The years of the classic American muscle car were among some of the most invigorating times of our country’s automotive history. Muscle cars are known for being big, loud, and ultra-powerful. American automakers became increasingly more competitive with their muscle car designs throughout the 1960s and 70s. Every year Ford, Chevy, and Chrysler worked to best their competitors in terms of motor power and exterior style. We thought it would be fun to create a list of our favorite muscle cars produced right here in the United States. Most automotive junkies agree that muscle cars have more than two seats, so we decided to omit the Chevy Corvette and Shelby Cobra from our list, even though they are beautiful and powerful machines.
1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Muscle cars were being fazed out by high insurance costs and emission controls by the end of the 70s, but the Pontiac Trans Am managed to last longer than the rest in these years. This model’s horsepower improved by 10% from the previous model, pushing it up to 220. The model had a sport-tuned suspension option that included wider wheels, new tires, and improved steering. This made for a Pontiac Trans-Am that handled better around a track than the Chevy Corvette.
1969 COPO Camaro
Chevrolet’s Central Office Production Order (COPO) system was designed for high volume sales; it was created with the intention to sell high-functioning suspension for cop cars and stain-proof interiors for taxicabs. However, savvy car salesman with the right connections, such as Yenko Chevrolet in Pennsylvania, soon discovered that it was possible to order Camaros this way as well. Provided the right codes, the dealer could call for an over-powered beast of a Camaro that Chevy didn’t really intend to sell or have anyone own.
The rarest order code, COPO 9560, produced an all-aluminum ZL-1 427 V-8. This engine was rated with just five more hp than its 9561 counterpart. However, it was widely known that the race-spec engine delivered somewhere around the 550 hp range. Only 69 of these models were built, and they commanded prices of over $400,000 when they went to auction.
1968 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
This model is a quintessential muscle car for automotive fanatics, and no list is complete without it. The 1968 GT 500 Shelbys were equipped with a 355-hp 428-cubic-inch machine. Car testers reported 400m times in the mid-to-low 14-second bracket, incredibly fast for the time. The Shelby Mustangs exterior design has several scoops and sleek lines that demand your attention on the road.
1969 Dodge Charger Daytona
The 1969 Dodge Daytona is among the most intense machines to emerge from the muscle car era. The Daytona wasn’t designed for racing on the streets but rather was built to win races on the longest and fastest tracks: NASCAR superspeedways.
In an effort to improve top speed, engineers tested the Charger inside of a wind tunnel. The modifications that resulted were a 2-foot-tall rear wing, a flush rear window, and a longer, sloped nose cone. The results were as eye-catching as they were impressive. The race version of this model was the first car in NASCAR history to break 200 mph. After a series of wins from Dodge in 1969 alongside a few by Plymouth in 1970, NASCAR adjusted their rules and banned this model. The production cars are valued by many today and can sell for more than $150,000 at auctions.