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20 Most Powerful Luxury Classic Muscle Cars

Vukasin HerbezSeptember 3, 2017

  1. Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

Back in the late 1960’s, the Chevrolet product planners wanted to enter the personal luxury segment with a new model. Since Chevrolet was famous as a mid-priced car brand, moving up the ladder was a big deal. Chevy knew they needed a fresh design, new name and a powerful engine.

So, in 1970, they introduced the Chevrolet Monte Carlo. They built it on the modified Chevelle platform. The Monte Carlo was a handsome coupe-only car with V8 engines, an attractive interior, and decent performance. Most Monte Carlos came with a smaller V8 engine for those who wanted to concentrate on the luxury aspect of this model. However, there was one crazy muscle option in the form of the SS 454 package.

The 454 version was a true muscle car with a monstrous 7.4-liter V8 engine that could pump 360 HP. And it could propel the heavy Monte Carlo to amazing 0 to 60 mph times. Also, for just $420 above the base price, buyers could get the trim level. It transformed it from a somewhat lazy cruiser to a quarter mile beast.

However, only around 3,800 people decided to buy it, so the Monte Carlo SS 454 remains one of the rarest classic luxury muscle cars to emerge from Detroit.

The reason for such a low number is that Chevrolet had few muscle cars in their model lineup. So, car enthusiasts turned to the Chevelle, Camaro or Corvette for performance and looks. But the typical Monte Carlo buyer preferred comfort and luxury. Interestingly, the SS 454 option fell somewhere in the middle, contributing to the sales numbers.

  1. Studebaker Avanti R2

Once highly successful and popular, Studebaker is now a long forgotten American brand. Studebaker closed their doors in 1966 after suffering poor sales for over a decade. They just couldn’t keep up Detroit’s Big Three: General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. However, just before this legendary brand left the market, they produced an interesting and treasured luxury model with muscle car credentials – the Studebaker Avanti R2.

In the early 60s, Studebaker management decided to invest in the luxury coupe to fight poor sales. They thought a new, fancy upscale model would attract customers and turn the attention of the automotive public back to Studebaker. So, in 1962, they introduced the new, sleek and modern looking Avanti. The innovative design, construction, and technology were interesting, so the motoring press praised the car.

But the base version was not powerful, so Studebaker introduced the supercharged R2 option, which delivered 289 HP. However, the R2 version didn’t come with an automatic transmission. It was only available with a close ratio manual gearbox. Also, air conditioning was not available. However, they included lots of performance upgrades, turning the Avanti into a fast machine.

In fact, the R2 model broke 28 world speed records. It could achieve a top speed of 170 mph, which was a big deal in 1963. Amazingly, the R2 could sprint to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds. But unfortunately, Studebaker had problems with the production. So, the Avanti was limited in availability, which affected its popularity. So, by 1964, they discontinued it.

Today, car fans recognize the Avanti R2 as one of the earliest classic luxury muscle cars. During its short production run, Studebaker produced just over 4,600 Studebaker Avantis. And, only a handful of those were the incredible R2.

  1. Pontiac Grand Prix SJ

Back in the 1960s, car enthusiasts considered Pontiac to be GM’s performance brand. So, it is no coincidence this company conceived the idea for the GTO. The allure of powerful engines and aggressive design was a Pontiac trademark. But they wanted to widen their appeal by reaching beyond regular muscle cars like the GTO and the Firebird. And to enter the world of luxury muscle cars, Pontiac had the perfect candidate in form of the Grand Prix.

The Grand Prix was a personal luxury coupe Pontiac introduced in 1962 in a coupe body style. It came with powerful engines and a long list of options. They put this model against the Ford Thunderbird and the Oldsmobile 98 as a “gentleman’s express. However, the restyling of the Grand Prix for the 1969 model year, provided the chance to introduce trim packages. This transformed this comfy cruiser into a real muscle car, so Pontiac jumped at the opportunity.

With a cool-looking new design, long hood and short rear end, the 1969 Grand Prix stood out from its competitors. It also had an innovative, driver-oriented dashboard, and sales immediately jumped. They included a cool trim option they called the SJ that featured a high output 428 V8 engine. And it delivered 390 HP and host of other performance options. Also, they borrowed the initials, “SJ,” from the legendary Duesenberg brand.

Back then, the Duesenberg Motor Company always included the SJ insignia on their most powerful cars. So Pontiac wanted to get a piece of that legend with the Grand Prix SJ. And finally, despite a reputation for executive transport, the powerful V8 propels this big coupe to respectable acceleration times, making it a popular street machine.

  1. Ford 7-Litre

Since the Mustangs and Thunderbirds were most famous Fords of the 1960s, the Ford 7-Litre is a forgotten classic luxury muscle car. In fact, most people are not even aware of its existence. Although this is an interesting, powerful car, it has a short history. The story starts in the mid-60s when Ford introduced a new 7.0-liter engine with 428 CID, which was an evolution of their venerable FE block.

They designed the engine to be a powerful street machine with lots of horsepower and torque. At the same time, Chevrolet had the successful Impala SS model with a 427 V8 engine, so Ford needed to compete with it. They envisioned producing their own model as an upscale coupe or convertible with an emphasis on luxury and exclusivity.

So, using a full-size Galaxie two-door hardtop or a convertible platform, Ford introduced a new model for 1966 they called the 7-Litre. The “7” stands for displacement and the “Litre” spelling gave charm to the ordinary Galaxie. But under the hood was a 428 V8 engine with 345 HP, delivering a convincing performance.

And Ford put everything they had into this car. In fact, buyers could get A/C and bucket seats as standard. They also included a heavy-duty suspension, power everything, special colors and fancy 7-Litre badges on the sides. However, the 7-Litre was only available for one year. But in 1967, the 428 engine was back. However, it was just an option on the Galaxie, not a standalone model.

Most people forget about the Ford 7-Litre, but recently, its popularity has grown. Sadly, in 1966, Ford produced a little over 11,000 7-Litres, so it’s difficult to find.

  1. Mercury Marauder X100

Today, the Mercury brand is as defunct as a cost-cutting measure by Ford. But back in the 1960’s, it was a luxury division above the working-class Fords and below the blue-blooded Lincolns. With their Cougars and Cyclones, Mercury was well embedded in the muscle car segment. However, luxury performance models were scarce until 1969 when Mercury introduced the next generation of the Marauder.

Mercury imagined it as a luxury coupe, giving the Marauder a fresh design with some interesting features. They included concealed headlights, a massive front end, and a sloping rear end with concave rear glass. And it was a big, heavy car for cruising, rather than street racing. However, Mercury needed something to fight the Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Riviera GS.

They knew they needed to upgrade the Marauder to higher specifications if they wanted a piece of the action. So, they presented the Marauder X100. Behind the strange name was a regular 1969 Marauder, but with a 360-HP, 429 V8 engine. It also came with bucket seats, a heavy-duty suspension, blackout rear trim and fender skirts.

The performance was respectable, but it was still a massive car, so compared to some bare bones smaller and lighter muscle models, it was significantly slower. The Marauder line was relatively popular, but the X100 didn’t become a best-seller. In two years of production, Mercury made just over 8,000 of them.

  1. Buick Wildcat

Buick introduced the Wildcat in 1962. It was one of the first personal luxury coupes that featured a performance-tuned engine and other “go-fast” options. Since it was a Buick product, they guaranteed the luxury appointments and upscale options. Even before the Rivera GS or the muscle car craze, Buick noticed a big market for personal luxury coupes, including performance vehicles and sports cars.

Young, successful people wanted an upscale product that looked expensive but still had enough power and driving dynamics to make every day driving fun. But in those days, luxury coupes like the Thunderbird or Eldorado were large, weighty cruisers with soft handling. And that is why Buick introduced the Wildcat. Available as a regular four-door hardtop, two-door coupe or a convertible, the Wildcat was a separate model. But best of all, under the hood was a powerful V8 from the top of Buick’s engine lineup.

Most people’s favorite year is 1967 when Buick offered the Wildcat with the mighty 430 V8 engine, which produced 360 HP. No one had heard of this kind of power in an unassuming sedan or coupe at the time. The Wildcat belongs on this list because it provided superior performance and exclusivity to its owners.

  1. Pontiac Catalina 2+2

In the mid-60s, the Pontiac GTO was at the forefront of the exciting new muscle car movement. With its performance, powerful engine and great Pontiac styling, the GTO was the perfect car for the moment. But, it wasn’t the only stellar performance machine coming from Pontiac. In 1965, there was another pure muscle car icon in the form of the Catalina 2+2.

Behind this strange name, they hid a full-size Catalina model available as a coupe or a convertible, but with a performance twist. The regular Catalina was a great-looking and decent-selling model, but in 2+2 form, it transformed into a true Gran Turismo with a luxury interior and fire-breathing engine. Since the Catalina was a full-size model, it was eligible for engines over 400 CID according to GM rules of the time. This meant the Catalina 2+2 came with the famous 421 V8.

You could also get the Tri-Power intake system, which was the same as in the GTO. It boosted your car’s power to 376 HP. In addition to that, buyers could order limited-slip differentials, heavy duty steering and brakes, and a lot more. And all that made the Catalina 2+2 well-appointed, but unfortunately, quite expensive, too.

The top of the line 2+2 cost over $4,000, which was a hefty sum. In fact, it was much more than the similarly equipped GTO. Pontiac produced around 11,000 of these fine machines in 1965, but only around 200 convertibles.

  1. Mercury Cyclone CJ

Even though the Cyclone is not the first muscle car that pops into your head when you think of late 60s muscle cars, this Mercury was popular back in the day. However, people have forgotten it, along with the brand itself, which Ford discontinued a few years ago. And along with the compact Mustang-based Cougar, Mercury offered the Cyclone. Interestingly, it was an intermediate muscle car they built on the Ford Fairlane/Torino platform.

Since Mercury was an upscale brand, they appointed the Cyclone better than comparable products from Ford. However, the engine choices and performance were the same. Mercury presented the Cyclone in 1964 and it stayed on the market until 1971. But the best version most interesting to collectors is the Cyclone CJ.

Those two letters marked the presence of the famed 428 Cobra Jet engine. It was the first truly street-muscle engine Ford ever built. With 7.0-liters of displacement and an advertised 335 HP, the Cobra Jet made over 400 HP in real life. The Cyclone CJ was a serious street racing contender that significantly upped the performance.

Along with Ford, Mercury was active in NASCAR racing during the late 60s. The Cyclone CJ played its part in their racing efforts. Sadly, they produced less than 3,500 Cyclones CJ in 1969 because the regular Cyclones without the Cobra Jet option were more popular.

  1. Oldsmobile 442 W30

Even though the Pontiac GTO takes full credit as being the first modern muscle car, not many people know the Oldsmobile 442 started the same year. However, Oldsmobile was more discrete about advertising this new model as a basic option in the Cutlass line. From the beginning, they marketed the 442 as “the gentleman’s hot rod.” And it was all that since it was an elegant, well-equipped muscle car.

They gave it luxury appointments, reserved styling and a brutal performance. However, the name, “442,” caused a lot of controversies back in the day, yet the meaning was simple. It had a 400 CID engine, a four-barrel carburetor, and a dual exhaust. Although you could order it with an automatic, if you wanted the most out your 442, you would go for the manual.

In 1966, Oldsmobile prepared an interesting special version for the 442 called the W-30. If you opted for W-30, you got special ram air induction with tubes going from the front bumper to the carburetors, a hotter cam, and more go-fast options. Being conservative, Oldsmobile didn’t put any wild graphics or emblems on the car. So, even though the W-30 was significantly faster than the regular model, it looked the same.

Although the price of the W-30 package was affordable, most people overlooked this model, so Oldsmobile only made 54 of them. And that is a tiny percentage compared to the over 20,000 442s they built for the 1966 model year.

  1. Buick GS 455

The Buick GS 455 is a special, interesting car in muscle car mythology. As you might know, Buick was a luxury car brand and wasn’t interested in the muscle car hype of the mid-60s. However, despite its restrained image and older clientele, Buick produced a couple of memorable machines with high horsepower ratings and unmistakable style.

Cars like the Riviera GS, the Wildcat and the Skylark GS were true muscle cars that offered uncompromised performance, but also a high level of luxury and quality. However, in 1970 when GM lifted its ban on engine displacement, Buick decided to introduce a strong model they named the Grand Sport 455. This car featured the famous 455 V8 rated at 360 HP.

And it could launch this large, heavy car to 60 mph in just around 6.5 seconds. This was lightning fast in 1970 and its speed is still respectable today. Since it was a Buick, the GS 455 came with updated standard equipment and a long list of optional extras. Every GS 455 had a heavy-duty suspension, beefed up steering, brakes and much more.

But the price was close to $4,000, which was a hefty sum for the day. However, the GS 455 coupe proved popular with consumers, so Buick built over 8,000 of them.

  1. Ford Thunderbird Supercharged

They presented the Thunderbird in 1955 and it outsold the Corvette immediately. But in 1957, Ford introduced two engine options that set the standards for performance. And they now have a special place in the history of American performance and muscle cars today.

Mounting a Paxton or McCullough supercharger on top of a 312 V8 engine was optional, but it gave the Thunderbird a 300 HP rating. And if that wasn’t enough, Ford offered an even hotter 340 HP version of the same supercharged engine they intended for racers.

  1. Oldsmobile Toronado

Back in the day, Oldsmobile represented the cutting-edge division of GM, presenting models far ahead of their time. In fact, the Oldsmobile brand displayed power and style on the global market. And one such car is the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado. The designers drew a fantastic looking shape with a low roof and hidden headlights. Also, the power came from a big block 455 V8 with 385 HP.

The Toronado was a success because it introduced superb driving characteristics, leaving its competitors in the dust. With 385 HP on tap and superb handling, the Oldsmobile Toronado is a full-size muscle car. The first two generations were the best. Unfortunately, the later Toronado models were just a Cadillac Eldorado with a different grille.

  1. Plymouth Fury GT

Despite being an economy brand in Chrysler Corporation, Plymouth had a surprisingly large number of muscle cars during the ‘60s and ‘70s, as well as numerous special versions. Their luxury muscle car was the GTX. However, in 1970, the Fury GT debuted as the biggest model on offer. The Fury GT was a two-door coupe version of the Fury sedan.

But, in GT guise, it was a full-size muscle car with the perfect combination of looks and power. Under the hood was the infamous 440 V8 with a three-carburetor setup and 375 HP on tap. Buyers could choose between 727 Torqueflite automatic or a four-speed manual, too. However, if you wanted real performance, you would choose the manual.

  1. Dodge Monaco 440

The Dodge Monaco lineup of cars was always a good proposition for any buyer. It combined an affordable price with upscale features and powerful engines. But for 1967, Dodge presented the mildly refreshed Monaco coupe with the optional 440 V8 engine.

The elegant semi-fastback roofline, more aggressive design and trim, along with 375 HP from the proven 440 V8 made the Monaco coupe a highly desirable ride. Although the car wasn’t as fast as the Charger, it was still rapid since the big block engine provided power and torque.

  1. Chrysler 300 Hurst

Chrysler revealed their special limited-edition Chrysler 300 Hurst in 1970. Interestingly, they built it in severely limited numbers at around 500. And they enlisted the help of Hurst, the famous transmission company. It featured a special white and gold paint job and a similarly-styled interior. Also, it had a rear spoiler integrated into the rear deck lid.

Better yet, under the hood, there was a mighty 440 V8 engine with 395 HP. And it could propel this two-ton beast to respectful acceleration times. However, they only offered the model for one year. Soon, people forgot about it. But, true Mopar aficionados remember those gold and white behemoths with Hurst emblems. Also, dedicated Chrysler historians consider this special version a continuation of the “Letter Cars” lineup.

  1. Buick Roadmaster LT1

The legendary Roadmaster name returned to the Buick lineup in 1991. This was after a 33-year long hiatus, gracing the luxurious sedan and station wagon model. The car was basically the same as other offerings from General Motors in the same class. However, the Roadmaster had some more luxury options. And it also had one interesting engine, turning this comfy cruiser into a muscle car.

The engineers at Buick found a way to install a Corvette LT1 5.7-liter V8 engine into the Roadmaster engine bay. The LT1 delivered 300 HP in the Corvette. But in the Buick, it produced 260 HP. And that was more enough to turn this heavy car into a proper hot rod.

This list of classic luxury cars contains the most eclectic models car fans still desire today. If one of these vehicles strikes your fancy, be sure to grab it before it disappears. The prices of these cars are sure to skyrocket in the future, too, so get one while you can.

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