Is there any more sought after car than the muscle car?
Blessed with aggressive looks, high-powered engines and an overall ‘cool factor’ that has been around since the 1960s, the muscle car has caught the imagination of car lovers the world over.
The majority of the greatest muscle cars ever made were produced in the United States, so let’s take a look at some of the greatest models every to lay down rubber on tarmac!
1. Ford Mustang (First Generation)
Some would argue that the first ever Ford Mustang is the greatest muscle car of all time. Sure, models introduced later in the 1960s beat it performance-wise but this was the original ‘Pony Car’.
The first generation Mustang was introduced by Ford in 1964 and proved to be such a hit that over 20,000 sold on the first day and over 260,000 in the first year of production. A year after production started, that figure had climbed to 418,812!
Available first in a convertible or coupe layout, Ford introduced a fastback styling in 1965. The most powerful engines in these early Mustang models was the Ford Windsor HiPro V8 which produced around 225 brake horsepower.
2. Plymouth Superbird
It’s not that difficult to spot a Superbird, that’s for sure. And that’s thanks to its massive rear spoiler which dominates the overall design of this muscle car.
Plymouth introduced the Superbird in 1970 and it remained in production only for that year. During 1970, around 2,700 Superbirds were made with just 135 featuring one of the greatest V8 engines ever made, the ‘Hemi” which generated a scary 425 brake horsepower.
Strangely enough, at the time of its introduction, the Superbird didn’t prove to be popular. Many were left unsold or converted to another similar model, the Road Runner.
3. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
While many Corvette fans will cite the original C1 first-generation Corvette as their favorite, it’s the C2, first seen in the early 1960s that is seen as one of the greatest muscle cars ever.
And what immediately strikes you about this Chevy is the design. Called the ‘Stingray’ this Corvette was first marketed in 1963. Early coupe models had a split rear window which helped give the vehicle its unique look. It also featured hidden headlights, or pop-ups, a design feature not seen in other cars from the period.
Available as either coupe or a convertible, the ‘Stingray’ featured a range of engine options but all of them V8 power, either small block or big block.
4. Dodge Charger
Another classic early muscle car, Dodge first marketed the Charger in 1966. This ‘B-Body’ version was in production until 1967. The second-generation is perhaps the more famous, however, with its distinctive front-end grille giving it an aggressive stance.
Interestingly, no convertible models of the second-generation were ever produced. It was only made as a 2-door coupe. Although Dodge did make a model with a straight-6 engine, it was the V8 model that quickly became part of muscle car folklore, especially those that featured the ‘Hemi’ engine.
This Charger model became even more popular after featuring in the Steve McQueen classic Hollywood movie, ‘Bullit’.
5. Chevrolet Camaro
There have been many excellent versions of the Camaro, another of Chevrolet’s most famous muscle cars. The first two generations, however, are remembered as proper muscle cars in every sense of the word. The first generation introduced in 1966 came as either a 2-door convertible or coupe. Interestingly, these were not only assembled in the United States but in Switzerland, Peru and the Philippines, amongst others.
The second-generation (pictured here) was introduced in 1970 and was known as the ‘Super Hugger’. And the largest engine to power this American classic was a big-block 6.8-liter V8. Although the second generation was produced throughout the 1970s, it received changes each year. Sadly, during the mid-1970s, this meant smaller and less powerful engines due to the oil crisis of that period.
6. Pontiac GTO Judge
Aggressive looking and powerful, the GTO was Pontiac’s answer to the muscle car wars of the late 1960s. Pontiac introduced the GTO in 1964 but it was towards the end of the decade that it truly made an impact as a muscle car, especially the second generation GTO marketed from 1968.
And the GTO came in three chassis options. These were a 2-door convertible, 2-door coupe and then a 2-door hardtop. It was an immediate hit and won the Motor Trend Car of the Year in that year, despite the fact that it was up against other incredible muscle cars such as the Mustang and Camaro.
Interestingly, the standard V8 engine found in most GTOs at the time produced 350 brake horsepower, so the ‘Judge’ as it was known certainly was no slouch in a straight line!
7. Buick Riviera
Certainly, the Buick Riviera was initially marketed as a personal luxury car and while some can question whether it can be called a muscle car, the late 1960s models had all of the right attributes.
The second generation, first seen in 1966 and made until 1970 was available as a 2-door hardtop and the only engine options put in these sleek, beautiful cars were V8s. This included Buick’s 7.0-liter ‘Nailhead’. In fact, that was the smallest engine dropped into the Riviera at the time. And the Riviera proved popular.
In 1968, Buick sold almost 50,000 units.
8. Plymouth Barracuda
The thing about muscle cars is that they always need an awesome name. And perhaps the coolest of them all was the Barracuda. Plymouth introduced the ‘Cuda in 1964 but it was the second generation between 1967 and 1969 that saw the first Hemi powered option. 50 were made in 1968 with a 7.0-liter Hemi V8 thundering them along.
Interesting, they were not built for use on normal roads at all. And they were quick! This ‘Cuda was capable of a 10-second quarter-mile.
In 1970, Plymouth introduced the third generation Barracuda. This also included a Hemi powered variant that could be used on public roads. These Hemi powered models included improved suspensions to help the ‘Cuda put all that power down on the tarmac effectively.
9. Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Instantly recognizable thanks to its hood decal, the Firebird Trans Am from Pontiac is a classic muscle car from the 1970s. The Firebird was actually introduced in the mid-1960 and shared much in common with the Chevrolet Camaro chassis-wise.
Pontiac introduced the second generation in 1970 and it remained in production until 1981, getting numerous upgrades along the way.
And that famous firebird decal? Well, that was actually first seen in 1979. Around 112,000 were sold that year alone.
10. AMC Rebel Machine
Certainly not the first name you think of when it comes to early 1970s muscle cars, there is no denying that the Rebel should be in a list of the top muscle cars ever produced.
Not only did it look incredible, but AMC also aimed to make Rebel drivers feel a little different, egging them on to purchase their muscle car with the classic advertising slogan, “Up the Rebel Machine!” In fact, there is no denying they were targeting those who wanted to be a little different and try something that wasn’t from General Motors or Ford.
Developed with the help of Hurst Performance, the Rebel Machine’s standard powerplant was a 6.4-liter V8 engine that produced over 340 brake horsepower!
11. Oldsmobile 442
Another lesser-known name in the muscle car stakes, the 442 from Oldsmobile certainly wasn’t left in the dust by more established models.
Introduced in 1964, two-generations of the 442 served the 1960s. Interestingly, Oldsmobile introduced the 442 as a package option on their Cutlass model after Pontiac’s success with the GTO. Early models include a 2-door sedan, convertible and coupe as well as a 4-door sedan.
In 1968, the second generation of the 442 became its own stand-alone model. This included a 2-door hardtop, coupe and convertible with no 4-door options marketed.
12. Chevrolet Chevelle
Chevrolet’s Chevelle was first marketed in 1963. Throughout the years, this popular Chevrolet model has included a range of chassis options from station wagons to sedans.
In 1965, Chevrolet first introduced its Super Sport or SS Chevelle. And that was most definitely a muscle car and available as either a convertible or hardtop.
Chevrolet kept the SS option through the 1960s, even in new-generation models of the Chevelle. In 1970, the SS 396 was powered by a V8 engine that produced over 350 brake horsepower!
13. Shelby GT350
Produced in conjunction with Ford, the Shelby GT 350 was the brainchild of the legendary Carroll Shelby. Introduced in 1965, the GT 350 is a legendary muscle car from that period. Over the decade, three model types were made available to the public including a coupe, convertible and the sought after fastback.
The first generation was produced between 1965 and 1970 but each year, the GT 350 received numerous changes from the previous year’s offering. The original GT 350 included 35 350R models which were built in race-spec specifically for track use.
Early models were often called Cobras as they included a Cobra decal. Don’t confuse them with another Shelby model, a 2-seater open-top roadster.
14. Mercury Cougar
Mercury formed part of the Ford stable and made cars marketed between Ford and Lincoln products. The Cougar was first marketed in 1967, specifically as a ‘pony car’ before moving onto the personal luxury car segment in the 1970s.
Two models were available, a 2-door hardtop as well as a 2-door convertible. Various engine options allowed a buyer to choose their exact specifications, but all of these were V8s.
Motor Trend named the Cougar as their car of the year in 1967.
15. Buick GNX
The GNX is certainly a very different muscle car. Produced by Buick in the 1980s, it differed from other muscle cars in the sense that it never had V8 power. But that mattered little as the V6 powerplant in the GNX produced some impressive performance numbers including a 0-60 mph time of 4.6 seconds.
In fact, the GNX was faster than some of the sports cars of the era. Introduced in 1987, Buick only produced the GNX for one year. And what does GNX stand for? Well, it means ‘Grand National Experimental’.
The GNX was only available in an imposing black paint job.
16. AMC Gremlin
This was one of the strangest looking muscle cars to ever grace the roads of America. With its distinctive cut-off rear, the Gremlin was essentially a shortened Hornet, another AMC model.
While the Gremlin had many different powerplants when first introduced in 1970, the Gremlins with V8 power are considered to be muscle cars. These were first introduced in 1978 and included a 5.0-liter V8 which produced 150 bhp.
Now while those numbers might be down on other muscle cars, the Gremlin, thanks to its shortened body design was lighter than most of its competitors and so it certainly could shift with the best of them. Interestingly, some Gremlins were modified to take a big 401ci V8 which pushed the horsepower to 250.
17. Plymouth GTX
First seen in 1967 and produced until 1971, the GTX was a performance model from Plymouth. Originally called the Belvedere GTX, this vehicle saw three-generations with power including a ‘Hemi’ V8 option.
For the first generation GTX, the ‘Hemi’ engine would push the car from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds. The GTX could also complete the quarter mile in 13.5 seconds.
The GTX also differed from other muscle cars available at the time in the fact that it was certainly more upscale than others on the market.
18. Ford Torino Cobra Jet
The Torino was produced by Ford between 1968 and 1975. While the first generation included a range of body types, even a station wagon, there is no denying those powered by the V8 Cobra Jet engine were certainly muscle cars!
And that’s thanks to the fact that this V8 engine pushed out 370 brake horsepower. While fairly heavy, it remained fast and could reach 60 mph from a standing start in 5.8 seconds.
19. Equus Bass
The perfect example of a modern muscle car, the Equus Bass is currently in production after it was introduced in 2013.
Six model options are available and all are powered by the General Motors LS9 V8. This brute is not only incredible to look at but it produces over 650 brake horsepower! Made by hand, the Bass is crafted from aluminum which makes it extremely lightweight.
Capable of speeds over 200 mph, it can go from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds.