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20 Top Coveted Muscle Car Specials in Automotive History

Vukasin HerbezDecember 11, 2018

In the muscle car world, it is all about the engines, equipment and versions. Sometimes, even the most ordinary cars can become expensive, rare and fast. That is especially true if buyers equip them in a certain way or order them as part of a special package. During the heyday of the muscle car culture, most manufacturers introduced dozens of sub-models.

They were limited-edition versions or one-year-only specials that later became the most sought-after cars in the car collector’s world. Think of this article as a kind of muscle car dream garage list. Just keep reading to learn about the most memorable special edition models and versions true car aficionados lust for that fetch the highest prices at auction. From the Boss Mustang to the Pontiac Judge, and from the Ford Shelby to the Hemi engine, this list has them all.

  1. Mercury Cougar XR7

Some people think of the Mercury Cougar as a Mustang with a longer wheelbase and luxury interior, but this 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 and luxury was the mighty Cougar XR-7.

This model has a 390 V8 engine that produces 320 HP. But buyers could also opt for the GT package that 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, the prices have started to come up for this piece of the luxury muscle segment.

  1. Ford Mustang Boss 302

The third redesign of the Mustang appeared for the 1969 model year and again, the car grew in size. Produced for only two years, in 1969 and 1970, the Boss 302 features a 302 V8 engine they conservatively rated at 290 HP. However, the real output was closer to the 350 HP mark.

The Boss 302 was a model they intended for racing in the Trans-Am championship. Apart from the blackout hood, spoiler on the trunk and other details, it featured a stiff, track-tuned suspension, close ratio gearbox and a high-revving engine. Since the car was light and lacked the usual luxuries, it could go even faster.

  1. Oldsmobile Toronado GT

The GT was a special package for the Oldsmobile personal luxury cruiser. But it was only 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 and bigger and stronger front disc brakes as well as updated interior equipment. The GT was a rare option, so people seldom decided to order their Oldsmobiles with this package. However, that is exactly why it is so desirable and collectible today.

  1. Pontiac 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, cool graphics package and exhilarating performance. Soon, Pontiac wanted a piece of the action, so in 1969 the Judge debuted as an option for the GTO.

The Judge became a legend in its field because it took its name from the popular TV show, Laugh-In, with its famous catchphrase, “Here comes da judge.” But what attracted consumers the most was its bright red color, big spoiler and “The Judge” graphics. But the GTO Judge wasn’t slow, delivering 366 HP with a four-speed transmission. Available from 1969 to 1971, the Judge represented a top of the line model, which makes it so desirable today.

  1. 1969 Pontiac Trans Am

The Trans Am model became so popular, they mass-produced it in later generations. But in 1969, it was a rare, special limited-edition car. In ’69, Pontiac wanted to present a model they could homologate for Trans Am racing, but the company was under a racing ban from GM. To mask their intentions, Pontiac introduced the Firebird Trans Am.

It was a loaded version featuring big block power coming from its famous 400 V8 engine with a Ram Air III or IV intake system. The difference between those engines was significant since the Ram Air IV featured a lot of improved engine internals and components. However, they rated both at 366 HP, which was quite underrated.

Even so, this special version with the signature white paint, blue stripes, Rally II wheels and other equipment proved to be a tough sell, so they only sold 634 Firebird Trans Ams. And among those, only eight were convertibles.

  1. Chevrolet Chevelle Z16

What exactly is the Chevelle Z16? Basically, it’s a fully loaded regular Chevelle with all the go-fast options, including a 396 V8 engine with a Muncie four-speed gearbox. On top of that, Chevrolet added a heavy-duty suspension and other updated equipment. Even some of the Chevy dealers weren’t aware the Z16 option existed.

Interestingly, Chevrolet refused to market the Z16 for some reason, making this Chevelle sort of a secret model. The Z16 was quite fast, but it was also expensive for a Chevrolet. That’s probably why they made only 200 of them.

  1. Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe

Chevrolet introduced the Aerocoupe option in 1986 featuring a panorama-style back window with a back spoiler. The new rear glass provided an almost fastback profile that vastly improved the aerodynamics on those NASCAR superspeedway tracks.

Mechanically speaking, the Aerocoupe was identical to the regular SS. That meant the power came from the 180 HP 305 V8 engine. The production numbers for the 1986 model year were just 200 examples. But, that was enough to homologate the car for 1987, so Chevrolet produced an additional 5,852 of them.

  1. Ford Mustang Boss 429

The mythical Mustang Boss 429 is a proper homologation special legend. Ford conceived it in 1969 as a pure racing engine they intended for the NASCAR championship. The Boss 429 was unique because it featured a different engine architecture than the rest of the Ford big blocks.

Although the factory rated it at 375 HP, this unit produced over 500 HP, and much more in race trim. Unfortunately, NASCAR declined the application for homologation, so Ford discontinued the Boss in 1970.

  1. Mercury Cyclone Cobra Jet 428

Along with the compact-sized and Mustang-based Cougar, Mercury offered the Cyclone. It was an intermediate muscle car they built on the Ford Fairlane/Torino platform. Since Mercury was an upscale brand, the Cyclone was better appointed than other comparable products from Ford. But unfortunately, the engine choices and performance were more or less the same.

Mercury introduced the Cyclone in 1964 and it stayed on the market until 1971. But the best version, which is the 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 worthy engine Ford ever built. With 7.0-liters of displacement and an advertised 335 HP, the Cobra Jet produced over 400 horses in real life.

  1. Buick GNX

The story of this model is an interesting one. Back in 1982, Buick started experimenting with turbocharging its line of standard V6 engines. The results were satisfying, so the Buick engineers got permission to develop a performance version that would deliver better acceleration figures.

But in 1987 came the ultimate version they called the GNX or Grand National Experimental. It featured the same 3.8-liter turbocharged V6, but delivered 275 HP, resulting in a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of just 4.7 seconds. Unfortunately, the Buick GNX was a one-year-only model, so they made just 547 of them. Today, people praise those cars just as much as they did in the late ’80s.

  1. Oldsmobile 442 W30 Package

The 442 is one of the most legendary muscle car names in automotive history. In true Oldsmobile fashion, they thoroughly engineered the 442 to build a high-quality performance machine. It was a car that could stand up to any of the muscle car legends.

Olds presented the W30 option in 1969, which they marketed “for performance enthusiasts only.” The secret of the W30 package was the blueprinted engine with more power than the standard, bigger carburetor. Also, it had a hotter camshaft, aluminum intake manifold and ram-air system.

In later years, it also included a fiberglass hood and inner wheel wells to remove some weight from the heavy front end, as well as beefier brakes. The W30 package included an external insignia and graphics package. So, if you are going to buy a 442, look for the real W30 since they are a blast to drive.

  1. Dodge Charger Daytona

In the late ’60s, Dodge was desperate to go racing at NASCAR, and the Charger was the perfect candidate. However, since NASCAR cars approached high speeds of almost 200 mph on the newly-constructed superspeedway tracks, aerodynamics played a key role in performance and results.

So, Dodge decided to go all out and create a racing car with a special front end, flush rear glass and a big rear spoiler. In fact, the Charger Daytona was one of the first cars they developed in a wind tunnel. Dodge also used all new materials in the construction. But since the Charger Daytona was a one-year-only model, they only produced 504 of them.

  1. Buick GSX

The GSX debuted in 1970 with an aggressive graphics package not typical for most Buick products. It was available in two bright colors, Saturn Yellow and Apollo White. It came with a front and rear spoiler, functioning hood scoops, side stripes and Rally wheels. The power output was the same at 345 HP and 510 lb-ft.

However, because the Buick 455 was significantly lighter than the Chevelle 454 or Plymouth Hemi 426, the GSX was a sure winner in street races all across America. Despite all the qualities of the GSX and numerous accolades by the motoring press, Buick built less than 700 of them. Unfortunately, the GSX package added $1,100 over the price of a regular GS 455. Sadly, that proved to be too expensive for most buyers.

  1. Shelby GT350R

Ford produced this car for one year only, in 1965, selling it to privateers and racing teams all over the world. The Shelby GT 350 R was a pure racing beast, so it was not street legal. They used them purely for racing purposes, something Ford did extremely well. The “R” version came the same 289 V8 as the regular Shelby GT350.

But it produced close to 400 HP thanks to numerous racing modifications. The car was light and well-balanced, so it proved extremely fast, winning many races in America, Europe and in South America, as well. Since they only made 34 of them, to own one today, you will need at least a million dollars.

  1. Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird

As one of the craziest muscle cars they ever produced, Plymouth offered one of the most recognizable graphics packages they ever presented to the public. To homologate the car for racing, Plymouth built just under 2,000 roadgoing Superbirds, selling them all over America.

They based the car on the Roadrunner, so it came with a 440 V8 as standard and 426 Hemi as the only engine option. However, to make it as aerodynamically efficient as possible, Plymouth installed a nose cone and hideaway headlights as well as an enormous spoiler on the back. And finally, they transformed the rear glass from the standard concave shape to a regular shape, which proved more slippery in wind tunnel testing.

  1. Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

The Z/28 has been the production option for numerous Camaro models since 1967. It was always a lighter, nimbler version compared to most SS models. The first Z/28 package included front disc brakes, a close ratio four-speed manual transmission and a revised suspension. Also, it had updated steering and exterior trim details like racing stripes, as well as a vinyl roof and headlight covers.

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

  1. Plymouth Barracuda Hemi

Two of the biggest Chrysler legends from the classic days of muscle car culture are the Barracuda and the 426 Hemi engine. All through the ’60s, those icons of the industry didn’t mix, at least not in street-legal cars. In 1970 Plymouth offered this legendary engine in the Barracuda body style, immediately creating one of the fastest, most desirable muscle cars Chrysler ever made.

The mighty Hemi engine was an expensive top of the line option for 1970 and 1971 available in coupe or convertible form. It cost around $900 over the price of the standard Barracuda. They installed it in just about 600 coupes and only 17 convertibles during its two year production period. They rated the power at 425 HP, but everybody knew the orange monster delivered more than 500 HP straight from the box.

  1. Shelby GT500KR

In 1968, Ford introduced the 428 Cobra Jet engine and Shelby was about to use it in his line of Mustangs. He wanted to do something special, and the result was the GT500KR, or “King of the Road.” Although they rated the 428 Cobra Jet at 335 HP, everybody knew the engine delivered more than 400 HP and 400 lb-ft of torque.

They limited the production and loaded the GT500KR with interior trimmings and extra luxuries. Unfortunately, they only produced the GT500KR for the 1968 model year, dropping Shelby’s version for 1969.

  1. Dodge Charger Super Bee Hemi

The Charger Super Bee was another one-year-only model that was an entry-level muscle car. Dodge sold it at lower prices but packed it with good equipment, wild graphics and a 440 engine as standard. The Super Bee was a relatively popular proposition for people looking for a classic performance machine.

However, the best features of the Super Bee were the vivid colors and tire-shredding performance. The base 440 engine delivered 370 HP, but in the Six Pack option, it was capable of 385 HP. The Hemi was the only engine option yet it was quite rare since they only used it in 22 cars.

  1. Pontiac Catalina 2+2

In the mid-60s, the Pontiac GTO was the car to have since it 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: the Catalina 2+2.

Since the Catalina was a full-size model, it was eligible for engines over 400 CID, according to the GM rules of the time. This meant that the Catalina 2+2 came with the famous 421 V8. And if you wanted, you could get the Tri-Power intake system, which was the same as in the GTO. It boosted the car’s power to 376 HP. Of course, buyers could order the limited-slip differentials, heavy-duty steering and brakes and a whole lot more.

All that made the Catalina 2+2 well-appointed, but unfortunately, it was expensive, too. The top of the line 2+2 cost over $4,000, which was a hefty sum and much more than the similarly equipped GTO. However, Pontiac produced approximately 11,000 of these fine machines in 1965, but only around 200 convertibles.

These are the 20 most desirable muscle car specials to order right now if you want to be sure you can get them. But you’d better hurry up because most of these highly-desirable beauties won’t be around much longer.

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