Colby Malone: Is There a Market for Stripped Down Factory Musclecars in 2020?

The recent news that Chevrolet will introduce a new “LT1” Camaro trim with the V8 but at the lower LT packaging levels got me thinking about a topic I have often pondered: is there a market for stripped-down muscle cars in today’s market? While the new LT1 trim is a step in that direction, I would hardly describe it as a “stripper.”

So what would constitute a stipped-down musclecar in 2020? Most enthusiasts would agree that a musclecar’s main objective is acceleration in a straight line. Given that objective, a stripped down musclecar would remove or delete any hindrance while maintaining some level of civility. Additionally, musclecars tend to fall on the affordable end of the spectrum, so cost should be minimized where possible. So here’s my list of what that might look like in a Camaro today:

  • V8
  • Hardtop
  • Manual Windows/Seats/Locks
  • Vinyl Seats/Floors
  • Reduced interior sound dampening
  • 15”-16” steel wheels
  • Small Brakes and Rotors
  • Minimal Audio System – (Basic Radio with two Speakers)
  • HVAC – (Heater Only)
  • No unnecessary air-dams, good effects or body skirting

I know some of you are already thinking, “who would buy that or drive it everyday?” Therein lies the crux of the issue. While I’ve had many conversation with other car guys about how cool a stripper car like this would be, how many would actually drive a new one off a dealership lot? From my viewpoint, there are two likely buyers of this type of car.

First is the entry-level buyer that only cares about the performance but is youthful enough to put up with a car this rowdy (or basic —Ed.) as a daily. Think 18-25 year-old’s spending more on their car than their home. Second is the established buyer looking for a weekend dragstrip or roll-race toy (likely planning power adders from the beginning – warranty or not).

While there may actually be a small market for this type of car, the obvious competition is the used car market. In the Camaro’s example, a buyer could purchase a car 2-3 years old and do most of the “stripping” substantially cheaper than what the LT1 Camaro would sticker for new.

Many older fellow enthusiasts will brag about the musclecars they bought back-in-the-day, with no power steering or brakes and just a big-block between the fenders. Sadly today, big-brother government has mandated safety, emissions, and sound requirements to the extent that manufacturers can only strip a car down so far.

Chevrolet seems to think a move in this direction is feasible. How far could manufacturers strip down musclecars before market appeal is so small that it’s no longer profitable? The simple answer is whatever we demand, via purchases. If Chevrolet sells 50K units of the LT1 in 2020, you might see 15” steelies and crank windows by 2022. So who’s up for a 2020 LT1?

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  1. Greg Engle 9 May, 2019 at 22:42 Reply

    Good viewpoint, Colby. I’m old enough that our cars were strippers by default. We saw the souls taken from them in the late 70s, and the slow rebirth starting in the mid 80s with the 5.7 Camaro and Trans-Ams, Fox bodies, and the GN. As you stated, the government nannies then stepped in to add safety (read, weight) and technology grew exponentially, teasing our increasingly affluent generation with heated and ventilated seats, 20-way power seats, and panoramic sunroofs. Now that this glut has become obscene, we long for what we had; simple, nimble, loud, and fun machines. I would buy the future Camaro you described… for the reasons you presented.

  2. Ben Russick 8 June, 2019 at 09:56 Reply

    I special ordered and bought a “stripper” 2000 Z28. Hard-top, crank windows, cloth interior, etc. The only options on the car were rear defroster/defogger (necessity) and Hurst shifter (disappointing and replaced with a Pro 5.0 stick).
    It was a great car and eventually sported a 382 ci with a 150 shot, but I wouldn’t do it again. Stuff like power windows, power locks and cruise control get used a lot. A good stereo is a must have for me. The younger generations love their technology and won’t sacrifice it for a $1000 savings, or 50lbs less curb weight. Even recent history with the Corvette C5 Fixed Roof Coupe showed that it wasn’t effective. Granted, that is a sports car, not a muscle car, but the results of loading the FRC up to become the top-tier Z06 speak for themselves.

    Thanks for a thought provoking viewpoint!

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