Home Cars 50 Respected Muscle Cars From The 1960s

50 Respected Muscle Cars From The 1960s

Vukasin Herbez May 16, 2019

Without any doubt, most people can say that the ‘60s was the decade of muscle cars. During those 10 years, the muscle car movement was fully articulated and American performance got its recognizable format. The market changed when almost all domestic manufacturers presented fast, cool-looking and desirable yet affordable models that created automotive history.

But some people say muscle cars were only a small segment in the vast American automotive landscape. And since it might be true considering the production numbers, the impact those cars had is enormous and still felt today. Even though the classic muscle car era lasted until the early ‘70s when they built some of the fastest and most composed models, the ‘60s are still the defining decade.

Here is the ultimate list of 50 classic muscle cars from the ‘60s. These are all the most relevant models from 1960 all the way to 1969 that displayed muscle car characteristics and are desirable classics today.

  1. 1960 Ford Galaxie Sunliner Interceptor 360 Package

Ford offered the Interceptor 360 package in 1960 on the full-size Galaxie with Starliner body styles. The Starliner was a two-door coupe with a sloping roofline. And it was ideal for the fast NASCAR tracks Ford wanted to dominate in the early ‘60s.

They based the Interceptor 360 package on an old 352 V8 engine. And then they equipped it with a new performance intake system and dual exhaust, as well as beefed up internals, which resulted in an astounding 360 HP rating.

  1. 1960 Chrysler 300F

Chrysler’s famous “Letter Car” series featured exclusive, fast and expensive coupes and convertibles with the maximum power, comfort and luxury. But for 1960, they gave the 300F a 413 V8 engine that produced 375 HP.

It provided owners with effortless acceleration, making 1960 a peak year for the performance of their letter series. Also, the car achieved high exclusivity since Chrysler only made 964 hardtops and 248 convertibles in 1960.

  1. 1961 Chevrolet Impala SS

This was one of the first high-performance automobiles that were relatively affordable yet fast. Everything started when Chevrolet decided to transform the 409 truck engine to use for passenger cars. They found out the unit was powerful and it could outrun all the other cars on the road.

Just by mild modifications to the engine, it could produce up to 409 HP. And that was enough to propel the Impala from a standstill to 60 mph in six seconds flat.

  1. Pontiac Catalina 421 Super Duty

In the early ’60s, the best Pontiac weapon was the Catalina, a full-size two-door coupe that came standard with the potent 389 V8 engine. But for those who wanted more, Pontiac offered a 421 V8 engine with two four-barrel carburetors delivering 405 HP.

They built fewer than 180 of those engines for ’62, its peak production year. Pontiac put most of them into the Catalina, although they also installed approximately 16 in the Grand Prix, their new luxury coupe.

  1. 1961 Oldsmobile Starfire

Oldsmobile saw the potential of the future muscle car class when they introduced the Starfire. It was their top of the line model that featured an engine from the bigger models. All big Oldsmobiles used the 394 V8 with 325 HP ratings but in the Starfire, the engine delivered 330 HP. And that is what gave the 1961 model its performance credentials.

  1. 1962 Dodge Dart 412 Max Wedge

The early ’60s marked Dodge’s entry to the drag racing scene with several models. And the first of which was the brutally fast Dart 413 Max Wedge. The 1962 Dart was a mid-size family model they offered with six-cylinder or V8 engines and a long list of optional extras.

Basically, it was a high volume car with no racing pretensions. That was until somebody shoehorned a big 413 Wedge engine with high compression and up to 420 HP into the engine bay.

  1. 1962 Plymouth Savoy Super Stock 413

Mechanically almost identical to the Dodge Dart 413 Max Wedge, the Savoy Super Stock was Plymouth’s version of a dragstrip special. It featured a different design, but the platform was the same, as well as the engine, which was the mighty 413 Wedge with 420 HP in top trim.

  1. 1962 Ford Galaxie 406

The new Galaxie brought new engine options, and the most interesting was the 406. The new engine delivered 385 HP in standard trim. But it came with the optional six barrel intake system, pumping out a respectable 405 HP. Those G-Code cars were rare on the street, but they found their way onto the race tracks.

  1. 1963 Studebaker Avanti R2

In 1962, Studebaker presented the sleek and modern looking Avanti. It was their last attempt to make the company profitable. The innovative design, construction, and technology were interesting and the car received praises from the motoring press. The base version was not powerful but soon Studebaker introduced the supercharged R2 option that delivered 289 HP for a real performance.

  1. 1963 Plymouth Max Wedge 426

The Mopar guys were deep into drag racing in the ’60s. Dodge and Plymouth introduced their models for the street that owners could easily turn into proper race cars. And one of those was the legendary Max Wedge 426 from 1963.

Chrysler claimed the new 426 Max Wedge engine produced 415 HP with the standard 11.0:1 compression and 425 HP with the optional 13.5:1 ratio. However, most experts claim the real power output was much higher at closer to 500 HP.

  1. 1963 Oldsmobile Jetfire

The Oldsmobile Jetfire is an important model for the automotive history that unfortunately never got the respect it deserved. The engineers took the compact F-85 model and retained its small 215 CID V8 engine that developed 185 HP and gave it a new forced induction intake system. It included a Garett turbocharger to make the first turbocharged muscle car.

  1. 1964 Pontiac GTO

This is the car that started it all. It was the first mass-produced, affordable and usable real life muscle car they offered to the American public. The Tempest GTO was an option on the Tempest intermediate model. For just $295, buyers could get a high performance 396 V8 with 325 HP in standard or 348 HP in the famous Tri-Power form for a great performance.

  1. 1964 Oldsmobile 442

Even though the Pontiac GTO takes the credit for being the first modern muscle car, not a lot of people know the Oldsmobile 442 started the same year as the famed Pontiac. The name, “442,” caused a lot of controversies back in the day, but the meaning was simple.

It had a four-barrel carburetor, four on the floor and a dual exhaust. Under the hood was the 330 V8 producing 310 HP. And since it was an Oldsmobile, they built and equipped it slightly better than similar cars from the rest of the GM lineup.

  1. 1964 Plymouth Barracuda

Plymouth introduced the Barracuda just two weeks before the Mustang in April 1964. Interestingly, it was the first Pony car they ever made. They based it on the standard Valiant platform with three engines, two straight sixes and one V8. The power output wasn’t great, but it was the start of one of the most loved models in muscle car history.

  1. 1965 Buick GS 400

Buick based the GS on their popular mid-size Skylark model using the Pontiac formula. They put the 400 CID engine into the light Skylark body, creating the GS or Gran Sport. The Nailhead engine produced 325 HP. And with its high compression heads, the GS 400 delivered a convincing performance.

  1. 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Z16

What is the Chevelle Z16? Basically, it’s a fully loaded regular Chevelle with all the go-fast options. They include the 396 V8 engine with the Muncie four-speed gearbox, as well as a heavy-duty suspension and equipment. However, some dealers weren’t aware that this option even existed.

Since Chevrolet refused to market the Z16 for some reason, this Chevelle was sort of a secret model. And that is why they only made 200 of them.

  1. Buick Riviera GS

The Rivera was Buick’s personal luxury coupe, but in GS trim, it was much more. The car featured a revised suspension, a bigger 425 engine, and a host of other performance upgrades. In this version, the Rivera was a true world class automobile. It produced 360 HP with acceleration times of 7.9 seconds, which was better than most of the sports cars of the day.

  1. 1965 Chevrolet Nova SS

The Nova was the lightest Chevrolet product in the range which meant it was also the fastest. So for the 1965 model year, the Chevy engineers added the 327 V8 with its optional 300 HP rating. It was a decent performer for speed lovers on a budget.

  1. 1965 Ford Mustang 289 HiPo

Most consumers were fascinated when they first saw the Mustang in 1964. The K-Code was the 289 V8, but with a milder, more street-friendly tune. It delivered 271 HP, which was more than enough for the decent performance the Mustang fans expected.

Also, they could get the optional GT package that included a stiffer suspension, better equipment and lots of exterior details. And all that made the 289 HiPo or High Power the choice of real car guys.

  1. 1965 Pontiac Catalina 2+2

The GTO wasn’t the only stellar performance machine coming from Pontiac. In 1965, there was another pure muscle car icon in the form of the Catalina 2+2. The engine choice consisted of the 400 and famous 421 V8 with the Tri-Power intake system. And just like the GTO, it boosted your car’s power to 376 HP.

  1. 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396

For the 1966 model year, Chevrolet decided to upgrade the Chevelle with the new SS 396 package. They knew it would bring the serious performance necessary to fight their competitors. The 396 V8 was rated at 375 HP with the optional intake system. It proved popular with the street racing crowd all over America.

  1. 1966 Dodge Coronet 426 Hemi

The street Hemi made a triumphant return in the Coronet, immediately transforming this mundane two-door sedan into a fire breathing machine. And although they rated it at 425 HP, it produced over 500 HP. But sadly, the car was so expensive, it sold in limited numbers.

  1. 1966 Dodge Charger

In 1966, Dodge presented the Charger as their mid-year introduction and the newest model in the muscle car class. They based it on the Chrysler B-Body platform. It shared most of its mechanics and chassis components with other less interesting Dodge models like Coronet. Also, it’s top of the range engine was the mighty 426 Hemi, which could beat all its competitors on the drag strip.

  1. Shelby GT350

For the 1966 model year, Ford and Shelby introduced a tuned down version of the GT350, their original race car. It still had the high revving 289 V8 that delivered 306 HP. But, the car was easier to handle and more comfortable, transforming it from a race monster to a muscle car.

  1. 1967 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

Chevrolet debuted the Camaro in 1967 as the direct answer to the Mustang. It came with several performance options. And one was the legendary Z/28. The Z/28 package included front disc brakes and a close-ratio four-speed manual transmission.

It had a revised suspension and steering. Also, it came with exterior trim details like racing stripes, a vinyl roof and headlight covers. But the real treat was under the hood. The power came from the 5.0-liter V8 producing 290 HP, give it a high revving nature.

  1. 1967 Chevrolet Camaro SS 350/396

For those classic muscle car buyers, the Camaro came with either the 350 SS or 396 SS. Both packages featured V8 engines, a heavy duty suspension and brakes, offering 300 to 375 HP ratings. And due to the low weight, the SS Camaro proved to be a fast and capable muscle car.

  1. 1967 Ford Galaxie 7-Litre

To fight the Chevrolet Impala SS, Ford introduced a new model for 1966, they called the 7-Litre. The number “7” stood for the displacement and “Litre” provided some European charm to the ordinary Galaxie. Under the hood was the 428 V8 delivering a respectable 345 HP for a convincing performance.

  1. 1967 Shelby GT500

The new redesign of the Mustang and the new Shelby model arrived in 1967. Ford named it the Shelby GT500 and it was the evolution from a road racer to a proper muscle car. Bigger and more powerful than before, the 1967 GT500 featured a new design, a modified front and rear end. But the best part was the big 427 V8 engine producing 335 HP and 420 lb-ft of torque.

  1. 1967 Plymouth GTX

Plymouth introduced the GTX in 1967 as a luxury option in the Belvedere lineup. In fact, they based this model on the same platform as the Coronet, but it was much more luxurious. Also, the GTX came with the 375 HP 440 V8 as standard and 426 Hemi as optional. And better yet, Plymouth wanted the GTX to compete with other luxury cars, so they installed almost all the possible creature comforts along with a special trim

  1. 1967 Mercury Cougar

Although they built the Cougar on the Mustang platform, they stretched it a couple of inches to add comfort and achieve a better ride quality. And they built the Mercury Cougar only with V8 engines, reserving the small six-cylinder units for their entry-level Mustangs. The body panels were unique, as well as the front fascia with its hidden headlights. But when it came with the optional 390 V8 engine, the Cougar was a fast muscle car.

  1. 1967 Pontiac Firebird 400

When Pontiac first offered the Firebird, it caused quite a stir among performance-loving car buyers in America. It was a pretty coupe that was mechanically identical with the Camaro. But best of all, it came with a wide arrange of optional extras and one of the biggest engines you could get in a pony car, the 400 CID V8. They rated it at 320 HP, making it was a capable muscle car. In fact, it was one of the fastest Pontiacs in the late ’60s.

  1. 1968 AMC Javelin and AMX

AMC wanted to get into the muscle car game, so for 1968, they prepared two interesting models. One was the Javelin and the other was the AMX. The Javelin and AMX shared engines and drivetrains, but the AMX was a two-seater coupe with more of a performance image, while the Javelin was a more formal, four-seater model. Also, the most powerful engine they shared was 390 V8 with 310 HP.

  1. 1968 Dodge Charger R/T

After just two years on the market and good sales numbers, Dodge decided to introduce the new second generation of the Charger. Despite the unique design, they still based the Charger on the Coronet. However, it gained new engine choices, such as the 440 V8 and one new trim package: the R/T.

The R/T or Road and Track package was a popular option that included graphics, and a beefier suspension and steering. Also, it came with the 440 engine as standard.

  1. 1968 Chevrolet Camaro Yenko 427

With the introduction of the Camaro in 1967, Yenko started converting them to 427 V8 power and selling Camaros as Yenko Super Cars. In addition to more power, wild graphics and a long list of optional extras, Yenko even offered factory warranty and heavily promoted his models.

And that is why Yenko Camaros were the most popular choice if you wanted a custom 427 V8 conversion on your regular SS. And all that made the 1968 Yenko Camaro popular with the serious racing crowd.

  1. 1968 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet

They presented the legendary 428 Cobra Jet in 1968, and immediately Ford put it in the Mustang. The Mustang 428 CJ was a mid-year introduction they mostly intended for drag racing, and that is why Ford sold it in modest numbers. But, this was a true beast of a car with a 390 HP engine, a light body, and a four-speed close ratio manual transmission.

  1. 1968 Ford Torino 428 Cobra Jet

Ford scored big with the Mustang and the Shelby, but in the mid-size muscle market, General Motors and Chrysler were dominant. And that is why Ford introduced the Torino with the muscle car package and powerful engines. Ford marketed the car aggressively, giving its mid-size range some serious muscle with the 390 and 428 Cobra Jet engines.

  1. 1968 Plymouth Roadrunner

When it first appeared in 1968, the Plymouth Roadrunner proved to be an influential and important muscle car. Not only did it introduce the new trend of inexpensive yet fun cars, but it was also a strong seller that affected the whole segment. The idea behind the Roadrunner was simple. They wanted to present a low priced but powerful model to attract people with limited budgets, but a strong need for performance.

  1. 1969 AMC S/C Rambler

With patriotic paint scheme, low weight and 315 HP coming from the 390 V8 engine, the S/C Rambler was one of the most interesting compact muscle cars for 1969. Sadly, most people consider it a gimmick rather than the serious performer it was. So in the end, AMC built just 1,500 of them.

  1. 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Copo

In the late ’60s, Can-Am was a popular racing series featuring prototype class cars with V8 engines. Chevrolet wanted to purpose-build a power plant for this championship so they produced an all-aluminum 427 big block they called the ZL-1 in 1969. It was a high revving 7.0-liter V8 delivering around 550 HP in mild tune.

Chevrolet produced around 200 of those engines. And while most of them went to Can-Am racing teams, they installed 69 ZL-1s in C.O.P.O Camaros, selling them to drag racing teams.

  1. 1969 Dodge Charger 500

Most muscle car fans know the Charger lineup well, including the wild Charger Daytona from 1969. But, the Daytona’s predecessor they called the Charger 500 was far less known and not as successful. Dodge decided to introduce a limited edition Charger 500, naming it the 500 because they produced in that many examples. Also, it came with a flushed grille, fixed headlights and regular rear glass to improve the aerodynamics of the car.

  1. 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona

The 1969 Charger Daytona they produced in just 504 examples was strictly a homologation special. But despite winning some races, they didn’t think the Charger 500 wasn’t good enough. So Dodge decided to go all out and create a racing car with a special front end, flush rear glass and big rear spoiler. Equipped with the 440 or 426 Hemi, Daytonas were NASCAR cars for the street.

  1. 1969 Dodge Coronet Super Bee

Dodge’s answer to the success of the Roadrunner was the Super Bee. The Super Bee had the same mechanics, drivetrains and engine choices, but with different graphics and details. The Super Bee was a popular choice if you wanted a fast, loud muscle car with wild graphics on a budget.

  1. 1969 Dodge Dart GTS

The smallest Dodge was the compact Dart that eventually got the muscle treatment with the GTS model. This included a 340 V8 with 325 HP, performance equipment and a graphics package. The little Dart GTS was so fast, it was even faster than some bigger muscle cars.

  1. 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302

The third redesign of the Mustang appeared for the 1969 model year and the car grew in size again. But for most Mustang fans, the Boss 302 is the most important model. For only produced it for two years, 1969 and 1970. The Boss 302 featured a 302 V8 engine Ford 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 blackout hood, spoiler on the trunk and other details, it featured a stiff, track-tuned suspension, close ratio gearbox and high revving engine.

  1. Ford Mustang Boss 429

The mythical Mustang Boss 429 is a proper muscle car legend. Ford conceived it in 1969 as a pure racing engine they intended for use in the NASCAR championship. Interestingly, the Boss 429 featured a different engine architecture than the rest of Ford’s big blocks. The engine was factory-rated at 375 HP but in reality, this unit produced over 500 HP and much more in race trim.

  1. 1969 Oldsmobile Hurst 442

One of the most successful collaborations between a major car company and a small aftermarket outfit was the deal between Hurst and Oldsmobile. Back in the late ’60s, Hurst transformed the Oldsmobile 442 into one of the fastest cars available on the North American market.

They equipped them with the famous shifter and signature gold and white, or black and silver paint jobs. And best of all, they added the mighty 455 V8 producing 390 HP all Hurst cars, but not in regular Oldsmobiles.

  1. 1969 Plymouth Barracuda 440

The biggest news for Barracuda fans in 1969 was the introduction of the Barracuda 440 V8. It was a monster pony car with the biggest engine they ever installed under the hood of a car in that segment. Plymouth wanted to be a dominant force in the stock class of drag racing championships.

But to do that, they needed a proper weapon with a big block and tons of torque. The Barracuda 440 produced 375 HP and a massive 480 lb-ft of torque, which made it fast. But it was also hard to launch due to loads of wheel spin.

  1. 1969 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

In 1969, Pontiac wanted to present a model they could homologate for Trans Am racing. As a part of GM, the factory was still under a racing ban, but the fans and private teams used many Pontiac products. So, the factory wanted to introduce a version to easily modify for racing. And that is how the Firebird Trans Am came to be. Even though they rated the 400 V8 at 366 HP, it delivered significantly more in Ram Air IV trim.

  1. 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge

Although just a package on the regular GTO, the Judge became a legend in its own right. First, it took the name from the popular TV show and second, it was a bright red muscle car with a big spoiler and funky “The Judge” graphics all over it. The GTO Judge wasn’t slow either with 366 HP and a four-speed transmission. Available from 1969 to 1971, the Judge always represented a top of the line model, which makes it highly desirable today.

  1. 1969 Ford Mustang Mach I

With the Shelby Mustang, and Boss 302 and 429 models, Ford fans had lots of choices in the muscle segment in 1969. But for people looking for performance and a low price, the Blue Oval introduced the Mach I. Available with three V8 engines, including the mighty 428 Cobra Jet, Mach I proved to highly popular, selling over 20,000.

This is the complete list of the 50 best and most respected ’60s muscle cars ever. Which one caught your eye? Hopefully, you’ll be able to find it at a decent price, but you’d better start looking now. These cars are becoming rarer each day.

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