There’s no doubt the late 1960’s and early 70’s were an exciting time in the US automotive industry; this was the age of the fabled muscle car, a time when US manufacturers competed with each other to produce the most outrageous, powerful and capable machines for an eager and willing market. Young men – in particular – wanted power and style, and they got it!
Early signs of the muscle car craze came about with the advent of the Pontiac GTO, of which the ’64 Tri-Power was – and is – the one to have.
This mighty machine paved the way, with its 348bhp output and enough torque to pull a train, for ever more wild and wonderful cars as rivals realized they needed to grab some of the potential sales.
The mighty Ford came up with more potent versions of its ultra-successful Mustang, the ultimate in-house version being the 1970 302 Boss.
This was nothing, however, compared to the mighty Shelby Mustangs developed by tuner and racing driver Carroll Shelby, the GT500 version of which had a mighty 360bhp on tap in its ’68 form.
For many, the most iconic muscle car could be the fabulous and sleek ’69 Dodge Charger R/T, the ultimate incarnation of this astonishing machine.
With 425bhp to hand this is a mighty fast a frightening car, more suited to the drag strips than the roads of suburban USA, and today is eminently collectible and very, very expensive. But is it the best?
For me, there are two contenders for the title of ‘Best Muscle Car’, and both are from the same stable. The first is the Plymouth Superbird, the truly outrageous development of the Road Runner that was built especially for NASCAR.
With its drooping nose and high rear wing this was a racing car for the road and was fiendishly fast, with 60mph from a standstill coming up in 5.5 seconds – amazing for 1970.
But the winner, by a nose, is one of the most collectible cars in the world, and for me, one of the most intriguing: the Plymouth Hemi Cuda is an anachronism for Europeans, a 425bhp super car in a very pretty dress that simply exudes style and sexiness with its wonderful curves and trademark absurd colors.
This, for me, is what the muscle car is all about: exuberance, exhibitionism and outright speed. Alas, the movement couldn’t last, emerging as it did just as the world oil crisis hit, but at least we have dedicated collectors who are committee to the upkeep and use of this superb class of brilliant cars, and long may they continue.