When you hear “muscle car, “ your mind may go to classic American muscle cars like the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, or Chevrolet Corvette. Everyone knows and loves these models. But American automotive history is filled with many beautiful muscle car models that have been forgotten.
Here are 24 classic American muscle cars that deserve to be remembered.
In 1968, the AMC Javelin was launched by American Motors to introduce a quick car that would increase sales and change the public image of AMC. The Jaelin accomplished both, and the car was produced through 1974.
There were three options: the Javelin, Javelin SST, and Javelin AMX. They were all four-seaters with high-back vinyl bucket seats. The 1971 was given a new look by Chuck Mashigan, who added front fenders and bold raised blisters over the wheels, making it feel like an “expensive European exotic.”
Pontiac GTO “The Judge”
The GTO is a well-known car, but the variant on the 1969 model called “The Judge” is a car to be remembered. The model was known for being the best muscle car in its price range and came with a Ram Air III V8 engine, 366 hp horsepower, and a 4-speed manual transmission.
Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II
The Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II is a living legend. Ford stylists attempted to add an extended nose to their Cyclone package, and the Spoiler II was born. The car was supposed to be released in 1970 to comply with NASCAR certifications, but the program was canceled, and few of the cars were ever sold.
According to supercars.net, a lot of people doubted that this car ever existed until an original model showed up at Ford’s 100th anniversary celebration. There is supposedly only one model in existence, and it holds a 429 engine, reaches a top speed of 100 MPH, and has a 4-speed manual transmission.
Oldsmobile 442 W-30
This car’s “W-Machine” package was considered one of the fastest muscle cars of its time. The name tells you what’s on the inside. The 4-4-2 explains that the car has a four-barrel carburetor, it’s a four-speed manual transmission, and it has a dual-exhaust system. The stock engine was a 455-cid V8 with a rating of 370 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque.
Buick Skylark GSX
You may think of Buick as being a luxury brand, but they also had some pretty sweet muscle in their lineups. The Skylark GSX came along with 350-420 horsepower and would have cost you $4,198 brand new in 1970. This car was Buick’s answer to the muscle car frenzy in the 70s, and it’s a model that is displayed in showrooms across the nation.
Dodge Dart Swinger 340
The Dark Swinger 340 is the lesser-known little brother of the Challenger, but its 340 V8 engine made it a real contender in the muscle car era. Hemmings said that the Dart Swinger 340 was “a base model two-door hardtop Dart. The Swinger 340 included dual exhaust, Rallye suspension, a heavy-duty limited-slip differential with 3.23:1 gears (3.55 or 3.91 were optional), and the buyer's choice of heavy-duty TorqueFlite automatic or manual four-speed.
Plymouth Road Runner Superbird
The Superbird is known for its distinctive nose cone that fanatics can spot it from miles away. You may recognize this car if you’re a NASCAR fan or if you’ve watched Disney’s Cars. The Superbird was designed for one simple purpose: to win NASCAR races. And that it did a little too well because after winning 33 of 48 races in 1970, NASCAR banned the model for good.
AMC Rebel Machine
The 1970s were full of beautiful muscle cars, and the AMC Rebel Machine was another one in the lineup. This gem was known for its bold color options, and Old Cars Weekly said it had “340-horse 390 V-8 along with a four-speed, close-ratio tranny, a Hurst shifter, lighted 8000-rpm hood tach, Ram Air, 3.54:1 or 3.91:1 rear axles, heavy-duty shocks and springs, a low-back-pressure dual exhaust system, front and rear sway bars, 15-inch raised white-letter tires, styled wheels, high-back bucket seats and power disc brakes.”
Ford Torino Cobra
If you had an extra $155 to spend in 1970, it would have been well spent on For’s Drag Pack option for its all-new 1970 Torino Cobra. Its base price was $3,270, and it came stock with “360-horse Thunder Jet four-barrel V-8 (code N) and Hurst-shifted Toploader four-speed, competition suspension with 14 x 7-inch wheels wearing white-letter tires, blacked-out hood and grille, hood pins, plus specific moldings and logos on a dramatic all-new body..”
Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 LS6
In 1969, you could snag a Chevelle SS with all the add-ons for a grand total of around $5,000, which sounds cheap for these days, but back then, that was equivalent to the cost of a Corvette, which was expensive for your average car fanatic. In 1969, MotorTrend tested the Chevelle against a Plymouth Road Runner 440 Six Pack, and a Ford Torino Cobra 429, and the Chevy whipped them both with a 0-60 mph in 6.0 seconds, which was legendary for that time.
Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
The Firebird Trans Am is the overshadowed cousin of the Camaro that earned its reputation in muscle car culture from films like “Smokey and the Bandit.” The 1970 Firebird came stock with the 345-horsepower Ram Air 400-cid V-8. There were options to upgrade the engine, but only 88 of the 3,196 original buyers added to the stock engine, showing that fans were happy with the power that the Ram Air 400-cid V-8 furnished.
Mercury Cougar Eliminator
This car was considered to be the “absolute zenith of the original muscle car era.” The 1969 and 1970 models showed the pique of their power, and after that, horsepower and compression ratios began to sink, and the car lost its luster. This car was then rebirthed into the known and loved 5.0 Mustang GT of 1982, which is more known and widely loved today.
Buick Skylark Grand Sport
The Buick Skylark GS was Buick's contribution to the muscle car era. The GS (Gran Sport) package was introduced in 1965, added enhanced suspension, brakes, and handling, making it a big competitor on the streets and drag strips.
According AldanAmerican, “If you happen to come across a Skylark Gran Sport and want it for yourself, be prepared to pay anywhere from $40,000 up to $140,000, depending on the model and its condition.”
Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS 454
The Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS 454 was introduced in 1970 and people loved it because combined the luxury of a full-size personal coupe with the power of a muscle car. The car was powered by a massive 7.4-liter V8 engine and it delivered impressive acceleration and straight-line performance.
Dodge Charger Daytona
The Dodge Charger Daytona was introduced in 1969 and was designed for one purpose: domination on the NASCAR race track.
It was popular for its aerodynamic styling which included a distinctive rear wing and extended nose cone– both features helped it achieve higher speeds and improved stability on the oval tracks.
It was powered by a range of potent V8 engines, including the legendary 426 Hemi, the Charger Daytona was a force to be reckoned with on the race track. Today, it remains an icon of American automotive history and a highly coveted collector's item.
Ford Fairlane 500 R-Code
The Ford Fairlane 500 R-Code was produced in the early 1960's and there were only 57 models made. It was equipped with the potent 427 cubic inch V8 engine, known as the “R-Code” engine, and it was one of the most powerful production cars of its time.
According to TopSpeed, “The 427 side oiler design was one of Ford's best racing motors ever, producing an impressive 425 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 480 foot-pounds of torque. The car was equipped with a four-speed manual toploader transmission and a special design, making it perfect for racing.”
Oldsmobile and Hurst Performance wanted to collaborate on a car, and out popped the Oldsmobile Hurst/Olds. It was based on the Oldsmobile Cutlass and featured a distinctive black and gold color scheme. It was powered by a range of high-performance V8 engines, including the legendary 455 cubic inch Rocket V8.
Remember this car? It was introduced in 1967 as Plymouth's answer to the growing demand for high-performance muscle cars.
It was based on the Belvedere platform and it featured powerful engine options, including the legendary 426 Hemi V8. The GTX was a favorite among drag racers and street enthusiasts because it had the perfect combination of both speed and style on the road.
AMC Matador Machine
American Motors Corporation wanted to enter the muscle car market, and the Matador “Machine” was their attempt. The Machine package included performance upgrades such as heavy-duty suspension, enhanced brakes, and distinctive graphics.
According to autoevolution, “The list of goodies included power disc front brakes, heavy-duty springs, shocks, anti-roll bars on both ends, and the Kelsey-Hayes five-spoke wheels wrapped in Goodyear PolyGlas white-lettered tires that the 1971 Machine stood on.”
This car was named after the powerful and agile African wildcat, if that gives any insight into this powerful car. The 1954 Wildcat could hit 195-200 horsepower which translated to accelerating from 0-60 mph in just over 10 seconds and a little over 110 mph, which was impressive for that time. There were 81,982 “Centurys” produced in 1954, which marked a nice entrance year for the car.
Chevrolet Nova SS
The Chevrolet Nova SS was introduced in 1962 and it was Chevrolet's compact muscle car offering. Despite its small size, the Nova SS packed a punch with its range of potent V8 engines, including the legendary 327 and 396 cubic inch options.
According to J.D. Power, the story goes that, “Chevrolet introduced the SS package for 1963 Nova convertibles and Sport Coupe hardtops, though it gave the car a sporty look as it didn’t have a powerful enough engine. However, sooner or later, Chevrolet introduced a V-8 option that produced 195 horsepower and, later on, 220 horsepower. Yet another option was able to pull off 155 horsepower with the 3.8-liter ‘Turbo-Thrift'. ”
Dodge Coronet Super Bee
The Dodge Coronet Super Bee was based on the Coronet platform and it was available with a range of V8 engines, including the legendary 426 Hemi, which delivered 425 horsepower. It's easily spotted because of its bumblebee graphics.
There was also a Super Bee “Six Pack” option that was much-loved by the public, and that's because it had a, “trio of two-barrel Holley carburetors feeding a 440-cid V-8, all hidden beneath a pinned-down, flat-black fiberglass hood.”
Ford Galaxie 500 XL
In 1964, if you wanted to buy a Galaxie, you could have chosen between a hardtop, sedan, or convertible, and with two or four doors, or even a station wagon. Like any good muscle car, the Galaxie came along with a powerful V8 engine, specifically, the legendary 427 cubic inch “R-Code” V8. It was one of the fastest production cars of its time, and was popular among drag-strip enthusiasts.
Plymouth Fury GT
The Plymouth Fury GT was introduced in 1969 and was Plymouth's mid-size muscle car offering. It was based on the Fury platform and the GT package added performance upgrades such as heavy-duty suspension, enhanced brakes, and distinctive styling cues. It was available with a range of powerful V8 engines, including the legendary 440 cubic inch “Super Commando” V8, which delivered impressive acceleration and straight-line performance.