Most enthusiasts love a good American muscle car…provided the muscle car is good, that is. There are plenty of good ones on the used cars market, with some of the most popular ones ranging from the ‘60s to the early ‘70s. After that, the malaise era came to play, and the world stopped looking at American muscle cars with rose-colored glasses.
With tighter emission restrictions and the oil crisis that took gasoline prices up, up, and away; American muscle cars began to lose their shine. Engines went down in power, catalytic converters became a must, and insurance companies wizened up, taking the insurance premiums prices sky-high.
Not only did muscle cars become more expensive, but they also became unwanted, because of their lower power, sometimes jetting even less horsepower than normal passenger cars. So while we’d never pass up on cool muscle cars, like the Pontiac GTO Judge, the Plymouth RoadRunner, the Ford Mustang, and of course, the COPO Camaro; these are the ones we’d never, ever, buy used. Which is our way of saying that we’d never buy these 10 American muscle cars, period.
10 1976-1980 Plymouth Volaré Road Runner Or Dodge Aspen R/T
The end of the Road Runner was awful and unlike the Looney Tunes cartoon where Wile. E. Coyote can never catch it. While no wild animals could bring the Road Runner down, it was Plymouth itself that brought about an ignominious end by taking it on as a trim on the Volaré.
No, while the Volaré sounded and looked great, as did its Dodge sibling, the Aspen, it was a rust bucket and started to show signs of wear and tear at the dealers’ itself. The R/T badge was nothing but a gimmick, with no performance upgrades.
9 1978 AMC Gremlin GT
The Gremlin GT was the embodiment of the American muscle car in its decline in the ‘70s. Like its contemporaries, it came with little to no power and was slower than most, plus it came ugly. It had nothing special about it so obviously, sales did not reach a special status either.
With a V8 engine that could make only 120 horsepower, the Gremlin trudged along slowly, till finally it gave up in 1978 and AMC decided to focus only on the Spirit as its main model.
8 1978-79 Oldsmobile 4-4-2
At one time, the Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2 was absolute gold as it went to war with Pontiac, making 310 horses out of its hefty and potent 5.4-liter V8 mill. Over the years, as the American muscle car entered the malaise era, even the Olds were no longer gold.
The fourth-gen of the Cutlass 4-4-2 package looked good and carried a 5.0-liter V8 with a sweet note but made only 160-170 miserable horses. The end was nigh, although a fifth-generation Cutlass made it out as well.
7 1974-1978 Ford Mustang II
The vaunted Mustang, which kickstarted the whole American muscle car craze and took it to the next level, became very unwanted in its second generation. From leading the pack in horsepower, this American stallion turned into the runt of the litter.
The Mustang II was now based on the Ford Pinto, need we say more? Funnily enough, it still sold, because Ford was not milking the erstwhile success, and now calling it a luxury car, although there was nothing plush about it except the economy.
6 1974-1976 Ford Torino
The 1970 Ford Torino Cobra was one cool car indeed, although Torino’s claim to fame comes with its 1976-76 models, used for the TV detective show, Starsky and Hutch. Onscreen, it may have caught the bad guy and raced around at thrilling speeds but in reality, it was a wet noodle.
The malaise era Torino made a relatively decent 260 horses from its massive 7.5-liter V8, but it was a failed cause, considering the two-ton weight of the car. Handling was a pain and the slippery seats did not enamor anyone either.
5 1977-1981 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
The car that was supposed to eat the Mustang for breakfast, but couldn’t, also took a nosedive during the malaise era. Not just in its base form but also in its most worshipped trim, the Z28. But for the mid to late ‘70s, the Camaro Z/28 can best be called a forgotten car.
While Chevy stopped making Z/28 models in 1974, by 1977 they were back, and a lot worse for the wear with the V8 making 185 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Quite a dip from the ’74 Z/28 that made 245 horses. By 1981, it made only 175 pathetic horses.
4 1967 Buick Gran Sport
The Gran Sport is a tad different from most of the other cars on the list because it did not need the malaise era to mess itself up. Instead, it was already a screwball, because it tried to copy the GSX’s success, but minus any horsepower or aerodynamics.
This is simply a bad car made by people who might not have been thinking straight in a bid to match the competition as fast as they could. Since it was no good, sales spiraled down and the Gran Sport became obsolete.
3 1980-1981 Mercury Capri Turbo RS
The Mercury Capri was originally part of Ford Europe before Ford USA decided it wanted it on home soil as well although, we are not sure why. Perhaps Ford just wanted one more bad car to sell. Either way, the Capri should have been called the Capricious Mercury, because it was unreliable to boot.
There were many complaints about many of its systems, filed by many of its owners so all in all, the Capri only took Mercury down a notch, bringing down Ford with it as well. Later, they even lowered prices to boost sales, but it did not work, much.
2 1971-1975 Ford Maverick Grabber
The Ford Maverick at the start, in 1960, was an economy muscle car made by Ford, at a time when muscle cars were not a thing. It was a bit bland but did okay enough considering it came built cheap for mass sales.
But when the Mustang took off, Ford decided to play on its muscle car market headway and brought in the Maverick Grabber, which was just a fancy regurgitation of the old car, minus any true prowess. It did not strike the target and was soon off assembly lines.
1 1978 Ford Mustang King Cobra
We have mentioned the Mustang II on the list, but let’s take a moment to pay homage to what we’d like to call the worst Ford Mustang ever. The last trim of the Mustang II, before things began to get better for the Mustang fans, was the King Cobra.
Let’s just say what it was, a front-engine Ford Pinto, with Mustang badging, a new paint job, and every effort possible to make it look cool on the road. Even as the owners shed hot tears of disappointment over the gutless engine. Sigh.
Sources: TopSpeed, Autoevolution
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