There have been a number of impressive muscle cars that have hit the market over the years. Originally interpreted as “smaller, two-door car powered by a high-displacement engine typically found in a larger, full-size sedan” (as BankRate.com describes it), these vehicles has evolved over their 50-plus years on the market. Several things have remained consistent, though: these cars are still stylish, luxurious, and (of course) powerful. To put some of the vehicles over the top, they’re affordable (although some of the rarer models may be particularly difficult to find).
While it’s unlikely you’ll see any of these vehicles sitting next to a Dodge Durango in Miami, it’s still fun to recognize some of the segment’s more popular models…
1967 Pontiac GTO
While many car enthusiasts would be quick to point out that the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 holds the distinction of being the first muscle car on the market, many would argue that the 1964 GTO was actually the nameplate that helped make the class of vehicles so popular. The ride ended up influencing many future muscle cars, particularly because of the innovative 389-cubic-inch V8 engine (which the brand sneakily included as part of the ‘GTO option’). As BankRate.com writes, this unit paved the way for future engines produced by Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Buick and Pontiac, making the Pontiac GTO quite the revolutionary car.
While the 1964 model was the first of its kind and the 1965 version is generally regarded as the best in the nameplate’s history, BankRate opted for the 1967 model on its list of best all-time muscle cars. The vehicle was chosen because of the available ram air (which was accessible via the “functional hood scoop”) and the upgraded 400-cubic-inch V8 engine, a motor that was capable of producing 360 horsepower.
1968 Plymouth Road Runner Hemi
Plymouth was pursuing a “bare-knuckle, muscle-car fighter,” and there’s no denying that they succeeded with their 1968 Road Runner. In fact, the vehicle proved to be so successful that it earned a spot on BankRate’s list.
The Road Runner Hemi is particularly known for one thing: it’s Hemi engine! The performance car certainly lived up to its name, as the 426-cubic-inch Hemi V8 engine could pump out 425 horsepower, an incredible spec for the 1960s. This made the vehicle a particular favorite of the drag racing crowd.
Speaking of the ‘Road Runner,’ Plymouth had actually licensed the name from Warner Brothers years before the vehicle’s release. The brand took some extra steps to make their car synonymous with the cartoon character, even adding the familiar “beep-beep” sound to the vehicle’s horn system.
1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429
The ‘Boss’ may be one of the rarest vehicles mentioned on this list, as only 1,400 of the Mustangs were produced between the nameplate’s 1969-1970 run. Many would expect this giant car to deliver unbelievable power, and the brand somewhat delivered. The 429-cubic-inch V8 engine was capable of pumping out 375 horsepower. That’s certainly an impressive number, but nothing to write home about.
The Ford Mustang Boss instead made a name for itself via the stylish, hand-built design. The vehicle was engineered differently than the brand’s other vehicles, as the giant engine was unable to fit in the standard Mustang. This meant the ‘Boss’ included a “hood scoop and trunk-mounted spoiler,” separating it from any of the company’s other muscle cars. If you ever come across a Boss, we’re confident that you’ll recognize it. Furthermore, if you come across a Boss, see if the current owner is willing to sell!
1969 Chevy Camaro ZL1
The ZL1 you’ll find on today’s dealer lots was inspired by this 1969 beauty, but the predecessor certainly trumps the current edition in popularity. There were only 70 of the legendary cars ever built, and BankRate declares the original Chevy Camaro ZL1 the “rarest production car Chevrolet ever made.” This resulted in a reasonable $7,200 price tag on the used market, although we’d reckon that an owner would probably seek a bit more, especially if the vehicle is in solid condition.
The vehicle featured the most powerful engine in the brand’s history, as the unit was capable of pumping out 430 horsepower. The engine was actually inspired by the legendary 427 V8 unit used by the company back in the day, and the revamped design made for one of the most beloved systems of all time!
1970 Buick GSX Stage 1
Buick was generally known for producing luxurious, stylish vehicles… not brawny, powerful cars. The brand bucked that trend following the release of their 1970 Buick GSX, which included an optional Stage 1 upgrade. So why was the optional feature chosen to represent the vehicle on BankRate’s list? Of the 687 Buick GSXs ever built, 488 included the Stage 1 option, making it more prevalent than the standard version of the vehicle.
Originally released in 1967 after having separated from the Skylark nameplate, the 1970 Buick GSX Stage 1 was the most accomplished in the model’s brief history. Featuring a 455-cubic-inch V8 engine (capable of producing 360 horsepower and an eye-popping 510 pounds-feet of torque), the Buick was truly one of a kind. Sure, other vehicles may have been faster or more powerful, but no other muscle car could offer the unique combination of speed, power, and luxury.
1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda
There were several impressive variations of the Plymouth Barracuda, but the premier version featured “the dual-carburetor, 426-cubic-inch Hemi that whipped up 425 horsepower” (other options included a six- and eight-cylinder engine). While the horsepower may trail that of some of the other vehicles on the list, the inclusion of “a suspension tailored to heavy-metal acceleration” certainly added some firepower.
There were only a limited number of Barracudas produced, and very few customers opted for the Hemi engine, making this particular model a very rare find. Of course, that wasn’t the only impressive aspect of the vehicle, as it also feature a shaker hood (including an air intake mount), and sleek, stylish curves.
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454
1970 was clearly a popular year for the muscle car segment, making it particularly difficult for a newcomer to stand out. The Chevelle SS 454’s ability to immediately make a name for itself is a testament of the vehicle’s impressive power and speed.
There were two versions of the 454-cubic-inch V8 engine that customers could opt for: the 360-horsepower LS5 or the 450-horsepower LS6. BankRate was particularly fond of the LS6 system, as the engine and accompanying four-barrel carburetor produced unrivaled power. To make it even better, the Chevelle was a particularly handsome vehicle, featuring a “swept-back roof line” and a “bulged hood,” give the image of a speed demon. All of these unique attributes were enough to earn the Chevelle a spot on BankRate’s list.
As you’ve read, there have been a number of impressive muscle cars produced over the year, and it’s particularly difficult to separate any individual vehicle from the pack. The previously-mentioned cars do all share several similar traits, including impressive power, luxury, and style. While it’d be particularly difficult to come across any of these vehicles today, their affordable price tag means owner these muscle cars isn’t unrealistic!