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Veteran Car Designer Dissects the Style of 5 Iconic Muscle Cars by Diego Rosenberg, Raffi Minasian

There’s no doubt that our attraction to muscle cars lies with horsepower, but the allure of muscle goes beyond performance. Style and design are a large part of what draws us to these cars. But how do some of our favorite cars stack up against acknowledged beacons of American design, like the 1940 Lincoln Continental and 1953 Studebaker “Loewy” coupe?


I reached out to Raffi Minasian, a 30-year veteran car designer who earned his automotive design degree from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Having previously owned the 1969 Dodge Supercharger show car and a 1970 ’Cuda 440-6, among others, Raffi is well versed on American muscle and has chosen several seminal vehicles to deconstruct and share his opinion objectively. – Rosenberg


I hate to pick favorites, but certain cars make it easy because they simply hit the target so perfectly. As a car designer, I’m drawn to the union of power and beauty, which is why the following muscle cars make my top 5. In a three-year period, the entire industry brought together this union like never before and, frankly, never since.


1968 Charger


The 1968 Charger featured sweeping front fenders (hiding subtle elliptical fender-top arches that often are sanded out in restorations), an enormous trunk (further elogated by the sail panel roof coming off the C-pillars), and wide stance. It was a total departure from the heavy, humpbacked 1966-1967 design that was adorned with fussy body sculpting and “Jet Pack” details recalling 1960s show car ideas. The 1968 Charger, in contrast, was unlike anything on the road clean, mean, and void of frivolous adornments like hood emblems or side markings aside for a simple “Charger” script (and R/T badges) centered on the kammback tail and offset in the grille. The final touch was the offset fuel filler inspired by race cars, making it the epitome of power and presence.

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