Technically, the whole muscle car revolution was brought to the Detroit home ground by Pontiac with the launch of their GTO, or as people still lovingly call it, The Goat. It took Chevrolet a while to catch up, though ever since they did, remember that it is still one of the greatest muscle car brands around. For each Mustang Ford brought out, Chevy answered with a Camaro. And don’t forget the Vette, the El Camino, the Nova, or even the Chevelle. Chevy’s muscle cars have been head to head with Ford's muscle for a while now and each brand has its own takers and leavers, mostly for life. For all the Chevy fans out there, here are ten of the greatest muscle cars, ranked.
10 1966 Chevy Biscayne
While the Biscayne may have been the second cheapest full-size Chevy in 1958 and was as no-frill and lightweight as it could get, in 1966 it was rebirthed. Perhaps to make it compete with the Impala, the Biscayne got the new Big-Block 427 V8 and this 7.0-liter engine in a car this light made it buck like an eager colt with no restraint. This mighty engine revved at 425 horsepower and made this otherwise simple car turn into a muscled beauty in terms of speed, and a refreshed front grille. The Biscayne, named after Biscayne Bay survived till 1972 before resting its laurels for good.
9 1966 Chevelle SS396
The Chevrolet Chevelle remained a rather popular nameplate from its induction in 1964 till it was finally replaced by the Malibu in 1978. In 66 and 67, the Chevelle underwent a transformation that included a far more appealing design, and of course, heavier engine options. For 66, there was the punchy 5.3-liter V8 or the 4.6-liter V8, each producing 310 and 220 horsepower respectively. Then there was the SS396 model introduced in 1966 as well, that announced Chevelle’s entry, very successfully, in the muscle car arena. This 6.5-liter V8 engine could whip up 375 horsepower and run 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds.
8 1971 Chevy El Camino
The El Camino was Chevy’s answer to the Ford utility coupe, the Ranchero, and was launched in 1959-60. It went off-market before finally being relaunched in 1964 based on Chevelle’s platform, but with a new body. Lasting till 1980, the El Camino was updated regularly to keep its appeal high, but it entered the muscle car fray in 1968 when the El Camino SS396 model was released. The 6.5-liter V8 engine made it look, sound and run cool but in 1971, the El Camino got another upgrade. The 7.4-liter V8 LS6 engine shot out 450 horsepower and gave the El Camino a sweet growl that surprised many on the road.
7 Yenko Chevelle
You could not get hotter than the 1969 Chevelle SS396, right? Wrong, because Don Yenko, a retired Corvair and Corvette racer who was now a Pittsburgh Chevy dealer decided to tinker with and developed his own line of Chevy cars which, other than the Chevelle, also included the Nova and Camaros (more on that later). What Yenko did was use Chevy’s COPO – Central Office Production Order division to get his Chevelles fitted with a 7.0-liter L72 V8 that together with a single four-barrel Holley carburetor jetted out 425 horsepower and 460 ft-lb torque. These Yenko/COPO Chevelles are magnificent beasts, with just a small badge on them that announces the monster under their hoods.
6 1971 Chevy Monte Carlo SS 454
The Monte Carlo was always marketed as a luxury car rather than muscle, but people who knew their cars knew of the legendary power hiding beneath the frills and refinement. The Monte Carlo was also based on Chevelle’s successful platform, and despite being marketed as a personal luxury car, it was NASCAR’s favorite Chevy stock car because of that huge wheelbase. The Monte Carlo SS 454 was a 7.4-liter powerhouse with a four-barrel carburetor that was good for 360 horsepower. With wider tires, it had a reinforced suspension and came in a three-speed automatic transmission. It may have looked bigger than the Chevelle SS but the weight difference was not significant; even so, there weren’t many SS 454 takers.
5 1968 Chevy Nova SS
The Chevy II or the Chevy Nova was a pocket rocket. Small in size but loaded under the hood, it wasn’t a bestseller like the Camaro, but it came cheaper and ran almost as well. Launched in 1967, the Nova SS could be fitted with a 5.3-liter small-block “turbo fire” engine from the Corvette and was good for 350 horsepower – pretty gigantic for a car this size. The base model started with a 2.5-liter engine that sputtered out only 90 horsepower. In 1968, the Nova came of age with its 6.5-liter V8 engine, which could rev all the way up to 375 horsepower, with added transmission and suspension updates.
4 COPO Camaro
With the ever-rising popularity of the Ford Mustang, Chevy had to step in with a product that could steal at least some of the Mustang’s customer base – and the Camaro was born in 1966. Like everyone has a favorite Mustang, everyone has a favorite Camaro as well, especially since Bumblebee chose the latter over the former. Dave Yenko also made some super special Camaro, putting in a 7.0-liter beast under the hood, that pulsed out an immense 435 horsepower with upgrades to transmission and suspension. Only 201 of these Yenko/COPO Camaros were made and they are the ones worth looking into barns and auctions for.
3 The Corvette
The Vette is as Murican as a sports/muscle car can get, and the dream of many a beer-bellied patriot. And it is one awesome car with a great legacy. First introduced in 1953, the Vette has seen many changes to both body and powerhouse. It was probably named the Corvette because the Corvette means a small warship – obvious from its size and potent powerhouses. With 60 years and counting, most have their versions of favorite Corvettes. The 1973-74 LS6 7.4-liter is a great version, as is the 1966 7.0-liter beauty. Then there was the 1967 L88 version that officially capped the horsepower to 430, but many say it went up as high as a whopping 560. So which one is your favorite Vette?
2 1967 Chevrolet Impala SS
There are many that attribute the TV series Supernatural’s success to the acting, the stars or the episode scripts. For me, it’s the Chevy Impala SS – Dean’s “Baby” that steals the thunder from all. The car in the show is a 1967 Impala SS, with a 5.3-liter engine that shot out 385 horsepower with a four-barrel Holly carburetor. 1967 is also when Impala received new design and safety updates, and despite it being far bigger and heavier than the Corvette that carried the same 5.3-liter engine; the horsepower of the Corvette was only 5 horses more at 390. The Impala did not just run or sound like a muscle car, it embodied the concept in totality.
1 The Camaro ZL1
The latest 2020 Chevy Camaro comes in two engine options – a 455-horsepower LT1 V8 engine or a ten-speed automatic V6 engine. And of course, like always, a Camaro is awesome. But perhaps the most awesome one was the ZL1 – so introduced to commemorate 45 successful years of the Camaro. The 6.2-liter V8 powerhouse came from the Corvette Z06 and was also used in the Cadillac CTS-V in 2009 – it produced an official 580 horsepower which many tinkerers claim, can go way up to almost 650! Exclusive 20-inch wheels, suede-encrusted interiors and a single exterior of carbon flash metallic paint make the ZL1 an utter legend.