Musclecar of the Year

Musclecar of the Year

Musclecar Review (January 1992)

Our field this year was rather limited. Some cars, like the Dodge Viper and
Daytona R/T and the Oldsmobile Achieva haven’t begun production yet, so we
were unable to test them. Other cars, like the Dodge Stealth R/T, the Taurus
SHO and the Camaro Z28 were committed to prior engagements, so they were
unavailable for testing, too.

Car Base Price Engine/Transmission Horsepower
Rear Axle Tires Weight Pounds/HP 1/4-mile $/Performance
Buick Park Avenue Ultra $28,780 Supercharged 231 (3.8L)/4-speed Auto [email protected]
[email protected]
2.97:1 GA 215/60R16 3,640 17.75 [email protected] $4,601.92
Chevrolet Corvette LT1 $33,635 350 (5.7L) TPI/6-speed [email protected]
[email protected]
3.45:1 GS-C 275/40ZR17 3,223 10.74 [email protected] $4520.54
Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 $65,053 Nitrous-assisted 350 (5.7L) 24-valve/6-speed [email protected]
[email protected]
3.45:1 Eagle 275/40ZR17 (F), 345/35ZR17 (R) 3,219 8.58 [email protected] $4,601.92
Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 $65,053 350 (5.7L) 24-valve/6-speed [email protected]
[email protected]
3.45:1 Eagle 275/40ZR17 (F), 345/35ZR17 (R) 3,219 8.58 [email protected] $4,601.92
Chevrolet Lumina Z/34 $18,400 207 (3.4L) 24-valve/5-speed [email protected]
[email protected]
3.67:1 GT+4 225/60R16 3,402 16.20 [email protected] $2,782.08
Ford Mustang LX $14,800 302 (4.9L)/5-speed [email protected]
[email protected]
3.08:1 Eagle 225/55VR16 2834 12.59 [email protected] $2,143.04
Plymouth Laser AWD $16,853 2.0L 16-valve DOHC turbo/5-speed [email protected]
[email protected]
N/A GT+4 205/55R16 2,531 12.98 [email protected] $2,647.60
Pontiac Firebird Formula $17,494 305 (5.0L) TPI/5-speed [email protected]
[email protected]
3.08:1 Eagle 245/50VR16 3,370 14.65 [email protected] $2,555,87
Pontiac Firebird Trans Am $19,692 350 (5.7L) TPI/4-speed auto [email protected]
[email protected]
3.23:1 Eagle 245/50VR16 3,343 13.92 [email protected] $2,821.86
Pontiac Grand Prix SE Coupe $16,385 207 (3.4L) 24-valve/5-speed [email protected]
[email protected]
3.67:1 GT+4 225/60R16 3,214 15.30 [email protected] $2,523.29

Every shootout always comes down to this. The inevitable and unenviable task of
picking a winner. If you’re just looking at times, the ‘Vettes win. But if you’re
looking at cars that cost under $20,000, then the Trans Am wins. Of course, if
you’re looking for straight-line performance per dollar, then the Mustang would be
our winner for a third year in a row.

My personal favorite is the Pontiac Firebird Formula with 305/5-speed. It was
real comfortable, ran strong, handled teriffic, and still has a muscular look. But…

I’ve got to bite the bullet and call the Mustang the Musclecar Of The Year for a
third year in a row. Ford has done a teriffic job with the Mustang, and despite the
fact that it didn’t outrun the Trans Am (in this test-out on the street and at
strips all over the country it’s a different story), with the $4,000 you’d save by buying
the Mustang, you can easily get the car into the 11s!.

Buick Park Avenue Ultra

Our slowest car of the day wasn’t nearly as slow as you might expect it to be.
By far the most luxurious car of the bunch, the Park Avenue Ultra’s front
wheels were turned by a supercharged, tuned port injected rendition of the
3800 series V-6 engine (a close relative of the Buick Grand National’s 3.8L
Turbo engine). With its 4-speed automatic and 2.97 axle ratio, we managed
to click off several 16.1-second runs, and finally capped it off with a zippy
[email protected] Not bad for a plush-as-can-be land yacht.

In all fairness to the Flint Flyer, had we spent more time with the car I feel
confident we could have shaved a tenth off the time, since our best ET was made
before the track was hooking up well.

Chevrolet Corvette LT1

The new LT1 engine motivated our bright yellow, 6-speed, fiberglass flier to a
13.44/103.44 with Jim Ingle at the wheel, making it second fastest of the

The Gen II engine in the Corvette was remarkably stronger that the traditional
small block Chevy in the Trans Am, despite their common bore and stroke
measurements. When the T/A started to fall off, the LT1 – like the little
bunny on TV – kept going and going. This engine in an F-body would be
incredible, and definitely worth buying! Who knows? Maybe next year…

Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1

Stock ZR-1 ‘Vettes are generally enough to make you “ooh” and “ahh”, but when
you add nitrous to one, then you’re really in for some heart-pounding action!
Even with the massive 345/35VR17 Goodyears this car couldn’t get any bite off
the line, so, on the gas, it was limited to a 12.37/121.95. Without the
laughing gas, Ingle mustered a 13.3/108.17 pass.

In the ZR-1’s console were some time slips with numerous 11.9s and 12.0s on
them, and Ingle informed us that the car had run 11.8s. Remember, this is on
street tires!

If you’re thinking the ZR-1 times could have been faster, they could have,
except that we were unable to speed-shift it. It seems the car was the
recipient of a new clutch the day before our shootout and the transmission had
not been firmly bolted back in place, so every shift had to be made gingerly
since the transmission kept wanting to come up through the floor at you. Oh

Chevrolet Lumina Z/34

Not surpprisingly, the final front driver rounds out the slowest bunch of cars.
This time, it was the Chevy Lumina Z/34. The car was very tricky to launch
because the 24-valve V-6 is quite torquey and loves to rev. A little too much
gas and you launched with the front tires spinning away; too little gas and the
car bogged. Somehow, Jim Ingle found the car’s “sweet spot” and ran it down
the 1320 in only 15.12 seconds at a speed of 90.18.

With a little work, this car could get into the 14s – especially if you could
get one to hook up off the line at high RPM.

Ford Mustang LX

After spending two years as our quickest modern musclecar, the 5.0L Mustang was
finally unseated, but it was by no fault of our own. The first runs in the
cold were disappointing low-15 second passes. After melting away some of the
Gatorbacks it dipped to 14.8. Not satisfied, we went for a 14.7. Which we
got. Knowing that Mustang fans everywhere would scream foul if we didn’t push
it further, I clicked off a 14.6, followed by a 14.52.

At this point, MCR Editorial Director Donald Farr called over the radio
that he wanted to see a 14.48 (bosses can be so demanding sometimes). “Yeah,
right,” I replied, then proceded to come up with the ‘Stang’s best pass of the
day – a 14.48 at a whisker over 93 mph. Had we spent time to play with the tire
pressure, air cleaners, or to remove the spare, I’m sure we could have knocked
another tenth or two off.

Plymouth Laser AWD

This one is definitely the surprise car of the bunch. Not only was it the only
4-cylinder in the running, but it was the only car with a turbo, and the only
car with all-wheel drive. Because of the rather anemic four-cylinder, we
expected to have trouble breaking into the 15s. Little did we know that this
buggy would give the Firebirds and Mustangs fits for a good portion of the day.

The Laser never had a problem getting off the line if you remembered one
thing: Rev it ’til it screams and dump the clutch. It hardly spun the tires
on a 6500 rpm launch. One pass in the car told us that this baby really hooked
up off the line, and the 60-foot times backed up our seat-of-the-pants
guesstimate. A 1.94-second 60-foot time made it the quickest car off the line-
it even beat the King of the Hill, the ZR-1 ‘Vette!

Some of you may snicker at its Japanese roots, but if you’re into neck-snapping
launches, this is the car to get! Our only gripe with it was the sloppy
shifter. Other than that, it was a ball to drive.

Pontiac Firebird Formula

With its 305 V-8 and 5-speed transmission, the ‘Bird turned out to be a
teriffic overall car. Its best run of the day – with yours truly at the wheel
– was a 14.61 at a hair over 93 mph (a tenth and a half quicker than last
year). That was good enough to put it third in the under-30-grand category (in
other words, excluding the ‘Vettes). The twisty return roads were a joy and
the 5-speed seemed to have a gear for every occasion.

A few basic mods to this car and you’d be talking an easy high-13 second
runner, if not quicker. It looks real hot, too!

Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Even if we had chopped two tenths off the Mustang’s time, it still wouldn’t
have been enough to match Farr’s 14.33/94.73 pass in the 5.7-liter Trans Am.
The big ‘Bird’s extra 48 cubes seemed too much for the little Mustang to
handle (but that usually isn’t the case in the real world). Everything worked
well on the car; even the 5.7’s mandatory automatic tranny seemed perfectly
suited to the engine.

The T/A was a joy to drive. Simply pull to the line, heat the tires, leave the
shifter in Drive, power-brake a little, and mash the throttle after you’re
rolling. Anyone could drive this car to a 14.5 pass, and with a little
practice, you too could run 14.3s.

Pontiac Grand Prix SE Coupe

Front-wheel drive cars are at a decided disadvantage when it comes to strip
testing. As you nail the gas, all the weight shifts to the rear, unloading the
front tires and making for lots of smoke. That was exactly the problem we
faced with our second-slowest car, the Pontiac grand Prix SE with GM’s new 3.4
liter 5-speed manual tranny.

After a series of 15.5s, we managed to get the SE through the traps in 15.4
seconds at a speed of 89.64 mph. Pretty darn good for a comfortable, sporty-
looking, grocery-getter, front driver that handles, too!

Source: Musclecar Review, January 1992

Text by Jason E. Scott