Home Cars Classic Muscle Car Terms Drivers Just Can’t Forget

Classic Muscle Car Terms Drivers Just Can’t Forget

Vukasin Herbez September 7, 2019

Have you ever been to a car show and listened to the car enthusiasts talk? If the answer is yes, then you probably noticed how they all speak in a specific slang, using strange terms, letters, and numberings.

And they perfectly understand each other. So, if you want to learn to talk car language, here is your chance. Read on to learn about the most popular muscle car codes, names, and expressions along with an explanation.

  1. AAR

The 1970 AAR Plymouth ‘Cuda was a limited production model. Interestingly, they built it to commemorate Dan Gurney’s All American Racing team, which used ‘Cudas in Trans-Am championships.

It came with a 340 V8 small block and a special plastic hood in matte black with a hood scoop. They added a rear spoiler and interesting side graphics including a big AAR logo. But because this version was more expensive than the regular 340 ‘Cuda, they only built 2,724 of them.

Big Block V8

  1. Big Block V8

This term stands for engines that are both large in size and displacement. They were often the top of the line option for muscle cars.

Most commonly, the big block term refers to Chevrolet or GM powerplants with a displacement around and above 400 cubic inches. However, “big block” also designates the specific engine architecture that is different from the camshaft in the block type on small block engines.


  1. Boss

Car fans use this term to describe Ford’s limited production Mustangs in the form of the Boss 302, Boss 429, and rare Boss 351. Those models featured numerous special items like high-performance engines, special trim, and exterior details.

The Boss 302 and 429 were practically homologation specials, first for Trans-Am championships and later for NASCAR ovals. The Boss 351, which they offered for one year only in 1971, was a high-revving street fighter.


  1. C6

The C6 is a Ford code for their heavy-duty automatic gearbox, which they presented in 1966. They often used this transmission on powerful FoMoCo muscle cars as well as on some trucks and Bronco off-roaders.

Interestingly, the official name was the Cruise-O-Matic transmission.


  1. COPO

The abbreviation COPO is short for “Central Office Production Order.” It was Chevrolet’s department for fleet buyers and special order vehicles. Although it doesn’t sound interesting, all muscle car tuners like Baldwin Motion, Yenko, and Fred Gibb Chevrolet ordered their Camaros and ZL1 models through this department.

The COPO car is often a barebones example. However, they come with a 427 or 454 engine not available in regular cars.

Detroit Locker

  1. Detroit Locker

The aptly-named “Detroit Locker” is Ford’s locking differential, which was an option on various models with steep differential ratios. When someone orders a car with high gearing it means it is for street or drag racing.

So to properly launch a car off the line, you need a locking differential. The Detroit locker was one of the best in the business.

Chevrolet V8

  1. DOHC and OHC

These codes stand for “Double Overhead Camshaft” and “Overhead Camshaft.” They are simple terms to describe the construction of the valve train. The double overhead camshaft, which is not standard in the industry was rare in the classic muscle car days.

Most engines had a single overhead camshaft or camshaft in the block, like the famous small-block Chevrolet V8. However, some manufacturers experimented with DOHC layouts to enhance performance and revving capacity.

Dual Quad

  1. Dual Quad

To feed the engine with as much air as possible, engineers mount multiple carburetors to create some interesting combinations. And one of the most popular that also provides big power is the dual quad.

This means that a car’s intake system consists of two four-barrel carburetors, which meant you have eight barrels feeding your engine.

Four-Bolt Main

  1. Four-Bolt Main

The term, “four-bolt main” refers to engine construction where they connect the crankshaft’s main bearing cap with two bolts to the engine block. However, if you want performance, the crankshaft will have to endure much more torture, especially at a higher RPM, so two bolts are not enough.

That’s why engines for high revving and maximum performance have a four-bolt main bearing cap.


  1. Glasspack

Even today, you can buy inexpensive and popular low-restriction mufflers for aftermarket installation on your car. They were famous for fiberglass packing; hence, the name and for minimal noise isolation.

In other words, cars with glasspacks are extremely noisy and fun.


  1. HEMI

The secret of the Hemi engine is in its cylinder heads, which have hemispherical combustion chambers; hence the name. Such a solution wasn’t new or unique in the car industry. But Chrysler managed to perfect it, making a brand out of it. They presented the street version of the mighty 426 Hemi in 1966. It featured a four-barrel carburetor with a lower 10.5:1 compression ratio, but with the same basic block and heads as the race variant.

The factory rated the 426 Hemi at 425 HP, but it was clear the engine produced much more than that. In fact, most historians agree the real output of the 1966 to 1971 street Hemi was over 500 HP. The Hemi package was available on select Dodge and Plymouth models.

But it was expensive at $900 to $1,200, which was around a third of the price of the car. Also, the Hemi was an expensive option since the production of the engine cost more. And unfortunately, having such power required a heavy-duty suspension, frame, and gearbox as mandatory options.

Muncie M22 Rock Crusher

  1. Muncie M22 Rock Crusher

The brand Muncie was a series of manual transmissions common in GM muscle cars. There are three basic types. First, the M20, which is a wide-ratio manual. Second, the M21, which is a close-ratio manual. And third, there is the M22, which is a heavy-duty close-ratio manual transmission they often call “the rock crusher.”

As you probably guessed, the M22 is the most desirable if you own a ’69 Camaro or similar muscle car.

Magnum 500

  1. Magnum 500

One of the most popular wheel choices in the muscle car era was the beautiful Magnum 500 wheels they introduced in late 1963. First available in 14 inches, they later became available in 16 inches as the dimensions of the wheels grew. The Magnum 500 was a common factory option on almost all muscle cars, so Ford, GM, and Mopar used them on their cars.

Interestingly, only one company refused to install them on their muscle cars. That’s right – no Pontiac ever came with the Magnum 500, but with their own version they had named Rally II wheels.

6 Banger

  1. Six Banger

The term, “Six Banger” or “6 Banger” is quite old and refers to a car with a six-cylinder engine. But back in the heyday of the muscle car culture, six-cylinder cars were commonly a straight-six configuration.


  1. N.O.S.

The abbreviation N.O.S. stands for “New Old Stock,” which describes a part or component they produced back in the day but never used. N.O.S. parts are still in their original packaging and never opened or messed with. Collectors like to pay top prices for such items since they deliver originality to their restorations.

But beware, since some N.O.S. parts like rubber hoses or weather stripping kits are not recommended since the rubber has probably deteriorated over time.

Numbers Matching

  1. Numbers Matching

The phrase “Numbers matching,” or matching numbers, means the engine, gearbox, and drivetrain are the same as the VIN and production code. Numbers matching cars are original as the day they left the factory assembly line.

As a result, they command higher prices than cars that have updated or different drivetrains.

Ram Air

  1. Ram Air

The term “Ram Air” stands for the induction systems characterized by the openings on the car’s hood, grille or even below the bumpers in some Oldsmobiles. They design them to feed fresh air to the engine. Almost all muscle car manufacturers produce some kind of Ram Air device.

Pontiac is the most famous for naming its system “Ram Air,” marketing it as a special performance package on the GTO and Trans Am models.

Pistol Grip

  1. Pistol Grip

When Mopar presented their muscle models for 1970, they debuted numerous improvements, designs, and interior features. However, one of the most interesting and popular was the Pistol Grip Shifter.

In reality, it was just a shifter knob they designed like the grip of a revolver. And soon, they became immensely popular with car buyers. Even today, pistol grips are a common aftermarket accessory.


  1. Restomod

The term, “restomod,” stands for restoration and modification. Most restomods are classic cars they’ve restored to perfection, adding modern engines, transmissions, suspension parts, and creature comforts. During that process, all the flaws are eliminated and the new creation is a thoroughly modern machine.

Restomods perform much better, yet retain the classic style and looks. This is a common choice among classic muscle car owners because it helps modernize old cars. This process updates older cars to the performance and handling levels of modern machines.

Acid Dip

  1. Acid Dip

When you wanted to make an extreme performance car in the late ’60s, one of the first things you did was to acid dip the body. Back in the day, this was a popular method of making the body lighter by submerging it into a tank full of aggressive acid. That acid removed all the paint from the body, the body filler, and even some metal, making the car significantly lighter.

Interestingly, racecar builders first used the process to cheat on their propositions. Soon, anybody who wanted the maximum performance out of their car used it.


  1. Shaker

The Shaker is a hood scoop they mount on top of the car’s intake system that sticks through the hood. Since it is an integral part of the engine, it also moves and shakes as the engine works, hence the name.

Most popular shakers were from Dodge and Plymouth, but almost all muscle car brands have at least one model with this feature.


  1. SS

The double S stands for SuperSport, which is a prime Chevrolet designation for the performance models starting back in 1961. Over the years, Chevrolet produced the Impala SS, Camaro SS, Nova SS, and Chevelle SS, among others.

In fact, they were close to introducing the Corvette SS. However, “SS” can also stand for Super Stock. It was a popular drag racing class back in the day for stock and factory models.


  1. Z/28

The Z/28 is a production option for numerous Camaro models starting in 1967. It was always a lighter, nimbler version than the SS models. The first Z/28 package included front disc brakes and a close-ratio four-speed manual transmission. Also, they revised the suspension and steering, adding exterior trim details like racing stripes, a vinyl roof, and headlight covers.

But the real treat was under the hood. The power came from a 5.0-liter V8 cranking out 290 HP and a high revving nature. This engine proved to be ideal for the Z/28, giving the car thrilling performance numbers while retaining the low weight and nimble handling.


  1. Body-in-White

If you want to be an established racer or prepare muscle cars for racing, the first step is to get a factory-provided body. That is the basis for modification and preparation. So, the “body-in-white” term refers to a clean body shell.

Also, they add some cross members and strengthening parts to withstand all that track torture.

Cross Ram

  1. Cross Ram

Back in the day, you could buy a performance intake with two carburetors and a manifold that positioned them above the cylinder banks.

They called it a “Cross Ram” and it provided more power and torque. Chrysler muscle models often used cross rams is as production items in the early ’60s.

Dog Dish

  1. Dog Dish

The animal-themed moniker “Dog dish” is a common term for base-model hubcaps. Back in the day, hubcaps consisted of pressed aluminum and looked like dog-feeding dishes.

Obviously, that’s why they were called “dog dishes” or “dog dish hubcaps.”


  1. Eight-Lug

During the ’60s, Pontiac introduced a special and unique eight-lug wheel pattern on full-size models. The Pontiac wheels made from 1960 to 1968 were special and today, this is a highly sought-after option.


  1. High-Rise

The High-Rise or High-Riser is a type of aftermarket intake manifold they designed to make air travel longer. And doing that adds a ram effect and provides more torque as well. This was a common modification for serious street racing cars back in the ’60s and early ’70s.

Max Wedge

  1. Max Wedge

This term refers to a Mopar line of highly successful drag racing models that were semi-street legal. The Max Wedge cars got their name from the Wedge V8 motors they used.

Although they only offered them for just a couple of years, those Max Wedge cars preceded the Hemi racers and are highly collectible today.

Day Two Muscle Car

30. Day Two

You might be wondering what “Day Two” means. Well, back in the day when somebody bought a new muscle car, they often modified it right off the bat using period-correct parts from the 1960s and the 1970s. Today, a car modified almost immediately is called a “Day Two” car.

These are 30 of the classic muscle car terms you just can’t forget. Hopefully, you have learned a few new car-inspired expressions to use at your next party.

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