Street Racing Showdown: American Muscle vs Japanese Sports Cars


By: Dave Davis

7 Min Quiz

Image: Pixabay by DariuszSankowski

About This Quiz

It's an old, well-worn argument that's hotly debated in some circles but really has no answer. Which is better: American muscle or Japanese style? Before you pick a side, you should know what each faction has to offer, and this quiz is designed to test your knowledge of Japanese and American engineering and design!

There's no substitute for the raw American horsepower that lurks beneath the hoods of muscle cars, both classic and modern varieties. But, if you're not living for the best quarter-mile speeds, there's a lot to be said for the design of Japanese sports cars that beautifully mingle streamlined chassis and powerful powerplants to give a classy ride in a vehicle that can still prove its worth when needed. Some Japanese sports cars might not have the horses under the hood as their American muscle counterparts. Still, since they generally are hundreds of pounds — if not thousands in some cases — lighter than the competition, they can get off the line just as quickly and perform just as well. 

So who's right? When it comes to these cars, there are no losers; it's just a difference of opinion. The real answer is that they're both powerful and beautiful, but let's take a look at all the contenders!

Some of the vehicles in this quiz are classics, while others can be found on showroom floors at this very moment. But how well do you know them? Step up and test your knowledge of the best that both sides of the argument have to offer, and then you'll be qualified to weigh in on the subject. In this quiz, there are no losers (except for the poor fools who aren't taking it)! It's East vs. West, and it's up to you to decide the victor. Let's go! (Yare)!

Originally made as a reaction to the Mustang, which of these muscle cars is currently tearing up roads across the U.S.?

Introduced in 1966, the Camaro was Chevy's answer to Ford's Mustang. The car soon found an identity and a fan base all its own and, except for a period between 2002 and 2010, has been in production ever since. The 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE has a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that can produce an impressive 650 horsepower.


Name the muscle car that, for a time in the late '70s and early '80s, was one of the most famous faces on TV and the silver screen.

With its iconic firebird hood decal and upgraded horsepower and handling from the standard Firebird class, the Pontiac Trans Am was one of the most bankable star vehicles of its time, featured in hits like "Smokey and the Bandit," "Rocky II" and "Knight Rider." It also had the muscle to back up that image, with the 1979 model offering a 6.6-liter V8 engine.


Which of these modern muscle cars is the third generation of its famous lineage?

The Dodge Challenger SRT 392 is part of the third generation of the Challenger line, which started in 1969. Closely related to the modern Dodge Chargers, the Challenger is just a bit faster, with a top speed of 182 mph, as compared to the Charger's 175 mph. The SRT comes with a 6.4-liter V8 that somehow stuffs 485 horses under its hood.


This bullet-nosed Dodge muscle car was built to take on the competition on the NASCAR circuit in 1969. Can you name it?

While there were other Dodge Daytonas, the 1969 version with its bullet-shaped nose and a massive rear spoiler is easily one of the brand's most iconic cars. With a 7.2-liter Hemi V8, this limited-edition Charger won its first race, the inaugural Talladega 500, and went on to win five more in 1969 and 1970.


Although it was named after a cartoon character, there was nothing funny about this piece of American muscle. What was it called?

Available between 1968 and 1980, the Plymouth Road Runner was designed to be a more inexpensive muscle car, when the trend was to make ever-more pricy models with horses under the hood. While it may not have cost as much as some of its competitors, the car came with the option of having a 7.0-liter Hemi V8. "Meep Meep," indeed!


One of these cars ticks the "luxury," "sports" and "muscle" car boxes. Which one is it?

It's got grace, it's got comfort and it's got power. The Lexus RC F first hit the streets in 2014 and is a two-door coupe version of the company's XE30. The car ("RC" stands for "Radical Coupe") has several engine options, including a 5.0-liter V8 that can generate almost 500 horsepower.


A classic taste of Japanese sports goodness, which of these vehicles made a comeback to showroom floors in 2019?

The Toyota Supra, with its streamlined chassis derived from its parent vehicle, the Celica, was first seen on roads in 1979. After its first two generations, the Supra became its own model, staying in U.S. markets until 1988 and in Japanese markets until 2002. The brand got a new lease on life when a new generation was unveiled for the 2020 model year.


Although not usually thought of as a "muscle car" company, which of these modern models has no trouble competing at that level?

Although the brand is known for luxury and comfort, the Cadillac CTS-V has all that plus, in the third generation's case, a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that packs 640 horses under the hood and can go from 0 to 60 in 3.6 seconds, with a top speed of 200 mph.


First hitting the streets in 2007, which of the Japanese sports cars has looks AND speed to spare?

There are few cars that check the "luxury/sport" car box better than the Nissan GT-R. First introduced in 2007, the front-engine, all-wheel drive vehicle has a 3.8-liter V6, which might not sound very powerful next to some American muscle cars. The twin-turbocharged powerplant, however, gives the vehicle a top speed of 195 mph and a 0-to-60 time of 3.2 seconds. It's got looks AND speed.


Which of these Pontiac vehicles was named after a comedy routine (but there was nothing funny about its performance)?

Named after the "Here Come de Judge" routine on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, the 1969 Pontiac GTO "Judge" was nothing to laugh at. This muscle car, built to compete with the Dodge Road Runner, had a Ram Air III engine that could generate 366 horsepower but was stripped of other features to make its price competitive.


It might not be the first name that comes to mind when you hear the phrase "muscle car," but the 2019 edition has it in spades. Which is it?

The Mustang often rides the line between "pony" and "muscle," but the 2019 Shelby GT350 is all muscle. With a 5.2-liter "Voodoo" V8 engine, this car can produce 526 braking horsepower and compete with all comers with chassis tuning designed for the track.


Which of these is a classic Japanese sports car that proudly took its place in a long lineage for more than 20 years?

The RX-7 was Mazda's entry in its RX class from 1978 through 2002, with more than 800,000 copies of the vehicle made during that time. The RX-7 had three generations and made Car and Driver Magazine's "Ten Best" list five times. Later versions of the RX-7 offered a sequential twin-turbocharging system for constant acceleration.


Only one of these cars has been a star on the rally circuit and in the hearts of Japanese motor enthusiasts since 2009. Which one is it?

It's not the biggest or most powerful automobile on this list, but the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X has got a 291-horsepower engine and a computer-controlled all-wheel-drive system that allows it to eat up rally tracks and give its driver top-flight performance on the roads. These factors have ensured that the EVO has found a place in the hearts of drivers who value handling and Japanese design.


Which "experimental" car from 1987 won a spot in the heart of many muscle car fans?

The Buick GNX was the result of the limited edition "Grand National Experimental" project the company conducted with McLaren Performance Technologies to produce the "Grand National to end all Grand Nationals." Only about 500 were made, and they featured the Garrett AiResearch T-3 turbocharger for added power.


This Japanese car, also known as the "Fairlady," captured hearts when it hit the streets in 1969. Can you name it?

With a distinctive shape and a style all its own, the Datsun 240Z (also known as the Nissan S30 and Nissan Fairlady Z) turned plenty of heads when it was released in 1969. Sleek and relatively low-priced, the two-seat coupe kicked off a successful run of the Z series, which continues to this day.


This lightweight Japanese sportster has been on the road since 1989 and is still going strong — can you name it?

The Mazda MX-5 has been giving drivers a fun ride for more than 30 years, and it's easy to see why. The two-passenger convertible roadster is lightweight, affordable and, most of all, fun to drive. This is something both drivers and critics can agree on; the MX-5 has also won many international awards over the years and has sold more than 1 million copies.


One of these classic Japanese sports cars was nicknamed "Godzilla" by the press in 1989. Which one is it?

Produced between 1969 and 1973 and again between 1989 and 2002, the later-model Skyline GT-R was capable of running a quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds and going from 0 to 60 mph in under 4 seconds. This particular car never made it to North American shores; it was produced only in Japan and exported only to Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.


Which of these muscle cars was made to give a prospective NASCAR engine a place to become legal?

Although Mustangs are generally considered "pony" cars — the category is named after them, after all — the 1969-70 Mustang Boss 429 was designed for the racetrack (the NASCAR racetrack, specifically). Ford needed to make enough 429 V8 engines to homologate it to meet NASCAR rules, and the "Boss 9" Mustang was the result.


Can you name the 1995 variant that was designed for better handling and loved by critics worldwide?

Introduced as a third-generation variant of the Acura Integra, the Type R model was designed for better handling by strengthening its chassis, reducing its weight and other modifications. What was beneath the hood wasn't neglected with the Type R, though; its hand-built engine could rev up to 8,500 RPM to put and keep the vehicle in motion.


This Japanese beauty took a long break after 2005, but it's back and better than ever. Can you name it?

Designed to take on Ferrari, the Honda NSX first hit the streets in 1990 (North American audiences probably recognize it as the Acura NSX). The first mass-produced car with an all-aluminum body, the first-gen NSX had a 3.2-liter V6. After a period of retirement between 2005 and 2016, the NSX reappeared as a hybrid with a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 and three electric motors.


This muscle car would go on to be replaced by the Malibu, which started as one of its trim levels. Which of these fits this description?

The first and second generations of the Chevy Chevelle, made between the 1964 and 1972 model years, were some of the most iconic muscle cars in the field, boasting 7.4-liter big-block V8 engines. The styles started to calm down in the third generation, and in 1978 the line was replaced by a car named after one of the Chevelle's trim levels, the Malibu.


Which Japanese car was the first to feature a revolutionary engine design created by a German?

The Mazda Cosmo was sporty and stylish, but its engine is what seals its place in history. The Cosmo, which was put into production in 1967, was the first vehicle to feature the Mazda Wankel engine, a dual-rotor combustion powerplant that is both small and powerful (although hard on gas mileage).


Only one was ever made, but this Nissan automobile captured the attention — and hearts — of Japanese sports car fans. Can you name it?

Nissan claimed that the R390 GT1 was capable of reaching a top speed of 220 mph, but the car was never put to the official test — and we say "the" car because there was only one made. It was built to meet the requirements of Le Mans, but was never put into production and, as such, never met the homologation requirements. Still, the super-sleek body and mechanical specifications captured the attention of sports car fans around the world.


Built by the American Motors Corporation, which of these vehicles set a record in its time of going from 0 to 60 mph in five seconds?

There weren't many made — the company pulled the plug because of rising expenses — but the AMX/3 was set to be a flagship car for AMC. Sleek and built for speed, the mid-engined muscle car had a top speed of 170 mph and set a record for going from 0 to 60 mph in just five seconds.


This car saw life on North American shores as a rebadged Chrysler model, but what was this Japanese sports car called in its native land?

The Mitsubishi Starion had rebadged variants in North America known as the Conquest in the Chrysler family of automobiles. Still, the car's main claim to fame in history books is as one of the first turbocharged performance automobiles with fuel injection made by a Japanese company. The Starion was produced between 1982 and 1989.


Which bit of American muscle was actually named after an Italian city, known as the "Italian Detroit"?

The Cobra was a variant of the Ford Torino, named after the Italian city Turin, known for its automobile history. With a 7.0-liter V8 Ford engine that could produce 370 horsepower, however, this model was all American and could hit 60 mph from a standing start in under six seconds.


Which of these Japanese vehicles blurs the line between "sports" car and "race" car?

The Q60 Project Black S was built between Infiniti and the Renault Sport Formula One team, and it offers a dual motor/generator powerplant. Unveiled at the 2017 Geneva International Motor Show, the car was estimated to be able to generate 500 horsepower with its V6 gas engine and two electric motors.


Which American muscle car got straight to the point with a 1968 special edition?

There were only 80 made, but certain units of the humble Dodge Dart got a brief but major upgrade in 1968 when the company put a 426 Hemi engine in that model's frame and took it to drag racing. The car was able to make the quarter-mile run in 10 seconds, making it one of the fastest American muscle cars of all time.


Which of these sports cars is known as the "Mustang of Japan"?

While never sold in the North American market, the Nissan Silvia shared a frame with the company's 240SX model. Produced from 1964 to 1968 and again from 1974 through 2002, the Silvia was designed to take on the Honda Prelude, Mazda MX-6, Mitsubishi Eclipse and others. It built a loyal following throughout its production cycle.


Which of these muscle cars cost $3,000 at the time and surprised a lot of people at the track?

The SC/Rambler was the product of a joint 1969 venture by AMC and Hurst Performance. It was built for speed and muscle and not much else; it kept the price to $3,000 by offering no options whatsoever. The car did have it where it counted, though, able to make the quarter-mile in just over 14 seconds with its V8 engine generating 315 horsepower.


Not for the faint of heart or the tight of wallet, which of these modern American vehicles puts "luxury" and "muscle" together for its drivers?

Handcrafted with an enormous powerplant, the Equus Bass 770 is a muscle car for those who don't have to look at price tags. The 700s start at $250,000 and, depending on trim and model levels, can go as high as $500,000. The car has a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that puts out 640 horses, though, so while it's a luxury car, it's also ready to go at a moment's notice.


Which of these muscle cars took its name from a combination of its transmission, carburetor and exhaust?

Released in 1964, Oldsmobile's main entry in the muscle car field was the 442, named after its four-speed manual transmission, four-barrel carburetor and its dual exhaust, and it was a worthy contender. Its massive 7.5-liter V8 engine could produce 370 horsepower.


Which classic sports car was a game-changer for both its company and for the image of Japanese cars in general?

The Toyota 2000GT was made in collaboration with Yamaha and debuted in 1965. The undeniably sporty vehicle changed the way the world saw Japan's place in the automotive landscape, which could kindly be called "practical" at the time. Only 351 of the vehicles were produced between 1967 and 1970, and it is now a highly sought-after collector's item.


Can you name the car that beat the Ford Mustang to the showroom floor in 1964 and went on to defeat beat many vehicles out on the street and the track?

Although it hit design boards after news of Ford's new pony car reached Plymouth's ears, the fully formed and finished Barracuda hit showroom floors two weeks ahead of the Mustang. While it was a pony car at first, the second-generation broke into the muscle car class with 50 copies boasting a 7.0-liter V8 Hemi under the hood.


It's only got three cylinders, but which of these Japanese sports cars makes the most of what it's got?

The Honda Beat was a mid-engined kei car with only an inline-three powerplant, but the vehicle was capable of revving them to 9,000 RPM, giving this tiny two-seater a lot of pep in its step. The Beat was produced between 1991 and 1996 and was never made available in North America.


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