When you think of iconic cars that are a part of pop culture, the Impala SS is one of the first that pops to mind. While the later model years have become more iconic for the brand, 1961 is often forgotten as a model year. This was the first of the new age of performance sedans that GM was bringing to the market. The Impala was generally very easy to work on at a time when consumers were just beginning to get under the hood. A new generation of baby boomers was in high school and the thought of racing their friends was awfully exciting.
Sadly, the original Impala hasn’t become as iconic as later models were. With a little bit of modification, you can make one of these models perform extremely well. But this generation of the Impala is more or less destined for the junkyard. You can find them in clean condition from time to time, but for the most part, these Impala models have been disregarded.
The Catalina is known for multiple reasons, but one is for it being the original Pontiac performance sedan. Nevertheless, the Catalina has been overshadowed in the last few decades by an onslaught of popular muscle car choices. The 421 Super Duty was produced in very slim margins and it had a good concept, build a powerful performance car for a cheap price. But the 421 was marred by reliability issues and questionable build quality.
The 421 V8 engine with two four-barrel carburetors produced 405 HP, which on paper looks great. However, keeping the Catalina on the road is another thing, and its carburetors are notoriously hard to maintain. The interior was also a lot less to look at than previous Pontiac sedans which are why the 421 wasn’t very popular. Still, this is a big, V8-powered Pontiac and it can drive well if you get one that has been maintained.
It’s hard to believe with all the hype about Tesla that Oldsmobile was the most technologically advanced automotive brand at one point in time. If you’ve ever driven an early Olds, then you’ll know what we are talking about. Oldsmobile was responsible for the modern airbags that we have in cars today, and the Starfire was a pretty advanced car. But as with most advanced vehicles that are ahead of their time the Starfire didn’t fare very well. Unless you are an Oldsmobile aficionado, then you haven’t seen a Starfire yet.
These cars are pretty hard to come by and they were produced in small numbers. The polarizing styling just didn’t latch on with consumers, although it was relevant to the period. Interiorwise, the Starfire wasn’t very exciting either, and this didn’t translate well into sales. The 394 V8 with 325 HP was up there in performance, but the reliability issues and build quality will send the Starfire straight to the junkyard.
Just having a brand name like the “Wedge” doesn’t bode well for a performance car, and the Dart 412 suffered because of it. During the sixties, Dodge was entering into the drag racing scene and this was their foray. The notable Dart 412 boasted a whopping 420 HP, which was quite high at the time. Fortunately, the engine was cramped into a very tight engine bay and this made working on the Max Wedge increasingly difficult. If you could get over the restrictions of the engine bay, the Dart 412 was not a very upgrade-friendly muscle car.
Another common problem that is even worse than its reliability is the body rusting. These older generation Chrysler cars are notorious for rusting. Dart 412 was not immune to this and if you happen to obtain a Dart from a salty area, you’re in for a lot of work. The value of these cars isn’t worth all the effort that you’ll have to put into it.
A car that shared the same platform with the Dart 412 Max Wedge, the Super Stock 413 was also designed to be a drag car. Interestingly enough consumers looked the other way when this car hit the market and production was disappointing. Although the factory power output is not bad, the general design of the car was lackluster. Plymouth didn’t have a set product goal in mind and so it was very much like its Dodge stablemate.
Plymouth did have some hits during the sixties, but the Super Stock 413 wasn’t one of them. In addition to the questionable styling of the car working on one of these was almost impossible. With body rusting issues and a hard-to-find part catalog, the Super Stock 413 is more of a headache than a trophy piece.
This one is a bit of an oddball, as the styling alone makes it look a lot different than anything else on the road. But the Galaxie 406 also had a lot of drawbacks to it with regards to the mechanics and the performance. While the 405 HP of the V8 engine was acceptable at the time, the upkeep is just too much. These earlier model Fords were notorious for heading to the junkyard well before the odometer hit 100,000 miles.
Should you come across a Galaxie 406 in good condition, the car will still need a lot of work. The bodies of these vehicles were notorious for rusting, not to mention the cheap interior design. Because Galaxie 406 is not a mainstream “muscle” car the resale value is also not very good. Even with the current classic car boom, you’ll lose money by restoring one of these as opposed to making a profit.
Studebaker was a major player in the automotive industry until the company’s eventual collapse. The Avanti R2 was sort of the final hurrah for the company. The interesting look of the car was perhaps a bit overrated at the time, and its performance didn’t add up either. Most of the automotive consumers were turned off by the look of the car, which didn’t help the sales. That’s not to say that the Avanti was a horrible car, but it didn’t live up to expectations.
The Avanti did have a lot of shortcomings that have lead it to the junkyard. A questionable design and even more questionable build quality just didn’t sit well with consumers. Sadly, the Avanti R2 is a forgotten relic of a bygone era that has long passed.
Another car that you’ve probably never heard of, and with good reason, is the 1963 Plymouth Max Wedge 426. This car was a deeply-rooted effort by the carmakers at Mopar to dominate the drag racing scene. Unfortunately, when the car made it onto consumer applications, it didn’t fare very well. The first problem was the reliability, which was not a Chrysler strong suit around this period. In addition to that, the styling of the Max Wedge was also questionable.
For the average Joe looking for a family car, this one was just a tad bit extreme. Whereas other more comparable models were easier on the eyes, the Max Wedge stood out a tad bit too much. Although sales numbers were decent for the period, you don’t normally see these on the roadways anymore.
Another Oldsmobile that hit the junkyard early was the 1963 Oldsmobile Jetfire. What made the Jetfire so awful? Well, its design was rushed into production, and if that isn’t bad enough, it had some serious reliability issues. The 215 CID V8 engine was designed by Oldsmobile as this was on the cusp of GM utilizing universal engine designs. The 185 HP was lethargic when it came to propelling the giant two-door.
Although the styling was very similar to the Impala, the Jetfire failed to captivate any real audience. Then you had the drawbacks of the cheaply designed interior and to get any options would make the price go up further. Needless to say, the 1963 Jetfire is a mere blip in the otherwise storied history of Oldsmobile.
Often hailed as one of the most appealing Plymouths on the road, the Barracuda had some drawbacks to it regardless. Although the Hemi was a monster powerhouse of an engine, it wasn’t the most pleasant to work on. That’s why most restoration enthusiasts have swapped out for more modern powerplants. Then you have the polarizing design of the car, which some considered to be ugly at the time. The Barracuda does have a solid fanbase, but it also has its detractors.
Mopar had many hits at the time and the Barracuda was one of them. Unfortunately, with the high price tag and the abundance of design flaws, the Barracuda is a pain to own. In a lot of aspects, you can find a less problematic muscle car that has a lot more potential. Still, the Barracuda remains an icon among Mopar muscle car enthusiasts.
Buick is another iconic carmaker that’s still around to this day. But during the muscle car era, they were rocking and rolling. The GS 400 however was a paltry attempt to build on the success of other GM muscle cars. Although all of these cars were carbon clones of each other, the GS 400 had some drawbacks to it. For starters, all of the nice luxury features in the interior would go bad and were expensive to replace.
The performance was not a vast improvement over other models, and the GS 400 commanded a premium price tag. Then you had the fact that Buick didn’t have the same kind of brand recognition as other GM makes and models, so this added to things as well. Nevertheless, the Buick GS 400 is a notable addition to an otherwise questionable product line.
Chevy was also a company that experimenting with drag cars around this period, and the Z16 was the first foray. The design of the car was not so much different from the average Chevelle, and that left a bad taste in the mouths of consumers. The 396 V8 engine was notable for its performance at the time, and it was relatively easy to work on as well. But reliability proved to be a thorn in the side of new owners.
GM didn’t market the Chevelle Z16 which was also quite strange for the company. Thus there were only 200 of them ever produced. With such a rare number of vehicles, parts are hard to come by so you’ll often find these in the junkyard. Sure, there are other comparable muscle cars, but the Z16 is worth avoiding.
The Rivera GS is known as being the early precursor to the Grand National, but early models had their fair share of drawbacks. First was the heaviness of the design. The vehicle was a literal wedge on the roadways. Then you had the engine, which was underpowered compared to other muscle cars of the period. There was also the fact that the Riviera GS was much more expensive than its competition.
The interesting thing about the Riviera GS was that it has an iconic design. When drivers think of Buicks from this era, they think of the Riviera. But the reality of it is that the design is somewhat problematic and a lot of owners had headaches dealing with this car. Avoiding the Riviera is probably the best thing when it comes to a muscle car.
As Chevrolet tried to create smaller scale vehicles the Nova was introduced to the public. What was a great initial concept ended up costing the company? The design of the Nova wasn’t perfect by any means and the lack of design cost the reliability. Few cars were as unreliable as the Nova and although it was exceptional on the track, its general driving characteristics were not very good.
Chevy tried for years to improve the Nova but it was always an also-ran compared to the other models in the lineup. Sure, you got the muscle car aesthetic of the Nova, but it was lacking in a lot of other aspects. That’s why there are better muscle car choices than the Nova when drivers are choosing a classic 1960s muscle car.
Ford did a lot of experimentation with the Mustang during this period, and the 289 HiPo was no different. The overall look of the HiPo was the same but the appeal was the added performance of the car. Unfortunately, Ford rushed into the design of the car and a lot of people were off-put by this. Thus the general Mustang models far outsold this one for several reasons.
The 271 HP was sufficient but it was nothing to get excited about, and thus a lot of consumers just went for the GT. The resale value of these Mustang models is not as good as you’d think, especially when you compare it to other models. Mustang fans just generally avoid this model altogether.
Pontiac was the performance division of GM during the ’60s, and that was a good thing. But that didn’t bold well for the Catalina. Pontiac was attempting to market a sort of family sedan with the heart of a performance car. The result wasn’t either; in fact, it was a car that lacked in a lot of aspects. The performance wasn’t what you’d expect and the reliability wasn’t good either.
Pontiac did a lot to improve the overall quality of the Catalina, but it still fell short in a lot of aspects. The look and feel of the car weren’t what consumers were looking for and let’s face it, the name was a bit lackluster as well.
As 1966 rolled around, the Chevelle was designed and in full swing. But the design of the car wasn’t all that revolutionary when you looked at it. Overall the finished package was less than what consumers were hoping for. The SS 396 had blazing performance out the door, but sadly a lot of things were missing with the rest of the car. The look wasn’t what you’d expect in a performance car of this caliber.
The interior was also a letdown for most of the consumers who were vying for this car. Thus sales were not what you’d expect, and the SS 396 was not the sales success GM had hoped for. Naturally, these cars still hold their value from a consumer standpoint, a good thing for collectors.
The Coronet unfortunately never was able to capture the type of market share that other muscle cars were. This car was relegated to being a police cruiser, and would often be found on the used car market. The performance wasn’t great but it wasn’t horrible either, and that is why a lot of consumers still go for them. The 426 Hemi wasn’t a reliable engine but it could perform very well indeed.
Few cars have made as little of an impact on the muscle car industry as the Coronet 426 did. The reception was lukewarm, to say the least, and thus a lot of these have ended up in the junkyard. If you want a cheap Mopar that requires a lot of work, the Coronet 426 is the car for you.
The original Charger was a comeback car for Dodge, which was trying to target a much younger demographic. The car had a lot of things that made it cool such as its exterior style. But the reliability of the Charger was lackluster at best. This is why a lot of consumers went the other way when it came to choosing a car. The Charger did manage to get a lot of younger buyers into the showroom, similar to how the current model has done.
Rusting issues and the reliability issues make the Charger a difficult proposition to work with. A lot of consumers have gone the other way and opted for other muscle cars that were in this segment.
The 1967 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 is perhaps one of the most well-known pony cars to ever grace the road. But sadly, the prices of these cars have been vastly overinflated, and the majority of these things are going to be destined for the junkyard. You’ve got people who are holding onto to rusting examples with stripped engines just to price gouge. For a car that was affordable when it was first released, this is a travesty.
Not to mention the fact that the Camaro Z/28 had a lot of reliability issues with the factory engine. Working on these cars was not an easy thing to do, and unless you are going to do a modern engine swap, you are looking at a lot of work.
Plymouth or Chrysler has never had the most reliable cars on the road, but they resonated with consumers nonetheless. The 1967 Plymouth GTX is a notable exception to this because of the unique styling of the car. It was positioned as a luxury car but still managed to have muscle car attributes. The 426 Hemi was an optional engine and although it performed well, its follow-up and reliability were slim.
If you find any of these Plymouths still on the road they are generally reserved for the junkyard. Road salt did not do these bodies justice and rusting was a major problem. If you could beat the rust you would have a decent-looking muscle car, but that isn’t likely.
The Cougar was based on the Mustang, which bode well for the design. But the reliability was a bit different. The Cougar had a lot of shortcomings such as the faulty electrical components in the interior of the car. The carbureted engine had a lot of reliability issues, and this caused a lot of consumers to shift away from the car. You can find these from time to time but they are rare and maintenance is costly.
When you think of the Cougar, you think of the luxury companion to the Ford Mustang. The sad truth is that the Cougar was a let down in a lot of aspects, and the fact that it remains a junkyard find is a testament to that.
The truth is that most AMC models are found in the junkyard. It doesn’t mean that they were explicitly bad cars. But the build quality just wasn’t there at a time when the automotive industry was evolving. The Javelin was known for impressive off-the-line performance and a futuristic design, but when it came to reliability, it just wasn’t there. That’s not to say that the Javelin is a bad car, because it was good in a lot of aspects.
Sadly, if you are going to go for one, you’re probably going to encounter rust. Another thing that happens is that these cars are very hard to come by, and thus parts are hard to come by as well.