Muscle Cars We’d Love to See Back that Ended Production Too Soon
These Classics need to come back
Updated May 27, 2018
Muscle cars are yet again gaining in popularity – that’s something you can bank in. Mustang has never actually gone anywhere, but most of its rivals have at one point. Now we have Camaro, Challenger, and Charger to fight the ‘Stang, plus there are Viper, Taurus SHO, and Corvette if you count them as muscle. However, all that is nothing compared to muscle cars’ golden era of the sixties and the early seventies. That’s when muscle enthusiasts really had to bust their heads when choosing their next car. Fish tank was simply more colorful back in the day.
With that many muscle available, it was only to be expected some of them would end up with shorter life span than expected. Call it survival of the fittest if you will. This list aims to remind you of some of them that ended production way too soon, but we’d certainly love to see them back. We’ll exclude special one year production runs like AMC SC/Rambler, AMC Rebel Machine, Plymouth Superbird or Dodge Daytona. Furthermore, we’ll exclude the cars which lasted for more than 10 years. Although we’d love to see the likes of Buick Skylark, Plymouth Roadrunner, and Ford Galaxie back, we have to agree that they had a lengthy and successful run. With that in mind, take a look at what we have selected for you.
You’ll have to agree there’s hardly a better way to start any muscle car list than with the GTO. One that probably started it all, itself started as an option on Tempest and ended as option on Ventura. In the meanwhile, it evolved into a nameplate of its own, becoming one of the most sought after muscle cars in the process. Between 1964 and 1973, it never came with engine smaller than 389 cid. Only in 1974 – its last year – did it offer a 350. It will probably be best remembered by 1969 the “Judge” option with Ram Air III 400 cid V8 mill and 366 horses.
Oldsmobile was the first GM division to follow in Pontiac’s footsteps, encouraged by none other than the GTO. 4-4-2 also started and ended as package option for Cutlass. It got its name from a combo of 4 barrel carburetor, 4 speed manual transmission, and dual exhausts. 442 would later become its own model between ’68 and ’71 after which it reverted to Cutlass option. Those latter years are unimportant, however, as most engines of the time were anemic in terms of performance. Strongest 442’s were seen in 1970 when W-30 option used to squeeze 370 ponies out of its 455 cid V8.
Yet another former and latter option package which had 5 minutes of glory by itself. Mercury Cyclone started out as an option for Comet in 1964, although 289 cid wasn’t all that powerful. In 1967, it became its own nameplate which lasted until 1971 when Cyclone reverted to option package on Montego. Strongest Cyclone models were fitted with 390-horsepower 427 cid V8’s available for a few months during 1968. Muscle will likely be remembered by Cyclone Spoiler models of 1970 with 429 Cobra Jet and 429 Super Cobra Jet mills packing 370 hp and 375 hp respectively.
Chevrolet Nova SS
Chevy Nova had a long production history, but Nova SS was only produced for a short period of time. It was in ’68 that SS trim actually became a performance package. Together with that came the big-block performance of the 396 cid V8. 1968 Nova SS packed as much as 375 horses with Holley four-barrel carb, free-breathing heads, and solid lifters. 1969 Nova SS, however, developed even more power. Yenko Nova 427 generated close to 450 hp and were one of the strongest small muscle cars ever made.
Even before becoming a nameplate of its own, Torino was the upscale package for already powerful Fairlane. It appeared in 1968, and instantly kicked off with 390-hp 427 cid V8 soon to be replaced by the new Cobra Jet. In 1970, Fairlane became Torino’s subaltern. By 1972 and introduction of larger Gran Torino, however, muscle’s performance was significantly downgraded, never to soar again.
Wildcat enjoyed a short sting between 1962 and 1970, but started strong from the get-go. First models were already equipped with 401 cid V8’s making 325 horsepower. Furthermore, Wildcat was Buick’s first performance car, paving the way to future models. In ’68, it had Gran Sport Performance Group package which added dual four barrel carbs for a total of 380 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. Final year saw Wildcat depart on a strong note with 455 cid V8 packing 370 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque.
Chevrolet El Camino SS
El Camino actually had two stints of production which together lasted for 15 years. El Camino SS, however, only appeared in latter, Chevelle-derived generations. Third generation is when it all happened, and when El Camino boasted 396 V8’s with as much as 375 horsepower. Later on, it would even receive LS6 454 cid V8’s with as much as 450 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque. However, it all went downhill since 1972, especially in performance department.
AMX was shorter lived than its larger cousin Javelin from whose platform it was derived. American Motors Experimental (AMX) was one of the smallest muscle cars made since it came with 97 inch wheelbase, only two seats and 3,100 pounds of curb weight. Its strongest version was 390 cid V8-powered AMC AMX SS with dual 650 cfm Holley four-barrels and 340 horses. SS drag racing cars were only available in ’69, and came in 52 or 53 limited copies.
Buick Grand National
Regal was available for 40 years between ’73 and ’04, and was revived again in 2011. It’s Buick Regal Grand National we’re interested in here as it represents one of the most important muscle cars of all time. It’s the Grand National which reignited the performance-oriented cars’ fire back in late seventies. It debuted in 1982 as performance version of Regal intended for NASCAR Winston Cup Series. It was rather anemic at start with 4.1L normally aspirated V6 and only 125 hp. That changed soon, however, and Grand National packed 300 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque by ’87. GNX models which offered that output were underrated by Buick, and officially only delivered 276 horses and 360 lb-ft of torque. Even though this power output is still incomparable with that of the muscle cars from the sixties, Grand National still basically managed to pave the way to the next generation of muscle cars on its own.
Plymouth ‘Cuda is still one of the most beloved muscle cars, despite the fact it only survived a decade. Available between ’64 and ’74, ‘Cuda was the first pony car ever made, beating the Mustang by two weeks. Probable reason for Barracuda’s untimely demise is the fact that it started offering true performance way too late. Only in ’69 did Formula S-derived ‘Cuda arrive with its 390 hp from Super Commando V8 engine. Furthermore, 1970 saw the birth of Hemi ‘Cuda which had 426 cid Hemi V8 and 425 horsepower. It was one of the fastest cars of its time available to general population. That didn’t save then still fresh player in the performance car market from new emission regulations and soaring gas prices.
Chevrolet Chevelle SS
Of all discontinued muscle cars, Chevelle SS probably takes the cake in terms of the popularity status. It didn’t start all that well as ’64 models didn’t go heavier than 327 cid. Already in ’65, however, Chevelle SS displayed what it’s capable of doing. Fabled 396 cid V8 developed 375 hp, and remained on top until ’69. That’s when COPO Chevelles with 427 cid V8’s and 425 hp became available. That wasn’t it’s peak, though. Chevelle SS offered the biggest engine in a muscle car to date, back in 1970. LS6 454 V8 with 800-cfm Holley four barrel generated 450 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque. That’s still the highest factory horsepower rating in any production engine. That’s why Chevelle SS is so popular, among other things.