The muscle car phenomenon was the result of a singular time in American history. Car makers still built automobiles out of honest American steel, not aluminum and plastic (sorry, “Space-Aged Composites”), gas was cheap and pollution controls existed only in the fevered dreams of college students who had read too much Rachael Carson. They were noisy, powerful and as nimble as a Tiger Tank, but the mere thought of a GTO or a “Boss” Mustang will bring a smile to any car lover’s face.
Number Ten: The 1965 Pontiac GTO.
Arguably the car that started the muscle car movement, the GTO or “Goat” as it was affectionately known featured a 389 cubic inch power plant that delivered a respectable 335 horses. The GTO went from zero to sixty in less than six seconds, but poor braking and a sketchy handling package made this monster more than a little hard to handle.
Number Nine: The 1968 Pontiac Firebird Coupe.
Perhaps better known from the 1980’s version that was featured in Burt Reynolds’ “Smokey and the Bandit” movies, the Firebird has a deeper and richer history than that. One of the best muscle cars produced, the 1968 Firebird came with a beefy 400 cubic inch V-8 engine that generated 335 horsepower.
Number Eight: The 1969 Z28 Camaro.
A close relative of the Pontiac Firebird, the Z28 Camaro was relatively underpowered for a muscle car with “only” a 302 cubic inch, 290 horsepower V8 engine. But the “Z” was well known for its outstanding handling characteristics with power steering and front and rear disc brakes.
Number Seven: The 1969 Dodge Charger
Painted orange with the Stars and Bars painted on the roof, this car was the General Lee, star of the 1980’s TV series “The Dukes of Hazzard”. The Charger came with a standard 440 Magnum that produced a hefty 375 horsepower. However an optional power-plant was the enormous (weighing nearly one thousand pounds) and dominant 426 Hemi engine that generated a gut-wrenching 425 horsepower.
Number Six: The 1970 Boss 302 Mustang.
Ford’s answer to the Chevy Camaro, the Boss Mustang had a 302 V-8 engine which was officially rated at only 290 horses, but unofficially was much more. The Boss clocked at a zero to sixty time of 6.9 second. Better known for its superior handling, the Boss featured large sway bars and reinforced shock towers as well as front disc brakes standard.
Number Five: The 1969 Ford Mustang “Boss 429”.
The “Boss 429” 1969 Ford Mustang was number six’s older and bigger brother. Ford wanted to certify its new “crescent-shaped” or semi-hemi 429 engine for NASCAR. So they jammed into the Mustang. The engine officially generated 360 horsepower at street tuning, but likely produced far more in reality. The “Boss 429” was well known more for its steady handling and upper end speed than its raw acceleration.
Number Four: The 1968 L88 Corvette.
Considered the apex of the Corvette model line, the L88 had a 550 horsepower engine with a top speed of 170 miles-per-hour. General Motors pursued an odd marketing strategy with this car. Almost too powerful for the open road, General Motors sold the car without air-conditioning or even a radio to actually keep sales numbers low.
Number Three: The 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, or “Hemi-‘Cuda.”
The 1970 Plymouth “Hemi-‘Cuda” was muscle car-lover’s dream. This fiend had an optional 426 hemi engine that put out a massive 425 horsepower that drove the car to a 5.6 second zero-to-sixty time.
Number Two: The 1970 454 Chevelle SS.
Competing directly against the 1970 Plymouth “Hemi-‘Cuda” was the 1970 Chevelle Super Sport; one of the most powerful cars ever available for the open road. The LS6 option package of the standard 454 cubic-inch V8 engine produced a considerable 450 horsepower.
Number One: The 1967 Shelby Mustang GT-500.
The Shelby Mustang was THE muscle car. Created by racing legend Carroll Shelby the GT-500 had a Ford Police Interceptor engine: a 428 cubic inch V-8 with a low balled 355 horsepower rating. Heavier than its racing brother, the GT-350, the GT-500 was more road-worthy with great handling and a classic exterior.