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25 American Cars That Defined The 1960s

Cameron EittreimDecember 10, 2020

Cars from the 1960s were truly something magical in terms of design, impact, innovation, and styling. The era resonated with American culture and defined an era. If you were lucky enough to be around during this era, then you got to experience some great rides. The Corvette was one of the most iconic cars from this era but there were many others as well.

The GTO was born during the era, as well as the Mustang and Camaro pony cars. While it would be impossible to rank every American car from this era, we ranked the most popular models. So without further adieu, look back at 25 American rides that defined the 1960s via Hi Consumption below.

Chrysler 300F
via: Hot Rod

25: 1960 Chrysler 300F

The 1960s were clearly a time of innovation and Chrysler was attempting to carve a niche out for itself in the market. The 300F was a flashy and powerful car that tried to make the family car fun to drive. Indeed, it defined powerful sedans of the era. The dual-quad 413-CID wedge was one of the most advanced engines of the period, pumping out 380 hp.

Chrysler 300F
via: Hot Rod

When you factored in how large this sedan was, the performance was admirable. The interior kept with the high quality of the period. Drivers could smell the vinyl because there was a lot of it in the 300F. But if you have ever wanted to experience an underrated, iconic sedan, the 300F takes the cake.

Linclon Continential
via: Hot Rod

24: 1961 Lincoln Continental

Nowadays, the Lincoln brand is more known for its Navigator SUV. But there was a time when the brand was in its prime delivering exceptional sedans and coupes. There’s no denying how iconic the 1961 Lincoln Continental is. You’ve probably seen this car in movies like “Goodfellas” and there’s a reason for that, the car is a piece of history. The massive nose of the Continental housed something even better underneath, and that was the 430 cu in (7.0 L) MEL V8.

Lincoln Continential
via: Hot Rod

The 1961 Lincoln Continental ushered in a new era for modern automotive design. It was also one of the first cars on the market to offer a bumper-to-bumper warranty. The interior featured authentic walnut trim on the interior of the vehicle, making it a wonderful array of quality and American luxury that defined Lincoln vehicles of the era.

Corvette Stingray
via: Hot Rod

23: 1967 Corvette Sting Ray Convertible

The Corvette was iconic long before the 1960s, but the 1967 model set things off for the brand. The sloping design and split taillights have carried on to current models. The iconic design of the convertible made the 1967 Stingray stand out from the crowd, and values for these models have gone through the roof. The 327-V8 300HP engine was the standard-bearer for C2 Corvettes. The interior styling and quality have made this sports car stand out from the crowd.

Corvette Stingray
via: Hot Rod

The overall design of the 1967 Corvette is synonymous with the era at the time and defined Corvette nostalgia. Whether you’re interested in the distinct nostalgia of a car from this era or you just love Corvettes, the C2 is unique in a world of otherwise similar cars and trucks. It’s nice to see that a classic like this Corvette still lives on.

Ford Galaxie 500 XL
via: Hot Rod

22: 1962 Ford Galaxie 500

Although American automakers are moving away from the passenger car market, there was a time when Ford ruled the roost. The Galaxie is a car that has been an iconic part of the domestic automotive market. The reason for this was its iconic design. The 1962 Ford Galaxie 500 packed a 292 cu in (4.8 l) V8 engine, which was Ford’s response to Chevys Impala models. The Galaxie 500 handled a lot better than you’d expect and the interior was well-appointed.

Ford Galaxie 500
via: Car Domain

The Galaxie 500 was released at a time when American ingenuity was at its peak. The massive powerplant coupled with the elegant design was the pinnacle of Ford design. Ford has produced many pioneering sedans, but the Galaxie 500 is one of the most prominent, and with good reason.

Pontiac GTO
via: Hot Rod

21: 1966 Pontiac GTO

If there’s one car that doesn’t need an introduction, it is the Pontiac GTO. The icon is a piece of automotive history. The GTO introduced us to the muscle car and for the 1966 model year, the GTO became its own model instead of a trim package. The 1966 model had a Coke-bottle design that defined the era and is still iconic to this day, and if you’ve never seen one in person, you’re in for a surprise. Pontiac made sure to innovate the design of the car, and this is what made it stand out.

Pontiac GTO
via: Hot Rod

Nevermind the fact that the GTO was a large part of the birthing of the muscle car era. The car itself is gorgeous and ranks high on the muscle car food chain. With the included Ram Air setup and the factory performance features, the Pontiac GTO is another standout vehicle that defined the ’60s. There are very few muscle cars that can match up with the GTO.

1964 Ford Mustang Advertisement
via Car and Driver

20: 1964 Ford Mustang

Few cars have made as much of an impact on the automotive industry as the Mustang did. The 1964 Ford Mustang in particular was the birth of a brand new segment known as the “pony” car. The Mustang spearheaded by Lee Iacocca was instrumental in bringing Ford sales success that the company badly needed. The Mustang of 1964 truly defined Ford muscle overall. The 289 cu in (4.7 L) Windsor V8 was a fine engine at the time and it gave the Mustang a decent amount of performance. From a design standpoint, the 1964 Mustang was far ahead of its time.

Henry Ford II with the 1964 Mustang Ford
via Car and Driver

Part of the reason for that was the fact that the car was a lot lighter than anything else that had been on the market. Coupled with a rising generation who embraced the open-air “free” flowing lifestyle and you had a sports car that defined the baby boomers. The 1964 Mustang is probably one of the most well-known vehicles on the planet. Whether you are new to car collecting or you have a love for classic Fords, the original Mustang is a must-have classic car.

Shelby
via: Hot Rod

19: Shelby AC Cobra

There have been many iconic roadsters in the automotive landscape, but the Shelby AC Cobra has a special spot as a car that defined the decade. The car was designed by one of the most revered people in the automotive industry, the legendary Carroll Shelby. The lightweight design gives the car a real track feeling while still ushering in some serious horsepower. There are several unique features that the Shelby Cobra offers. Among the most noticeable are the split headlights and the curved body that has remained the same for decades.

Shelby Cobra 289
via: Hot Rod

There are Shelby AC Cobra kit cars that can be gotten, but the original is an icon. The AC Cobra will bring you back to the joy of driving. The relatively simple mechanics of the vehicle make it an excellent choice, The valuation on these cars has been increasing, so you’ll want to take the time to find a clean example. For sheer driving thrill, the AC Cobra is a combination of performance and fun that cannot be matched to this day.

Temptest
via: Hot Rod

18: 1961 Pontiac Tempest

If the Pontiac Tempest looks familiar, it is because the car was the basis for the iconic GTO. But if you can’t find a GTO, the Tempest is a great alternative. There was a time when the Pontiac lineup of cars was quite diverse. The Tempest fell into the fray as an early sports sedan, which was a strong position for it to hold. The beautiful exterior styling and the Pontiac-derived V8 engine made the Tempest a joy to drive. The compact styling of the car was a far cry from the land yachts on the road before it.

Pontiac Tempest
via: Hot Rod

Pontiac did everything right with the Tempest, which accounted for the car’s massive popularity that once again defined the era. In the world of automotive design, the Tempest was a shift in momentum for the industry. The sedan was a lot different than what had been on the market previously. Car designs were changing and the Tempest was at the forefront of the movement. When it comes to iconic muscle cars, the Tempest is one of the most underrated models on the road.

Buick Riviera
via: GM

17: 1969 Buick Riviera

The big boat as it was called was one of the most well-performing cars of the ’60s. Buick was attempting to market their cars to a younger crowd, and the 1969 Buick Riviera embodied the new spirit. The 7.0L V8 packs a punch under the hood, with 360 HP (264.96 KW) @ 5000 RPM. The Riviera is a car that has been carried through the Buick lineup for a long period of time. The interior is another strong suit of the Riviera. Based on the Chevelle SS, it’s quite comfortable.

Buick Riviera
via: GM

Buick is known for being a luxury brand and the Riviera had a lot of features that weren’t seen on the other models. There’s no denying that the Riviera is a piece of automotive history and you can’t look back on the ’60s automotive scene without including the Buick. There have been modern incarnations of the Riviera but the 1969 model is the most iconic.

Plymouth Roadrunner Hemi Convertible
via: Hot Rod

16: 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner

There are few cars as iconic as the Plymouth Roadrunner. The muscle car was the pinnacle of the muscle car era and it put the Plymouth brand on the map. Aside from the car’s iconic look, there’s a reason that the Roadrunner was groundbreaking. The 426 cu in (7.0 L) Hemi was an impressive engine, and still stands the test of time to this day. The design of the car was lasting and iconic, with plenty of interior space to go with its performance.

Plymouth Roadrunner Hemi Convertible
via: GM

Plymouth as a brand was judged long after the Roadrunner hit the market. That was with good reason because the car was one of the most groundbreaking models. There were a few renditions of muscle cars after the Roadrunner hit, but this happened to be one of the most notable cars of the 1960s.

AMC AMX
via: AMC

15: 1969 AMC AMX

The AMC brand was an up-and-down rollercoaster of American innovation. The brand specialized in creating American cars that made a difference on the road. But during its later years, the brand became confused. The thing about the AMC brand is that the AMX was one of the most notable cars. What made this car cool besides the sloping design was its 390 cu in (6.4 L) twin 4-bbl V8 340 hp engine. There was even a special edition of the AMX for the 1969 model year only known as ‘Big Bad Green.’

AMC AMX
via: AMC

Only 283 Big Bad Green models were ever made, which makes the AMX in this variation quite rare. Because AMC cars are rare in general, it’s nice to see an American muscle car that isn’t along the status quo. AMC cars were always different from GM and Ford models yet packed personalities.

via: Hot Rod

14: 1969 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

The Pontiac Firebird was always an individual car compared to the Camaro. Pontiac gave the car its personality and a unique sense of being in the brand. The Trans AM upped the ante with a unique hood and fender effects, all of which made for a unique driving experience. The 1969 models were especially unique, with a new set of headlights and taillights that connected the entire car. The Mustang might have invented the pony car race but the Firebird was at the forefront of design.

Pontiac Firebird
via: Hot Rod

Whether you’ve seen “Smokey and the Bandit” or you’ve just seen the 1969 models, the Firebird is a unique car in any sense that defined Pontiac muscle. With its signature white paint job and blue stripes, the Firebird Trans Am is about as unique of a racing car as you can get. The Firebird was a different car than the Camaro in a lot of aspects, and that unique personality made the car stand out from the crowd.

Ford Torino
via: Hot Rod

13: 1969 Ford Torino GT

The Torino is not a unique car in the sense of the muscle car era as it was often overshadowed. But if you want to get into the muscle car race with something more affordable, the Torino GT is a great choice. The 428-4V Super Cobra Jet (SCJ) is perhaps one of the best performance engines that you could get at the time. The Torino doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

Ford Torino
via: Hot Rod

You can generally find a Torino for a lot less than a Chevelle SS or one of the other muscle cars from this era. The design of the car made it an iconic part of an era where bigger and badder was better. If you have the luck to get your hands on a Ford Torino GT, you will have one solid muscle car. The Torino doesn’t often get the praise that it deserves for being one of the most iconic Ford vehicles during this changing period for the automotive industry.

defined
via: Hot Rod

12: 1969 Oldsmobile 442 Hurst

Of course, we cannot rank the best cars of a decade without including the Oldsmobile 442 Hurst. The sheer design of the car makes it an iconic part of the automotive industry. But there’s more, as the 455 motor is an iconic piece of GM history. No Oldsmobile after this was more iconic. The white paint job and the matching interior give the car an upscale and purposeful look. The 400 transmissions were known for shifting with authority and made this car a track-ready monster.

442
via: Hot Rod

The 442 Hurst is rare and much rarer than other variations of the Cutlass. Nevertheless, the car stands out from any crowd. GM performance parts are readily available for the Cutlass models which include the 442 Hurst. With the range of parts that you can get and the versatility of the platform, you can’t go wrong with the 442 Hurst.

via: Bring a Trailer

11: 1969 Plymouth Barracuda

Another impressive Plymouth was the Barracuda. Car fans may ask what separated this from the Roadrunner. The 330 horsepower under the hood was the first and most important thing. The Barracuda was also one of the muscle cars that came with power steering, which is a must if you enjoy driving. The unique factory colors that came on the Barracuda made it stand out even more. You couldn’t go wrong with the look of the car and the performance that it came with.

via: Hot Rod

Plymouth packed a lot of unique features into the Barracuda. Even the factory wheels were some of the nicest you could get at the time. Aside from all that, the Barracuda is an endearing piece of automotive history, and you can’t go wrong with it.

Dodge Coronet
via: Hot Rod

10: 1969 Dodge Coronet

Lauded for its performance and shared platform with other muscle cars in the Mopar catalog, the Dodge Coronet is an undercover classic. If you’re lucky enough to get an R/T, the 426ci Hemi V8 did a great job of performing. The 1969 Coronet had a few unique features such as the bright paint jobs straight from the factory. The long styling of the car made it a commaning presence on the road. Whether you were a first-time driver or a classic enthusiast, you can’t go wrong with the Coronet.

Dodge Coronet
via: Hot Rod

Dodge produced many of these cars during its run, and that means prices have remained steady. While the Coronet might not be as well known as the Dodge Charger, it’s still a piece of automotive history that defined Dodge muscle of the day. You can find clean examples of the Coronet on the road today.

Stellite
via: Hot Rod

9: 1968 Plymouth Satellite

The corporate cousin of the Dodge Coronet, the Plymouth Satellite is a lesser-known muscle car. The shared 426 cu in (7.0 L) Hemi V8 with the Coronet is a powerful engine with a ton of Mopar history. Aside from obvious performance enhancements, the Satellite was also used as a police car long before the Crown Victoria was commonplace. You can find some interesting used police models of the Satellite that had a lot of bonuses.

via: Hot Rod

Plymouth didn’t market the car as heavy as the Dodge variants, but you get V8 power in a more affordable package. The Plymouth Satellite is worth considering if you want to experience a real performance car. With the Mopar guts and the Hemi power, ’60s fans can’t go wrong with this piece of history.

via: Hot Rod

8: 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

Ah, the Chevelle SS. The muscle car of all muscle cars, and one of the most popular Chevy cars on the classic car market right now that once defined an era of muscle. What makes the Chevelle SS so appealing? It looks amazing with dual-slotted tail lights and the sheer performance look of the car. But its power was also something that makes the Chevelle SS highly desirable compared to other muscle cars on the market.

Chevrolet Chevelle SS
via: Hot Rod

The Chevelle SS came with a 454 engine that made it quite a unique addition. The rarity of the Chevelle SS is what makes it a great find. If you’re lucky enough to find an original SS, you’ll be in for what many call a “dream” car. The design and the performance of the Chevelle SS are second to none.

1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302
via: Hot Rod

7: 1969 Ford Mustang

For the 1969 model year, the Mustang changed a lot in terms of design. The nose was elongated and the overall shape of the body was changed. Performance was also enhanced with the 351 cu in (5.8 L) Cleveland V8 (1970) 4-barrel and the even larger Cobra Jet. These engines helped to keep the Mustang competitive against new GM models that were hitting the track. On the interior of the Mustang, things were refreshed as well and the car got an overhaul.

American
via: Hot Rod

While the Mustang was never the most comfortable car to ride in, the interior enhancements were a welcomed addition to the mix. The Mustang is known for being one of the most iconic pony cars on the road and among those that defined the 1960s. The 1969 models were unique and managed to build on the success of previous models.

Pontiac GTO
via: Hot Rod

6: 1969 Pontiac GTO “The Judge”

The Pontiac brand was an iconic part of the muscle car era, and the GTO was obviously iconic. The 1969 models were especially iconic for introducing the world to “The Judge.” If you’ve ever had the chance to check out GTO models of the past, “The Judge” is one of the most iconic models ever released that defined Pontiac’s presence during the era. The bright orange paint job made for a one-of-a-kind muscle car that has become synonymous with the Pontiac brand.

via: Hot Rod

Although the GTO Judge is much rarer than other models on the market, you can still find them in the original condition. If you’ve wanted to rank the top American muscle cars from this era, the Judge should be near the top. The resale value for these cars has continued to rise and with good reason. The GTO Judge is one of the most iconic muscle cars both in media and on the track.

via: Hot Rod

5: 1969 Dodge Challenger

The 1969 Dodge Challenger is another rarity in the muscle car world. The look of the car defined Dodge muscle cars that the modern Challenger followed it to a tee. But aside from its looks that have become iconic with muscle, the Challenger set many bars for Chrysler. Initially released in 1969 as a 1970 model, the Challenger was the epitomy of the upcoming decade. Design was radical and new and forced the brand to be different than the average muscle car.

1969 Dodge Challenger
via Reddit

The Challenger has changed a lot over the decades but 1969 was one of the most iconic models for several reasons. Whether you have an affection for Mopar models or you just want to experience the era, the Challenger is a standout muscle car. The muscle car market was an iconic part of the automotive industry at a time when it was changing right before our eyes.

Camaro Z/28
via: Super Chevy

4: 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

The muscle car has never been more defined than the Camaro. The Camaro is about as American as apple pie, and the taste just gets better with age. The 69 Z/28 was an iconic model, a track-ready car much different from the standard Camaro and the SS. For a long time, the Z/28 has had the personality that separated it from the rest of the Camaro lineup. The styling was edgier and the performance matched the unique look of the car.

Camaro Z/28
via: Hot Rod

Getting your hands on an authentic 1969 Z/28 is not as easy as you may think. The valuation of these cars has skyrocketed, and with good reason. Given the unique history and the rising consumer taste for classic automobiles, the Camaro Z/28 is an icon in the American automotive industry. Even if you aren’t looking for a track car, the Camaro Z/28 is worth getting your hands on because of its iconic design and performance.

Amc Javelin
via: Car Domain

3: 1968 AMC Javelin

AMC had a good run as one of the original American automakers, and the company introduced car fans to some iconic models that defined the ’60s. The Jeep brand, for instance, is one of the most popular automotive brands in the world right now. Performance-wise, AMC also had some astonishingly cool cars that are often forgotten in the mix of GTOs and Mustangs. But the 1968 AMC Javelin was and is still certainly worth a look. A piece of true American muscle, the Javelin boasted a 390 engine with the optional “go package.”

Javelin SST
via: Hot Rod

This setup is among one of the rarest that you can get, and it gives the Javelin a pretty unique driving experience, to say the least. The styling of the car was quintessential ’60s muscle, but it had a character that was all its own. Needless to say, if you see an AMC on the road you know that it’s a unique car that defined AMC automobiles. With its wicked appearance and the performance to match, the Javelin is a stellar muscle car for any budget.

AMC Rambler Classic
via: Bring a Trailer

2: 1964 AMC Rambler Classic

There is just something unique about the Rambler. The Rambler Classic is one of the most well-known AMC vehicles. The Classic had a stout design that was short and aggressive for the time. This shorter wheelbase gave the car exceptional handling which enthusiasts appreciated. The 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8 was by far one of the best engines that you could get at the time in an AMC vehicle. Interior quality wasn’t amazing but the performance of the car more than made up for it.

AMC Rambler Classic
via: Bring a Trailer

The car was featured in Popular Science magazine around this period for a wide range of engine choices. The performance was lauded in the automotive community and reliability wasn’t that bad either. For an underrated classic car that will bring a smile to your face, the 1964 AMC Rambler Classic is it. Whether you find a wagon or a two-door, the Rambler Classic is an iconic part of the classic automotive market.

AMC Marlin
via: Autoweek

1: 1965 AMC Marlin

When you think of the AMC Marlin you think of quintessential ’60s design. The futuristic back window was in line with the design theme that was going on at the time. Technology was changing as we were going into space and the future was bright. AMC was looking to carve as many niches as the company could, and the Marlin was the car to do that. The unique design of the sloping back window coupled with the tail fins made for an elegant-looking ride. The redesign of the car was one of the most costly in the automotive industry at the time ($35 million, which is about $275,800,000 in 2019 dollars).

AMC Marlin
via: Autoweek

Whether you are a car collector or someone who just wants to get into the market, the Marlin is a unique piece of automotive history that defined AMC’s impact on the car market. The 343 engine provides ample performance, and the enthusiast market for these cars is ever-growing. The AMC Marlin stands out from the pack as a unique automotive experience.

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