Father of the Muscle Car
A Matter of Opinion
Larry Jewett - May 28, 2014 03:59 PM
John DeLorean (left) receives a Motor Trend award for the GTO. DeLorean is a lead candidate for "Father of the Muscle Car"File photo
Mr. Norm's Grand Spaulding Dodge was the scene for taking factory Darts to the next level.Courtesy of Larry Weiner
It’s a question that can’t be answered by something as simple as a paternity test…who is the father of the muscle car?
You can make a case for a lot of people and there would be some essence of truth in your argument. A lot of the confusion sets in when you start to consider when the muscle car was born.
The strongest case is made for 1964, though there are viable arguments that the muscle car began before that. Dictionary.com doesn’t help matters by defining a muscle car as “a flashy sports car with a large, powerful engine; a hot rod.” There’s no doubt that the engine plays a pivotal role, but how big does the engine have to be and, for that matter, what size does the body have to be.
John DeLorean becomes a leading candidate for the “Father of the Muscle Car” for the development of the GTO. With the help of Jim Wangers on the advertising side, America started to view the car differently, especially younger America. Hot rodding had been in place for some time, but the development of the GTO legitimized it to the car buying public. By the same token, a case could be made for John Beltz who was integral in the development of the Olds “answer”, the 442.
Once the factory was putting an emphasis on performance and creating “muscle cars”, the dealers started to seize the initiative to take it even further. You could say these guys were the Fathers of “More Muscle”. These included people like Pennsylvania dealer Don Yenko. He started with Corvairs, then dropped 427 engines into Camaros, which carry high value to this day.
On the Mopar side of things, there’s Mr. Norm. Chicago dealer Norm Kraus took his Grand Spaulding Dodge and turned it into holy ground for the speed freaks. His work with the Dart brought the car more respect by boosting the cubic inches and offering up a competitive car in any scenario.
These are just a few of the men who had a hand in developing muscle cars that came, then went, then came again in the form of modern muscle coming from the factories today. You could say the “Father of the Muscle Car’ varied by brand, but each man played a significant role in automotive history and heritage that resonates today.