When we think of muscle cars, the first things that cross our minds are brands like Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Camaros, and Dodge Chargers. And although we must admit that they are powerful vehicles that offer unique experiences, we must also admit that it has been a marketing issue, the leaders of these monsters of the automotive industry were responsible for positioning these vehicles in our minds, which has resulted in having forgotten other muscular cars that offer experiences as incredible as the vehicles mentioned above.
Then questions arise. When did muscle cars really emerge? Who was the first to innovate? Many speak of the 50s with the Dodge D-500, while others speak of 1964 with the Ford Mustang, but others talk about the Plymouth Barracuda. Nevertheless, it is difficult to know for sure.
In the early '60s the high-performance medium-sized vehicles that left Detroit began to gain popularity among consumers and since then they seem to have become classics of our modern times. But a true enthusiast knows that back then, the magic words were "better performance and more power," that's why the industry took advantage of the growing popularity in muscle cars and decided to launch several high-performance vehicles to the market, which unfortunately overtime fell by the wayside.
However, there were cars as monstrous and powerful as a Mustang, and a real gearhead know this for sure and will mention cars such as the Buick GNX, the Ford Torino Cobra Jet, Plymouth GTX and the AMC SC/Rambler, among others; for this reason, today we will talk about those cars that seem to have been forgotten and that have nothing to envy to the best known of the niche.
24 Unforgettable: 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
Between 1965 and 1968 Shelby American introduced a high-performance variant of the Ford Mustang, the Shelby Mustang, which would later be manufactured by Ford. This car model was always related to style, power and high performance under the driver's pedal.
In 1966, Ford took control of engineering and sales, by then the GT350 had a performance of 289 bhp K-Code aluminum "Cobra" engine. Then, the GT500 was added to the range of options of the brand and was equipped with a "Ford Cobra" V8 engine with 2 carburetors of 4 guns 600 CFM Holley on a medium height aluminum intake manifold, providing an improved experience for the driver.
At a time when the automotive market demanded more Ford made available to users the possibility of choosing between a four-speed manual transmission or an automatic three. Its body was available in two versions but also sought to give a different appearance with some fiberglass parts such as an elongated tube, air intakes in the hood, and a spoiler in the back.
23 Underrated: 1968 Ford Torino Cobra
The Torino was manufactured by Ford for the North American market between 1968 and 1979. Its name was inspired by the city of Turin (Torino in Italian), for which it was considered "the Italian Detroit."
This vehicle initially emerged as a luxury variant of the intermediate-sized Ford Fairlane that was later considered a sub-series of the Fairlane, but in 1971 the name Fairlane disappeared from the Ford range of options and all intermediate vehicles were called Torino, becoming a twin of the Mercury Montego line.
By the time Torino was considered a primary model, the manufacturer decided to add a Cobra Jet V8 engine with transmission available in manual and automatic between 3 and 4 speeds. In addition, the body was available in 2 doors and 4. But with this model, Ford proved that they had what it needed to offer consumers vehicles at the level of NASCAR, and the Torino of 1968 and 1970 is proof of what a true muscle car means.
22 Unforgettable: Dodge Charger RT 1968
The 60s were a decade where manufacturers sought to innovate and explore new resources in the field of motor engineering. Dodge did not want to be left behind with all this movement that was emerging in the area, so they decided to get into the market of medium size sports cars, and that's why they created the Dodge Charger, based on the Chrysler B platform.
The Dodge Charger RT had a 2-door hardtop body that was similar to the Ford Mustang (Ford Ponty), which also had luxury and details similar to the Ford Thunderbird. For the second generation, the manufacturers awarded a 426 cu in (7.0 L) Hemi 2 × 4bbl RB V8 engine, with transmissions available in 3 and 4 manual and automatic speeds. This vehicle was a monster on the road, but curiously what helped popularize the Charger was Hollywood, when the movie "Bullitt" (1968) showed a chase through the streets of San Francisco between a 1968 Ford Mustang GT and a Charger RT, people became obsessed with both vehicles.
21 Underrated: Buick GNX 1987
It all started with the Buick Regal, an exclusive medium-sized car that was first introduced in 1973. The North American production ended in 2004 and started again in 2011. But in 1987, Buick wanted to offer something different to the market, so they launched the Buick GNX "Grand National Experimental," a limited production during 1987 that launched along with McLaren Performance Technologies/ASC, for which they added features like the Garrett AiResearch T-3 turbocharger with a ceramic impeller blowing through an efficient intercooler, low restriction escape with double silencers, and reprogrammed turbo.
And although the GNX still generates debates about whether it should be considered a muscle car or not, the modifications made by McLaren to this vehicle with a turbocharged V6 showed a great performance. It was faster than the Ferrari F40 and the Porsche 930 with a quarter mile run of 12.7 seconds.
20 Unforgettable: Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird 1970
The Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird of 1970 is one of those vehicles that one immediately associates with muscle cars. But the birth of this car is due to NASCAR regulations between the years 1960 and 1970 that each competition vehicle must have a simile to drive on the streets.
This model was characterized by two things; its power and its body. It had a cone-shaped tip and a large rear spoiler that gave it better aerodynamics. But a curious fact, is that during that time it was believed that the height of the spoiler had a secret formula that improved the performance of the vehicle but later it was revealed that the spoiler actually had that height to be able to open the trunk in its entirety. While in its other features we can highlight the engines, which were available in 440 of 375 HP, 440 + 6 of 390 HP and 426 Hemi of 425 HP.
19 Underrated: 1967 Chevrolet Biscayne 427
Between the years 1958 and 1972 Chevrolet decided to launch a new series of full-size cars a little less expensive than its luxury vehicles. The Biscayne had certain features that placed it in the category of muscle cars due to its power and performance, and the experience offered to the driver behind the wheel was pretty similar to some big names in the muscle niche.
Let's keep this simple, the Biscayne probably for many is a totally disappointing car if we compare it with other vehicles that were on the market, but its 427 cu in (7.0 L) Big-Block V8, its manual transmission and automatic 3-speed and its 2-door body, do not make it a bad vehicle at all. In fact, due to its simple structure and few details in the design, the Biscayne was lighter compared to other cars and thanks to its superior engine it was able to reach a great speed.
18 Unforgettable: 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302
A truth car enthusiast will know that between the Camaro and the Mustang there has always been a rivalry over which is the best vehicle. But in 1969 the Camaro was positioned favorite, so Ford did not want to be left behind and got Larry Shinoda to work with them. Shinoda had worked on the Camaro Z28, so it would be very helpful for Ford to have someone who was working for the enemy side among their troops at the time to create a better vehicle.
The first generation had a Boss 302 OHV V8, a 2-door Fastback body, and a manual 4-speed transmission. Only 7,013 units were manufactured between 1969 and 1970, but in 2012 Boss returned to the road in an improved and updated version that promised to be faster than a BMW M3.
17 Underrated: 1970 Buick Wildcat
The Wildcat was a full-size car produced by Buick, and was on the market from 1962 to 1970. The second generation of these vehicles, which ran from 1965 to 1970, had a 3-door body style in hardtop and convertible, while in 4 door. was available in hardtop and sedan styles; with a 455 cu in (7.5 L) Buick V8 engine and a transmission available in 3-speed TH-400 automatic or 3-speed manual. And although many did not appreciate the Wildcat back then, the truth is that this Buick had many positive aspects that made it stand out among the rows of muscle cars.
16 Unforgettable: 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS
The Chevelle was a mid-size car that was produced by Chevrolet during the model years 1964 to 1978, becoming one of Chevrolet's most successful vehicles.
At a time in the automotive history where the Big-Blocks were at their peak, Chevrolet did not hesitate to get into that new market niche with the Chevelle and one of the biggest engines it has produced, the V8 454.
In the Chevelle SS , this engine delivered 360 HP officially, although some experts say that it actually delivered many more horses. This, added to a 4-speed automatic transmission, achieved a less than 14 seconds in the quarter mile and reached more than 160 km/h. And it was thanks to its engine and the many mechanical improvements that were added in the Chevelle SS that Chevrolet managed to establish those beauties as one of the favorites of the moment.
15 Underrated: AMC Matador Machine
The AMC Matador was a vehicle that was on the market during the 70s and had 2 generations, the first from 1971 to 1973, while the second generation spanned from 1974 to 1978.
Despite many people underestimating the Matador and considering it a basic vehicle, the reality is that the second generation had a lot to offer, especially the 1974 model that had a 401 cu in (6.6 L) V8 engine, a 3-speed manual transmission manual, although a 3-speed Torque-Command automatic transmission was also available on some models. Moreover, the second-generation had a body style in different versions such as a four-door sedan which was rated for bodywork and the station wagon models were classified as full-size cars, but both did not share the distinctive style presented by the Matador coupe that was introduced in 1974.
14 Unforgettable: 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
The Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang have always been considered the monsters that dominate the automotive market, competing closely with each other to see who has a better performance. But in 1969 the Camaro achieved what Ford had long wished, being the favorite of car enthusiasts and lovers of high speeds.
The Camaro Z28 had a firmer suspension, wider tires, better response, lines on the bonnet and back, disc brakes in the rear (optional in this version) and a V8 302 pushing 290 hp, although experts and subsequent tests showed that it reached 400 CV.
This monster raised the standards in Cars Pony, ruffling the skin of Ford, which led to Ford deciding to steal Larry Shinoda, one of the engineers and masterminds behind the Z28.
13 Underrated: 1969 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler
The Cyclone was created specifically for Mercury to get better performance and be up to the NASCAR stock car racing competition standards.
And due to NASCAR regulations around 500 Cyclone vehicles were manufactured in 1969 and made available for sale to the public.
The Cyclone is one of those muscle cars that the passionate connoisseurs of the subject have begun to appreciate with the passing of the years due to their design and performance in the streets.
12 Unforgettable: 1971 AMC Javelin AMX 401
AMC wanted to play in the big leagues and compete against the Ford Mustang, so they developed the Javelin. And due to the rise of muscle cars at that time AMC sought to deliver a large engine that would offer the strength and power they wanted with the intention to overcome the great monsters of the moment such as Ford, Chevrolet, and Pontiac.
The ironic thing is that when the Javelin came to the market, the other brands were already investing time and effort in devising ways to create engines equally powerful but smaller.
AMC manufactured around 4,980 vehicles with an AMC V-8 401 engine, a power of 340 ps (335 bhp / 250 kw) @ 5,000 rpm, and a Borg Warner T10 Series 4 Speed Manual transmission (3.15 ratio). Although one of the great criticisms that AMC received was the size of its engine and how heavy the vehicle was, in reality, the car did not have a bad performance.
11 Underrated: Studebaker Avanti R3
The Avanti is not usually one of those vehicles that are associated with muscular cars but its V8 engine of 289 cubic inches, which was created two full years before the Ford Mustang, gave much to talk about among the experts back then. In 1964 when the Studebaker was officially launched to the market, its V8 engine at 304 cubic inches managed to slap a Paxton supercharger, resulting in a 171-mile-per-hour rocket, which made the company claim to have the fastest car in the United States.
The R3 is one of those collector's jewels that although at the time it launched it was not valued as it should have been, today collectors love having it in their garages, with costs that hover around $96,250.
10 Unforgettable: 1970 Mercury Cougar
The Mercury Cougar was born from the design and features of the Ford Mustang with the difference that the Cougar was enlarged and inside it had more equipment, all this, to give it a more luxurious touch and "Grand Tourer". Although in 1970 it was endowed with a monstrous V8 of 429 inches that exceeded 400 HP in the GT-E (Eliminator), in order to improve their performance on the track.
Ford announced its new vehicle as a "road animal" and is that with the black grille divided into two parts accompanied by the roar of the V8 under the hood that this vehicle offered drivers a unique experience behind the wheel.
9 Underrated: Ford Ranchero 500 1968
First of all, let's calm down, we know that all muscle cars have a base that makes them similar among all their competitors in the market. And yes! There are characteristics that change and make them better or worse than other ones, but although the Ford Ranchero first sight was not initially associated with muscles car it had positive aspects that made it enter in this category.
The fourth generation of the Ranchero had a variant 2-door sedan body style, a 351 cu in (5.8 L) V8 engine, and regarding the transmission, Ford offered options such as 4-speed manual or 3 and 4-speed automatic. The Ranchero had enough to offer but unfortunately, an imbalance of the weight on the rear wheels generated problems in these vehicles so they were subsequently discontinued.
8 Unforgettable: 1969 Yenko Camaro 427
The Camaro has been the golden child of the Chevrolet brand over the years, so, it is not surprising that it has gone through thousands of modifications to improve its performance on the track, and the Camaro Yenko was one of those versions that suffered some modifications under the supervision of Don Yenko.
The first time the Camaro arrived on the market GM prevented it from having a torque of more than 6.6 liters, but Don Yenko knew that there was a niche in the market that yearned to have a vehicle like the Camaro but even more powerful, which is why he managed to surpass that limit.
What Yenko did was install a Corvette L-72 7.0 liter V8 engine, which would help to improve the power of the Camaro by taking it to 450 horsepower. In addition, Mr. Yenko added a fiberglass hood similar to the "Stinger" hood found in the Corvette.
7 Underrated: Chrysler Hurst 300
At a time when muscle cars seemed to have taken over the automotive market with powerful medium-sized vehicles, Chrysler tried to recapture the magic of one of their old models by equipping a 300 coupe with the interior of an Imperial, a fiberglass hood and a boot lid, a V8 of 375 horsepower and 440 cubic inches, and an automatic Torque-Flite to handle all that power.
Despite being about 18.5 feet long with a weight of 4,400 pounds, the great Chrysler could still go from zero to 60 in 7.1 seconds and run the quarter mile in 15.3 seconds. The Hurst 300 is currently one of the rarest Mopar muscle cars of all time, being one of the most sought after by collectors.
6 Unforgettable: 1969 Yenko Chevelle 427
Don Yenko was considered one of the most famous muscle car tunists during the 1960s, especially during the rise of muscle cars, because he was able to tune some of the most powerful muscle machines in certain vehicles and give them that extra touch that was missing for the driver to enjoy a more complete and powerful experience behind the wheel.
The Chevelle Yenko offered an interior similar to the Malibu, an L72 427/450 HP engine and a 4-speed transmission, but it was Yenko's ingenuity in each of his vehicles that later turned his cars into collector's pieces.
5 Underrated: 1965 Pontiac 2+2
Manufactured by Pontiac, the 2+2 was a full-size car that debuted in 1964 as an option package on the full-sized Catalina with special door panels, seats with hubs and a center console and exterior badges. Pontiac marketed the 2+2 under the concept of "big brother" to the popular Pontiac GTO.
The 2 + 2 had the body of a 2-door coupe with a convertible version, a V-8/OHV engine, and a transmission of 3 or 4-speed manual/automatic. But because the 2+2 was enormous with respect to its dimensions and with respect to the measures of its small brother the GTO, it did not have the popularity and receptivity that was expected regarding the consumers and sales. But we must remember that by then pony cars (like the Firebird, another brother of the Pontiac 2+2) dominated the market, and that's why the 2+2 did not get the recognition it deserved as a muscle car.
4 Unforgettable: 1964 Plymouth Belvedere 426 Hemi
The Plymouth Belvedere was an American car model that was produced by Plymouth from 1954 to 1970 and had 7 generations. Initially the name Belvedere was used to identify a new style of rigid roof bodywork on the Plymouth Cranbrook line, but subsequently it became a vehicle within the range of options of the brand.
In the midst of the muscle car boom Plymouth gave the 1964 Belvedere a 426 hemi engine and a 3-speed transmission available in automatic or manual, which combined with its light weight and powerful engine turned this vehicle into a beast in the streets. In fact, the 426 Hemi was the last street engine, generating 519 horsepower and 540 lb-ft of torque.
3 Underrated: AMC SC/360 Hornet
During the 60s, AMC and SC/Rambler cars had problems regarding sales of their then-current models sold in the United States. People did not seem to be interested enough in what they offered. But in 1970 they introduced the compact Hornet and Gremlin to replace the Rambler, and with them came the SC/360 Hornet, a vehicle that had a V8 engine with 285 horsepower under the hood. The small Hornet could reach 60 mph from a standstill in 6.7 seconds, and run the quarter mile in 14.9 seconds at 97 miles per hour.
However, despite its qualities, people did not seem surprised by what Hornet offered, despite being cheaper than the Plymouth Duster 340. Currently, many experts have begun to value what the Hornet had to offer and with certain modifications, they have managed to get a better performance.
2 Unforgettable: 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt
Ford decided to produce a limited edition of the Fairlane Thunderbolt, a race car built in 1964, that only counted 120 units produced. This vehicle was created in order to win as many races as possible so that people would be interested in buying Ford cars.
The Fairlane Thunderbolt combines a lightweight medium body and a high magnification of 427 7.0 liter V8 equipped with two Holley 4-barrel carburetors. In addition, the Thunderbolt had fiberglass doors, front fenders, bonnet and front bumper to help reduce weight. The rated power of the Thunderbolt was 425, but experts said it was actually closer to 600.
1 Underrated: 1971 GMC Sprint SP 454
The Sprint was a coupe-style pickup vehicle that was produced by GMC for the years 1971-1977. This vehicle was based on the Chevrolet El Camino but details such as trim designations, emblems, and wheel adjustment differentiate the Chevrolet from the GMC.
And although at first glance many enthusiasts could question the capabilities of this car, let me tell you that the GMC Sprint had a 454 cu in (7.4 L) V8 engine, a 3-speed automatic transmission, with the option of having a 4-speed manual. It was reliable and powerful on the road.
Sources: blog.myclassicgarage.com, zeroto60times.com, supercars.net, carophile.com