10 Best American Classic Cars That Defined The Muscle Era

Classic American cars are an intoxicating breed of vehicle, bursting with character and gearhead appeal. Within their ranks lies one of the most enigmatic sub-cultures on the planet, the American muscle car. Vehicles that were built simply to offer fast and affordable four-wheeled fun to a new wave of power-hungry buyers.

Scan the classified and there are literally hundreds of classic muscle cars for sale. Muscular legends are on offer from just about every major American manufacturer, those still trading and those long gone. They all have a special allure about them, something that a more modern classic car simply can’t match, and this is why they are held in such high regard. Even TV sensation Richard Hammond would rather drive a 1968 Ford Mustang GT than a Lamborghini Countach.

Yet not all muscle cars were built equally, some had far more street cred than others and some were best avoided. So for self-respecting gearheads looking to avoid some of the worst-looking muscle cars ever made, here is a list of 10 of the best American classic cars that defined the muscle era.

10 The 1965 Pontiac GTO


The 1965 Pontiac GTO was one of the best all-around muscle cars ever built. Spacious, comfortable, and very potent. A Pontiac GTO could calmly cruise to the corner store to pick up groceries, before smoking its rear tires to embarrass exotic European sports cars.

A genuine homegrown hero, thePontiac GTO packs a 6.5-liter V8 making 335 hp. Stamp on the go pedal, and it will launch to 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds. A ferocious racer disguised as a sporty family car, the Pontiac GTO is a legend and a respected classic muscle car.

Related: The Most Badass Pontiac Firebirds, Ranked

9 The 1965 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350

Via Ford

The Ford Shelby Mustang GT350 is a game-changing model, it’s a classic muscle car that launched a legacy. Without the Shelby GT350, there would be a huge performance chasm within the Mustang ranks. As it opened the door for both Ford and Shelby to create heroes.

A finely tuned 4.7-liter Windsor V8 gave the GT350 incredibly flexible road-going prowess. Dishing out 306 hp and 329 lb/ft torque, it would scrabble to 60 mph on average in 5.8 seconds. Fettled by Shelby to be the best Mustang available at the time, it remains a Ford icon.

8 1967 Chevrolet Camaro Z28


Hot on the heels of the Ford Mustang, the Chevrolet Camaro Z28 split a nation of muscle car fanatics right down the middle. Offering the same blend of performance and usability, but with a distinctly different feel. The Chevy Camaro Z28 became an affordable street racer.

Powered by a 4.9-liter small-block V8, the Camaro Z28 got 290 hp to play with. This allowed it to hit 60 mph in 6.6 seconds from standing while running quarter miles in 14 seconds. Every inch an American muscle car, the Camaro Z28 was a tire-shredding bundle of fun.

7 1968 Dodge Charger


Achingly beautiful from all angles, the 1968 Dodge Charger is one of the best-looking classic muscle cars money can buy. It could also be bought with the muscle fanatics engine of choice, a Hemi, making the Dodge Charger a powerful car with a distinctive dual character.

Gearheads often ask, what is the most iconic muscle car of all time? And the answer is simply, the Dodge Charger. From its instantly recognizable silhouette to its stand-out name. The Dodge Charger is a vehicular superstar, appearing in movies and hit TV shows.

Related: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Dukes Of Hazzard’s Dodge Charger

6 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454


One of the most potent muscle cars for sale, the 1969 Chevy Chevelle SS 454 boasted a 7.4-liter LS6 big block V8 with 450 hp and 500 lb/ft torque. Mashing the throttle would see the muscular Chevelle cover the quarter mile in 13 seconds at an average speed of 105 mph.

Regarded as one of the best street racing, muscle cars ever made, the 1969 Chevelle SS 454 had an almost perfect power-to-weight ratio, spitting out more power than any other production car of its era. Affordable and reliable, it became a firm favorite among gearheads.

Related: 10 Things We Just Learned About The New Chevelle Super Sport

5 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge


By the time 1969 hit, the Pontiac GTO had morphed into a sleek yet aggressive-looking muscle car. Launched as an equipment sparse budget street racer, the GTO Judge instead came packed with an array of tasty high-performance parts along with a kick-ass engine.

Equipped with the robust 6.6-liter Ram Air 400 unit a GTO Judge made a healthy 366 hp, getting it to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds. Tricked out with a large rear deck spoiler, Rally II wheels, Hurst shifter, and sporting bold decals, the GTO Judge made quite a lasting visual impact.

4 1970 AMC Rebel Machine

AMC Rebel Machine

With possibly one of the best car names ever designated, the AMC Rebel Machine’s title says it all. Big, burly, and with a power surplus, the Rebel Machine is a mid-size car with attitude. It’s a muscle car that also boasts one of the most patriotic factory-produced paint jobs ever.

Under its vented hood lurks a 6.4-liter V8 capable of spewing out 340 hp and a tire-wilting 430 lb/ft of torque. Able to scream to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, the AMC Rebel Machine proved to be a capable muscle car contender, smoking the competition as fast as it would rubber.

Related: The Most Badass AMC Cars Of All Time, Ranked

3 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2

oldsmobile 442

A veritable hot rod in trendy street clothes, the Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2 sat at the top of the company’s performance tree. A rip-snorting muscle car that could lay down a trail of rubber with the mere flex of the ankle, the Cutlass 4-4-2 was brimming with horsepower and style.

The Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2 utilized a 7.5-liter V8, pumping out 370 hp along with 500 lb/ft of torque. From the lights, it could rocket to 60 mph in under 6 seconds, passing the quarter-mile marker in 13 seconds. Bristling with machismo, it’s a car for standing out from a crowd.

2 1971 Ford Mustang Boss 351


Offered on a very limited run basis and only for one year, the Ford Mustang Boss 351 became of the last true muscle cars. Powered by a burly 5.8-liter V8 destined for racing glory, it sent a rather healthy 330 hp and 370 lb/ft to the Mustang’s rear wheels.

Give the throttle a shove and the Ford Mustang Boss 351 would jump to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. Noted to be a better-handling car than most of its competition, the Boss 351 still required a keen driver to get very hands-on as they peeled back its many detailed layers.

Related: Watch As A Scruffy 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Transforms Into A Pristine Restomod

1 1971 Plymouth Hemi Barracuda

Plymouth Hemi Barracuda

What is the best classic American muscle car? Well, that crown is proudly worn by the Plymouth Hemi Barracuda, a car that has been eternally honored by rock god Bruce Springsteen, in the track Born To Run – a song that captures the spirit of American muscle cars.

The Plymouth Hemi Barracuda is the quintessential muscle car, primed to unload horsepower onto any unsuspecting blacktop. Fire up its 7.0-liter Hemi V8 and a driver can bathe in not only 425 hp, but also 490 lb/ft of torque. It’s a full-fat muscle car that will devour the opposition.