There really is no replacement for displacement as some of our American peers would like to proclaim. The North American car scene, in general, is obsessed with quarter mile times and going straight on a drag strip, this is seemingly all they want to do. We don’t mean to throw shade on them but it’s simply true. The vehicles that our neighbors from across the pond manufacture are most of the time amazing; unfortunately, this isn’t true for some absolutely awful cars that rolled off their lots. Muscle cars have a certain style and masculine bravado and they possess a distinct road presence that only a few cars can match. Big block V8s are the bread and butter of these humble vehicles.
With that said, some are also wolves in sheep’s clothing. Some of these just had an insane amount of hype and failed to deliver. Regardless of how bad or how barely tolerable their performance was, a lot of people still consider them as gems. Obviously, we couldn’t disagree more since it’s ideal to view cars as objective as possible and not let all the hysteria get the best of our decision making. A few even helped shape what car culture is today; take the DeLorean for example, its performance was abysmal and the thing weighed more than your average pickup truck yet some people hold the DeLorean in high regard due to the fact that it’s in a movie. As a matter of fact, some muscle cars aren’t so different after all.
20 6-Cylinder 1964 Ford Mustang
Ah, the iconic first-generation Mustang. The V8 versions are a godsend; however, many of the 2.9 million units produced had Ford’s bulletproof in-line six cylinders. Needless to say that both engines were worlds apart and the non-V8s were mediocre, to say the least.
There’s one way to salvage the situation though, you could always swap the old engine for a true, worthy motor quite easily and it wouldn’t break the bank either.
The 120 horses the straight six engines produced is grudgingly underwhelming even for drivers that don’t want anything to do with speeds north of 60 mph.
19 Chevrolet El Camino SS454
Everybody knows the El Camino as the hip and chic member of the bunch. The engine was capable of great things, too bad that the rear-wheel-drive format just couldn’t put the power down on the ground since the body didn’t have much weight over the rear wheels. It might have been quicker if you had some stuff (preferably heavy stuff) on the cargo bed to help get some traction during acceleration. One thing is for sure though; the El Camino definitely gives the driver some style points. People should be wary behind the wheel of these classic muscle cars, they can be quite a handful to drive.
18 Ford Torino GT
Immortalized in the super popular film “Starsky & Hutch”, the Ford Torino GT was a force to be reckoned with anywhere it went. The body was big and its imposing size would rival that of a Hummer’s.
As a result, the car’s handling suffered and made steering quite a chore, the thing weighed about 2 tons!
Its massive 7.5-liter V8 produces 260 horses, do the math and we’re positive the power to weight ratio is nothing to be proud of. In all honesty, the Torino is more of a show car than an actual muscle car that can rip the drag strip up.
17 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28
The year 1975 was not a good time for Chevrolet, the oil crisis was in full swing, their current automobiles had terrible emissions, and the US government continued to pressure American car manufacturers to make more efficient vehicles. Because of this, out came the Camaro Z-28, a lousy attempt by Chevy to conjure sales in the performance market. Its 350-cubic-inch V8 only produced a measly 155 horses, not a number potential buyers would’ve been impressed by. The body had a lot of unnecessary components as well, the heavy chrome bumpers only seemed to pile up the weight without making the car look better.
16 Ford Mustang Boss 302
This was a purpose built track machine from the factory that encouraged the buyers to try their skills around their local race track.
Aside from guzzling gas by the barrel, the Boss 302 also had the tendency to blow a piston or two every now and then which is exactly why finding an example with its original engine will be quite a hard task.
The car looked incredible and featured Ford’s iconic design cues, this helped the Boss 302 garner a lot of love from enthusiasts and critics alike. If you can manage changing motors every couple thousand miles then, by all means, go for it.
15 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda
It’s unfortunate that Plymouth met its end a few years after the turn of the millennium. The Hemi ‘Cuda was one of the more inspiring 2 door coupes and it became one of the first muscle cars to reach a value of a million bucks. The engine produced a whopping 425 horsepower and 490 pound-feet of torque. Unfortunately, it isn’t without its faults as the body was too heavy and this resulted in a numb steering feel and a lot of body roll around corners. Build quality was also an issue, we’d expect top-notch interior if we’re paying that much for a car.
14 1968 Dodge Charger
Dodge is a legendary car company in its own right, the Charger they produced in the 60’s embodies everything a muscle car should be.
It was the most menacing looking pony car back in its hay day and it had a decent engine to match.
Despite this, body roll was a huge problem with the car and attacking corners at high speeds would lead to the driver crashing. This was because of the massive overhangs at the front and rear and the weight distribution was out of whack as well. The skinny tires didn’t help the handling either.
13 1971 AMC Javelin
One look at the Javelin and we’re sure you get a pang of excitement right away. It’s a muscle car in its truest form, the epitome of an all-out pony. The car was downright fast and its engine loved to scream at the top of its power band. When you get in, however, it’s a whole different story. You’d be met by cheap plastic and squeaky interior build quality reminiscent of a Yugo lemon. Who would ever want to drive in such horrible conditions? At least that problem can be solved with a little interior detailing and some aftermarket parts.
12 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona
The thing is a staggering 19 feet long, a far cry from any of the modern vehicles on the road nowadays. It was designed to be aerodynamic in order to assert its superiority in NASCAR and the Charger Daytona succeeded in doing so.
Stock, it could reach 200 miles per hour and with a bit of tinkering, the Daytona could max out at well over that figure.
Unfortunately, the car was unkindly hard to maneuver with its extended front beak. Examples today are sure to have some kind of work done to the front due to some damage done in the past.
11 Pontiac Firebird
Pontiac is now gone but it will live on in our bedroom posters of the remarkable cars they’ve built throughout the years, one of those cars is the Pontiac Firebird, it’s just a shame its popularity is misplaced. The company’s previous creations were mostly lightweight, cheap, and ludicrously powerful sports cars. They planned the Firebird to be such but General Motors management had other ideas as it would directly compete with cars of the same segment of its sister companies like Dodge and Ford. As a result, the Firebird didn’t produce much power and though the styling was decent, it didn’t quite hit the spot.
10 1971 Ford Mustang Fastback
Muscle cars in the 70s were steadily gaining popularity among the general public as more and more people bought them for cheap thrills and other mundane eccentricities. Due to this, quality was declining since manufacturers had a hard time keeping up with the demand.
Then the oil crisis struck hard and the muscle car era was slowly turning to dust faster than Thanos can snap his fingers.
The Mustang Fastback is an example of an ordinary pony car that managed to suck it up and pile on through the difficulties of being a gas guzzling pony. Many people owned them and these are the same people who wrongly hype up 70s Mustangs.
9 1965 Pontiac GTO
In the 1960s, the muscle car culture had begun and automobile manufacturers soon got the memo that building fast, cheap, and stylish vehicles were the way forward. Pontiac was one of the first to capitalize on this fad to the full extent with their 1965 GTO. A stock Pontiac GTO is by no means fast, they only encouraged owners to tune and modify their GTO’s to make them go fast. A trait of the hot rodding era is passed on by Pontiac to all drivers of the GTO; finding an unmodified example would be quite difficult by any stretch these days.
8 Ford Mustang II
The Ford Mustang II was an epic failed attempt at muscle cars conforming to the new United States’ regulations on emissions and fuel efficiency. It was sucked dry of everything that made a Mustang great and it simply was there to keep Ford’s presence in the dying market.
Any performance and fun characteristics were gone overnight; they became hunks of metal only capable of bringing you from point A to point B.
With the oil crisis looming in the background, Ford really needed to hunker down and hibernate until things got a bit more stable.
7 1963 Split Window Corvette
Although performance was not compromised in the production of the C2, visibility was absolutely horrible as back up cameras were obviously non-existent in 1963. The split rear window had a pillar running down its whole length that impaired the driver’s vision by quite a lot though we do think that design cue was clearly exclusive for aesthetical purposes only. Its chief designer was busy making GT race cars on the job and thus its influence spilled out on to his other projects as well. Well, at least the drive is enjoyable and the vehicle is a neck breaker.
6 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Car manufacturers as of late don’t name their new models anything exciting anymore. Mach 1 is a name that will surely garner some much-needed attention.
Aside from having a really cool name, the Mach 1 is a muscle car that’s decently designed and looks respectable by anybody’s standards.
The reason why it’s on this list is even though the car had a decent power output, it was still a fully-fledged road car but marginally quicker; the cool name had much more effect on the amount of love this particular muscle car received throughout its production.
5 Pontiac GTO Judge
Looks aren’t everything as all things in life are; the GTO Judge is a perfect example. Pontiac started the muscle car revolution single-handedly but it seemed to be a double edged sword since they were struggling to keep up with the competition in the very segment they created. As a result, the GTO Judge was always a step behind in the arms race for building better pony cars against Ford, Dodge, and Chevrolet to name a few. Along with being inferior, it was also a tad bit more expensive as well and the promises the company made prior to making the GTO about the costs of the thing doesn’t help its image either.
4 1964 ½ Ford Mustang
A convertible was bound to be included in this list and the ’64 ½ Mustang is a great candidate. People seem to love it merely as a fashion item, not as a vehicle fit for speed freaks such as ourselves.
It was modern and sporty looking but it was anything but.
This certain Ford was based on European styling, it even had white-walled tires to match which we can agree that it looks amazing. As for speed and some spirited driving though, this is definitely not the machine for that particular purpose but for driving around town going club hopping? Sign us up!
3 Dodge Viper
Okay, we know this is an unpopular opinion but hear us out for one second and take in the reality. The Viper has an absolutely massive following, that’s because everything Carroll Shelby touched seemingly turned into gold! Truth be told, handling was not so great and the crazy amount of power made the Viper a handful to control, it was common to see drivers losing control over the vehicle and crashing in a tree. Unless you’re gonna use the Viper exclusively in a straight line, we recommend getting a HANS device prior to even sitting in the driver’s seat.
2 1997 Chevrolet C5 Corvette
It’s as American as apple pie and obesity. Corvettes offer a nice bang for your buck sports cars that can rival even the flamboyant Italian supercars.
It isn’t all rainbows and sunshine, however, General Motors fitted the C5 with flimsy and low-quality plastic interior components that we could find in an entry-level GM car.
If you got the manual transmission C5 then you’re in for an incredible ride. On the other hand, if you got the automatic then you have the same transmission as a regular Suburban a typical soccer mom would drive around.
1 2008 Dodge Challenger
During the turn of the century came a whole new age of muscle cars that turned out to be great and respectable. The same can’t be said of the 2008 Dodge Challenger. In simple terms, it was a half-assed attempt at building a retro-themed muscle car while cutting costs. Its chassis is even that of the old Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the transmission didn’t give much justice to its fire-breathing V8 engine. People would have loved to spend a few grand more to have a legitimate and viable modern pony car.
Sources: cheatsheet.com, motor-junkie.com