49 of the best and fastest American muscle cars ever

49 of the best and fastest American muscle cars ever

If there is one type of car America has made famous the world over, it’s the muscle car. These hugely powerful machines brought real speed to the mass market, and they are still loved to this day. Enjoy our favorite American muscle cars of all time.

1964 Pontiac Tempest LeMans GTO

Many car historians consider the 1964 Pontiac Tempest LeMans GTO to be the first benchmark in the muscle car market. It brought an impressive 389 horsepower engine to the masses, by putting it in a much smaller vehicle than you’d expect to find it in.

1964 Pontiac Tempest LeMans GTO

That meant this car could tear it up on the roads, making driving it super fun, and more than just a way to get from point A to point B.

1969 Chevrolet Corvette ZL-1

If someone told you that getting your hands on one of these legendary muscle cars would cost you just over $4,000, you’d buy it in an instant. Sadly that’s the price of the Chevrolet Corvette ZL-1 when it was released in 1969.

1969 Chevrolet Corvette ZL-1

Today it will cost you much more than that to get your hands on this vintage muscle car. The car is thought to be ahead of its time, both in design and the fact there was a 430 horsepower V-8 engine under the hood.

1968 Dodge Dart L023

Judging by the aggressive nature of the hood vent, this car was built for racing. The 1968 Dodge Dart L023 was one for the racetrack, and its iconic styling has been remembered throughout car history.

1968 Dodge Dart L023

There were estimated to have only been 50 of these track cars produced, with an extra lightweight frame to give it an advantage over the other racing machines. Finding one of these on the road is extremely rare, but they are a joy to behold if you do spot one.

1967 Pontiac Firebird 400 Convertible

With a name like Firebird, you just knew it was going to be something special, and this American muscle car has been turning heads for decades. One thing that was so special about this 1967 Pontiac Firebird was the fact you could enjoy the wind rushing through your hair at breakneck speeds.

1967 Pontiac Firebird 400 Convertible

Pontiac wanted this car to be as distinguishable from the Camaro as possible, so they made sure it was. The huge exhaust pipes and substantial transmission definitely made sure it stood out from the crowd.

1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda

The prime age for muscle cars came in the 1960s and 1970s, and this Plymouth Hemi Cuda is considered to be one of the last great models. Because it was a classic at a time when muscle cars were becoming less popular, it’s incredibly valuable to those who love this style of automobile.

1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda

Not only was it a classic, but it was rare because only a handful were made. That has ensured the 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda is one of the most valuable models for any muscle car collector.

1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS

When you know you’ve made something amazing, it’s best to let the world stop and stare at it for a while. That must have been what the designers at Chevrolet must have been thinking when they created this classic.

1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS

The 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS was built with history in mind and actually used a 1955 wheelbase. That nod to the past made the Malibu SS one of the most loved muscle cars of all time when it hid the roads during the ‘60s.

1971 AMC Matador “Machine”

It seemed as though the muscle car industry was really hitting its stride as the 1960s turned to the 1970s, but that’s not what happened. These gas guzzlers were deemed surplus to requirements by the commercial market following the Arab oil crisis in the ‘70s.

1971 AMC Matador “Machine”

That meant the AMC Matador “Machine” was not a hit, despite its obvious design features. There were only around 50 of these models in production when AMC pulled the line completely, making this one of the most sought-after muscle cars ever.

1967 Dodge Coronet R/T 426 Hemi

If a 1967 Dodge Coronet R/T 426 Hemi was making its way down the street, you’d definitely hear it before you see it. This classic muscle car was all about raw power, and its V-8 engine made passenger’s bones rattle from the sheer speed on the road.

1967 Dodge Coronet R/T 426 Hemi

The car could hit 60 miles per hour in just 5.3 seconds, and it had a quick top-end speed for the time too. It’s 144 mph top speed was considered an amazing feat of engineering at the time.

1970 Oldsmobile Rallye 350

It might not have the best name, but the Oldsmobile Rallye 350 is pretty much the definition of an American muscle car. It has the shape and style that defines the muscle car market, and the power to back it up.

1970 Oldsmobile Rallye 350

Practically every American car manufacturer wanted a piece of the muscle car market, and Oldsmobile was no different. It’s fair to say this car stood out on the road thanks to its bright coloring and dynamic lines.

1959 Ford Galaxie

Lovers of the 1959 Ford Galaxie were in good company as the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, was in love with this car. The Galaxie had all of the power you would expect from a muscle car, but it had class and style too.

1959 Ford Galaxie

This was the complete package as far as many car lovers were concerned, and it’s no wonder Elvis was such a big fan. The Galaxie class was just getting started with this model, and the 353 horsepower V-8 made sure to keep things interesting.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

When you mention the name Chevrolet Camaro, it’s impossible not to conjure up an image of a muscle car. This is one of the all-time greatest muscle cars in history, and the 1969 Z28 is possibly the best in the series.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

There were three versions of the Camaro in 1969, the SS, Z28, and RS, but among Chevy fans, the Z28 is thought to be the best. Muscle cars were not just about performance, their look was important too, and that’s why the Camaro is so popular.

1969 Ford Torino GT

There was a ton of fun to be had behind the wheel of a 1969 Ford Torino GT. The cars looked like they were harboring a jet engine in the back, and they felt like they were rocket-propelled.

1969 Ford Torino GT

Ford issued a 12-month guarantee with the Torino, which meant people were taking them to the drag strip and putting the pedal to the metal. When the engines invariably blew due to the stress they were put under, Ford would simply honor their guarantee and replace them.

1970 Chevrolet El Camino SS 454

Technically the Chevrolet El Camino SS 454 is actually a pickup truck, but that hasn’t stopped it being one of the most iconic muscle cars of all time. In total, the El Camino was 208 inches long and was based on the chassis of the Chevelle Station Wagon.

1970 Chevrolet El Camino SS 454

Chevy could see how well the Ford Ranchero was going down, and this was their answer to that particular model. In just five seconds drivers could reach 60 mph, thanks to the huge amount of torque coming from the V-8 engine.

1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird

You wouldn’t really see one of these on the roads during the 1970s because the Plymouth Hemi Superbird was designed for the speedway. It could reach an astonishing 200 miles per hour, but that wasn’t enough of a selling point for some people.

1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird

The giant spoiler on the back proved to be divisive among car lovers, and it was very much love it or leave it. Despite its amazing speeds, people preferred the Plymouth Road Runner instead, and production of the Superbird was eventually scrapped.

1970 Plymouth Road Runner

Speaking of the Road Runner, here is the car that made the Superbird obsolete. It had a much more classic muscle car look that seemed to please consumers more than the giant spoiler of the Superbird did.

1970 Plymouth Road Runner

Not only did the Road Runner have the looks, but it had the power to back it up. The 426 horsepower engine set pulses racing up and down the United States, while the hood intake made it a popular choice for people who loved cars with some bite.

1970 Buick GSX Stage 1

While the 1970s was the end of the muscle car love for a while, that didn’t mean the decade stopped putting out amazing vehicles. The Buick GSX Stage 1 was a monster on the roads, and if you had one of these it was almost impossible to stick to the speed limits.

1970 Buick GSX Stage 1

Resisting the urge to plant your foot to the floor and gun it was difficult, and if it was in production today, it would be a speeding ticket magnet.

1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator

We’re not sure Mercury could have done anything more to make this car sound tough. The 1969 Cougar Eliminator not only sounds like a typical muscle car, but it looks like it too. Although it’s an American muscle car, it reportedly took a lot of styling inspiration from British car manufacturer Jaguar.

1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator

That might explain why it’s called Cougar. The style was based on Jaguar’s cars, but the chassis came from a Ford Mustang. The engine was impressive too, and the Cobra Jet Ram Air V-8 could hit 130 mph.

1969 Mercury Cyclone CJ

While Mercury might have been trying to find their feet in the car manufacturing world toward the end of the ‘60s, they started with a bang. Not only was their Cougar Eliminator a thing of beauty, but their other car, the 1969 Cyclone CJ, also turned heads.

1969 Mercury Cyclone CJ

The engine in the Cyclone CJ was the same as the one in the Cougar Eliminator, and they both made a lot of noise when coming around the corner. If street racing was your thing, the Cyclone CJ would not let you down.

1970 Oldsmobile F-85/Cutlass W-31

The Oldsmobile F-85 wasn’t the most inspiring car in the world when first released by the car company, but then they had a change of heart. While the F-85 was noted for being an ‘everyman’ car, Oldsmobile decided to flip people’s expectations.

1970 Oldsmobile F-85/Cutlass W-31

They turned the F-85 into a muscle car and named it the Cutlass W-31. Immediately there was a buzz surrounding the Cutlass W-31, and the average design of the F-85 was a thing of the past.

1969 Pontiac GTO The Judge

Pontiac was one of the muscle car pioneers, and some believe they perfected things when they released the GTO “The Judge” in 1969. It had the look and the engine to make it one of the best in the class.

1969 Pontiac GTO The Judge

With a 400 horsepower engine under the hood, Pontiac made use of their expert engineers to get this GTO all the way to 150 miles per hour. Not only was it extremely quick at the top end, but it also got to 60 in 5.1 seconds.

1973 Ford Ranchero 500

If you wanted the speed of a muscle car but needed the extra space that a pickup truck offered, then the Ford Ranchero 500 was the vehicle for you. The 1973 version of the Ranchero was not the first on the market, but the styling of this model made it much more popular than its predecessors.

1973 Ford Ranchero 500

You could go from 0 to 60 in just six and a half seconds, which would probably destroy whatever you were carrying in the flatbed behind.

1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

The market for muscle cars had gone when 1978 came along, but that didn’t stop Pontiac from putting out an all-time classic. The Firebird Trans Am was made famous by the movie ‘Smokey and the Bandit,’ and it became the must-have car of the late ‘70s.

1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

The body was much lighter than the classic muscle cars, which meant the 220 horsepower engine made it one of the fastest cars on the road. The popular status of the car was only made stronger thanks to its association with Burt Reynolds.

1965 Pontiac Catalina 2+2

When Pontiac brought out the GTO, it was as if they had made the ultimate muscle car. That didn’t stop them from trying to improve on a good thing, and in 1965, they created the Catalina 2+2.

1965 Pontiac Catalina 2+2

They had just had a huge hit with the Tempest, so expectations were high for Pontiac with their latest car, the Catalina. This car was much bigger than the others, which made it even more intimidating on the roads because it had the sound, speed, and now size to dominate other cars.

1971 AMC Hornet SC/360

The 1971 AMC Hornet SC/360 was brought out as a safer alternative to the mainstream muscle cars of the time. It was a hit because it was just such a fun car, from style to driving.

1971 AMC Hornet SC/360

The Hornet is one of AMC’s most popular cars of all time, and it really brought the car production company to the mainstream. People could have the fun of a muscle car, but with the added safety and lower cost than its rivals.

1978 GMC Caballero Diablo Truck

There aren’t many trucks on the road that can give regular cars a run for their money, but the 1978 GMC Caballero Diablo Truck did just that. When GMC added the word ‘diablo’ to the title, you knew they meant business with this truck.

1978 GMC Caballero Diablo Truck

The truck was a formidable racing opponent for anyone who came up against it, even if the flatbed was full of stuff. That just made it all the more exciting as things flew out all over the road as your rival ate your dust, and debris.

1969 Dodge Charger R/T-SE

Most muscle cars were not known for their luxury, but the Dodge Charger R/T-SE changed people’s expectations. It was just as quick and powerful on the road as any other muscle car, but the Charger offered something a little extra.

1969 Dodge Charger R/T-SE

You could blow your rivals away while reclining in some of the most comfortable seats found in any car at the time. It wasn’t a car all the guys loved, but one for both genders as it was a bit softer than the competition.

1958 Plymouth Fury

With a name like ‘Fury,’ Plymouth wanted people to drive angry when they were behind the wheel of this classic muscle car. The Fury is perhaps best-known as the car in the Steven King thriller ‘Christine,’ as it was based on this model.

1958 Plymouth Fury

When the movie came out they decided to use the Fury as their ‘Christine,’ and then everyone knew all about the classic muscle car. It holds such a special place in many people’s hearts because of the story that it earned special muscle car status.

1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302

The Ford Mustang is a classic muscle car and many people’s favorite car of all time. With so many versions to choose from, it’s hard to pick out one that stands out above the rest. Perhaps the 1970 Mustang Boss 302 deserves to be the one that’s thought of as the typical muscle car from Ford.

1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302

The appearance of the Mustang Boss is so iconic it’s what most muscle cars since have tried to become. There can only be one Boss though, and that belongs to Ford.

1968 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

It’s hard to look at this car and not want to get behind the wheel. The Shelby Mustangs are a thing of beauty, as exemplified by this 1968 version. Because there wasn’t much weight to them, the Shelby GT350 was perfect for racing on the track.

1968 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

A few years later Ford came back with the GT500, which had plenty of muscle under the hood, making them a hit for drag racers. The GT350s were also amazing, but the GT500 was just that little bit better all round.

1969 ½ Dodge Super Bee A12

The Super Bee A12 is just one of those cars that has a place in history. It has the classic hood scoop making it seem powerful and ready to race, while the body is perfect for a muscle car.

1969 ½ Dodge Super Bee A12

The hood was fiberglass which made it stand out, making the Super Bee is one of the most popular muscle cars of the era. You can just picture this car in an action movie, doing donuts and burnouts as the hero tries their best to evade the bad guys chasing them.

1969 AMX/3

The AMX/3 is one of the most different muscle cars to come out, and with good reason. Typically muscle cars have been born and bred in America, but this machine had some European flair.

1969 AMX/3

Giotto Bizzarrini, an Italian engineer, BMW, and ItalDesign were all involved in the design process of this car, and their ideas came together amazingly well. The sleek design was just the start, and what was under the hood was also worth having. The 340 horsepower engine got you from 0 to 60 in five seconds.

1970 Plymouth GTX 440 Six Pack

Muscle cars were mostly all about the power, but the Plymouth GTX 440 Six Pack was aimed at the gentleman driver. The problem for the GTX was that it looked so similar to the Road Runner, that people wanted to stick with the classic car.

1970 Plymouth GTX 440 Six Pack

That’s when Plymouth went back to the drawing board and came up with a new plan. They added a ‘power bulge’ on the hood, which turned this car from overlooked to most desired.

1966 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C

The Shelby name goes hand in hand with muscle cars, and this Cobra 427 S/C was a formidable opponent on the roads. Most muscle cars had a heavy and boxy body, but the Cobra was much smaller, meaning it was nimble in the turns.

1966 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C

It had all the power of a muscle car, but hardly any of the weight. Thanks to its small size the Cobra was not just a hit on the roads, and it became one of the most popular cars on the racetrack too.

1964 Plymouth Barracuda

When rumors began circulating toward the mid-1960s that Ford was planning on releasing a sporty model, the rest of the car manufacturers were put on notice. They all scrambled to create something that could rival whatever Ford rolled out of their manufacturing plant.

1964 Plymouth Barracuda

The 1964 Barracuda was Plymouth’s effort, and it became one of the cars to define the ‘60s. Plymouth had stumbled upon an all-time great car, but had to cease production of the Barracuda when the love for muscle cars faded in the ‘70s.

1964 Plymouth Belvedere 426 Hemi

When it came out, the 426 Hemi engine was arguably the best motor you could put into a car. At the 1964 Daytona NASCAR event, vehicles with the 426 Hemi engine inside took first, second, and third place on the podium.

1964 Plymouth Belvedere 426 Hemi

It was a serious engine, and the 1964 Plymouth Belvedere was a beast on the drag strip thanks to that 426 Hemi. If people were looking for speed in1964, then they had to get their hands on a Plymouth Belvedere to leave people eating their dust.

1971 Dodge Challenger

Dodge had already captured a large part of the automotive market with their Chargers, but following the success of the Camaro and Mustang, they needed something a little different. With other manufacturers having success with smaller vehicles, Dodge introduced the Challenger to fans of muscle cars, and they didn’t disappoint.

1971 Dodge Challenger

The Challenger came equipped with an extremely powerful engine, which meant it sold like hotcakes. Later, Dodge reduced the power of the engine, but commercially those models were not as successful as the original Challenger.

1998 Dodge Viper GTS-R GT2 Championship Edition

Over the years, Dodge has proved to be one of the most consistent muscle car manufacturers in the industry. They created several classics, and by the time the ‘90s came around, they had a new hit with gearheads.

1998 Dodge Viper GTS-R GT2 Championship Edition

The Dodge Viper GTS-R GT2 Championship Edition is perhaps the best example of the Viper in all its glory. All of the 460 bhp engine went to the back, making this car one of the most fun, but also challenging, muscle cars to drive.

1964 Pontiac GTO

Pontiac really knew how to make a car to suit the masses back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. They were able to make their cars desirable not just for their looks, but also how they felt when you were behind the wheel.

1964 Pontiac GTO

The 1964 GTO is one of the most iconic models in muscle car history, even though it wasn’t quite as glamorous as others. It came in two versions, the two-door coupe, or the convertible, and dominated the roads until it was superseded by ‘The Judge.’

1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt

Ford knew that if they could capture the people’s imagination in 1964, then they might just become the biggest car manufacturer of all time. One way they tried to do that was to create the Fairlane Thunderbolt, a track car with some serious power.

1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt

It’s estimated the Fairlane Thunderbolt came with over 600 bhp thanks to the huge 7-liter V-8 engine. Ford only released around 120 but made sure to strip out all excess weight before letting them leave the manufacturing plant.

2001 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Perhaps the best thing about the 2001 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 was the fact that it was almost unassuming to look at, but a powerhouse to drive. The Corvette ZR1 would make a mockery of more expensive cars on the road as it passed them with ease.

2001 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Although there wasn’t a lot of weight to the car, its 500 horsepower engine was the secret weapon of the Corvette ZR1. Coupling the powerful engine with a special suspension system meant there was a ton of torque gluing this car to the road.

2000 Ford F-150 Lightning

There have been a couple of pickup trucks making the list of top muscle cars, and this effort from Ford in 2000 also deserves a mention. The F-150 Lightning was given an appropriate name because it really was that quick.

2000 Ford F-150 Lightning

Muscle cars have typically been great for drag racing, and this pickup is yet another to smoke people from the lights. The F-150 Lightning came equipped with sports tires out of the showroom, which made it handle better than all trucks, and plenty of other cars too.

2008 Shelby Mustang

The market for muscle cars might have shrunk in the 1970s, but by the 2000 muscle cars were back on the menu. This 2008 Shelby Mustang makes us think of the 1970 Mustang Boss thanks to the color and dynamic bodywork.

2008 Shelby Mustang

This version of the Shelby Mustang had 40 more horsepower than its original 1960s version, but with modern technology, it was far superior on the track. There are 40 years between the original Shelby Mustang and this 2008 version, but the wait was definitely worth it.

2017 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

Modern muscle cars have steadily been getting better and better. The 2017 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat is a great example of what modern car manufacturers can do to turn a classic into a modern great.

2017 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

The Hellcat is one of the most powerful cars brought to the market thanks to its 707 bhp engine. The car is in a class of its own when it comes to muscle cars, and its top speed ranks it among the supercars of this world at 199 mph.

2005 Ford GT

Ford is mostly known for making dependable cars these days, but they still have fun too. The 2005 Ford GT is a throwback to the Shelby Cobra thanks to the muscle car-sized engine in a lightweight body.

2005 Ford GT

Thanks to its wide wheelbase and 500 bhp engine, getting behind the wheel of a Ford GT is just about as much fun as you can have in a car. The best way to keep it on the road is to stick some racing tires on and hope for the best.

2015 Equus Bass 770

Muscle cars of the past were really aimed at bringing high speed to drivers who maybe couldn’t afford to own a supercar. That meant they were affordable, but what happens when one car company decides to bring a muscle car to the luxury market?

2015 Equus Bass 770

The 2015 Equus Bass 770 is designed with style and quality in mind, thanks to the high price tag that comes with it. It takes design features from some classic muscle cars but gives them a touch of class.

1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z

The 1970s was thought to be the end of the muscle car market, but there were still a few faithful manufacturers trying to keep the dream alive. Chevrolet had pretty much been there from the start and didn’t give up hope, even as late as the 1980s.

1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z

The 1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z is still a head-turner today and doesn’t feel as dated as some ‘80s vehicles do. This car proved to muscle car fans that new technology could still bring great results on the road and keep the spirit alive.

2008 Dodge Challenger

When the ‘Transformers’ movie in 2007 used a Chevrolet Camaro, a whole new generation of muscle car fans were born. The following year Dodge brought out this Challenger, and brought back the success of the Challengers of the past.

2008 Dodge Challenger

There wasn’t anything else on the roads quite like this car at the time, and the combination of bulk and power made it a must-have for drag racing fans. The style follows the trend of classic muscle cars, but with a few modern twists thrown in.

2016 Cadillac CTS-V

Cadillac has been making cars for decades, but it never really entered the muscle car market. The current generation of muscle cars is entertaining drivers all over again, and this 2016 Cadillac CTS-V is among the best.

2016 Cadillac CTS-V

The performance of the CTS-V rivals most cars on the road, plus most people agree it’s great fun to drive thanks to the speed and noise it makes. It blows classic muscle cars out of the water and goes from 0 to 60 in just 3.7 seconds.

1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88

Muscle cars had to start somewhere, and a few fans argue that the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 was the first in the class. When it first came out it dominated the racetrack, particularly at NASCAR, and it reigned supreme during the ‘40s and ‘50s.

1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88

Performance was the most important thing to the manufacturers, and anyone who drove the Rocket 88 had to master the high-revving V-8 under the hood. The engine was not only a game-changer for its speed but also because it combined performance with economy.