The muscle car wars began in the 1960’s, but the fiercest battles didn’t begin until the 1970’s. By the time the new decade started every manufacturer in America was back into the racing scene and was trying to edge out the competition any way possible. This sparked some of the loudest, most stylish, and powerful cars ever conceived, to be created and then sold to the public.
Although this was all short lived because emissions hit companies hard after 1973, those three years were golden. Golden is right too because some of the cars on our list here are ultra-rare. No matter how you swing it though these are some of the fastest, most iconic cars to be released at the climax of the muscle car craze! Here we go:
5) 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS LS6 – 450 horsepower – $5,100
Square up! That is exactly what Chevy did in 1970 with the Chevelle. Remanufactured body panels gave the Chevelle a boxy, stern stance that became the icon of the model line. Most importantly the Chevelle could be had with the Corvette’s LS6, which made more power than the more standard 454. Although they weighed as much as a small cathedral, the Chevelle could really move. Tagging a ¼-mile time of low 12.0 seconds and as fast as 112 mph (180 kph).
What made the LS6 so much better than the 454 (LS5) was that it touted solid-lifters and a higher compression ratio. This gave the Chevelle 450 horsepower, or so they said. Dyno tests regularly told the truth, which was that it made well over 450 ponies and over 500 lb-ft of torque. Altogether close to 4,500 of these were made, so they are pretty easy to find.
4) 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 – 290 horsepower – $3,270
In 1969, Ford welcomed the Boss back to the office. Things had become a little hairy, and they wanted to reestablish their authority. The Boss 302 was unique because it took a 302 block, 351 heads, and was made to homologate the car for the SCCA Trans-Am series. The number up there says 290 but, as was usual in the 70’s, it was underrated. Tests show that the blue oval boys Boss was pushing closer to 380 at the pavement. That was good for a sprint to 60 mph (100 kph) in less than 7 seconds, not bad for a car designed for circuits.
Since it had to be built to specifications for racing the Boss 302 came with a racing suspension setup and a lot of aerodynamics for a street car of the era. A front splitter and rear spoiler helped create real downforce while full disc brakes helped you bleed off speed. In 1970 a new exhaust system was fitted, the front fascia lost the quad headlights, and a Hurst shifter came standard. In all, it is the year and model you should dream of. Over 7,000 were made, so owning one is pretty ascertainable too.
3) 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda Convertible – 350 horsepower – $5,000
The Hemi ‘Cuda may have the best-looking grill of any car of the era, subjective, sure, but likely true. What is not debatable though is that it is the rarest muscle car of the decade since only 11 ‘Cuda convertibles were made in 1971 and only two of those had four-speed transmissions. Today that makes these cars trade well above the million dollar mark.
The Hemi motor itself is a marvel to be heard and driven. With an 8,000 RPM indicated redline, the block was extremely sophisticated and produced most of its power well beyond traditional muscle car RPM territory. Add in the excitement of the stripes, the hood vents, the pistol grip shifter, and the ‘High Impact’ colors to the ‘Cuda and it is plainly perfect. Plus, this one’s roof goes down so the other drivers you leave behind can stare at you longer.
2) 1973 Pontiac Trans Am SD-455 – 290 horsepower – $4,929
As we said earlier 1973 all but killed the muscle car craze, but Pontiac didn’t get that memo. Nope. That year they released one of the fastest Trans Ams ever cooked up in Detroit, the SD-455. SD stands for “Super Duty” and it was super because it was essentially a racing motor, suspension, and styling. Forged connecting rods, forged pistons, and an iron casting crankshaft all beef up the block. Even the cylinder head design is exclusive because the intake ports are the same size the entire length of the runners. That means there is no fluctuation in air flow and thus no fluctuation in power.
252 of these scream machines had rolled out of Detroit before the power sapping began. They are hard to find, sure, but if you have the chance make one yours.
1) 1970 Buick GSX Stage 1 – 360 horsepower – $4,880
Thirty-three years, remember that. The Buick GSX Stage 1 takes the prize for being the best buy of the 1970’s, and there are quite a few persuasive pieces of its personality to make it that. Foremost, there were only 118 of the cars built with a four-speed transmission, so it is incredibly rare. Front and rear spoilers helped with the aerodynamics, and that came with the appearance package that gave you an amazing Saturn Yellow or Apollo White car – perfect for standing out. Then there was the hood mounted tachometer, that is right, hood mounted. Interior gauges are cool, but a Nissan Sentra has that.
Here is what a Sentra doesn’t have, though. The GSX Stage one had very high-performance cam profiles, high flow carburetors, and heads and the entire block weighed some 150 lbs less than the Chevy 454 or Hemi 426! So, what does that give you? Thirty-three years. That is how long it took an American car manufacturer to break the 510 lb-ft torque figure the GSX was capable of.