13 Worst Muscle Cars Ever Produced

Datsun at a car show

When you think of a muscle car, you may think it’s synonymous with power, beauty, clever design, and stunning curves. And while it’s true that most vintage muscle cars are cool, others just wildly miss the mark. These 24 muscle cars were a nice attempt, but they turned out quite lame once they made it off the production belt.

1971-1975 AMC Matador

1975 AMC Matador X
Image Credit: MercurySable99/WikiCommons.

The AMC Matador was a nice try, but it didn’t make the cut. It’s considered to be one of the least desirable muscle cars, and it’s not worth much at all on the collector’s market. You can snag one of them for not much at all. Consider this 1975 AMC Matador in excellent condition, selling for only $14k.

1975-1980 AMC Pacer

AMC Pacer
Image Credit: Charles01 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

This car looks cool, but it’s disappointing to drive. The iconic design might lead you to believe that you’d be in for a good time, but it has only a 3.8-liter OHV I-6 that gets a sputtering 90 hp. You can expect to pay around $14,000 for one of these. Not much, considering the age and history behind them.

1982-1985 Chevrolet Camaro Iron Duke

1985 Chevrolet Camaro
Image Credit: IFCAR/WikiCommons.

The name of this car makes it sound like a legend, but it actually has the nickname of “worst Camaro ever.” Why so bad? It sacrificed performance in order to meet fuel efficiency standards. Who is expecting their muscle car to get good gas mileage? Not me. Therefore, this car was deemed a disappointment. If you’re interested, there are plenty of them on the market within the $25k-$30k range.

1974 Ford Mustang II

1974 Ford Mustang II
Image Credit: Kieran White/WikiCommons.

The 1960s are just some hard muscle car years to live up to. The Mustang II was a disappointment because everyone was expecting it to be an improvement on the classic 60’s Mustangs. But the car was short and stocky; it lost its iconic curves and its V8 engine. And if you have no curves and no V8, you’re hardly a muscle car at all.

1981-1983 Ford Mustang Turbo

1983 Ford Mustang Turbo
Image Credit: Sicnag/WikiCommons.

This car may bear the name Mustang, but it certainly doesn’t deserve it. The fox-body style just couldn’t rival its predecessors. Mustang Specs speculated, “The turbo might have been a technological triumph, but with late availability and that $250 premium over a V8 powered GT, the Mustang GT Turbo only found 483 new homes.”

1979-1981 Chrysler 300

Chrysler 300
Image Credit: Berthold Werner/WikiCommons.

The 80s were just an unfortunate time for muscle cars. The attempt to balance size, power, design, and fuel efficiency was something that automakers just couldn’t seem to get down. The Chrysler 300 was a regular, full-sized car during this period, so these models don’t have much collector value.

1975-1982 Dodge Charger

1982 Dodge Shelby Charger prototype
Image Credit: Mr.choppers/WikiCommons.

The ’60s were all about speed and performance, so when the ‘70s and ‘80s came calling with their safety and fuel efficiency rules, the Dodge Charger became a disappointment. They lacked the power and performance that Chargers are known for, and honestly, the design on these is pretty rough as well.

1984-1987 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z

1987 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z
Image Credit: SONY DSC/WikiCommons.

Dodge Daytona Turbo Z is not a name you hear often, and I secretly admire this car, though it normally gets a lot of hate. It has a more sporty appearance than others on this list, and there were even a few turbocharged models in the mid-’80s.

However, the general consensus is that these models were lame. According to Haggerty, these cars were considered “disposable,” so it’s actually quite hard to find a good one these days. One immaculate one did emerge at Monterey Car Week in 2022, and it did catch a few stares from admirers.

1977-1979 Pontiac T1000

Pontiac T1000
Image Credit: IFCAR/WikiCommons.

Calling the Pontiac T1000 a muscle car is a bit of a stretch, and that’s why it made it to this list. This car was also known as the Chevrolet Chevette, and if you grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, then your parents likely owned one of these.

They were a popular American family car, a 3-door hatchback, and were one of the best-selling cars in America for years. But this is just because, as Hemmings put it, Americans were “fuel-starved” and willing to drive anything that would get them to their destinations.

1979-1987 Mercury Capri RS

1987 Mercury Capri RS
Image Credit: Greg Gjerdingen/WikiCommons.

The Mercury Capri RS tried to be a Mustang, but it just couldn’t live up to it. It shared the Fox-body platform with the Mustang, but that’s about all they had in common. The Capri RS lacked the power, performance, and edginess that fans like to see in a muscle car. It’s now a lot less collectible than the Mustang, though I wouldn’t mind owning one for nostalgia’s sake.

1980-1983 Datsun 280ZX

1983 Datsun 280ZX
Image Credit: IFCAR/WikiCommons.

This is one car that fans either love or hate. It has the classic muscle car design; it looks sleek on the road, but some people don’t think it’s got enough power to be considered a true muscle car.

Hemmings reminisced, saying, “Even though the body was all new and far more aerodynamically efficient than the old one, it was hard to shake the notion of that shape as something other than the pure genre-busting sports car that won the hearts and minds of the budget-oriented '70s coupe market.”

1975-1976 Bricklin SV-1

1976 Bricklin SV-1
Image Credit: Ventura19/WikiCommons.

The Bricklin SV-1 was very unique. It was a two-seater sports car with gull wings and pop-up headlights. The SV in the name stands for “safety vehicle,” which gives some insight into why this is one of the worst muscle cars. It ended up being better than expected on the road, but it is now a niche collectible, and unless you’re a fan of gull wings, it’s a car to pass on.

1981 Pontiac Grand Prix

1981 Pontiac Grand Prix
Image Credit: RL GNZLZ from Chile/WikiCommons.

This car came with a 4.3-liter V8, which is not a bad start, but the design gives grandma vibes, which is not what we are going for. This line was produced from 1962 all the way until 2002, and there were some great models in the mix throughout the years for the Pontiac Grand Prix, but the 1981 model just wasn't one of them.

Author: Madison Cates

Title: Managing Editor - Autos

Expertise: cars, electric cars, car maintenance, car repair, best cars


Madison is a journalist and editor who finds her home at Wealth of Geeks where she proudly serves as Managing Editor of Autos. Madison is always down to geek out over the latest beautiful cars on the market, and she enjoys providing her readers with tips to make car ownership easier and more enjoyable.