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The 10 Most Iconic American Muscle Cars

Even your Aunt Margie (who knows everything about knitting and tulips but nothing about cars) will recognize these American classics.

by
Becky Graebner

Bio

June 2, 2014 - 7:00 am
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Promotional Shot Of 1964 Ford Mustang

1. Ford Mustang

Where does one even start when talking about the Ford Mustang?  This car has become the embodiment of America’s love affair with speed and muscle.  This iconic Ford instigated the creation of the “pony car” classification of automobiles and prompted competing car manufacturers to crank out America’s other favorite muscle cars.  For Ford, the Mustang was (and continues to be) a smash hit.

The first Mustang debuted at the New York World’s Fair in April of 1964.  It was originally equipped with a 260-cubic-inch (4.3L) V8 but was quickly upgraded to a 289-cubic-inch (4.7L) V8 in its first year.  By 1968, the Mustang was outfitted with a 302-cubic-inch (4.9L) V8.  The following year, Ford released several performance packages for the Mustang including the Boss 302, Mach 1, and Boss 429.  The speed and power had arrived.

All Comments   (11)
All Comments   (11)
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I can't believe I missed this post. As a car guy who came of age in the 1970's after the first fuel crisis, we had the opportunity to buy muscle cars for pocket change, it was a wonderful time. I wound up with underappreciated 1969-70 Cougars. But I can tell you that a Cougar Eliminator with the 428CJ was an absolute animal with respectable handling for being so nose heavy. From a 40 mph roll in drive, stomping on it would blow the tires away. Dang, I miss those times....
6 weeks ago
6 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've always been something of an automobile contrarian, but even I (at the time) was thoroughly impressed with the old muscle-cars. I was always partial to the Chrysler products, which always had impressive engines.

But they all had their good points. I remember my brother had a girlfriend whose own brother owned a '69 Chevelle with a 396. Amazingly quick.

I liked the Fords more for looks than performance, but the 302 V8 was a great little engine. The first year the Maverick came out, it was only powered by a six. But the second year, they quietly slapped a 302 in some of them, with no fanfare and no tell-tale stickers or trim announcing it. My brother owned one, and I'll never forget sitting at a light with him when some dude pulled up in a Mustang, revving and looking smug and all-powerful, and sneering at the Maverick. But when the light changed to green, the fellow got the surprise of his life as my brother pulled effortlessly away from him.

As for my tastes, I've always liked the more stolid and fogey-ish cars. Old Packards from the Thirties, Chrysler Windsors from the early Fifties, and so forth. My favorite Ford is a '64 Galaxie two-door hardtop, and who doesn't like the Harley Earl designs for Chevy in the Fifties? Cars weren't just cars in those days. They were art that drove.

Today, I keep the fogey flame alive with my very own 1982 Checker Marathon, which I've owned since '99 and had restored in '10. It's not a performer, but she turns a lot of heads and draws a lot of smiles. The wallflower of yesteryear has become the belle of the ball.

Want to see it? Go here and search for "Marathon"...

http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2012/04/the-2012-iowahawk-earth-week-cruise-in.html


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7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Shame on you for noting the displacement in liters for these classics. That's like wearing bicycle racing shorts to a rodeo.


That aside, ah, the Mustang.

I bought one from a friend in 1978, in my ignorant youth. I was the third owner of a pristine Mustang that was first sold in MAY of 1964. That made it one of the very first ones out of the factory. I had the original paperwork from the first owner. There was not a ding in the sheet metal, not a tear or a stain in the interior. 289 with a 2 barrel, but oddly enough, it had the BorgWarner T-10 trans, the tough one that the racers wanted. All original as far as the first or second owners knew, except for normal maintenance like a water pump I replaced.

I had no clue what I had.

I sold it for a pittance less than a year later. When I placed the ad my phone about melted down.

Yes, I'm still crying about my own stupidity.

7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
No Roadrunner?

The car designed to do the quarter mile at 100 mph and cost less than $3000. The epitome of Muscle cars? Hemi anyone??
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've owned and ridden in some modern 'muscle' cars. But not a one of them sweeter than my buddy's orange w/white stripes 69 302 Z-28. Fire extinguisher mounted on the console, rough idle, clutch that about took everything your left leg capable, spin 70s as far as you wanted to burn.

Man, those were the days. Beautiful car. Like driving a go cart with a high performance motor. Rode like one too.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
The AMC Javelin and AMX might merit at least an "also-ran".
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh, get serious!
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I love this list, but where does the Impala fit in? We've noticed TV writers use these cars as what I called "hero shorthand". They let the guys (Supernatural, Burn Notice) have a "bad boy" image, but their true "good guy" cred stays intact. Thanks for this.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Short answer, Katherine: It doesn't.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I had a 1971 Chevy Malibu. It was my grandfather's car. Fifteen years old with a bad ring, it could still hit 100 mph. But as the speed needle went left, the gas needle went right.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
During the mid-70s, I owned a used GS. Sweet car.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
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