to crowd around, risking tinnitus just hoping that the driver will slam their foot to the ground and burn a few feet of rubber onto the tarmac as they depart.
16 Flower Power
The Ford Mustang may seem out of place with the hippie era, a cultural movement that was more defined by Volkswagen Busses and Beetles that could cram lots of people in them and max out at around 50 miles per hour. But the late-1960s were the Mustang's formative years and there's no doubting the effect that the model would go on to have on an entire generation of automobiles. Old hippies today may wax poetic about what may have been while they're cruising along in their beat-up Mustangs but gearhead culture and the peace-and-love crowd really didn't intermingle as much as this classy lady's outfit might suggest.
15 Wile E. Coyote's Crush
While the Plymouth Road Runner Superbird may be one of the most striking cars ever made, the base-spec Road Runner got its name from a cartoon character that is, arguably, even more famous. Plymouth licensed the Road Runner name from WB for $50,000 to add onto their back-to-basics muscle car, a vehicle that was on the lower end of the cost spectrum when it debuted in 1968. Considering the standard engine put out 335 horsepower, this car could definitely outrun Wile E. Coyote, though this model sitting on its trunk might struggle to keep up. Beep beep!
Ford's Mustang is probably the most iconic muscle car ever to grace the streets and yet, technically, it's really a pony car. The difference is a vague stroke rather than a fine line, though, and the original Mustang was a much smaller car when it debuted in for the "1964.5" model year than it is now. Nowadays, there's no doubting the Mustang's heritage as a muscle car—especially given the raucous Shelby performance models, the GT350 and the forthcoming GT500, both of which are much larger (and more potent) than the original.
13 The Thinker
This Mustang looks like it's been partially styled after the famed car that served as Steve McQueen's costar in Bullitt, a 1968 detective film set in San Francisco that featured one of cinema's greatest car chases. McQueen did the driving for most of the film and the iconic shots helped solidify both his and the Mustang's cultural status for years to come. McQueen's car was beat up and sans badging, though, while this one looks pretty cherry and comes complete with a wood-grain steering wheel, black wheels, and a coupe body (rather than a fastback).
12 Classic Looks
Chevrolet's Chevelle is a lesser-known muscle car that is still revered among the gearheads who love its clean lines and brute power. Throw in some modern upgrade and a humpbacked hood—not to mention a blonde-haired passenger—and there aren't many muscle car fans who would say no to a quick ride through the canyons. For 1970 model year Chevelles like this one, an LS6 V8 was available from the factory that pumped out 450 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque—and that's before whatever upgrades this example received improved output.
11 It's Britney
Yes, that's Britney Spears sitting on the hood of a restomodded Dodge Charger. Britney's roots as a Southern girl are well documented, though she's definitely classed-up in all black for this photoshoot. The Charger itself looks raw and mean, despite a sleek black exterior and the removal of much of its chrome. The distinctive shape still shines through, though, and hopefully, the upgrades under the hood have turned the car into a thoroughly modern monster to match its gnarly silhouette.
10 Reflection Eternal
The current Ford Mustang is arguably the best iteration that the model has seen in its long and storied past. Sure, the original still holds sway over the hearts and minds of most gearheads—but can they really deny that the current version is the better car, overall? With independent rear suspension (for the first time made standard), a series of engine options, the retention of a manual gearbox, and styling that hearkens back to the days of old, the sixth-gen has taken the current Camaro's challenge and made a serious run with it.
9 Not Me, Officer
Anyone who's driven a muscle car for extended periods of time knows that all the attention such amazing cars attract from the public also includes a fair amount of added scrutiny from members of local law enforcement. Most of the time, though, the fuzz just wants to pull over the cars to check them out—actual tickets for speeding aren't being written any more quickly than for the local show-off in his Porsche. And there's approximately a 0% chance any traffic cop would let a driver looking like this pass by without a quick stop-and-chat.
8 Sun Shade
Whatever happened to two-tone muscle cars? When the style of including a different color roof on Detroit's greatest cars went by the wayside, a certain element of ruggedness went out the door, as well. This Challenger looks spectacular in light blue with a white roof—just as its owner looks great in a pair of simple plaid shorts, a t-shirt, and a headscarf. There's nothing adorned about either the owner or her car, which is a remnant of an era when outright straight-line performance and a bit of muscly aggression was all a car really needed.
7 Color Photos
This 1970 Dodge Challenger looks great in a two-tone orange and black color scheme, complete with a hood scoop and some seriously period-correct wheels. Whether or not that's the high school football coach with a cheerleader or merely an overdeveloped quarterback who began to mature much faster than his classmates, the car is still the real star of the show. Just like in Dazed and Confused, Richard Linklater paean to the days when cruising around in muscle cars was the best thing to do on a Friday night, this car is primed and ready to go.
6 Downtown Brown
Whether or not a car is owned in the city, in the suburbs, or in the countryside makes a huge difference in how it ages over time. Classic muscle cars like this Camaro probably do best in the suburbs, where there's not too much stop-and-go traffic putting strain on all the mechanical components and the engine gets a good chance to warm up between stops. In rural setting, it's all too common for classic cars to get abandoned in a barn—which has led to today's explosion of barn finds but has also destroyed far too many awesome cars to count.
5 Filters Galore
Selfies and social media posts have made Silicon Valley a bastion for wealthy tech gurus. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has to make do with putting filters on their photos to try and capture that quintessential California glowiness. And even though the pics then look better on a cell-phone screen, the result is that the contours and contrasting tones of a masterpiece like this Ford Mustang don't really show up too well in most photos anymore. But at least current makeup styles allow for additional contouring and contrasting colors on faces—and sometimes, the eye shadow really sets off the cars nearby.
4 Drive Happy
Amber Heard's career may be on a bit of a hiatus but there was a time when she was, at the very least, a highly sought-after supporting actress. Her talents were on full display in the Nicolas Cage vehicle Drive Angry, presumably another film Cage took on to help cover his massive financial commitments (and losses). No one does ridiculous better than Nic Cage and Drive Angry was no exception; a highlight reel of the film would be his angry face and Amber Heard's slim form, all framed by a beefy Dodge Charger RT in matte black.
3 Kendall's Mustang
The Mustang is definitely a one-word legend, akin to Elvis, Madonna, or Prince. Whether or not Kendall Jenner will ever achieve that kind of fame seems to depend on whether she can continue her no-holds-barred takeover of the modeling industry (and perhaps, to a certain extent, on what kind of career moves her 'momager' schemes out for her). Kendall's sister, Kylie, is almost at one-word status already but Kendall's more laid-back attitude is paired with a better car collection, the highlight of which might be her pristine, red Mustang convertible.
2 Lit Up
The Chevrolet El Camino represents the peak of the car-truck amalgamation form. Other entrants include Ford's Ranchero, which actually beat the El Camino to the market and inspired Chevy's model, Dodge's disappointing Rampage, and perhaps, Subaru's BRAT. None hold a candle to the El Camino, however, and though the car pictured above isn't an early SS-trimmed model, there's still something perfectly ridiculous (and eminently photogenic) about the "cruck" that doesn't perform particularly well as either a car or a truck.
1 Gaga For Mustangs
Lady Gaga has transformed herself from a controversial pop singer to a semi-country singer whose ballads feature plenty of acoustic guitar and lyrical twang. Think of it like Taylor Swift's career—only in reverse order. As such, it makes perfect sense that Gaga has picked up a Ford Mustang, one of the quintessential classic cars that any Detroit manufacturer has ever pumped off an assembly line. She's also copped a Ford Bronco, a Lincoln Continental, and an El Camino (and momentarily had her hands on Elvis' pink Cadillac) so there's no doubt Lady Gaga's got the car bug, and bad.
Sources: Car and Driver, Hennessey Performance, and Road and Track.