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Millennials Will Never Know How Classic These Cars Truly Were

Cameron EittreimOctober 17, 2022

The muscle cars that drivers have today are a shadow of what they once were. There are ups and downs in the auto industry that depend greatly on current fuel prices and consumer tastes. The new generation of drivers has embraced crossover vehicles. But it was once a badge of honor to drive a sports car. Oftentimes these sports cars were rough, but they were exciting to drive. The current generation of millennials might think of these cars as nothing more than collector’s items, but they were legendary.

Many historic automotive brands from the ’60s and ’70s like Pontiac and Plymouth have come and gone. We looked back at legendary sports cars that millennials will never experience in their prime. There’s a big difference between buying a restored muscle car and experiencing it when it was brand new. So check out these legends of the car world that many current fans will never be able to see in their full glory right here.

Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Mustang II

The Mustang II was an important part of automotive history, but why? Because it was the first “fuel-efficient” Mustang ever released. The fuel embargo of the 1970s hurt the auto industry yet Ford was quick to adapt. Although the Mustang II is often made fun of because it was based on the Ford Pinto, the car had many positive attributes. The lightweight design was innovative at a time when cars were still heavy chunks of metal (via CJ Pony Parts).

Photo Credit: Ford

The Mustang II changed the game because it had a dramatically smaller size than the previous generation. Enthusiasts often criticize the Mustang II for being a pale comparison to the muscle cars that came before it. But as the collectible car market increases in interest, the Mustang II will be a hidden gem. There was a lot Ford did with the Mustang II as its lightweight design stood out from the crowd.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

1989 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am

The 1980s were a great time to be in your 30s and 40s because Baby Boomers were in their prime financially. That meant there were all kinds of expensive sports cars to choose from. Not all of these sports cars were expensive exotics such as Ferrari or Lamborghini. Some of these cars were domestic offerings. Take the Turbo Trans Am, for instance, a new type of car offered by General Motors (via Barrett Jackson).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

For the guys who grew up with the big V8-powered muscle cars of the 1960s, the Pontiac Trans Am Turbo was a piece of sacrilege. But the car performed better than most would have expected. The GM turbo-powered engines improved as time went on. The interesting thing about the Trans Am Turbo was that there was no Camaro version of the car, so Pontiac enthusiasts were lucky.

Photo Credit: Classic Cars

1983 Hurst Oldsmobile Cutlass

There was a point in time when the Oldsmobile Cutlass was the best-selling car in America. Yes, long before the Camry or the F-150, it was a two-door V8-powered coupe that ruled the sales charts. What made the GM G-Body cars so popular was the performance and build quality, not to mention the spacious interior. The Cutlass was the luxury-appointed version of the G-Body car and many enhancements came with it (via Hemmings).

Photo Credit: Classic Cars

A car like the Cutlass is something that most millennials will never see because the styling and design were one-of-a-kind. Two-door V8-powered coupes were the cream of the crop in the automotive industry. These cars were fun to drive and extremely stylish, which helped propel sales numbers. The Cutlass in particular received a lot of positive press back then for its excellent driving dynamics and handling.

Photo Credit: GM

1986 Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2

Back in the 1970s and ’80s, NASCAR was a big thing. Automakers cultivated many new models based on the reactions of NASCAR fans. What was big in NASCAR was something that all domestic automakers followed. Pontiac was one of the most successful automotive brands on the NASCAR circuit, and the Grand Prix was at the forefront. The Grand Prix 2+2 had a special back design to help with aerodynamics (via Barn Finds).

Photo Credit: GM

The unique design of the Grand Prix 2+2 was unlike any other GM G-Body car, it was a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, the new aerodynamic design did not sell well and was instead more of a marketing ploy. For the people familiar with NASCAR, the Grand Prix 2+2 was a unique ride, but for the average consumer, there was not much difference between the 2+2 and the standard Grand Prix model.

Photo Credit: GM

1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

The 1982 Firebird Trans Am was instrumental in the development of the Pontiac brand in the 1980s. The Trans Am had a completely different look than its predecessor. The new car was a refreshing change, and something that young 30 and 40-something baby boomers embraced. Whether it was driving the car with a mullet hairstyle and the T-tops off, or just enjoying the futuristic styling, this generation of the Firebird was the most popular (via Car Folio).

Photo Credit: GM

The third-generation Firebird Trans Am was a much more well-rounded car. The new styling was in-line with what young boomers were looking for and the new fuel-efficient engine options were groundbreaking. The Trans Am Turbo was a noteworthy car as GM continued to experiment with new engine options.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta

The Berlinetta was dubbed the “secretary’s” Camaro, and it was a completely new concept at the time. The idea was to sell a Camaro was would appeal to young professionals who might otherwise go for a BMW or a Mercedes. The Berlinetta was different than the standard Camaro, as there was a digital dashboard and a luxurious interior (via LS1 Tech).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The Berlinetta was a failure as sales numbers were low and consumer interest was minimal. The car was a lot heavier than the standard Camaro, and the engine options were limited. There were also issues with cheap interior materials being used in the car, and consumers weren’t interested in a luxury-appointed Camaro.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Mercury Capri 5.0

Millennials will never know what it was like to have automotive brands like Mercury and Oldsmobile in full swing. And it’s even harder to believe Mercury sold its version of the Mustang at one point in time. The Capri 5.0 utilized the same V8 engine as the Mustang 5.0, and most of the car was the same (via Hemmings).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The major difference with the Capri 5.0 was the bubble back design, which was different than the Mustang. The Fox body platform was revered for its reliability and performance and the Capri was a special ride. Most millennials have never seen a Capri in person, as the car didn’t sell well and thus is rare.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

1970 Buick Wildcat

The 1970 Wildcat was not the best-known Buick in the lineup, but it was one that millennials will never experience. The car had a stylish two-door design that was very reminiscent of the Impala. The engine choices on the Wildcat were at the top of the food chain for this period. It was cars like the Wildcat that defined the era (via Hagerty).

Buick Wildcat
Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Wildcat was sold in four different body styles but the convertible was the standout model. The performance was one of the main selling points, but the styling was also strong. The sales numbers for the Wildcat were not as strong as other two-door cars from the same era.

AMC Rebel
Photo Credit: Hot Rod

1970 AMC Rebel Machine

There was a time when it was the big four domestic automakers instead of the big three, and one of those brand names that disappeared was AMC. Millennials will never experience vehicles with an AMC badge. The Rebel Machine was special because of the race-inspired paint job and large V8 engine (via Hemmings).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

The 1970 Rebel Machine was unlike the traditional muscle cars that were coming out of Detroit. Because AMC was the underdog the Rebel Machine utilized a spectacular-looking red white and blue paint job. The performance of the Rebel Machine was not going to blow doors open like that of a Challenger or a Chevelle but it managed to cultivate its following of enthusiasts who are still loyal to this day.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

1971 AMC Matador Machine

There was also a four-door AMC machine that had a lot of performance capabilities too, and that was the Matador Machine. The Matador was one of the least popular AMC models on the road and the reliability was partly to blame. The Matador Machine was available in a sedan or coupe configuration, which made it appeal to a variety of different tastes. There weren’t a lot of cars that were like the Matador, which is one of the reasons that it has become more sought after in recent years (via Street Muscle Mag).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

Some would say that the styling of the car was ugly and others were fond of it, and it looked different than anything that GM was offering at the time. The Matador was a lot larger than other cars that were in the segment, and the engine was not as proven.

Dodge Demon
Photo Credit: Bring A Trailer

1971 Dodge Dart Demon

The Dodge Dart has seen many incarnations over the years, but perhaps the most notable was the Demon. Released right at the beginning of the fuel embargo, the Dart Demon was one of the last fire-breathing muscle cars to come out of Detroit. The styling of the Dart was always humble, especially when it was compared to the other muscle cars that were on the market at the time. But people in the 1970s wanted something different and the Dart ushered in a new era of automotive design and performance (via Hemmings).

Dodge Demon
Photo Credit: Bring A Trailer

The problem was that the Dart didn’t last long since the fuel prices begin to rapidly rise, and there were much tougher emissions laws going into effect as well. The most notable reputation that the Dart achieved was for being a police cruiser. The Dart was immensely popular with law enforcement agencies because it was lightweight and fairly easy to outfit with equipment without breaking the bank.

AMC Hornet SC/360
Photo Credit: Car Domain

1971 AMC Hornet SC/360

You’ve got to give AMC credit for trying. But the cars that AMC was bringing to the market were just not connecting with consumers in a meaningful way. The Hornet was another example of a great design that just wasn’t perfected. There was a market for a lightweight and fuel-efficient muscle car, but the engine and reliability of the Horner SC/360 were pitiful and the car got a bad reputation (via Hemmings).

AMC Hornet SC/360
Photo Credit: Car Domain

The build quality of AMC vehicles was never that great, but the Hornet plummeted that reputation even further. The Hornet could have been a great model if there was more in-depth research and development that went into the car. But the AMC company didn’t have the resources to put the kind of research and development into the car that it would need to be a successful model. The Hornet was not as popular as the company hoped for.

GMC Spirit
Photo Credit: Bring A Trailer

1971 GMC Sprint SP

The Sprint SP was one of the most unusual cars to come out of the muscle car era, partly because it came from GMC. You’ve probably never seen a GMC passenger car, and you never will again. The Sprint shares a platform with the El Camino and the two cars were identical other than the grill. But it’s that rarity that has made the Sprint SP a noteworthy collector’s item, especially to a generation who has grown up with GMC as a luxury SUV brand (via Midwest Dream Car).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

The Spirit was one of the most unique and rare cars to come out of the muscle car era. You never see one of these on the road anymore, and the fact that it was so rare means most millennials will never drive one. Few cars were as puzzling and noteworthy as the Spirit was, because it was the only GMC car ever made.

Photo Credit: Mecum

1974 Pontiac Ventura GTO

The original GTO was a groundbreaking ride, it redefined the muscle car era. But there were other lesser-known variations of the GTO that hit the market later on. The Ventura which was a downsized car also had a GTO trim package. The Ventura GTO was not as popular as the first generation of the GTO (via Hagerty).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The Ventura GTO shared a platform with the Chevy Nova, which itself was a popular model for the period. The short wheelbase gave both cars great handling and off-the-line acceleration. Although emissions regulations hampered the V8 engine and new technology, it still performed decently considering.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

1975 Chevrolet Laguna

The Laguna was one of the lesser-known and remembered Chevy models from the bygone era of the 1970s. The car shared many similarities with the Monte Carlo, and the two were sold to the same consumers. There was a lot to like about the Laguna, the interior was remarkably upmarket and the styling of the car wasn’t bland (via Motor Week).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

The Laguna has become a popular choice on the used car market although there aren’t a lot of them that are still around. There was also a four-door wagon variation of the Laguna, but it didn’t sell well. Recently, the collectors market for the Laguna and all its sub-models has heated up even further.

1987 Buick GNX
Photo Credit: Hot Rod

1987 Buick GNX

Perhaps one of the most popular Buicks ever built, the GNX was a marvel of technology. The GM G-Body platform was transformed from a rear-wheel drive V8-powered beast into a Turbo V6-powered beast. The GNX was lauded as one of the best cars that ever came out of Detroit, and it was the fastest car in production for a short period (via Road & Track).

Buick GNX
Photo Credit: GM Performance

The turbo-powered GNX is still highly regarded as one of the best Buick models that were ever built. The sheer intimidation and beauty of the all-black design made the GNX unlike anything else on the market.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

1964 Mercury Comet Cyclone

Although Mercury is no longer part of the automotive industry, it was once a prominent part of the Ford portfolio. The Comet Cyclone was based on the same platform as many other Ford models. The performance wasn’t extraordinary, but the car garnered a reasonable reputation among the hot rod community (via Old Ride).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Comet Cyclone didn’t pick up a lot of notoriety like the offerings from GM and Mopar, but it was a great sleeper car. The styling was understated enough that the car could blend in, and the performance was still awe-inspiring. The 390 CID V8 was one of Ford’s best engines from this period, and understandably so.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

1968 Ford Ranchero 500

When it comes to remembering the ultimate car/truck hybrid, the El Camino often gets all the glory. But the Ranchero was another car-truck hybrid option that was offered by Ford. The Ranchero 500 never gained the notoriety or popularity of the El Camino, but it was just as powerful in its own right. When it comes to remembering the muscle car era, the Ranchero 500 was an understated option (via Nada Guides).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Ranchero GT came equipped with a 351 V8 engine and a four-speed manual transmission. The performance was not impressive on paper but when it came to hitting the pavement the Ranchero performed well.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

1969 Chevy Kingswood 427

Many well-known nameplates came out of General Motors, but one of the most forgotten was the Kingswood. The Kingswood was a family of station wagons sold for generations. The Kingswood 427 got its name because it utilized the legendary 427 V8 engine made famous in muscle cars (via Automobile Catalog).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The cool thing about this car was that it was available back when family wagons were powerful. The off-the-line performance was great, although the handling could have been better. The Kingswood nameplate was discontinued in the 1970s and 1980s, as more station wagons were phased out in favor of minivans.

Photo Credit: Mecum

1969 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ

One of the longest-running and most historic nameplates in the Pontiac division wasn’t the Trans Am or the GTO, it was the Grand Prix. The Grand Prix was not always the meek-mannered car that we saw in the 1990s and 2000s. There was a time when it shared its platform with the Monte Carlo and had a performance-oriented design (via PontiacCV8).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The Grand Prix SJ was in a league of its own, though. Its styling was one of a kind. Although some critics were negative towards the styling of the nose, the rest of the car had the smooth styling of the Monte Carlo.

1967 Plymouth GTX
Photo Credit: Hot Rod

Plymouth GTX

There was a time when Plymouth was a major factor in the Chrysler brand hierarchy, and it was cars like the GTX that made the brand popular. The styling of the GTX was aggressive and youthful, which was popular at the time. The performance of the GTX was much faster than a lot of other cars that were sold in the same segment (via Hagerty).

1967 Plymouth GTX
Photo Credit: Hot Rod

Most people remember the GTX as the “gentleman’s” hot rod and it was popular at the time. The Chrysler B-Body was not the most popular in the Chrysler lineup, but it maintained a solid-selling model for the brand. When you look back at the Chrysler muscle cars from this era, the GTX is not at the top of the list, but one of the steadfast classics.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

Plymouth Cricket

The Cricket was not a popular muscle car, but it was a car that was popular on the rally circuit. Rally cars were just gaining popularity, and the Cricket was one of the first offerings from a domestic automaker. The Cricket was gas efficient and had excellent handling for the price (via Hagerty).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

Towards the end of its lifespan, the Cricket was fairly limited in terms of trim packages. The engine was not the most reliable, but the car improved as time went on. Chrysler never sold a lot of compact cars, and Cricket was a sad example of this problem, but the car has gained a good reputation in the eyes of enthusiasts.

Photo Credit: Magnum GT

Dodge Magnum

When people think of the Magnum, they often think of the station wagon that was sold in the 2000s. But there was a Dodge Magnum model that was sold long before that one ever came to fruition. In reality, the Magnum competed against cars like the Grand Prix and the Monte Carlo (via Hagerty).

Photo Credit: Mopar Madness

The Magnum never sold in high volumes, but the performance was reasonable enough that it garnered a steady following. With the right modifications, the Magnum is a fun-to-drive car. The styling and features of the Magnum made it much different than many other cars in this class.

Photo Credit: Jay Leno’s Garage

Chrysler Imperial

The Imperial was the luxury-appointed Chrysler vehicle long before 300C was made famous through rap videos. But contrary to popular belief, the Imperial was more than just a cushy land yacht, it also had some performance under the hood. The big V8 engine moved the Imperial with authority, while the luxury-appointed interior kept the passengers swaddled in comfort (via Hagerty).

Photo Credit: Jay Leno’s Garage

The Imperial was probably one of the least-known models during the recent classic car bubble. But clean examples of the Imperial are becoming a lot harder to find. The car had a lot of potential and its performance was not bad considering the heavy curb weight.

Plymouth Volare
Photo Credit: Car Gurus

Plymouth Volare Roadrunner

The Volare made its bones as a police cruiser just like the Dodge Dart, but there were a few fun models that came out. One such model was the Volare Roadrunner, which was a compact and affordable option. The car had a lot to offer in terms of a lightweight design and performance which is why it sold well (via Hagerty).

Plymouth Volare
Photo Credit: Car and Driver

The Volare was not the most reliable car on the road though, and the Roadrunner trim package was nothing like the original Roadrunner. But if you want to experience classic Mopar muscle without breaking the bank, the Volare is an affordable option.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Dodge Aspen R/T

For most millennials and generation Z people the first Aspen that comes to mind from Chrysler was the SUV that was released in 2007. But there was another car that used the Aspen nameplate. The Dodge Aspen was based on the Plymouth Volare and did the same thing of trying to entice budget-oriented consumers into the showroom (via Hagerty).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The R/T model was an R/T, but it was the furthest thing from an authentic piece of Mopar muscle. The performance was lethargic at best and the build quality was minuscule. Still, for the right price, the Aspen R/T was an affordable muscle car.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

1963 Dodge 330 Ramcharger

Amazed to see a Ramcharger that isn’t an SUV? There were a few times that Dodge utilized the Ramcharger nameplate and one time it wasn’t even an SUV model. The 330 Ramcharger was designed to appeal to drag racing enthusiasts who enjoy the performance. The car was lightweight and similar to the Dart in a lot of aspects (via Hagerty).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

Drag racing is a thing of the past in a lot of places, so millennials won’t be able to ever see this rare Ramcharger in its full glory. And that’s a shame because it provided a ton of fun for its original owners back in its day.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

1965 Dodge Coronet

The Coronet was another sedan that never achieved the high popularity of other Mopar models. But the Coronet offered a reasonable amount of performance for the price. The styling of the Coronet was simple but it got the point across, and you knew that this car meant business on the race track (via Hagerty).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

The Coronet has increased in popularity due in large part to the classic car bubble that we are in. With the right amount of work and upgrades, the Coronet was a great muscle car with a lot of potential.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

Plymouth Belvedere

There have been so many unique models that came out of Plymouth during its heydey. One of these cars was the Belvedere which was featured in movies and all kinds of media. The Belvedere was not marketed as a muscle car, but a muscle car in every sense of the word. Even the lowest trim level of the Belvedere was exciting to drive (via Hagerty).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

With the bright paint choices and many options to choose from, the Belvedere was a slam dunk for Plymouth. The car maintained popularity and the aftermarket community is dedicated to the car.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

1968 Plymouth Barracuda Hemi

There was no other muscle car on the road that was like the Barracuda Hemi. The car was beautifully designed in every sense of the word and the performance matched it. The car was built to handle high-speed performance driving, and the Hemi V8 was considered one of the best engines that Dodge ever made (via Autowise).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

But unlike the Challenger, the Barracuda Hemi was popular with a different crowd. Plymouth loyalists swear by this car and the unique design that it had to offer. The Hemi V8 had a lot of potential for upgrades which is why it is still a popular engine choice.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Dodge Dart 413 Max Wedge

If the Dodge 413 Max Wedge looks intimidating, that’s because it is. The 413 Max Wedge was designed specifically with drag racing in mind. Every aspect of this car is designed to deliver maximum performance. Tons of upgrades were available for the Max Wedge and the platform is still popular (via Autowise).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

The 413 Max Wedge was a rarity back then and it is still rare in the current classic car market. The styling and the unique attributes of the car made it a rare pro-street model that was a blast to drive.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

Dodge Charger

The Charger needs no introduction. This was the car that started it all for Dodge in the muscle car world. There is not another muscle car on the road that looks like the Charger, the design was timeless. But aside from the beautiful design, it was also the performance under the hood that was exhilarating (via Autowise).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

The Charger was an exceptional ride and when the Hemi V8 hit the scene it completely changed everything. The Charger went down as one of the most iconic Mopar models of all time. There were very few cars like it on the road and the performance was legendary at the time.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Plymouth Cuda AAR

The Plymouth brand was to Chrysler what the Pontiac brand was to GM in a lot of ways, which is why the cars that came out of the muscle car era were so instrumental. The Cuda AAR took everything great about the original Cuda and amped it up a bit. Between the bright-colored paint jobs and the stellar performance, the Cuda AAR was groundbreaking (via Autowise).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

The Cuda AAR was one of the rarest Plymouth models of all time and the performance was legendary. The Cuda AAR was a pure-street model in every sense of the word. Nowadays we take cars like the Dodge Demon for granted but back then the Cuda AAR was a one-of-a-kind package that was reserved for only certain people.

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