The 10 Best Muscle Cars… Ever

April 8th, 2011

1970 Buick GSX

There are two ways to view muscle cars:

As immature, childish ways for men to compensate for certain shortcomings or as ferociously fun vehicles designed to take a beating.

I prefer to think of American muscle as falling into the latter category, though I won’t deny the possibility of the former. However you view muscle cars, you just can’t deny that for over 45 years they have invoked a passion unmatched by any other category of automobile.

And now, as a quick summary of the last four decades, I present my list of the 10 best muscle cars ever. Here they are, in model-year order:

1965 Pontiac GTO

1965 Pontiac GTO

Poor handling. Questionable brakes. Sub-par muscle car? Don’t insult the goat, please.

1967 Mercury Cougar

1967 Mercury Cougar

A 428 cubic-inch V8 and some European flair gave the Cougar even more personality than the Mustang it was based on.

1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

1967 Ford Mustang GT500

The first year of the massively popular and competition-crushing legend.

1969 Dodge Charger

1969 Dodge Charger

The 425-hp Hemi engine used in the ol’ General Lee weighed almost 1,000 pounds. Yup, just the engine.

1970 Buick GSX

1970 Buick GSX Coupe

This one makes the list on exclusivity alone. GM built only 678 copies of this 455-cubic-inch V8 coupe.

1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302

1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302

Its high-revving V8 engine and 0-60 sprints in the 6-second range made this race-ready ‘Stang an instant classic.

1970 Plymouth Barracuda Hemi

1970 Plymouth Barracuda

Sure, it handled like garbage, but the 425-hp 426 Hemi engine ate up quarter-mile strips like nothing else.

1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

Specifically, with the 450-hp 454 engine.

2010 Ford Mustang GT

2010 Ford Mustang GT

Yes, the 2011 version is better because of the return of the 5.0-liter engine, but notice the 40-year span between cars here? This Mustang is the one that made muscle cool again.

2012 Chevy Camaro ZL1

2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Camaro ups the ante in the rejuvenated muscle era with this 550-hp beast.

Are there any other muscle cars you think deserve a spot on this list?


Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Pontiac GTO
Used Mercury Cougar
Used Dodge Charger
Used Ford Mustang
Used Chevrolet Camaro

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    1. Diana
      February 4th, 2016 at 23:38 | #1

      @ Ron Arter

      Hey, Is this Ron Arter in Redding California?

    2. IGTARD
      November 24th, 2012 at 04:59 | #2

      Cobra, Stingray, 409, Deuce Coupe. ’51 Chevy stock 3 on the tree.

    3. Ron Arter
      July 23rd, 2012 at 15:10 | #3

      i need a list of chevy cars with sbc that had solid lifter cams OEM

    4. cfaubs
      June 6th, 2012 at 17:25 | #4

      The true muscle car era died in 1974. The cars of today can’t be called “muscle cars”. Muscle cars made their power on brute force, big jugs and big carbs, not on FI, turbos, and computer controlled engines. Yes todays cars are packed with power and technology but the term muscle car should be kept for the 60’s and 70’s cars that created and earned the name. Also, pony cars, being a smaller, better handling, luxury version of a muscle car had every potential when equipped with the right options (engine, trans, rearend) to be a formidable muscle car. I owned a 68 firebird 400 that had no trouble keeping up with any “muscle car” when the street light turned green.

    5. James Collier
      December 17th, 2011 at 11:14 | #5

      What about the ’87 Grand National and GNX? Both are truly worthy adversaries, and would give most cars on this list a real run for their money… :)

    6. June 26th, 2011 at 16:14 | #6

      The judge was much more iconic than the regular gto. If you had any car that actually fit that profile the judge is by far the best.

    7. Bill
      June 12th, 2011 at 16:17 | #7

      2011 Hemi Challenger 392 SRT is awesome; 392 ci; 470 (underrated) horsepower; 470 feet lbs of torque, runs 12.44-12.8 quarters; no bolt ons or silly add ons (superchargers, turbos, etc) Just raw American muscle. This car actually puts out upwards of 500 hp and 435 to the pavement. Simply amazing.

    8. April 13th, 2011 at 19:14 | #8

      1964 PLYMOUTH SPORT FURY would be a sweetener to the list.
      1966 FORD GALAXIE 7 LITRE always overlooked.
      1965 CHEVELLE Z-16
      1968 HURST OLDS 442

    9. Jeff
      April 13th, 2011 at 19:07 | #9

      How about the 1979 Firebird Formula? Mine has the California 403 6.6 V-8 with 129K miles, original tan velour interior, t-tops gold & brown original paint.

    10. Colin Ellison
      April 12th, 2011 at 12:59 | #10

      missing the THE badest most revered muscle car of them all, and the most copied car in the world, A 1966 AC (Shelby) Cobra 427 sc

    11. KevHouston
      April 12th, 2011 at 12:06 | #11


      Hear! Hear on the Javelin! 1970 Javelin SST was my first car, not the AMX. Mine was with the 390 RAM air. Fastest car in the valley.

    12. pat owens
      April 12th, 2011 at 11:55 | #12

      @ J Johnson

    13. pat owens
      April 12th, 2011 at 11:54 | #13

      I agree somewhat.However a true Pony car would have a smallblock; agreed? Certainly an L78 Camaro 440 Cuda, or a GT 500 qualifies as a muscle car?
      @ Randy

    14. pat owens
      April 12th, 2011 at 11:49 | #14

      How about the 69 Z28? It CRUSHED the boss 302 on the Trans Am Circuit.Cougar? PLEASE! nothing more than a fluffy Mustang!Cool cars (both) but certainly not as well balanced As the Camaro.I also think the w-30 deserves mention.Don’t really think a COPO, Yenko, or the like should make the list since they aren’t “Normal” RPO’s

    15. tom schoonover
      April 12th, 2011 at 10:15 | #15

      What about the Fairlaine GT 1966-67? No Rambler/Scrambler? AMX ?

    16. Rob
      April 12th, 2011 at 08:54 | #16

      You all forgot about the best and current muscle car ever! The Corvette! World class power, handling, braking, and classic looks. Dont forget the luxury accessories and the excellent weight to power ratio. One last thing never mentioned about any muscle car, is the great gas mileage you get!

    17. steve
      April 12th, 2011 at 08:31 | #17

      They were rare back in 1969 only place I saw them was in my rear view mirror.

    18. steve
      April 12th, 2011 at 08:30 | #18

      What about the 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429. Extremely rare.


    19. James
      April 12th, 2011 at 07:21 | #19


      No doubt! And with a Ford Hemi none the less.

    20. Steve
      April 12th, 2011 at 07:09 | #20

      1970 AMC Javelin AMX

    21. Randy
      April 11th, 2011 at 13:13 | #21

      Mustang, Camaro, Firebird, Challenger and the like are NOT muscle cars, they are pony cars. (as created in the same class as the Mustang.) Compact cars designed specifically to be sporty, typically with a long hood/short back, barely-usable rear seat, front-engine and rear drive. Those mid-size family cars with big engines like GTO, Torino, Charger, Chevelle, GSX and the like are muscle cars.

    22. April 9th, 2011 at 12:05 | #22

      My 1989 Pontiac Bonneville with a 3.8L v6 beat a 2008 Mustang GT in a straight line by a car length, Therefore the 2010 does not belong here, neither does the ZL1 simply because they are new cars, they have not yet been proven as classic Muscle cars. They are but Ghosts of their former selves, and a money grab for auto makers today. Keep Classic Classic.

      The GTX/Roadrunner should have been on here, so should the ’70 Superbird.

    23. April 9th, 2011 at 00:45 | #23

      Good list, These are the real deal.

    24. J Johnson
      April 8th, 2011 at 10:13 | #24

      This list is completely Ford slanted. How do you get away with not putting in a 1st gen camaro? Heresy. A Buick GSX is a blip on the radar when campared to a COPO Camaro. So in the top 10 you have 4 mustangs when counting the cougar. I just bought a brand new Ford Ecoboost F150 and I still don’t bleed as blue as you guys do. You guys are a joke.

    25. Bob
      April 8th, 2011 at 07:56 | #25

      The 1970 Camaro Z28 was fast and could turn and stop.

    26. Marco
      April 8th, 2011 at 05:48 | #26

      New Dodge challenger 392 pure muscle of a dying breed

    27. April 8th, 2011 at 05:29 | #27

      What about the 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429. Extremely rare.

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