We all know the story; it started in 1964 with the Ford Mustang. No, wait — I mean the Plymouth Barracuda. Or the Pontiac GTO. Or was it earlier with the Pontiac Catalina SD? The ’50s Dodge D-500 maybe?
Debating the origin of the muscle car is like debating over the first rock and roll record; everyone you talk to has a different opinion, and no one is exactly wrong. Let’s just say that by the early ’60s, a generation coming of age fell in love with high-performance midsize cars coming out of Detroit, and for a few brief years, performance ruled the day. Naturally, the good old days seem to look better with each passing year, and as the book was written on the muscle car, a fair amount of contenders fell by the wayside.
Every gearhead could tell a Mustang from a Camaro from a ‘Cuda from a GTO in their sleep. Slightly more advanced fans know about the Buick GNX, the Ford Torino Cobra Jet, Plymouth GTX, and the AMC SC/Rambler too. But go much deeper than that, and cars begin to get lost to time. And that’s a shame because with performance being the magic word, a number of automakers tried to cash in on the muscle car craze and, even when they failed, left some seriously powerful and interesting cars behind. Here are 10 ’60s-era muscle cars that deserve to re-enter the conversation
1. 1964 Studebaker Avanti R3
The Avanti isn’t generally counted among muscle cars, but then, Studebaker was never exactly considered a performance powerhouse to begin with. But the fiberglass Avanti had a long hood, short rear deck, and 289-cubic-inch V8 a full two years before the Ford Mustang
did. In 1964 (after production officially ended), Studebaker bored out nine V8s to 304 cubic inches, slapped a Paxton supercharger on them, and dropped them into remaining Avantis. The result was a 171-mile-per-hour rocket, which the company claimed made it the fastest production car
in America. This R3 was sold by Auctions America in 2010
for $96,250. With the collector market
being what it is today, good luck finding one this cheap ever again.
1965 Pontiac 2+2
As far as classic muscle cars go, the ’65-’67 GTO is remembered to be about as big as they came. But with the success of the GTO, Pontiac wanted to take its go-fast formula to an even bigger car, which became the ’65-’67 2+2. Based on the full-size Catalina two-door, the 2+2 had its own unique 338-horsepower 421-cubic-inch V8, and in High Output guise, power jumped to 376 ponies, which when tuned right could rocket from zero to 60 in a mind-bending 3.9 seconds
. Bigger, plusher, and often faster than its smaller stablemate, the 2+2 deserves a lot more love from speed freaks
1964 Mercury Comet Cyclone