The five most popular collector cars of all time, according to a survey conducted by safeauto.com, include 1940s Ford Woodies, the 1967 Chevy Camaro RS/SS, the 1955 Chevy Bel Air, the 1968 Dodge Charger, and the 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang. The full list goes on to add some other good-old Detroit iron like the Corvette and the Pontiac Firebird, but European cars are represented as well. According to some experts, the vintage car preferred by residents of Nebraska is the tiny British MGB roadster.
Muscle cars make of a significant portion of the complete list, and almost everyone is familiar with the Mustangs, Chargers, Camaros, or a MOPAR-equipped with a HEMI. Traditional muscle cars featured big engines crammed into attractive mid-size cars, boasting straight line acceleration that snapped back the heads of driver and passengers even when they knew it is coming. Although the famous cars deserve the notoriety and attention they get, there are numerous lesser-known muscle cars built in the same era that offered similar performance.
These underrated muscle cars may not have been quite as popular, and their lower demand means they have commanded more moderate prices. However, many of the “unknown” cars were produced in limited quantities, so it is just a matter of time before they are discovered by a larger number of collectors and their prices rise accordingly. For now, nearly everyone can find at least one alternative classic car that fits their budget and driving style.
The following are 25 cars that every knowledgeable collector wants but that most people don't realize offer similar performance to the well-known classic cars.
25 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado
The luxurious 1966 Toronado was both innovative and powerful. It was the first car made in the U.S. with front-wheel-drive in over 30 years, and the only domestic model to place third in the European Car of the Year award. In the same year, it was also honored as the Motor Trend magazine Car of the Year.
Some consider its styling a bit masculine, but the luxury car boasts some muscle features.
Equipped with a 425-cubic inch V8 that produces 385 horsepower and reaches a top speed of 120 mph, the heavy vehicle weighing more than 4,000 pounds accelerates from 0-60 mph in 9.5 seconds. Prices at auction still remain reasonable, with a 2018 average of just under $11,000, but expect them to go up as collectors recognize the uniqueness of the Toronado.
24 1969 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II
The Cyclone Spoiler II is a rare performance-oriented edition of the Cyclone that was produced by Mercury in early 1969. A unique, more aerodynamic version of the Mercury Cyclone, it was made specifically to give Mercury a competitive edge in NASCAR stock car racing. It was built purely to meet the NASCAR homologation rules, which required that a minimum of 500 cars be produced and made available for purchase by the public. Mercury produced all the public vehicles during the first few weeks of 1969. The aerodynamic shape of the 1969 Cyclone II helped place Mercury in the victory circle eight times during its two NASCAR seasons. Although Dan Gurney also piloted the car, most of the victories had Cale Yarborough behind the wheel.
23 VW Corrado
In 1988, VW introduced the Corrado, built on the MK2 Golf platform and powered by an optional supercharged four-cylinder with 158 bhp. Although it was a decent performer, VW kicked things up a notch with the VR6 in 1992. It was powered by a unique engine design designated the “V-Inline,” describing the seemingly contradictory vee and inline cylinder layouts.
The engine is a very narrow-angled 2861cc V6, with two banks of cylinders offset at only 15 degrees to one another.
A single cylinder head covers both banks. The narrow six-cylinder engine produced 190 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque, accelerating the Corrado to 62mph in a respectable 6.7 seconds. The exclusive engine configuration alone makes the Corrado a desirable vehicle and recent price increases are a good indication of rising collector demand.
22 Toyota MR2 Mk1
While many car manufacturers were pondering solutions to the mid- 70s oil crisis, Toyota chose to develop a car that was fun to drive as well as economical. After a prototype was created, the SV-3 was introduced at the Tokyo Motor show in 1983. Only a few changes were made for the production model including the name, which was changed MR2 for ‘Midship Runabout Two-seater.” Although the MR2 looked like a tepid attempt at a sports car, with a 1600 cc four-cylinder engine that produced only modest horsepower, it was ahead of its time. The contemporary, cutting-edge engine revved past 7,000 RPM and the progressive construction techniques resulted in remarkable torsional rigidity, and a curb weight right around one ton. No longer in abundance, the MR2 price has already increased as it has become a sought-after model by collectors.
21 Audi TT Mk1
When the Audi TT arrived on the market in the late 90s, it stunned car enthusiasts everywhere. The exotic-looking sports car with its simple curves and exquisite detailing was enough to turn heads, but the VW-Audi group running gear gave it performance and reliability superior to its Italian competitors. Even today, the car’s styling still looks contemporary.
The TT was offered with front-wheel drive or Quattro all-wheel drive and several four-cylinder turbo engine options.
The powerful VR6 engine was also available for ultimate performance. The Audi TT's original, either in the closed coupe or fabric-roofed cabriolet, has aged better than the newer Mk2 models. Cars in good original condition are becoming rare due to poor maintenance, personalized versions, and modifications. The values are moving upward, especially for the 225-hp turbo models and those with the VR6 engine.
20 1969 Dodge Coronet Super Bee 426 Hemi
Although the Super Bee name was resurrected for the Dodge Charger in the 2000s, the original Super Bee was a Coronet, a car derived from the Plymouth Road Runner. Big scoops and bright colors warned of some serious firepower under the hood. At the top of the range was the model with a 426 Hemi engine, a Mopar four-speed stick, heavy duty suspension, and a twin-scooped air induction hood. While one model went for $165,000 in 2017, for the past ten years prices have held steady in the $50,000 to $60,000 range. The HEMI versions promise to go higher in the near future.
19 1971 Stutz Blackhawk
A Detroit luxury car, the Stutz Blackhawk was manufactured from 1971 through 1987. In August 1968, New York banker James O'Donnell revived the company that initially made luxury and sports cars from 1911 to 1935. He teamed up with retired Chrysler stylist Virgil Exner to design the new Blackhawk.
Exner's configuration included a massive 'kidney' grille, freestanding headlamps, and a spare tire that bulged through the trunk lid.
The Blackhawk, equipped with a 7.5-liter Pontiac V8 and a GM TH400 3-speed automatic, required 1,500 hours to build. Marketed as pure luxury, the car initially listed at $22,500 which translates to $130,000 in today’s dollars. Hand-built in Italy, only 500 to 600 Blackhawks had been constructed when production ended in 1987. The limited supply and collector demand should impact future prices for the Stutz Blackhawk.
18 1969 Marcos 3.0 GT
Few observers would recognize the shape of a Marcos 3.0 GT, which is perhaps a blend of Jaguar E-type, Toyota 2000GT, and an Italian exotic sports car. However, what collectors find intriguing about the Marcos is hidden beneath the fiberglass skin. It is not the conventional cast-iron pushrod four- or six-cylinder engine, though, but its wooden frame that piques collector interest. The Marcos is built with a full monocoque chassis made from glued-together exterior-grade plywood. It was a serious approach to building a sports car, with several advantages. Wood is light: the Marcos GT weighs only 1,675 lbs. It's easy to work with, strong for its weight, affordable, and easy to procure. In 1969, Motor magazine said of the GT’s handling: “fantastic; probably the best of any production car we have driven.”
17 1970 Ford Falcon 429 Cobra Jet
Introduced in 1960 to compete with the Volkswagen Beetle, the compact and economical Ford Falcon was Ford’s most successful debut until the Mustang (which itself was based on the Falcon). In 1970, the last year of the Falcon, Ford released the model 429 CJ with an entirely different body style from previous Falcons but powered by the same engine used in the Mustang 429 CJ. Similar in appearance to the Torino, it had the same 370-horsepower engine as the Mustang and was offered with disc brakes and a Hurst shifter as options. Ford produced the Falcon 429 CJ for only eight months before replacing it with the Maverick. The limited supply makes the model a rare find for serious collectors.
16 1970 Chrysler 300 Hurst
Only 485 Chrysler 300 Hurst Edition cars were built in 1970, making it a rare acquisition for a collector. The car has the distinction of being one of the largest two-door coupes produced in modern times. Measuring almost 19 feet and with a weight of well over two tons, the luxury muscle car was a collaboration with Hurst (famous for their shifters) using their performance parts. The car’s luxurious leather interior pampered driver and passengers while it impressed with exceptional performance. The 440ci V-8 generated 375 horsepower, plenty of power to accelerate the massive Chrysler from 0 to 60 mph in just over seven seconds, not bad for any 70s car.
15 1974 Pontiac Ventura GTO
Many experts believe the Pontiac GTO is the vehicle that launched the muscle car era. The combination of a large-displacement engine with a small body produced an immediate success. However, in later years, fuel economy and emissions regulations took precedence over performance, spelling doom for many muscle cars.
And the famous GTO was no exception.
As sales declined, Pontiac decided to change the GTO platform to the X-body for 1974. The result was a more fuel efficient, better handling, and less expensive version of the classic GTO. However, sales were disappointing and only 7,000 units were built. The Ventura GTO was canceled after just one year. Many car enthusiasts are unfamiliar with the model, but short supply makes this a muscle car attractive to the knowledgeable collector.
14 1968 Pontiac Grand Prix
Although the Pontiac Grand Prix didn’t receive near the attention of the GTO, its features qualified it as a legitimate muscle car. The final year of the full-sized Grand Prix on the B-body chassis, the car displayed a new front bumper, a change from the previous year, and the pronounced "beak-nose" grille formed with shock-absorbent plastic. Pontiac discontinued the convertible, leaving only the hardtop coupe for 1968. A standard 400ci V8 producing 350 hp was modified to meet the new 1968 Federal and California emission regulations. However, the optional 428ci V8 generated more power: 375 hp for the base version and 390 hp the High Output version. For collectors, the Grand Prix is a less expensive alternative to the GTO.
13 1989-1991 Porsche 944
The 944 was Porsche’s answer to criticism of its rather anemic 924. Manufactured from 1982 to 1991, the sports car is a rear-wheel drive, front-engine model available in coupé or cabriolet body styles, with either naturally-aspirated or turbocharged engines.
From 1989 to 1991, Porsche manufactured the 944 S2, which was powered by a 16-valve, 3.0-liter, 208-hp, naturally-aspirated, dual-overhead-cam engine.
The 944 S2 competed in the British championship known as the Porsche Motorsport Championship. The power-to-weight ratio was ideal, allowing acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. The turbo version and the S2, although less glamorous than the 911, are sought by collectors at much lower prices.
12 1971-1980 Triumph Spitfire
Although the British two-seat Spitfire had performance numbers that no sports car enthusiast would brag about, it was an attractive and fun small car to drive. Designed as a convertible sports car from the outset, the Spitfire didn’t implement the typical separate bodywork-chassis structural configuration. The chassis was reinforced for additional rigidity using structural components within the bodywork. Although a factory-manufactured hard-top was available, most Spitfires came with a manual soft-top for rainy days. On later models, the top design improved to a folding hood. When increasingly stringent exhaust-emissions standards in the U.S. began sapping the Spitfire's performance, Triumph responded for 1973 with a displacement increase. However, the car's power remained at a paltry 57 hp. The Spitfire remains an affordable classic car, but interest by collectors will no doubt drive the price up.
11 Vauxhall VX220
“Sensible people drive a Vauxhall” is the image projected by the no-thrills, British-built, Targa-topped, mid-engined, two-seater sports car sold by the German automaker, Opel. In the early 2000s, Vauxhall joined forces with Lotus and, based on the Elise, released the VX220. The car rolled off the same Norfolk production line as the Elise, but Opel claimed the two models shared only ten percent of their parts. The Lotus, however, garners a much larger share of notoriety, despite the superior performance specs and engine options of the VX220. The resultant lower prices make the Vauxhall appealing to the collector, and the model already has an established following.
10 Triumph TR6
The British sports car with characteristic squared-off front and back ends was powered by a 2.5-liter straight-six with Lucas mechanical fuel injection for the United Kingdom and global markets and carburation for the U.S. market.
Fun to drive, the TR6 is a sound investment because they are still relatively cheap and have just recently gained popularity with collectors.
Hemmings wrote about the TR6: “With its timeless styling, sturdy build, throaty six-cylinder power, and moderate price tag, the TR6 is a great alternative to an MGC, a 240Z or even a BMW Z3, and it represents a hardy line of mass-produced British sports cars of an era gone by.”
9 1969-1970 Mercury Marauder X-100
The Mercury Marauder X-100 was the quintessential luxury muscle car of the late 1960s and is a real sleeper in the collector market. The standard trim had rear fender skirts, “sports tone” black matte paint on the rear deck area, and a plush padded front bench seat. Optional buckets could be ordered to give the interior a “sportier” feel. The enormous car, a two-door hardtop based on a Marquis that was shortened in wheelbase by three inches and reduced in the body by about five, required a massive engine. The base model came with a 390 big block, but Mercury offered an optional 429 that cranked out 360 horsepower. Coupled with the reliable C6 3-speed automatic, the powertrain was more than adequate to get the driver and passengers around in style and comfort.
8 1965 Rambler Marlin
Distinct and, perhaps, odd styling coupled with relatively low prices makes the Rambler Marlin an attractive collector vehicle. An attempt to cash in on the sporty fastback craze of the mid-1960s, the Marlin was primarily a re-roofed version of the intermediate Rambler Classic. Although the sweeping fastback was attractive, it looked awkward on the larger-scale Classic. Furthermore, the car’s nose seemed too short and stubby in relation. Rambler offered the Marlin with a variety of engine options, the biggest being a respectable 270-hp V8. Regrettably, the fastback came out shortly after the Plymouth Barracuda and didn’t do well in comparison. The Marlin never really picked up enough buyer support to warrant continuing it, so the nameplate lasted only two years.
7 1990-1993 Chevrolet 454 SS
For the collector, a pickup truck is a fun and relatively cheap entry into the muscle car realm of rear-wheel-drive performance vehicles. Older trucks are especially attractive because they are simple to work on, offer ample parts availability from catalogs and junkyards, and can be adapted to a wide variety of drivetrains and suspensions without difficulty.
The Chevrolet 454 SS followed the simple formula and time-honored principle of mounting a huge engine in a small platform.
Although the 454 SS was a full-size truck, it was the lightest version of that model. The two-wheel-drive vehicle was essentially a single-cab C1500 upgraded with a robust front sway bar, quicker steering, Bilstein shocks, and heftier 275/65 R15 tires.
6 1977 Lancia Scorpion
The Scorpion sold in the U.S. for two years only: 1976 and 1977. For that reason, and its stunning good looks, it is a car worth collecting. Developed under Fiat’s ownership of Lancia, the Scorpion was sold as the Beta Montecarlo in Europe. Chevy already had a Monte Carlo, so they renamed the import version the Scorpion. The car featured astonishing Pininfarina styling, with characteristic Italian panache and a fabric roof (to let in the sun or sounds of the city). Due to regulations, a mid-mounted, 81-hp 1,776-cc edition of the Lampredi four powered the U.S. version rather than the 120-hp 2-liter that the Europeans enjoyed. However, even with limited power, the Italian sports car is a pleasure to drive.
5 1971-1972 GMC Sprint SP
The 1971 GMC Sprint introduced in the fall of 1970, was nearly identical to the Chevy El Camino and offered almost all the same options. The equivalent SS version, named the Spring SP, could be ordered with a 350 or 396 V8.
For the ultimate in power, a step up to the SP 454, equipped with the LS5 version of the Chevy 454 V8, produced 365 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque.
A four-speed stick was offered with the 350-hp 396, but the 454 came with a mandatory Turbohydramatic automatic. Only 249 GMC Sprint SPs were made in 1971, and just 25 of the vehicles were the SP 454 versions, making them very rare. An even smaller number were produced with the optional cowl-induction hood, an ideal find for the collector.
4 AMC Rebel Machine
For one year only—1970—American Motors assembled their best parts with hopes to cash in on the muscle car craze. The result was an attractive, 2-door, squared-off Rebel with an aggressive Machine trim. The performance was respectable using the AMX ram-air 390cid V8, newly augmented to produce 340 horsepower. It became AMC’s most powerful vehicle, running the quarter mile in the mid-14s. The big hood scoop served the engine via a vacuum-controlled butterfly valve, and a Hurst-shifted four-speed came with a 3.54:1 axle. The Machine’s extra-heavy-duty suspension featured stiff station wagon rear springs that elevated the tail and gave it a raked look. The E60x15 tires helped provide exceptional cornering characteristics. Only 2,500 Machines were built, making it rare, yet surprisingly overlooked.
3 1965 Plymouth Belvedere II
Plymouth offered a variety of Belvedere models in 1965 including the I, II, and the Satellite. The Belvedere II was available as a two- and four-door sedan, station wagon, nine-passenger station wagon, and a convertible. The most popular was the four-door sedan, and the rarest was the convertible with only 1,921 units produced for 1965. The standard engine was a six-cylinder. However, V8s were offered including a 318, 361, 383, and the 426-S Wedge Head. For professional racers, Plymouth made a special 426 Hemi available. Mopars like the 1965 Plymouth Belvedere II delivered big horsepower and impressive performance for vehicles produced in the pre-muscle car days. Collectors recognize their potential even though they are not often identified as muscle cars.
2 1963-1970 Buick Wildcat
Most muscle cars of the 1960s were mid-sized, but Buick offered a full-sized luxury vehicle in the early 60s with muscle car features. The first series Wildcat, built in 1963 and 64, offered a choice of large V8s making well over 300 horsepower.
The later Wildcats (1965 to 1970) were built on GM’s B-body platform and could be ordered with a Buick 455 producing 370 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque.
The 1963 model marked the first year that the Wildcat was its own series; no longer was it a subseries of the Invicta line. Buick produced 35,725 Wildcats for the 1963 model year but only 6,021 were convertibles, making them a rare find for the collector.
1 1962 Studebaker Avanti
In 1962, Studebaker advertised the Avanti as "America's Only 4 Passenger High-Performance Personal Car." Produced under the Studebaker name for only two years, 1962 and 1963, the car offered combined safety and high-speed performance. The Avanti broke twenty-nine-speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Aaron Severson, author of "The Unlikely Studebaker: The Birth (and Rebirth) of the Avanti," wrote about the Avanti's complex body shape: "[it] would have been both challenging and prohibitively expensive to build in steel." Studebaker opted to mold the exterior panels in fiberglass, outsourcing the work to Molded Fiberglass Body (MPG), the company that built the fiberglass panels for the Chevrolet Corvette in 1953. Its unique body, speed records, and limited production make the Avanti a very desirable collector car.