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I'm wondering if the word 'Muskel' ever gets used in the context of muscle cars.

What do Germans call an American muscle car?

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    To get an answer you probably need to explain what exactly is meant with the term muscle car. – Takkat Jan 24 '18 at 7:26
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    Please post a picture of what you see as a typical muscle car. – Christian Geiselmann Jan 24 '18 at 10:39
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    Curiously enough, we also had this question pop up in Spanish.SE barely a year ago. We couldn't agree on a "sufficiently Spanish" name, so we ended up creating a CW answer to make a list of possible terms. – walen Jan 25 '18 at 9:03
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    4,000 views and 7 answers in 4 days, but "not received enough attention"? Well, it's your point that you waste for this bounty. – Hubert Schölnast Jan 28 '18 at 21:06
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    @RoyPJ It seems the querist wants to have a word that 1:1 renders the US American "muscle car" including its cultural implications. In the answers (and more so in the comments, part of which have been moved to the chat section) however it seems to become clear that there is no such 1:1 word. There are words for cars that look like that, but these words have connotations which the querist does not like. - There was one suggestion, though, that seems to be adequate and is not derogatory (heißer Schlitten), but this was obviously not regared as sufficient. – Christian Geiselmann Jan 29 '18 at 15:19

11 Answers 11

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EDIT: My answer below refers to the original question, which was something like

Do Germans call american muscle cars "Muskelautos"?

For the updated version of the question, see the last paragraph of my answer.


No.

As a native German speaker, I have never heard or read the term "Muskelauto". It is also not included in the german "Duden". A quick google search shows a few results, but as far as I can see only literal translations from english web pages.

I am not a car guy, but I have seen the term "Muscle-Car" on a few occasions in german texts, there is also an entry in the german Wikipedia for it.

  • Unrelated to actual answer: Duden last credibility last year when they added 5000 crap words like „facebooken“. spiegel.de/international/germany/… – Jonathan Komar Jan 24 '18 at 10:36
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    @JonathanKomar: Your comment suggests a misunderstanding of the Duden’s (or any other dictionary’s) intentions and role. It documents usage and helps people to apply orthographical rules to actual words. It’s not the Duden’s fault if people actually use “crap words”. – Wrzlprmft Jan 24 '18 at 11:21
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    @Wrzlprmft I am aware of the company’s role. They have a responsibility to use discretion when adding lexemes like every other source for maintaining integrity (of course they must define integrity). You are alluding to their “defense”/cop-out for due diligence. Still, you are right if their mission statement is simply to reflect/describe any German-speaking enclave. – Jonathan Komar Jan 24 '18 at 11:24
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    It might be worth mentioning that “Muscle-Car” follows the typical rule for compound noun loan words: capitalised and hyphenated (rather than, say, using the spellings “Musclecar”, “Muscle Car” or “muscle car” … or, shudder, “MuscleCar”). – Konrad Rudolph Jan 24 '18 at 11:43
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    The lack of a proper German word for "musclecar" probably stems from the complete lack of musclecars in the product range of German car manufacturers. – LAP Jan 25 '18 at 8:13
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The term, that is used in German language for what is called "muscle car" in English is:

Muscle-Car

It is a foreign word, that is just written with a hyphen and uppercase M and C, according to German rules for writing nouns (first letter of nouns is always uppercase) and compound words (a blank is no valid separator for compound words, but a hyphen is).

The pronunciation is English in the way German native speakers pronounce it. So it is almost equal to the English pronunciation, just with the typical German [a] in the first and last syllable:

American English:

muscle car [ˈmʌsl̩ kɑɹ]

British English:

muscle car [ˈmʌsl̩ kɑː]

German:

Muscle-Car [ˈmasl̩ kaː]

But muscle cars were never really popular in Europe, so not only the cars themselves, but also the term is widely unknown here. Most people in Europe know such cars only from American TV series. But there is a small group of people, even here in Europe, who are fans of those cars.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Takkat Jan 26 '18 at 7:10
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+25

The phenomenon of the Muscle Car, cars that were affordable but insanely overpowered (ex factory), never really made it over the Atlantic - When US youngsters were driving Pontiac GTOs or Dodge Chargers, European citizens (maybe except Scandinavia that traditionally imported much more US vehicles) were a bit more conservative and drove used 40HP VW Beetles and Renault R4s. The closest thing you could see on the German market were highly tuned NSU TTSs with >70HP and about half the size of a GTO. Real high-performance cars with output similar to muscle cars like Mercedes-Benz or Porsche were always quite a bit more on the expensive side in Europe.

Because the concept was not known in Europe, we obviously didn't need words for it - At least not before these cars started to become collector's items as vintage cars during the last 15-20 years. That also means the denomination "muscle car" will not be understood or even be misunderstood today outside collectors' circles (as you can see in some other answers and comments).

So, "Muscle Car", Muscle-Car" or "Musclecar" (the original English word, adapted to German grammar) can be used as a German technical term in a knowledgeable audience, but not in a very broad way.

Max Mustermann will most probably call such a car "amerikanischer Sportwagen" in German.

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Car tuning is one of those hobbies where the terms are imported right from the U.S., and left untranslated for the sake of easy recognition and snobism

  • Mit dem kleinen Schönheitsfehler, dass es eben kein Tuning ist, sondern dass das Fahrzeuge sind, die so vom Werk kommen. – user unknown Jan 26 '18 at 6:01
  • Normalerweise wird mindestens der größte Motor eingebaut, der reinpasst, auch wenn der eigentlich zu einem anderen Modell gehört. AMG oder Brabus sind ja auch "ab Werk getunt". – Janka Jan 28 '18 at 23:21
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(Updated answer)

Supposed that muscle car in the USA evokes nothing else than the idea of a car of that type (very long hood, powerful motor, not too much space inside, not too expensive) with no allusion of a certain user group, then a German term might be

ein heißer Schlitten

or likewise

ein heißer Ofen

These indeed are expressions for cars of such appearance that can be used without derogative connotation towards the owner or driver.

One might be a bit disenchanted that these are rather old words (1960, early 1970s, I would say) - but so are many of those cars.

This is what came to my mind after a long and intense discussion here in the comments etc. on my initial suggetions. Those initial suggestions were:


(Initial answer)

What comes first to my mind when I see a picture of a car like that is

Proletenschleuder

and, less, expressive:

Angeberauto

Related, but not the same, would also be

Zuhälterkarren

which is a type of an automobile as - stereotypically - preferred by souteneurs; but compared with a Proletenschleuder, the Zuhälterkarren would be quite more on the expensive side.

More graphic for the latter, by the way, is

Pornoschlitten

(thanks for this to commenter PlasmaHH).

Without reference to prostitution, simply stating that the owner or driver obviously wants to show off:

Protzkarre

(found in LangLangC's noteworthy answer displaying his internet research on the use of "Muskelauto" in German internet sources)

Possible neologisms

One part of the question was if native speakers of German would use the word Muskelauto for a muscle car. The answer is clearly "no". If we, however, want to coin a word, I think "Muskelauto" has little chance of getting popular. But a neologism by the example of Muckibude (for fitness studio, based on the slang term Muckis for Muskeln) could be successful. So this might become a

Muckischlitten


A note

... on the criticism (see comments, now unfortunatley mostly sent to the "chat" section) that I do not really know what muscle car in the context of US American society and use of language means: Yes, this is correct. I do not know this. The original poster did not provide a definition or information on typical connotation. Therefore I can suggest possible translations only based on what I think a muscle car is, and how it would be received in my environment. But I do not think my suggestions are therefore not valid. I have no idea what people of my social group and upbringing in the US would think of people who own a muscle car, but I know what people of my social group and upbringing would think about muscle car owners in most parts of Europe. Of course this is prejudice. Theoretically, the owner of a muscle car can be an educated, well-behaved, humble, mature, courteous and responsible person.

Analysis of the debate, and a new suggestion

The rather controversial debate in the comments is actually caused by confusion over what we are actually speaking about. Are we speaking about

a) an adequate German word or expression for the US American word muscle car including the connotations it may carry in US American society (which may be positive, or whatever). – that would be a a direct, possibly literal translation, or

b) an adequate German word or expression for a car that has the visual appearance of what would in the US be called a muscle car, judged with German cultural context in mind, and done so by Germans who in their majority do not even have a true concept for what in the US constitutes a real sub-category of the market. – That would be culturally adequate translation.

My suggestions above are for case "b". For case "a" I cannot offer solutions as the connotations of that word in that society have not been disclosed to me. And, as the German Wikipedia article on muscle cars already revealed, there just is no real and proper German word for that (except perhaps the aforemntioned, a little bit old-fashioned heißer Schlitten). In a talk about the specifics of this category of cars, Germans usually borrow the original English word (see Hubert Schölnast's answer).

But as it now reads the question is not "What is the German translation for muscle cars", where case "a" would be slightly more appropriate. The question reads "What do Germans call an American muscle car?" That makes case "b" slightly more appropriate.

  • It's really a cultural divide. There is no one word equivalent, called 'the correct one.' Literal translation, vs cultural translation. Wonder how Buber-Rosenzweig would be received here. Yet, it seems that's the only end and all that's voted on here. #so_sad – LangLangC Jan 25 '18 at 1:11
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    @LangLangC no, there are correct translations and incorrect translations; a correct translation for a term without any emotional/judgemental coloring should also have no emotional/judgemental coloring itself. All of the terms above fail. If you don't want to (only) use a loan word, you could simply say e.g. "das neue Modell ist ein so-gennanter 'Muscle-Car', ein leistungsstarker Sportwagen mit richtig Power aber eher weniger Lenkfähigkeit" – errantlinguist Jan 25 '18 at 8:27
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Takkat Jan 25 '18 at 8:38
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    Scenario from Q is: "What do Germans call" (e.g. such a car, * when they see it on an autobahn* – not explicitly when they have to write PR), that fully allows the above suggestions. Criticism so far was mainly for überkorinthenkorrekt PR jobs and in this case inappropriate literalism, disregarding culture completely. Suggestion: get some Germans, show them a picture of MC and ask: "Wie nennt ihr sowas?" MCs are not free from prejudices, also about their owners, compare Manta with example MOPAR. – LangLangC Jan 25 '18 at 12:12
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    @RRZ Europe I find this an interesting argument worth thinking about. However, I find it also a viable thought that cars have a strong emotional and personal side to them, and that certain types of cars everywhere in the world get associated with certain types of people, even in the US. Could it be that there is just not so much awareness of such psychological effects in US culture (or what you present as such)? Should US Americans really see cars only as machines, without any implication on their holders and users? The more I think about it, the less probable this seems to me. - Just asking. – Christian Geiselmann Jan 25 '18 at 19:15
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This answer is not to be read as a competing alternative to the other answers, but as a completing or complementing addition. This is just a record of what a web-query for this problems reveals:

Curiously the evil Google thinks that muscle car is indeed called "Muskelauto":

enter image description here

A word that Google's own corpus of German books has not recorded once for a period of up to 2008! But several other translation engines come to a similar conclusion. DeepL even has a previously unheard alternative: Muskelkarosse

The reverso engine lists a few examples in context besides the direct borrowing of muscle car for most instances:

  • Driving an old muscle car in the suburbs that no one else has seen?
    Der ein altes Auto in den Vororten fährt und noch nie gesehen wurde?
  • The guys in that muscle car?
    Die Typen im Wagen?
  • What better way to embody that than with a great-looking and great-sounding muscle car.
    Womit könnte man dies besser ausdrücken als mit einem wunderschönen, kraftstrotzenden Auto mit einem Wahnsinns-Sound?
  • This muscle car from Toyota: 408 horsepower in an ultra-light that does zero to 60 in well under four seconds, and still gets 32 miles a gallon. I'll say more later about this.
    Dieses Muskelpaket von Toyota: 408 ultraleichte PS schaffens von Null auf Hundert in weniger als 4 Sekunden, und der Wagen schafft immer noch 7.4 Liter pro hundert Kilometer. Darauf werde ich noch zurückkommen.
  • Heads up, guys. I got an orange muscle car.
    Gefolgt von einer orangefarbenen Protzkarre.

Linguee offers the following alternatives, besides the again original borrowing most of the time:

  • […] auctions like ebay, because every owner of a legendary muscle car like the Ford Mustang, also wants to have the literature […]
    [–] Höchstpreisen bei ebay versteigert, denn wer ein besonderes Fahrzeug wie den Ford Mustang besitzt, der möchte auch die betreffende…
  • since the presentation of the Q7 and already has a few modifications up its sleeve for this muscle car from Ingolstadt.
    Der Tuner war nämlich seit Vorstellung des Q7 nicht untätig und hat bereits einige Veränderungen für den Brummer aus Ingolstadt in petto.
  • road, HAMANN decided to equip the rear end of this Italian muscle car with a three-piece diffuser that matches the rest of the technology.
    […] ist, entschied sich HAMANN dafür, am Heck des italienischen Boliden einen zur restlichen Technik passenden, dreiteiligen Diffusor anzubringen.
  • Honsel components for legendary "muscle car": Engine block with innovative cylinder bore coatings for Ford Mustang Shelby
    Honsel-Komponenten für legendären Sportwagen: Motorgehäuse mit innovativer Beschichtung der Zylinderlaufflächen für den Ford Mustang Shelby
  • Aside from that reputation, the Chevrolet Camaro was also classified as an intermediate touring car, a sports car, as well as a muscle car.
    Neben diesem Renommee wurde der Chevrolet Camaro auch als Zwischenreisenauto, ein Sportauto, sowie ein Muskelauto eingestuft.
  • Enjoy the summer with this classic muscle car.
    Genießen Sie den Sommer mit diesem Mustang Klassiker.

Note though, that I firmly believe that the majority of instances of "Muskelauto" found on the web is either from machine translation, a non-native speaker, or some not-so-long-ago-still-teenager trying to pull something off. Observe the example in the quote of the following paragraph.

Also note that even motor enthusiasts in Germany have difficulty in grasping the word and the concept of muscle car:

Möchte man die beiden Begriffe übersetzen, ist man mit „Muskel-Auto“ und „Pony-Auto“ nicht wirklich schlauer als vorher. Was es mit den „Muscle-Cars“ und „Pony-Cars“ wirklich auf sich hat, erfahrt ihr im Folgenden.
Fahrzeuge, die unter die Kategorie „Muscle Car“ fallen, zeichnen sich durch die besonders starke Motorisierung aus. Basis stellt dabei zumeist ein amerikanisches Großserienmodell der 60er und 70er dar, welches ab Werk mit einem V8 Motor ausgestattet wurde. Zielgruppe der stark motorisierten Mittelklassewagen war vor allem die jüngere Käuferschicht, weswegen der Preis mit 3900 US-Dollar recht moderat war.

Die Bezeichnung „Muscle Car“ entstand jedoch erst im Nachhinein, zu ihrer Blütezeit wurden die PS-Monster als „Super-Cars“ bezeichnet. Doch nicht jedes klassische US-amerikanische Fahrzeug mit stärkerer Motorisierung fällt in diese Kategorie. Die klassischen „Muscle Cars“ sind der Dodge Charger, Pontiac GTO, Plymouth Road Runner, Chevrolet Chevelle und Ford Gran Torino. Größenmäßig lassen sich die „Muscle-Cars“ zwischen den „Full Size“-Wagen und dem „Pony-Cars“ wie etwa dem Ford Mustang ansiedeln.

Nevertheless, it seems that the germanised Muskelauto is gaining some traction and will therefor be a likely candidate for inclusion into the Duden.

That means that:

  • if you want to talk to a German about muscle cars, and you like to do a lot of explaining: use Muscle-Car, Muskelauto or anything gravitating around Hubert Schoelnasts's answer
  • if you want to talk to a German about muscle cars and want to achieve an instantaneous understanding: use any one of the alternatives given in Christian Geiselmann's answer, those answers gravitating around that answer's "case b" (including this one), but beware that any other word you choose from "case b" carries connotations you might want to consider beforehand.
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I think we should also mention the common verb »aufmotzen« in this context and the derived »aufgemotzt«.

aufgemotzter Kleinwagen / Roadster / Pick-up

So muscle cars can just be called

aufgemotzte Autos

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    "Aufgemotzt" basically means "tuned" (i.e an aftermarket modification). muscle cars came from the factory like that. – tofro Jan 24 '18 at 18:55
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    @tofro: Ob der in Rede stehende Fahrzeugtyp nun in der Fabrik entsteht oder später, halte ich in der Frage seiner Benennung für unerheblich, in jedem Fall erscheint der Wagen aufgemotzt und kann daher so bezeichnet werden. – Pollitzer Jan 24 '18 at 20:30
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    As a native German speaker, I slightly disagree to the first commenter. "Aufgemotzt" could actually denote a car which is considerably overpowered compared to other cars of its class/size, regardless of the added power's origins. But since high-powered cars are rather the norm than the exception, especially for more pricey cars - remember, no speed limit on Germany's motorways - it is rare to see such outliers without having some aftermarket tuning. – Anonymous Jan 25 '18 at 6:38
  • a muscle car is a "aufgemotzt(e)" version of a basic car type, but not every "aufgemotzes Auto" is a muscle car. You have different possibilities to get more "power" from the engine, but only some (like > 500hp) define a muscle car – RRZ Europe Jan 25 '18 at 15:36
  • Hier reden, von @tofro abgesehen, die Blinden von der Farbe. – user unknown Jan 26 '18 at 6:04
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There is no german equivalent for the term 'muscle car' and if you wanted to call a Mustang GT 500 a type, you would use 'Muscle Car'.

Sure, you could make up some translation for the meaning like car-with-lotsof-horsepower but it is like the U-Boat, which you can use in the english language (meaning german Submarine) even if you have a translation available.

Any translation of muscle car would not express the same. For the aspect of tuning, you have different possibilities in the US, so in germany the focus is different (more towards audio-systems), since you are very limited in pimping the car itself, due to the german laws.

  • A Ford Mustang is in fact called a Pony Car which is again a different thing. – tofro Jan 26 '18 at 13:19
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  • Oldtimer is usually used for older cars (despite the meaning in English 'grandpa' or more generally 'old man'). The distinction between muscle cars and other cars is not really made colloquially here.

  • Sometimes you‘ll hear Sportwagen for powerful cars.

I would not agree that muscle car is colloquial in the German-speaking world. While perhaps used in some magazines, it is not really universally accepted from my experience. Their hayday was in the late 1960s and lasted through the early 1980s about when stronger regulations final took hold. They were insanely powerful and guzzled gas as if it were water. Perhaps these machines fit into American Culture (bigger is better) and did not exist long enough or were not important enough to create a distinguished word in German?

1970 Dodge Charger 500

1970 Dodge Charger 500 (Color: Plum Crazy)

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I would simple add to Christian Geiselmann using the word "PS Hobel". By a "PS Hobel", Germans typically mean a car with a higher level of power ("horse power"), but it also is meant a little bit disparaging in such a case that the owner has too much money of which he does not know (useful) to do.

  • As a newbie here, I still have to learn to distinguish the various ways to post/answer. Sorry for any mistakes. – Walter Jan 31 '18 at 11:55
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In the "automotive" category of the English <--> German dictionary and Wörterbuch in the DICT.CC website the English term "muscle car" is defined as being "colloquial American". The translation into German is "Muscle Car"; the German pronunciation given for the German term sounds kind of Bostonian, if you know what I mean, i.e. "Mussel Kah".

For what it's worth, "muscle cars" initially meant cars with lots of "muscle", i.e. a factory-option high(er) horsepower engine than the engine sold with the car as standard equipment.

In the music world "The Beach Boys" and "Jan and Dean" had lots of good things to say about the early "hot rods", and then the later term for manufacturer-built production hot rods, the "muscle car", which evolved into the era of factory production stock-car racing look-alikes, and the end of calling such cars "muscle cars".

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