Buying a cool car doesn't have to break the bank. While the cost of a new car often leaves us considering a pricey loan or even a second mortgage, classic American muscle cars are a stylish, cost-effective alternative to today's flashy luxury saloons. After all, why spend a fortune on a brand-new status symbol when you can own your own piece of American history for a fraction of the cost?
Whether you're going to the office, the grocery store, or the drive-in theater, these classics are perfect. Here are ten budget-friendly examples of head-turning classics that will make you look exactly as cool as you feel while you're driving them.
The Dodge Dart is a great example of American muscle on a slightly smaller scale. The Dart's drivetrain and appearance changed quite a bit over several generations, but it came well-equipped with a wide variety of engines and transmissions, including the 225 cu. in "Slant Six" and the "high performance" 273 cu. in V8.
The Dart is a popular choice for people seeking a restoration project; they're easy to work on, easy to come by, and easy on the eyes. Because of this, it's easy to find a newly-restored Dart for well under $15,000. Several restoration-ready Darts for well under $10,000 can be found on sites like Hemmings Motor News—a fantastic deal for a beautiful muscle car.
Despite being Chrysler's flagship model and remaining in production for over 50 years, the beautiful New Yorker has fallen by the wayside in terms of popularity. It's not because the New Yorker is ill-equipped or uncomfortable; in fact, for much of its life, Chrysler successfully marketed the New Yorker as both a luxury sedan and American muscle.
Because of their lack of popularity, cheap New Yorkers are fairly easy to come by. Both two-door and four-door options are available on eBay and Hemmings Motor News for well under $10,000.
The Ford Falcon is a very popular muscle car for a variety of reasons: it's small, easy to work on, and extremely easy to find. This is due in no small part to its incredible commercial success. The Falcon comes in many different styles: sedans, coupes, convertibles, and even vans bearing the Falcon name were produced and sold by Ford in the 1960s. Because so many were produced, they are exceptionally easy to come by today.
A newly-restored Falcon that will turn heads at car shows can be yours for a measly $15,000—a fraction of the cost of a new car. If you're interested in a Falcon that needs a little love, there are several on the market for under $6,000.
The Buick Electra is an often-forgotten muscle car with a lot of character. Sold as a luxury sedan, its posh interior and smooth ride make it an excellent candidate for a buyer seeking a cool cruiser. The Electra was sold with several different engines from 1965 to 1970, including the 401 cu. in V8 and the 455 cu. in Buick big block.
These underappreciated sedans sell for cheap. Many fully-restored examples can be found all over the web for around $10,000. For those in the market for a restoration project, several "rolling shells" and restoration candidates can be found for well under $5,000.
AMC had many strange creations, like the Gremlin, and the Marlin is certainly one of them. Initially marketed as the Rambler Marlin, this is a prime example of an unusual and underappreciated American muscle. AMC produced a limited number Marlins from 1965 to 1967, and these rare 2-door hardtops have a small-but-loyal following today.
The Marlin came standard with either a 327 cu. in V8 or a 287 cu. in engine, as well as a host of custom features available to the buyer. Its sleek lines and dramatic fastback make for a unique, striking design. Despite being an AMC fan favorite, a restored Marlin can be found for less than you might expect. Several Marlins listed on the web can be yours for under $16,000, still less than some of the cheapest new cars on the market today.
Another compact entry introduced in the 1960s, the Chevrolet Nova is an extremely popular choice for muscle car enthusiasts across the nation. It's good-looking, it comes in many forms, and it's easy to find.
The Nova is a somewhat unconventional example of American muscle: though the car initially came standard with smaller engines such as the 2.5L 4-cylinder and the 3.2L inline 6, later offerings included Chevrolet's 283 cu. in and 327 cu. in V8. The Nova is a popular candidate for engine swaps and restorations, and while the special editions often cost upward of $60,000, many other Novas can be found for well under $20,000.
The Oldsmobile Cutlass is an interesting and rather unconventional choice for muscle car enthusiasts. Despite the fact that parts are easy to find for the various engines the Cutlass came equipped with, its popularity as a restoration project has remained limited.
From 1968 to 1972, Oldsmobile produced several submodels and body styles, including the Cutlass Supreme and the rare Cutlass 4-4-2, to appeal to a wide variety of buyers. These days, the Oldsmobile Cutlass isn't hard to come by. A drivable restoration candidate costs well under $5,000, while a restored Cutlass can generally be purchased for around $10,000.
The Pontiac Catalina is an absolute beauty. Its design is very similar to that of the GTO, which eventually replaced the Catalina due to declining sales numbers. The standard equipment packs a lot of punch: under the hood, Pontiac's 400 cu. in engine is the same engine used in the GTO. The rare 428 cu. in V8 engine, also available, is a revamped version of the big-block design used by Pontiac.
Its high-performance engines and gorgeous styling mean the Catalina is an excellent choice for a muscle car enthusiast on a budget. While it may not be the most popular muscle car ever, it's certainly priced well: a restored third-generation Catalina can be purchased for under $12,000.
The Dodge Coronet is another excellent MOPAR frequently overshadowed by its more successful counterparts, the Dodge Challenger and Charger. Though it was initially quite popular, production of the Coronet slowly tapered off and eventually ended in 1976.
Despite its slow decline in popularity, the Coronet remains a fairly popular choice for muscle car enthusiasts seeking restoration candidates. A newly-restored one, or a modified one like this slick Super Bee, typically costs around $20,000 to start. On the other hand, a Coronet in need of some TLC can be easily found on websites like eBay Motors for well under $10,000.
Popular then and now, the fourth generation Chevrolet Impala was an instant classic. Its sleek, unique styling and dramatic lines made it a head-turner and a pop-culture favorite. It was truly a car designed to appeal to as many Americans as possible.
The Impala came standard with several engines as small as a 230 cu. in inline-six engine and as large as the 427 V8 found in the 1963 Z11. Roadworthy Impalas in need of a little extra love and care can be found easily for under $10,000, while a restored, show-ready Impala can be purchased for around $21,000.