I’ve received several letters from readers asking me to re-kindle my “Top 10 Muscle Car” list from the 1960s. This is a difficult task as we started with some nice cars in 1960 like the Chevy 348 Impala, Pontiac 389 Tri-Power Catalina, Chrysler 300, Ford Thunderbird 390, and so on, none of which made the list.
To make matters even more difficult, by the time the decade came to a close, muscle cars from a Hemi Barracuda to a 390 Javelin/AMX or a Buick GS455 were all available and way faster than the cars of the earlier 1960s.
Knowing I’m probably going to get many letters from readers as to why I forgot “this or that one,” here are my 10 best muscle cars of the era list, based on introduction year. (All models are two-door units, sticker is base price only.)
(1) 1962 Chevy Bel Air 409: The "bubble top" 409 cube-409 horse takes the initial spot on our muscle car favorites list. In addition to the Beach Boys “409” hit song, the 409/409 dual quad Bel Air spawned numerous national drag racing legends, including "Dyno Don" Nicholson, Hayden Proffit and Dave Strickler all of whom won big on the NHRA circuit. Over on the NASCAR scene, Rex White's gold and white No. 4 ’62 Bel Air won the Atlanta 400, even though an underdog compared to the many Ford teams that year. Base Price: $2,438.
(2) 1964 Pontiac GTO: The GTO started the mid-size muscle car craze, and made available this tire screeching, torque bruising “goat” complete with a 389 V8 and three two-barrel carbs. It ushered in a new-era car craze and a hit song of its own, “Little GTO” by Ronnie and the Daytonas. Today this GTO is a sought after prize. Base price: $2,855.
(3) 1964 Shelby Cobra: The Ford Motor Company purchased the rights to the British AC Bristol sports car and with the help of Carroll Shelby stuffed a race ready 427, 425 horse powerhouse under the “bonnet.”
To this day, a real Ford Cobra is one of the most sought after performance vehicles of all-time. They fetch $500,000 and up in original form and they stomped the Corvettes back then, thanks to top drivers like the late Dave MacDonald, who gave up his seat in a factory Corvette to join the Cobra race team. The street versions also included a 289 V8, and Shelby’s early race Cobras were powered by a Ford 260 V8. Base price: $5,575 to $7,495.
(4) 1965 Plymouth Belvedere 426 Hemi: In two-door factory trim, these cars were capable of low 11-second times on the drag strip, and they ate up the NASCAR ovals, too. This race Hemi was no slouch, regardless of whether it was hooked to an automatic or a four-speed as proven by the late Ken Montgomery, a Pennsylvania racer of Super Stock fame. Base Price: $3,100.
(5) 1967 Plymouth GTX: With 440 cubes of wedge power coupled to a Hemi flight 727 automatic, this “larger” super car put many a driver and passenger "back into the seat." It proved along with sibling Dodge Coronet R/T that big could also be fast, and the Chevelle and Mustang crazy crowd soon took note. Base price: $3,379.
(6) 1968 Mustang Cobra Jet 428: This Mustang model gets the nod over the beefier, but heavier and a bit slower, Boss 429.
For sheer quarter-mile performances, the Cobra Jet put away many a Chevy and MOPAR racer with ease, and cost some $1800 less than a Boss 429. Base price: $3,139.
(7) 1969 Hurst Olds 442: One of the most popular Oldsmobiles ever to come off the assembly line. If produced 390 horsepower from 455 cubic inches, and had special "Hurst" paint, trim, spoilers and W-30 Ram Air. It ran, too. Base price: $3,950.
(8) 1969 Dodge Super Bee Six Pack: Introduced mid-year 1969, this Super Bee received a 440 with three two barrel carbs (Six Pack) and came with a 4:10 rear and lift-off lightweight hood. Rated at 390-horses, with a little work and some add on like headers, you were running low 12-second quarter miles. The Roadrunner 440 Six Pack was identical in Plymouth dress. Base Price w/440-6: $3,509.
(9) 1969 Corvette 427: Even though more expensive, but rare 427s like the all-aluminum ZL1 version of Chevrolet famous 427-L88 were available, the 427/435 horse Tri-Power is still an in demand Corvette. Many were cruising the boulevards back then, unaware that by the year 2016 they would be worth an easy $100,000 and up in pristine, Mecum or Barrett Jackson Auction shape. Base price: $4,781.
(10) 1970 Chevelle SS 454: The Chevelle SS line, introduced late in 1965 with a 396/375 big-block under the hood, the Chevelle has to this day kept muscle car fans happy with its value, looks and performance. For acceleration there's nothing like a 450 horse LS-6 under the hood hooked to an M-22 Muncie 4-speed. Since this car was introduced in late 1969, I have included it in my 1960s Top 10. Base price: $2,809 non SS.
Honorable mention: 1969 Rambler SC 2-door: This Rambler American, known as a Scrambler, is one of the all-time sleepers in muscle car history. Capable of beating most factory stock Corvettes in the quarter-mile, its unique red-white-blue paint scheme, special hood scoop and 390-inch engine and Hurst trimmings made believers of many. The lightweight screamer could run 12-second quarter-miles with little work. Base price: $2,998.