In our last article, we discussed the significance of the United States’ first major route to the west. Today, we’re discussing the three most popular cars to ever navigate Route 66. This is how the auto revolution began…
While most recognize Henry Ford as the first American automotive manufacturer to mass produce a commercially available vehicle, the Ford Model T was not the first car to be built in the states. Instead, this title goes to the Duryea Motor Wagon Company.
Nevertheless, Henry Ford’s innovative assembly line, activated only 103 years ago in 1913, paved the way for other budding vehicle manufacturers – Chevrolet and Dodge – to follow suit. Instead of wasting so much time in building the vehicles themselves, the assembly line enabled auto manufacturers to invest more energy in designing vehicles, from larger engines to stylized exterior components.
By 1964, innovation in the auto industry had built up enough steam that manufacturers were ready to introduce the market to something different. They wanted to theoretically blow the fins clean off of the Bel Airs and Cadillacs of the 50s. The goal was to create a vehicle that had the same power as its predecessors, yet weight would be reduced by 25% percent, and an affordable price tag was a necessity.
The end result was the Ford Mustang, the nation’s first pony car. Since then, Mustang has taken part in six significant redesigns with major to minor tweaks sprinkled throughout its 50+ years of existence. Today, Mustang remains to be one of the longest living vehicle models in American automotive history.
Witnessing the mass appeal of Mustang, Chevrolet knew they needed to compete in this area or risk irrelevancy. Thus, Camaro was born in 1966. It was within Camaro that the everlasting rivalry between Ford and Chevrolet – Mustang vs. Camaro – would be engrained in the asphalt of drag strips and dark streets everywhere; for many drivers of the age, there was no greater opposition of power than the inches at the finish line that separated these two pony cars…or so it was thought.
Due to declining sales, Camaro eventually exited production in 2002; however, it’s hiatus was brief. In 2010, Chevrolet’s meanest muscle machine made a fierce return by directly challenging the retro-styled Mustang of 2005, a perspective that paid homage to Camaro’s past while also welcoming the modern aesthetics of the future.
Although much larger than Ford’s and Chevrolet’s coveted pony cars, Dodge introduced the Challenger in 1970 as its response to Mustang and Camaro. Dissimilar from the competition, Challenger offered the most customizable options, from the drivetrain to the interior trim. Unfortunately, Dodge’s pony car that could, in fact, did not; as history goes, the final Challenger rolled off the line in 1983 following the great oil crisis. The return of Dodge’s most iconic vehicle would not be discussed again until 2008, right after Mustang’s famed 2005 retro redesign.
Looking back at the automotive industry, a lot has changed: engines utilize fuel differently, interiors are carved from more environmentally friendly materials and computer chips control many of a car’s operational systems.
That said, no matter how much (or little) the industry has evolved, Americans’ love for great automobiles remains the same. And just like before, Mustang, Camaro and Challenger are still locked in an everlasting duel for sovereignty, neither winning nor losing against the other… just existing, inspiring and driving America’s auto revolution to new heights.
Thanks for reading our piece on the three cars that inspired America’s infatuation with automobiles. So how did we do? Was your favorite car on the list? Is there a car you would add to our list? Maybe you disagree with our choices altogether? If you owned only one car special enough to ride in/on a JP Logistics transport trailer, what would it be?