By on January 25, 2021

muscle car

Classic muscle cars are legendary, some blend of parts not originally meant to go together. Our question is, of all the muscle cars produced, which is the most muscular?

 

muscle car

With muscular being an adjective for vigorously robust, which muscle car would you say was the most well-developed?  One reason why you won’t get an honest answer as to which muscle car had the most horsepower was due to the insurance companies, who at the time were afraid of high-horsepower, lightweight car combinations. Whether the manufacturers were aware of this or not, the insurers were, and lower horsepower ratings did little to keep them from assigning higher premiums to muscle cars. Mix that in with age and whether you were married or single, and you know who was getting penalized regardless of driving records.

muscle car

Another reason you won’t get true horsepower ratings is thanks to the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). With their factoring of vehicles based on weight and HP, the advantage initially would go to the OEM that downplayed the numbers. In those days, wins at the NHRA national events carried as much if not more prestige as NASCAR did for full-size cars in the South. Drag racing was an integral part of pop culture, and Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors were all spending vast sums of money in the Sixties and early Seventies to capture the attention of young drivers with a proclivity for fast cars.

muscle car

Whether your favorite is shown here or not, let us know which muscle car you think had the greatest attributes. We’re fairly certain there’ll be as many different selections as there are those who agree on any one horse in the race.

muscle car

[Images: © 2021 J.Sakurai/TTAC]

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40 Comments on “QOTD: Which Muscle Car is the Most Muscular?...”


  • avatar
    A Scientist

    1970 Hemi ‘Cuda.

    /thread ;o)

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    1969-1970 Mustang Boss 429 was the the penultimate high water acme in muscle cars. Any of the Trans-Am homologated cars were powerful and much sweeter handling.

    But there were two anti-muscle cars that deserve mention, the 1965-1966 Corvair Corsa Turbo, and the 1967-1969 Pontiac Firebird Sprint W53 OHC I-6.

    Explosive Saturn-V acceleration, or handling like you were on rails -the choice was yours. :-)

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I owned a 66 Pontiac Tempest 2 door hardtop with the 230-OHC I-6 with the 1 bbl carburetor. It was my first car. The two speed Tempest torque automatic, not to be confused with Chevrolet Powerglide started to slip so I purchased a junkyard replacement and installed it in an afternoon using a jack and a skateboard.
      The OHC-6 was another GM missed opportunity. Imagine if they kept it around with improvements and offered a 4 banger version for their compacts.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    It’s more about the motor than it is about the car. Certain engines, usually with solid lifters, dominate the list-

    Ford Boss 429
    MkIV Chevys, 409/427/454 (“rat” motors)
    Mopar 426 Hemi
    Ford 427
    Mopar 440
    Pontiac SD 455
    Buick stage III 455
    Olds W-30 455
    Mopar 413 Max Wedge
    Chevy “mouse” motors- 302/327/350 (290-375hp)

    With the exception of the Mopar 440, none of these engines run good when cold or are any good at going slow. These were race engines tuned down for street use.

  • avatar

    I pretty much liked them all. Two favorites were the GTO and the Daytona/Superbird.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The Superbird. That was the apex of muscle cars.

    Personally the one that I would purchase with my own money would be an original AMX.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I don’t know if it’s the quickest, but my favorite is the Mustang Boss 302, and the Challenger is right behind it.

    Worth noting, though – just about any of these muscle cars might be bested in a straight line and utterly destroyed on a curvy road by a contemporary Mustang…with a four-cylinder engine. Arthur mentioned the Superbird, and as radical as it was for its’ day, I drive a four-door sedan whose performance stats aren’t all that far off.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is the golden age of performance, folks.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “Worth noting, though – just about any of these muscle cars might be bested in a straight line and utterly destroyed on a curvy road by a contemporary Mustang…with a four-cylinder engine.”

      Does that matter though?

      A 60s muscle car is also much faster, better handling, and more comfortable than a Stutz Bearcat or 30s Cadillac. Much more affordable too, inflation adjusted.

      I don’t think anyone is buying a classic vehicle for “modern” performance. But, they are historically significant and fun to play around with.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I agree, where today’s cars are all around better performance, handling, economy and safety there’s nothing that quite compares with a 60s muscle car for just brute, raw forward motion and sound and it could all be had for about $3500 out the door

  • avatar
    mikey

    I have to agree with the Hemi Cuda.. A 1970 SS 396 Nova was quick but a bear to drive.

    My brothers buddy had a 68-9 ?? 426 Hemi Road Runner. Rubber floor mats, dog dish hub caps. He swore it was the fastest of them all.. All know is that as a 14-15 year old, I loved the stock look of it.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    As much as I am a Mopar guy, the most muscular Pony Car had to be the COPO Camaro.

    The quickest traditional muscle car back in the day was a GTX but non of the cars in that class were good at much other than speed in a straight line.

    For me, the best looking would be a hemi ‘cuda in purple. Or a Challenger T/A same color.

    Trivia note: The bone stock Charger in the movie Bullit would outrun Steve’s hopped up 390 Mustang. Lesson here, the 390 wasn’t that great an engine.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “Frank Bullitt’s (Steve McQueen’s) car is a 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback. The bad guys drive a 1968 Dodge Charger 440 Magnum. The Charger is just barely faster than the Mustang, with a 13.6-second quarter-mile compared to the Mustang’s 13.8-second.”

  • avatar
    JMII

    I’m too young to have any direct ownership experience with 60 & 70s era Muscle cars, but a buddy of mine had a Mach 1 Mustang that was brutal in terms of raw power.

    However everything else about it was terrible: cornering, braking, shifting and so on. In terms of refinement it was pathetic, it squeaked and rattled, darn thing felt like it was going to come apart at any second.

  • avatar
    SaulTSack

    My anecdotal experience begins & ends with my old mans ’69 AMX with the 390 in big bad orange. Worse baselines than that I guess.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    My buddy’s dad had a 1970 El Camino SS with a 396. We snuck it out a couple evenings and drove all over the county. Man that thing could move.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Ford Thunderbolt

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    I have two thoughts on this and I will shut up.

    I) My dad had a shelf of the old all-models “Motor” and Chilton’s Auto Repair Manuals (hardback, hundreds of pages thick). I distinctly remember in the early 80’s going through some mid-70’s copies of those books with a friend and disappointingly noticing the horsepower dropoffs around ~1973. (Later learned that there were also methodology changes and underreporting in play.)

    II) In 1970 a section of Interstate near my parents house was under construction and blocked off to traffic (but freshly paved). A friend of a friend stopped by with his brand new Plymouth Superbird and took my parents for a ride. A speed of “140” was quoted. [I was left at home. #borntoolate]

  • avatar
    1998S90

    The 427 AC Cobra.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    The 1968 Dodge Charger R/T 440. Terrific engine, and if you go for an automatic, the bulletproof Torqueflite won’t slow you down, and it had the sleekest styling of the era. It would look even better if you upgraded from the steel wheels and flying hubcaps, though that would take away from movie races with Mustangs.

  • avatar

    1987 Buick – McLaren GNX

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The Fox Mustang 5.0 LX/GT

    OK OK hold on.. Collectively it put more muscle in more hands than anything before or after, with basically a light weight/bargain police package available to the public with crank windows and radio delete (forced GT brakes/suspension/’86- alloys).

    I’ll show myself out

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      You know what? Throw out the money factor and just as a car, I am inclined to agree. The muscle era cars are cool but it just isn’t an era I am emotionally attached to. The late 80’s and most of the 90’s is my favorite era. The Z32 300Z and the SC3/400 probably peak car to me…but back in the day they were unobtainable. I had friends with Fox Bodies…they had been around long enough by then that even high school kids could swing them and you were king dingaling in the high school parking lot unless someone had rich parents that got them a 4th gen Z28.

      But yeah, if you aren’t emotionally attached to the era, they (the old muscle cars) are just big thirsty cars that don’t handle and will typically get gapped by a V6 Altima.

      I’ll take an LX 5.0 notchback. Manual Windows work, but I do want a cassette deck, AC and cloth seats.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        By the mid/late ’80s, the Super Birds, GT500s, Hemi Cudas were going for about $10K, which were tempting me, but yeah I wasn’t emotionally tied either.

        That’s not “bubble wrapped” hoarder pricing. They probably had around 80K miles, a few dings and excellent over all, garage kept condition for that price. Yes the ones that went for well over $100K in recent years/decades.

        Owners knew they had something special, but damn.

        I had saved cash necessary at 19, working 2 fulltime jobs, but the Ford dealer I was working at would go as low as $10K or about $900 off sticker on a new LX 5.0 notch. So I jumped on it.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        You guys are missing the point of the “muscle car”, coming off the heavy overwrought 50s showboats the muscle car had to be cheap, fast and basic and that they were. Since no one then knew what the 80s/90s would bring, no one thought about economy, handling and safety. The muscle car was peak 60s/70s

        In 20 years when everything’s electric you then old guys will long for the good ol’ ICE days and the young guys will roll their eyes and mumble, “OK, millennial”

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Nostalgia aside, what if you could only have one as your sole ride? They seemed so prehistoric at the time, no matter how cool.

          The later Fox LX/GTs are still modern/relevant, or more than enough to daily drive/commute, go anywhere/anytime without driving you insane. Never mind the gas fumes and exhaust stench.

  • avatar
    lowreyldjd

    1973 Trans Am SD455

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Buick GS 455 Stage 1. Go fast with class

  • avatar
    conundrum

    !968 Barracuda 340 Formula S. No tire shrieking histrionics, just flat out get up and go with a Torqueflite. As Allpar documented (can’t even navigate their new look pages these days or bother to investigate further) the ’68 was the real engine. Subsequent years gradually dumbed it down, a little bit here, a lot there, even before full emissions control. 14 flat quarter mile in a fancy Valiant, no hairy arm or chests required to get the launch right, or keep it straight afterwards. Just mash the go pedal and watch the others fade away. I loved it, the one I drove that summer. Ridiculous good.

  • avatar
    wolfwagen

    Holy Crap too many to list!

    Not in any particular order:

    Daytona/Superbird
    Road Runner GTX
    Hemi Cuda
    Charger/Challenger
    Duster/demon
    Mercury cyclone – Schoolmate had one totally bitchin
    Mustang 428-429/Mach 1
    Nova SS 396
    ANY YENKO or BALDWIN MOTION CAR
    GTO Judge
    Buick GS Stage I or II
    Chevelle SS454 or 396
    Olds Cutlass W-30
    Camaro RS-SS
    El Camino SS
    AMX 390

    I would be happy to have any one of those cars in my garage.

    SIDE NOTE – I remember back in the mid to late 80’s Popular Mechanics did a comparison of late 60’s early 70’s muscle cars to the then-current (80’s) generation of muscle cars (Monte SS, Buick T Type, Mustang, Charger, forgot the other two. IIRC the Buick GS and Chevelle SS 454 were neck and neck, and the slowest muscle car of the 60s/’70s beat the quickest of the 80’s cars.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    For me, nothing will top the first two true Muscle Cars I ever rode in. The first was a neighbor’s ’68 Charger R/T, red with no vinyl top. I remember it all these years later like it was yesterday, when he came home with it about 5 minutes after I got home from school that day. About 2 weeks later, another neighbor, across the street came home in a 440 B5 Blue Roadrunner. At that point, I was totally hooked on Mopar B bodies, no matter if they were a GTX, RR, Charger, Super Bee, etc. If it had a big block in it, it was great. Later on, the Cuda and Challengers would be added to my list, and at the end of the era, the SD455 Trans Am was added on. No Fords on the list, but a lot of GM cars mixed into the Mopar base. What do I drive now? A 392 Challenger Scatpack, of course. Closest thing I can get. I love it, it makes me happy.

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