5. Pontiac GTO Judge
Muscle cars started as affordable performance machines with lots of power and reasonable prices. However, due to high demand, some models started to get more expensive. Soon there was a need for a budget-friendly muscle car aimed at young buyers who wanted a fast car but couldn’t pay much. The Plymouth Roadrunner was the perfect example of such a model. It was affordable, fun and fast.
Pontiac wanted a similar car and in 1969, the company presented the GTO Judge. The Judge became a legend, first because it took its name from a popular TV show. And second, because 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 with its 366 HP and four-speed transmission.
Available from 1969 to 1971, the Judge represented Pontiac’s top-of-the-line model. And this makes it desirable today. A decent 1969 GTO Judge with the 400 Ram Air III engine will set you back around $70,000 today. But expect to pay a lot more if you are looking for a Ram Air IV engine or convertible.
6. Mercury Cougar XR7
When they introduced the Mustang in 1964, it became a global hit. It also started a revolution among Detroit’s major players. Three years later, almost everybody had a pony car in their lineup. Chevrolet introduced the Camaro, Pontiac presented the Firebird and Mercury had the new Cougar. Since Mercury was a luxury division of the Ford Motor Company, it was obvious that the Mustang and Cougar would have a lot in common.
However, Mercury tried its best to hide their plebian roots and introduced a true luxury GT model. They built the Cougar on the Mustang platform, but they stretched it a couple of inches to add comfort and achieve ride quality. Also, the Mercury Cougar was available with V8 engines only, while the small six-cylinder units were reserved for entry-level Mustangs. The body panels were unique, as well as the front fascia with its hidden headlights. In the interior, Mercury offered a wood-trimmed dash, leather seats and all kinds of creature comforts.
Some could say that the Cougar was just a luxury Mustang but in fact, it was an independent model and a successful car. Until 1969, Detroit didn’t offer any convertibles in the form of a muscle car. They were all coupes. The ultimate version that perfectly combined muscle car power and luxury was the mighty Cougar XR-7. This model had the 390 V8 engine with 320 HP. But buyers could also opt for the GT package which included a beefed-up suspension, stronger brakes and steering.
The XR-7 was a popular model and they produced over 27,000 in 1967. Over the years, the Mercury Cougar was in the shadow of the Mustang. But in recent years, prices have started to come up for this piece of the luxury muscle segment. However, you can still get the XR-7 for around $45,000. This makes it a real bargain compared to some other muscle cars.
7. Ford Mustang Boss 302
The third redesign of the Mustang appeared for the 1969 model year and the car grew again. They changed the engine choices, as well as the equipment list. They also steered the Mustang lineup in two main directions. One was the luxury segment with the new Grande notchback model. The other was pure muscle with three new models: Mach I, Boss 429 and Boss 302.
Although Ford only produced it for two years, 1969 and 1970, the Boss 302 featured the 302 V8 engine, which they conservatively rated at 290 HP. The real output was closer to the 350 HP mark. The Boss 302 was a model they intended for racing in Trans-Am championships. The Boss came with a blackout hood, spoiler on the trunk and other details. It also featured a stiff, track-tuned suspension, a close-ratio gearbox and a high-revving engine.
The car was light and without any unnecessary luxuries. It was a perfectly balanced car with great performance and driving dynamics. It was a muscle car, but its handling characteristics, high-revving engine and overall feel made it a sports car with racing success. Basically, it’s the best of both worlds and a unique model in Mustang’s long history.
During its two-year production run, they produced the Boss 302 in less than 10,000 examples. Always considered one of the best Mustangs ever built, prices reflect its position in the muscle car world. That is why perfect examples cost around $100,000 today.
8. Dodge Challenger R/T
Plymouth had the Barracuda, which was the first pony car model they introduced two weeks before the Ford Mustang. But its stable mate, Dodge, didn’t enter the segment until 1970. Some muscle car historians say Dodge almost missed the party, but the Challenger was so good, it truly left its mark, reserving a place in history. Mopar’s E-Body models, the Barracuda and Challenger were new for 1970. They featured new designs and better construction, as well as a wider, longer body.
There were no significant mechanical differences between the Barracuda and the Challenger. The difference was in the design, although these two cars had some interchangeable bodywork parts, as well. They immediately presented the Challenger with the full firepower of Mopar engines. Buyers could get a powerful 383 V8, as well as a big 440 and the famous 426 Hemi. The best performers were the 440 and the Hemi, depending on the specifications, differential ratio and gearboxes.
Challengers equipped with those engines could accelerate to 60 mph in the 5.5 to 5.7-second range, which was quick for 1970. However, the Challengers with 440 engines were more expensive than the regular models. That is why Dodge produced less than 4,000 examples for the 1970 model year. Today, Hemi Challengers cost a few hundred thousand dollars, but you can get the next best thing in the form of the Challenger with the 440 engine in R/T package for around $90,000.
9. Pontiac Trans Am 455
The GTO was Pontiac’s prime muscle car for most of the 60’s, but the smaller Firebird started to emerge as an affordable, faster option. As traditional muscle cars were losing ground due to tightening regulations, pony cars such as the Pontiac Trans Am were gaining respect on the streets, mostly due to looks and performance. In 1972, engines still had some power left, so Pontiac tried the best it could in this situation.
The 1972 Trans Am with the 455 big block and 300 HP was the hottest offering. It had a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 6.4 seconds. Also, those F-Body cars had competent handling packages and good brakes, transforming them into proper sports cars. Who knows how capable muscle cars could be if it weren’t for the fuel shortages and emissions regulations.
However, despite being one of the last true classic muscle cars, the early 70’s Trans-Ams were not strong sellers, so they are rare, valuable cars today. Expect to pay around $70,000 for decent examples. The most sought-after version is the 1974 Trans Am 455 SD, which people widely consider the last classic muscle car. Latest prices for these muscle car gems are over $80,000.
10. Chevrolet Corvette L-88
If you are looking to spend some serious money on a rare, extremely sought-after muscle car, this could be the perfect model for you. The second-generation Chevrolet Corvette C2, which they produced from 1963 to 1967 was one of the most beautiful, aggressive-looking cars from the muscle car era. It caused a sensation when they first introduced it. And it was still modern looking when they replaced it with the third generation Corvette in 1968.
The Corvette C2 presented many important things to the Corvette lineup, such as big block power, independent rear suspension, and disc brakes. It was also a popular, successful racing car in the hands of many private teams. Corvette aficionados claim the last year for the C2 was also the best since they restyled it. It featured an interesting hood scoop and new engine choices. Although the big block 427 Corvette came out in 1966, they refined it further 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, valuable and powerful L-88 427 V8. Corvettes equipped with this engine were in a class by themselves since the aluminum head L-88 produced close to 600 HP. It also came with a mandatory heavy-duty suspension, brakes, and handling package. They developed this option for racers, but it was expensive, almost doubling the price of the base 67 Corvette. In 2014, one surviving 1967 Corvette L-88 sold for $3,85 million.
11. Shelby GT 500
Mustang had some performance versions like the GT with the 289 HiPo V8 engine or the Shelby GT 350 in 1965. However, the first true performance Mustang with a big block engine and respectable 0 to 60 mph times was the 1967 Shelby GT 500. Bigger and more powerful than before, the 1967 GT 500 featured a new design with a modified front and rear end. It also had a big 427 V8 engine with 335 HP and 420 lb-ft of torque.
In those days, Ford was notorious for underrating the power output of their engines, so the 335 HP rating sounded too low for a big 427. Car enthusiasts claim the real power was closer to the 400 HP range and performance figures backed that claim. The 0 to 60 mph time was 6.5 seconds, which was good for the day. Thanks to suspension modifications, the GT 500 could handle the curves well, too.
The Shelby GT 500 was one of the first models to receive collector car status. This affected the prices, which are not that high, but still lofty at around $160,000 for good examples.
12. Chevrolet Camaro SS
Chevrolet introduced the Camaro a full three years after the Ford Mustang. They offered a better package and two true muscle versions, the SS 350 and SS 396. Both produced more than 300 HP. Those Camaros were among the fastest factory pony cars on the market. Chevrolet was reluctant to put bigger engines in the Camaro.
But in 1969, they produced a small number of 427 Camaros. They even built 69 examples of the ZL1 Camaro with the Corvette ZL1 engine. The regular Camaros are common and plentiful on the muscle car market, but the best looking is the 1969 model. If you choose to buy the 350 SS, expect to pay around $45,000 for decent examples.
But if you go the big block route and purchase the mighty 396 SS, expect to pay around $80,000. And, if you are planning to by a super rare ZL1 model, be ready to give close to half a million dollars.
13. Oldsmobile 442
Pontiac GTO takes all the credit for being the first modern muscle car, but not a lot of people know the Oldsmobile 442 started the same year as the Pontiac. However, Oldsmobile was much more discrete about advertising a new model, so they offered it as just an option on the Cutlass line. From the beginning, they marketed the 442 was marketed as a “gentleman’s hot rod.” It was an elegant, well-equipped muscle car with luxury appointments, reserved styling and brutal performance.
The name, 442, caused a lot of controversies back in the day, but the meaning was simple. It has a 400 CID engine, four-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust. Of course, you could order it with automatic, but if you wanted the most out of your 442, you would get the manual. In 1970, Oldsmobile introduced the biggest engine in the muscle car class, which was the 455 V8. They installed it in the 442.
This created one of the fastest cars of the era, especially with a performance-oriented W30 optional package. Today, car fans seek the 442 for its style, discontinued brand and performance, so the prices are strong. For a nice 1970 442 with the 455 engine and the desirable W30 package, be ready to pay around $70,000.
14. 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 intended for use in NASCAR championships. The Boss 429 featured a totally different engine architecture than the rest of Ford’s big blocks. The Boss 429 was much wider and had semi-Hemi combustion chambers. This helped achieve higher revs, better flow inside the head, as well as more power and torque.
Factory-rated at 375 HP, this unit produced over 500 HP in reality and much more in race trim. Ford decided to put this engine into the Mustang, creating a limited production Boss 429. But NASCAR decided not to homologate it since the series only accepted intermediate and full-size cars. The Mustang was a pony car model, so Ford homologated the Torino Talladega as the body and the Boss 429 as the engine. It participated in the 1969 season with Torinos and Mercury Cyclones powered by Boss 429 engines.
Those cars proved successful, winning 30 out of 54 races that year. The secret was the engine because they designed the Boss 429 to run at high RPMs for long periods of time. It also reached its peak power high in the RPM range. That is why the Mustang Boss 429 never fulfilled its street racing potential. The powerful engine required a long super-speedway track to show its true power, not those short quarter-mile stretches.
Available in 1969 and 1970 as an engine option on a Mustang Sportsroof, they made the Boss 429 in around 1,300 examples. This car has become a highly sought-after model in present years. The best Boss 429s cost around half of million dollars, but you can find a decent model in the $200,000 to $300,000 range.
This list of the price of 14 popular and highly sought-after classic muscle cars contains a variety of road-ready beasts. If you are shopping for one of these special machines, you’d better hurry up before the prices are beyond your reach.