AMC Gremlin GT
The American Motors Company introduced the Gremlin on April 1, 1970. Because it was April Fool’s Day, everybody thought it was a joke. This subcompact American-made car with a funny design delivered good fuel economy by the standards of the day. Soon, the Gremlin became a popular, influential model that helped AMC survive the recession of the â70s.
AMC extracted all they could from the little Gremlin by constantly introducing different variants, keeping the old platform alive for almost a decade. In 1977, AMC decided to turn the Gremlin into a muscle car, so they installed a 304 V8 engine that pumped out 120 HP. The ridiculously low power resulted in a terrible performance, but the Gremlin GT was quite a looker. It came with a fresh graphics package, sporty wheels and interior equipment.
Realizing the performance was painfully slow even for a wannabe muscle car, AMC installed a 4.2-liter inline-six engine. Although it didn’t produce much more power, it delivered more torque, which was enough to improve it. But the higher torque and heavy discounts they offered didn’t help since they kept the production low at around 3,000 copies. However, they discontinued the GT option for the 1978 model year.
Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Turbo
Pontiac presented the second-generation F-Body Firebird in 1970. By the late â70s, it was one of the most dominant cars in the segment. Unfortunately, the days of big cube motors and high horsepower ratings were gone. So, Pontiac decided to invest in new technology to generate more power.
That new technology was turbocharging, so in late 1979, Pontiac introduced the Trans Am Turbo. The engine in question was the 301 V8 with a Garrett turbocharger they bolted on it. The power output was relatively modest at 200 to 210 HP. But the torque number was high at 340 lb-ft, which resulted in a hint of performance.
Chevrolet Monza Mirage
Chevrolet introduced the Monza in 1975 as the newest GM compact model. It came with a modern design, updated equipment and a wide arrange of versions and trim levels. The Monza succeeded the Chevrolet Vega and sold well, not only in America but also abroad. However, Chevy contracted an outside company, Michigan Auto Techniques, to make a muscle car Monza for 1977.
They named it the Monza Mirage. Interestingly, Chevy produced this one-year model in just 4,000 examples. It featured a 305 V8 engine that only delivered 145 HP. The design was quite striking with its white body, front and rear spoilers and special wheels. Also, the paint scheme was patriotic with red, blue and white stripes all over the body.
When Chevrolet realized there was still a market for sporty variants, they decided to introduce the Monza Spyder for 1978. However, that left Michigan Auto Techniques without a contract for 1978, sending the Monza Mirage to the history books. Today, only a handful have survived, so if you find one, restore it since it is a rare, forgotten muscle car.
1975 Plymouth Fury Roadrunner
Most people know the Plymouth Roadrunner as one of the most quintessential classic muscle cars. It was a model that always came with performance and power. However, for 1975, Plymouth moved the Roadrunner as an option on the Fury line.
On paper, the Fury Roadrunner had a 440 V8 option with 260 HP. Despite this being a respectable number by the standards of the day, the 0 to 60 mph times were over eight seconds. And that is something that today’s slowest economy cars can match.
Chevrolet Citation X-11
The Chevrolet Citation X-11 is an interesting car but most people can’t decide how they feel about this model. In fact, it is a question whether it should be featured on this list or not. The Citation is a compact, front-wheel-drive hatchback they produced from 1980 to 1985. But it had a somewhat powerful V6 engine and muscle car looks.
Maybe it would be best to describe the Chevrolet Citation as a fine line between an American hot hatch and a late model muscle car since it features aspects of both segments. The Citation was a modern model Chevrolet needed to fight the import models. Also, it came in a wide arrange of flavors. Also, the X-11 featured a 2.8-liter V6 engine and 135 HP. Despite the fact it doesn’t sound much today, it was solid power for the time,
But the X-11 had a few more tricks up its sleeves, such as a sports tuned suspension, sharper steering and better brakes. From the outside, the X-11 looked unique with its special bulged hood and trim details. The magazine testers of the day spoke highly of the X-11 as much more than just a stronger engine and appearance package.
1977 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
The 1977 Z/28 Camaro was an important model for the breed. It marked the return of the Z/28 package with a slight power increase over the standard models. The 350 V8 delivered 170 HP, which was respectable in 1977.
Of course, the performance was just a shadow of what the Camaro was capable of just several years before. But it was also the best you could get in the late â70s. Car fans remember the 1977 Camaro Z/28 as a cool looking car, as well.
Mercury Capri RS
The introduction of the third generation, Fox-body Mustang had a big influence on Mercury. In fact, the brand got its own version in the form of the Capri in 1979. But from 1970 to 1977, Mercury sold the Capri which was an imported model from Germany with four and six-cylinder engines. However, in 1979, thanks to the Mustang, the Capri was new, featuring a unique front end design.
Since it was a Mercury product, it was more upscale than the Ford. But other than a few aesthetical changes it was identical to the Mustang. As a performance version, Mercury introduced the RS model that featured a 2.3-liter turbocharged engine delivering a whopping 135 HP.
The performance was expectedly bad, but the car looked cool with the big air intake on the hood, RS badges and a rear spoiler. Today, those RS models are quite rare although not valuable or sought-after by car collectors.
1983 Dodge Charger
The Charger from the late â70s was a lame, slow car that threatened to kill the muscle car reputation of the glorious late â60s and early â70s cars. Even so, Dodge felt the name deserved another chance. In those days, the Chrysler Corporation was all about the K-platform front wheel drive cars.
So, Dodge introduced the Charger as an option on the compact and boring Dodge Omni for 1981. The appearance package was popular enough to convince Dodge to try it as a separate model for 1983. And that is how the L-Body Charger was born.
Dodge Charger Daytona
You are probably familiar with the original Dodge Charger Daytona from 1969. It was a big coupe they based on the Dodge Charger with a pointy nose and massive rear wing. In fact, they designed this car for racing in NASCAR, producing only 500 examples. The Daytona with its cousin, the Plymouth Road Runner Superbird still are the craziest muscle cars they ever produced.
Less than 10 years after the memorable Daytona, Dodge had a terrible case of self-reinventing, so they decided to reuse this glorious name. However, this time they put it on the Dodge Charger. It was basically a Chrysler Cordoba, a big two-door personal luxury coupe with no muscle car credentials whatsoever.
The move was not well received since the Cordoba had a lame 145 HP V8 engine. It was more focused on luxury and its well-appointed interior than performance and driving dynamics. Unfortunately, the car buyers punished Dodge for using the precious Daytona nameplate for a boring car. In the end, they made only 250 examples, and this Daytona’s reincarnation remained on the margins of muscle car history.
1979 Ford Mustang Cobra
1979 brought several major improvements to the Mustang range. First, it was a newer model that featured a modern design, better chassis and wider track. Second, Ford offered an interesting performance version they named the Cobra.
Although not as powerful or crazy as the Cobra Jets before it, the 1979 Cobra featured a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine producing 140 HP. This was pathetic, even by the standards of the day. But, it was a step in the right direction since American performance vehicles were finally starting to recover.
1980 Chevrolet Corvette C3
It is kind of funny when you think of it, but the 1970 and 1980 Chevrolet Corvettes were basically the same car with 10 years between them. The design was the same, although the 1980 model had a more sculpted front and rear end with much less chrome. Even the technology and engines were the same on the outside. In 1970, the hottest Corvette produced 435 HP but in 1980, the hottest Corvette delivered a modest 180 HP.
However, due to the stricter emission standards in California, it pumped out 10 HP less. So, what happened in just 10 years and where did all those horses go? It was the recession, emission standards and safety regulations that killed almost all performance from the legendary Corvette. The 1980 Corvette was a dinosaur with its old technology under its plastic skin. Also, it came with lazy engines and an outdated interior.
Although the Corvette still looked like it meant business, the years caught up with it and the disco era was over. They sold the tired C3 with its slow performing engine up to 1982. But, in 1984 Chevy replaced it with the Corvette C4, which was a more modern, much faster model.
1974 Mercury Cougar
Mercury presented the third generation Cougar in 1974. It marked their departure from the athletic and performance models of the past. They no longer based the car on the Mustang but instead moved to a heavier, bigger chassis.
And that meant Cougars were more like personal luxury cruisers than muscle cars, even though Mercury tried to present them as such. Sadly, even with its optional 460 V8 delivering 220 HP, the acceleration times were disappointing.
Dodge Aspen R/T
Like the Plymouth Volare Road Runner, the Aspen R/T was Dodge’s effort to present a muscle car at a time when such vehicles were almost impossible to construct and sell. However, the Dodge Aspen R/T looked like the real deal. It even possessed some power to distance itself from similar attempts of other brands with disgraceful power outputs.
Under the ram air hood of the Aspen R/T was a 360 V8 engine that pumped out 170 HP. The selling point of this car was its attractive looks. It came fully equipped with all the bells and whistles of the late muscle car era. It came with a body kit, stripes, white letter tires with wide wheels, spoilers and even a T top option.
It is just unfortunate those cars didn’t have the power of their ancestors because they could easily earn top spots in muscle car history. Similar to the Volare, the Aspen had big problems with rust, so there are just a few surviving examples today.
1975 Buick Gran Sport
To connect this 1975 model to the fire-breathing 1970 GSX and other muscle cars, Buick introduced the Gran Sport car they based on their Century lineup. Unfortunately, gone was the powerful 455 big block, so car buyers were only left with a 350 V8 delivering 175 HP. It goes without saying the 1975 Grand Sport was an extremely slow muscle car because it weighed almost two tons.
1974 AMC Javelin AMX
1974 was the last year for the legendary Javelin AMX despite all the effort from AMC`s engineers. The power output went down by 20 HP to 235 HP from its optional 401 V8 engine. Even with all performance goodies, sports suspension and manual transmission, the 0 to 60 mph times were just over eight seconds. And that is not fast, especially for a muscle car. The Javelin did enjoy some success on the Trans-Am circuit, but it didn’t win many street races.
1974 AMC Matador X
When they discontinued the Javelin AMX, AMC was left without a muscle car in their lineup. So, they quickly decided to introduce the Matador X. But AMC redesigned the Matador for 1974 featuring a signature coupe body style that was aerodynamic.
Next, the company presented the “X” package drivers could get with a 360 V8 or an optional 401 V8 producing 235 HP. Regardless of the dress up kit, big V8 and all performance goodies, the Matador X wasn’t any faster than the Javelin. AMC killed the option after only one year.
These are the muscle misfits and the 25 slowest, ugliest and strangest muscle and performance cars they ever built. Do you remember any of these vehicles? If you were a driver during the recession, there’s no doubt you do. While some of these are still around, many have gone to the wrecker due to rust and other issues. But, it would be fun to bring some of them back, like the Gremlin.