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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

What actually makes a muscle car, that much loved mode of transport synonymous with American culture? A question which certainly needs answering before we attempt to identify the top 10 best muscle cars of all time.

There are many petrolheads who claim that the ultimate muscle car has to be a classic. That the golden era for these quarter-mile cars was the 60s and 70s when Ford, GM and Chrysler shoe-horned massive V8 engines under the bonnet of relatively ordinary cars. Consequently, the cars that were offered had incredible performance for their time (assuming, of course, you avoided corners) at a price that your average motorist could still stretch to.

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Best performance cars

Cars such as the Ford Mustang and Pontiac Trans Am are perhaps the best known today, thanks to films such as Bullitt and Smokey and the Bandit. Others from that classic muscle car period like the Pontiac GTO, the Hemi ’Cuda and the Plymouth Superbird are legendary amongst muscle car fans, too.

But the muscle car concept didn’t start and end in a few short years in the sixties and seventies. As early as 1949, Oldsmobile took a leaf out of the hot-rodding handbook by fitting a 140bhp V8 engine into a smaller car designed for a six-cylinder engine of much lower power.

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The Oldsmobile Rocket 88 set a template that was followed in 1957 by the 190bhp V8-powered Rambler Rebel, and spurred on by racing successes on the drag-strip, bigger V8-engined performance versions of intermediate size cars appeared from many more of the US brands. What made these cars unique, was that many of these models were only available if you had an intimate knowledge of a manufacturer's option codes. The Camaro Z/28 gets its name from the Z/28 performance pack that made the car ready for racing in the US Trans Am series. 

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Power outputs soared towards – and occasionally beyond – the 500bhp mark, and who knows where the muscle car power race would have ended if the fuel crisis hadn’t intervened in the early 1970s bringing rationing and price hikes to gas stations across the US. The Clean Air Act brought with it new emissions equipment that strangled the performance of 1970s engines too, and the US muscle car era was over.

Over until 2004, that is, when Pontiac re-launched a GTO model, while Chrysler and Dodge followed with a new 300C and Charger. All were powerful, modern day takes on cars that offered big performance in the original muscle car days. Since then we’ve seen modern day interpretations of a range of muscle car classics including the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger – all offering monster V8 muscle and performance to match.

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So while we’ve not followed the purist route for our muscle car appreciation, you’ve got a long way to go and a short time to read it, so enjoy...

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