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20 Unbelievably Cool Classic Muscle Car Graphics

Vukasin HerbezJuly 13, 2018

When muscle cars exploded on the car scene in the mid-60s, they brought many new things to the car industry. Muscle cars personified the “big engine in a light body” mantra and brought a youthful market to the car world. Before 1964, Detroit was focused on middle-aged customers with formally-dressed people in commercials and magazine ads. When muscle cars became a sales hit, Detroit took a more hip, modern image with a colorful approach.

By the end of the ’60s, most American manufacturers presented at least one muscle car, so the market was full of powerful, interesting models. The best way to stand out from the rest was to introduce wild, bright colors. Soon shades like Hemi Orange and Plum Crazy Purple became synonymous with Dodge and Plymouth cars, but that wasn’t all. To make their cars even more characteristic and unique, the manufacturers introduced various graphics designs that were unheard of at the time.

Soon, cars like the Plymouth Roadrunner and the Pontiac GTO Judge were the talk of the community thanks to wild graphics and crazy decals. For the first time in car history, manufacturers equipped their models with crazy graphics. This marked a revolutionary moment in the automobile industry. Those graphics became legendary, as well as the cars. This list contains memorable classic muscle car graphics. Perhaps you will find the pattern you liked or remember.

  1. Plymouth Roadrunner

When it first appeared in 1968, the Plymouth Roadrunner was an influential and important muscle car. It introduced a new trend of inexpensive, fun cars. It was also a strong seller that affected the whole segment. The whole idea behind the Roadrunner was simple: present a low priced but powerful model to attract people with a limited budget, but a strong need for performance.

The most appealing thing about the Roadrunner was the cartoon character of a roadrunner from the popular Willie E. Coyote cartoon. Chrysler paid $60,000 for the rights to use the name and design, and everybody thought the company was crazy. The sales results proved everybody was wrong. The Roadrunner was the first muscle car with crazy graphics, starting the trend.

The Roadrunner had a bench seat, manual steering and lacked any luxury options. But it came with a powerful 383 V8 engine. Also, car buyers could also for the 440 or the mythical Hemi 426. In 1969, the Roadrunner got a convertible option for an open-air driving feel, but the majority of Roadrunners were two-door hardtops. For just above $3,000, you could be the proud owner of a Roadrunner in 1970. However, if you wanted a few options and the Hemi engine, the price could rise to over $4,000.

  1. Ford Mustang Sidewinder Special

For promotional purposes in the Oklahoma sales district, Ford prepared a special version they named the Sidewinder Special. They based it on the 351 V8 Sportsroof model. Some experts claim they based the Sidewinder on the Mach I model, but no one has confirmed this.

Ford built 40 cars in various colors. But they all came with a special set of decals that they packed in the box. The dealer prepared the car before the sale and applied the decals. The most characteristic one was a snake cartoon on the rear fenders. Today, Sidewinder Specials are rare.

  1. Pontiac GTO Judge

Muscle cars started as affordable performance machines with lots of power and reasonable prices. However, due to the high demand, some models started getting more expensive. Soon there was a need for a budget-friendly muscle car for young buyers who wanted a fast car but couldn’t afford much. Plymouth Roadrunner was the perfect example of such a model. It was affordable, fun and fast.

Pontiac wanted a similar car, so 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 366 HP and four-speed transmission.

Available from 1969 to 1971, the Judge represented a top of the line model, which makes it desirable, even today. The Judge graphics package was available only on this model. The logo was on the dash, as well as on the front fenders and trunk.

  1. Ford Mustang Mach I Twister Special

The interesting, cool-looking Twister Special was a unique version designed for the Kansas City sales district. Ford based it on the newly-introduced Ford Mustang Mach I. The Mach I was a performance version that came with the choice of three engines, the 302, 351 and the mighty 428 Cobra Jet V8. The initial idea was that all Twister Specials should receive the biggest, most powerful engine, which was the 428 Cobra Jet.

However, a shortage of those engines forced Ford to produce a few with the 351 V8. All Twister Specials had a cartoon twister tornado on the rear quarter panel. Ford produced 100 Mach I Twister Specials, but other Ford models, like the Torino, received the same treatment. Today, few Twister Specials have survived as collector’s items.

  1. AMC AMX SS

The American Motors Company (AMC) was a legendary economy car manufacturer. They battled the Detroit Big Three for decades but eventually folded in the mid-80s. AMC was famous for their wide selection of compact, affordable cars as well as interesting concepts and dependable mechanics. However, in the late ’60s, AMC decided to enter the muscle car market with the Javelin and two-seater AMX.

They knew a muscle model would bring some excitement the AMC lineup. Both the Javelin and AMX enjoyed considerable success at the time. But there was one rare and special version, the AMX SS 390. AMC built this car in cooperation with Hurst, a famous company from the era. It featured lots of modifications and the biggest AMC engine, the 390 V8 with 340 HP.

This may not sound like much, but the AMX SS 390 was light, compact and brutally fast. They only made 52 of them, mostly in red, white and blue. These machines went to drag strips where they beat much more powerful cars with ease.

  1. Oldsmobile Hurst/Olds

One of the most successful collaborations between a major car company and a small aftermarket outfit was between Hurst and Oldsmobile. Back in the late 60’s, 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. The color combo was so recognizable and cool-looking, it became the signature detail for all Hurst/Olds models.

At the time, Oldsmobile was under GM’s ban that forbade them from putting engines larger than 400 CID in intermediate cars. This meant that the popular 442 model couldn’t receive the biggest available engines. Due to that, it was inferior to the Mopar muscle cars that had engines up to 440 CID under their hoods. However, since Hurst was an independent company, the GM rules didn’t apply.

So Oldsmobile shipped some partially disassembled 442s to Hurst where they installed the biggest engine Oldsmobile had. It was the mighty 455 V8 with 390 HP. The Hurst Olds package also got numerous other performance upgrades like a ram air induction system and heavy-duty suspension and brakes. Since the Hurst Olds was a limited production factory hot rod, it was quite expensive.

Hurst produced many versions of Oldsmobile performance cars from 1968 to 1979, and again from 1983 to 1984. However, they made the most interesting, famous cars during the first few years when there were no restrictions on power output. After that, in the late ’70s and the early ’80s, the Hurst Olds was just a warmer version of the standard Cutlass two-door model they produced in limited numbers.

  1. Ford Mustang King Cobra

The second generation of the Ford Mustang debuted in 1974. It was on the market for four years until 1978. Although it was the subject of many jokes and bad press, the Mustang II was an important model. The downsizing of the whole Mustang range and the introduction of economical four-cylinder engines helped the model survive the ’70s recession.

Also, part sharing with other Ford models got them through the untimely death of the muscle car movement. Ford knew their 5.0 V8 engine produced only 140 HP. So, the performance was slow, but Ford also knew they could attract buyers by dressing up the car.

So, they introduced the King Cobra with a flaming snake on the hood. It also had front and rear spoilers and a full body kit. In fact, the King Cobra was the typical ’70s factory custom car. Even though the performance was terrible, the outrageous body kit stole the show. Today the King Cobra is a collector’s item.

  1. AMC SC/Rambler

The Javelin and AMX are the most famous, popular AMC muscle cars, but they weren’t the only ones. AMC produced several other interesting, fast machines. They also experimented with wild color schemes and graphics in limited production models. The SC/Rambler or Scrambler was exactly that. AMC built it in cooperation with transmission manufacturer Hurst.

Basically, it was a budget Rambler model but with a powerful 390 engine and lots of go-fast options from Hurst. Since it was light and small, it was fast. It was also eye-catching because they painted them in a white, red and blue color scheme. AMC made only around 1,500 of these great cars in 1969.

  1. Dodge Super Bee

The introduction of the Plymouth Roadrunner influenced muscle cars manufacturers to present lighter, more affordable models with wild graphics. As a part of the same company, Dodge wanted their own version of the Roadrunner but felt they should use a new name and cartoon character. So, Dodge created another muscle car legendary model and logo they named the Super Bee.

They based the original 1968 to 1970 Dodge Super Bee on the two-door Coronet body style. The Super Bee had plain steel wheels and an optional Plexiglas hood with a big hood scoop. It didn’t offer any luxuries, but customers could choose a 383, 440 or 426 Hemi V8 engine. It was a fast, capable muscle car, but the cartoon bee on the rear fenders stole the show. They called the rear stripe as the bumblebee stripe and installed it on several other Dodge models.

The Super Bee logo was the part of the Dodge Scat Pack marketing campaign. It became a widely advertised symbol among the muscle car crowd. The Super Bee returned in 1970 to 1971 but this time, Dodge based it on the Charger body with logos on the hood and back. Dodge also revived the legendary Super Bee logo and model on the modern-day Charger, which they produced between 2007 and 2009.

  1. Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Pontiac introduced the Trans Am in 1969 as a special limited production version of their pony car, the Firebird. The 1969 model was fast, powerful and rare, but in terms of graphics and paint schemes, it was normal. It had just two blue racing stripes and a blue rear spoiler. However, the 1970 model year brought one of the most recognizable, legendary muscle car graphic packages of all time.

Car fans affectionately called it the Screaming Chicken. It had a highly-stylized flaming bird logo on the hood. This made it look extraordinary modern and hip by the standards of the day. It started as a relatively small sticker on the middle of the hood in the early ’70s.

However, it grew to a big sticker covering the entire hood, finding its way to the B pillars, rear end, and front fenders. It was an extremely popular detail that still lives in the car community, even though Pontiac and the Firebird are long gone.

  1. AMC Rebel Machine

One of the last, most legendary AMC limited production muscle cars was the cool-looking, patriotic Rebel Machine. Pushing the SC/Rambler concept even further, AMC presented the Machine in 1970 with the same mechanics, but with 345 HP, which was more power. It also came with more performance-oriented options.

It had a cool name, patriotic color scheme and a Ram Air induction hood. The acceleration time from 0 to 60 was less than six seconds, which made it a reasonable choice for street racers. It was popular with car buyers, so AMC made over 2,200 of these interesting machines.

  1. Ford 428 Cobra Jet Logo

Ford presented the legendary Cobra Jet as a mid-year introduction in 1968 as their new muscle car engine. The pressure from Chevrolet’s 427 V8, Mopar’s 440 and 426 Hemi, and Pontiac’s 421 and 428 V8 made 427 Medium Risers obsolete. So, Ford needed a new mass-produced muscle engine to battle their competitors. The Cobra Jet was an engine they designed to be affordable yet still durable and powerful. Ford rated the 428 Cobra Jet at 335 HP, but it was obvious their new mill put out over 400 to 450 HP.

The Cobra Jet was the most common as top engine choice in the Ford Mustang. But they were also available for other Ford models like the Shelby GT500 and Torino. To enhance the appeal of their new, powerful engine, Ford launched a marketing campaign with a cartoon snake that burned rubber. The logo appeared on cars, as well as on promotional materials like hats, clothing and factory brochures. Even though Ford didn’t use it on all their models, the cartoon cobra was so popular, it is still recognizable today.

  1. Plymouth Superbird

As one of the craziest muscle cars they ever produced, Plymouth has one of the most recognizable graphics packages they ever presented to the public. The Superbird was an attempt to win the famous Aero Wars in the late ’60s and early ’70s NASCAR championships. To homologate the car for racing, Plymouth built just under 2,000 road-going Superbirds, selling them all over America.

They based the car on the Roadrunner. It came with a 440 V8 as standard and 426 Hemi as the only engine option. To make it more aerodynamically efficient, Plymouth installed a nose cone, hideaway headlights and an enormous spoiler on the back. They also transformed the rear glass from the standard concave shape to a regular shape, which was more slippery in wind tunnel testing.

The Superbird came with a wild graphics package along with the choice of bright colors. All cars had a vinyl roof to hide the rear glass conversion scars, big Plymouth lettering on the rear fender and a roadrunner bird logo holding a racing helmet. This was muscle car art in its prime.

  1. Plymouth AAR Cuda

The early ’70s was the craziest time for the muscle car culture. Never has there been so many models, special versions and options available since then. One of the best pony cars in 1970 was the newly redesigned Plymouth Barracuda. It came in a wide arrange of flavors, from a pedestrian six-cylinder model to the mighty 426 Hemi Cuda.

There were several graphics options available for the 1970 Barracuda. They ranged from hockey stripes with displacement numbers on the rear fenders to the big billboard-like script with the Hemi logo. However, the most interesting was the 1970 AAR Cuda model with unique color combinations.

The AAR Cuda was a limited production model to commemorate Dan Gurney’s All American Racing team, which used Cudas in the Trans Am championship. It came with a 340 V8 small block, special plastic hood in matte black paint with a hood scoop and a rear spoiler. It also had interesting side graphics that included the big AAR logo. This version was more expensive than the regular 340 Cuda and that is why they only made 2,724 of them.

  1. Buick GSX

The GSX debuted in 1970 with an aggressive graphics package not usually on Buick products. It was available in two bright colors they called Saturn Yellow and Apollo White. Also, it came with a front and rear spoiler, functioning hood scoops, side stripes and rally wheels.

The power output was the same at 345 HP/510 lb-ft, but the Buick 455 engine was significantly lighter than the Chevelle 454 or Plymouth Hemi 426. So the GSX was a sure winner in street races all across America.

  1. Yenko Nova

The Yenko family started a Chevrolet dealership in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania in 1949. And in the late ‘50s when Don Yenko started managing the business, they slowly turned to the performance car market. So, the first series were race-prepared Corvettes that Don raced himself. In the late ‘60s, Yenko became famous for their lineup of high-performance Camaros, Chevelles and Novas.

And all featured a 427 V8 engine, which was not available from the factory. Interestingly, they dressed up all Yenko cars with a special stripe on the hood and on the sides and lettering “sYc” which stood for “Yenko Super Cars.” And the Yenko graphics scheme is one of the most recognizable liveries in muscle car history.

  1. Hemi Cuda

Two of the biggest Chrysler legends from the classic days of the muscle car culture are the Barracuda and the 426 Hemi engine. All through the ’60s, 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, immediately creating one of the fastest, most desirable muscle cars they ever made.

Most car enthusiasts know about the rarity and the legendary power of the 426 Hemi engine. But this model won a place on this list for its signature side graphics with the big Hemi script on the rear quarter panel. They called it the “Billboard” graphics package and it showed car buyers they bought the best muscle car Plymouth ever built.

  1. Ford Mustang Mach I

Ford presented the original Mach I as an affordable performance version of the Mustang Sportsroof in 1969. It featured a long list of options and three engines. The base was a 302 V8, then they included the 351 V8. But the top of the line motor was the mighty 428 Cobra Jet.

And Ford added a special graphics package to go with the new model. So, they gave the Mach I a blackout hood, side stripes and the Mach I lettering. This made it instantly recognizable on the street.

  1. Plymouth Duster 340

By the late ’60s and the early ’70s, the compact muscle market had grown. So, Plymouth introduced the Duster 340, a junior muscle car. They called it that since it looked like its bigger competitors, but it had a smaller 340 HP engine producing 275 HP.

Despite its low price, they dressed up the Duster 340 with a big “340” sticker on the blackout hood. Plymouth also offered side stripes and several graphics options. In combination with the bright base color, this car was hard to miss on the street.

  1. Plymouth Volare Roadrunner

Back in 1976, Plymouth introduced the Volare, a successful mid-size model. They produced it in many variants and exported it worldwide. The Volare would have been the perfect platform for a muscle car if it weren’t for the grueling emissions and safety regulations that killed the performance.

But, Plymouth tried and they presented the Volare Road Runner with a 316 V8 engine delivering a measly 160 HP. What it lacked in the performance department, the Volare Road Runner compensated in looks. It had a full body kit with rear window louvers, a spoiler, a graphics package and sports wheels. Some versions even featured a T-top roof, which was a cool option back in the day.

These are 20 unbelievably cool classic muscle car graphics that made their mark in automotive history. While there may have been graphics that followed, these are the ones that set the trend in motion. Which was your favorite?

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