Right after World War II, muscle cars were introduced to the American public to meet the demands for speed and power. Most cars were modeled after customized and fast cars used by the bootleggers during Prohibition.
It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that muscle cars officially came into their own and rose to popularity. This decade established the uniqueness and power muscle cars can offer, but it was during the 1960s when it grew more in number and overall stature, becoming one of the biggest contributing automobile types that ushered the golden age for American automotive industry.
Here are some of the most notable and memorable muscle cars introduced in these decades:
1. 1955 Chevy Classic V-8
One of the first legit muscle cars ever, the 1955 Chevy elevated the brand’s position in the American car market. It was a major success that changed the history of Chevrolet forever. This model featured a 265 cubic inch V-8 motor, which became Chevy’s center feature for its future designs for more than five decades. It also had a 115-inch wheelbase that was about 20 percent lighter than previous Chevy models.
2. 1956 Chevy Corvette
While the previous Chevrolet Corvette models had lackluster sales, the 1956 Corvette stood out because of its unique design. It was known for its sleek curves and scalloped edges around the wheelbase. Performance-wise, it proved to be a real powerhouse with its standard Turbo-Fire 265 V-8, which replaced the six-cylinder engine from previous models, and with the added four-barrel carburetor that increased its total horsepower to 225 HP. Combine in with its three-speed transmission, it’s no wonder why it is considered one of the best classic muscle cars.
3. 1958 Packard Hawk
The 1958 Packard Hawk was the fastest car the company ever produced but it was their last push before they became defunct. A truly unique muscle car, the Hawk was known for its big bulge on the hood that accommodated the impressive McCulloch supercharger, with a 289 cubic inch V-8 engine with twin exhausts. It has a horsepower of 275 HP and was fitted with a Stromberg twin-barrel carburetor. The car’s front suspension – the anti-sway bar, coil springs, and upper and lower control arms – as well as its Borg-Warner Flight-O-Matic transmission, made it a smooth and comfortable auto to drive.
4. 1964 Pontiac GTO
Pontiac owned the American muscle car scene in the early 1960s. In fact, the 1964 Pontiac GTO – the first of the GTO series – was widely regarded as one of the pioneer muscle cars during the golden age of the 60s and 70s. The name of the Pontiac GTO was the idea of one of the car makers, John DeLorean, who adopted the name from the Ferrari 250 GTO, one of the most iconic race cars in history. GTO stands as an Italian abbreviation for “Gran Turismo Omologato,” or grand tourer homologated, which means officially certified for racing in the grand tourer class. Controversy surrounded the name of the car because it was never a certified grand tourer race car.
However, it lived to impress a lot of people because of its 235 horsepower at 4,800 rpm, which can increase to 348 horsepower using an optional “Tri-Power” carburetion. This muscle car featured a 398 cubic inch V-8 engine. Road tests proved it can run up to 60 mph from zero in just 6.6 seconds, a standing quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds and a quarter mile trap speed of 99 mph. It surprised critics by being one of the most legendary muscle cars in history.
5. 1967 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake
Although it looks like a sports car, the 1967 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake was a real American muscle car and was one of the fastest cars around. The first Cobra models were not available for sale to the public because their speed was not street legal. Carroll Shelby introduced the Cobra 427 Super Snake in 1967, modified for use on the street, as the fastest and meanest car on the road. It was powered by its 427 cubic inches V-8 Shelby engine, and if you’d add in a pair of Paxton superchargers, it can double the output of the Cobra 427 to an amazing 800 horsepower. It was one of the most powerful muscle cars ever built, considering it was produced during the 1960s. Today, the muscle car still carries the title of being one of the rarest American muscle cars of all time.
6. 1968 Dodge Charger
The 1968 Dodge Charger was a class of its own back then. Even for almost 50 years after, this muscle car is still distinguishable because of its unmistakable design featuring its long racked coupe roofline, and simple squared off the front with its famous hidden headlight grille. However, the Charger is more interesting under the hood. It boasted of a 318 cubic inch double big block V-8 engine, but the R/T version has a 440 cubic inch Magnum. With a four-speed transmission, this muscle car can hit 60 mph from zero in just 5.4 seconds and would top out at 140 mph. The gas tanks weren’t even that big at 19 gallons, so you will be going to spend a lot of money on gas on this one. However, your money will surely pay off as you enjoy how speedy the Charger could be.
7. 1968 Plymouth Road Runner
Plymouth didn’t seem to bother to design a killer look for the 1968 Road Runner to make it seem so incredible. But you must not judge the muscle car by its cover because it’s all about performance. Its standard V-8 Road Runner engine produced 335 horsepower from a 383 cubic inch and 6.3-liter monster. The Hemi engine could go faster to 425 horsepower, making it a popular choice for a muscle car in the late 1960s. This two-door model auto offered what most people wanted in a muscle car with no frills attached.
8. 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429
The 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 is one of the rarest and most valued muscle cars to date. Designed specifically for racing, this auto has a 429 cubic inch, 7.0 liter, V-8 motor derived from the old Ford 385; and is built to rev to 6,000 rpm. The Boss 429 Mustang was rated conservatively at 375 horsepower when its actual output was over 500 horsepower. There are people who even claimed it could produce more than 600 horsepower, depending on how you coax the engine. This just goes to show how Mustang ruled the muscle car scene. Only 1,385 models were produced, pushing today’s auction values to more than $200,000.