The world of muscle cars is a fascinating, unique and quite a big world, filled with drag races, summer nights, crazy fun, wide open American roads, and a kind of camaraderie you can't find very many places. Classic muscle cars are iconic, they embody the freedom and thrill all cars should possess. They're works of art, and there's so much passion and character behind classic muscle cars and so much passion from the people that own them. Muscle cars really began in 1949, with a sudden demand for faster cars. Cue the Oldsmobile Rocket 88, a car that fit and defined the very definition of a muscle car: a car with a powerful engine and a light body. From that point forward, they took America by storm, creating a movement, a brand new kind of car, a car for that came to represent the American car industry, and really the spirit of America at the time.
Through the 1950's all kinds of muscle cars came into existence, and their popularity only grew. And so did the popularity of drag racing, due to the fact that muscle cars had lots of power, but poor handling. After a brief pause in the growth due to racing bans, there came the golden age of muscle cars, the era everyone remembers best. This article is going to look at 10 muscle cars worth owning, and 10 not worth your time.
20 Pontiac GTO: Worth It
Meet the Pontiac GTO. This is the 1965 model. Straight out of the golden age of muscle cars. This car was one of many in its class, but this one had some of the most class, with that big front end that looked fast yet stylish, with the double headlights that make it look like an instant classic.
This Pontiac GTO had somewhere in the neighborhood of 360 horsepower, in a car that is light and designed to showcase the engine in the most impressive way possible.
If you're looking to buy a muscle car, the Pontiac GTO is a great option, especially one from the mid-sixties.
19 Chevrolet Camaro: Worth It
The Chevrolet Camaro is one of the few muscle cars to come back into existence in recent years with true success. And the reason is because of how much of a success and classic the original became. An icon for the ages, one of the true heavyweights of the muscle car world.
The Camaro is one of the best muscle cars money can buy, in any of its golden age incarnations. Especially valuable are the special models, like the Z28, a buyable upgrade package that turned the Camaro into a true racing car, and a true muscle car.
18 AMC AMX: Skip It
The biggest downfall for muscle cars was the implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency's rules regarding emission standards and regulations, also paired with the first oil crisis, one of a series that affected a lot of the motor industry's development in America.
The AMC AMX was a muscle car that tried to keep that muscle spirit while still fitting in with emission regulations, and it flopped.
It's all the car and none of the muscle, which we'll find is the case with a lot of muscle cars, especially at the end of their golden age.
17 Mercury Montego GT: Skip It
The Mercury Montego GT even had power and performance in it's name: GT. But, disappointingly, this car lacked all of those things, and if you're looking for a classic American muscle car to buy, this one isn't worth your time. Stay away! It won't be a good investment, and it wasn't that popular of a car at the time either.
It came with under 200 horsepower, and due to regulations was a lot heavier and bulkier than the best kinds of muscle cars. It all added up to a car that looked like a muscle car, but was heavier, more expensive, less practical, and had a lot less power. It just fell short.
16 Dodge Charger: Worth It
The Dodge Charger is arguably the most iconic American muscle car out there. It may not be the first, or the most original, or the truest to its roots, but by popularity, this car will try to take first place, every time. And it's no wonder, when you start to dismantle why.
The Hemi engine that was put in some of the Challenger models harnessed a massive 425 horses underneath that gracefully styled hood.
It was an instant classic, and it not only embodied the spirit of muscle cars, but the spirit of the people at the time, and it did it with more power and performance that a lot of others.
15 Chevrolet Chevelle: Worth It
The Chevrolet Chevelle remains a classic down to this day, a kind of secondary standby. It's not the most iconic name in the muscle car world, and it may not be a name or car recognized by people who aren't into muscle cars (for example, like Camaro or Charger).
But that doesn't mean this beautiful machine from the golden ages of muscle cars isn't worth your time, or isn't a great car. Rather, it's a vastly popular classic muscle car, and a worthwhile investment if you're looking to buy a golden age muscle car.
14 Chevrolet Rally Sport Camaro: Skip It
This muscle car was made in the mid to late seventies and despite it having the Camaro name, it wasn't enough to make it a car worth your time or money.
The biggest drawbacks for these kinds of muscle cars, made when regulations forced manufacturers to adulterate their balanced, perfected powerhouse cars, is their lack of power and performance.
We're talking a severe shortage of power. Plus the implementation of safety measures, things like bigger bumper regulations which led to a huge increase in weight, became a one-two punch for muscle cars. And no matter how big the name, it didn't change that fact.
13 1976 Ford Mustang Stallion: Skip It
This Mustang looks a lot more like a typical Sedan of its day, rather than a muscle car. And not even just any muscle car, it's supposed to be like one of the greatest of its time, the Ford Mustang, a serious champion and icon, a true classic muscle car. That was in its heyday though, in its golden years.
This is a number of years after that sunset, and what was left, with regulations and fading buyers, is a sad echo of those times. With a puny 139 horsepower engine to move this giant bucket of steel, all magic was lost on this Mustang Stallion, and most from this era.
12 Plymouth Barracuda: Worth It
Definitely one of the more cool looking muscle cars of the day, the Plymouth Barracuda is a mad machine worth your time, and your money. Especially in green, I mean just look at that color, it's gorgeous. And those black wheels... This build is especially nice, in near mint condition.
This car had a massive 300 horsepower V8 to power it, which made it fit right into the pack, as it were, when it came to being a muscle car.
But its looks and performance made this Plymouth a bit extra special, which is why it's worth so much more today.
11 Corvette Stingray: Worth It
Depending on the condition of the Corvette, these classic muscle cars can sell for phenomenal amounts of money. So if you have the money to buy a restored or mint version, do it, it's worth it. Or if you want to fix one up, the return will be more than worth it.
The Corvette is a total icon of America, not just in the car world, but for everyone. And the golden age for the Corvette may people say was during the golden age of muscle cars. The car pictured above is the legendary Corvette Stingray, the best of the best Corvettes. Fun fact, a Corvette in good condition from this time period can sell for well over 50,000 dollars.
10 1974 Pontiac GTO: Skip It
Another great car with a spectacular pedigree and a name that everyone equates with the perfect muscle car. But sometimes the model year is more important than you might think. If you want to buy a muscle car, or more specifically a Pontiac GTO, make sure you buy a model from the 60's.
It's not worth the price difference to buy one of these. It's not a good investment, and the car itself is a sad reflection of its forefathers.
It barely scraped 200 horsepower, and regulations made this car much heavier, meaning it didn't hit that fiery spark muscle cars should inspire inside consumers.
9 1977 Dodge Charger Daytona: Skip It
A lot of the muscle cars not worth your time or money are still styled in a way that makes them at least look cool, evoking the spirit of the times, calling to mind that energy of endless possibility and freedom. Which is why it can be tricky choosing a good classic muscle car worth your time. This Charger Daytona, though, doesn't exactly look like a muscle car.
It kind of just looks like a giant behemoth boat of a car.
I see it and I don't think "fast," or "powerful," instead I think of a comfortable sedan like the other kinds built at the time. Skip it!
8 Plymouth Roadrunner: Worth It
This Plymouth will always have a place in the hall of fame of muscle cars. It's a true classic, a simple, straightforward, affordable version of a muscle car. In fact, not just a version, but really the best embodiment of what a muscle car should be.
The original Plymouth Roadrunner was designed to be more affordable than other muscle cars, but not sacrifice on power or performance. Which is why people loved it so much, and why it became so popular. With 335 horsepower and a respectable 1/4 mile time, it fit the bill, for not so big of a bill. Of course, nowadays, to buy one will cost you anywhere from 25-90 thousand dollars.
7 AMC Javelin: Worth It
The AMC Javelin is kind of a cult classic when it comes to classic muscle cars. It's much less popular than the heavyweight giants like Challenger, Corvette, or Camaro, but it's no less capable, some might argue it's more of a classic than the others.
So if you're looking for a less known, more unique looking muscle car, this is a great starting place. It's got loads of style, and loads of power too, in the neighborhood of 350 horsepower.
It's got the kind styling that isn't dated at all, like some muscle cars, it just has a certain retro timeless quality that I personally like a lot. If I was going to have a muscle car, it would probably be one like this.
6 1976 Plymouth Volare Roadrunner: Skip It
This is another example of a really good muscle car, the Plymouth Roadrunner, gone bad. Not because manufacturers messed up, but again because of the changing market, the lack of consumers, the oil crises, the vast changes in regulations and safety rules, along with efficiency standards always in flux.
All that didn't stop Plymouth from trying, or from a lot of other car brands to keep trying. It's clear that while muscle cars had their glory days, those days didn't last very far into the 70's, and only in the past ten years have they started to come back in a big way.
5 1980 California Corvette: Skip It
This is probably the worst of the worst when it comes to iconic muscle cars becoming absolute garbage as they leave their golden age. Many think of the Corvette as the truest icon and embodiment of the American muscle car, and you can't exactly say that they're wrong.
The Corvette was an incredible machine in its day, the poster child for power, speed, and freedom.
Alas, this California model falls well short of the mark, with only 180 horsepower and a curb weight of 3500 pounds. It all adds up to a mediocre muscle car without any muscle.
4 Dodge Challenger: Worth It
Welcome to a true icon. The Dodge Challenger was truly in its glory days during the height of muscle cars. It was born into a market where the sky was the limit with muscle cars, and everyone loved them, wanted them, and was buying them.
Car manufacturers cared about the cars they were making intensely, and people were excited and eager to buy them. They fed off each other, which led to an almost camaraderie between manufacturer and buyer, which is kind of unheard of. The results were spectacular cars made with genuine care and craftsmanship. Like this Dodge Challenger.
3 Pontiac Firebird: Worth It
Another giant of the muscle car world, the Pontiac Firebird will always be a worthwhile investment, whether you want a true classic to restore, to get the taste of the glory days, or if you're a collector of classic muscle cars.
Clad with a 335 horsepower V8, the Firebird had plenty of heat to blister any strip of tarmac it was racing on.
The Firebird was a powerful, far-reaching car. It never really faded out of existence, always having a lot of people who lived and breathed the fire of the Firebird, even being made into the 80's and on. Of course, it's true glory days were with the rest.
2 Ford Torino: Skip It
Although this car is quite popular and will always have a certain Hollywood draw to it, there's no way to deny that it really is a terrible car, and an even worse muscle car. Popularized by the show "Starsky and Hutch", that's probably the only notable thing about this car.
It came out of the mid-70's, which by now we're all too familiar with why this era of muscle car was so atrociously terrible. The biggest thing muscle cars had was phenomenal power, take that away and you've got a terribly handling car that by the 70's was extraordinarily heavy, and didn't have nearly enough power to make it interesting to drive.
1 Dodge Aspen R/T: Skip It
The Dodge Aspen R/T came out long after it was pretty well known that, because of all the regulations and laws in place, the muscle car as we all knew it wasn't really a car that was possible to make anymore. But, they tried their best.
The best they could do was a pitiful 170 horsepower. Compared to the true muscle cars of the day, boasting 300-400 horsepower, it's a sad attempt at American muscle.
It looks great, but when it comes to actually fitting the mold of powerful cars, this one falls quite short, so it's not worth your time. If you could even find one anymore, this car had horrible problems with rust.
Sources: carsdirect.com, gentemansgazette.com, hemmings.com,