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Jeremy Bednarsh Lists The Top 10 Classic American Muscle Cars

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  2. 2. Its hard not to crack a smile when remembering the age of the American muscle car. In the 60s and 70s, manufacturers like Ford, Chevy, and Chrysler competed to engineer the biggest, baddest, loudest, strongest, and most stylish cars on the market by combining a high-displacement engine (usually found in full-size sedans) with tiny, two- door frames. Impractical to the point of ridiculousness, these cars were hardly ever purchased, but often admired in showrooms and used as bait to bring customers into the shop, where theyd find something that actually suited their purposes.
  3. 3. The genre eventually collapsed under the weight of higher gas prices, more stringent exhaust emissions regulations, and soaring insurance costs, yet the mystique lives on. Heres my list of favorites in model-year order.
  4. 4. 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Although not purely American, the 427 Cobra is one of the best-known muscle cars ever made. Based on a lightweight British AC Ace roadster, the Cobra was the brainchild of automotive legend Carroll Shelby, and it was essentially created by shoehorning a mammoth Ford 427 engine under the AC's hood. The end result was a frighteningly fast roadster that was also tremendously successful on the track. Today, top examples of these cars command incredible figures at auction houses worldwide.
  5. 5. 1967 Pontiac GTO Purists not tracing the era of muscle cars to the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 typically mark its beginning with the 1964 GTO. Against regulations, Pontiac sneaked a 389-cubic-inch V-8 into its Tempest as an option called the GTO in 1964. Response was so huge that the car won over GM execs, paving the way for a stable of Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Buick and Pontiac muscle cars. Because of its historic value, the 1965 version could represent GTO on this list, but 1967 marked the first availability of ram air through a functional hood scoop on the GTO. It was a 400-cubic-inch V-8, delivering 360 horsepower.
  6. 6. 1968 Pontiac Firebird Coupe Nowadays, the name Pontiac Firebird probably stirs up images of uninspired '90s coupes, or perhaps the painted- hood icons of the 1980s. However, the Firebird dates back earlier than either example. The first generation was one of the best all-around muscle cars on the market. As it was until just a few years ago, the original Firebird was a close cousin to the Chevrolet Camaro, and the 1968 model offered a range of engines, including a roaring 400-cubic- inch V8 good for 335 horsepower.
  7. 7. 1968 Plymouth Road Runner Hemi With all the subtlety of a jar of nitroglycerin, the Plymouth Road Runner Hemi was pure explosive brawn. It's one of the all-time great performance-car names. With a 425-horsepower, 426- cubic-inch Hemi V-8 engine, the Road Runner struck fear into the hearts of the Saturday night country-road, drag-racing crowd. Before unleashing the first Road Runner in 1968, Plymouth licensed the Road Runner name and likeness from Warner Brothers. It went a step further in capitalizing on the cartoon character's speedy image by developing a horn sound imitating the cartoon bird's "beep- beep.
  8. 8. 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 Enjoying a big-dog reputation, the Boss 429 wasn't a giant killer right out of the box. Its 429-cubic-inch V-8 engine delivered 375-horsepower, not shabby but dwarfed by others on this list. What makes it truly notable is that it was basically hand-built. Because the engine wouldn't fit in a standard Mustang without extensive modifications, Ford farmed out its assembly to Michigan- based Kar Kraft. In appearance, very little distinguished the Boss 429 other than a hood scoop and trunk-mounted spoiler.
  9. 9. 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 With fewer than 70 ever built, the '69 ZL1 not only had the most powerful Chevrolet engine offered to the public for decades, but it's the rarest production car Chevrolet ever made. Based on Chevrolet's iconic 427 V-8 engine, the ZL power plant had an aluminum block in place of the regular 427's iron one -- the first such Chevy production engine. Although it was officially rated at the regular 427's 430 horsepower, most independent testers pegged the output as being much higher.
  10. 10. 1969 Dodge Charger If you don't recognize the '69 Charger, then you simply weren't watching TV in the 1980s. Painted orange and nicknamed General Lee, this coupe was quite a star on TV's "The Dukes of Hazzard." The baddest of the early Chargers was the R/T, with its standard 440 Magnum under the hood churning out a solid 375 horsepower. Its top available engine, however, the all- conquering 426 Hemi cranked out an astounding 425 horses, although the engine alone weighed nearly half a ton.
  11. 11. 1970 Buick GSX Stage 1 When Buick entered the muscle-car market, it was among the most luxurious of the brands, and some of the most powerful. The GSX appearance package, first available for the 1970 Gran Sport 455, abandoned Buick's traditional, more dignified branding with a rear spoiler and body striping. Of the 687 GSXs built, 488 were ordered with the Stage 1 upgrade. First appearing as an option on the 1965 Skylark, Gran Sport became a separate nameplate in 1967. By 1970, a 455-cubic- inch V-8 engine powered the Gran Sport. It produced a hefty 510 pounds-foot of torque. Those with Stage 1 tuning and engine tweaks delivered 360 horsepower to the rear wheels.
  12. 12. 1970 Plymouth Hemi 'Cuda A variety of V-6 and V-8 engines powered the 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, but the big dog of the bunch was armed with the dual- carburetor, 426-cubic-inch Hemi that whipped up 425 horsepower. The Hemi 'Cuda could certainly go toe to toe with the era's top-tier muscle cars, as the carmaker gave its muscle cars a suspension tailored to heavy-metal acceleration. The Barracuda originally was based on the Valiant but shifted away from that design in 1970. Opting for the Hemi V-8 engine boosted the purchase price. A shaker hood, featuring an air intake mounted on top of the engine's air cleaner that protrudes through a hole in the hood, was standard on the Hemi 'Cuda.
  13. 13. 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 Many consider 1970 to be the apex of the muscle car era, and the Chevelle SS 454 is a weighty piece of evidence for that argument. Chevrolet offered two versions of the 454-cubic-inch V-8. The LS5 generated a very impressive 360 horsepower, while the LS6 punched out a whopping 450 ponies. It's the LS6 version, with its Holley four-barrel carburetor, that put the SS 454 on this list. No other muscle car would equal the horsepower wallop of the 1970 SS 45 it was the last great gasp of the muscle-car era. Chevelle's swept-back roof line provided the illusion of speed, even when idle. A bulged hood was part of the design, alerting passers-by that something really special was happening under it.