Skip to main content

Cool Classic Muscle Cars

James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with four non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.

Classic Muscle Cars

Classic Muscle Cars are high performance street machines built in the United States for formal and informal drag racing. Classic Muscle Cars had their heyday from 1965 to 1970. Today, they are highly prized by collectors and some sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Ralph Nader led a lobbying group that decried Classic Muscle Cars because they were marketed to young men; and because they had powerful engines but mediocre brakes and poor handling. The insurance industry responded by charging hefty fees (about $1000) to insure Classic Muscle Cars for male drivers under age 25.

The higher insurance costs combined with the 1970 Clean Air Act killed the Classic Muscle Cars. The Clean Air Act lowered the top octane of gasoline from 100 to 91, which meant manufacturers had to lower compression ratios and thus engine performance. But the final blow to the days of the Classic Muscle Cars was the gas crunch of 1973.

Special thanks to Johnny Baker and Ward Morrill for helping me select six particular American Muscle Cars to highlight in this article.

1969 YENKO CAMARO WITH A 427 ENGINE

1969 YENKO CAMARO WITH A 427 ENGINE

1969 YENKO CAMARO INTERIOR

1969 YENKO CAMARO INTERIOR

1969 YENKO CAMARO 427 ENGINE

1969 YENKO CAMARO 427 ENGINE

1969 Yenko Camaro

The Chevrolet brand reached its pinnacle in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1963, ten percent of all cars sold in America were Chevrolets. The small-block Chevy V-8 engine has been in continuous production since 1955, longer than any mass-produced engine in world history.

The Chevrolet Camaro was introduced in 1967 to compete with the Ford Mustang. At its unveiling, reporters asked, "What is a Camaro?" The answer that was given was "A small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs."

Many people consider the 1969 model to be the best-looking Camaro ever built. For young men who wanted a turn-key drag racer that was still street legal, 500 of the Yenko Camaro were produced with a 427 cubic inch 425 horsepower motor.

The Yenko Camaro ran the quarter-mile in under 12 seconds at 115 mph. A Yenko Camaro sold at auction recently for $2.2M.

Don Yenko was a Chevrolet dealer from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

1970 CHEVELLE SS 454

1970 CHEVELLE SS 454

1970 CHEVELLE SS 454 INTERIOR

1970 CHEVELLE SS 454 INTERIOR

1970 CHEVELLE SS 454 ENGINE

1970 CHEVELLE SS 454 ENGINE

1970 Chevelle SS 454

Louis Chevrolet was born to French parents in Switzerland in 1878. As a young man, he became an automotive engineer. Louis Chevrolet moved to New York and became a race car driver for Buick, which was owned by the founder of General Motors William C Durant.

Louis Chevrolet and William C Durant founded the Chevrolet Motor Car Company in 1911, which was absorbed by General Motors in 1917. Louis Chevrolet lost everything he had in the 1929 stock market crash and was reduced to working as a mechanic for the company he once founded. He died penniless in 1941.

The Chevrolet Chevelle was produced from 1964 to 1977 to compete with the Ford Fairlane. The SS (Super Sport) was the Chevelle Muscle Car.

In 1970, the new 454 cubic inch engine (450 horsepower) was offered as an option. No factory production engine had ever offered this much horsepower.

Scroll to Continue
1969 DODGE SUPER BEE 440 SIX PACK

1969 DODGE SUPER BEE 440 SIX PACK

1969 DODGE SUPER BEE INTERIOR

1969 DODGE SUPER BEE INTERIOR

1969 SUPER BEE 44O SIX PACK ENGINE

1969 SUPER BEE 44O SIX PACK ENGINE

1969 Dodge Super Bee 440 Six Pack

The Dodge Brothers were from Niles, Michigan, in the same county from whence I hail. Horace and John Dodge were perfectly matched as business partners because Horace was a mechanical wizard while John was a superb administrator and sales and marketing guru.

The Dodge Brothers started their company in 1900 in Detroit to supply carmakers with parts. Soon they were building transmissions for Oldsmobile and engines for Ford. In 1917, Dodge produced its first car and within three years they were # 2 in automobile sales. That same year, 1920, both brothers unexpectedly died. Horace only lived to be 52 years old and it is noteworthy that his widow outlived him by fifty years.

The Dodge Classic Muscle Cars were among the fastest and wildest. The Super Bee, based on the Dodge Coronet, was built from 1968 to 1971. The 1969 Dodge Super Bee was available with an optional 440 Six Pack—Dodge's big 440 cubic inch engine with three Holley two-barrel carburetors mounted on an Edelbrock Hi-Riser manifold—that produced 390 hp.

1970 HEMI CUDA

1970 HEMI CUDA

1970 HEMI CUDA INTERIOR

1970 HEMI CUDA INTERIOR

1970 HEMI CUDA ENGINE

1970 HEMI CUDA ENGINE

1970 Hemi Cuda

"The King of the Classic Muscle Cars" is the 1970 Plymouth Barracuda with the 426 Hemi engine, known affectionately as the "Hemi 'Cuda." The Plymouth Barracuda was produced from 1964 to 1974.

Due to new federal emissions standards, the engines were downsized and detuned after 1970. Only 652 Hemi 'Cudas were manufactured in 1970. One sold at auction recently for $329,000 and they routinely fetch more than a Ferrari of the same year.

Walter Chrysler introduced the Plymouth brand in 1928 as a lower cost alternative to his Chrysler automobiles. Plymouth posted outstanding sales for many decades. In 1957, a new record was established when 726,000 Plymouths were sold. The all-time best for the company was 973,000 units in 1973. The last Plymouth was made in 2001.

Chrysler (1875-1940) was the son of a Kansas railroad engineer. As a young man he was a mechanic and machinist whose brilliance landed him a job managing a locomotive plant. In 1912, Chrysler was hired to manage a plant for Buick Motorcar Company, and he soon upped its production from 45 to 600 cars per day. In 1916, he was rewarded by being named the President of Buick.

Walter Chrysler struck out on his own and founded the Chrysler Corporation in 1925. Three years later he purchased the Dodge Brothers Car Company. Chrysler named his parts and service division MoPar (motor parts). He also built one of the most beautiful buildings in the world in Manhattan in 1930, the Chrysler building—tallest in the world at the time.

1969 SHELBY MUSTANG GT 350

1969 SHELBY MUSTANG GT 350

1969 SHELBY MUSTANG GT 350 INTERIOR

1969 SHELBY MUSTANG GT 350 INTERIOR

1969 SHELBY MUSTANG GT 350 ENGINE

1969 SHELBY MUSTANG GT 350 ENGINE

1969 Shelby Mustang GT 350

Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company of Detroit in 1903, after he convinced a group of investors to back his ideas with $28,000. Henry Ford developed the assembly-line for mass production. Because each worker only had to perform one simple task, Ford was able to provide jobs to unskilled, uneducated men. Henry Ford paid double the prevailing wage because he wanted his workers to be able to afford the car they were producing.

In 1926, Henry Ford introduced the 40 hour work week—unheard of in America—because he thought leisure time made for happier workers who were then more productive. Ford hated labor unions and his company was not unionized until 1941—after a decade of violence and work stoppages forced him to accept the UAW. The reason Henry Ford was against labor unions was because they always lower productivity, and their leaders usually lean toward Marxist ideas.

The Ford Motor Company is # 2 in the U.S. and # 5 in the world for vehicle sales. It is the 8th largest corporation in America with over 200,000 employees and annual revenues of $118B. Approximately five million Ford vehicles are sold each year.

My first car was an orange (with white stripes) 1969 Shelby Mustang GT 350. To say it was a hit cruising around McDonald's is an understatement.

Ford produced Shelby Mustangs from 1965 to 1969. The 1969 Shelby Mustang GT 350 featured a 351 cubic inch engine that produced 290 hp. This beautiful car had roll bars inside and the first eight-track tape decks. It topped out at 140 mph—for this you have my personal testimony.

1,085 Shelby Mustang GT 350 classic muscle cars were sold in 1969. Only 32 are known to exist today. One sold recently for $105,000. Carroll Shelby was an automobile designer and race car driver from Texas.

1969 BOSS 429 MUSTANG

1969 BOSS 429 MUSTANG

1969 BOSS 429 MUSTANG INTERIOR

1969 BOSS 429 MUSTANG INTERIOR

1969 MUSTANG BOSS 429 ENGINE

1969 MUSTANG BOSS 429 ENGINE

1969 Boss 429 Mustang

The Ford Mustang debuted in 1964 at the New York World's Fair. The Mustang was the first Pony Car—a compact sports coupe. It weighed only 2,550 lbs. The Mustang was to become the most successful new Ford model since the Model A was launched in 1927. A record 318,000 were sold the first year.

The Mustang served as Pace for the 1964 Indy 500. The first film it appeared in was Goldfinger. The Mustang got heavier every year until 1973.

My father owned one of the 849 Boss 429 'twisted hemi' Mustangs built in 1969 (a red one, of course). To keep insurance costs down, Ford listed it at 375 horsepower but the 429 cubic inch engine actually produced closer to 500 hp.

The Boss 429 disappointed expectations at the drag strip. It was too heavy overall at 3,870 lbs. but the rear end was too light to gain proper traction. Thus the Boss 429 ran the quarter-mile right out of the showroom in 14 seconds flat (103 mph).

All of the Boss 429 Mustangs were sold by Bob Tasca Ford in Providence, Rhode Island, for $5,000. Bob Tasca went to college with Henry Ford II and they became close friends. Bob Tasca was a drag racer and he designed the 428 Cobra Jet engine.

My father eventually replaced the 429 engine with a Holman Moody 427, which ran much faster (in the 10.60s). The car was sold to the chief machinist at our high performance engine shop in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Mike Luyendyk. The last we heard he still had it in pristine condition in his garage in California. A Boss 429 Mustang recently sold at auction for $350,000.

Classic Muscle Cars

My Dad was quite the drag racer back in the day. He had previously raced motorcycles and stock cars. In the early 70s, we built an auto parts store together in Kalamazoo, Michigan, that is still there today: J C Auto Parts (my Dad is J. C. Watkins).

Our store was unusual for the time in that we had a large display area in front of the parts counter. Before this, the parts counter was generally located right near the entry door. We were named the Jobber Topics magazine auto parts store of the year in 1973.

J C Auto Parts included a machine shop that built race car engines, included some for NASCAR driver Tiny Lund, who had won the 1963 Daytona 500. We also had a speed shop in which we sold the latest hi-performance parts for gear-heads to modify their cars. We were direct distributors for Holley carburetors, Edelbrock manifolds, Crane cams, Hooker headers, Mickey Thompson tires, Keystone wheels, and Stewart Warner gauges.

My apologies to fans of the awesome Pontiac GTO, and the hot Trans Am, as well as people who fondly remember the Ford Fairlanes and Torinos. Even American Motors built some Cool Classic Muscle Cars. I almost included the awesome 1978 Corvette L88 427 in this article, but while plenty musclely, it is a true sports car. But space was limited and I chose to highlight these six remarkable machines.

Comments

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 04, 2016:

Thank you 'mechanics guy' for saying so.

Mechanics Guy from NY on June 16, 2016:

Cool cars

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 18, 2015:

Oh yes, Will, he is still flying Learjets at 79 years old.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on March 16, 2015:

I remember! Is he still with us?

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 16, 2015:

Will~ Oh yes, you would like my Dad. And he loved your short stories you kindly sent me. He is the one who is a huge Louis L'Amour fan.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on March 16, 2015:

The 427 Ford was indeed the fastest car I ever rode in, back in the mid-60's.

Today, I drive a short bed Ram 1500 with a 5.7 liter Hemi that makes 396 HP, so I'm in happy land. I would like your dad!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 16, 2015:

WillStarr---It was hard to beat the old Chrysler hemis, that's for sure. They seres tiff competition for my Dad's 427 Holman-Moody Fords. It is always a pleasure to hear from you, my friend.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 16, 2015:

Drive By Quipper~ You are right that the Plymouth Fury was a monster machine. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 16, 2015:

teaches12345~ Thank you very much for taking the time to read my article. I appreciate your comments, too.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 16, 2015:

ttravis5446---I prefer the Mustangs too. Thanks for your compliments.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 16, 2015:

Bootser22~ That is a sad story. Sorry to hear it.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on March 12, 2015:

When I first came to Phoenix in 1962, there was a guy we called 'Wimpy', cruising Central in a beat-up, rusty, 1953 Dodge 4-door. But it was a classic sleeper, because it was powered by a hemi-Chrysler coupled to a B&M hydro.

It was the fastest car in town as I soon found out when I challenged him in my '53 Studebaker with its 283 Chevy. I was chagrined, but it was all in good fun.

Drive By Quipper from Wrong Side of Town on December 05, 2013:

Where's the 1965 Plymouth Fury? It came right out of the box with 450 cubic inches of raw power.

Otherwise, great fun!

Dianna Mendez on December 04, 2013:

I would love to have any one of these muscle cars. I remember how popular the camaro was back then. They made them to last.

ttravis5446 from U.S. on October 24, 2013:

Great hub. I prefer the Mustangs even though I owned a 1968 Camaro for a little while last year.

Bootser22 on May 06, 2013:

We had a 1968 GTO...Purrred!!! Great car. Got stolen

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 04, 2013:

Curiad--- You are most welcome, my friend. I hope all is OK with you today. I know you have had a tough go of it and I am praying for your comfort.

I am glad that this little article brought back some fond memories for you. I sincerely appreciate your kind compliments. Those 69 Mustangs were great cars. I remember the 4/11 rear ends too.

Thank you for visiting. It is always a distinct pleasure to hear from you, Mark. :D

Faithfuly Yours,

James

Curiad on January 31, 2013:

LOL, My first car was a Rambler station wagon and hardly a muscle car. My little brother however, had a 1969 Mach1 Mustang with the 428 Cobra Jet engine in it. I was his mechanic and boy did we have a good time with that car. It also had a 4/11 rear end and a few mods to the engine that I applied.

This is a great article and brought back memories!

Thanks James, Mark

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on January 14, 2013:

Kosal DA--- Thank you!! Thank you very much! :D

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on January 07, 2013:

daveyboy1957— And you did. I appreciate it too. Good man!

David W. Braddock from Lake Villa, Illinois on January 07, 2013:

no problem...just trying to help.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on January 07, 2013:

daveyboy1957— Thank you very much for that correction. What a rookie mistake! :D

I have replaced that photograph with an accurate one. Nice talking to you.

James

David W. Braddock from Lake Villa, Illinois on December 31, 2012:

one last detail... the Boss engine displayed was not made in 1969 since it has fuel injection on it. That is the current Boss being made, not vintage 1969.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 30, 2012:

daveyboy1957— Wow! Awesome. Thank you ever much for the additional remarks. They are illuminating and enlightening. You are awesomely aware of gearhead stuff to a level that vastly surpasses my knowledge of it. I yield to the master. Thanks again!

James :D

David W. Braddock from Lake Villa, Illinois on December 29, 2012:

my father in law in Atlanta has a few of the Ford 427's including a couple of the "Cammer" versions that have the distinction of being the only engine NASCAR "outlawed" for use. They have about a 5 foot long roller chain that runs the 2 cams with the crank gear and have to be the most involved engine there is to try and get timed correctly.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 29, 2012:

daveyboy1957— Welcome to the HubPages Community. I look forward to coming over to see what you have been writing so far, which I will do ASAP. I have made myself a note of it.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my article. I appreciate your outstanding comments as well.

I do see what you mean about the Yenko. You know, I was a Ford man at the time. I owned a Shelby GT 350 and my Dad owned a Boss 429—one of the first ones sold. # 11 I think. I was not a Chevy man but my cousin John was and frankly I let him pick the two Chevys I included in this article, just as I allowed a good friend who was a MOPAR guy to select the two Chrylser-built machines.

What you wrote about the Chrysler engine factory horsepower ratings is quite interesting. And I never knew that Ford sold the BOSS 429 for less than they cost to make. Good stuff.

My Dad was a huge fan of the Ford 427, which he considered the ultimate engine. I mentioned in my piece that he eventually replaced the 429 in his BOSS with a 427 Holman Moody.

Thanks again for posting such thoughtful and insightful remarks.

James

David W. Braddock from Lake Villa, Illinois on December 20, 2012:

Not to be critical of your knowledge or your efforts because you have done a GREAT job with each entry on your rundown....however...

For most of us "Muscle Car guys" the fact is a Yenko is just like a Motion/Baldwin or a Nickey Chevrolet and is not a factory car. They are "aftermarket" vehicles done by dealerships or dealer affiliates.

The Chevelle 454 was rated at 450 in limited production engine series, depending on what engine you selected. I believe there were no fewer than 4 different 454 engines. The key here is to remember the engine numbers were gross rating from the factory. Chrysler vastly under rated their hemi 426 at 425 because of problems with the Insurance companys and the federal government watchdogs. when car makers switched to "net" horsepower figures in 1971 the Hemi 426 was the only engine to keep their same rating of 425 because Chrysler knew the number had been a lot higher all along.

The Shelby while it was sold through Ford dealers was once again an aftermarket vehicle or technically it was a Shelby as Carroll Shelby was a "Manufacturer" according to the Federal Government.

The Boss 429 was a hand built engine from Ford that was limited in production due to the fact that Ford sold them for less than they cost to make and Henry Ford did not like paying people to take his cars off his hands. The only thing missing from your list that should have been on it was the Ford 427 powered LTD and Galaxie models known as "7 litre". This is the only engine produced where the "Factory" never disclosed any power figures for it. This was due to the fact Ford engineers were afraid of the liability from dropping 500+ horsepower onto an unsuspecting public.

Anyways....good job and just a little extra info for you. Keep up the good work.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 17, 2012:

sradie— Please accept my apology for the delay in responding to your most excellent comments. I have been distracted lately and working hard every day to finish my first book while I am still on this planet.

Oh yea, the 442 was an awesome machine. And sure, the Z-28 was a great sports car--a legend in its own time and since. I always loved the look of of the Trans Am and Firebird. My brother Paul owned a 1980 Red Firebird (I sold it to him!), and before that a black Trans Am, maybe about a 1977.

For this article, I decided to keep it down to only six cars, two by each major automaker, so as to keep the Hub short for MTV attention spans. There were lots of Cool Classic Muscle Cars that I remember well. These six seemed to me like the cream of the crop.

Thank you very much for taking the time to visit my Hub. I appreciate your comments.

James :)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 10, 2012:

financenotes— Me too!! Believe it or not, I can still tell the year, make , and model of most of the old cars from the 1960s when I see them in an old movie or television show.

It does seem that much of American products and services have been homogenized. I mean, think of all the old mom and pop motels, restaurants, hardware stores, drug stores, auto parts stores, etc. that now seem all the same. All franchised. It happened to music too, that homogenization.

Well, thank you very much for reading my article. I enjoyed your excellent comments.

james :D

sradie from Palm Coast FL on December 10, 2012:

@ paul baker & James A Watkins, apparently you missed the Trans Am Pontiac, the Z-28 Camaro and the 442 Olds. All were excellent handling machines particularly when you consider their size, weight and comfort. In my days with 442 Oldsmobiles, I have raced many European sports cars through the winding Sierra Nevada Mountains on roads that challenge any vehicle foreign or domestic. European cars that are purpose built sports cars of the same vintage as my 442's surely have the advantage. But, take a large sedan capable of comfortably carrying five people and all their luggage and you will find the differences are minimal, braking being the biggest single shortcoming of the American made muscle cars.

financenotes on December 09, 2012:

I miss the late 60's era cars. Even as a kid I could tell the make, model, and year of a car by it's tail or grill as it approached or drove off, that's how distinctive the styling was. We've lost something.

I feel particularly insulted to see a resurgence in that style in the new cars rolling off the line. It's as though the designers gave up and said "crap.. I'm out of ideas, let's just make it look like the '69 Barracuda. People liked that one.."

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 13, 2012:

suvreviews— You are welcome, once again. Good luck on your HubPages career. I will see you soon on your pages.

suvreviews on November 12, 2012:

Thank you for the welcome, James. Looking forward to contributing more SUV articles to this wonderful community!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 09, 2012:

suvreviews— You are quite welcome. They are stunning, aren't they!? :)

Thank you for taking the time to read my article. Welcome to the HubPages Community! I look forward to reading some of your writings ASAP.

suvreviews on November 08, 2012:

Ah, the Camaro and the Shelby are absolutely stunning! Thanks, by the way, I was not familiar with the term "muscle cars" before :)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 08, 2012: