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The Top Muscle Cars of the 60s and 70s

The early 60s all the way up to the 70s was a golden age for the American automotive industry if only for the simple fact that muscle cars were growing not just in number, but in overall stature. The muscle car arms race of the that time yielded plenty of options for customers looking for more power and metal-twisting torque from these vehicles. And the models only grew in popularity as more and more people began clamoring for the biggest, baddest, and most powerful machines.

The general appeal these muscle cars offered to the growing American car culture of the time was the opportunity to own powerful cars that could be used for drag racing while also keeping costs at bay. At that time, a number of brands began developing their own models, including legendary names like the Ford Mustang , the Chevrolet Camaro , the Plymouth Barracuda, the Pontiac Trans-Am , and the Dodge Charger , to name a few.

While the golden age of American muscle was limited to parts of these two decades, the industry has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in recent years. It’s not going to compare to the 60s or the 70s, but as proven by customer clamoring, the culture of American muscle cars is far from bearing its last legs.

To pay tribute to the time where muscle was king of the road - and the drag strip - we have compiled a list of the 10 most memorable muscle cars of the golden age.

Check out the list after the jump.

1964 Pontiac GTO

The Top Muscle Cars of the 60s and 70s

In many ways, the 1964 Pontiac GTO was regarded as one of the pioneer muscle cars during the golden age of the 60s and 70s if only because of the simple premise behind the build of the car. The idea was to find the largest engine and put it on the lightest body you can build. The brainchild of Russell Gee, Bill Collins, and John DeLorean, the GTO was born because of a decision to put emphasis on a car’s street performance after General Motors, at that time, issued a ban on factory-sponsored racing.

All together, the three visionaries built the GTO as a muscle car that featured a 389 cu in (6.4-liter) V8 engine with an output of 325 horsepower at 4,800 rpm with an optional “Tri-Power” carburetion that produced an increased output of 348 horsepower. Road tests done on the GTO at that time included a 0-60 mph time of 6.6 seconds, a standing quarter-mile of 14.8 seconds, and a quarter mile trap speed of 99 mph.

Incidentally, the name of the Pontiac GTO was the idea of John DeLorean who took the name from the Ferrari Ferrari 250 GTO, one of the most iconic race cars in history, with the “GTO” standing as an Italian abbreviation for Gran Turismo Omologato. Through much controversy surrounding the name of the car and the general apprehension in how it was going to do in the box office, the GTO surprised a lot of people by becoming one of the most legendary muscle cars of all time.

1967 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake

The Top Muscle Cars of the 60s and 70s

Despite it’s streamlined, sports-car looks, the 1967 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake had the pulse of American muscle coursing through its veins. And judging by the limited number of cars built for this particular model, it shouldn’t be surprising that the most powerful Shelby to ever be built still carries the title of being one of the rarest American muscle cars in history.

Carroll Shelby always wanted to have the fastest and meanest car on the road, and he set about doing it by introducing the Shelby Cobra Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake back in 1967. Limited to only two units – yep! two! - the Cobra 427 Super Snake was essentially a race car that was modified for use on the street and still holds acclaim as the most awesome of all the Cobras ever to be built. Not only was it powered by the Cobra’s top-of-the-line 427 cu. in. V8 Shelby engine, but to give it some extra juice, Shelby Shelby decided to add in a pair of Paxton superchargers to the mix, effectively doubling the output of the 427 Cobra to a mind-boggling 800 horsepower.

An American muscle car from the 60s that produces 800 horsepower. Really, that’s all you need to know about the 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake.

1968 Dodge Charger R/T

The Top Muscle Cars of the 60s and 70s

The 1968 Dodge Charger R/T is one of those muscle cars that have definitely withstood the test of time. How else do you explain the car’s popularity these days, more than 40 years after the car first made waves in the late 60s?

The answer, as Vin Diesel’s character in Fast and the Furious will tell you, is pretty simple: the ’68 Charger R/T was, and still is, a true man’s car. It’s the type of muscle car that imposes an image of fear and star quality wrapped in one awesome package. With an unmistakable design that features the now famous hidden headlight grille, the overall curvy body, the refined tail, and the prevalent use of chrome on the car, the ’68 Charger R/T was in a class of its own back then.

More than the impressive aesthetics and timeless design, the Charger R/T also boasted of a powertrain that featured a 440 cu. in. four-barrel Magnum Magnum V8 engine that produced 375 horsepower with an engine option in the form of the 426 Hemi engine that came with 425 horsepower.

While other muscle cars at the time came out either with a more dynamic profile or a more powerful engine, nothing could compete with the Charger R/T when it came to the whole package.

1968 Plymouth Road Runner Hemi

The Top Muscle Cars of the 60s and 70s

It may have had a name that’s inspired from the Looney Tunes character, but make no mistake about it, the Plymouth Road Runner Hemi was all business, all the time. Coming with a standard powertrain that featured a 383-cid, four-barrel V8 engine with 335 horsepower or a more powerful 426-cid Hemi engine with 425 horsepower, the Road Runner Hemi became a popular choice for a muscle car in the late 60s because it offered customers a back-to-basics package that underscored everything people wanted in a muscle car without the frills attached.

In building the Road Runner Hemi, Plymouth pretty much put emphasis on the car’s performance, leaving all the styling intricacies behind. Nothing about the car’s looks screamed incredible because everything that wasn’t essential in improving the car’s performance was left out, including the interior where “added options” became a foreign concept. But despite its pedestrian looks, the Road Runner Hemi’s impressive powertrain certainly made up for all of it.

As a side note, Plymouth actually paid Warner Brothers $50,000 for the rights to use the name and likeness of the Road Runner and another $10,000 to develop the “beep, beep” horn. Just goes to show that despite being a simple-as-can-be muscle car, the Plymouth Road Runner Hemi still offered plenty of character.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

The Top Muscle Cars of the 60s and 70s

The 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 holds the distinction for being one of the fastest and most powerful American muscle cars of its time. It was conceived by drag racer Dick Harrell specifically for drag racing and came with a 427 cu in big-block V8 engine called the ZL1. This particular powertrain gave the Camaro all the performance output it needed - 500 horsepower worth - to be considered as one of the foremost American beasts of its time, capable even of hitting 0-60 mph in just 5.3 seconds.

All told, only 69 ZL1 Camaros were ever built, making this model one of the rarest and most important American muscle cars of its time.

1969 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet

The Top Muscle Cars of the 60s and 70s

The Ford Mustang has produced its fair share of doozy pony cars in the past, but nothing draws “oohs and ahhs” more than the 1968 Mustang 428 Cobra Jet . Regarded as the model that took the fight to the big-block Camaros and Firebirds of the time, the Mustang Cobra Jet was a more powerful version of the Mustang and came with a powertrain worthy of its stature.

Powering the Mustang Cobra Jet was a 428-cid V8 engine that featured larger valve heads than the standard Mustang, a ram-air induction, and a functional hood scoop, while also carrying the same intake manifold as that of its less powerful brethren. While Ford rated the Mustang Cobra Jet as having “only” 335 horsepower, the truth was its output hit closer to 410 horsepower.

This figure was notable because it ushered in a new wave of interest for the Ford Mustang, which had been lagging behind the Chevrolet Chevrolet Camaro, the Pontiac Pontiac Firebird, and the Plymouth Barracuda. With the release of the Mustang 428 Cobra Jet, the tables were finally turned and everyone started looking up to the legendary Mustang.

1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

The Top Muscle Cars of the 60s and 70s

A lot of people today are quick to label the Camaro as Chevrolet’s muscle car and while that, to an extent, is accurate, not a lot of people know that before the Camaro became Chevy’s go-to-muscle car, that title belonged to the Chevrolet Chevelle SS .

After being introduced in 1964 to signal Chevrolet’s entry into the world of muscle cars, the Chevelle trudged along for a number of years, registering enough to make a name for itself, but not enough to make its rivals worry. It wasn’t until 1970 when the Chevelle SS finally broke out, thanks in large part to a 454 cu. in. big-block V8 engine that produced 450 horsepower and 500 lb/ft of torque with a 0-62 mph time of six seconds.

Understated because of its more famous successor, the Chevelle was once Chevrolet’s official muscle car, something not lost to those who had the pleasure of owning this spectacular machine back in the day.

1971 Plymouth Hemi’Cuda Convertible

The Top Muscle Cars of the 60s and 70s

One of the rarest and most important muscle cars of the 70s is the 1971 Plymouth Hemi’Cuda Convertible, a car that, to this day, remains as one of the most sought-after muscle cars in history. The Hemi’Cuda, a direct descendant of the Plymouth Plymouth Barracuda, became a rare gem, not only because it came with a 425 cu. in. V8 engine that produced 425 horsepower, but because it served as Plymouth’s answer to the established names of that time, particularly the Camaro and the Mustang.

But of all the Barracudas that ever came out, the 1971 Hemi’Cuda Convertible remains the crown jewel of them all. Limited to only 11 units, the Hemi’Cuda Convertible is about as rare as any muscle car you’ll ever find. It certainly helped its cause for being an aesthetically attractive car, one that came with a combination of imposing good looks and top-of-the-line performance credentials.

Just to give a perspective as to how rare and sought-after this muscle car is these days, one model was auctioned off at Barrett Jackson for a whopping $4 million.

1973 De Tomaso Pantera

The Top Muscle Cars of the 60s and 70s

The De Tomaso Pantera may not have the first-name recall of some of the other muscle cars on this list, but rest assured, it’s got an impressive pedigree that dates back to the 70s. The car was born from the mind of Alejandro De Tomaso, an Argentinian racing driver who sought to combine Italian engineering with American muscle. Together with the help of Tom Tjarda – the man responsible for the styling of the car – and Giampaolo Dallara – the man tasked to build the structural design of the Pantera and coincidentally, also aided in the development of the Lamborghini Lamborghini Miura. De Tomaso quickly went about and sought a way to infuse both ideologies into one powerful muscle car. Thus, the Pantera was born.

Powering the Pantera was a 351 cubic-inch ’Cleveland’ V8 engine with 330 horsepower and mated to a ZF five-speed manual gearbox with a 0-60 mph time of 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 150 miles per hour.

First introduced at the New York Auto Show in 1970, the Pantera quickly gained popularity in the 70s, thanks to a combination of its eye-catching yet simple design and powerful engine. It became so popular that the Pantera became one of the most sought after celebrity muscle cars of its time, including one that was owned by no less than the King of Rock and Roll himself, Elvis Presley.



17 comments:

The GTO in the picture is a 67 which i think is a much better car in every way though the 64 was the first muscle car. and the mustang shown is a 68 which was avalable in 428cj and faster than the 69. The 69 was a better looking car.

I love this vintage vehicle! It still looks very attractive and lovely on its outdated platform and detailing. Moreover, I’m glad that it as yet has a nice and efficient engine.

All cars here are really look so massive that’s why they are really fitted to be here. I wonder if there’s still old muscle cars that is still existing nowadays, well I want to see one.

Yeah!I have to agree with you inigo montova. These vintage cars really look awesome and muscular! smiley Well, I wish I could still see on of these cars on the road someday.

All vintage cars mentioned and discussed have their awesome style and designs, and I know year after year vintage would always have place for classic and brand new innovative cars for everyone.

This vintage muscles cars are really awesome and not only in terms of look of the car, also in performance. I think this car is popular in the year of 60s and 70s.

These muscle cars are still good looking, even if it is already old. Somehow, the De Tomaso Pantera still did not look stale. It is just like versions of current generation. The good thing here is they acknowledge the reliability of these muscle cars.

Those vintage cars were really awesome. I only see them at the car shows but hopefully as you’ve said, I can also see someone driving a gorgeous classic shelby cobra on my area.

I rarely sees vintage muscle cars today. I hope I can still find that Shelby Cobra on our streets. Seemed that this one is such a hard to find muscle car.

This is definitely one impressive set of wheels. That really makes me wonder, what kind of muscle cars would they have ten or twenty years from now.

Well, I probably would go with the Mustang. That one is simply iconic and it certainly definite that decade in terms of the vehicles that are in there.

I may say that this cars are very popular in the late 60s and 70s. However, I don’t think that up to this day, these cars are still popular. Since, there are lots of new created cars with fascinating designs nowadays!

Even from the early history of muscle car, we couldn’t admit on how popular is version though it has a sort of trouble performing in the corner. Its look and timeless beauty really captures the eye of modern generation that’s why we can still see a production for this car.

Well, for me 1968 Dodge Charger R/T would be best! Aside from the fact that this car has been the center piece in the popular movie Fast and the Furious. Learning on how popular is this car for the past 40 years. Well, it really shows on how reliable is this car.

Nice list. But I am still definitely going for the Shelby Cobra on this one. That car really defined what a muscle car is all about, not only in terms of looks, but also in performance.

In those days, muscle cars are indeed in the hit of popularity. Almost all drivers want to own a muscle car. Even now, muscle cars still makes an entrance in the road. For me, if I have a choice, I’d pick 1964 Pontiac GTO. It’s super cool!

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