For many muscle car fans, the late 1960s and early ‘70s was the “Golden Era” for those V8-powered machines. As wonderful as those cars were, many don’t realize how difficult they were to live with on a daily basis. Not only were they hard to drive for most people, but they were also nearly deathtraps for those who didn’t know proper handling and control. That would be most of the general population. Some truly believe they can drive a ’68 Mustang as well as Steve McQueen in “Bullitt” or a ’67 Mustang ‘Eleanor’ like Nicholas Cage did in “Gone in 60 Seconds”. In reality, however, each of those cars would likely kill their drivers when taken to the so-called limit.
Fortunately today the Mustang and Camaro live on, still going head to head in the pony car wars that everyone loves. Both remain equipped with powerful and state-of-the-art V8s, but thanks to advances in safety and handling technologies, amateur drivers won’t have to risk their lives to enjoy all of the cars’ benefits. We wanted to take a closer look at the best and most powerful versions of the current Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro that will soon be on sale at a dealer near you. Each is relatively affordable and packs an insane amount of power. While it’s damn near impossible to convince Mustang fans that the Camaro is the better car or vice versa, there’s still a bit of room left open to debate as to which one best embodies the spirit of its forefathers.
It’s immediately clear that Mustang Shelby GT500 and Camaro ZL1 are powerful machines. The front end of each car has large air vents to help cool things off under the hood, and for good reason as the Shelby GT500 is powered by a 5.8-liter V8 with 650hp while the Camaro ZL1 has a 6.2-liter V8 with 580hp. Compared to their base V6 and even V8 models, the Shelby GT500 and ZL1 clearly look more intimidating even from the front. And the best part? They’re affordable, as both start at $54,995.
Even from their side views, each car looks absolutely fantastic. The Camaro has repeatedly been praised for its sleek, almost supercar like design. The Shelby GT500 is certainly a great looking machine as well, but we may have to give the slight edge to the ZL1 from this angle. Remember, to each their own.
They certainly wear their badges well. We especially like the ZL1’s HD headlights with halo rings as well as the slightly redesigned units on the 2013 GT500. The Shelby Cobra emblem is immediately recognizable from the car’s legions of fans and even for some who can’t stand either car. Who are these fun suckers? They’ve got to be Prius and Leaf owners. Typical.
Both the GT500 and ZL1 are equipped with quad exhaust, a rear diffuser, rocker extensions, and a spoiler. The Shelby rides on 19-inch wheels up front and 20-inchers at the rear, while the ZL1 has 20s on all four wheels. All told, the GT500 weighs in at 3,850 pounds while the ZL1 comes in at a hefty 4,120 pounds. The ZL1 is also longer and wider than the Shelby GT500, which makes sense considering the Camaro is a shortened version of the same platform that underpins the Holden Commodore (aka Pontiac G8) sedan. The Mustang still utilizes the old school ‘70s era solid rear axle, but when the next generation model arrives in 2015 it’s expected to have an independent rear suspension. At about the same time, the next generation (and lighter) Camaro will also arrive fully prepared for battle. Let the pony car wars continue.