The American car industry would have never been admired globally if it were not for its muscle cars. First introduced in the late 1940s with the Oldsmobile Rocket 88, muscle cars have since become a beacon of American hegemony. Although modern muscle cars have adopted features usually found on imports, the classic versions are still the real deal, but can end up being a pain to maintain.
In the last 15 years or so, classicmuscle cars found a new life. Amateur and professional tuners, such as Ringbrothers or Rtech Fabrications, turned classics into modernized beasts. These cars are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and are typically one-off creations. However, even if there is a plethora of American classics that would make great restomod projects, some oldies are better left untouched.
10 1963 Mercury Marauder S55
Mercury was once Ford’s mid-range brand. Created by Henry Ford’s son Edsel in 1938, Mercury would eventually be discontinued in 2011. Between the late ’30s and mid-70s, Mercury manufactured some of the most underrated American cars. Overshadowed by Ford and Lincoln’s sportier and more luxurious vehicles, respectively, several Mercury cars failed to receive the attention they truly deserved.
The Marauder S55 is one of the sickest Mercury cars ever made. Having all the attributes of a classic muscle car from the ’60s, the first generation Marauder is an absolute marvel. In 1963, Mercury offered the S55 package for the Marauder, available with the 390 and 427 cu in motors. With respective power outputs of 300 and 410 hp, the Marauder S55 is a great as it is.
9 1969 Ford Torino Cobra
1969 is one of the best years in the American automobile industry, and Ford’s lineup was mind-blowing, from the Bronco to the Fairlane Cobra 428. While most Ford vehicles were outstanding, many of them still went under the radar.
The Torino was sadly overshadowed by the Mustang, among other great Ford cars back in 1969. That said, the Torino Cobra should have received a lot more attention. Equipped with a potent 427 cu in V8, the Torino Cobra goes from 0 to 60 in either 6 seconds and 6.3 seconds, depending on whether it has Ram Air or not. With figures such as 335 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque, it is clear that the Torino Cobra is destined to be an ultimate classic.
8th 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge Convertible
Established in 1925, Pontiac was originally part of Oakland, a defunct GM brand. Following the success of Pontiac cars, the company named after the legendary Ottawa chief took over Oakland. During the golden age of the American car, Pontiac developed some of the most popular muscle cars made to this day.
The 1969 GTO Judge is one of the most epic Pontiac cars ever made. Originally intended as a cheaper GTO, the unforgettable package ended up being more expensive than the regular GTO. The package included a plethora of performance parts, including the Ram Air 400 that develops 366 hp and 445 lb-ft of torque. The convertible version of the GTO Judge includes the same features, however only 108 were ever made.
7 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 COPO
Chevrolet manufactured some truly astonishing vehicles back in the late 60s. The Camaro, for example, was offered with the great 396 cu in V8 in 1969. As the management at Chevrolet refused to install engines larger than 400 cu in the smaller cars. People wanting a bigger engine (the 427) in their Camaro would have to take a different route and order it through the Central Office Production Order, hence “COPO”.
There are several things gearheads love about the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, the most obvious reason is the fact that the Camaro ZL1 is an absolute monster, which may explain why Chevrolet still offers the ZL1 package today. The 427 cu in V8 pumps out a phenomenal 430 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque. It was rumored that the engine was really producing over 500 hp. Early ZL1s are extremely rare and therefore have become valuable collectibles.
6 1970 Dodge Challenger RT Convertible
Dodge released a number of sporty muscle cars throughout the 1960s. These cars came with emblematic engines, such as the 426 Hemi or the 440 Magnum, however, these cars were not necessarily pleasing to the eye. The second generation Dodge Polara is a prime example. It could have all the bells and whistles a gearhead could ask for, but was simply repulsive. Things changed drastically the following decade.
In 1970, Dodge’s lineup was filled with gorgeous muscle cars. The Challenger, smaller than the Charger, was a great alternative to the popular Mustang and Camaro. Similarly to other domestic sports cars released in 1970, the Challenger came with a more desirable package; the legendary “R/T” or Road / Track could be had with a meaty 426 cu in V8 that made 425 hp and 490 lb-ft of torque. With only nine 426 convertibles made in 1970, it goes without saying that this classic should never be modified.
5 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442W-30
Oldsmobile is one American automaker that never received the respect it deserves. Despite having completely lost the plot during the last 15 years of its tenure, Oldsmobile manufactured a number of astonishing cars. From the luxurious ’66 Toronado and its powerful 425 cu in to the surprising ’95 Aurora V8, Oldsmobile never failed to please true gearheads.
Oldsmobile may not be the go-to brand for muscle cars, but with that said, the carmaker did come up with some tempting machines during the hey-days of the American auto industry. With a solid 455 cu in V8 that produces 370 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque, the 442 W-30 is a fast muscle car that really shows that Oldsmobile used to be capable of manufacturing outstanding sports cars.
4 1970 AMC Javelin SST Mark Donohue Edition
AMC was the underdog that could have made it big, the company positioned itself as the alternative brand one could go to for almost anything. From the family-oriented Matador to the sharply styled and muscular AMX, the company produced some solid but relatively unknown vehicles. Today, AMC cars are shooting up in value across the board.
The 1970 AMC Javelin Mark Donohue Edition is the forgotten muscle car every gearhead should have purchased 40 years ago when they were still affordable. Fitted at best with a 390 cu in V8, the Javelin Mark Donohue Edition is the unassuming muscle car. The V8 churns out 325 hp and 435 lb-ft of torque. Some AMC cars were produced in limited numbers, as the company never approached the size of the “Big 3” of the American car industry.
3 1972 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS 454
The Monte Carlo has been around for almost 55 years. Though it is fair to admit that the last two generations weren’t exactly stellar, the Monte Carlo is a respected nameplate that lost its appeal as Chevrolet became incapable of building decent muscle cars during the ’90s and 2000s. Back in the ’70s, the Monte Carlo was a true beast.
The Monte Carlo is not the rarest classic car ever made, however, Chevy did offer trim levels that are worth keeping in their original condition. The 1972 Monte Carlo SS 454 comes with a big-block 454 cu in Turbo-Jet Hydra-Matic V8 that makes a respectable 270 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. It may not seem like much for such a huge car, but it sure is enough to burn some rubber.
2 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback
Every classic car fan knows that the mid-70s brought a series of events that hurt the automotive industry. Cars that were previously powered by big-block V8s pumping out over 350 hp were now almost as a herd of slugs. While there’s no denying the fact that performance cars of that era grew larger and slower, some muscle cars produced during the Malaise Era are still worth checking out.
The 1973 Mustang Mach 1 may not be the fastest Mustang ever made, but it sure packs enough power to trigger a serious adrenaline rush. At best, the Mach 1 comes with a 351 cu in V8 that makes 266 hp and 301 lb-ft of torque. While it is tempting to shoehorn a modern Coyote engine into this bad boy, it is not necessary as that 351 provided plenty of fun.
1 1987 Buick GNX
To the vast majority of gearheads, the ’80s were all about the Fox body Mustang, the Camaro IROC-Z, or the Trans Am. While it is fair to say that the aforementioned cars were fantastic, they were nothing in comparison to what Buick offered during the same period. The Buick Grand National became a serious contender to other well-established muscle cars.
The Buick Grand National is the ultimate ’80s muscle car, it really showed that Buick had not thrown in the towel. While the Grand National was astonishing, the GNX was one of the most powerful production cars of the ’80s. The tweaked and turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 was seriously underrated at 276 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque, and produced astonishing performance. The GNX was pricey upon its release, and these days they’re unattainable to all but the wealthiest gearheads.