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20 Legendary Muscle Cars That Need to Come Back

Vukasin HerbezOctober 18, 2018

Although American muscle cars made a triumphant return to the scene with a lineup of modern models that are as fast as they are pretty, there is something missing. And that is variety. Back in the heyday of the muscle car culture, each company produced several muscle models. They ranged from pony cars and over intermediates, to full size and personal luxury models. This meant there were dozens of muscle cars to choose from.

Today, we have the Mustang-Shelby, Camaro and Charger-Challenger pair they make on the same platform with same engines and performance numbers. Unfortunately, the times have significantly changed over the past 50 years, so many key players in the muscle car class are gone. Pontiac is gone, and so is Oldsmobile, Plymouth and Mercury. And AMC is long gone and has been absent from the market since the early ’80s.

However, Buick, Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge are still here. And they often produce and revive some of the best muscle cars from their pasts. So here is an eclectic selection of 20 legendary muscle cars most car fanatics want to see make a comeback. And chances are good that they could return in some shape or form in the future.

  1. Buick Riviera GS

In the early ’60s, Detroit was aware of luxury Gran Turismo European coupes coming to America and selling in significant numbers. Performance-oriented buyers didn’t want big, heavy domestic coupes with power but without the handling of a sports car. So, instead, they turned to Ferraris, Maseratis and Jaguars for that performance car excitement and prestige.

GM decided to capitalize on this trend by introducing a fresh new luxury model with great styling. They gave it a cool name and enough power to put all those European coupes to shame. So, in 1963, they presented the Buick Riviera and immediately, it became one of the most interesting cars on the American market. The combination of sleek, elegant styling, a modern interior and the powerful Buick Nailhead engine made the Riviera an instant bestseller.

Also, it was the first real competitor to the famous Ford Thunderbird. But Buick wanted more, so the company introduced the legendary Riviera Grand Sport or GS in 1965. The car featured a revised suspension, a bigger 425 engine and a host of other performance upgrades. In this version, the Rivera was a true world class automobile with 360 HP and acceleration times of 7.9 seconds.

Those performance numbers were better than most sports cars of the period. The Riviera stayed in production until 1993. However, the first three generations, especially the GS models remained the most popular. In fact, they were some of the best full-size muscle cars Detroit ever produced. And you could see this nameplate back as Buick is still here, and there’s a need for a proper American GT car.

  1. Ford Torino

Ford scored big with the Mustang and the Shelby, but in the mid-size muscle market, General Motors and Chrysler were dominant. The Torinos or Fairlanes weren’t all bad cars, but they weren’t the best. However, Ford marketed them aggressively and gave its mid-size range some serious muscle with 390 and 428 Cobra Jet engines.

Although Ford has its modern muscle car segment covered with the Mustang, there is a place for a bigger rear wheel drive coupe like the Torino. It could widen Ford’s appeal and bring some new customers if it returned in a retro-inspired package.

  1. Chrysler “Letter Cars”

Even before muscle cars were a thing, Chrysler produced a series of high-performance luxury coupes and convertibles that delivered unbelievable performance and unmistakable style. They called the model the 300, followed by letters of the alphabet with the C300 being the first model in 1955. Known as the Letter Series, those upscale cruisers were some of the fastest, most powerful models between 1955 and 1965 when they discontinued the series.

The first models came with early Hemi engines that could produce 300 horses; hence, the name. Those early Chrysler “Letter Series” models were the first American-made cars with 300 HP ratings. With the introduction of advanced intake setups, different engine power levels rose. Those big and heavy cars achieved some impressive acceleration times.

However, the “Letter Series” models were always expensive, so they produced them in limited numbers. Throughout the years, Chrysler’s “Letter cars” combined luxury and limited availability. Add their fantastic performance and style, and they were one of the best examples of the personal luxury class.

During its 10-year production run, Chrysler made few of these cars, often less than 1,000 examples per model year. This means that 300 Letter Series cars are expensive and highly sought after. They are also quite hard to restore since the parts are scarce. Chrysler struggles with difficult times, so maybe is a series of prestigious coupes is what the company needs to get back on track.

  1. Buick GS 455

The Buick GS 455 is a special and interesting car in muscle car mythology. As you might know, Buick was a luxury car brand and not 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, Wildcat, and Skylark GS were true muscle cars that offered uncompromised performance and a high level of luxury and quality. But, in 1970 when GM lifted its ban on engine displacement, Buick decided to introduce one strong model they named the Grand Sport 455. This car featured the famous 455 V8 rated at 360 HP.

It could launch the big and 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 good standard equipment and a lot of optional extras. Now, imagine that in a modern-day package. It would be a super luxurious modern muscle car that offers a pleasant, yet blisteringly fast ride.

  1. Chevrolet Monte Carlo

Back in the late ’60s, Chevrolet product planners had an idea to enter the personal luxury segment with a new model. Since Chevrolet was known as a mid-priced car brand, moving up the ladder was a big deal and Chevy knew that they needed a fresh design, name and powerful engines. So, in 1970, the Monte Carlo was introduced.

Built on the modified Chevelle platform, the Monte Carlo was a handsome coupe-only car with V8 engines, nice interior, and decent performance. Despite the fact that most Monte Carlos came with smaller V8 engines which were bought by the people concentrated on the luxury aspect of this model, there was one crazy muscle option in the form of the SS 454 package.

However, most of the cars had smaller 350 and 396 V8 engines. The Monte Carlo was produced from 1970 to 2007, and we feel it is time to return in a modern package with mandatory rear wheel drive and LS V8 engines.

  1. Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

Ford Thunderbird isn’t the car you would normally consider a muscle car but in the ’80s, Ford introduced a couple of Thunderbirds which could have that designation and were an interesting addition to the performance car scene in those days. Although the T-bird was available with a V8 engine, the best performing version was, in fact, the Turbo Coupe, introduced in 1987.

The TC received a Mustang SVO, a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with manual transmission, 190 HP power level and a top speed of whopping 143 mph. The top speed was affected by the relative lightness of the car and aerodynamic shape of the ninth generation Thunderbird.

Today, Ford has discontinued Thunderbird but has a great lineup of EcoBoost turbo engines. So, what would be better than to make a new T-bird on stretched Mustang platform with a turbocharged engine out of the Raptor, for example?

  1. Buick GNX

The story of this model is interesting because back in 1982 Buick started experimenting with turbocharging their standard V6 engines. The results were satisfying, so the Buick engineers got permission to develop a performance version to deliver better acceleration figures. The result was the Buick Grand National delivering 175 HP, which wasn’t impressive, but it was a start.

In the next couple of years, the Grand National got a bigger engine and more power, jumping from 175 HP to 200 HP and finally to 235 HP. With those numbers came the acceleration times of less than six seconds, so those black Grand Nationals were seriously quick cars. But in 1987, Buick presented the ultimate version they called the GNX or Grand National Experimental.

It featured the same 3.8-liter turbocharged V6, only now it produced 275 HP. This gave it 0 to 60 mph acceleration times of 4.7 seconds. Nobody expected such a bold move from Buick. After all, Buick was a company that produced cars without any excitement. And suddenly, they had a turbocharged V6 coupe that broke every classic muscle car mold. In fact, it was faster than a Ferrari.

At that moment, Buick GNX was the fastest accelerating production model in the world. However, at $29,000, it was expensive. But there is a widespread legend about some owners who paid for their car by street racing them for money. Currently, Buick has the Regal GS, but with a little clever engineering, the Grand National could be the ultimate sleeper car of today.

  1. Ford 7-Litre

With the Mustang and Thunderbird being the most famous and recognizable Fords of the ’60s, the Ford 7-Litre is a forgotten luxury muscle model. In fact, most people are not even aware of its existence, but it is an interesting and powerful car. But, unfortunately, it has a short history. The story starts in the mid-60s when Ford introduced a new engine with 428 CID or 7.0-liters, which was an evolution of their venerable FE block.

They designed it to be a powerful street engine with lots of horsepower and torque. At the same time, Chevrolet had their successful Impala SS model featuring a 427 V8 engine, and Ford wanted to compete with it. But, Ford had a different vision. Because Chevrolet produced the Impala SS as a mundane car, Ford would produce its model as an upscale coupe or convertible.

And they would put the emphasis on luxury and exclusivity. So, using a full-size Galaxie two-door hardtop or convertible platform, Ford introduced their new model for 1966, which they called the 7-Litre. The “7” stood for displacement and the Litre spelling gave some European charm to the otherwise ordinary Galaxie. Under the hood was the 428 V8 with respectable 345 HP that delivered a convincing performance.

However, the equipment in the 7-Litre is also interesting since Ford put everything they had into this car. The buyers of the 7-Litre could get air conditioning, and bucket seats were standard. There was also a heavy-duty suspension and power everything. Customers had the choice of special colors and the 7-Litre badges on the sides that helped identify this model. This was a one year only model.

However, in 1967, the 428 was back, but only as an option on the Galaxie, and not a standalone model. In muscle car history, the 7-Litre was forgotten for quite a while. But, in recent years, its popularity grew, so these big coupes and convertibles are starting to have value on the classic car market. Ford has been experimenting with luxury appointments on the Fiesta, but it would be great to see a fully loaded luxurious coupe.

  1. Dodge Charger Daytona

Dodge produced a modern version they called the Daytona from 2006 to 2009, in 2013 and in 2017. But, they were just an appearance package with graphics, a 392 Hemi V8 and suspension modifications. Car enthusiasts want to see the real Daytona with an enormous rear wing, front clip and NASCAR inspired styling. So what is a better time than now when Dodge has the Charger and the Hemi in production?

The NASCAR races were one of the most important battle arenas of the muscle car wars. And back in the late ’60s, the superspeedways were places of many fierce clashes between Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, Plymouth and Pontiac. But the most interesting period was in the late ’60s when NASCAR rules allowed some modifications to car bodies to make cars more aerodynamic.

The condition was to apply the changes to regular production models and sell a limited number of them to the public. Most manufacturers jumped at this opportunity and created Aero racers or specially designed cars homologated for the races. And one of the most famous and influential was the 1969 Charger Daytona. Dodge produced just 504 of them strictly as a homologation special.

Despite winning some races, the Charger 500 wasn’t good enough. So Dodge decided to create a racing car with a special front end, flush rear glass and a big rear spoiler. The Charger Daytona was one of the first cars they developed in a wind tunnel using all-new materials in construction. The Charger Daytona proved to be successful on the race track.

It even managed to do a record 217 mph run in almost stock configuration. This only shows how good the design and engineering behind this project was. The standard engine was the 440 V8 and only about 70 cars received the legendary 426 Hemi.

  1. Mercury Cougar

Conceived as a luxurious Ford Mustang in 1967, Cougar became a legend on its own. They built it on a stretched Mustang platform using only V8 engines. So, the Cougar was cool, stylish and fast.

Unfortunately, they discontinued the Mercury brand after years of poor sales and uninspiring models. However, Ford still owns rights for the Cougar name. Most car fans would love to see the latest Mustang getting some unique styling and a muscle car presence.

  1. Pontiac Firebird

One of the biggest names in the classic muscle car world was Pontiac. With their legendary models and unique charm, Pontiac was the muscle car company for much of the 1960s to 1990s. Unfortunately, GM decided to retire the name.

However, since the new Camaro is doing so well, the Firebird version would be extremely welcomed by car fans. Camaro and Firebird always used the same underpinnings and some of the engines, so the potential Firebird would be a sales hit.

  1. Plymouth Barracuda

A few years ago, the muscle car world was shaken by the news that Chrysler was going to introduce a 21st century Barracuda under the Dodge or Chrysler name. No one is sure if the project was canceled, but obviously, there is no new Barracuda on the market.

Chrysler has a good rear wheel drive platform in the Challenger and a lineup of great Hemi engines with loads of power. And that’s all they need for the perfect soundtrack to revive the legendary Plymouth.

  1. Chevrolet Chevelle

The Chevelle was always the perfect mid-size Chevrolet muscle car with its cool styling, many options and powerful engines. Since it was affordable back in the day, they produced lots of them. So, the Chevelle is a popular classic car with today’s car enthusiasts.

Even though it looks like the mid-size coupe market is dead, lots of drivers would buy a modern day Chevelle on a stretched Camaro platform. It could come with lots more interior space, an elegant look and those fantastic LS-Series V8 engines under the hood.

  1. Pontiac GTO

Even though the 2004 to 2006 GTO wasn’t a successful model, it was a powerful muscle car with great features. It did miss the mark, so Pontiac enthusiasts all over the world deserve another model. But this time, it should be a proper muscle car and an instant classic.

GM has several competent and advanced platforms like the Alpha that could be the base for a modern-day GTO. The power is no problem since GM has one of the best lineups of performance V8s is the world.

  1. AMC Javelin

It would be unrealistic to expect that AMC could return to the market although the name is still popular with car fans. The company has been dead for more than 30 years, so there is little chance to see it again.

However, there is a need for an inexpensive but cool muscle car. And a modern-day Javelin would be the perfect fit. It would be a car with a nice design, cool features and price lower than the Mustang or Camaro.

  1. Ford Mustang Boss 302

Ford did a great job with reviving the legendary Boss 302 model in 2012 and 2013. But after that, this fantastic pony car returned to the history books. With the new generation of the Mustang already a few years old, it is time to get the Boss back again.

The previous model raised the bar in terms of power and dynamics, so Ford has to invest a lot to top that. Although there is the brutally fast Shelby GT 350, the Boss 302 could be positioned below this model.

  1. Oldsmobile 442

Another one of the great American brands that are lost is Oldsmobile. As you probably know, Oldsmobile was active during the heyday of the muscle car culture. So, most fans agree that it would be great to see a new/retro-styled 442 in the future.

Unfortunately, there are no plans to revive the Oldsmobile brand although many car enthusiasts would be delighted.

  1. GMC Syclone

Even though the Syclone was a limited production exercise in performance truck design, it left an enormous mark in car history. And it remains relevant, even today. Today, GM has the cool looking Colorado. And it is one of the best compact/mid-size trucks out there.

If they were to install a potent engine and re-badge it as a GMC, they would have a modern Syclone. That would make all those muscle car fans excited.

  1. Ford Lightning

Even though Ford is active with the Raptor, most muscle car fans think that the company abandoned the muscle car market. The Ford Lighting, a mighty performance version of the F150 was once the definitive Ford muscle truck.

But for almost two decades, Ford hasn’t had anything similar to offer. So, with the new generation of aluminum F-150 trucks, Ford should introduce a modern-day Lightning. It could come with a powerful engine and a rear wheel drive only layout.

  1. Dodge Viper

Dodge discontinued the legendary Viper last year due to poor sales, according to Chrysler. One of the best sports cars they ever produced in America is apparently not a big hit with customers. Some people feel that the Fiat part of the Chrysler Corporation was eager to kill this car, so Ferrari wouldn’t have a competitor.

But no one knows for sure. Still, the Dodge Viper is a living Detroit legend. So, most car enthusiasts think Chrysler must find a way to re-introduce this car back to showrooms all over the country.

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