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Holy Grails: Classic Muscle Cars With Single-Digit Production Numbers

Vukasin Herbez March 24, 2023

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1969 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Convertible – 8 Made

In 1969, Pontiac wanted to present a model that could be homologated for racing. Pontiac made the Firebird Trans Am a loaded version of the standard model. The car had big block power from the famous 400 V8 equipped with a Ram Air III or IV intake system (via Street Muscle Mag).

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This particular version came with signature white paint, blue stripes, and Rally II wheels, and proved to be a tough seller. A small 634 Firebird Trans Ams were sold. Among those, only eight were convertibles.

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1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible – 7 Made

Two of the biggest Chrysler legends from the classic days of muscle car culture are the Barracuda and the 426 Hemi engine. All through the 1960s, those icons of the industry didn’t mix, at least not in street-legal cars. In 1970, Plymouth offered this legendary engine in the Barracuda body style. It immediately made for one of the most desirable muscle cars ever (via Hemmings).

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The mighty Hemi engine was an expensive top-of-the-line option for the 1970 and 1971 Barracuda lineup. It was available in a coupe or convertible form. This option cost around $900 over the price of the standard Barracuda. It was installed in just about 600 coupes and only 17 convertibles during a two-year production period. However, in 1971, only seven Cuda Convertibles got the Hemi treatment. This made them incredibly rare and sought-after cars.

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1966 Shelby GT350 Convertible – 6 Made

A large number of muscle car enthusiasts will tell you that the first model year for the Shelby Mustang convertibles was 1968. Yet this is only partially true. In 1968, Shelby offered convertible versions for sale to the general public as a regular production option. The first convertibles built by Carroll himself left the factory in 1966 as a secret project (via Motor Trend).

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At the end of the 1966 model year, Shelby produced a limited and secret run of six GT350 convertibles. The car legend gave them to his family members and friends. This was kind of a commemorative edition to celebrate the success of the GT350. It was also a prototype for the potential production of convertibles. Each car received full options like A/C and a roll bar. Each vehicle was painted in a different color with signature white racing stripes.

Dodge Coronet - Dodge
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1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi Sedan – 5 Made

Chrysler introduced its legendary 426 Hemi engine in 1966 as an option on selected Plymouth and Dodge models. The iconic power plant was also offered as an option on the Coronet. Technically, it could be ordered with any body style. However, buyers associated Hemi power with two-door coupes or convertibles. People realized that they could have a Hemi in a sedan or even wagon form (via Auto Evolution).

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That is why only a few people bought the Coronet De Luxe Hemi four-door in 1966. Those people got the ultimate muscle car sedan. With an advertised 425 HP, the Coronet Hemi four-door was arguably the fastest production sedan in America.

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1963 Corvette Grand Sport – 5 Made

In the early 1960s, the Corvette had already proven itself on the market. Now it was time to establish itself on the race track. Back in the day, Shelby Cobra by Ford was dominant at the race tracks. And the Corvette team wanted to beat it. So Zora and his team prepared 5 Grand Sport Corvettes with modified bodies, a special suspension, and fully loaded race engines. It also had a host of other special components (via Supercars).

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The Grand Sport Corvette had over 550 HP and was capable of brutal performance. The Corvette team had big plans and entered the Grand Sport Corvettes in several races with mixed success when the decision from the top of General Motors stopped all racing activities. For some reason, GM decided to stop investing in all forms of racing in early 1963. That killed the fantastic Grand Sport program before it could prove its worth. It also made the Corvette Grand Sport one of the greatest “what if” stories of the racing world. All five cars survived and are accounted for.

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1970 Dodge Super Bee Hemi Two-Door Coupe – 4 Made

The 1970 Super Bee had great design and the best Hemi engines. Most of the cars produced were hardtops or convertibles, but Dodge offered a two-door pillared coupe as well. This was the choice of serious street racers who wanted the lightest body with the most powerful engine. It’s what the 1970 Super Bee 2-door with the Hemi truly was. Four left the factory, all with manual transmission (via Muscle Car Facts).

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The 1970 Super Bee was the last of its kind since the 1971 model was based on the Charger. It was not based on the Coronet body style. With an aggressive design, an excellent lineup of engines, and a crazy name, it was a favorite with street racers.

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1970 Plymouth Roadrunner Hemi Convertible – 3 Made

When it first appeared in 1968, the Roadrunner proved to be a very influential and important muscle car. It introduced a new trend of inexpensive and fun cars. The car was also a strong seller that affected the whole segment. The entire idea behind the Roadrunner was simple. That was to present a low-priced but powerful model to attract people on a limited budget but a strong need for performance. The most appealing thing about the Roadrunner was the fact that Plymouth used the cartoon character of a roadrunner from the popular Wile E. Coyote cartoon (via Motor Trend).

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Chrysler paid $60,000 for the rights to use the name and design. Everyone thought Chrysler was crazy for doing so. The sales proved everybody wrong. The Roadrunner was the first muscle car with crazy graphics and the car that started the trend. It was always a popular muscle car. But most of Plymouth’s customers looked for standard examples with 383 or 440 V8 engines and no options. However, some wanted to option their Roadrunners to the max. The 1970 Hemi Convertible is a perfect example. However, they only made three such cars that year; one with a manual and two with an automatic transmission.

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1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Convertible – 3 Made

The second generation Chevrolet Corvette (C2) produced from 1963 to 1967 was arguably one of the most beautiful and aggressive-looking cars from the muscle car era. Even though the big block 427 Corvette was introduced in 1966, it was further refined with four levels of power for the 1967 model year. The list started with a 390 HP 427 V8 and ended with an extremely rare and powerful L88 427 V8 (via Supercars).

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Corvettes equipped with this engine were a class for themselves since the aluminum head L-88 produced close to 600 HP. The model came with a mandatory heavy-duty suspension, brakes, and handling package. This option was developed for racers and was very expensive, almost doubling the price of the base ’67 Corvette. That is why it is one of the rarest, with 17 built as a coupe. Yet only three were built as convertibles.

1969 Hurst Oldsmobile 442 Convertible – 3 Made

One of the most successful collaborations between a major car company and a small aftermarket outfit was the deal between Hurst and Oldsmobile. At the time, Oldsmobile was under GM’s ban. This forbade the company from putting engines larger than 400 CID in intermediate cars. However, since Hurst was an independent company, GM rules didn’t apply. Oldsmobile shipped partially disassembled 442s to Hurst, where they installed the biggest engine Oldsmobile had, the mighty 455 V8 with 390 hp (via Street Muscle Mag).

Of course, the Hurst Olds package also got numerous other performance upgrades, ram air induction system, heavy-duty suspension, and brakes. Since the Hurst Olds was a limited-production factory hot rod, it was pretty expensive, and the convertible wasn’t available. But, in 1969, Hurst did produce three convertibles for promotional purposes only.

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1969 Chevrolet Corvette ZL-1 – 2/3 examples

The new third generation of the Corvette was introduced in 1968 and brought a new, sleek design, the so-called “Coke bottle” look. The mechanics, chassis, and drivetrain were the same, and the car was still great value for the money. The C3 generation brought us some of the most potent Corvettes, and none was more powerful than the ultra-rare and legendary ZL1 (via Rob Report).

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The heart of the ZL1 was the nearly racing-spec fully aluminum 427 V8 with up to 550 HP in mild tune. Chevrolet also made around 12 test Corvettes with that engine in late 1968. The performance potential was unbelievable, and Chevrolet wanted to refrain from offering this wild racing engine to the general public, so the ZL-1 option was never in the press or official brochures. However, wealthy individuals close to the factory knew about its existence and could purchase the ZL-1. That’s why only two Corvette ZL-1s are known to exist, one yellow and one white, one with a manual and one equipped with an automatic gearbox.

1967 Dodge Hemi Coronet R/T Convertible | F247 | Indy 2019
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1967 Dodge Coronet R/T Hemi Convertible – 2 Made

The 1967 Coronet with the R/T package is quite a find, but when you find one with the Hemi engine, you’ve struck gold. But that is not the end. In 1967, Dodge produced just 2 R/T Hemi Convertibles, one with a four-speed manual and the other with an automatic. Only one car survived (via Motor Trend).

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The standard Coronet lineup was popular with the buyers, and most performance-oriented clients opted for the 383 or 440 V8 engine. The Hemi option, although very sought-after, was also very expensive, and on average, it added over $1000 on top of the base price of Coronet R/T.

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1970 Dodge Coronet R/T Hemi Convertible – 2 Made

1970 was a watershed year for classic muscle car culture. Never before or since there were so many cars to choose from. Dodge was at the forefront of the movement with the Charger and Challenger. But the Coronet wasn’t quite as popular even though it had almost the same options and engine choices. In 1970, you could order the Coronet with the R/T package, optional 426 Hemi, and convertible body style. However, just two customers did so, making those cars incredibly rare (via Motor Trend).

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With an aggressive front end, great mechanics, and a long list of optional equipment, the 1970 Coronet R/T is considered one of the most interesting classic muscle cars. Too bad that Hemi was in so precious few of them.

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1966 Shelby Cobra Supercharged – 2 Made

What do you get when you put a big Paxton supercharger on top of Ford’s 427 V8 engine and install it in a light and nimble Cobra body? Carroll Shelby gave us the answer to that question in the form of a fantastically rare Cobra with 800 HP, which he produced as a unique project in 1966. Only two cars left the factory. One crashed and was destroyed and the other recently sold for a staggering $5.5 million (via Supercars).

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This Cobra originally cost double the price of the standard 427 Cobra, which was already an expensive car. But it’s not just the sheer cost that turned buyers away from this car. The Supercharged Cobra was also notoriously dangerous to drive and customers didn’t want to drive a death trap.

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1967 Shelby Super Snake – 1 Made

This unique Shelby GT500 was produced as a rolling laboratory to showcase the possibilities of the Mustang platform as well as for testing Goodyear’s ‘Thunderbolt’ tire line. It had a Le Mans-winning GT 40 race engine, special transmission, suspension, and tires. Only one ever left the factory (via Supercars).

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There were plans for a limited production run, but the proposed price was over $8000, which was an enormous sum in the late ’60s. That was too bad since the Super Snake was capable of 170 mph top speed, unheard of in the late ’60s. It could put the Mustang as the world’s fastest muscle car. The car sold twice in recent years and had set up a couple of auction records. The last one was $2.2 million.

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1970 Chrysler 300 Hurst Convertible – 1 Made

Everybody knows about the legendary Chrysler 300 “Letter Cars,” a series of high-powered coupes and convertibles built from 1955 to 1965. However, in 1970, a special limited edition 300 Hurst was produced. It was built in very limited numbers, around 500 coupes, with the help of the famous transmission company Hurst. It featured a special white and gold paint job, a similarly styled interior, and a rear spoiler integrated into the rear deck lid (via Street Muscle Magazine).

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Under the hood, there was a mighty 440 V8 engine with 395 HP, which could propel the two-ton beast to respectful acceleration times. But for promotional purposes, Hurst built only one 300 Hurst Convertible, making it the rarest muscle car in the world. The vehicle was in promotional material and old photos. It was a valuable promotional tool for Hurst company and Chrysler’s performance and was used on high-profile drag racing events. The current whereabouts of this special Chrysler are unknown.

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1967 Ford Country Squire Wagon 428 with 4-speed – 1 Made

Ford’s luxury 1966 Country Squire station wagon was the perfect example of a muscle car disguised as a long roof. To an average person, this car looked like a big old station wagon that could haul nine people, carry a lot of stuff, and cruise highways. But to experienced enthusiasts, just one glance under the hood could reveal the true nature of this car (via Auto Blog).

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For 1966 and 1967, Ford offered a 428 V8 engine as an option on its station wagon model lineup. The 428 V8 in question was not the famed Cobra Jet but the engine from the Thunderbird with 345 underrated horsepower. With over 460 lb.-ft of torque, the Country Squire could truly go despite the size and weight. Only one left the factory with a four-speed manual. This one is a brutally fast car hidden as an ordinary family station wagon with woodgrain inserts on the sides.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

1968 Shelby EXP 500 “Green Hornet” – 1 Made

During the Mustang’s heyday, Ford and Shelby worked hard to explore the possibilities and limits of the Mustang’s platform and engineering, and they produced several exciting prototypes. One of the most popular is the “Green Hornet” from 1968. Although it wasn’t the only car, the Green Hornet featured the most innovative features like 390 V8 equipped with fuel injection, unique disc brakes on all four wheels, and an independent rear suspension (via Shelby Prototype Coupes).

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With this layout, the Green Hornet was a very capable car that handled and stopped better than any other sports car on the market. Unfortunately, the cost of producing those features was too high, and Ford and Shelby decided to go with more conventional technology. Also, the “Green Hornet” is one of the rare surviving cars from the era and possibly one of the most expensive Mustangs for sale, but the $1.8 million offer wasn’t enough.

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