Friday March 4, 6:00 am ET Bill Burt bankrate.com Remember when the Beatles were still together? Television had only three channels? Gasoline cost 27 cents a gallon? Then for you, the term "muscle car" has meaning. It was the 1960s, and every manufacturer -- and that meant General Motors, Ford and Chrysler -- offered a wide range of two-door coupes with powerful V8 engines. Names like GTO, Charger and Mustang GT meant power to burn rubber into the next county. Then came a triple whammy: high insurance rates, gasoline prices sent soaring by an Arab oil embargo and orders from Washington to clean up engine emissions. The American muscle car was extinct by 1975. Or so it seemed. However, our love for power didn't disappear. Starting in the 1980s, thanks to better computer controls on engines and breakthroughs in engineering, horsepower began to return to American cars, starting with the 1984 Corvette. Today, there's a muscle-car renaissance that rivals anything seen in the 1960s. And names once discarded -- GTO and Charger in particular -- are reappearing on cars with more horsepower than ever. While muscle cars still represent just a small percentage of the more than 16.4 million new vehicles estimated to sell in 2005, they are expected to sell well and also cast a favorable aura to manufacturers' other offerings. "We're not just talking about a trend any more," says Benjamin Moss, of Moss Motor Company, a dealership in South Pittsburgh, Tenn. "Muscle cars are selling like hot cakes. Advance orders are overwhelming.'' "The return of the muscle car comes as no surprise,'' says Jim Spoonhower, vice president of market research for the Specialty Equipment Market Association, an industry trade group. "The car companies are fully aware that the nostalgia is powerful, so their contemporary designers are incorporating recognizable style features to give these modern-day muscle cars a distinctive retro look.'' The return of the muscle car also is market driven. A significant number of people who came of driving age in the 1960s and 1970s are now seeing their children off to college or adulthood, and there's no longer the need for that big SUV or minivan. A stylish, powerful, sporty car that is reminiscent of youth could prove to be a logical replacement for empty-nesters. And with auction prices of pristine examples of true 1960s muscle cars running into six figures and beyond -- an original 1970 Plymouth Hemi Barracuda convertible can cost as much as $800,000 -- baby boomers eager to recapture youthful moments are seeing these new cars as reliable, affordable alternatives. At the other end of the age spectrum are buyers in their late teens and 20s who also crave performance. But while American V8-muscle still appeals to this group, many more covet imported muscle cars such as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo or the Subaru WRX, which wring as much as 300 horsepower from their four-cylinder engines. "The baby boomer generation grew up with muscle cars. They never stopped lusting after power under the hood,'' says Christopher J. Kersting, SEMA president and CEO. "Now their children have the same passion for performance, and the auto industry would like nothing better than to satisfy that demand.'' Like muscle cars of the 1960s and early 1970s, today's versions come in a wide range of styles and prices. There's the new Mustang GT, which has a 300-horsepower V8, a list price that starts at just under $25,000, and styling that is more than a little reminiscent of muscle Mustangs from the 1960s. Ford expects to sell more than 140,000 of them in 2005, double the number of Mustangs it sold 10 years ago. There's the Pontiac GTO, which shares with its 1960s namesake only the placement of a powerful 400-horsepower V8 under the hood. The 2005 GTO, which is a U.S. version of a car built for years by GM's Australian division, has modern styling that some say doesn't appear especially muscular. Prices start at about $33,000. Chrysler's 300C, which shares the name of a 1960s luxury two-door hot rod, is a four-door sedan that has the beefed-up look of a muscle car and a 340 horsepower V8 that borrows the name and cylinder-head design from the ultimate 1960s muscle car engine, the Hemi. Buyers are paying above $30,000 for loaded models. When Dodge's Charger debuts later this year, it won't wear the sleek fastback two-door styling of its muscle-car namesake. It essentially will be a restyled version of Chrysler's 300C four-door sedan that will also carry the Hemi engine on the option list. Even Cadillac is in the game with its high-performance, V8 powered CTS-V sedan, which puts out 400 horsepower and carries a sticker price of more than $50,000. Later this year, Caddy will bring out a muscle-car version of its CTS sedan with 440 horsepower and a price of more than $70,000. What's surprising about this current muscle-car renaissance is that it's flying in the face of a run-up in gasoline prices. But unlike the oil embargoes of the 1970s, fuel remains plentiful, though not cheap. Barring long gas lines or insurance companies raising rates for these new cars into the stratosphere, the muscle car looks to have staying power this time around.