To celebrate the conclusion of Motorweek’s 40th year, we found this video from 1985 of John Davis’s attempt to get to the bottom of the age old argument of who makes the best muscle car.
In breaking with the tradition of a simple introduction that leads into a single comprehensive vehicle test and review, the 1985 Motorweek crew tried their hand at a format more akin to an episode of Top Gear. The review starts with 1985’s top three muscle cars meeting up at a local Dairy Queen and a joke ridden description of the cars by their drivers ensues. Spec wise, the Ford Mustang GT, Camaro IROC-Z, and the Firebird Trans Am match up pretty well. All three weigh in at just over 3,000-lbs, all three have just around 200-horsepower, and all three feature the latest and greatest in 1980’s suspension upgrades. After the very dated exchange, the three decide to take the squabble to the nearest proving grounds.
In a straight line test, the IROC-Z proved to be quicker off the line but not fast enough to keep its lead on the Trans Am. As to be expected though, the fastest of the three was also the lightest, as the Ford Mustang GT got the best ET of the bunch, running 14.3-seconds in the ¼-mile.
Matched high-speed runs between the high banks at the Pocono Raceway developed a similar conclusion. The Mustang GT was, once again, the fastest of the three but this time followed by the Camaro. Even with the benefit of having a manual transmission, the Trans Am just couldn’t keep up. Despite manufacturer claimed top-speeds of all three cars being over 130-mph, these particular cars were all only able to get up to the mid 120s.
With a finely tuned suspension and enough weight to corral its power, the Camaro proved to be 9/10-second faster than the Trans Am and a full second faster than the Mustang. Davis’ final consensus in this 1985 battle of the muscle cars is that the Mustang is the fastest and the Camaro IROC-Z is the most refined, while the Trans Am falls somewhere between the two. At the conclusion of this golden retro review, Davis hopes for an unending debate about who builds the best muscle car. Although Pontiac has since bowed out of the fight Dodge has recently stepped up and this brawl is still going strong.