The definition of a muscle car is hard to pin down–and trust that we hear it all at our hot rod restoration services shop. Some say it’s all about the engine, while others claim it’s the attitude of the driver. Is it any fast car with a lot of muscle? Or is it a regular car with a souped-up engine? A more technical definition popular among the purists is an intermediate car with a 116-inch wheelbase—or smaller—but with a V-engine.
True muscle cars date back to the hot rod era in the 50s and early 60s. “Hot rodders” dropped large, modified engines built for speed into classic American cars like the Model A, Model T or ’32 Deuce. Car enthusiasts everywhere took notice and demand grew exponentially. Manufacturers saw the draw and got a piece of the action, inciting the inception of the true muscle car era. Ford created the iconic Mustang, which remains popular in every reiteration to this very day. The Buick Stage, Chevy Camaro and Plymouth Hemi Barracuda are became legends in their own right, though desire for fuel efficiency took a toll on demand over the years. Yet with technology comes greater efficiency—the perfect example being the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, which boasts 707 horsepower while still getting 22 highway miles per gallon.
The evolution of hot rods and muscle cars over the years is fascinating—what has stood the test of time is the horsepower, speed and distinct look of muscle cars.Today’s enthusiasts are just as passionate and die-hard as those from the 60s and 70s. Muscle cars remain as relevant as ever—the constant demand at our hot rod restoration services shop is a good indication. With owners of Mustangs and Fords to Camaros and Pontiacs, we know the love never dies.
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Whether you don’t know what defines a muscle car or if you can wax poetic about chassis dyno testing, we’re certain you can appreciate the sight of a classic muscle car restoration. They’re beasty and loud yet at the same time beautiful and graceful—a classic muscle car gets us all going at least a little bit.
Here are just a few of the greats:
1. Pontiac Firebird
Just the name reminds many of Burt Reynolds’ baby in Smokey and the Bandit and evokes images of those painted-hood icons of the ‘80s. A close relative of the Chevy Camaro, the Firebird actually dates way back to the ‘60s and is considered one of the best muscle cars on the market.
2. 1970 Boss 302 Mustang
This serious vehicle features the high-rev Boss 302 V8 engine, which was perfect for a little racing action with its ability to reach zero-to-60-mph sprint in less than seven seconds.
3. 1970 Hemi Barracuda
We had to include this hemi in this list—even those who haven’t a clue what chassis dyno testing is probably have heard of the infamous hemi. This car was completely redesigned in 1970 with five high-powered V8 engines that generated an unrivaled 425 horsepower.
4. 1970 Chevelle 454 SS
Ah, the Chevelle—one of the most classic of the bunch. This baby packs the engine—with about 7.4 liters to be exact—giving it tremendous power that was difficult to compete with. Still highest-output production car to date, this car and its engine was a force to be reckoned with when it came to power wars.
5. 1969 Dodge Charger
Everyone remembers the General Lee from the iconic television show, The Dukes of Hazzard—it was the baddest of the early Dodge Chargers. While its standard engine brought 375 horsepower, the 426 Hemi gave it a full 425.
Whether you’re a newbie to the muscle car world or are an expert in chassis dyno testing, we know you’ll take notice whenever one of these classics flies by. Click here for information on our classic muscle car restoration shop.
You don’t have to be a millionaire to own a muscle car. There are plenty of cool models that we see on the road, at car shows
and at the auto restoration shop that will set your heart aflutter. Look for models older than 1972 and you’ll find some affordable options with plenty of horsepower and character.
1. 1973 Pontiac GTO and 1973–75 Pontiac Grand Am
These babies have tons of style but won’t break the bank. In 1973, all of GM’s mid-size A-cars were designed with bigger, heavier colonnade-style bodies. Most were built with 230-hp, 400-cubic-inch (6.6 liter) V-8 engines, with optional 250-hp 455. You can easily get your hands on one of these
classics for between $12k and $17k – and any one of them will fulfill every muscle car dream you’ve ever had.
2. 1971–75 Ford Maverick Grabber
While it may not look like your typical muscle car, this vehicle is easy on the eye and boasts by a 210-gross-horsepower, two-barrel 302-cubic-inch (4.9 liter) V-8. We’ve seen them pass through the auto restoration shop with price tags lower than $12k.
3. 1979 Pontiac Firebird Formula 400 WS6
While most late 70s Trans Ams will put your wallet in a quandary, the Formula from 1979 received less hype—yet 1979 is the only year this car was offered with the 220-hp true Pontiac 400 (6.6 liter) V-8. In addition, it boasts a WS6 handling package with four-wheel disc brakes and those coveted
snowflake alloy wheels as well. Only 24,851 Formulas were manufactured that year, though not all featured 400 and WS6. As rare as they are, you can find one with a price tag of around $16k and lower.
4. 1970–71 Ford Torino GT
Built on the same mid-size chassis as its predecessors, these Torinos have nicer interiors and most come with 250-hp, 351-cubic-inch (5.8 liter) V-8. You can find these for anywhere between $12k and $19k.
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You took her to an auto restoration shop and fixed every single thing you could. You’ve waxed and wiped the beautiful fully restored muscle car in your garage hundreds of times. You take her to shows and gush about her lovingly. You still love her. You do! But you’ve got your eye on other girls. A curvy Dodge Charger? A Barracuda in need? Don’t beat yourself up, it happens to every muscle car enthusiast worth his salt. Sometimes you’ve just got to move on.
But before you do you’re going to need some cash to fuel your new project. It is really tough to let go of a project, so if you’re going to do it, do it right. Parking it at the local supermarket with a “For Sale” sign in the window isn’t going to cut it. Here are a few tips to get maximum value for your primed and cherry American muscle car.
Keep Detailed Records From Your Auto Restoration Shop
Buying a restored muscle car is an expensive venture. Make sure you have all original paperwork and a detailed history of ownership. You will also want a detailed history of the work you’ve put into the car. Which parts are original? Which parts are after market? Is the big V-8 under the hood stock or have you tweaked it to spike up the horsepower? If you have been organized from he start this should be easy. If not…
Build Up a Buzz
Don’t post an ad or join an auction until you have primed your audience. The internet is loaded with blogs and forums dedicated to specific muscle car makes and models. Got a Mustang to sell? Get on the forums, talk to other enthusiasts, post pictures of your ride. You’ll get a better idea of what your car is worth and you might just find a buyer while you’re at it.
Take the Leap
You can go the fixed price route and advertise on Hemmings.com (hardcopy or online). Or you can go the auction route and hope for a bidding war on eBay Motors. Either way, have a cost window set. What is a fair amount to charge? What is the lowest amount you’ll take?
The biggest thing is to be patient. If the market isn’t right, wait. People love American muscle cars. Bid your time and you’ll find someone who loves that beauty in your garage just as much as you do.
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