Skip advert
Advertisement

Top 10 best muscle cars

Good old American muscle is a hard thing to beat, so here are our top 10 best muscle cars ever built

Before we can even consider what the best muscle cars of all time are, we need to address a simple question. What is a muscle car? For many, a muscle car has to be an American-made two-door coupe (and therefore built by the likes of Chevrolet, Ford, Chrysler or Dodge), it has to have a big V8 engine and it has to come from the era when the people who lived one quarter mile at a time had never heard of Vin Diesel.

Advertisement - Article continues below

When we think of the best muscle cars, it is classic American automobiles such as Dodge’s original Challenger that many regard as the cream of the crop. Quite often, these older vintage cars have had their iconic status cemented in the public consciousness thanks to starring roles in film and TV cult classics, such as Ford’s Mustang in Bullitt, Pontiac’s Trans Am in Smokey and the Bandit, or Dodge’s Charger in the Dukes of Hazzard.

In truth, these legends from the sixties and seventies did not start the muscle car movement. All the way back in the late 1940s Oldsmobile decided to shoehorn a V8 under the bonnet of a model designed to use a less powerful six-cylinder engine. Following the tyre tracks of Oldsmobile, in 1957 a V8-powered Rambler Rebel arrived and found much success on the drag-strip – which is basically an American institution. 

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

It wasn’t long before other US car brands were slotting large engines into everyday cars and using motorsport success to help drive sales. Marketing departments loved the ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ philosophy. Soon muscle car power outputs were getting close to (and sometimes exceeding) 500bhp – but the 1973 fuel crisis soon cut demand for these big capacity, petrol hungry models. If it hadn’t, who knows how crazy the performance figures would have got. A terrifying thought considering early muscle cars weren’t exactly known for their stopping power, or ability to go around corners very well.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The seventies also marked the USA’s introduction of the American Clean Air Act – which ushered in more emissions control equipment. No bad thing, but the technology hampered engine performance. As such, the American muscle car slipped into the shadows until well after the year 2000.

More recently, muscle cars have had something of a revival, too. Pontiac was the first marque to get things going again in the mid-noughties when it relaunched a GTO model, while Chrysler and Dodge soon followed with a new 300C and Charger. All were powerful, modern-day takes on cars that had ancestry dating back to the muscle car’s heyday. Since then we’ve seen new interpretations of a range of classics including the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger – all sticking to the same formula while packing a monster V8 under the hood.

Click the links and read on for our top 10 guide to some of the best muscle cars to ever tear up the tarmac...

The 10 best muscle cars of all time

  1. 1964 Pontiac GTO
  2. 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454
  3. 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird
  4. 1967 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
  5. 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88
  6. 1965 Shelby Mustang GT-350
  7. 1968 Chevrolet Corvette L88
  8. 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt
  9. 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat
  10. 1971 Plymouth Hemi 'Cuda
Skip advert
Advertisement
Content editor

Ryan is responsible for looking after the day-to-day running of the Auto Express website and social media channels. Prior to joining Auto Express in 2023, he worked at a global OEM automotive manufacturer, as well as a specialist automotive PR and marketing agency.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

New Kia EV3 is a £30k electric car with a 372-mile range
Kia EV3 - front
News

New Kia EV3 is a £30k electric car with a 372-mile range

Kia expands its electric line up with the EV3 – taking plenty of inspiration from the flagship EV9
23 May 2024
New 2024 Nissan Qashqai prices and specs announced as family SUV war heats up
Nissan Qashqai reveal - full front
News

New 2024 Nissan Qashqai prices and specs announced as family SUV war heats up

The start price for the Nissan Qashqai has increased by £3,000 due to the loss of the old entry-level Visia trim
24 May 2024
Citroen C3 review
Citroen e-C3 - front
In-depth reviews

Citroen C3 review

A clever rethink of the small, affordable car theme, the C3 and its all-electric e-C3 twin have the potential to really shake up the market
22 May 2024