Muscle cars get a bad rap for being fast in a straight line, uncomfortable, pig-like vehicles. It’s deservedly so for some of them. Some of them are just so good at what they do that you can’t help but love them, faults and all. Then, there are the good ones that are underrated. Some of the overrated ones are the modern Camaro ZL1, Mustang GT500, and the modern Dodge Charger. Here are the muscle cars that should be overlooked less:
- 1970 AMC Rebel Muscle Machine: How can you not love a car that is called the “muscle machine,” has a red, white, and blue paint job, and a 390 cubic-inch V8 (6.3 liters)? It was a seriously fast car, and it’s sister car, the Javelin wore the same paint scheme in the Trans-Am racing series of the 1970’s for a few years with some success. However, picking a fight with the Rebel Muscle Machine meant that you’d better have a stonking fast car to beat it. It was relatively light, made a lot of horsepower (340 stock, but could easily get boosted to well over 450), and looked like nothing else on the road. Some people bought the car, painted it it all white, and simply wreaked havoc on the streets of America in a car that looked unassuming.
- Ford Torino GT: Ford took their full-size Torino, stuffed their biggest motor available into it, and turned it into what may be one of the best cars for cruising on the highway or up and down a drag strip. The big Ford Torino was one seriously fast car that could take the family in comfort. While it wasn’t exactly a looker, it came with a big black hood with a functional air scoop. It also came with a four-barrel Holley carburetor, an Edelbrock air intake, a BorgWarner four-speed overdrive transmission, and Ford’s legendary 9-inch rear end with 4:11 gears.
- Jensen Interceptor: Ok, maybe it’s not a true muscle car because it was marketed as a GT car, but it’s the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law for this blog post. It’s timeless Carrozzeria Touring design makes it look Italian. Plus, you could get it with a Dodge 440 cubic-inch V8 and a Chrysler Torqueflite 4-speed automatic. That definitely makes it a British muscle car in my eyes.
- 1991 GMC Syclone: It should have been called the Psyclone, not the Syclone. This turbocharged mini truck was a force of nature. For just $26,000 in 1991, you could easily embarrass a Ferrari 348, a car that commanded a price of almost $180,000. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very truck-like, even with a bed, as it was only rated to carry and tow 500 pounds.
- AMC Gremlin Randall 401-XR: While the AMC Gremlin may have been a terrible economy car designed on an airline barf bag, it sold in droves. But, when you turned some over to Randall Engineering, magic happened. Randall Engineering ripped out the turdy big inline-six-cylinder engine, and stuffed a massive 401 cubic-inch V8 (6.5 liters) into the tiny engine bay. The car ran high-13-second 1/4 mile times at about 90 mph. And, you could get the car for just $2,995 in 1972. And that included a donor car. Options included a four-speed manual transmission or a Chrysler Torqueflite 4-speed automatic transmission, stainless steel headers, a “Twin Grip” differential (a fancy name for a limited-slip differential), four-wheel power disc brakes, a cam kit, and a high-rise intake manifold with a four-barrel Holley carburetor.
- Shelby Ford Maverick: This is quite possibly the rarest Shelby ever. Only 300 were ever sold in Mexico only. There are only a handful of pictures of the car, all of which can be viewed at http://www.maverick.to/shelbydemexico.php. They were Brazilian-made Ford Mavericks with Mustang 302 cubic-inch V8’s (5.0 liters), cool paint, and some extra Shelby odds and ends.
- Studebaker Super Lark: Studebaker supercharged their 302 cubic-inch V8 (5.0 liters), and put it into their stunning Lark coupe. The car made an impressive 335 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque way back in 1963. The car weighed in right around 3,000 pounds, so it was fast. It was luxurious enough that it was called the “businessman’s hot rod.” I agree. It was also one of the first true muscle cars. It came out in 1963, about a year before the much-loved Pontiac GTO.
- Mercury Cyclone: While nobody will ever really lose sleep over the Ford Fairlane, it will be harder to lose sleep over it’s interestingly-styled brother, the Mercury Cyclone. It came with Ford’s high-performance 428 cubic-inch (7.0 liters) Cobra Jet V8, and it took a mere 5.5 seconds to hit 60 mph.
- Dodge Demon/Plymouth Duster: While the Dodge Demon and Plymouth Duster were certainly not the fastest nor most powerful muscle cars of the early 1970’s, they were plenty capable of smoking a larger muscle car. They were powered by Dodge’s 340 cubic-inch V8 (5.6 liters), which was a mid-lineup engine in the larger Challenger and Barracuda. That, coupled with their relative light weight, meant that they were able to be pretty darn quick in the quarter mile.
- Buick GS 455 Stage 1: 510 pound-feet of torque. That’s all you need to know. Not really, but this was the most powerful motor sold in America for a few years. It was big, big, big, but very fast. It was also really comfortable. This is one of the best cars in the world for cruising the interstates. I want one.
And, then there’s this…