Some of the Rarest American Muscle Collectible Cars
What makes a car a muscle car? You would have to jump in a time machine, if one existed, and go back to the late 1940s. This is when people were taking low-cost affordable cars and modifying them with bigger and more powerful engines. Oldsmobile was the first to take notice of what was going on, and the company wanted to appeal to this group of potential car buyers.
In 1949, Oldsmobile rolled out the first V8 engine that featured an overhead valve, high-compression engine and put this into its mid-sized body and called it the Rocket 88. Some consider this to be the birth of the muscle car, with Oldsmobile releasing the first production muscle cars for sale by a major car manufacturer.
Prior to this, muscle cars were essentially modified vehicles with aftermarket upgrades and changes to give them more powerful engines. With the new Olds V8 engine, things were about to change and set the tone of the muscle car market segment for the next three decades.
The second muscle car to come onto the scene was the Hudson Hornet. It was released in 1951 and featured a straight V6 engine. Eventually, the Hornet offered a Twin-H engine option in later modeled years. V8 engines became optional once AMC started manufacturing the car in 1957. AMC also released the Rambler Rebel in 1957, which some consider to be the first muscle car because it was a more compact mid-size car, likened to many of the muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s.
During this time, other car manufacturers also started releasing their own designs in the mid-1950s. Chrysler rolled out the Chrysler 300 in 1955. The Golden Hawk hit markets in 1956 and was produced by Studebaker. Then, in the 1960s, things really started to take off for the muscle car market segment.
Where Did the Term Muscle Cars Come From?
The term “muscle cars” was not widely used at this time. Rather, car manufacturers and other people referred to these beefed-up mid-sized sedans as “supercars.” Some manufacturers even used the designation “SC” in model names to let consumers know this was their “supercar” entry.
In addition, car manufacturers were busy coming up with catchy marketing terms for other models. As a result, what we refer to today as muscle cars did not always hold. Originally, the term was applied to a specific set of cars; namely, those that were considered a mid-sized sedan with a high-performance V8 engine.
Other cars on the market at that time were classified into specific vehicle classes, much like we do today. “Pony Cars” was a term
used to describe compact sedans with two doors and a back seat, along with a beefed-up engine configuration. This term often referred to the Ford Mustang and the Chevy Camaro.
Sub-compact models with larger engines, like the Chevy Nova or the Dodge Dart, were marketed as “mini” muscle cars because they were smaller than the Pontiac GTO, the Ford Fairlane, and the Plymouth Road Runner but larger than the “Pony Cars.”
Chevy’s Corvette and AMC’s AMX were considered “Sports Cars” because of their two-seat configuration and no back seats. As you can see, many of the models we call muscle cars today were called something else forty or fifty years ago.
What Were the Rarest Muscle Cars for Sale?
Some of the rarest muscle cars for sale in the 1960s and 1970s are also some of the most sought-after collectible cars today. What made them rare was their limited production, resulting in fewer models.
Dodge Coronet R/T Convertible
Dodge produced only two of these models for the 1967 year, which featured a Hemi engine. Then, in 1970, when they updated the design of the Coronet, Dodge once again produced just two R/T convertibles in the new design.
Chevrolet Corvette ZL-1
The ZL-1 designation was used in the 1969 model year to refer to Chevy’s engine block made entirely of aluminum. There were only three of this model produced, and each one was special ordered by employees.
Pontiac GTO Judge Convertible
Pontiac produced just seventeen of these cars for the 1971 model year. This was largely due to changes in emission laws occurring around this time. Between 1969 and 1970, Pontiac did produce another 190 Judge Convertibles, which are also highly sought-after by car collectors.
Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 LS6
For the 1970 model year, Chevy offered an upgraded LS6 package on models with the 454 cubic engine, which increased the horsepower from 460 hp to 560 hp. Chevy only produced 20 of the LS6 models.
Chevrolet Corvette L88
Chevy liked offering upgraded packages as options in its car lines in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The L88 package was offered in models that had the 427 cubic foot engine. Originally, the L88 was marketed for racing, but Chevy did produce models it sold to consumers. In 1967, there were only 20 built and, in 1968, another 176 before the package was dropped. Just like the LS6 package, the L88 package upped hp output to around 560 hp.
Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible
The Barracuda line was a very popular muscle car line for Plymouth. In 1970, they updated the look of the model and changed the name to “Cuda.” For the 1970 model year, five different engine options were offered, along with a convertible design.
Among the engine options was a 426-cubic-inch Hemi only available for the 1970 and 1971 model years. Hardtop Hemi Cudas are equally rare—Plymouth only built a total of 21 of the Hemi Cuda convertibles between 1970 and 1971.
Plymouth R023 GTX
In 1967, Plymouth produced just 55 of the R023 GTX model. This was largely due to the R023 model being marketed and sold for racing purposes. Yet, the model is highly sought-after by people shopping for classic cars for sale today, mainly because it was much lighter than the consumer model and featured the Hemi 426-cubic-inch engine.
Ford Fairlane 500 R-Code
For the 1967 model year, Ford produced just 57 of this model. The 500 designation meant the Fairlane featured the racing package. The R-Code designation was used in the vehicle’s VIN number and meant the Fairlane featured dual quad carburetors.
Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1
In 1969, the ZL-1 engine was not just used to build the 3 Corvettes mentioned earlier, but also 69 Camaros. The ZL-1 engine was made entirely from aluminum and outputted 560 hp. While initially built for racing purposes, only 20 models were used on race tracks and drag strips.
The other 49 models made their way to car dealers instead. Out of those 49 Camaros, twelve were sent back by the dealers to be retrofitted with a smaller engine so they could be sold, leaving 57 of the original ZL-1s. Both the retrofitted and original ZL-1s are rare finds.
Plymouth Hemi Superbird
In 1970, Plymouth produced 135 of the Hemi Superbird models. The design was based upon their popular Roadrunner models. It was produced as a racing model only. What made the vehicle unique was its curved front bumper, wing spoiler, and horn. The horn made the “beep-beep” sound made by the Roadrunner in Looney Tunes cartoons.
While these models may not have been the fastest or most popular-selling models in their day, today they are highly sought-after due to their rarity and limited production. If someone were fortunate enough to buy one of these models and pass it down from generation to generation and maintain its appearance, these models could fetch a decent price on the resale market.
When you are looking for muscle and classic cars for sale, have a muscle or classic car you want to sell, or have one you need help restoring, please feel free to stop by Show Cars of Boca Raton or contact us today for further information and assistance! We have our very own onsite restoration and service shop, and we can help with custom builds, sourcing parts, and more!