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18 Sought-After Muscle Car Options

Vukasin HerbezJune 1, 2019

The world of classic muscle cars isn’t colorful just because there were lots of different models and makes. It’s also because, in the ’60s and early ’70s, manufacturers offered a lot of special, unique options. In fact, those options, trim levels and equipment packages make all the difference today, commanding high prices. If your car has a highly-sought after factory option, you can sell it for double the price of the standard car.

They’ve designed almost all those factory options to make your standard muscle car go faster or look better. Special trim levels included more powerful engines, beefed up suspensions or wheel and brake combos. Sometimes, those options enhanced the car only cosmetically, but in an interesting way that collectors love and remember.

With their cool names, muscle car options have become legendary and recognizable codes and names throughout the car industry. So here are the 18 most interesting, desirable and well-known muscle car options that can transform your ordinary ’60s or ’70s coupe into a highly prized collector’s car.

  1. Ford Mustang GT 289 HiPo

The Mustang was a groundbreaking and extremely popular pony/muscle car when they first launched it. But, it wasn’t that fast. Also, its underpinnings and engine choices weren’t that sporty at first. The Shelby GT350 was the answer, but it was a screaming racing car for the street. So, for those who couldn’t live with a screaming 306 HP 289 V8 engine in the GT 350, Ford prepared an interesting engine they called the K-Code.

The K-Code was a 289 V8 but with a milder, more street-friendly tune to deliver 271 HP. And that was more than enough for the decent performance Mustang fans wanted. With the optional GT package that included a stiffer suspension, updated equipment and lots of exterior details, the 289 HiPo or High Power was the choice of real car fans.

Ford introduced the 289 HiPo in 1965 and offered it until 1967. In fact, the 289 HiPo was the first Mustang that ran as well as it looked. And that was especially true if you ordered it in the gorgeous Fastback body style.

  1. Chevrolet Chevelle Z16

Everybody knows about the Chevrolet Chevelle. But the Chevelle Z16 is a rare and almost secret model. That one letter and the number 16 makes a world of difference when it comes to collectivity and price. Basically, it’s a fully loaded regular Chevelle with all the go-fast options. It has the 396 V8 engine with a Muncie 4-speed gearbox and a heavy-duty suspension and equipment.

Even some dealers weren’t aware that this option existed. Chevrolet refused to market the Z16 for some reason, making this Chevelle a secret model. It was a high-performance car they produced for one year only and in just 200 examples. And that makes it an extremely rare and valuable piece of Chevrolet history.

  1. Studebaker Avanti R2

Most people know about the cool-looking Avanti they introduced in the early ’60s. But despite its looks and elegance, it never fulfilled the driver’s expectations. However, Studebaker also offered the Avanti with the R2 package. The R2 version couldn’t be had with an automatic transmission. It was only available with a close ratio manual gearbox, but air conditioning was not available.

Besides that, they included lots of performance upgrades, turning the Avanti into a fast machine and a true early muscle car. In fact, the R2 model even broke 28 world speed records, achieving a top speed of 170 mph, And that was a big deal in 1963. The acceleration numbers were also good. The R2 could sprint to 60 mph in just 7.3 seconds.

  1. Ram Air Induction

Ram Air marks the induction system characterized by the openings on the car’s hood, grille or even below the bumpers in some Oldsmobile models. They design it to feed fresh air to the engine. Almost all muscle car manufacturers produced some kind of Ram Air devices. However, Pontiac was the most famous for naming its system, “Ram Air.” They marketed it as a special performance package on the GTO and Firebird/Trans Am models.

They presented this option on the 1967 GTO until the mid-70s. There are some reports that it was available in 1966 as a dealer installed option. But factory documents show that it was available to the public from 1967. Today, the Ram Air is a desirable option to have on your classic GTO or Firebird.

  1. Hemi 426

One of the most sought after options in the muscle car world is Hemi 426. This was optional engine on select Dodge and Plymouth muscle cars from 1966 to 1971. In muscle car mythology, they named the Hemi 426 “The Elephant” for its sheer size, power as well as cost. In the course of five years, Chrysler built around 10,000 units.

If a car comes with a Hemi from the factory, it can command an extremely high price. That’s because it is much rarer, more powerful and desirable than its siblings. Although they factory-rated the 426 Hemi at 425 HP, it was clear that the engine produced more. Most historians agree that the real output of the 1966 to 1971 street Hemi was over 500 HP.

If you wanted to buy Hemi back in the ’60s, it was quite expensive at $900 to $1,200. And that was around a third of the price of the car at the time. The Hemi was an expensive option since the production of the engine cost more. Also, such power required a heavy-duty suspension, frame and gearbox as mandatory options.

  1. Cobra Jet

The Cobra Jet or CJ was Ford’s prime muscle car engine they introduced in 1968. It was available in the Mustang, Shelby and Torino. It was a 428 cubic inch V8 they rated at 335 HP. But as always, the power was closer to 450 HP. Even though Ford had several other powerful engines for its muscle cars, the 428 Cobra Jet was the option to have.

Due to its availability in the whole Mustang or Torino range, you could order your Cobra Jet in a plain body. That way, you’d have a true sleeper without spoilers or a graphics package. However, now those cars are rare and command high prices.

  1. Buick Riviera GS

They conceived the Riviera as a personal luxury coupe. But Buick managed to turn it into a proper luxury muscle car if you optioned for the GS package. in 1965, Gran Sport or GS featured revised suspension, a bigger 425 engine, and a host of other performance upgrades.

However, in this version, the Rivera was a true world class automobile. It delivered 360 HP with acceleration times of 7.9 seconds. And that was better than most sports cars of the period.

  1. Plum Crazy Color

Back in the heyday of muscle cars, manufacturers tried to offer crazy color choices to emphasize the wild nature of their cars. As one of the brands on the forefront of the trend, Dodge became famous for its interesting deep purple shade they called “Plum Crazy.” They offered this color in 1970 and it was only available for two years.

The color was available on the Challenger and Charger. But despite being appealing, not many people decided to order it. Today, it is extremely sought after by collectors. So if you have an original Plum Crazy car with the appropriate trim code, you can ask for a hefty premium over the standard colors.

  1. Oldsmobile Toronado GT

The GT was a special package for Oldsmobile’s personal luxury cruiser. It was available for a few short years, ending in 1970. From the outside, the Toronado GT looked like an ordinary Oldsmobile powered by the same 455 engine. But the devil was in the details.

The GT package upped the power to a magical 400 HP. Also, they added various suspension bits, bigger and stronger front disc brakes and updated interior equipment. The GT was a rare option, so people seldom decided to order their Oldsmobiles with this package. And that is exactly why it is so desirable today.

  1. Chevrolet Corvette “Fuelie”

Back in the late ’50s, the Corvette was just starting to make a name for itself in the sports car world. But the car needed something to get the attention of the sports car crowd. So, Chevrolet decided to introduce an interesting and advanced engine option in the form of the small block V8 with fuel injection. The 1957 Corvette could be had with a fuel injection system and a four-speed manual gearbox.

Those two options transformed this attractive roadster into a roaring beast. With the fuel injection system, the Corvette produced close to 300 HP. And that was an astonishing number by the standards of the day. This option was exclusive in the late ’50s. In fact, only Mercedes-Benz used the fuel injection system before. So the Corvette was far more advanced than any of its competitors at the time.

  1. GTO Judge

When Plymouth introduced the Roadrunner in 1968, it created a revolution in the muscle car segment. They presented an affordable but fast muscle car with a funny name, graphics package and exhilarating performance. But Pontiac wanted a piece of the action, so in 1969 the Judge was born as an option for the GTO.

The Judge became a legend in its field because it took its name from the popular TV show. Also, it was a bright red muscle car with a big spoiler and funky “The Judge” graphics all over it. The GTO Judge wasn’t slow either, with 366 HP and four-speed transmission. Available from 1969 to 1971, the Judge represented a top of the line model, which makes it so desirable today.

  1. R/T

Those two letters mean the world to any Dodge fan out there. In fact, they represent one of the most desirable options in muscle car history. The R/T stands for Road/Track and they first used it on the 1968 Dodge Charger. But if you ordered R/T, you got a 440 V8 or 426 Hemi engine, a heavy-duty suspension and lots of other mandatory options.

And all that is what transformed your car into a muscle model of the highest order. The R/T option was also available on Challengers starting in 1970. Also, Dodge used it for several concept cars and production models later.

  1. Chevrolet Corvette ZL1

The ZL1 package was one of the best kept secrets of the late ’60s muscle car world. In fact, not many people even knew about the existence of this car. That is why they only made two. The heart of the ZL1 was the fantastic and basically racing-spec fully aluminum 427 V8. It produced up to 550 HP in mild tune.

This monster of an engine was far more powerful than anything Mopar or Ford had in production at the moment. Chevrolet produced around 200 of those engines. While most of them went to Can-Am racing teams, Chevrolet also made around 12 test Corvettes with that engine in late 1968.

The performance potential was unbelievable, so Chevrolet didn’t want to offer this wild racing engine to the public. So, they never mentioned the ZL-1 option to the press or in their official brochures. However, wealthy individuals close to the factory knew about its existence and could purchase the ZL-1.

  1. Chevrolet’s Super Sport Packages

The double S stands for Super Sport and it is Chevrolet’s prime designation for their performance models starting in 1961. Over the years, Chevrolet produced the Impala SS, Camaro SS, Nova SS and Chevelle SS, among others. In fact, they were even close to introducing a Corvette SS.

The SS package always meant the car came with the biggest engine it could house. In the case of the Impala, that was the 409 or 427 big block. In 1967, Chevrolet introduced the Camaro SS in two flavors, 350 and 396. They were competent muscle cars with lots of power in a compact, pony car package. So, if you are looking for a classic Bow Tie muscle car, the SS is the option to have.

  1. Mercury Cougar XR7

Some people think of a Cougar only as a Mustang with a longer wheelbase and luxury interior. But Mercury’s muscle car was much more than that. With its unique styling and special trim, it was an independent force in the muscle car wars of the late ’60s. The ultimate version that perfectly combined muscle car power with luxury was the mighty Cougar XR-7.

This model had the 390 V8 engine with 320 HP. But buyers could also opt for the GT package, which included a beefed-up suspension, and stronger brakes and steering. Over the years, the Mercury Cougar was in the shadow of the Mustang. However, in recent years, prices have started to come up for this piece of the luxury muscle segment.

  1. Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

The Z/28 is a production option for numerous Camaro models that started in 1967. It was always the lighter, nimbler version compared to the SS models. The first Z/28 package included front disc brakes and a close-ratio four-speed manual transmission. They revised the suspension and steering, adding exterior trim details like racing stripes, vinyl roof and headlight covers.

But the real treat was under the hood. The power came from a 5.0-liter V8 producing 290 HP and a high revving nature. This engine proved to be ideal for the Z/28. It gave the car a thrilling performance while retaining its low weight and nimble handling.

  1. Buick GS 455 Stage 1

Buick was busy producing extremely powerful and capable muscle cars back in the day. But in 1970, they outdid themselves with the GS 455 model. This car featured the famous 455 V8 rated at 360 HP, which could launch the big and heavy car to 60 MPH in just around 5.5 seconds. This was lightning fast in 1970 and its speed is still respectable today.

For those who found that 360 HP and 510 lb-ft of torque wasn’t enough, Buick dealers offered the extremely rare and expensive Stage 1 and Stage 2 kits. They included different intake systems, high compression heads, beefed up engine internals and a sports exhaust. Those cars are extremely rare since many customers were unaware of the existence of such options. In fact, most of the buyers were professional drag racers.

  1. Oldsmobile 442 W30

The 442 is one of the most legendary muscle car names ever. In true Oldsmobile fashion, they thoroughly engineered the 442, building a quality performance machine. This was a car that could stand up to any muscle car legend. However, in 1966, Olds presented the W30 option they marketed “for performance enthusiasts only.”

So, what was the secret of the W30 package? It included a blueprinted engine with more power than standard and a bigger carburetor. It had a hotter camshaft, an aluminum intake manifold and a ram air system. In later years, it got a fiberglass hood and inner wheel wells to lessen the weight of the heavy front end.

Also, they gave it beefier brakes. And then they topped off the W30 package with external insignia and a graphics package. Needless to say, if you are going to buy 442, look for the real W30 since they are a blast to drive.

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