The current era of escalating power wars that dominate Detroit headlines has provided amazing cars for the automotive world to dream of someday owning. Models like the Mustang, Challenger, Charger, and Camaro have returned to their former glory, with massive V8 power and a wide range of forced-induction options to balance out styling that represents a return to the aggressive designs of years gone past.
Muscle car mania gripped this country's gearheads in the late-1960s and 1970s. Every small town had a stretch of road that doubled as a nighttime drag strip and every teenager dreamed of wrenching on their V8 and burning enough rubber to leave indelible designs on the pavement just outside the city limits. The era faded, however, when cars made by Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge (not to mention some now-defunct brands that had a major presence back in the day) succumbed to the pressures of oil crises, imports, and slightly saner consumer preferences.
Plenty of muscle cars ended up parked behind houses, sheds, and barns while coping with the strains of time and weather as their owners slowly forgot about them. Around a half-century later, these forlorn greats have spawned an entire industry of 'barn finds' and some rusted-out examples are even being revived to take on the beasts leaving Detroit factories today.
Meanwhile, plenty of owners who aren't happy with how mass-produced their brand-new muscle cars seem have become obsessed with customizations, made all the easier by the rising tide of automotive websites on the internet. But many modded cars end up ruined by their owners—some even worse than the classics that have been neglected.
20 And Carroll Cried
This might be a beautiful pic of Mother Nature reclaiming one of the beasts that used to roar down the roads burning as much fossil fuel as possible but there's no doubt in the minds of any gearheads that this Shelby Mustang GT500 looked more beautiful before it had plants sprouting out of its engine bay. Patina on classic cars is one thing; allowing one of the world's greatest automotive creations to languish until there's a zero-percent chance it will ever drive away is more tantamount to criminal negligence. If Carroll Shelby had known this kind of travesty would ever occur, he'd have had no choice but to retire early in protest.
Leaving a vintage muscle car out in the snow is one sure way to hasten its eventual demise. The early era of Detroit's most successful automotive genre used steel, a metal that rusts our quite quickly without an extensive care regime in place to preserve it from the creeping hands of time. At first glance, this GTO might seem salvageable but below its semi-clean lines hides a clue of the damage that's been wrought all over. The front chin and a missing windshield are the true giveaways that this forgotten masterpiece is probably never going to move under its own power again.
The era of two-tone paint schemes is, by now, a bygone period other than on exotic supercars like Bugatti's Veyron and Chiron or Koenigsegg's Agera models. But two-tone muscle cars were all the rage during the manic heyday of this country's greatest automotive products. Unfortunately, this Chevrolet Camaro Z28 looks as if it didn't leave the factory with a two-tone paint job; it has only acquired one from years and years of neglect. In fact, with what looks to be a new(er) hood bolted atop the engine bay, plus the faded blue as it transitions to pure rust, this Camaro now has something like a four-tone pattern.
17 Rusty Hunter
The Dodge Charger Daytona has gone down in history as one of the most iconic, valuable, and striking muscle cars ever built. A homologation special that featured aerodynamic enhancements to allow for more stability at higher speeds, the Charger Daytona (along with the original Plymouth Road Runner Superbird) is a long, sleek car the likes of which the world may never see again. Unfortunately, this Daytona has gone down in history without the care it deserves, and the world very well may never see it again once the folks attempting to salvage it realize that the crusher is the only possible way to end this sad story.
16 Not Dom's Charger
Vin Diesel has brought the Fast and Furious character of Dominic Toretto to life over most of the last two decades. It's hard to remember the way Dom's Charger appeared in the first few films. Of course, it wasn't in 2 Fast 2 Furious at all but for the most part, it was a work in progress that had received prioritized focus on its engine over its exterior, which was typically in either primer gray or matte black. This Charger, however, has received neither exterior nor performance attention for what looks like much more than just the last 20 years.
15 Not A Movie Chain
These days, AMC is a company that operates a chain of movie theaters. But for the lucky generation that lived through the best days of muscle car mania, AMC was a motor company that created some pretty awesome rides. This car is an AMC Javelin, the brand's muscle offering that was built from 1967 to 1974. The timing couldn't have been better and consumers gobbled up just about any car that paired legit power with some aggressive exterior styling; little else was required. The Javelin came with a range of engine options that maxed out with a 6.6-liter V8 that produced 330 horsepower in 1971.
14 Does It Count?
Does the Shelby Cobra count as a muscle car? Most gearheads would probably argue that it doesn't officially fit into the category—and yet, most would have to admit that the category itself wouldn't exist without the inspiration that the Cobra provided. When Carroll Shelby teamed up with Ford to dump a huge V8 engine into a tiny, lightweight sports car with a body by UK-based company AC, even fans with advance knowledge couldn't predict the legend that would end up being created. Although the Cobra may not have been able to take down Ferrari at Le Mans, its aggressive exterior and raw performance helped to spawn the entire muscle car genre.
Today, the Dodge Challenger has returned and there's little doubt that it represents Detroit's truest current reference to the heart and soul of this country's original muscle cars. With all-out power that's simply stunning—especially in 840-hp Demon trim—the Challenger isn't here to do any canyon carving; no, the drag strip is where it reigns as king. This classic Challenger reveals the lines that clearly inspired the current generation, though any hope of this former monster burning rubber and popping wheelies off the line has long since faded, much like the orange paint that is slowly fading into a different shade of burnt ochre.
12 Rust Is The New Orange
What is it about orange cars and the way they rust? Not many cars these days are sold with orange paint—maybe just that tiny hybrid, the absurd Prius c hatchback. But back in the days that Dazed and Confused glorified in earnest, orange must have been a very popular color for cars—or at least muscle cars, based on how many orange cars are sitting around slowly transitioning into the darker shades that rust brings on. Maybe it's because orange was a great color for nighttime street races that were highlighted by a crew of other souped-up muscle cars that lined up to light up the strip with their headlights. Or maybe it was just anticipation of the Dukes of Hazzard.
11 Muscle Cruck
The Chevrolet El Camino was not the first car-truck amalgamation to ever hit the world's streets but it has definitely gone down in history as the most famous example. Most people today probably see a Ford Ranchero or Dodge Rampage and figure it's just another generation of the El Camino, despite the fact that Ford actually beat the Chevy to market and that the Rampage was a four-cylinder disappointment. Neither of the El Camino's main challengers could hope to compete with the true star, especially if it left the factory in SS trim. The only problem was that its light rear end couldn't handle all the power! Perhaps that's why this one has been left to rust away.
10 Hulk Smash
These days, performance sports cars like the Porsche 911 and everything made in Italy— from Ferrari to Lamborghini and Alfa Romeo—come with wheel sizes that would have boggled the mind only a couple of decades ago. And while larger wheels can improve performance on legit sports cars (while simultaneously ruining ride comfort for daily drivers), there's a limit to how big the wheels can get before things get strange. This Mustang, though, is well beyond strange and with its oversized, green and chrome rims, there's no hope of ride comfort for anyone either in the car or watching from the sidewalk as it blows tires on every pebble.
9 Millennium Camaro
The Chevrolet Camaros of the 1990s may have been hilariously disappointing from a design standpoint (not to mention interiors that used more plastic than Kylie Jenner's face), but they definitely had their contemporary Mustang competitors beat in terms of V8 power. Bolting on a couple of turbochargers to create a track monster could actually be accomplished thanks to Chevy's long history of LS-based mods. But why anyone had to add these body panels above a duo of snails remains a mystery; they look more like the blaster-shredded sides of the Millennium Falcon than anything else. But this Camaro probably struggles to make the jump to lightspeed, too.
8 Literally Sickening
The current Stance Nation fad of bagging and dropping cars, then purposefully setting up aggressive camber in the exact opposite of a performance-enhancing method has ruined plenty of cars—and though ricers tend to be the typical victims, a few muscle cars have received such treatment, as well. This Charger, at the very least, hasn't gotten totally stanced but it sure isn't going to enjoy any of the features which have helped the model enjoy a resurgence in the last decade. Rather than being able to blast down highways and chase crooks, like the Chargers that have been drafted into official service, this example will struggle to clear speed bumps and driveways.
Sometimes, the end product of a car customization project can leave everyone simultaneously awed and befuddled. This Charger clearly benefitted from a ton of highly skilled labor in the process of receiving a Challenger front end, Lambo doors, a custom interior, enormous wheels, and a two-tone paint job. But the fact that someone could be this talented as car customization and have a less-than-zero taste quotient is just sad. Imagine if they'd actually had a solid vision before they started chopping, welding, and painting to their heart's delight. A four-door Challenger isn't the worst idea in the world but in this case, this Charger has been ruined.
6 Foxy Trucky
A small contingent of mechanics enjoys transforming cars into crucks in full El Camino style. From Volkswagen Golf crucks to BMW 3-Series crucks, it seems like anything that many modders like to work on will eventually turn up as someone's bright idea. But the same problem that plagues this Fox Body Mustang cruck plagues every variation on the theme, even back to the first Rancheros and El Caminos; namely, that pickup trucks have very little weight over their rear tires. Anyone with a powerful truck (or cruck) has to keep weights, like sandbags, in the truck bed to help prevent the rear wheels from spinning at every little tap of the throttle.
5 Stanced 'Stang
These days, the Ford Mustang has returned to its roots—and in many ways, though it may sound sacrilegious, the current Mustang is actually better than even the original first-generation. Besides an impressive lineup of turbocharged and naturally aspirated engine options, the inclusion of independent rear suspension as a standard feature ratchets the Mustang up to a legitimate performer, and not just in a straight line. Unfortunately, this Mustang has been seriously stanced, rendering all the potential advantages of the current generation completely useless. Now, this stanced 'Stang will be more likely to set the grass it's sitting on ablaze than burn any rubber in tight canyon corners.
4 Dip It Low
The Chevrolet Impala may have turned into a boring commuter car later in its long production run, but it originated as a classically beefy Detroit product with a range of V8 options over its first five generations. This fourth-gen might be one of the best body styles for the nameplate, with a raked fastback coupe setup that makes it seem at once luxurious and muscly. While earlier Impalas tend to be favorites for lowrider builds, this one has received a restomod revision including a significant drop, blacked-out rims, and door-handle delete. Unfortunately, many of the changes contribute to keeping anyone from really enjoying what could be up to a factory 454 under the hood.
3 Dangerous At Any Speed
The Chevrolet Corvair is notorious in the automotive industry and, to a certain extent, also in the rest of the world, as well. Ralph Nader made his name by breaking the story about how the Corvair's rear-engine layout combined with a badly designed rear suspension setup to create a one-car accident. And while the Corvair can almost be thought of as this country's equivalent to its contemporary Porsche 911, Stuttgart was delivering cars with superb handling at the time, while the Corvair merely employed an air-cooled flat-six mounted behind the rear axle. Still, the model's exterior style is certainly stellar—though dropping it and stancing it might make it even less safe at any speed.
2 National Treasure
The Buick Grand National is making a resurgence these days, as gearheads figure out that they love its combination of boxy style and powerful drivetrain layout. Values for well-kept, low-mileage examples are quickly skyrocketing, which should come as no surprise in an era when turbochargers are sneaking their way into virtually every modern sports car. But this Grand National certainly isn't a well-kept example. Those wheels have probably wreaked havoc on the car's suspension and drive axle geometry, while also likely damaging the wheel wells and flared fenders. Even Nic Cage wouldn't boost this car—regardless of whether he was in Gone in 60 Seconds or National Treasure.
1 Flaming Cruck
The Ford Ranchero was a Falcon-based car-truck experiment that proved there was a market—regardless of the fact that it was a small one—for tiny little alternative vehicles. With slightly more utility than a station wagon, crucks like this and the El Camino were more for city drivers who occasionally wanted to haul some lumber than they were designed for outright ranch work. The El Camino received real V8 power while the Ranchero became a popular choice for tuners and modders who wanted to drop in a new powerplant. But with little weight over the rear end, Rancheros like this demonstrate the fact that a couple of sandbags and a limited-slip differential were key to avoiding absurd one-wheel burnouts on the regular.
Sources: Wikipedia, Lowrider, Ford-Trucks, and IMDb.