Muscle Cars

The 7 Best Muscle Cars Of All Time

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By David Ashton

Sorting out which are the best muscle cars of all time is a bit like saying which of your children you like the best (maybe you do have a favorite!). However, at some point we do pick our favorites, muscle cars that is…, so this is our rundown of the 7 Best muscle cars of all time.

Most would say a muscle car is a mid-sized, two-door vehicle, American-made with a high displacement engine, made for performance.
The definition of the muscle car has strictly no one point of origin, but can be traced back to the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 and the obvious haydays between 1965 and early 1970s. After the early 70’s factors such as high gas prices, emission controls and rising insurance prices halted the prime years of muscle cars. But in recent years, models such as the Dodge Charger and Challenger, Mustang, Camaro and Corvette have been making sure that the muscle car moniker still stands.

1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454
The 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 wasn’t called the ‘king of the road’ from nothing.
Everything in 1970 seemed to coincide for the height of the muscle car era. The Chevelle SS 454 came that year with either an LS5 or LS6 engine, with the LS6 being the best at 450Hp with a Holley 4-barrel carburetor and optional cowl induction.
It had the looks and the power to beat nearly everything around it at the time and with an official 360 HP rating (probably more like 500hp) it was the car to own for both looks and power.
The Chevelle SS 454 was one of those vehicles that had the right design, with the right engine and came around in the right year.

1965 Pontiac GTO
You could argue the Pontiac GTO ’67 model with the ram air hood scoop was a good muscle car start point, but it was the ’65 models that seemed to kick-off the heyday of muscle cars.
Born out of the Tempest line, it could do a 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds and with its new styling in the ’64 year, gave it its classic looks until the second generation redesign.
The second-generation Pontiac GTO  from 1968 onwards, had more of the muscle car look, but it was the ’65 model that is still the original and most iconic.

1968 Plymouth Road Runner Hemi

When it comes to iconic muscle cars, the first and second generation Plymouth Road Runner is hard to beat.
The ’68 model was the first of the linage and with a huge 426ci.(7.0L) Hemi V8 under the hood which was a $714 option, you are good for 425hp. The 440ci. and 383ci. engine models are usually the collectors favourites, but it is the Hemi version that stands out as the rarest and best.

Based on the Chrysler B platform, the Roadrunner is still one of the most iconic of muscle cars.

1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429

The ‘Boss 9‘ is still one of the most talked about Mustangs.
Produced between 1969 and 1970, the 429ci. (7.030L) engine was built to compete in NASCAR with only 1,358 produced.
It was out to compete against the Hemi engine and featured ‘crescent’ type combustion chambers, obviously inspired by the hemisphere type from Chrysler.
The engine wasn’t the only draw, it was its beautiful, iconic lines which resonate even today.
Although sales and other factors stopped production in 1970, a prime condition 1969 Mustang Boss 429 can fetch over $500,000 at auction.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Only 69 original ZL1 Camaros were built, making it one of the most iconic and rare pony/muscle cars.
The car was developed for Can-Am racing and featured an L88 iron block 427ci./435hp engine, but just like the rest of the horsepower ratings at the time, it is probably nearer 500 HP.

The ZL1 was a product of the COPO (Central Office Production Order) system where Fred Gibb, a Chevrolet dealer, used this in conjunction with Chevrolet to produce the COPO 9560 package ZL1 with a huge $7200 price tag.
Due to the extremely low production numbers, mainly due to the cost, it is now one of the most sought-after Camaros around.

1970 Buick GSX Stage 1

Buick weren’t the most obvious makers to enter the muscle car arena at first, more known for their luxury vehicles.

The Buick GSX entered the arena firstly in 1965 with the Skylark Gran Sport and slowly morphed into the GSX with stage 1 package.
The car was originally as an answer to the Pontiac GTO Judge, Oldsmobile 442 and the Plymouth Barracuda.
The stage I performance package took the car to another level with a 455ci. V8 engine, with 510ft.lbs. of torque, which was the highest torque rating for the next 33 years.
This proves that Buick: just produce luxury, but also cars with performance.

1970 Plymouth Hemi Barracuda

The Plymouth Barracuda is probably one of the most iconic looking muscle cars ever made. It shares the E body with the Dodge Challenger, but it was the Barracuda with a 426 cu in (7.0 L) Hemi V8, that stands out.

The 1970 version got rid of the economy car feel and went straight for the jugular, with high impact colors
and racing performance.
Models like the AAR, with a 340ci. Six Pak engine, became worthy collectors items, but it will always be the Hemi version that is the most iconic.

I obviously had to leave out many contenders here, such as the obvious Dodge Charger, Oldsmobile 442 and even possibly the 1965 Shelby AC Cobra (but that was arguably half British), but the contenders above and they are rather contenders than a definitive list, do stand out as the cars that define the muscle car era.

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