The 10 Greatest American Muscle Cars of All Time.

The 1960s and 1970s marked what was absolutely the golden era of American automobile manufacturing, with a myriad of US-based marques releasing a slew of what were then considered to be incredibly stylish, masculine, powerful, and high-performance.

We’re of course talking about the fabled muscle car. Despite roughly half-a-century having passed since these iconic machines left the factory, these rolling pieces of Americana are still highly regarded and sought after by auto enthusiasts and collectors.

Almost every American muscle car from this era exudes a brawny, aggressive, and purpose-built aesthetic, there are a handful of models. Many of these models were offered with higher-spec upgraded performance packages and some accompanying cosmetics packages which furthered their already high-performance nature. Below, we’ll explore 15 of the greatest American muscle cars ever to be built.

The Origins Of The American Muscle Car

The term “muscle car” was first coined by automotive journalist, Brock Yates about in 1964 when attempting to describe the character of that year’s Pontiac GTO for Car and Driver Magazine. Despite this, the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 is still widely considered to be the first-ever American muscle car, as well as the first domino to fall in what became an automotive cultural phenomenon.

Not only did domestic sales explode, but the rise of the muscle car also saw foreign markets take an increased interest in United States made vehicles and resulted in many of the leading European manufacturers calling upon their designers to pen muscle cars of their own such as the De Tomaso Mangusta and Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

What Exactly Is A Muscle Car?

In a nutshell, the concept of a muscle car largely stems from hot rod and drag racing culture, with the basic premise being to take a small, relatively lightweight car, shoehorning in an oversized engine, and then fortifying the thing with upgraded brakes and suspension to match. These mean-looking machines are almost universally of the two doored variety, tend to be rather spartan when it comes to amenities, are typically powered by V8 engines in the 6.0-7.0L (400-425ci) ballpark, and are by definition very performance-focused.

1969 AMC AMX/3

Starting with arguably the most unusual car on this list, the AMC AMX/3 was an American-designed, Italian-manufactured prototype. First unveiled at the 1970 Chicago Auto Show, this sleek muscular American supercar took blatant inspiration for the era’s exotic Italian automotive offerings.

Despite being slated for a limited production run of 1,000 units, government safety regulations in the US would ultimately lead to the project’s abandonment after only five proto-specimens were produced. Engine: 390ci V8 Power: 340HP

1973 AMC JAVELIN

Penned by legendary automotive designer, Dick Teague the same force behind a number of watershed models including the Jeep Cherokee XJ the AMC Javelin was also offered in several factory variants. Leading up to the 1973 model year, this car was piloted to victory at the ’71 and ’72 Trans-Am race series. It was also the first-ever pony car to be utilized by American highway patrol and law enforcement agencies. Engine: 401ci V8 Power: 330HP

1969-1971 BALDWIN-MOTION PHASE 3 GT CORVETTE

Born out of a joint effort between Long Island car dealer, Baldwin Chevrolet, and Motion Performance, these ultra-elite Corvettes were produced for a short time from 1969 to 1971 before the US Justice Department put the kibosh on the operation.

These prestigious specimens of which there were only ten made were each built to the customer’s desired specs, though they featured Edelbrock intake manifolds, Holley carbs, sunken lighting, a ram-air hood, flared fenders, slit taillights, and special rims and much larger tires, among other smaller tweaks. Engine: 427ci V8 Power: 500HP

1970 BUICK SKYLARK GSX STAGE 1

An even higher-specced more track-focused version of the already competent GS 455, the GSX Stage 1 upgrade was described by Motor Trend as being “the quickest American production we had ever tested.” The special editor model of which only 687 in total were produced – boasted upgraded internals under the hood, as well as a dedicated graphics package and a few aerodynamic tweaks in the bodywork that allowed for a more slippery drag coefficient. Engine: 455ci V8 Power: 360HP

1970 CHEVROLET CHEVELLE SS 454

Upon this model’s release, it was one of the two fastest production muscle cars that money could buy, and even 50 years later, it still retains its iconic status as one of the most celebrated muscle cars of all time. These Less than 4,500 examples of these LS6-powered demons on wheels ever left the factory in total, though Chevy offered the model in a variety of specs, and with an even bigger variety of optional bits. Engine: 454ci V8 Power: 450HP

1969 DODGE CHARGER DAYTONA

After Dodge’s unsuccessful race efforts campaigning a 1968 Charger 500, the American firm returned for 1969 with the new and improved Charger Daytona. Named after the iconic Florida race track, this high-performance machine boasted incredibly unique bodywork with a pointed nose and a massive rear wing. Though the plug was pulled on production after the 1977 model year, the popularity and reputation of this legendary model would ultimately prompt Dodge to rerelease a new version of the Daytona in 2006. Engine: 440ci V8 Power: 425HP

1970 FORD TORINO COBRA

Simply put, the Torino Cobra was a race-spec version of the Torino GT. Unlike the 360HP base model with its 10.5:1-compression ratio, the Cobra packed ten extra ponies and a 11.3:1 setup, thanks to upgraded heads, high-lift cams, and a number of other improvements.

These machines were also offered with a factory “Drag Pack” that came with forged aluminum pistons and put down another 5hp, bringing the total output up to a cool 375. Engine: 429ci V8 Power: 370HP

1970 FORD MUSTANG BOSS 429

There’s no shortage of truly iconic 1960s and ‘70s Mustang variants, though few, if any are as special or elite as the mighty Boss 429. Famously appearing as the vehicle of choice in the first John Wick movie, these Ford-built rockets on wheels boasted aluminum intake manifolds as well as a single, four-barrel carb and a four-speed manual transmission.

And while it was obviously more powerful than the much lesser base model with its 375hp output, the Boss 429 also featured unique bodywork that was markedly sleeker and more aggressive. Offered only in 1969 and 1970, only 1,359 examples were produced in total, making it one of the most seldom-seen Mustangs ever released. Engine: 429ci V8 Power: 375HP

1967 MERCURY COUGAR GT

The GT-spec of the legendary Mercury Cougar was a package that included a Ford 390ci Big Block engine, as well as up-specced suspension, brakes, tires, and a exhaust system. The model’s flip-up headlights allowed for an endtoend grille which furthered the Cougar’s aggressive aesthetic. And not only was this model a major sales success for the manufacturer, but it also took home Motor Trend’s 1967 Car Of The Year Award. Engine: 390ci V8 Power: 325HP

1965 PONTIAC CATALINA 2+2

Touted as the “big sibling” to the legendary GTO, the Pontiac Catalina 2+2 was a large performance-driven vehicle. For the 1965 year, it came with three different engine specs, the highest of which was the HO version with its “Triple-power”, upgraded exhaust components, and high-lift cams all of which helped the top-shelf variant produce a cool 376HP.

Its admittedly boxy body design which was built around a B-Body chassis isn’t as widely celebrated today as some of the other entries on this list, though it nonetheless played an influential role in the design of future made-in-America pony cars. Engine: 421ci V8 Power: 376HP

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