America has made powerful, fast cars since before the World War II. But most of these vehicles were expensive collectibles, purchased by upper-crust buyers with a desire for speed. The muscle car was a child of '60s America, when Detroit ruled the market. The situation had changed by the '70s, and muscle cars almost vanished. But they came back in the '80s to begin the new era that's still going strong.
Different industry experts name different models as the first muscle car. One vehicle pops up more often than any other, though – the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88. With America's desire for power, the car generated lots of interest. By the '50s, every big car manufacturer had their own model with the V8 engine. Here are 15 muscle cars you didn’t know existed between 1950 and 1970.
15. 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider
The 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider was the go-to brand's vehicle before the famous Spider came along a couple of years later. It featured attractive bodywork that was made by Pininfarina. This was a compact coupe with a 1.3L inline four-cylinder engine that produced 90 hp. The car was in the 1957 film The Graduate.
14. 1970 Chrysler 300 Hurst
The 1970 Chrysler 300-Hurst wasn't a return of the fabled 300S, but a specially produced 300 hardtop model created by Hurst Performance Products and sold through Chrysler dealers. Features included the 375-bhp version of the big-block 440 V8, wider-than-stock tires, special road wheels and a Hurst shifter in place of a Torque Flite automatic.
13. 1965 Triumph Dolomite 1300
The front-wheel drive Triumph Dolomite 1300 was a fun little muscle car designed to replace the Herald and ended up evolving in different directions during its short life. This well-made saloon was a radical change for Triumph – a direction that the company retreated from. The car received a brake servo to improve its stopping performance.
12. 1964 Ford Falcon 260 Termite
The 1964 Ford Falcon 260 Termite was one of the most underrated muscle cars of that time. It was modified with a 260 engine to become the fastest race car and win almost everything. Ford added a Sprint Package, which gave the Termite a stiffer suspension and a louder exhaust.
11. 1957 Jensen Interceptor Saloon
The Jensen Interceptor Saloon made its debut in 1950. It was the second model made by Jensen Motors. It was based on Austin components with a body styled by Eric Neale. The power came from the Austin 3993cc straight-six engine. Manufacturing lasted until 1957, during this time only 52 saloons were built.
10. 1966 Chevy Biscayne
In the '60s, the Chevy Biscayne had everything one could hope for from an average muscle car. It wasn't the model that could conquer the track but rather a vehicle to show off to your friends. It was powerful enough to be fun and had a 427 cubic inch V8 engine.
9. 1966 Porsche 911 S
The Porsche 911 S boasted modifications expected from a high-performance Porsche: large jets for the Weber carbs, loftier compression and better porting. Its gear ratios were "evenly spaced except for the five-speed transmission's overdrive top, which was purposely very "high." It came with a flat-six engine that produced 160 bhp.
8. 1969 The Mercury Marauder
Due to the Mercury's lack of experience in the muscle car world, the Marauder was overlooked. Still, it was able to get to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, which was quite good for a muscle car. It was a stunning model with a powerful V8 engine capable of delivering 360 hp.
7. 1957 Lotus Elite
When Lotus showed the Elite in 1957, it announced a change. It was no longer a company that produced only race cars. It was able to deliver cutting-edge road-legal vehicles. The company's founder, Colin Chapman, thought that aluminum would be too expensive for this car. He designed an unprecedented fiberglass monococque body structure.
6. 1964 Buick Wildcat
The Buick Wildcat came with 325 horses and 445 lb. ft. of torque. The 3-speed manual gearbox was standard, while the automatic was an overwhelming favorite from the option list. The V8 was one of the largest engines the company has ever used. A grille was flanked by dual headlamps, recessed from the front fenders.
5. 1970 Ford Torino GT
Despite the powerful V8 engine that delivered 390 hp, the Ford Torino GT was constantly compared to the Mustang. It was available with the suspension package that included a heavy-duty front anti-sway bar and extra-heavy-duty springs and shocks. The car was forgotten because the Torino SportsRoof looked very similar but was more affordable.
4. 1970 AMC Rebel Machine
The AMC Rebel Machine was a good performer. It got the AMX's ram-air 390-cid V8 engine tuned to deliver 430 bhp. In its journey from a concept to reality, it acquired a huge hood scoop with a vacuum-controlled butterfly valve. Sadly for the Machine, this was the year of the Dodge Challenger.
3. 1968 Ford Ranchero 500
Even though the Ford Ranchero 500 was America's first car-based ute, it was overshadowed by the El Camino. It was available with the 335-horsepower Cobra Jet 428 V8. Unfortunately, the engine was so heavy that it was a handful to drive, so very few units were built. We can't recall seeing many Rancheros.
2. 1964 Studebaker Avanti R3
The Studebaker Avanti R3 wasn't in the list of top muscle cars, but it wasn't considered a performance powerhouse anyway. Still, the fiberglass car had a short rear deck, long hood, and 289-cubic-inch V8 two years before the Mustang did. In 1964, the model got a Paxton supercharger, which made it a 171-mph rocket.
1. 1965 Pontiac 2+2
Pontiac marketed the 2+2 as the big brother to the famous GTO. Despite multiple awards, including the Motor Trend's Car of the Year Award, it ended up forgotten. Buyers opt for the Pontiac Parisienne, even though the 2+2 had modern bucket seats, an innovative center console and unique exterior badges.