Home Cars Market Crash: These Muscle Cars Just Aren’t Worth Investing In

Market Crash: These Muscle Cars Just Aren’t Worth Investing In

Vukasin Herbez July 13, 2023

Smart drivers know that car collecting is not just a hobby but also a lucrative business. When you’re talking legendary muscle cars, some models can be worth more than a million dollars. This clearly means that investing in and restoring cars like these can be a sound financial decision.

However, before looking for the next restoration candidate or barn finds, drivers have to know which cars are worth investing in. Even though the car is old and looks cool, that doesn’t mean it will still attract bidders at auction. Some muscle cars were less popular and have very few fans today. So, we’ll save you some time by listing the models that are simply not worth the investment and effort here.

Photo Credit: Hemmings

1974 Pontiac GTO

Pontiac downsized the once-mighty GTO from a separate model to a trim line option only for the 1974 Pontiac Ventura. It was sad to see the once-glorious muscle car downgraded to just a trim level. They slapped some decals on an economy model and added a 5.7-liter V8 engine that delivered only 200 hp (via Net Car Show).

Pontiac experienced slow sales for the GTO line for a few years. Despite the relative success of the smaller Trans Am/Firebird line, the GTO line wasn’t popular enough to justify investing in a separate model. Most people considered the 1974 GTO a pathetic attempt to recapture the former glory of the GTO. However, the auto market didn’t fall for this cheap trick.

Photo Credit: Mecum

1978/79 Oldsmobile 442

Back in the late ’60s, the Oldsmobile 442 was a well-respected car. During the heyday of this model, the name stood for its 400-cubic-inch engine, four-barrel carburetor, and dual exhaust. After they introduced the big block and other options, the car changed while the name stuck. Although many legendary muscle cars died in the early ’70s, Oldsmobile kept the 442 alive. However, it was far from the standards of its predecessors (via Autopolis).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

The mid-’70s 442 was just an option on most mid-size luxury coupes. It was more of a marketing gimmick than a full-fledged muscle car. It lacked a powerful engine that delivered fast acceleration times. Oldsmobile tried to keep the 442 legend alive, but industry restrictions kept it from being more than a couple of stickers on a regular model. The lowest point in 442’s evolution came in 1978 when they offered the model as an option for the smaller, more compact Cutlass.

Plymouth Volare
Photo Credit: Car and Driver

1976-1980 Plymouth Volare Road Runner

Back in 1976, Plymouth introduced the Volare, a successful mid-size model they produced in many versions, exporting it globally. It was the twin to the Dodge Aspen. It featured a rear-wheel drive platform, a wide arrange of engines, and a sleek design. Both Dodge and Plymouth had successful muscle car models in the past. Its heritage was still strong when Plymouth presented the Volare (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

It would have been the perfect platform for a muscle car. However, grueling emissions and safety regulations killed its performance. But Plymouth tried and presented the Volare Road Runner. It featured a 316 V8 engine that brought a measly 160 hp. What it lacked in the performance department, the Volare Road Runner compensated for in looks. It even had a full-body kit, a spoiler, a graphics package, and sporty wheels.

Photo Credit: Automobile Mag

1978 AMC Gremlin GT

AMC tried to extract all it could from the Gremlin by constantly introducing different versions. They managed to keep that old platform alive for almost a decade. In 1977, AMC decided to turn the Gremlin into a muscle car. They installed a 304 V8 engine with 120 hp. The ridiculously low power resulted in terrible performance. However, the Gremlin GT had a fresh graphic package, sporty wheels, and updated interior equipment (via Top Speed).

Photo Credit: Hemmings

Realizing the performance was painfully slow, AMC installed a 4.2-liter inline-six engine. It didn’t produce much more power, but it created more torque, enough for an improvement. Even more torque and heavy discounts didn’t help them. The production was low at around 3,000 copies. They discontinued the GT option for the 1978 model year.

Photo Credit: Hemmings

1980 Mercury Capri RS

The introduction of the third-generation Fox-body Mustang had a big influence on Mercury. The brand got its own version in the form of the Capri in 1979. From 1970 to 1977, Mercury sold the Capri, which was an imported model from Germany with four and six-cylinder engines. But in 1979, thanks to the Mustang, the Capri was new. It even featured a unique front-end design (via Classic Industries).

Photo Credit: Hemmings

Since it was a Mercury product, it was more upscale than Ford. However, other than a few aesthetic changes, it was identical to the Mustang. For a performance version, Mercury introduced the RS model. It featured a 2.3-liter turbocharged engine with a whopping 135 hp.

Photo Credit: Mecum

1982 Chevrolet Camaro Iron Duke

In the early ’80s, Chevrolet introduced a new, fully redesigned third-generation Camaro model. It featured modern styling with improved aerodynamics. The new Camaro was new inside with an updated suspension and new engines (via Time Magazine).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The improvements could have helped the performance. The base engine was an anemic 2.3-liter four-cylinder producing just 90 hp. The “Iron Duke” engine was known for its durability. It later became the basis for many of GM’s four-cylinder engines. However, it was embarrassing in the 82′ Camaro since it only had a 20-second 0 to 60 acceleration time.

Photo Credit: YouTube

1976/77 Dodge Charger Daytona

You are probably familiar with the original Dodge Charger Daytona from 1969, a big coupe based on the Dodge Charger. It featured a pointy nose and a massive rear wing. Because Dodge designed it for racing in NASCAR, they produced only 500 cars (via Hagerty).

Photo Credit: Dodge

Less than 10 years after the memorable Daytona, Dodge decided to use the name again. However, this time it was on the Dodge Charger, which was basically a Chrysler Cordoba. It was a big, two-door personal luxury coupe with no muscle car credentials whatsoever. The move was not well received. The Cordoba had a lame 145 hp V8 engine. It focused more on luxury and a well-appointed interior than on looks, performance, or driving dynamics.

Photo Credit: Hemmings

1980 Chevrolet Corvette C3

The 1970 and 1980 Chevrolet Corvettes were basically the same cars with 10 years between them. The design was the same, although 1980 had a more sculpted front and rear end with less chrome. The technology was the same, and the engines looked the same on the outside. But, in 1970, the hottest Corvette had 435 hp (via Ultimate Specs).

Photo Credit: Concept Carz

However, in 1980, the hottest Corvette had only a modest 180 hp. It was 10 hp less in California due to more strict emission standards for that state. So, what happened in just 10 years, and where did all that horsepower go? The recession, emission standards, and safety regulations stole the performance from the legendary Corvette.

Photo Credit: Dodge

Dodge Aspen R/T

Similar to the Plymouth Volare Road Runner, the Aspen R/T was Dodge’s effort to present a muscle car. This was in a period when such vehicles were almost impossible to construct and sell. However, the Dodge Aspen R/T looked like the real deal. It even managed to distance itself from similar attempts from other brands with disgraceful power outputs (via Hemmings).

Photo Credit: Auto WP

Under the ram air hood of the Aspen R/T was a 360 V8 engine with 170 hp. The selling point of this car was the looks. It came fully equipped with all the bells and whistles of the late muscle car era. It had a body kit, stripes, white letter tires with wide wheels, spoilers, and a T-top option.

Photo Credit: Hemmings

Dodge Magnum

The model name, Magnum, might sound familiar since Dodge used it in a successful line of station wagons from 2005 to 2008. However, the Magnum dates as far back as 1978. The original Dodge Magnum was a luxury muscle car coupe Dodge produced in 1978 and 1979 for two years (via Hemmings).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

For the time being, it was a cool-looking coupe with all the right ingredients. It had rear-wheel drive, a long hood, a short deck, and a heart-thumping V8 in the front. The biggest engine Dodge could order was a 5.9-liter V8 with 195 hp. With its big weight, slow automatic transmission, and low power, the Magnum delivered pathetic performance numbers. Also, its high price tag didn’t help sales. Dodge discontinued the Magnum for the 1980 model year.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Oldsmobile Starfire GT

The mid-’70s weren’t an especially good period for Oldsmobile performance, and when the new compact Starfire model came out, Olds engineers decided to present the performance version of this car. Called the Starfire GT, this model was basically an appearance package on a regular Starfire hatchback (via Automobile Catalog).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

With special body stripes, color, details, wheels, and stabilizer bar, the Starfire GT was a bit more dynamic than the regular model and the closest thing Oldsmobile had to a sports or muscle car in 1976.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Pontiac Sunbird Formula

The Sunbird was a typical hatchback-type GM compact of the ’70s and almost identical to the Buick Skylark or Chevrolet Monza. However, in the Pontiac version, the Sunbird had an interesting muscle version called the Formula and an optional V8 under the hood (via Autopolis).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

The name Formula was from the Firebird lineup, and it always marked a model equipped with a V8 engine. If you chose the Formula, you could get a 305 V8 engine with 165 hp and a hint of performance. Since the Sunbird was relatively light, this Pontiac could be called a muscle car. But just barely.

Photo Credit: Silodrome

AMC Spirit AMX

Introduced in 1978, AMC Spirit AMX was an actual compact muscle car due to the fact it had an optional 304 V8 engine and rear-wheel drive, and it could be with manual transmission. AMC designed it as a performance version of the Spirit compact car (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Silodrome

On sale for just two years, the Spirit AMX had some success due to the fact it was inexpensive and cool looking. The AMX package included a body kit, special livery, and wide wheels. Unfortunately, AMC decided to kill the model, and the Spirit AMX did not return for the 1980 model year.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Plymouth Fury Roadrunner (1975)

We all know Plymouth Roadrunner as one of the quintessential classic muscle cars and a model which always had performance and power. However, in 1975, Plymouth moved the Roadrunner as an option on the Fury line (via Hemmings).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

The Fury Roadrunner had a 440 V8 option with 260 hp on paper. Despite this being a respectable number for the standards of the day, the 0 to 60 mph times were over eight seconds, which is something today’s cheapest economy cars can match.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Dodge Charger (1983)

Even though the Charger from the late ’70s was a pretty lame and slow car that threatened to kill the muscle car reputation of the glorious late ’60s and early ’70s cars, Dodge felt that the name deserved another chance (via Auto Evolution).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

In those days, Chrysler Corporation was all about K-platform front-wheel drive cars, and Dodge introduced the Charger as an option on a compact and boring Dodge Omni in 1981. The appearance package proved somewhat popular, enough to convince Dodge to try it as a separate model for 1983, and that is how the L-Body Charger was born.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Chevrolet El Camino SS (1986)

The glorious big block El Caminos of the late ’60s was long gone in 1986 when Chevrolet introduced the SS option on this pickup. This included a 305 V8 with 150 hp (via Hemmings).

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As you expected, this wasn’t a performer as the name and legacy suggested, but only a dressed-up regular El Camino. The production ended in 1987, and nobody remembers this SS option.

Photo Credit: Hemmings

1974 Mercury Cougar

The third generation Cougar was introduced in 1974 and marked a departure from the athletic and performance models of before. The car was no longer based on the Mustang but instead moved to a heavier and bigger chassis, which meant that Cougars were more personal luxury cruisers than muscle cars, even though Mercury tried to present them as such. The acceleration times were disappointing, even with the optional 460 V8 with 220 hp (via Autopian).

Photo Credit: Hemmings

Mercury moved the Cougar to the personal luxury segment and away from its muscle car roots. Cougars were cars for middle-aged Mercury buyers who wanted something sportier than a Thunderbird but with the same level of comfort and equipment.

Photo Credit: Automobile Mag

AMC Javelin AMX (1974)

1974 was the last year for the legendary Javelin AMX, and despite all the effort from AMC’s engineers, the power output was down 20 hp to 235 hp from its optional 401 V8 engine (via Drives Today).

Photo Credit: Krot

Even with all the performance goodies, sport suspension, and manual transmission, 0 to 60 mph times were just over eight seconds which isn’t fast, especially for a muscle car. The Javelin did enjoy some success on Trans Am circuits, but we are sure that it didn’t win many street races.

Photo Credit: Hemmings

1972 Mercury Montego

Despite the more famous Cyclone and Cougar models, Mercury offered performance engine choices to the Montego line, which was smaller and lighter. If you wanted low key muscle car approach and an unassuming performance car, Montego, with a 390 or 429 V8 engine, was ideally suited. It didn’t have wild graphics like other era muscle cars or bright colors, but it was fast, and buyers even could get a station wagon body style (via Hemmings).

Photo Credit: Flickr

However, despite being from the golden era of muscle cars, Montego is not popular, and nobody will pay a good price for restored or even perfectly preserved examples.

Photo Credit: Ford

1969/70 Ford Mustang Grande

Although the late ’60s and early ’70s Mustangs were all about muscle, performance, and looks, Ford introduced an interesting version that became popular, showing the market’s interest in luxury – the Mustang Grande (via CJ Pony Parts).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Available from 1969 to 1973, Mustang Grande was sold only as a coupe with V8 engines and a vinyl roof. Grande also had several exclusive colors, trim options, and interior decals and was aimed at the customers who wanted Mustang excitement with Lincoln comfort. With over 22,000 examples sold in the first year alone, it was clear that the industry had to produce more luxury-oriented vehicles and that the muscle car era was slowly going away.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

1974 Chevrolet Laguna 454

Back in the day, Chevrolet tried to make the Laguna very desirable by giving it several body styles, with the 350 V8 as the base engine, although with only 145 hp and a long list of optional extras. However, nothing helped, and after a few years, the Laguna was gone (via Hemmings).

A particularly interesting thing is that Laguna could be one of the last classic Chevrolet muscle cars since it had a coupe body style for 1974 and an optional 454 V8. Of course, the power level could have been higher, but the big 454 still produced enough torque to spin the rear wheels.

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