During the 60s and 70s, muscle cars were the ultimate symbol for the youthful energy of the baby boomers. These cars had relatively light bodies matched with high-powered V8 engines.
Here’s our pick of the dirty dozen hottest muscle cars:
1965 Shelby Mustang GT350
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The 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350 was the very first high-performance Mustang. This was a joint project between Ford and Carroll Shelby as an attempt to make a street-legal race car based on the Ford Mustang. Its Ford 289 V8 engine was tuned to produce 306 horsepowers, which were high performance figures for its time. This car reigned champion for three consecutive years in the Sports Car Club of America B-Class.
1967 Shelby Mustang GT500
Carroll Shelby’s most prized creation is the 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500. The car was more stylish and had a bigger engine as compared to the previous generation Shelby. The 355-hp Ford 428 V8 engine was the same engine used in Shelby Cobras that raced in Le Mans. The production of Shelby Mustangs lasted until 1969. It was only in 2007 that Shelby Mustangs came back in the market.
The GT500 is fondly remembered as “Eleanor” in the “Gone in 60 Seconds” 2000 remake. It was fitted with a body kit by custom car designer Chip Foose.
1968 Ford Mustang GT390
Despite the following Shelby Mustangs were getting, Ford still opted to create the 1968 Ford Mustang GT390. The engine produced a decent 320 horsepower. This car is most fondly remembered being driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt.
1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429
The 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 was Ford’s answer to NASCAR’s homologation rule where automakers were required to mass-produce at least 500 units of a certain model before it could be considered a “stock car.” To compete against Chrysler’s 426 Hemi V8, Ford decided to fit the 375-horsepower Ford 429 V8 on this car. It is one of the rarest Mustang models with only 1,359 units produced from 1969 to 1970.
1969 Pontiac GTO “The Judge”
The 1969 Pontiac GTO “The Judge” was all about power, style, and psychedelic graphics. Its name was inspired by a segment in “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” where people in the courtroom called out, “Here Come The Judge!” Pontiac intended the car to be extremely loud both figuratively and literally. With Pontiac’s race-ready Ram Air IV 400 ci V8 engine, The Judge could run the quarter mile with a massive 370 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque.
1970 Plymouth Superbird
The 1970 Plymouth Superbird stood out among its contemporaries because of its appearance. The car was created to help Plymouth lure back legendary driver Richard Petty and get #1 finishes in NASCAR. The nose cone and huge rear spoiler were equipped to make the Superbird more aerodynamic than its rivals. Because of its NASCAR heritage, the Superbird also appeared in Disney’s animated movie “Cars.” The animated Superbird there was voiced by the king himself, Richard Petty.
1967 Chevrolet Camaro
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The 1967 Chevrolet Camaro was the first car to challenge the Ford Mustang’s status as the dominant pony car. Its boxy design could be paired with capable power plants such as the 327, 350, and 396 Chevrolet V8 engines.
One of its most famous incarnations was Mark Donohue’s “Cheater” 1967 Camaro. Its body was acid-dipped to shave off significant weight which made its sheet metal extremely thin and light. Donohue fitted it with a roll cage for structural support, inspiring future NASCAR race cars. Despite winning races in the Sports Car Club of America, it was eventually banned on the track because of its “unfair” advantage due to its lack of weight.
1970 Dodge Charger
The 1970 Dodge Charger was exactly what a muscle car should be – sexy and powerful. It was easily distinguishable with its sleek coke bottle body design. The Dodge Charger could run as fast as it could catch your attention on the streets. With the 425-horsepower Hemi 426 V8 engine, this car was a feared competitor on the dragstrip. The 1970 Dodge Charger is easily associated with “The Fast and The Furious” movies as Dominic Torreto’s car .
1970 Dodge Challenger R/T
The 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T arrived last to the pony car rivalry. Compared to the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, this car was slightly larger. It also had a big power advantage with its 425-horsepower Hemi 426 V8 engine. This car enjoyed a lot of screen time and had an iconic chase scene in the 1971 movie “Vanishing Point.”
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS
The 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle must be one of the most recognizable muscle cars from the bygone era. This car paraded the “no replacement for displacement” mantra as its powerful Chevrolet 454 V8 engine rumbled through the streets. It boasted 360 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque, making it a popular choice at the drag strip.
1970 Buick GSX
The 1970 Buick GSX was dubbed as the “gentleman’s muscle car” because of its classy Buick heritage. Despite the nickname, the GSX was a brute with its Buick 455 V8 engine. It was the largest engine used for a muscle car during the peak of the era. The GSX also held the record for the highest torque rating for a US factory engine with a mammoth 510 lb-ft of torque. It was only in 1996 when the second-generation Dodge Viper stole that record from the GSX.
1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
The 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am was one of the last muscle cars of the 70s. With the onset of the 1974 Oil Crisis and stricter emission laws, manufacturers were forced to withdraw most of their muscle cars. The Firebird Trans Am remained in Pontiac’s line-up and reached success with the publicity from Smokey and the Bandit. Its engine output was not as massive as its predecessors but its Pontiac 400 V8 engine made 200 horsepower on paper, but was widely known to put out about 260 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque.