The history of muscle cars is both unique, exciting and fun. But not all muscle cars were created equal and throughout the span of time, there are always bound to be some cars that fall through the cracks.
Sometimes the car as a whole is bad and other times there are only certain generations and years that are bad. As car manufacturers and enthusiasts push the limit only further and further we can only expect to see more muscle cars in the future. Until that time, here are some of the worst muscle cars.
1967 Buick Gran Sport
The Buick Gran Sport was Buick’s attempt at making a muscle car similar to the GSX. The car was heavy and weighed down because of its size and extra mass.
It wasn’t remotely aerodynamic so it went slow even with the engine putting out 175 horsepower. On a scale, the car weighed nearly two tons which was too much even for sedans or trucks at that time. Because of this, the Gran Sport became obsolete and sales started to increasingly fall.
1976-77 Dodge Charger Daytona
Produced specifically for NASCAR racing, the Dodge Charger Daytona was designed to be faster than the other Chargers in the Dodge lineup. The body of the car was made pointier and more aerodynamic and in the late 1960s, the car was really impressive.
However, in the late 1970s, Dodge tried to rebrand a Chrysler Cordoba and make no changes to it whatsoever. The car was slow, ugly and poorly received by the public.
1970s Era Oldsmobile Cutlass
The Oldsmobile Cutlass was originally designed as part of Oldsmobile’s entry to the muscle car lineup. As the company itself started to struggle financially, a lot of last-minute big changes were made to try and scavenge any profits.
Unfortunately what was once a promising muscle car quickly became just a Chevrolet Malibu with a name change and new badging. The engine of the car was also identical to the Chevrolet Malibu and long gone was the V8 that the Oldsmobile originally sported.
1993 Pontiac Firebird
This mismatch of a car was a major letdown in 1993. A lot of car companies were big into name branding engineering which meant that they would use the same car and rename it for a different effect.
The Pontiac Firebird was no better and it was essentially a Chevrolet Camaro with a red paint job and a new badge. Pontiac only slightly changed the body style of the car and buyers could still expect the same engine as the Camaro.
1994 Ford Mustang
The Ford Mustang has had many generations that failed before Ford realized their mistakes and started making cars that people could actually enjoy. The 1994 Mustang was just another one of their complete fails because of the car’s small changes.
On the outside, the car barely had any updates to its body and it just looked like the same Mustang we had all been accustomed to. Under the hood, the Mustang had an even sadder engine that only had a V6 engine that got under 150 horsepower.
1993 Chevy Camaro
The Camaro saw most of its biggest body changes come with the introduction of its 1993 model. Long gone were the days of the aggressive stance of the Camaro and now Chevy introduced it to a more rounded and softer frame.
The Camaro also had lackluster power and came standard with a V6 engine that only had 160 horsepower. Luckily the Camaro was still built on the same F-body platform so better changes were just around the corner.
1995 Chevy Monte Carlo
This car was just one of many disappointments in the 1990s for the muscle car community. Chevy decided to bring the Monte Carlo back after it took a seven-year hiatus but it came back worse than when it went out.
The Monte Carlo didn’t have a V8 option nor did it have many updates to its body making the changes unimpressive and bland. To make matters worse, the Monte Carlo would remain mostly unchanged for the remainder of the decade until the 2000s.
1982 Ford Thunderbird
Always one of the more luxurious Ford models, the Thunderbird has a reputation for being a classic muscle car. The model year from 1980 to 1982 was one of the worst generations for the Thunderbird because of the changes that Ford made to its muscle and performance.
As large as the car was, the 1982 Ford Thunderbird was only equipped with 120 horsepower even with having a V8 engine. Fortunately, Ford made major changes to the next generation of Thunderbird to resurge the model among drivers. Pictured is the Town Landau edition.
1974 Pontiac GTO
The Pontiac GTO has been considered one of the first muscle cars on the road and while it is highly regarded and respected for what it has done for auto history, its 1974 model was a major disappointment.
It came with a great engine and was still faster than a lot of the other cars on the road in the 1970s. What caused the downfall of the GTO was Pontiac’s decision to make the car slower and make body changes to it that were unappealing.
1982 Pontiac Trans Am
On the outside, you could say that the 1982 Pontiac Trans Am had an aggressive look. It had a futuristic design and was even featured alongside David Hasselhoff in the show Knight Rider.
While the 1982 Trans Am had so much potential, the car ultimately fell short in performance. Its standard engine only produced a measly 90 horsepower and even if a driver did opt-out for the bigger engine the horsepower only went up to 165.
1976 Chevrolet Camaro
The Chevrolet Camaro is still a top-selling muscle car today but its mid-1970s model was one of its worst. By the 1970s, the Chevrolet Camaro lost most of its performance due to dropping its more powerful engine and going to a more fuel-efficient 5.0 liter.
Outside of its performance, Chevrolet also made changes to the body of the Camaro resulting in a bumper that destroyed the car’s aerodynamic abilities.
1978 Ford Mustang King Cobra
One of the worst models in the Ford Mustang history, the King Cobra was a Pinto with Ford badging. The car got a new paint job and a snake decal that made it look really cool on the road but ultimately it wasn’t special or very good.
The engine was another let down and didn’t offer the driver much in power. Only a limited amount of Cobras were made and then Ford made major changes to the models in the following year.
1976-80 Plymouth Volare Road Runner
Initially, the Plymouth was a road hog and was really impressive on the track. It looked good and under the hood, it was sporting the 426 Hemi engine and had 160 horsepower.
Once it came to the Volare Road Runner, all of the things that made the Plymouth great were removed and its performance was greatly depleted. On top of poor performance, the car also was majorly recalled due to a number of them rusting underneath, indicating poor attention to detail.
1970 Chevy Camaro
Chevy upgraded the Camaro in 1970 with a new model that somehow wasn’t as fun to drive as the previous model. Although the new engine was technically better, it ended up turning the Camaro into a commuter car than a muscle masterpiece.
As one reviewer wrote, “Somehow, though, the Z/28 is not as thrilling as it once was. It’s more tolerant to driving techniques now, more mature in its behavior. All things considered, it’s a better engine now but the loss of a carefree and irrepressible adolescent spirit can never be witnessed without some regret.
1978 AMC Gremlin GT
The AMC Gremlin is an ugly muscle car that was made in the 1970s. It was slow, and only a limited amount were built. The car was essentially a carbon copy of other models in the same time period and had little going for it to make it any different.
During its initial release year, the Gremlin had only 120 horsepower even with its V8 engine. Facing declining sales, AMC discontinued the Gremlin after 1978 and made the AMC Spirit its main model.
1980-85 Chevrolet Citation X-11
One of the biggest issues with the Citation was that it had a lot of recalls and generally considered unsafe. The Citation was designed to be a smaller front-wheel-drive muscle car that was only available in the four-speed overdrive or the three-speed automatic transmission.
Even with some of the updates that Chevrolet made to the Citation including its new steering rack and stabilizer bars, the car was still a fail overall.
1980 Dodge Aspen R/T
The Dodge Aspen was one of the worst Dodge to ever come out. The car had back to back recalls, and issues with the body rusting really badly.
The engine of the car was similar to that of the Chevrolet Camaro of the time and it was offered to buyers in both an R/T and Super Coupe trim level. Dodge made an attempt to correct the mistakes that they made but it was too late and the car ultimately failed.
1980-81 Delorean Dmc-12
Outside of the car being really popular for being featured in the Back to the Future movie franchise, the car itself was a real dud. The designer of the car wanted to make something that was futuristic and unlike anything else on the road and came up with the Delorean.
Although it was classified as a muscle car, it only got 130 horsepower and took over 10 seconds to go from 0 to 60. Even with its cinematic popularity, the Delorean didn’t sell well and the company went bankrupt in 1984.
1977 Pontiac Trans Am
The 1977 Pontiac Trans Am felt like a revelation at the time it was released. It was a throwback to classic Pony cars and helped rejuvenate sales of the struggling market.
Unfortunately, Pontiac didn’t pay enough attention to what was under the hood. The base model maxed out at 180 horsepower, which didn’t really justify the price-tag. For a few extra thousand dollars, the engine could be upgraded, but the only real reason to buy this car was for its looks, not its performance.
1980-81 Mercury Capri Turbo RS
The Mercury Capri was originally a part of Ford Europe before being brought over to the US to be sold alongside Ford’s other muscle cars. Sold for over three decades, the Mercury Capri has gone under name changes as well.
One of the worst things about the Capri is that it is very unreliable and was known to break down a lot. Because of the car’s bad reputation, it was lowered in price which helped boost its sales in Europe.
1980 Chevrolet Corvette California 305
With the 1980 Corvette California 305 came high federal emission requirements that halted its glory. Regulations required that the Corvette have a smaller engine so the plans to put in a larger engine were halted.
The newly updated V8 engine now only put out 180 horsepower instead of what was originally projected. After the federal regulations, Chevy found another way to increase the horsepower of the engine by the next model year.
1971-1975 Ford Maverick Grabber
The Ford Maverick Grabber, which is based on the 1960 Ford Falcon was a muscle car made by Ford. It was designed to be affordable for consumers and cheap to build so that it could be easily mass-produced and manufactured.
Although it was designed with good intentions, the car was overall just bland and nothing remarkable. The Grabber was essentially a regurgitation of a decade-old car with a new paint job and stripes.
1968-70 Pontiac Tempest
This second generation of the Pontiac Tempest was supposed to attract new drivers with its updated body style. The first generation of the Tempest was publicly accepted and in an effort to improve it, Pontiac ended up ruining the second generation altogether.
Bad sales and negative feedback led to the Tempest’s short stint on the market and it only lasted 2 years before being discontinued and the Tempest was taken over by Le Mans.
1978-80 Oldsmobile 442
Based on a classic muscle car design, the Oldsmobile 442 got its name from the makeup of the car including the car’s four-barrel carburetor, from speed transmission and two twin exhaust pipes.
What made the Oldsmobile so bad in 1978 was its lack of options available to the buyer. The Oldsmobile was only sold in the “aeroback” body style and its 5.0-L engine only produced 145 horsepower making for an even duller ride.
Ford Mustang II Ghia
The Ford Mustang II Ghia was the second generation of the Ford Mustang. After the success of the first Ford Mustang, Ford tried to desperately follow up with the Ford Mustang II but fell flat.
It was based on the Pinto platform, and was a lot slower and heavier than its predecessor. The Mustang’s style wasn’t reminiscent of its first model either and it looked a lot different in the worst ways including its square boxy shape.
1975 Chevrolet Corvette
The 1970s for the Chevrolet Corvette were some of its worst years ever. In the 1970s, the Corvette would see little changes to its body and interior but also would get a smaller and slower engine.
The engine it had then was only 15 more horsepower than the engine that the Corvette had two decades prior. The Corvette itself looked really stunning but because of its drop in horsepower, not much can be said for how it held up.
1982 Chevrolet Camaro
The 1982 Chevrolet Camaro is an example of how even with all of the best designing and planning, some of the best cars can still fail and have bad years.
One of the biggest issues with the 1982 Camaro was its engine, even with its more powerful 5.0-Liter engine, the Camaro still couldn’t break 200 horsepower. It took this Camaro 20 seconds just to go from 0 to 60 seconds which was just as slow then as it is now.
1983-1987 Dodge Charger
The 1980s weren’t good for the Dodge Charger. Counting on the popularity of hatchback cars at the time, Dodge gave buyers the option to buy the Charger as a hatchback model which didn’t suit its audience.
To make matters worse, they included this hatchback model with a 4-cylinder engine that lacked in performance. Carroll Shelby tried to improve the Charger by adding a turbocharged engine but even that didn’t help.
Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2
Although the Pontiac Grand Prix is named after a car race, its 2+2 model was anything but race-worthy. Alongside the Monte Carlo, the Pontiac Grand Prix was barely able to hold its own on the road with only 150 horsepower.
The Grand Prix also didn’t have much to offer in terms of its looks. The body of the car wasn’t very unique in comparison to other models at the time and overall was boring.
2004-2005 Chevrolet Impala SS
When the Chevrolet Impala SS was first introduced in 1961, it was regarded as one of the coolest cars available. The 2004-2005 Impala model was one of the worst that came out in the Impala’s history because of its lack of creativity and innovation.
Chevrolet made no real changes to the car to improve its look nor did they upgrade the engine. If you were buying one of these cars, it basically borrowed the Lumina body and had an outdated engine that had no changes from last year.
Buick Regal Sport Coupe
The Buick Regal Sport Coupe was a bland and boring muscle car during the late 1970s when the car was available and sold. They came with a standard V6 engine but weren’t very fast or powerful.
While they were publicly accepted because of their affordability, as a muscle car they continued to underperform against competitors. Buick is completely revamping the Regal Sport Coupe and will debut its latest model in 2020.
Dodge’s performance station wagon has never truly been that amazing of a car. The car had a rear-wheel drive and a 5.9-L V8 Hemi engine. Despite all of its bells and whistles, the car was still extremely heavy and ugly.
Drivers couldn’t enjoy all that the Magnum had to offer because its weight slowed it down even with the Hemi engine. To add fuel to the flame, who would want to drive a performance station wagon?
AMC Hornet AMX
The AMC Hornet was another cheap car that was made to be economically friendly and attract drivers who wanted an entry-level muscle car. The Hornet was not too impressive of a model and was mostly plain and too familiar with the other cars on the market.
The AMX option was supposed to add more horsepower to the car but even with the AMX label, the Hornet only got 120 horsepower, which was slow even for the 1970s.
1974 Chevrolet Nova SS
This was a cheap muscle car that was really popular in the 1970s. The “SS” badging meant that a car came with a performance package and was faster than the other trim levels in the lineup.
Chevrolet decided to remove the performance package and instead made the “SS” badging an appearance package only. With the appearance package, Chevrolet didn’t anything new or special to offer meaning the only thing buyers could expect was a black grille and badging.
1978-1983 Dodge Challenger
Dodge only brought the Challenger back in the 1970s and 1980s for a short period of time but during that time made some mistakes. In 1974, the Challenger was a fierce competitor on the drag strip and then Dodge discontinued it.
When Dodge decided to try and bring it back in 1978, they rebadged it as a Mitsubishi and it had substantially less horsepower than its predecessors until Dodge released the updated Challengers in the late 2000s.
1977-1979 Mercury Cougar XR7
The Mercury Cougar was marketed as a luxury muscle car that was also affordable. It had a boxy shape and the interior was almost identical to that of a Ford Mustang at the same time.
One of the biggest changes that the Mercury Cougar saw in the late 1970s was a huge weight gain. This extra weight made the car ultimately slower and Mercury Cougar struggled to keep its muscle car reputation shortly after that.
1979 Ford Mustang
Before the Ford Mustang became what it was today, it started out as this square boxy slower car. Barely resembling anything close to the modern Ford Mustang, this model didn’t have nearly the same level of crib appeal or muscle that its newest successors have.
This Ford Mustang had only 140 horsepower to start even with its 5.0-L V8 engine. Over time Ford would add a bigger engine and change the look of the Mustang to attract more drivers.
2006-10 Dodge Charger SE
The 2006-2010 Charger was the start of a new era for the muscle car brand. Dodge completely redesigned the body and style of the Charger and it was met with a mixed reception from the public.
The SE was at the bottom of the list of popularity as an entry model because of the faster and more attractive trim levels available. Dodge made note of the dissatisfaction and the next generation in 2011 came back with a better base-level engine.
One of the least popular cars on the list, the Chevrolet Monza was a performance compact car built on the Chevrolet Vega platform. It was sold in the mid-1970s into the 1980s but was never mass-marketed or well-received by the public.
Though the Monza was a performance car, it was one of the slowest cars ever built on the Chevy lineup. A few years into it selling, Chevy dropped the option to buy the V8 engine and then the car was discontinued shortly after.
1996-1998 Ford Mustang
Where this generation of Mustang fell was in the styling of it. By trying to keep a retro look, Ford missed the opportunity to compete with a newer looking model or newer engine.
Futuristic cars were popular during the late 1990s but Ford decided on a different direction for this generation. Fortunately, Ford decided to completely overhaul the look of the Mustang and made massive improvements to its body style and performance in the future.
2010 Ford Mustang
The 2010 Ford Mustang was a part of the fifth generation of the muscle car and its body style was one of the most popular. While Ford was making updates to the outside of the Mustang, it was also making changes to the engine of the Mustang.
Instead of improving the engine for production, Ford made the Mustang stagnant by choosing not to replace the engine 4.0-L V6 or 4.6-L V8 engine.
1971 Ford Pinto
Considered one of the worst cars ever by Time Magazine, the Ford Pinto was a car that was anything but amazing. For starters, this car started off with only 75 horsepower which in the 1970s was still very slow for any car, let alone a muscle car.
In addition to that, the gas tank could easily rupture, which was potentially dangerous if the driver was involved in a rear-end collision.
1974 Pontiac Ventura
In the ’70s and ’80s, Pontiac had the market cornered on muscle cars. Not every year was perfect for the automaker, though, and 1974 proved especially troubling. Declining sales of the GTO led Pontiac to create a special GTO trim for the Ventura.
The new Ventura topped out at 200 horsepower, which didn’t satisfy the muscle junkies on the market. Some even refused to acknowledge that it was allowed to be called a muscle car!
1977 Chevy Monza Mirage
When Chevy first introduced the Mirage, it was a hit. It was a compact car with tons of added features and it was highly marketable. Looking to expand on the market, Chevy teamed up with Michigan Auto Techniques to turn it into a muscle car, giving birth to the Monza Mirage.
The first issue with the Monza Mirage, which has been a consistent theme on this list, was the horsepower. The engine maxed out at 145 horsepower at the most optimal conditions. Chevy stopped production after 4,000 cars were made.
1982 Chevy Camaro Iron Duke
Few muscle cars in the ’80s were more of a disappointment than the 1982 Chevy Camaro Iron Duke. Undeniably a beautiful car, Chevy underwhelmed under the hood with a severely underpowered four-cylinder engine.
The engine, to its credit, was very durable. But that didn’t really matter to consumers who wanted the car to be capable of more than 90 horsepower. While the engine failed in the Iron Duke, it wound up becoming a staple in Chevy station wagons.
1980 Ford Mustang
For how popular and beloved the Ford Mustang is, it’s surprising to it continuing to appear on this list. The 1980 Mustang was a complete swing and miss by the American automaker, with Motor 1 writing:
“The base model for 1980 came with a 2.3-liter four-cylinder producing a less-than-exciting 88 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration could best be described as lackadaisical. The styling wasn’t very exciting either, particularly the notchback.”
1980 Mercury Capri RS
Another muscle car from the ’80s that completely missed the mark, the 1980 Mercury Capri RS was such a mess that not even upgrades could save it. When a car that is supposed to be fast can’t go over 100 miles per hour, you know you have a problem.
As Vocal Media writes, “The three-door RS model had a 2.3 liter, turbocharged engine that might sound impressive, but actually only gave the car a pathetic 88 horsepower. Worse, its top speed was only 99 miles per hour.”
1984 Mercury Cougar XR7
The perfect muscle car for your grandmother, the Mercury Cougar XR7 surprisingly couldn’t find a consumer base. Gearheads turned away from the boxy car that didn’t look intimidating or particularly fast.
Motor 1 described it this way, “With its grandma-chic styling, the Cougar was boring looking even by the standards of the time, though. It was a sign of forward progress, but this Mercury was still a fairly awful muscle machine.”
1996 Ford Thunderbird LX
Ford made one of the more awkward-looking muscle cars with the 1996 Ford Thunderbird. It was just an odd-looking vehicle, though. It was also underpowered and was the beginning of the end of the once-iconic car.
According to Motor 1, “In 1996, Ford discontinued the Super Coupe trim and its powerful supercharged V6 engine, which made 230 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. Instead, there was a 3.8-liter V6 making 140 hp or a V8 making 205 hp. With just two engine choices, the demise of the Thunderbird was near before an awkward revival five years later in 2002.”
1968-72 Chevy El Camino SS 454
There is something purely exciting to gearheads when they see a Chevy emblazoned with a SS and 454 on it. When it came to the 1968-72 model years for the El Camino, those marks were just for show.
Sure, the El Camino was powerful given its LS6 V8 engine that produced 365 horsepower. The problem was most of that power was used by the rear of the car, which made it better suited for towing that outpacing other muscle cars on the freeway.