Legendary American Muscle Cars

September 2, 2021

Shortly after the Second World War, home mechanics began modifying their cars to be faster, flashier, and more eye-catching. These hot-rodded vehicles became known as muscle cars, and when auto manufacturers caught onto the craze, some real beauties were shared with the world. Muscle cars continue to be made today - take, for example, the 2015 Dodge Challenger - but most collector favorites are the classics from the last century. Below, read about ten of the best souped-up speed machines in history.

10. 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88

The Rocket 88 is, according to most people in the know, the world’s first muscle car produced by a factory. In the post-war years, ex-military men began hot-rodding their cars, a practice which entails ripping out all of the heavy interior of a luxury vehicle and installing a super-charged V8 engine. These cars were fast, flashy, and luxurious, but not everyone had the time, know-how, or cash to retrofit a vehicle. Thankfully, Oldsmobile noticed the demand and supplied the machines.


9. 1964 Pontiac GTO

Packing 348 horsepower and 428 pound-foot of torque, the 1964 Pontiac GTO continues to blow drivers away. When it was first introduced, the GTO broke Pontiac’s parent company General Motor’s rule that said that no medium-sized car should have an engine larger than 330 cubic inches; the GTO’s engine measures in at 389 cubic inches. On top of that, the GTO’s hard top and two-door body helped set the standard for the iconic American muscle car.

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8. 1970 AMC Rebel Machine

In 1970, American Motors Corporation (AMC) released a heavily muscled version of their popular Rebel model aptly called The Machine. This beast of a car featured a 390 cubic-inch, V8 engine with 340 horsepower and 430 pound-foot of torque. The Motorcraft carburetor required to feed that massive engine was so powerful it required high octane fuel to run. The car came in such flashy colors as Electric Blue, Big Bad Red, and Frost White, and, for a limited time, the three were featured together in a patriotic trim package.


7. 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 429

Muscle car manufacturers were not shy about boasting in the names of their offerings; with a moniker like Boss, one can expect that the 1970 Mustang could pack a punch. Its gigantic engine was originally designed and approved for use in NASCAR; at 375 horsepower and 450 pound-foot of torque, it was so large that the hood had to be specially modified to physically fit it in the engine compartment. This car is so special today because only 859 of them were manufactured.

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6. 1970 Plymouth Superbird 426 Hemi

The 1970 Plymouth Superbird 426 Hemi remains one of the rarest muscle cars due to the fact that it was only in production for one year, and only one hundred and twenty-five Superbirds were given Plymouth’s 436 Hemi engine. This massive engine cranks out a whopping 425 horsepower, enabling the Superbird to go from zero to sixty in just 5.5 seconds. The 1970 Superbird was a popular choice of NASCAR drivers due to the sheer power the Hemi engine produces.


5. Dodge Dart Ramcharger

At first glance, the Dodge Dart Ramcharger might be one of the more surprising entries on any muscle car list. The diminutive coupe body looks more like a Sunday cruiser than a high-performance racing machine, yet the engine in the Dart Ramcharger put it in the winner’s circle of many drag races. The 425-horsepower Hemi engine was a favorite among drag racers, and the car’s small body made it light enough to edge out the competition.

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4. 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

Camaro enthusiasts rave about the 1969 Chevy Camaro Z28. While it might not be the fastest Camaro out there, the car’s unique combination of features gave it impressive handling and responsiveness. The 1969 Z28 came with four-wheel disc brakes for the first time in Camaro history, and sported a 302 cubic inch V8 engine that could crank out over 400 horsepower when combined with the available four-barrel carburetor. Best of all, the 1969 Z28 came available with an engine cowl on the hood, giving it a powerful, drag-strip-ready look.

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3. 1968 Shelby Mustang GT500-KR

This now-classic Mustang came from the factory packed with so much power that those responsible for naming it gave a nod to its dominance in the letter KR, which stand for “King of the Road.” Manufacturers knew that the speeds possible with the GT500’s “Cobra Jet” 335-horsepower, 440 pound-foot torque engine would be astronomical, so it came from the factory with a padded rollbar installed for extra safety. Additional safety measures such as air inlet hood scoops and vented brakes came standard.

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2. 1969 Pontiac Firebird 400 Coupe

The Pontiac Firebird is one of the most iconic American muscle cars. The 1969 Firebird 400 Coupe was a rare combination of timeless style and raw power that ensured it turned heads both on Main Street and the drag strip. The 400 cubic inch engine generated 345 horsepower and coupled with the coupe’s small body, made it lightning fast. The 1969 models sported a completely redesigned body with a long front hood and forward-leaning grill, giving it an appearance of speed even when parked.

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1. 1968 Dodge Dart 426 Hemi

In terms of sheer speed, the ultra lightweight 1968 Dart with a Chrysler 426 Hemi engine blows the other muscle cars on this list out of the water. The car was built with a fiberglass hood and front fenders, had very thin glass, and did not waste precious streamlining on side mirrors. Needless to say, The Dart 426 Hemi was never intended for tooling around town, and is indeed not street legal. The racing machine could easily obliterate a ten-second quarter-mile run pretty much straight from the factory.

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