The Most Legendary American Muscle Cars Of All Time

Muscle cars are the absolute highlight of the automotive industry in America. The idea behind the muscle car was fairly simple- throw an enormous gas-guzzling V8 motor under the hood of a relatively small vehicle. That’s about it.

Though the demand for muscle cars may have plummeted following the ’73 oil crisis, these glorious vehicles have not vanished forever. In fact, leading American automakers still offer at least one modern muscle car in their lineup. These are the best muscle cars of all time, both past and present.

40. Ford Thunderbird

The Thunderbird debuted in the mid-50s to compete with the likes of the Chevrolet Corvette, also known as America’s first proper sports car. The Thunderbird offered a lot more luxury, though.

1957 Ford Thunderbird
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

It’s no surprise that the Thunderbird quickly dominated the luxury car market. It came powered by a V8 as standard and featured gorgeous styling both inside and out. Ford sold over 53,000 units of the first-gen Thunderbird! That’s quite impressive given that this generation was only produced for 3 years.

39. Chevrolet Camaro SS

The latest version of the V8-powered Camaro SS is easily one of the best picks in its price range. This high-performance Chevrolet gives buyers the proper muscle car experience at a relatively low price tag. In fact, a brand new Chevrolet Camaro SS starts at under $40,000 before extra options.

2017-Chevrolet-CamaroSS-103
Chevrolet Pressroom
Chevrolet Pressroom

This modern muscle car can compete with sports cars that are a lot more expensive, too. The 6.2L V8 delivers 455 horsepower to the rear wheels. As a result, this muscle car can reach 60 miles per hour in just 4.4 seconds.

38. Dodge Charger SRT-8 Super Bee

Some of the best American muscle cars were made in the 21st century. The souped-up version of the 2007 Charger, the SRT-8 Super Bee, is a prime example.

2007_Dodge_Charger_SRT8_Super_Bee
Jaak/Wikimedia Commons
Jaak/Wikimedia Commons

Dodge revived the Super Bee nameplate in 2007 following a hiatus that lasted over 3 decades. This beast came powered by a monstrous 6.1L supercharged V8 motor rated at an astounding 425 horsepower. All that power is delivered to just the rear wheels!

37. AMC Javelin

The Javelin is a muscle car from the late ’60s that most petrolheads seemed to have forgotten about. This criminally underrated vehicle was a solid pick among buyers on a tighter budget. Until the prices began skyrocketing a couple of years back, that is.

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GPS 56/Flickr
GPS 56/Flickr

AMC redesigned the Javelin for 1970, merely a year after the car’s original debut. The base model was offered with a 5.0L V8, though buyers had the option to upgrade to a more powerful 5.9L powerplant rated at 325 horses.

36. Oldsmobile Toronado

It’s easy to overlook just how unique the Oldsmobile Toronado was. Back in the mid-60s, the American automaker decided to develop a full-size vehicle powered by a front-wheel-drive drivetrain. This muscle car was truly odd, hence it had to look the part, too.

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denizen24/Wikimedia Commons
denizen24/Wikimedia Commons

The Toronado was restyled multiple times during its short 6-year long production run. In 1968, Oldsmobile replaced the car’s 425-cubic inch motor with a more powerful 455-cubic inch big-block rated at 375 horsepower. In its two years on the market, the power output was increased to a whopping 400 horsepower. As a result, a ’70 Toronado could sprint to 60 miles per hour in 7.5 seconds.

35. Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Trackhawk

This monstrosity is pretty much a muscle car disguised as an SUV. Don’t be fooled, this is anything but an average Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Inside The 2017 New York International Auto Show (NYIAS)
Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Jeep unveiled this performance-oriented variant of the Grand Cherokee for the 2018 model year. It comes powered by a supercharged Hemi V8 motor rated at an astonishing 707 horsepower. It can accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just 3 and a half seconds. The American automaker announced the discontinuation of the model, along with the rest of this generation, by the end of the 2022 model year.

34. AMC Hurst SC/Rambler

The demand for muscle cars was quickly reaching an all-time high in the late 1960s. Small cars fitted with monstrous V8 motors were desired by buyers across the country, as well as in other markets. AMC wanted a piece of the action and developed the Hurst SC/Rambler as a result.

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Greg Gjerdingen/Flickr
Greg Gjerdingen/Flickr

The AMC Hurst SC/Rambler arrived for the ’69 model year, merely 5 years after the debut of the original Pontiac muscle car. The SC/Rambler came powered by a 390-cubic inch V8, mated to a four-speed stick shift.

33. Buick Riviera

The mighty Riviera was an absolute show-stopper ever since the car’s 1963 debut. Though some petrolheads could argue whether or not the Riviera can be classified as a muscle car, there is no denying its massive influence through the ’60s and the ’70s.

Daily Life In Calvados
Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The original Buick Riviera combined gorgeous styling, luxury, and performance. The car featured a big-block V8 under the hood as standard. The third generation of the Riviera, built between 1971 and 1973, is unarguably the most iconic thanks to its boat tail rear-end design.

32. Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R

Most petrolheads seem to have forgotten about this hardcore Mustang just a few years after its debut. Sure, it may not be the best-looking Ford Mustang of all time. It is, however, one of the best versions when it comes to performance.

The Newly Designed 2000 Svt Mustang Cobra R Prototype
Getty Images
Getty Images

The 2000 SVT Cobra R features a 385-horsepower V8 motor beneath the hood. Ford only offered it in a gorgeous red paint job and a six-speed stick shift. The production was limited to just 300 units that year.

31. Dodge Viper

Similar to the previously mentioned Buick Riviera, many muscle car fans would argue whether or not the Viper can actually be classified as a proper muscle car. After all, it does tick all of the boxes of a sports car and even a supercar. Nonetheless, we’ll go ahead and consider it a muscle car once and for all.

1993 Dodge Viper
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

This V10-powered machine was first introduced in the early 1990s. Its V10 powerplant was developed with the help of Lamborghini! The model was around all the way until 2010 and then returned in 2013 for another 5 years.

30. Chevrolet El Camino 454 SS

The Chevy El Camino is easily the most iconic unibody pickup truck of all time. This model first hit the market in the late ’50s. It was an absolute flop at first, though a major redesign managed to save this glorious model.

Vintage Chevrolet El Camino
Dünzlullstein bild via Getty Images
Dünzlullstein bild via Getty Images

The most souped-up variant of the El Camino, the 454 SS, came powered by a big-block V8 motor rated at an astounding 450 horsepower. It’s no surprise they’ve become highly sought-after by muscle car fans and wealthy collectors. Buyers can expect to pay upwards of $30,000 for a well-preserved unit.

29. Cadillac CTS-V

The CTS-V moniker first appeared on the market back in 2004. It was essentially a souped-up version of the regular Cadillac CTS, offered across all three body styles of the car.

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Cadillac Pressroom
Cadillac Pressroom

The latest, third and final generation of the CTS-V debuted for the 2016 model year. Its 640-horsepower V8, mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission, was borrowed from the Corvette C7 Z06. Sadly, the model was discontinued at the end of 2019. It will go down in automotive history as one of the greatest muscle cars of its time, that’s for sure.

28. AMC The Machine

The Machine is a beefed-up variant of the Rebel that debuted for the 1970 model year, developed by AMC and Hurst Performance. Its white paint job, complete with a blue hood and red stripes, is easily recognizable among muscle car fanatics.

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CZMarlin/Wikimedia Commons
CZMarlin/Wikimedia Commons

Under the hood, The Machine packed a 390-cubic inch V8 motor rated at 340 horsepower, making this muscle car the most powerful AMC of all time. It was quite fast, too. A sprint to 60 miles per hour takes The Machine just 6.8 seconds.

27. Chrysler 300C SRT8

The mighty 300C SRT-8 is easily one of the most underrated muscle cars of the 2010s. Though the regular 300C was already quite powerful thanks to its 5.7L V8 motor, the supercharged powerplant found in the SRT-8 took the car’s performance to a whole new level.

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João Paulo/Flickr
João Paulo/Flickr

The car’s 6.1 liter Hemi motor, rated at a whopping 425 horsepower, can send this sedan to 60 miles per hour in under 5 seconds. That’s quite impressive, even by today’s standards!

26. Dodge Coronet

The fifth-generation Coronet entered its final year on the market in 1970. The vehicle shared the same platform as the legendary Dodge Charger, hence both cars looked quite similar. The Coronet did feature a different body style than the sleek Charger, however.

Dodge Coronet Hemi RT 1970
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Similar to the Dodge Charger, buyers could equip the ’70 Coronet with a 426 Hemi or even a 440-cubic inch motor under the hood! Power outputs were virtually the same as the Charger.

25. Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6

It’s safe to say that the Firebird Trans Am WS6 has not exactly aged well, at least in terms of its exterior design. Over two decades after its original debut, the WS6 remains a great pick in its price range nonetheless.

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WMrapids/Wikimedia Commons
WMrapids/Wikimedia Commons

The high-performance version of the fourth-gen Firebird, the Trans Am WS6, boasts an LS1 V8 underneath the hood. It can sprint to 60 miles per hour in just 5 seconds.

24. Chevrolet Camaro Z28

The second-gen Camaro Z28 from the end of the 1970s proves that the muscle car era hasn’t completely died out during that decade. Although nowhere near as powerful as some of its older cousins, the late second-gen Z28 Camaro was still a proper muscle car.

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Chevrolet Pressroom
Chevrolet Pressroom

There is no denying that the Camaro did suffer from the ’73 oil crisis, though. The engine found in the high-performance ’79 Z28 was a small-block 350 V8 rated at a rather underwhelming 170 horsepower. A few modifications were enough to get this car back up to speed, however.

23. Buick Grand National

The Grand National is a muscle car like no other. That’s because it doesn’t actually have a V8 under the hood. Instead, Buick decided to fit the souped-up Regal with a turbocharged V6 powerplant, developed with the help of Lotus.

1987 Buick Grand National
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

The Regal Grand National was produced for just a few years until 1987. Buick managed to build just 547 units in total. Today, they are highly sought-after by collectors around the globe.

22. 1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 is a year that every Corvette fan knows about. That’s because the second generation of America’s first sports debuted that year. It was also the only year for the iconic split-window rear-end design of the car.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split Window Coupe
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

The C2 came fitted with a small-block V8 as standard, though buyers had the option to upgrade to a more powerful 427-cubic inch big-block engine. In its most powerful variant, the C2 Corvette was able to generate 435 horses.

21. Pontiac Trans Am Super Duty

The Super Duty is one of the last muscle cars of its kind. The demand for high-performance gas guzzlers, including the Pontiac Firebird, plummeted in the early ’70s. As a result, the Super Duty version of the second-gen Trans Am was only available on the market for two model years.

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Pinterest
Pinterest

The Super Duty variant of the Pontiac Trans Am, powered by an enormous 455-cubic inch V8, wasn’t around for long. Every single one of these 290-horsepower motors were assembled by hand. Pontiac only manufactured 1296 units of this rare beauty in total.

20. Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R

2016 marked the debut of the GT350R, the most hardcore and track-focused variant of the Mustang thus far. The car was developed to compete with the likes of the Camaro Z28, and even the Porsche 911 GT3.

2017 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

The GT350R may be powered by the same 5.2L Voodoo V8 found in the regular GT350, though its handling has been improved thanks to its carbon fiber aero package, wider tires, and weight reduction.

19. Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

This high-performance version of the Camaro SS is easily one of GM’s best muscle cars to date. The ZL1 can easily be distinguished from the base model by its aggressive front-end, as well as a massive wing found on the optional LE aero package.

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Chevrolet Pressroom
Chevrolet Pressroom

The 2017 Camaro ZL1 can reach 60 miles per hour in just 3.5 seconds. At the time of this release, it was the fastest and most powerful Camaro of all time.

18. Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

If you’ve ever seen Smokey And The Bandit then you definitely remember this beauty. The second-generation Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, driven by Burt Reynolds, has become one of the most iconic movie cars of all time. It also doubles as a legendary muscle car, too.

1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The most recognizable version of this generation of the Trans Am hit the market in ’77. The most powerful variant of the car came powered by a 6.6L rated at roughly 200 horses.

17. Buick GSX

The muscle car craze was at an all-time high during the late 60s. Buick wanted a piece of the action, too. The GSX, based on the Gran Sport, hit the market in 1970. Its heart, an enormous 455-cubic inch V8 motor, produced 360 horsepower for the Stage 2 variant.

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Chad Horwedel/Flickr
Chad Horwedel/Flickr

The GSX package was available for every Gran Sport sold until 1972. In the first year, Buick only sold 678 units. Today, it’s become a very valuable pick among wealthy muscle car collectors.

16. Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye

2021 saw the introduction of the most powerful version of the Dodge Charger to date, alongside the same variant of the Challenger.

2020 Chicago Auto Show Media Preview - Day 1
Raymond Boyd/Getty Images
Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The Charger Hellcat Redeye produces a whopping 797 horsepower from its supercharged V8 motor. All the power is delivered to just the rear wheels! As a result, it can accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just 3.6 seconds, while the top speed is a little over 200 miles per hour. Other upgrades include an 8-speed automatic, and a mean-looking widebody kit carried over from the 2020 Widebody Charger.

15. Pontiac GTO Judge

Alongside the previously mentioned Firebird Trans Am, this is probably the most legendary Pontiac vehicle of all time. The Judge is a special edition of the regular GTO, it debuted back in ’69 and was only offered until the end of 1971.

1969 Pontiac GTO Judge
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

The Judge packed a 366-horsepower Ram Air V8 under the hood, which was a bit more powerful than the 350-horsepower powerplant found in the regular GTO. Production peaked during the first year at 6,833 units, dropping down to under 3800 in the following year. In its last year on the market, Pontiac GTO Judge saw a production run of just 374 examples.

14. 2020 Shelby GT500

The GT350 clearly wasn’t enough for Ford. That’s why the Blue Oval unveiled the GT500, an even more powerful version of the latest Mustang, for the 2020 model year.

Inside The 2019 North American International Auto Show
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The 2020 Shelby GT500 features a monstrous 5.2L supercharged V8 engine, rightfully dubbed the Predator. Thanks to its 760-horsepower motor, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 can accelerate to 60 miles per hour faster than both the Hellcat Charger and Challenger.

13. 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

Believe it or not, most Camaro buyers did not know that this special package even existed. The Z/28 debuted for the 1967 model year, though it was never advertised in any of the sales campaigns. The Z/28 remained a performance package that only select buyers knew about. That’s the primary reason why GM only sold 602 units that year.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

The Z/28-equipped Camaro was powered by a 302-cubic inch V8 motor officially rated at 290 horses. Most units produced well over 300, though.

12. Plymouth Superbird

This gorgeous muscle car was an absolute monster back in 1970. The car was essentially a souped-up version of the Road Runner and a follow-up to the ’69 Dodge Charger Daytona. It even featured a similar aerodynamic front-end, as well as an intimidating rear wing.

1970 Plymouth Superbird
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

Although the Superbird was only in production for one year, Plymouth managed to squeeze in 3 different engine options. The most powerful variant, powered by a 426-cubic inch HEMI V8, produces 425 horsepower!

11. Dodge Challenger

Love it or hate it, there is no denying that the original Challenger is an icon of the muscle car world. The model debuted in ’69 for the following model year and remained on the market until the mid-80s, before returning yet again in 2008.

1970 NHRA Hot Wheels Supernationals - Ontario
Bob D’Olivo/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images
Bob D’Olivo/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images

The 1970 Challenger used the Chrysler E-Body platform, just like the Plymouth Barracuda. The most powerful variant came powered by a 426-cubic inch Hemi motor, officially rated at 425 horsepower. The power output of most units was even higher, though.

10. 1968 Dodge Charger R/T

Kicking off the top 10 is a Mopar that needs no introduction. The ’68 Dodge Charger R/T is as legendary as a 1960s muscle car can get. It was an instant hit back in the late 60s and remained an automotive icon ever since.

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Sicnag/Flickr
Sicnag/Flickr

The high-performance R/T package came with an enormous 440-cubic inch motor as standard, though buyers had the option to upgrade to a more powerful 426-cubic inch Hemi. The Hemi-powered Charger R/T can produce over 425 horsepower, all delivered to just the rear wheels.

9. 1965 Shelby GT350R

The grandfather of the modern GT350R was equally impressive, at least back in the mid-60s. Back then, the GT350R nameplate was used to distinguish the most hardcore track-focused variant from the regular GT350, which was already a monster in its own right.

1965 Shelby GT 350R
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

In ’65, Ford built just 34 units of the Mustang GT350R, a vehicle that was developed to win races across the globe. It was spartan, powerful, and fast. This V8-powered race car produced over 350 horsepower, all delivered to the rear wheels.

8. 1970 Plymouth Barracuda

The third generation of the Barracuda hit the market for the ’70 model year. It was offered with a slant-six under the hood for the base model, though buyers had the option to pick from a variety of different small-block and big-block V8 motors.

1970 Plymouth Barracuda
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

The wealthiest buyers could opt for the Super Commando Six Pack, which upgraded the motor to a monstrous 426-cubic inch Hemi rated at an astonishing 425 horsepower!

7. Chevrolet Corvette L88 Convertible

While we have already established that the Corvette is more of a sports than a muscle car, the L88 is a unique exception. This valuable gem was produced for just three years starting in 1967 and was the brainchild of Zora Arkus-Duntov, arguably the most important man in the history of the Corvette.

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Sicnag/Wikimedia Commons
Sicnag/Wikimedia Commons

Under the hood, the L88 Corvette featured a a powerful 427-cubic inch big-block motor. After all, a small car with an enormous motor is exactly what defines a proper muscle car!

6. 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona

The rear wing, as well as a unique aerodynamic front-end, are perhaps the easiest way to distinguish the Charger Daytona from any other muscle car. These aero parts were so effective in motorsport that NASCAR executives decided to ban them just a year after the Charger Daytona rolled off the production line.

1969 Dodge Charger Daytona
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

For 1969, Dodge offered two different engine options for the Charger Daytona. Buyers could choose between a 426-cubic inch Hemi, and a larger 440-cubic inch V8. Today, the 440-powered Charger Daytonas are worth well over a million dollars, though Hemi-powered examples are catching up, too.

5. 1971 Plymouth HEMI Cuda

The ’71 Cuda is easily the most legendary car ever made by Plymouth. The most powerful variant of the car, fitted with a 426-cubic inch HEMI beneath the hood, is an unarguable icon of the muscle car as a whole.

1971 Plymouth Cuda
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

Today, a ’71 Cuda is among the most valuable muscle cars desired by collectors worldwide. A pristine unit with the 4-speed stick-shift, an optional transmission that was only installed in 59 units that year, was sold for a whopping $56,000.

4. 1970 Chevy Chevelle 454 SS

1970 was the most crucial year in the history of the Chevelle, a midsize Chevrolet that first hit the market in the first half of the 60s. That year, the American automaker released a facelifted version of the car. The coke bottle exterior design has gone down in automotive history.

1970 CHEVROLET CHEVELLE SS 454
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

The SS 454 unarguably remains the most exciting variant of this muscle car. Under its hood lays a monstrous 454-cubic inch V8 rated at 450 horsepower. Naturally, all that power goes to just the rear wheels.

3. Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

At the time of its 2017 debut, the Challenger Demon was the fastest production car in the world. This monster is essentially a souped-up Dodge Challenger SRT, though it’s even crazier!

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FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

The Challenger SRT Demon produces up to 840 horsepower when running on 100 octane fuel. As a result, this muscle car can accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just 2.3 seconds. Oh, and it’s the world’s first production car that can perform wheelies at full throttle!

2. 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

Many die-hard fans of the Mustang would consider ’67 to be the final year of the real Shelby Mustang. This is all because the original Shelby factory in Venice, California, shut down that year. Shelby Mustangs built during and after 1968 were assembled in a different plant.

1968 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Convertible...
Bob D’Olivo/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images/Getty Images
Bob D’Olivo/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images/Getty Images

At the time of its debut, the Shelby GT500 was the most powerful variant of the Mustang money could buy. Its enormous 428-cubic inch V8 motor delivers 355 horsepower to the rear wheels. Ford only built around 2000 units in total that year. The drop-top convertible version remains a favorite pick among collectors.

1. Shelby Cobra 427

The Shelby Cobra may not be the first car that comes to mind when thinking of legendary muscle cars. It is, however, one of the most iconic. The 427 FE engine is designed to be stronger and 40% lighter than other engines, made with Ford’s special Aluminum 427 block.

1965 AC Shelby Cobra 427.
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Drivers are happy behind the wheel of this speedy sports car that can go from 0-60 MPH in under four seconds. This version of the Cobra has the maximum safety features with the same robust capabilities as the original so you can feel even better about taking those quick turns.