Believe it or not, there are many car enthusiasts that come into our classic car restoration shop in Los Angeles don’t know the difference between a pony car and a muscle car. You may have hard the terms used interchangeably and wondered if they were one and the same. In addition, many experts disagree on the definitions, making it even more difficult to know the difference. This week, we’ll discuss the definition of a pony car, while we compare the two classifications in our next blog.
Standard Classic Car Restoration Definition
The most standard definition of a pony car was inspired by the popular 1964 Ford Mustang: an American class of highly styled car that is compact and affordable yet bears a sporty or performance-oriented image. The term was coined by Dennis Shattuck, the Editor of Car Life magazine, based on the Mustang’s iconic logo of a stallion.
From that point forward, the term was used to describe members of its ranks. The template of these cars has several criteria, including two doors, room for four passengers, a short deck, a sporty long hood and open mouth styling. In addition, for a car to be a true pony car, it needs to be American made and built with mass production parts, which results in an affordable base price. In 1965, that price was around $2,500 and under. These pony cars also offered a bevy of upgrades that made it easy to personalize each car.
While the Mustang was the original pony car, a ton of competitors followed suit over the next few years, striving to compete with its style, performance and affordable price. Some excellent examples of other pony cars include the Pontiac Firebird, Plymouth Barracuda and AMC Javelin, and today’s Chevy Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and of course, the Ford Mustang.
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You don’t have to be a millionaire to own a muscle car. There are plenty of cool models that we see on the road, at car shows
and at the auto restoration shop that will set your heart aflutter. Look for models older than 1972 and you’ll find some affordable options with plenty of horsepower and character.
1. 1973 Pontiac GTO and 1973–75 Pontiac Grand Am
These babies have tons of style but won’t break the bank. In 1973, all of GM’s mid-size A-cars were designed with bigger, heavier colonnade-style bodies. Most were built with 230-hp, 400-cubic-inch (6.6 liter) V-8 engines, with optional 250-hp 455. You can easily get your hands on one of these
classics for between $12k and $17k – and any one of them will fulfill every muscle car dream you’ve ever had.
2. 1971–75 Ford Maverick Grabber
While it may not look like your typical muscle car, this vehicle is easy on the eye and boasts by a 210-gross-horsepower, two-barrel 302-cubic-inch (4.9 liter) V-8. We’ve seen them pass through the auto restoration shop with price tags lower than $12k.
3. 1979 Pontiac Firebird Formula 400 WS6
While most late 70s Trans Ams will put your wallet in a quandary, the Formula from 1979 received less hype—yet 1979 is the only year this car was offered with the 220-hp true Pontiac 400 (6.6 liter) V-8. In addition, it boasts a WS6 handling package with four-wheel disc brakes and those coveted
snowflake alloy wheels as well. Only 24,851 Formulas were manufactured that year, though not all featured 400 and WS6. As rare as they are, you can find one with a price tag of around $16k and lower.
4. 1970–71 Ford Torino GT
Built on the same mid-size chassis as its predecessors, these Torinos have nicer interiors and most come with 250-hp, 351-cubic-inch (5.8 liter) V-8. You can find these for anywhere between $12k and $19k.
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