We all love classic cars, but the enthusiasm quickly fades off when you start restoring one. Fortunately, unlike other countries, the US has a healthy restoration scene, covering many muscle cars from the last century. These cars are not only easy to work on, but parts are also readily available, and they aren’t overly expensive.
1965-1970 Ford Mustang
We’ll start the list with the most obvious muscle car, the first-gen Ford Mustang. The model was an absolute best-seller when it first launched – Ford managed to sell over 2.5 million units. As a result, there are still many cars that survived to this day and a lot of available parts.
And, we’re not talking only about OEM parts. The aftermarket scene is also very strong, with parts that would keep your Mustang look and feel original, but also tuning parts. Ultimately, most mechanics know how to work on the Mustang, making them truly easy to restore.
1967-1969 Chevrolet Camaro
The Camaro might not be as popular as the Mustang, but its fans are equally “hardcore,” meaning the restoring scene is already well-developed. The first-gen model is perhaps the best choice out there – it looks the part, and it packs powerful small-block Chevy engines under the hood, giving you the ultimate muscle-car driving experience.
Besides, you can even slap a more modern and an even more powerful V8 under the hood, although you can still find good original units. Finally, the Camaro is very easy to work on, and you can still find pristine examples at reasonable prices, although that won’t last for long.
1970-1974 Dodge Challenger/Plymouth Barracuda
The third model of the trio that marked the muscle-car scene in the past 50 years is the Dodge Challenger. Packing arguably the most dynamic design, the Challenger is also a burnout paradise – the large-displacement HEMI 7.2-liter V8 is rated at a staggering 425 hp. And even if you don’t find the HEMI, the 6.3-liter and 7.2-liter V8 are also very powerful.
The Challenger also shares many mechanical parts with the Plymouth Barracuda (pictured here), although the latter has a slightly shorter wheelbase. Regardless, both models are very easy to restore, and parts are readily available throughout the US.
1970-1972 Chevrolet El Camino SS
Coupe-utility pickups, or “ute” as people from down under call them, aren’t present on the market today. However, in the 70s’, they were quite popular among customers that wanted style, performance, and utility in one package. The most interesting such model is the Chevrolet El Camino SS, particularly the third-generation model
The El Camino packs a lot of power, provided you find a SS unit with the 365 HP 7.4-liter V8. Besides, parts are readily available since it’s mechanically identical to the Chevelle of the era. With this car, you’d still be winning drag races against modern pickup trucks, and do it with more style.
1970-1972 Chevrolet Chevelle
If a coupe-utility pickup doesn’t excite you, then we recommend the Chevy Chevelle. The stylish muscle car shares almost all parts with the El Camino SS, meaning they are very easy to find, even today. Moreover, the Chevelle is also available with Chevy’s big-block V8 engines, making it very fast in a straight line.
Besides, the Chevelle is mechanically sound and very easy to work on. It surely helps that there are already many restoration projects featuring the coupe, meaning you can take inspiration from elsewhere. However, if you are interested, we recommend going for the second-gen models, since the first-gen cars already cost a fortune.
1967-1976 Dodge Dart
The Dodge Dart is much smaller than the muscle-car standard of the era, but it makes it even more desirable in our eyes. Notably, the smaller dimensions cut some weight, yet you can still find a big-block 426 cubic-inch HEMI V8 under the hood. As a result, the straight-line acceleration is excellent, but the handling isn’t too bad, either.
The best thing about the Dodge Dart is that it is much cheaper to buy than the established muscle cars of that era. A hidden gem, if you like. Ultimately, it is straightforward to restore, and parts are readily available.
1964-1970 Pontiac GTO
Back in the 60s’, the Pontiac GTO was by far the quickest and most powerful muscle car – it packed a 6.4-liter V8 rated at 348 bhp in the most powerful Pontiac Le Mans package. The carmaker also made sure it was good to drive, employing a limited-slip differential, wider wheels, and larger-diameter front sway bars.
Unfortunately, the first-gen Pontiac GTO isn’t cheap and much rarer than the Mustang, Camaro, or Challenger. However, prices continue to go up, meaning it’s a good investment. More importantly, parts are readily available, the aftermarket scene is booming, and the car is very easy to work on.
1982-1987 Buick Grand National/GNX
The 70s might’ve produced the most sought-after muscle cars, but the 80s’ boxy models started gathering attention lately. Perhaps the most interesting model of the era is the Buick Grand National. With its menacing “Darth Vader” looks, especially in black color, and the powerful V6 turbo under the hood, the Grand National has everything you’d want from a muscle car.
Moreover, thanks to the inclusion of a turbocharger, you can easily tune it to over 300 hp in the ultimate GNX model, thanks to the excellent support by manufacturers of tuning parts. If you’re not interested in that, you can easily find OEM parts from other G-Body architecture vehicles.
1983-1987 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
Unlike other muscle cars on this list, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS was developed on the NASCAR racetracks. Specifically, Chevy designed the aerodynamics on the track, making it look much more dynamic than other boxy muscle cars from the 80s’. Besides, the slick body also contributed to better performance and high-speed stability.
The Monte Carlo SS is already a very popular classic piece, meaning it’s not easy to find a cheap example. However, even if you find a less-than-pristine car, it will be straightforward to restore. Moreover, the aftermarket scene is booming and Chevy even started producing parts.
1957 Chevrolet “Fuelie”
The term “muscle car” may have been first used in the 60s, but cars from the 50s are equally deserving of it. The best example is the 1957 Chevrolet “Bel-Air,” which features a powerful engine with mechanical fuel injection. The most potent V8 small-block models produce 270 hp, enough to burn the rear tires easily.
The 1957 Chevrolet is already an icon, so it’s not very easy to find a pristine model. However, since parts are readily available, many owners even built their models from scratch, using replica parts. In addition, the 1957 Chevrolet is popular in the tuning community, so there are many aftermarket parts available.
1965-1970 Chevrolet Impala SS
Muscle cars are all about straight-line speed, but what if you could have that and a comfortable ride at the same time? The Chevrolet Impala SS took everything that was good about muscle cars of the era and mixed it with a larger and more comfortable body.
It was still immensely fast in a straight line, courtesy of the 427 cubic-inch V8 engine developing 425 hp. However, it also had a very nice interior and was an excellent long-distance cruiser. Therefore, if your idea of a fast car also includes relaxed driving, the Impala SS is an excellent choice. Besides, it’s also very easy to restore, and parts are easy to find.
1968-1970 AMC AMX
AMC was one of the most innovative automakers of the 60s and 70s, which shows in its cars. Perhaps the most popular vehicle to come out of AMC is the AMX, a relatively small coupe that packed a lot of power under the bonnet. Specifically, it ranges from 225 hp to 340 hp, amazing numbers for such a small car.
Unfortunately, AMC has built around 20,000 units, meaning it’s not easy to find a good AMX. However, if you find one, you should know that there is a growing enthusiast community, so it’s relatively easy to restore.
1977-1981 Pontiac Firebird
The second-gen Pontiac Firebird was arguably the best-looking muscle car of the era, but also one of the most powerful. Of particular interest here is the facelift Pontiac introduced in 1977, which made the front end much more menacing.
Now, Pontiac had discontinued the most powerful LS1 and LS5 versions after the facelift, leaving customers with options that topped at 220 hp. However, the Firebird wasn’t all about straight-line performance and was actually good to drive in the corners. Besides, these versions are still less expensive than the previous models and are straightforward to restore. Just make sure that you don’t go for the turbocharged engine, since it doesn’t provide any significant power advantage.
1968 -1974 Ford Torino
The Ford Torino never reached the heights of the Mustang and perhaps never will. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad choice for a classic car. Actually, people with refined taste might prefer the larger Torino, since it provides a more upmarket driving experience.
But even if that doesn’t attract you, then the lower price and equally-powerful engines as the Mustang might. The Torino is no slouch – the most powerful 429 cubic-inch V8 provides 375 hp, yet it is a fraction of the price of a classic Mustang. Besides, since they share most of the parts, restoration is very accessible and straightforward.
1967-1970 Mercury Cougar
Here is another muscle car that shares most parts with the Mustang, yet it passes almost unnoticed among muscle-car enthusiasts. Despite being marketed as a more luxurious version of the Mustang, the first-gen Mercury Cougar is cheaper to buy today. Moreover, since it uses the same parts, you can easily restore it to its former glory.
The Cougar also has an arguably more attractive appearance, particularly in the front. Namely, the car hides the headlights during the day – everything you see is one massive grille. Then, when you flick the switch, the grille’s outer parts open to reveal the headlights, a trick that still attracts attention.
1966-1970 Dodge Charger
Continuing with the theme of larger muscle cars, we present you perhaps the most popular out there – the Dodge Charger. The mid-size fastback coupe was first introduced in 1966, immediately attracting the public’s attention. Like the Mercury Cougar, it also featured fully-rotating headlights, which were hiding under the “electric shaver” grille.
The Charger rose to prominence after it featured in “The Dukes of Hazzard,” which made it an instant classic. As a result, pristine first and second-gen Chargers are expensive nowadays and hard to find. If you do find one, though, parts are readily available, making restoration that much easier.
1968-1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass/4-4-2
You might not be aware, but the Cutlass was one of the best-selling cars in the US in the 60s and 70s. It actually topped the charts from 1978 to 1982. Why is that important? Well, it means that there are many original parts still available, making restoration a breeze.
However, not all Cutlass models are equal. What you want is the 4-4-2 model or the muscle-car version of the car. Under the bonnet, it packs a 455 cubic-inch V8 producing 390 hp, enough for a 0-60mph time of 5.4 seconds and a 1/4 mile dash of 13.9 seconds.
1968-1974 Chevrolet Nova
The Nova was the smallest muscle car in Chevy’s lineup, but don’t let that fool you – it’s a real pocket rocket. The most powerful SS version packs a 396 cubic-inch V8 rated at 375 hp, but other options were powerful, too. Thanks to the small and lightweight body, the Nova accelerates from 0-60mph in just 5.9 seconds and tops out at 142mph. Not bad for a compact coupe.
Besides, since it shares many parts with the Camaro and Chevelle, they are very easy to find. Another advantage is the excellent aftermarket support, which is booming recently.
1979-1993 Ford Mustang
After launching the not-so-beloved second-gen Mustang, Ford needed a car that would’ve taken the brand back to form. Based on an entirely new platform, the fox-body Mustang introduced a more modern boxy styling but also a turbocharged four-cylinder. The muscle car was still available with a small-block V8, but it was a down-powered version with only 175 hp.
Meanwhile, the turbo-four got up to 205 hp in the SVO version and got a larger initial tuning potential. Today, though, these things don’t matter much, since you can still slap a more powerful small-block V8 under the bonnet.
1968-1971 Dodge Super Bee
The Super Bee might not be as famous as the Charger from its era, but if you seek performance, it might be a better option. It’s slightly smaller on the outside and also lighter, yet it packs the same 426 HEMI V8 engine rated at a whopping 425 hp.
During its era, the Super Bee was arguably the quickest muscle car and a frequent sight on drag strips across the US. Besides, it’s also quite the looker, especially the 1970 model and its “Bumble Bee” wing front end. Just like for the Charger, Dodge remanufactures almost every part today, making it very easy to restore.
1965-1970 Buick Gran Sport
The Buick Gran Sport is not exactly a frequent sight on roads today, which is not surprising, since not many were built. One of the reasons is that the coupe was marketed as an upmarket muscle car and was more expensive than the competition.
However, while certainly luxurious, the Gran Sport was also a monster. Under the hood, it featured a 455 cubic-inch V8 that produced 360 hp, but more importantly, 510 lb-ft of torque. As a result, the Buick Gran Sport was a burnout machine and a real rocket in a straight line. Although not many examples are available to buy, the upmarket muscle car is actually very easy to restore and parts are readily available.
1964-1965 Ford Falcon Futura Sprint
The Falcon Futura Spring isn’t as popular as the Mustang, despite the fact that it shares most of the internals. Ford has even built a few models with a 260 cubic-inch V8 under the hood, although the Falcon was a compact car.
The engine was good for 164 hp, which although doesn’t sound impressive, it’s still enough to propel the small coupe quickly forward. Besides, the Falcon Futura Sprint is not very expensive to buy, and it’s fairly easy to restore. In our eyes, it’s the perfect project muscle-car, giving you many upgrade options from Ford’s part bin.
1967-1970 Pontiac Firebird
The first-gen Pontiac Firebird is by far the hardest to find today, with prices still soaring. However, it is actually straightforward to restore. Original parts are readily available, and the aftermarket community has a lot of upgrades on offer.
Meanwhile, you’ll be getting a lot in return. The first-gen Firebird and its coke-bottle styling still attract a lot of attention, but its real beauty lies under the front bonnet. Specifically, the 400 cubic-inch V8 that produced 345 hp is the most sought-after, but other Pontiac V8 options are also potent. The Trans Am handling package is another sought-after feature, although you can achieve the same effect with aftermarket parts.
1964-1967 Pontiac 2 + 2
Even by today’s standards, the Pontiac 2 + 2 is a large automobile. The full-size coupe was primarily aimed at customers wanting a relaxed cruiser, but in true Pontiac fashion, it also packed a lot of power under the hood. Notably, the most powerful 428 cubic-inch engine provided 376 hp and 462 lb-ft of torque, enough for a blistering acceleration.
Interestingly, the 2 + 2 became popular as a classic only lately, which prompted manufacturers to start producing new parts. As a result, you can easily restore this behemoth into an elegant muscle car that could still smoke most cars on the road.
1965-1969 Chevrolet Corvair Monza
The Corvair Monza is unlike any muscle car of the era. Instead of a big V8 in the nose, it featured an air-cooled flat-six engine in the back. Yes, just like a Porsche 911. Customers could also opt for a turbocharged version, which produced a healthy 180 hp.
Additionally, the second-gen Corvair Monza also featured a fully-independent rear suspension, which gave it more secure handling compared to the first-gen model, which was prone to understeer. Arguably, the Corvair Monza is also among the best-looking American sports cars of the 60s. Although rare, the Corvair Monza enjoys excellent aftermarket support, making it fairly easy to restore.
1963-1965 Buick Riviera
The Buick Riviera is a 60s muscle car with upmarket features and a very attractive design. More importantly, it was also very light for the era, measuring 3,998 lb at the scales, and it packed some serious power under the hood. Notably, it was available with 401 and 225 cubic-inch V8 engines, producing 325 and 340 hp respectively.
Moreover, the Riviera also has a very comfortable cabin with four bucket seats, letting you enjoy the exhilarating drive with your friends. And although a rare sight on roads today, there is a surprising amount of replacement parts available.
1928-1931 Ford Model A
You probably didn’t expect to see such an old car on this list, especially one with an inline-four engine. However, there is a reason – the Ford Model A is a trendy car among hot-rod enthusiasts. The main reason is that original parts are still available, including engine, body, and chassis parts.
If the 3.3-liter 40hp engine doesn’t please you, the aftermarket community offers many enhancement parts, significantly raising the power output. Moreover, since it’s very simple, even less experienced mechanics can do a good job. Ultimately, despite being old almost a century, Model A’s aren’t very expensive.
1962-1968 Pontiac Grand Prix
The GTO might be more popular among muscle-car enthusiasts, but the Pontiac Grand Prix is definitely the better value. Notably, it’s a larger and more upmarket car, providing you with an ultimately better driving experience and higher comfort.
Despite that, it still packs some serious punch under the bonnet, with four V8 engines available, ranging from 389 to 428 cubic-inch capacity. Equipped with two four-barrel carburetors, the largest engine produced 405 hp, enough for tire-smoking acceleration runs. Interestingly, there are many parts available for the Grand Prix, although it was produced in low numbers.
1965-1970 Cadillac Coupe De Ville
Continuing with the upmarket theme, here is another full-size car that can also serve as a muscle car. The De Ville was one of the finest luxury cars of its era, packing an opulent and ultra-spacious interior, automatic-transmission as the only option, and elegant styling.
Although primarily aimed at customers that wanted a leisurely driving experience, the De Ville still packed some serious punch under the hood. Early models came with a 429 cubic-inch V8 producing 340 hp, while later models came with a mammoth 472 cubic-inch V8. Although already classics, De Ville’s from that era aren’t very expensive, and parts are readily available.
1956-1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk
The Golden Hawk was a show-stopper when it appeared in 1956, packing a sporty design and a relatively compact body. Under the bonnet, Studebaker’s sports car featured a Packard 352 cubic-inch V8 producing 275 hp, which was very powerful at the time.
More importantly, it was also one of the lightest cars from the 50s, which translated into a 0-60mph time of only 7.8 seconds and a top speed of 125mph. Although not very easy to find today and fairly expensive, the Golden Hawk is actually very easy to restore. Original parts are still available, with a lot being reproduced.
1957 Cadillac Series 62
Now, the Cadillac Series 62 isn’t as easy to restore as Mustangs or Challengers from the era, but you can still do it with help from professionals. Besides, you’ll be getting one of the finest automobiles of the 50s, with exceptional design that will attract attention everywhere you go.
Don’t worry, the Series 62 can still out-accelerate some modern cars thanks to the 365 cubic-inch V8 under the hood. And although a stunning classic, the Cadillac Series 62 isn’t very expensive on the used-car market. However, we don’t expect this to last, so grab one before it’s too late!
1955-1956 De Soto Fireflite Hemi
The De Soto Fireflite was one of the most advanced cars of its era, and the company’s flagship. The model that should interest muscle-car enthusiasts is the “Hemi” version, which packs a 341 cubic-inch V8 producing 270 hp in the two-barrel carburetor version, and 295 hp in the four-barrel carburetor version. As a result, the Fireflite Hemi is a relatively quick car, especially for the era.
Moreover, the De Soto Fireflite is not very expensive for such an accomplished classic, and relatively easy to restore. The only drawback might be the lack of original parts, although you can still pristine used ones.
1965 Chrysler 300L
The 300L was part of Chrysler’s traditional “letter” car series, and a very common sight on roads in its era. More importantly, it packed some serious punch under the hood – the 413 cubic-inch V8 was good for 360 hp.
The result is a a brisk 0-60mph time of 8.8 seconds and a 1/4 mile time of 17.3 seconds, and that’s with the slow 3-speed automatic. Find a model with the 4-speed manual, and you will cut a few seconds from the time. More importantly, you also won’t have issues finding parts for the 300L.
1970-1973 Plymouth Duster
Now, here is a model that “dusted” most of the competition in the early days of compact pony cars. The Plymouth Duster might be small on the outside, but it still packed 318, 340, and 360 cubic-inch V8 engines under the hood. All engines are potent, although the Duster 340 is the most desirable.
Regardless, since it shared many parts with Dodge muscle cars from the era, you can easily find parts for the Plymouth Duster. Moreover, the simple mechanics make it easy to work on and restore. Ultimately, Duster’s aren’t expensive to buy.
1978-1982 Chevrolet Corvette
Let’s finish this article with perhaps the best classic American sports car, the Corvette. The third generation of the car is the most accessible, with pristine examples costing under $10,000. Besides, it’s a real rocket in a straight line, with the base engine producing 300 hp and the most powerful topping out at almost 560 hp.
The Corvette was also much lighter than muscle cars from the era. As a result, the ZL1 model did the 1/4 mile in only 10.89 seconds, a respectable number to this day. Ultimately, it was also very agile in the corners, unlike muscle cars of its era. Some would say it’s not a muscle car, but we would say that you shouldn’t care and snap one if given the chance. It’s fast, cheap, and easy to restore. What more would you want?