Muscle cars are the single coolest symbol of classic American vehicles. American cars today are rather mediocre, and people now talk about the good old days of the American automotive industry when Detroit wasn’t compared to a post-nuclear war zombie apocalypse wasteland and was considered the thriving heart of Industrial America. They are also referring to this specific era of cars. The 1950s to the very early, pre-oil crisis era 70s, was the pinnacle of American automotive industry. Before it all went downhill… am I right?
But it seems like you can’t keep a good dog down. While the classic muscle era is long over, modern muscle cars have been produced and many of them still retain the old naming styles that cause the eyes of baby boomers to leak tears of joy. It’s a weird way of saying it, but whatever.
Now we have an issue with separating the lemons from the oranges (because oranges are totally sweet while lemons make you cringe so they’re the opposite… OK I’ll shut up now). So we’re going to discuss the best modern muscle cars and the worst classic muscle cars.
15. BEST – Mustang GT Fastback
This is a gorgeous looking car that does look like the grandchild of the original mustang. It has a powerful 435 horsepower engine with 400 lb-ft of torque. While it has a weak top speed of only 164 mph (which isn’t a big deal, given you cannot legally drive that fast anyway… nor would you want to, unless you want to turn into a fiery ball of death or have the cops take away your license after slapping you with a massive fine), it is, however, capable of going from 0 to 60 mph in an amazing 4.5 seconds. I wonder how many Gs it would exert on the driver or passengers. The feeling must be amazing.
14. BEST – Dodge Challenger SRT 392
You’ll be hard pressed to ‘Dodge’ the sight of this road beauty. The Challenger is a slightly faster version of the Dodge Charger, with its top speed of a screeching 182 mph (compared to the Charger’s 172 mph), it has a powerful V8 with no less than 485 horsepower and 475 ft-lbs of torque, the same as the Charger. Despite this, it can sprint go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, similar to the Mustang GT Fastback. One has to wonder why when it has significantly more horsepower and torque. On the other hand, it did manage to deliver a better performance than the Charger with the same engine, so clearly its powerplant is not the only factor involved.
13. BEST – Chevrolet Camaro SS
The 2016 Camaro SS is considered to be vastly superior to the previous models that came before it. Which makes me wonder if Bumblebee from the Transformers movies will change to this one instead of the 2008 concept he had (sorry, Mr. Bay, I only watched the first movie). It has an impressive 455 horsepower engine delivering 355 ft-lbs of torque, the engine being much updated from the previous models, and while its top speed is just 165 mph, it can make it from 0 to 60 in just 3.9 seconds, defeating both the Mustang GT Fastback and the Dodge Challenger SRT 392 in the process. Brace yourself before putting the pedal to the metal though…
12. BEST – Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
Even higher on the list of Camaros, more than the SS, is the Z/28. Also one of the most desired on the market, with a price to match. At around 76,150$ for this beauty, you’ll need either a very good payment plan or to be a millionaire playboy (or at least be friends with Tony Stark who’ll lend you that money for nothing during one of his drinking binges). It has a top speed of a sizzling 190 mph and can go from 0 to 60 mph in just 4 seconds, all owing to its ground shattering 505 horsepower engine delivering 481 ft-lbs of torque. If that engine roaring doesn’t turn heads, then nothing will (short of a loose, mad lion, but that’s not what people normally want to see in their neighborhoods).
11. BEST – Ford Mustang Shelby GR350R
Another one of the Mustang family. This one is actually even more popular as a muscle car than the Mustang GT Fastback, and it can definitely put any of its statistics to pasture. Its top speed is 175 mph, not that much faster than the Fastback, but it can go from 0 to 60 in just 3.7 seconds, which is among the fastest accelerations we’ve seen so far. Its engine produces a mind-boggling 526 horsepower and delivers 429 ft-lbs of torque that’ll burn rubber faster than a panicking student in a final exam with only pencils. That was a weird way to put it, but he needs to get his exam done so he can get his A+ and get this car as a reward from his rich dad… so there, I made it make sense!
10. BEST – Cadillac CTS-V
The word ‘Cadillac’ always put the term classy or luxurious in mind when talking about vehicles. The Cadillac CTS-V is a strange bird on this list because unlike all the others, it’s a 4-door sedan and not a 2-door. Despite its more family friendly appearance, it can deliver an insane 640 horsepower with a crushing 630 ft-lbs of torque, and with only its rear wheels, too. With a top speed of 200 mph and going from 0 to 60 in just 3.7 seconds, it’s the fastest and the fastest accelerating on our list. If you’re a rich guy with a family and need to get your kids to school faster than anyone, this is the 4-door family sedan for you. Penalties for speeding not included in the price.
9. BEST – Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
With a name like the Hellcat, you think this is another 2-door street screamer. Well it does scream, yes, but it’s actually another 4-door sedan like the Cadillac CTS-V, except it is even more powerful. With 707 horsepower and 650 ft-lbs of torque, it has enough power to make even a WW2 era fighter wonder how it gets off the ground. It can zoom down the highway at a top of speed of a whopping 204 mph and makes the first sprint from 0 to 60 in just 3.4 seconds. This is another sedan that can carry a family and still impress the ladies.
8. BEST – Equus Bass 770
This… just this. The sheer gorgeous lines make it look exactly like a classic 60s muscle car, only much more modern and even sleeker. Even the name sounds like a European techno band, which adds to its appeal. While not as powerful as the Dodger Charger SRT Hellcat, with an engine making 640 horsepower and delivering 605 ft-lbs of torque, it can still be almost as fast with a top speed of 200 mph and can leap from 0 to 60 in just 3.4 seconds, the exact same as the Hellcat. It should look like a grizzled veteran of the 60s, with the Vietnam War and all, but it has the all the technological development of the 2010s behind it.
7. WORST – 1982 Pontiac Trans Am
While this car might ring nostalgic tunes for the people born in the 70s and 80s due to its use in the classic TV series Knight Rider, it just didn’t deliver like the show portrayed. Despite its (then) futuristic appearance, it was just pathetic under the hood. With just a V4 delivering only 90 horsepower, it was an incredibly weak engine. Even a Camaro in the early 80s had an engine that could deliver 275 horsepower. It had an upgrade available with a V8, but even that was a pathetic 165 horsepower. It seems that KITT’s turbo boost from the show would have been more suited to mowing the lawn that to delivering David Hasslehoff through… whatever they were driving through. Sorry, I never actually watched the show.
6. WORST – 1974 Pontiac GTO
While its ancestor, the 1964 Pontiac GTO was one of the first and best muscle cars, in just ten years it went from hero to hero sandwich. Designed by the legendary John DeLorean (who would later design the DeLorean DMC-12, the most beautiful piece of garbage to ever drive on the roads), it dropped all that made it good and just left it a pale chassis of what it was once was. Initially with an extremely powerful (for the time) 348 horsepower engine, it was left with a measly 200 horsepower with primitive emission controls that only hampered its performance dramatically. It was a hallmark of a horrific era in American automotive history.
5. WORST – 1979 Oldsmobile 4-4-2
The Oldsmobile 4-4-2 was once a name for power. That was the 1960s, the classic era of the muscle car. With the modern era starting in post-1973 USA, the 1978 version of it was just pathetic. It had a 160 horsepower V8 that was couldn’t measure up to the original 370 horsepower powerhouse that could go a quarter mile in just 13.7 seconds. It was another victim of the early attempts to get emission control to work properly. So maybe it was a necessary evil, since without those early failures, the cars of the 2010s wouldn’t be so good.
4. WORST – 1977 Dodge Charger Daytona
Daytona brings to mind a race track of epic proportions where fortunes are made and fame is won. Hopefully, this car will just be part of the spectacular crashes that happen at those races. The Charger might be a powerful name, but with a weak 145 horsepower engine, it could barely get itself charged up to even bother going to the bar to drown out its sorrows at just how low the Charger line has gone. The older Charger Daytona used to dominate the NASCAR race circuit, but it seems like just having a cool name will not cut it. On the plus note, only 250 of these stinker pieces were made.
3. WORST – 1978 Ford Mustang King Cobra
The mustang name has many proud and powerful car models attached to it. In the 1960s the Mustang was one of the original muscle cars that really had a lot of muscle to it, and the 2010s Mustang is also incredibly powerful. But between them, there was the middle child of shame that everyone wants to forget. I’m sure that most people would prefer to see an actual King Cobra than to go see this automotive disaster. With a pathetic three cylinder 1.0 L engine delivering a wimpy 123 horsepower, its only claim to fame was being on the TV show Charlie’s Angels that was very popular at the time.
2. WORST – 1980 Plymouth Volare Road Runner
This is one Road Runner that Wily E. Coyote is sure to catch. While the earlier Road Runner was an incredibly powerful car with a claim to fame, the only claim to fame that this automobile had was having that namesake. Given how prone to rust it was, it was nicknamed the Rust Runner by people who often had to work overtime in order to keep it looking clean. While it was supposed to be an upgraded model, they would have been far better off just keeping the original specs since the improvements just didn’t add much to it. At least the engine was decently powerful for the era, but nowhere near the 300+ horsepower engines that people have come to expect of the classic muscle cars.
1. WORST – 1978 AMC Gremlin GT
As ugly as a Gremlin and runs about as well. It was a gas guzzling, underpowered, rust-prone monster that was reputed to have been designed by two people… one designing the front, the other designing the back, and neither of which communicated with each other. The 1978 model had emission controls that severely hampered its power, and had a flip-up back window that was prone to breaking in the driver’s hand. Despite being a relatively small car, it guzzled fuel even more than cars much bigger and much more powerful than it. Given the price of gas at the time of its manufacturing in 1978, this Gremlin should have remained in the storybooks of WW2 as the mythical creature of aviation sabotage that it is.
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