Think muscle car and one harks back to the Golden era of them all – the late 60s to the early 70s. This is when the muscle car came into proper existence with carmakers putting in the biggest possible engines into small frames to make for the most powerful street-legal cars ever. And then these cars also came cheap because luxury wasn’t an ideal they followed.
That said, there have been muscle cars that sold well but came with issues people only realized much later. Many of them are still good muscle cars, with a few niggling problems that affected but a few customers. So here are 10 muscle cars that may be good, but have way too many problems…
10 2008 Dodge Challenger: Transmission Issues
Most muscle car enthusiasts refuse to consider any 21st-century car, as powerful as it may be, to be a true muscle car. For them, it was the retro cars of the 60s, 70s and the 80s that were the real deal, even if they came sans carpeting and air-con. For some, though, the 2008 Dodge Challenger did make it into muscle car lists with a Hemi V8 pulsing out 425 horses.
Driving it was a dream for many, with it redlining at 6000 RPM – but soon enough, the bubble burst. Several of these cars started to have transmission problems and some had to get replacements days after buying their car. But since the problems were few and far between, the Challenger challenged on.
9 1975 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28: A 155-Horsepower Disaster
One would think of buying a Chevrolet Camaro for all that awesome speed and power, right? Well, not if you bought the Camaro Z/28 in 1975. Hit by the oil crisis, this was a Camaro that came with the most awful and rattling build quality you ever saw, with ugly bumpers that were visible even in the dead of the night.
Then they dropped even the Z/28 option and got in engines that were V8s but as lackluster as possible with only 155 horses. This made the Camaro a has-been in the 70s – it was once a great car, but now just a shell of its former glory with no power to give, never mind how many times you pressed the pedal.
8 1968-1972 Chevrolet El Camino SS454: A Light Behind
The Chevrolet El Camino SS454 was one of the greats – armed with a big-block 454 ci aka 7.4-liter V8, it punched out 365 horses. Which is great except that all these horses went straight to the rear wheels. Too much of rev and the El Camino shot out like a bat out of hell. It skittered on its rear wheels, drunk on its power.
With no weight in the rear, controlling all that power became the main problem. A lot of people combatted that by loading the trunk with sandbags. If you used this as a utility vehicle to haul stuff, it worked great. Otherwise, you had to pay attention to its rear for sure.
7 1971-1974 AMC Javelin: Ugliest Interiors Ever
As cool, nifty and powerful as the AMC Javelin was from the outside; the inside bespoke the era of malaise. At its 1968 launch, the Javelin was as true to a pony car as ever. By 1971, the car looked bigger and bulkier, though it was still good for 335 horses.
With the oil crisis around the corner, AMC cost-cut on the interiors and everything suddenly became brittle plastic that squeaked and rattled all the more when the car ran faster. The car ran beautifully otherwise, just that the interiors were shoddy. Too big and bulky a steering wheel and a strange dashboard made it a bit tacky to drive.
6 1969-1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302: Eats Itself
When the Mustang proved to be less powerful than the Camaro, Ford launched the Boss 302 and the Boss 429 Mustang for race car enthusiasts. And the 4.9-liter V8 engine in the 302 was a powerful one, hitting 0-60mph in seven seconds with an output of 290 horses.
But with great power comes great responsibility which the Boss 302 engine didn’t care much about – so it blew pistons with alarming regularity, and wore its exhaust system down as well. So this was a car so powerful, it ate itself inside out – which is why parts are rare today and this is one very expensive-to-maintain classic.
5 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda: Punch Drunk On Gas
The Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda, short for Barracuda is one classic car that can cost a cool one mil, if not more. It's rare, the parts rarer and if well-maintained, and can cost a car collector pretty dearly. It's 7.5-liter Hemi V8 can churn out 425 horsepower with 490 ft-lb torque, and it's racing legacy is mind-blowing.
What we don’t realize about this car that it had immense body roll and build quality that probably would be banned today. This V8 engine that gave crazy power also guzzled gas like a 70-year-old drunk with no impulse control, and nothing to lose. Power comes with a price you know.
4 1970 Ford Torino GT: Too Heavy To Be Fast
The 1970 Ford Torino GT has to have a mention in the muscle car era of the classics – it was beautiful and looked top of the line. It got the Cobra Jet engine, the one that went into the Shelby Mustangs – with Ford hoping it could create as big a classic with the Torino as it did with the Mustang.
Sadly, the 3,500 pounds plus curb weight of the Ford Torino held it back, and we mean this literally. You could have put a 500-horsepower V12 in this and the Torino’s weight would have still held it back from achieving its muscle car potential to the fullest.
3 1968-1970 Dodge Charger: A Mean Body Roll
The original Charger looked sinister in its meanness and looked ready to kickass at an instant. The 5.2-liter V8 was powerful enough for sure and managed to give good chase to any muscle car around – probably the reason they used it as the villain car in the movie, Bullitt. Of course, while Bullitt drove a Mustang, he was chasing down a Dodge Charger.
The problem with the Chargers of this time was a major body roll, because when they made this car – speed took priority over suspension. So while this car went fast, it didn’t do so steadily, and turns were utter torture for anyone who took them in a Charger.
2 1977 Plymouth Volaré Road Runner: Intimate Rain
In 1976 Plymouth replaced the Valiant with the Volaré and added a Road Runner trim to it. With oil embargos culling off all guzzlers, this was the end of the Road Runner as well, so putting this legendary nameplate on a new car was a bid to popularize the Volaré.
Sadly, Plymouth did not pay enough attention to the body of the Volaré which was more sieve than steel and let in water at all angles and intensity. The Volaré Road Runner may have been one fast muscle car trim, but it could not outrun the leaks when it was driven in rainy weather. If it drizzled outside, it poured inside.
1 1970 Ram-Air 429 Cobra Jet Ford Ranchero: Too Darn Rare
The Ford Ranchero 429 Cobra Jet was a trim offered from 1970 to 1972. Not many were made and sold, and in the classic car market, this becomes an opportunity. This rare Ford Ranchero is an expensive deal on the classic car bazaar but as expensive as it is buying it, maintaining it becomes near well impossible. Why? With such few cars made and sold, the parts are even rarer than the car.
Plus, not many even know what to do under the hood of a Cobra Jet Ranchero – so if one wants to buy and keep one of these – one must know how to handle them and the 360 horses under the hood. Even when the Cobra Jet Ranchero was alive and well, mechanics who knew about them were hard to find. Now, it's nigh well impossible.