The ford Mustang may not have been the first muscle car, but it was the car that started the metaphorical ‘muscle car gold rush’. Today, the Ford Mustang is still the weapon of choice for a V8-powered muscle car around the world.
The Mustang was launched in 1964 and became an instant hit. The original version got an inline-6, but Ford quickly added a V8 and saw the money roll in. Dodge and Chevrolet had to wait three years before having the same experience with their Challenger and Camaro, by which time the Mustang had made its mark on history. The models that followed in the 1960s captured the public’s imagination and followed suit, giving us versions such as the Boss 429, Boss 302 and Mach 1. The Mustang struggled a bit in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, but it remained more popular than any of its competitors – some of which did not survive the energy crisis. The model returned to its original intent with the S-197 generation, regaining the attention of the public. The S550 finally got modern suspension technology and right-hand drive, making it the most popular sports car in the world.
The old first-generation Mustang is now an icon within the automotive industry, with models going from $3,000 to a ridiculous $3.5 million. Although, if the Mustang isn’t quite your speed, here are ten classic muscle car alternatives that were just as good.
10/10 Mercury Puma
The original Mercury Cougar was the slightly more exclusive alternative to the Ford Mustang, sharing the same platform, engines and tuning. The Cougar also had the same basic design, but had different body panels and a completely different front fascia.
Unlike the Mustang, which had a six-cylinder in-line base engine, the Cougar only received V8 engines, ranging from the 4.7-liter Windsor to the massive 7.0 liter 427. As with the Mustang, transmission options include a three- or four-speed manual, or the famous three-speed Cruise O Matic transfer.
9/10 Chevy Camaro SS
The Chevrolet Camaro was GM’s answer to the Mustang, with 6-cylinder and V8 engines in its lineup. The Camaro was more or less the same size as the Mustang, with the same three-box design to appeal to potential Mustang customers.
The Camaro SS had a 5.7-liter or 6.5-liter V8 and added chassis upgrades to help with the extra power. SS trims produced between 295 and 350 horsepower, depending on engine choice. The Camaro had the same ratio gearboxes, but also a 2-speed automatic.
8/10 Buick GSX
The Buick GSX was the sportiest of the Skylark Gran Sport models, developed to compete with the muscle cars of the time. The GSX had the same 7.5 liter V8 found in the Gran Sport 455, but with an added performance package.
Interestingly, the GSX remained the highest torque producing American naturally aspirated vehicle until the second generation Dodge Viper V10 – which debuted 33 years later. The GSX is a beast of a machine, comparable to the Oldsmobile 4-4-2 and Chevrolet Chevelle SS.
7/10 Dodge Dart R/T
The Dodge Dart was the smallest of the traditional muscle cars, sitting below the Challenger. Although the model was physically smaller, Chrysler still gave it the largest engines in their arsenal.
The range started with the 2.8-litre Slope-6 engine, increasing to a 4.5-liter V8 and finally a 7.2-liter V8. The Dart received several fun decorations, including the colorful Swinger and HEMI models. Today, the Dart is a popular model to use for drag racing because of its size, light weight and large engine bay.
6/10 Chevy Chevelle SS 454
The Chevrolet Chevelle SS is one of the most iconic American muscle cars ever produced, boasting some of the greatest engines of its era. The base models had the regular inline-6s, but the SS models went all out with everything from the 6.5-liter of the Camaro SS to a 7.4-liter of the famed 454.
The second-generation Chevelle was the most popular and remains so to this day due to its styling and performance. The Chevelle was discontinued in 1977 due to non-compliance and fuel prices getting too high.
5/10 Plymouth HEMI ‘Cuda
The Plymouth Barracuda is often credited as the first true muscle car, debuting a few months before the Ford Mustang. The third generation Barracuda – known as the HEMI ‘Cuda – was the most famous, built on the same platform as the Dodge Challenger.
The ‘Cuda got the same engines as the Challenger, from the smaller 3.2-liter inline-6 to the huge 440 7.2 liter V8. The ‘Cuda was more expensive to buy than the Challenger, but it had excellent styling and was more comfortable on longer journeys.
4/10 Dodge Challenger R/T
The Challenger is one of Dodge’s most famous models. It was specifically designed and developed to combat the Ford Mustang and steal some sales away from the horse decal pony car.
The Challenger became famous in its own right as it landed multiple roles in various films since its introduction, with one film specifically targeting it as a car – Vanishing point (1971). It is rumored that the Barracuda name will return several times, but nothing has happened yet.
3/10 Oldsmobile 442
The Oldsmobile 4-4-2 is one of the coolest classic American muscle cars with its huge air scoops, spoiler and white and gold Hurst paintwork. The 4-4-2 was originally so named because it had a 4-barrel carburettor, 4-speed transmission and dual exhausts.
The 4-4-2 – later shortened to just 442 – had a 6.6 or 7.5 liter V8, producing between 290 and 365 horsepower. The W-30 package of added performance and handling upgrades, boosting power to 380 horsepower. The 4-4-2 really is a great vehicle, perfect for long road trips thanks to the comfortable seats.
2/10 Pontiac GT
The Pontiac GTO is one of the most perfect muscle cars ever made. The first purely GTO name came about in 1966, as it was a performance upgrade added to a Tempest Le Mans model. The GTO was updated annually between 1964 and 1968.
The GTO had a 6.4-liter V8 rated at 360 hp or a 6.6-liter V8 with the same power but 14 lb-ft more torque, ending up at 438 lb-ft. The second-generation GTO dropped the 6.4-liter and got a 7.5-liter that produced 370 horsepower.
1/10 Plymouth GTX 440+6
The Plymouth GTX 440+6 was one of the most powerful models in the Road Runner range, featuring a 7.2-litre V8 and three twin-barrel carburettors, producing an impressive 385 horsepower. The only GTX trim to produce more power was the 426 Hemi, but due to cost and new regulations only 30 cars were produced.
The B body GTX only lasted model year 1971 and the model was then discontinued because it could no longer comply with increasingly strict regulations due to the energy crisis. The GTX might look a little weird thanks to the down-swept front end, but it’s still a great car.