The 1970s saw the demise of true automobile performance in America, although muscle cars continued to be a popular class. By the early ‘80s, the U.S. car industry had to come up with something to rejuvenate the appeal of muscle cars. They knew the segment would die under the attacks from those foreign sports cars and hot hatches. As a result, Detroit started implementing new, innovative features, technologies and designs.
Their efforts managed to give muscle cars a new lease on life. And the quest for improvement in muscle cars is still a thing. Even today, U.S. manufacturers continue to introduce forward-thinking and immensely capable new models.
Here is a showcase of the most groundbreaking muscle cars that shook the foundation of the class. The following vehicles have remained influential for generations of fans. Starting from the late ‘70s to the present day, read on for an interesting ride in cars that broke the mold. These beauties set new standards for the American performance scene.
Dodge Lil Express Truck
In 1978 Dodge introduced the Lil` Express Truck as the first full-size muscle truck in the world. The secret of the Lil` Express Truck and its importance lies in the strict rules of the late ’70s. In fact, those regulations are what robbed V8 engines of their power and vehicles of their performance. But Dodge found an interesting loophole that declared pickup trucks didn’t need catalytic converters.
And the lack of a catalytic converter meant more space to install a more powerful engine. Also, it had more room to breathe, so it could deliver more punch than the competition. And this is how the Lil` Express Truck came to be. Dodge took a standard D Series short bed truck and added a 360 V8 engine. Next, they added big truck-like stacked exhaust pipes right behind the doors.
Dodge included a more durable automatic transmission, a red color scheme with signature decals and lots of chrome trim, too. This wild looking special model produced 225 HP, which was considered a lot in those days. Thanks to the revised drivetrain, it was the fastest accelerating domestic vehicle in 1978. Interestingly, the Dodge pickup truck was faster than all the Mustangs, Camaros and Corvettes in 1978.
The Lil` Express Truck was back for 1979 and it remained famous. However, the overall production numbers were relatively low at just under 3,000. Today, these cool looking Dodge trucks are highly-desireable and rare, so they command high prices.