Lucky 13: A Look at 13 Underrated and Underappreciated Muscle Cars
Posted on June 1, 2017
When we think of muscle cars, we picture big, powerful engines mounted on medium-sized cars with attractive looks and legendary pedigree like Mustangs. While they completely deserve the praise, there are also many other muscle cars as worthy of attention which never quite got the same recognition. And if you are a fan of those cars, the good news is that, because they have been underrated, they are much cheaper than other comparable muscle cars with a more famous name. So if you are looking to start a collection of classic cars or enlarge it, these models are just what you need.
1989 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am
Built on an F-body platform, this third generation owes its lack of popular success to the low horsepower of every engine option it offered. Although Pontiac addressed this problem by fitting a turbo V6 into it, its production was discontinued after a year. It’s an interesting car though, with a reasonable price tag.
1971 AMC Hornet SC/360
We have to admit it, the Hornet wasn’t the best-looking car compared to its contemporaries but it did have a lot going for it: relatively lightweight, it packed 285hp and reviewers at the time said that it was one of the best muscle cars on the market.
Dodge Demon/Plymouth Duster
In the mid-60s to the early 70s, the car to beat was the Chevrolet Nova SS. Dodge/Plymouth were intent on competing with it, but they had to do so without cannibalising the sales of their larger muscle car models, and thus was born the Demon/Duster. Available with a 340 or 360 V8 engine, it is a fun traditional muscle car and won’t break the bank.
Dodge Magnum SRT8
The Magnum is a perfect example of repurposing.
Built on an outdated Benz chassis, it was reinvented as a full-size muscle wagon and brought Chrysler significant profits. The SRT version offers 425 hp into an everyday package. Fitted with a Hemi V8 engine, it is capable of powerful acceleration, but because of less performant handling and breaking, it has often been overlooked.
Ford Torino GT
Why throw away a perfectly good chassis?
The Fairlane may not have been the most exciting car, but it proved its commercial worth during its 15-year existence so why not give it a second lease of life? Remove two doors, sprinkle some luxurious touches and improve the design and voilà, the Torino GT is born.
Ford didn’t bother with a V6 version; skipping directly to V8 versions available as a coupé, fastback, or convertible. Despite not being famous, it was faster than a mid-90s Mustang GT.
Muscle cars, like monster trucks, tend to be an American thing. Yet, there is one British car that just about qualifies in that category: the Jensen Interceptor.
With its classic good looks, it favours high-speed handling and offers an opulent interior to discerning customers. It doesn’t compromise on power though, with its 440 cubic inches of Chrysler engine.
1963-1970 Buick Wildcat
Muscle cars are usually medium size, but if you like yours with a fuller body, the Buick Wildcats are for you. The first generation was built from 1963 to 1964, packed with 300 hp and the later Wildcats, from 1965 to 1970 could be pumped to 370 hp and 500 lb/ft.
1992-1993 Dodge Daytona IROC R/T
Take an unprepossessing economy car and revamp it. That’s what Chrysler did, using the chassis of the Aries K and turning it into a perfectly fine muscle car. The IROC and R/T packages added some serious horsepower to the Mitsubishi V6 engine, made all the more powerful with a lighter chassis.
1994-1995 Audi RS2 Avant
We may think of the golden era of muscle cars as the 60s and 70s, but a few car manufacturers produced some in the following decades.
The love child of Audi and Porsche, the basic Avant was nothing terribly special until it was upgraded. New engine, suspension, brake and new look created this very interesting muscle car, with 311 horsepower, a six-gear manual transmission, and four-wheel drive.
2003-2004 Infiniti M45
The Infiniti is another example of non-American muscle car. Made by Nissan, it uses the M chassis, powered by a V8 engine from the Infiniti Q45 for 340 hp. With its relatively light body, it can certainly roar. The interior, which used to be the epitome of luxury, hasn’t aged too badly and still looks nice.
2005-2008 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP
It took a little while before General Motors got that model right… and they discontinued its production right after they did!
With an ageing - but reliable - W-chassis, The GXP version is the best of them, with a 5.3L V8 engine and 303hp. Interesting to note that it comes, we kid you not, with a g-force meter.
1974 Pontiac Ventura GTO
As with many other muscle cars, the famous GTO perished quietly in the 1970s. A hybrid made of a 70s Nova with the front end of a Pontiac, its slightly odd-looking appearance may explain failing sales numbers at the time, but the Ventura GTO has other benefits: it is the least expensive classic GTO you can buy and it is the most efficient too. Driving it is very pleasant, and it offers an interesting upgrade to a 5.7L V8 engine.
1970 Chrysler 300 Hurst
In the 60s and 70s, Hurst partnered with car manufacturers to produce some special editions. Although they never became household names, they definitely have a lot to offer. The Chrysler 300 sported traditional white and tan colour scheme the era was fond of, and exudes luxury. It was fitted with a 440 V8 engine and could get to 90km/h in 7.1 seconds, which wasn’t bad at the time.
Only 500 of them were made so the car may well prove to be a good investment too.
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