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The Top 10 US Muscle Cars

Muscle 2If you want speed with attitude, it’s hard to beat a muscle car. Technically speaking, a muscle car has a big block V8 stuffed into an intermediate coupe, but like “sports car,” the definition of muscle has evolved to include small block V8s, pony cars, and even sedans and wagons. Here are the top ten US muscle cars.

1967 Shelby Cobra

This is pushing the limits of the term muscle car, but the design ethos of the original Cobra is definitely muscle. Carrol Shelby stuffed big block Ford engines into the flyweight British AC Ace sports car. The result was a monster of a sports car, with 425 horsepower in a 2,300 pound car. For reference, that is 700 pounds lighter than a Prius, but 4 times the power. Yikes. The Cobra won hundreds of races in the ‘60s, and became the car that every other supercar would be measured against.

1969 Camaro ZL1

Dealerships in the late ‘60s found a way around Chevy’s limit on high displacement engines and began ordering 427s fitted into the compact Camaro. Most of them were iron blocks, but a few dozen were hand-bilt aluminum 427s. These lightweight engines were basically drag race ready and only needed exhaust and tuning to cross the 500 horsepower mark.

1970 Plymouth Barracuda Hemi

The ‘cuda shed its economy car roots in 1970, updating its looks, handling, and capabilities for the ‘70s. The biggest change was the engine options, and while the 440 “six pack” and 426 Hemi had been available in the previous generation, with the ’70 E-body ‘cuda, the power skyrocketed and it became the legendary million-dollar muscle car we know today.

1970 Chevelle SS 454

1970 was arguably the pinnacle of the first muscle car era. For Chevy fans, the peak of performance is a Chevelle with the LS-6 454 V8. Check one box on the order form and you could get an estimated 450 horsepower in a spankin’ new box body that defined the muscle car era. Put some modern tires on this big bad boy, and you’re looking at a quarter mile of 13 flat.

1974 Trans Am 455SD

Muscle 3What had started in 1964 with the GTO, was largely over by 1974. The Goat was pathetic, the Chevelle was hideous, and the Mustang was an economy car without a V8. The ’74 Trans Am was the last muscle car for a long time. The 455-SD had a stronger block, forged internals, higher flowing heads, and the capability for dry sump oiling. The SD Trans Ams were race cars for the street, in the emissions choked disco era.

1987 Buick GNX

By the mid-‘80s, performance was back on a slight upswing. The 5.0 Mustang had announced its arrival, and the Camaro once again had a Corvette powerplant. Buick went all crazy with their Regal, adding a turbo on top of the already capable 3.8 liter V6, and created a legend. The Grand National GNX featured a higher performance V6 that made this big Buick faster than a same year Ferrari Testarossa.

2013 Shelby GT500

2013 saw a ridiculous amount of horsepower hit the street in the form of the GT500. Previously making a respectable 500 to 500 horsepower, the ’13 version turned it up all the way 662. For comparison, the $100,000+ Corvette ZR1 had 638 hp, making the $70,000 Mustang a performance bargain. There is no factory Mustang available with more power than the GT500.

2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat

Dodge decided to end the current muscle car war by winning. A supercharged 6.2 liter Hemi V8 pounds out 707 horsepower and an almost equal amount of torque. That is twice the amount of some ‘60s muscle cars, and enough power to push this heavy brick to 200 mph. It may have modern refinement, but the Hellcat is the definition of muscle.

2015 Corvette Z06

Everyone assumed the C7 Z06 would improve on the base model ‘vette’s 450 horsepower, to about 550 hp. Instead, Chevy stuffed the supercharged 6.2 liter LT4 V8 into the lightweight Corvette, darn near making it a supercar. With 650 horsepower and a 7-speed manual, expect 0 to 60 in about 3 seconds. With sticky tires and a good driver, the Z06 can run quarter miles in the high ten second range.

2016 Mustang GT350R

The GT350 was the hot news this year, returning with a race-ready 5.2 liter V8. The flat plane crank, race worthy brakes, and an improved radiator design. The GT350R adds horsepower, removes weight, and has better gearing and downforce. The GT350 is a loud, rough ride, but an incredible track weapon, and proof of what a modern muscle machine can do.

Muscle cars, along with super rare cars make up the inventory of many car collections.  They can also be viewed in motor museums and car shows.

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