We've picked the best American muscle machines for 2013 that represent the joys of the open road and the thrill of smoking a set of radials. The Shelby Mustang GT500, Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and upcoming SRT Viper have timeless ingredients that include a ground-thumping engine, manual gearbox, and rear-wheel-drive. It's definitely tastier sounding than what goes into the average pack of hotdogs. And for our grand finale, we chose an electric sedan, the new Tesla Model S, which runs in near silence and emits zero emissions. That should light an M80 under the establishment - and after all, isn't that what the Fourth of July is all about?
The first Viper was about crude as an American tourist who refuses to eat anywhere but McDonald's. Okay, it could also be a lot of raucous fun – but so are Happy Meals, and you really should grow out of those eventually. Unveiled at this year's New York Auto Show and set to go on sale in 2013, the new Viper has finally gone to finishing school. Yet don't think this American sports car has lost its wild side. Under the huge carbon-fiber hood is a 640-bhp 8.4-liter V-10 coupled to a 6-speed Tremec manual gearbox. This powertrain helps propel this 2-seat snake to a top speed of more than 200-mph. Only the seriously loony among us will lament the addition of launch control, stability control and, yes, even cup-holders to the Viper's spec sheet. If you like your steak bloody and your sports cars raw, relax in knowing both safety programs can be turned off completely with the push of a button. Getting rid of the cup-holders might not prove quite so easy.
Ford Shelby GT500
We're already waiting for the emails about how we overlooked the Shelby 1000. Yes, there is a Mustang-based hot rod that has more than 1000-horsepower when tuned up for the track – and only about 850-900-bhp when roaring down public roads. But while that monster is still under development, you have the remarkable Shelby GT500 already waiting at a dealership. Available as a coupe or convertible, the GT500 comes with a 662-bhp supercharged 5.8-liter V-8 coupled to a 6-speed manual transmission. This is a Mustang with a top speed of 202 mph, ladies and gentlemen. While it might not be your first choice for getting the kids to school, this mega Mustang can actually be pretty docile to drive. Of course, if you're running late, you can smoke the rear tires in 3rd gear. Road racers can choose the optional Track or Performance Packages, which adds performance hardware like an external engine oil cooler, thicker anti-roll bars, a Torsen limited-slip diff and cockpit-adjustable Bilstein dampers.
Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
Corvette and Miata owners have something in common, no seriously! That's because both cars are saddled with a stigma, albeit at opposite ends of the testosterone spectrum. In the case of the Corvette, especially the mind-blowingly rapid ZR1 model, the car's medallion man cliché serves only to strengthen your chances when the light turns green, and you dust that smart-ass who'd been revving his engine in the lane next to you. The base Vette is a great package, but we're going to focus attention on the range-topping 638-bhp ZR1. With a starting price of approximately $110-grand, the ZR1 is pitted against the world's finest sports cars. Thankfully, Chevy's engineers focused on a lot more than making this car go fast in a straight-line. Carbon-fiber is used extensively in the body, while the highly regarded Performance Traction Management system and a set of massive carbon-ceramic disc brakes keep everything under control. And you've just got to love the clear window in the hood that offers a view of the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8.
Tesla Model S
In this esteemed company, the typical electric car would have the performance punch of a box of . Luckily for Silicon Valley-based Tesla Motors, an automaker specializing in electric vehicles, having zero emissions doesn't mean giving up on driving fun. This electric-powered sedan has been designed and engineered here in the U.S., and sales have just begun. A 17-inch touch screen control panel on the center console should entertain all the early-adopters eager to put one in their garage. During a quick spin in an early production version, the Model S proved very refined and remarkably quick for a car tagged with the `eco-champ' label. Granted, that might still not convince anyone who thinks the ice caps are melting simply because polar bears are looking to downsize their living quarters. Starting at roughly $50,000, the Model S is a handsome and practical EV that could serve as your only car. Pricier models offer even quicker performance (how about 0-60-mph in only 4.4 seconds?) and a driving range of 300 miles.