The 1960s and 1970s are considered by auto enthusiasts as the golden age of muscle cars. This was when American manufacturers were churning out powerful vehicle after powerful vehicle, upping the ante both in terms of horsepower and rugged good looks.
Nowadays, muscle cars are still as popular as ever. And while nothing can beat utes in the New Zealand market, there’s definitely a crowd that appreciates these handsome, high-performance vehicles. Many of those people are businessmen, who may want to have something tangible to symbolise their success.
If you’re on the hunt for a muscle car of your own and doing your research about the most iconic models, here’s a quick list that might pique your interest:
The original Dodge Challenger debuted in 1970, right as the “muscle car era” began to decline. Nevertheless, this car made a huge impact. In fact, the clamour for its return started almost as soon as it was discontinued in 1974. The Dodge Challenger finally made a comeback in 2008 and it has remained a crowd favourite to this day.
One thing that makes the Dodge Challenger so popular is its retro appearance. Even the most recent models sport a lot of call-backs to its 1970s looks, making it a true-blue classic. What’s more, the Challenger uses the LC and LA platforms by Chrysler, making it a dependable daily driver.
The Dodge Challenger is also one of the easiest muscle cars to work on. It’s easy to find parts (check out this shop) and its mechanics are also similar to the Charger, Chrysler 300C, and Magnum. Last but not the least, it’s also relatively affordable.
For many enthusiasts, the Pontiac CTO is what sparked the beginning of the muscle car era. That’s because it was the first mass-market high-performance car, featuring a 6.4-litre V8 engine. The most powerful option back then had triple carburetors that produced a more-than-respectable 348 bhp.
The Pontiac GTO was named after the Ferrari 250 GTO, a decorated race car during that era. Good thing that it lived up to its namesake—its 0 to 60 time was 5.7 seconds, which is truly impressive when compared to other cars in the category.
Plymouth Hemi Barracuda
The Plymouth Hemi Barracuda was one of the most popular contenders against the Ford Mustang in the battle for the crown of the best muscle car. Fondly called the Hemi ‘Cuda, this muscle car was the transformed version of the Plymouth Barracuda, outfitted with a 7.0-liter Hemi V8 to deliver 425 horsepower. These alone made the Hemi ‘Cuda one of the most popular race cars in the early 70s.
Today, the 1971 Hemi ‘Cuda convertible is among the rarest, most valuable collectible muscle cars. There were only 13 ever built, as it fell victim to the 1973 energy crisis. There are some makers who create replicas, but they don’t have the Hemi V8 under the hood.
Ford Shelby Mustang GT-350
In 1964, the Ford Mustang burst into popularity, selling more than 2 million in its first 2 years. Collectors and car enthusiasts became even more fired up when the Shelby Mustang GT-350 made its appearance with its Wimbledon White colour, accented with blue stripes. It doesn’t hurt that it was also uprated by Carroll Shelby, the only person to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a driver, a manufacturer, and a team manager.
Dodge Charger R/T
If you’re a fan of the Fast & Furious franchise, then you have this muscle car to thank. The Dodge Charger R/T featured a 7.2-litre Magnum V8 that jetted 375 horsepower, which is honestly not the most powerful performance at the time. However, it’s the Charger R/T’s aerodynamic and ruggedly handsome design that truly won fans over.
Today, the Dodge Charger nameplate is still going strong. Daily drivers who might be wary of a V8 engine’s power can turn to the V6 model for reliable service, not to mention extra fuel savings.
Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
No talk of muscle cars will ever be complete without mentioning the Camaro, Chevrolet’s answer to the Ford Mustang. It arrived 3 years later, in 1967, featuring a sporty design based on the Chevy Nova but equipped with 396 cubic-inch V8 producing up to 375 bhp.
The RS and SS options were particularly popular, especially with their concealed headlamps and “bumblebee” stripes (Transformers, anyone?). However, the Z/28 is the one that’s truly built for racing, with a four-speed manual transmission, disc brakes at the front, and handsome racing stripes.
Chevrolet Chevelle SS
Before the Camaro became the face of Chevrolet’s muscle car line, there was first the Chevelle SS or Super Sport. It was first launched in 1964, marking Chevrolet’s entry into the muscle car race. It was popular enough, but not so much to make rival manufacturers pay attention.
Then, in 1970, the Chevelle SS rolled out from the Chevrolet garage. Complete with a 454 cubic-inch V8 that produced 450 horsepower and 500 lb/feet of torque, this understated beauty packed more punch than the Camaro.
There are so many more names to include in a list of “top” muscle cars, like the Plymouth Road Runner Superbird, the Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake, the 1973 AMC Javelin, and the 1973 De Tomaso Pantera just to name a few. Still, these seven are among the most popular that merit your consideration.