A Guide to American Muscle Cars

American cars are known for being big and powerful, and many manufacturers are synonymous with those known as ‘muscle cars’, including:

  • Dodge – makers of such vehicles as the Coronet, Charger and Challenger
  • Buick – maker of the Wildcat, Skylark and Grand National
  • Chevrolet – includes models such as the Impala, Bel Air and Camaro
  • Plymouth – makers of the Barracuda, Road Runner and Superbird
  • Ford – includes models such as the Maverick, Torino and the iconic Mustang
  • Pontiac – makers of the GTO, Grand Prix and the iconic Firebird

Many of these vehicles have been featured in a variety of media since the 1960’s, featuring in everything from popular music (Mustang Sally) to big Hollywood films (Gran Torino) and have become engrained in popular culture through merchandising and frequent references in modern TV shows.

What Constitutes A Muscle Car?

Muscle cars are vehicles that are built for speed and power and were designed for street racing. Many were a two-seater, rear-wheel drive vehicles with powerful V6 and V8 engines designed to tear up the tarmac in drag races.

Indeed, muscle cars are synonymous with high-performance cars and enjoyed a revival of sorts in the 1980’s as enthusiasts sought to add better tech to old models – including boosted transmission and fuel injection methods – designed to give a little extra kick and an advantage when it came to street races.

RELATED: Powerful Cars And How To Insure Them

Because of their sheer power, build and sleek design, muscle cars are still a popular feature in the world of drag racing, attracting fans with the lure of the sound of a revving V8 engine.

Muscle cars are also popular vehicles for modification, and you can find many a personalised paint job or engine modification in the muscle car scene.

SEE ALSO: How to Insure a Modified Vehicle

Why So Popular?

Big American vehicles such as Pontiacs and Dodges are deeply lodged in US motor history, providing iconic symbols that help to remember a time when car production the States was big business, allowing cities like Detroit to flourish with a booming automotive industry.

As manufacturers were looking to outdo each other, engines got bigger, and now the roar of a powerful V8 engine is a common sound at motor shows and drag racing events.

Starting out as powerful street-racing cars, muscle cars adapted to the mass market and soon became available in four-door varieties that were designed for everyday family use.

Famous Muscle Cars

The American muscle car has its roots embedded deep in the 60’s and 70’s when manufacturers such as Chevrolet and Ford were competing with each other for business with more powerful engines and vehicles that are as iconic today as they were in their heyday.

Television shows helped to catapult some models to fame, including in such series as:

  • The General Lee (The Dukes Of Hazzard, 1979-84)
  • Knight Industries Three Thousand (KITT) – (Knight Rider, 1982-86)

Movies also helped bring the vehicles to prominence, including classics such as Smokey and the Bandit, the car chase scene from Bullitt – considered by many to be the greatest of all time – and of course the iconic Delorean time machine from Back to the Future (Parts I, II and III).

Indeed, the popularity of the vehicles can be found in the sheer amount of merchandise and toy cars produced to celebrate them, many of which are still highly collectable and rare versions can still be to at auction houses for high prices.

Aside from being a big enthusiast scene for these large and powerful vehicles, there are also a fair few collectors of die-cast models, old advertisements and even parts of older cars to be used as decoration.

Still Collectible

With their big engines and big personalities, American muscle cars are popular amongst enthusiasts who like a big powerful vehicle. Many will take on rebuilds as a hobby, often trawling breakers yards and online auction houses to find replacement parts for their iconic vehicles.

Import Market

American car enthusiasts can be found all over the world, often paying to have vehicles shipped over from the US or embarking on country-wide road trips after picking up vehicles.

The US car import market is still popular to this day, with special events in the UK such as Santa Pod celebrating their power and performance, attracting fans with the sights and sounds of drag racing.

Many specialist dealerships in the UK will have American muscle cars in stock, and can also take care of the relevant taxes and import duties as part of the price.

When buying from a dealer, you must ensure that they have all the paperwork present and that the vehicle has passed an Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) in order to ensure it is safe for use on the roads in the UK.

American muscle cars have remained popular to this very day, and with a flourishing enthusiast scene keeping them running, these iconic vehicles are seen to remain in driving history for a good while longer.

Buying A Japanese Import Car

When it comes to motor vehicles that have not been built in the UK, there are two types of classification to symbolise imported cars:

  • Parallel imports – cars which have been imported from within the EU
  • Grey imports – cars which have been imported from outside of the EU

Japanese cars are popular amongst enthusiasts who like a slightly larger, more powerful vehicle which is built for speed and has increased torque.

Car ownership in Japan is usually short-term, with many choosing to replace their vehicles after two or three years, this is due in part to the stringent vehicle safety checks that cars have to go through in Japan, meaning that vehicles can become available with low-mileage and in good condition.

Japanese import cars will usually have low mileage on them when you buy them, which you think would be good from an insurance point of view, but there can be other pitfalls along the way which affect the cost of a premium.

However, with grey imports, you also have to factor in the costs of importing the car into the UK and the stringent tests they have to go through to be deemed suitable to be driven on roads in the UK.

Enhanced Single Vehicle Approval

If you’re looking to import a car into the UK, there are several things you have to do to make sure the process is safe and legal. By putting the vehicle through an ESVA test, you are essentially proving that the car is safe to drive on the roads in the UK.

An ESVA test is a more thorough MOT for imported cars and is an essential part of the import car ownership process. Your car will be examined thoroughly by a mechanic, and in some cases will have to be modified to bring it up to standard for driving in the UK – including replacing tyres, modifying suspension and even having to change bodywork to meet UK road requirements.

Remember that cars built in Japan will usually have different specifications to those built in Europe, some are built for speed and so are popular with enthusiasts who like to modify them to show them off at car shows and participate in meets and competitions.

Telling The Taxman

Not only will you have to tell the DVLA about your new vehicle and satisfy their stringent safety checks, but also declare the vehicle to HMRC to ensure you’ve paid all the relevant vehicle taxes.

After you import a vehicle into the UK, you will have 14 days in which to inform HMRC using a system known as NOVA (Notification of Vehicle Arrivals). Only after your vehicle is accepted will you then be able to start the process of registering your vehicle with the DVLA.

If you’re buying from a dealership, they will usually do this for you as part of the import process, always be sure to double check that this has been done and that the vehicle has all the relevant paperwork before you commit to a sale.

How Can I Import A Vehicle?

There are a number of different outlets you can use for sourcing an import motor:

  • Specialist Dealerships

Import dealerships will be experienced in the process of buying and selling on import cars, so finding a local showroom can be your first point of call, as not only can they source and import your preferred vehicle, but they may even have one in their showroom.

After importing the vehicles, the dealership will then prepare the car to ensure it meets ESVA standards before selling it on to you, whether you’ve pre-ordered an import or bought from the showroom floor.

Be careful though, do some thorough research and look to see if they have a website and premises before you commit to a sale.

  • Online

You can buy vehicles through auction sites and private buyers these days, but you must make sure that you thoroughly research the vehicle, and in particular its history before you commit to a sale.

Paperwork is the most important part of buying an import vehicle, and you must check that the seller has the relevant paperwork to hand.

What About Sourcing Replacement Parts?

One of the main pitfalls of owning an import vehicle, especially an older model, is that replacement parts can difficult to source. Many enthusiasts will add parts such as tuning kits to boost performance

There is no shortage of specialised stockists of import car parts in the UK, while the Internet provides another source of stock, be wary of shipping costs if you’re buying from abroad though.

Do I Need Specialist Insurance?

Because Japanese import vehicles will have more powerful specifications than cars built within the EU, they will require a specialist grey import insurance policy.

There are some specialised brokers who can provide cover for import vehicles, so it can be worth researching into multiple options before you decide on a policy.

Japanese cars are popular with those who like to tune their vehicles to increase speed, reduce drag, and spruce them up with body kits, but remember that making modifications to your vehicle can add to the cost of your Japanese car insurance policy.

How Can I Reduce My Premium?

Much like a regular car insurance policy, being careful with your vehicle as well as your driving habits that can help keep your insurance premium down.

By accumulating some No Claims Bonus and maintaining a good driving record throughout your ownership before you buy a vehicle, you can help keep your costs low.

If you’re only going to use the vehicle on occasion, either for car shows or race meets, consider adding a limited mileage allowance onto your policy, which could help keep the cost of your car insurance policy down if you stay below the mileage limit agreed with your broker.

For more details, you can check our comprehensive guide, How to Reduce The Costs of Your Car Insurance.