Cars That Used To Be Cool But Younger Generations Won’t Recognize

They don't make cars like they used to. Modern cars are a lot safer, better on gas, and quicker. However, many car enthusiasts would argue that older cars have a soul, unlike those built today.

Let's take a trip down memory lane. From roadgoing race cars to quirky German utility vans, these cars were the absolute coolest back in the day.

Ford GT40

Ford GT40 Daytona prototype 1965
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

This legendary American race car needs no introduction. The Ford GT40 was developed back in the 1960s in an attempt to beat Ferrari at the infamous 24-hour endurance race at Le Mans.

The final product was a real monster back in the day. The V8-powered race car went on to not only beat Ferrari at Le Mans but also dominate the entire motorsport world for the next couple of years.

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Ford Mustang

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1966 Ford Mustang Fastback Hertz Recreation GT350
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We could argue that the '64 debut of the Ford Mustang was the biggest automotive event of the 60s. The car was an instant hit and quickly became a real American icon. It still remains the world's favorite pony car to this day.

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The first-gen Mustang was offered with a variety of different engines under the hood, including various V8 motors and a weak flat-six for the base model.

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Dodge Charger

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The Dodge Charger is loved by car enthusiasts across the world, from JDM fans to Porschephiles. You don't have to be a muscle car fanatic to appreciate this beauty, which has quickly become one of the most legendary American cars of all time.

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A powerful big-block V8 motor is the absolute highlight of the Charger, similar to most classic muscle cars. The 440-cubic inch motor pushes out an impressive 375 horsepower, all delivered to just the rear wheels.

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Buick Riviera

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Buick may have used the Riviera nameplate for the vast majority of the 20th century. The iconic Riviera luxury car originally hit the market back in 1963, as Buick attempted to tap into a segment dominated by the Ford Thunderbird.

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The third generation of the Riviera, built for just 3 model years starting in 1971, is arguably the most legendary one of them all. Its gorgeous rear-end design has become a true icon of the early 70s.

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Oldsmobile Cutlass

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1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass Convertible
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The Cutlass has experienced quite an impressive glow-up over the years. The moniker first appeared on an experimental sports coupe back in the first half of the 50s, before turning into a proper production car for 1961. The first-gen Oldsmobile Cutlass wasn't particularly exciting, though.

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The Cutlass transformed into an icon for the '64 model year, when the all-new second-gen hit the market. Available powerplants ranged from a weak 155hp V6 all the way to a big-block V8 rated at almost 350 horses.

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Studebaker Avanti

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1964 Studebaker Avanti.
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This has got to be one of the most underrated cars from the 1960s. Believe it or not, this luxury car has had a massive impact on car design in America. Less than 5800 of them were built in total, and the production line was shut down just two years after its '62 debut!

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This cool-looking automobile gave birth to the "coke bottle styling". That's right, cars such as the third-gen Corvette, the '70 Mustang Boss, or the Plymouth Barracuda were all inspired by the same body style as this underappreciated beauty.

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Chevrolet El Camino SS

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History has shown that unibody pickup trucks are pretty much set up to fail from the get-go. The Chevy El Camino is an exception to the rule, though.

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This unique pickup has become a cult classic within just a few decades of its initial debut. The souped-up SS variant, powered by a powerful 454-cubic inch big-block V8, remains a gem desired by collectors across the globe.

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Ferrari 250 GTO

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A Ferrari 250GTO ch no 4115GT.
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This is unarguably one of the most famous automobiles of all time. Not only that, but it also doubles as the most expensive car ever sold. One of just 36 units ever made was sold at an auction back in November 2021 for an astounding $70 million!

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The 250 GTO is basically a homologated race car that can be driven on the road. It's powered by a screaming V12 motor pushing out roughly 300 horsepower, mated with a 5-speed stick shift.

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Chevrolet Camaro SS

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1968 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible
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The Camaro was GM's answer to the unbelievably successful Ford Mustang. Naturally, Chevrolet wanted a piece of the cake too. The first-ever Camaro went on sale back in 1966. The car was a massive hit from the get-go, with roughly 220 000 examples sold within the first year.

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The mean-looking Camaro was offered with various V8 options beneath the hood. Although not as popular as the Ford Mustang, the Chevy Camaro has gone down in history as one of the most legendary American vehicles of all time.

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Chevrolet Corvette C2

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Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible 1964
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Chevrolet undoubtedly revolutionized the market with the release of the original Corvette back in the early 1950s. After all, no American automaker has developed anything like the Corvette before. The two-seater resembled a classy Italian roadster, except for a gas-guzzling V8 under the hood.

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The release of the second gen in '63 was just as special. The Corvette received a much-needed update, as well as a wide array of technical improvements. Let's not forget the unique split-window rear-end design that can only be found on the '63 Vette, either.

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Dodge Challenger

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Dodge developed the Challenger to compete with Ford and General Motors in an attempt to conquer the pony car segment, dominated by the Ford Mustang. The car, built on the same E-Body platform as the Plymouth Barracuda, hit the market for the '70 model year.

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The base model did come fitted with an underpowered flat-six, though buyers had plenty of optional V8 motors to choose from, including a 440-cubic inch big-block or a 426-cubic inch Hemi.

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Ford Thunderbird

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1965 Ford Thunderbird
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The Blue Oval clearly dedicated a lot of time and effort to perfect this gorgeous car. In fact, the automaker released five different generations since the '57 debut of the original Thunderbird.

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The frequently-updated Thunderbird was built to be a more upscale alternative to the Chevy Corvette, which hit the market just a few years earlier. All Thunderbirds built before the 1980s came with a monstrous V8 under the hood, too!

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Chrysler New Yorker

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The New Yorker served as Chrysler's flagship model for most of its production run. The nameplate first appeared on the market back in 1940, and remained in production for over half a century!

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The eighth generation of the car, built between 1969 and 1973, is arguably the best one of them all. The New Yorker featured gorgeous design inside and out, as well as an impressive 440cubic-inch big-block V8 beneath the hood. The same one that was offered in a souped-up Dodge Charger!

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Pontiac GTO

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1970 Pontiac GTO Judge
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This is an American muscle car with an Italian touch, at least as far as the nameplate goes. Pontiac was inspired by Ferrari and its legendary 250 GTO- which stands for homologated GT (Gran Turismo Omologato in Italian). Originally, Pontiac's GTO was an optional package for the Le Mans before becoming a separate model in its own right by '64.

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Don't be fooled by the name, as the Pontiac GTO is as American as a muscle car can get. This beauty came powered by a gas-guzzling V8 rated at an impressive 325 horsepower.

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Ford Bronco

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Ford was clearly on a roll in the 1960s, and the original Bronco proves it. Originally released in '66, just two years after the Mustang pony car, the Ford Bronco was developed to be a more practical alternative to off-roaders available on the market at the time.

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Buyers had plenty of two-door body styles to choose from, including a roadster or a practical pickup version. The base model came with a flat-six, though buyers had the option to upgrade to a much more powerful V8 motor.

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Chevrolet Corvette C3

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1969 Chevrolet Corvette
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This may very well be the ultimate classic Corvette. The success of its predecessor, the C2 generation, was short-lived, as the model was replaced after being on the market for just 5 years.

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The classic C3 Corvette hit the market for 1968. The all-new styling, removable T-top roof, and an optional big block under the hood all made the C3 difficult to dislike.

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Lotus Esprit

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1982 Lotus Esprit series 3
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It's safe to say that the Lotus Esprit foreshadowed the trends of automotive styling. Believe it or not, this model wasn't actually released in the 1980s. The first Esprit premiered for the 1976 model year, despite its very 80s-like design!

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This gorgeous sports car was designed by Italdesign, a famous Italian coachbuilder. The car originally came powered by a slightly underwhelming flat-four motor, which was eventually replaced by a twin-turbocharged V8 in the mid-1990s.

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Cadillac Eldorado

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1975 Cadillac Eldorado hardtop coupe
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The Cadillac Eldorado is one of the very few automobiles that seemed not to be affected by the '73 oil crisis, at least at first. The ninth generation of this land yacht launched for the '71 model year, featuring a gigantic body that measured over 220 inches, as well as a massive 500-cubic inch motor that barely pushed out 235 horsepower.

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After the '73 oil crisis, most automakers either toned down their gas-guzzling land yachts or discontinued them altogether. The Eldorado stayed true to its roots, and a massive V8 remained the only available engine option all the way until the debut of the tenth-gen Eldorado in '79.

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Jeep Wagoneer

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As far as classic SUVs go, things don't get much better than the original Jeep Wagoneer. The American automaker had been developing in the second half of the 1950s, and the model eventually premiered for the '62 model year.

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The Wagoneer was rightfully advertised as superior when compared with its competitors, in terms of both comfort and practicality. In fact, the roomy cabin featured best-in-class cargo space.

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AC Cobra

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The AC Cobra is one of the most radical automobiles to date. It was initially developed by Carroll Shelby himself, who combined a powerful Ford V8 engine with a lightweight two-seater body built by British automaker MG. As a result, the AC Cobra was seriously quick!

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The most radical units came fitted with a 427-cubic inch big block V8, rated at 425 horses. With that engine under the hood, the AC Cobra was capable of reaching a top speed

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Volkswagen Beetle

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1978 Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet
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The Beetle has stolen the hearts of auto enthusiasts around the globe. It also remains one of the best-selling cars of all time, with more than 21.5 million examples built in total!

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The Beetle rose to fame shortly after WWII, largely due to its affordable price tag. The vehicle was the brainchild of Ferdinand Porsche. Much like the Porsche 911, the Beetle featured an air-cooled boxer engine mounted in the rear of the car.

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Chevrolet Camaro Split Bumper

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1972 Chevrolet Camaro Custom
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The second generation of the Chevrolet Camaro, GM's alternative to the beloved Ford Mustang, was unveiled in 1970. The car featured a more aggressive design, complete with a body that was both wider and lower than its predecessor.

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Early production units (those built until 1973) are often referred to as the split bumper Camaros. Starting in 1974, Chevy introduced an updated front end design with a single front bumper to comply with the latest safety regulations.

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Lincoln Continental

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1965 Lincoln Continental Resto Mod
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The Continental paved the way for personal luxury car. In fact, its '39 debut marked the creation of that segment! This lavish automobile was also the last American vehicle to come powered by a factory-produced V12 engine in the late 1940s, and the last-ever model to undergo downsizing following the '73 oil crisis.

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Much like the previously mentioned Cadillac Eldorado, the Lincoln Continental seemed unaffected by the oil crisis at first. It wasn't until 1982 that the Continental received a flat-six motor.

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Plymouth Barracuda

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1971 Plymouth Barracuda
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This legendary muscle car continues to confuse petrolheads to this day. Plymouth introduced an optional 'Cuda package for the Barracuda- which upgraded the motor to a 290-horsepower V8 as standard, as well as the optional 425-horsepower big block Hemi motor for the most demanding buyers.

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Many people seem to confuse the 'Cuda package with the Barracuda model and falsely believe that the two names are interchangeable. We may be guilty of this mistake, too!

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Porsche 930 Turbo

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Porsche 930 Turbo & Porsche 2.7 Carrera MFI, Vienna
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The 930 Turbo was the ultimate status symbol in the world of performance cars. Built between 1975 and 1989, this generation of the 911 was the all-time dream car for car enthusiasts throughout the planet. The air-cooled boxer motor combined with a single turbocharger was powerful enough to send a 930 Turbo to 60 miles per hour in as little as 4.6 seconds!

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Nicknamed the Widowmaker, the Porsche 930 Turbo is as quick as it is demanding to drive. The car suffers from quite a bit of turbo lag, which is a pretty risky mix when combined with its rear-wheel-drive drivetrain and lack of driver assists.

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Aston Martin DB5

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1965 Aston Martin Db5. Creator: Unknown.
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Everyone who has seen James Bond wanted to own one of these beauties. This lavish grand tourer quickly became an icon of British automobiles, and one of the most famous cars of all time.

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The model first hit the market back in 1963, and was only produced for 3 short years before being replaced by the DB6. The DB5 features everything that defines what an Aston Martin was, and still is today, including a high-performance engine, an upscale interior, and a comfortable yet driver-oriented ride.

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Buick Wildcat

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The Wildcat may have only been around for 7 years, though it has surely made a huge impact on Buick and the American car market as a whole. Developed with performance and luxury in mind, the Wildcat served as a higher-performance and larger alternative to the LeSabre.

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The Wildcat saw two different generations during its production run. Every single unit left the factory with a big block V8 motor, rated at either 340 or 360 horsepower.

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Shelby Mustang GT500

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The Ford Mustang GT500...
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Nearly every vehicle that Carroll Shelby had worked on turned into an icon of the automotive world, and the Shelby Mustang is no exception. The souped-up GT500 remains one of the most desired variants of Ford's classic pony car.

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Under the hood, the Shelby Mustang GT500 packs a 355-horsepower big-block motor. As a result, it can sprint to 60 miles per hour in just 6.5 seconds. That was seriously quick back in the late 60s!

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Oldsmobile Toronado

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The Oldsmobile division of General Motors wanted to join the personal luxury car market around the mid-1960s. The Toronado was developed to become a competitor to some of America's most lavish automobiles offered at the time. It shared the same platform with the Buick Riviera and the Cadillac Eldorado.

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It should come as no surprise that the Oldsmobile Toronado was an instant hit. The car's gorgeous design, complete with pop-up headlamps, paired with a powerful gas-guzzling V8 appealed to buyers throughout the country.

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Chevrolet Impala SS

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1968 Chevrolet Impala Convertible
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Don't get us wrong, the regular Chevrolet Impala is already a very cool classic car in its own right. The souped-up Super Sport variant, however, is in a whole different league.

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As if the SS trim wasn't enough, there was one more performance upgrade available straight out of factory. Buyers had the option to upgrade the motor in their SS Impala to a monstrous 427-cubic inch big block rated at a whopping 425 horsepower!

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Mercury Cougar

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The Mercury Cougar shared most of its components and underpinnings with the Ford Mustang. In fact, we'd go as far as to say that the Mercury Cougar was pretty much a redesigned Mustang, and other changes were second to none.

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Though arguably not as cool as the Mustang, the Mercury Cougar remained a great ride for most of its production run. The Cougar was even offered with an optional big block powerplant all the way until 1980!

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Pontiac Firebird

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The Pontiac Firebird is very similar to the previously mentioned Mercury Cougar in a lot of ways. For starters, both cars were essentially redesigns of their more popular cousins. The Firebird was built on the same F-body platform as the Chevy Camaro, and most of the underpinnings were shared between the two rides.

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As a result, the Pontiac Firebird is just as cool as the Camaro, if not cooler. The frist-gen was sold between '67 and 1969, with two small block V8 options as well as a 400-cubic inch big block to choose from. There was a flat-six variant available for the base model too, though it was pretty dull and awfully underpowered.

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Buick GSX

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The muscle car craze was at its all-time high back in the second half of the 1960s. Naturally, Buick could not be left behind. The GSX was the perfect tool for the job, and a great contribution to the muscle car market.

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The Buick GSX was a high-performance muscle car based on the Buick Gran Sport. Its 455-cubic inch big block motor produced a whopping 350 horsepower, which allowed the car to reach 60 miles per hour in just 5.7 seconds.

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Plymouth Road Runner

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1974 Plymouth Road Runner 440
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After buying the rights to use the Road Runner name and likeness from Warner Bros, Plymouth had to develop a muscle car as quick as the beloved Looney Tunes cartoon character.

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The Plymouth Road Runner did live up to its expectations, even though the bar had already been set pretty high. The original Road Runner debuted in 1968, buyers were given the option to choose from 3 different high-performance big block V8s.

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Volkswagen Type 2

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The Volkswagen Type 2 was a utility van that joined the German automaker's lineup alongside the previously mentioned Beetle (also known as the Type 1). It quickly became a best-seller and, quite surprisingly, a go-to vehicle for the hippie culture.

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Hippies always loved Volkswagens, both the Type 1 and the Type 2, primarily because they were very easy to work on. Loads of affordable parts, as well as replacements from other vehicles that would fit on the Type 2, made this van a cult classic.

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Pontiac Trans Am

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Fans of Smokey And The Bandit will instantly recognize this beast. The Trans Am was actually an optional package available for the previously mentioned Pontiac Firebird.

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The Trans Am package introduced performance upgrades, as well as an array of cosmetic touches. A 400-cubic inch motor was standard for the Trans Am, alongside a more powerful optional 455-cubic inch powerplant.

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Chevrolet Chevelle SS

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1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS
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From today's perspective, it may look as if Chevrolet introduced a powerful SS trim for virtually every automobile built in the 60s and the 70s. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not!

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The souped-up Chevy Chevelle SS was pretty much the definition of American muscle. This mean-looking monster surely packs a punch. Its gigantic 7.4L V8 motor delivers over 400 horsepower to just the rear wheels! With no driver aids nor safety systems, the Chevelle SS is very demanding to drive.

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Ford Torino

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Ford developed the Torino as a more luxurious alternative to the Ford Fairlane. The model name is actually an homage paid to Detroit, which was considered the Turin of America at the time.

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On the outside, the Ford Torino features that classic muscle car-like styling we all love. Under the hood, the car packed anything from a weak flat-six to a rumbling big block V8 motor, depending on the variant and the motor chosen by the buyer.

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Dodge Coronet

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Dodge Coronet Hemi RT 1970
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This underrated muscle car shared the same B-body platform as the legendary Charger. In fact, the two cars are so similar that they could easily be mistaken when comparing their side profiles.

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The most exciting variant of the Dodge Coronet came powered by a 440-cubic inch big block V8. The very same engine offered in the Charger, and even the Chrysler New Yorker!

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Jaguar E-Type

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1973 Jaguar E type Series 3
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This beauty is easily one of the most gorgeous automobiles ever. Even Ferrari Enzo agreed that the E-Type was indeed the most beautiful vehicle he had ever seen. Today, it can even be considered more as a work of art than a car.

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This flagship Jaguar grand tourer first hit the market in 1961 and remained as a part of the lineup for nearly 15 years. Early production models were offered with a six-cylinder motor, though the V12 version remains the most legendary one of them all.