Between the 1960s and the 1970s, car owners spoke - and car manufacturers listened. The bold bodies of the Road Runner, Barracuda, and Ford Mustang Fastback were as hot as the powerful engines that raced beneath the hoods of these legendary muscle cars.
Classic Muscle Cars
The more contemporary Buick GNX or Impala SS are today's attempts by car makers to replicate this fabled era of automobile manufacturing, but nothing can truly replace the original class and beauty of yesterday's muscle cars. Here are some torqued-up examples of these decades' classic models:
The 1966 Shelby Mustang: Whether the GT350 or the GT350H, these timeless street races still come with a reasonable price tag. Shelby Mustang GT350s were the original Mustangs that Americans fell in love with, and some authentic models in good condition are still around.
Some collectors prefer the 1965 model, but it is more expensive and looks almost the same as the 1966 model, so collectors on a budget won't lose about by choosing the later model. Likewise, although some collectors like the GT350H, these are equipped with automatic transmission instead of a four-speed on the floor.
Collectors who are planning to buy a Shelby Mustang should considering joining the SAAC, or Shelby American Automobile Club; Shelby kept detailed records on every car ever manufactured. Additionally, have the car inspected before purchase to make sure it's the genuine article.
Another popular early muscle car is the Buick Skylark GS 400 convertible. Manufactured between 1965 and 1968, this car offers style and class, as well as luxury options that made them appealing to higher-end consumers as well. Just 6,122 of these automobiles were ever manufactured.
These featured 325 horsepower (hp) V-8 engines, and performed as well as most of their competitors. Since these cars are convertibles, and were produced in very limited numbers, they are a bargain at book price.
The Dodge Dart GTS is a muscle car that was under-appreciated during these decades. The Dodge Dart features a 340-, 380-, or a 440-cubic inch (ci) engine, and is fairly hard to find. Most of the Dodge Darts manufactured during this time featured a 225-ci "slant six" motor. These cars have an incredible performance rating, but many are covered with silly bumper stickers. This usually doesn't detract from the value, however.
Between 1967 and 1973, the Mercury Cougar was marketed as an upscale version of a Ford Mustang. Since most buyers didn't equate luxury with performance, the Mercury Cougar Eliminator, with its blazing colors and showy spoiler, was too far ahead of its time to be widely appreciated.
The Mercury Cougar Eliminator featured one of three engines: the 428 CJ, the 390, or the powerful Boss 302. Only 4,611 Mercury Cougar Eliminators cars were manufactured. Since body parts are hard to find, shop for a Cougar in good condition.
Another Dodge product, the 1969 AMC SC/Rambler, included two models. "A" code cars featured super-wide racing stripes, and were the most visually outstanding of the AMC SC/Ramblers. In comparison, "B" code cars featured narrower stripes and are more visually appealing to conservative collectors.
Since only about 1,500 of these cars were produced, finding a 1969 AMC/SC Rambler in good condition can be difficult, but the 390 V8 engine, which delivers 315 horsepower, is definitely better looking than the Gremlin and delivers higher performance as well.
Chevrolet made its contribution to the cream of the muscle car crop with the 1971-1972 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 hardtop. These are easier to find for first-time collectors and are much less expensive than their 1970 counterparts. The Chevelle SS 396 hardtop offered several comfort options, including power brakes, air conditioning, and power steering.
1971-1972 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 hardtops with a four-speed transmission and many extra options will cost about 20 percent more than their non-loaded counterparts. Many clones have been produced or sold, so collectors looking for the real deal should buy only from a seller who can produce the proper documentation.
Another Buick prize is the 1987 Buick Grand National. This was sold as a package of options available on a Buick Regal. 1987 Buick Grand Nationals were some of the fastest American cars built during the 1980s.
Built for speed, the Grand National features a 3.8 L V6 turbocharged powerplant engine with high-performance fuel injection. The 245-hp engine is capable of acceleration from 0 to 60 in a mere 5-1/2 seconds. Since 20,193 coupes were sold, finding a Grand National in good condition isn't as difficult as locating rarer models.
Perhaps the newest car marketed as a muscle car is the 2002 Ford SVT Mustang Cobra. Sold with either coupe or convertible body designs, the Cobra costs about half as much as a Viper or Corvette Z06. The 4.6-liter V8 engine of the 2002 SVT Mustang Cobra is capable of delivering an amazing 320 hp.
Cheap Muscle Cars for Sale
For those who don't have the money to pay the price for one of the rarer muscle cars, or who want a replica that features higher performance or badges, clones may be an alternative. Clones are cars that look much like the original muscle car, but may have a different engine. Some are sold with trim kits for higher visibility.
Although clones look and perform much like the original, however, they have a much lower value overall. Don't pay top price for a muscle car unless the seller offers solid documentation as to the car's authenticity. Buyers, beware: don't get taken in by a fast talker who can't back up his or her claims.
Cruising through the drive-in may have gone out with the 60s, but anyone can spot what's hot - or what's not - sitting at the red light in the next lane over. Start collecting muscle cars, and you'll start collecting a following as well.
It's easy to recognize a classic car, and driving any one of these beauties will make you one of the most visible drivers on the road. Good luck - and hit the road in search of your prize!