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30 Disgraceful Muscle Cars That Never Fulfilled Their Hype

Vukasin HerbezApril 15, 2022

Photo Credit: Barrett Jackson

6. Ford Mustang McLaren M81

Ford built this exciting car with the help of the well-known McLaren racing team. The whole idea behind the project was to take the 2.3-liter turbo engine from the regular Mustang and transform it into a street racing beast. They added a race-tuned suspension, a lightweight body, and a host of other modifications. McLaren and Ford installed a tuned turbo engine with 190 HP. That was a big number for the day, especially coming from 2.3 liters (via The Drive).

Photo Credits: Barrett Jackson

They changed the looks of the Fox Mustang, as well. The updates resulted in a performance level that was good for the standards of the day but is quite embarrassing today. The driving dynamics were excellent, but the car came with a high price tag, making it a sales failure as a result.

Photo Credit: Flickr

5. Oldsmobile Starfire GT

The mid-’70s weren’t an especially good period for Olds performance. When the new compact Starfire model was introduced, Olds engineers decided to present the performance version of this car. This model was called the Starfire GT and was an appearance package on a regular Starfire hatchback (via Motor Trend).

1975 Oldsmobile Starfire for sale on BaT Auctions - closed on November 11, 2021 (Lot #59,366) | Bring a Trailer
Photo Credit: Bring A Trailer

With unique body stripes, color, details, wheels, and stabilizer bar, the Starfire GT was more dynamic than the regular model and the closest thing Oldsmobile had to a sports or muscle car in 1976. That still wasn’t enough to make it rank anywhere near the best muscle cars.

Photo Credit: Mecum

4. Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Turbo

The second-generation F-Body Firebird was introduced in 1970, and by the late ’70s, was one of the 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 power. That new technology was turbocharging, and in late 1979, it introduced the Trans Am Turbo (via Driving Line).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The engine in question was a 301 V8 with a Garrett turbocharger bolted onto 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. However, it was miles away from the big-block performance Firebird fans had come to expect from the model.

Photo Credit: GM

3. Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 (1977)

The 1977 Z/28 Camaro was an essential model for the breed. It marked the return of the Z/28 package and a slight power increase over standard models. The 350 V8 delivered 170 HP, which was respectable in 1977 (via Hemmings).

Of course, the performance was just a shadow of what Camaro was capable of just several years before. But it was the best you could get in the late ’70s. Also, the 1977 Camaro Z/28 will be remembered as a cool-looking car despite its lack of real Camaro performance.

Photo Credit: Mecum

2. Chevrolet El Camino SS (1986)

The glorious big-block El Caminos of the late ’60s were long gone in the ’80s. When Chevrolet introduced the SS option on this pickup in 1986, it included a 305 V8 with 150 HP (via GM Heritage Center).

Photo Credit: Mecum

As you expected, this wasn’t a performer as the name and legacy suggested, but only a dressed-up regular El Camino. Production on this model ended in 1987 and the SS option was soon forgotten.

Photo Credit: GM

1. Pontiac GTO (2004)

The first year for the modern GTO was 2004. The car met universal praises from buyers and car press. Its design wasn’t exactly new or aggressive, but the new GTO had the muscle car form and street presence. Under the hood was an LS1 5.7-liter V8 with 350 HP. It had enough performance to be one of the hottest American cars for the 2004 model year. The target sales figure was 18,000 and Pontiac sold almost 14,000, which showed that buyers weren’t impressed (via Edmunds).

Photo Credit: GM

The 2005 model year saw the introduction of the 400 HP 6.2-liter engine. It had even better performance (0 to 60 mph time of just 4.6 seconds). Sales started to decline and by 2006, the final model year, the GTO was being blamed for singlehandedly causing the downfall of Pontiac as a brand.

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