You know the Charger and Challenger, the Barracuda, the Camaro, and the Mustang. But here are our favorite forgotten muscle cars that never got the same spotlight.
Muscle and pony cars are, for many, the beginning of a life-long automotive obsession. Icons like the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Dodge Charger rumble and race their way into our hearts and imaginations. But what of lesser known or even forgotten muscle cars? Though they may not have sold as well as the Mustang, there are plenty of other great (and fast) muscle cars out there to be remembered.
But what is a muscle car? Since there are always exceptions and outliers, we’ll limit our muscle car definition to an observational one. That is, most muscle cars are light (-ish), two-door cars often with a long hood and short rear deck, rear-wheel drive, and a sizable V8 under the hood. Some of the cars on this list may deviate from this general outline, but that’s also why they’re interesting.
The first car on our forgotten muscle car list breaks one of the cardinal pillars of what it means to be a muscle car. That’s because the Oldsmobile Toronado was front-wheel drive. The Toronado packed a 425cu. in. “Rocket” V8 making an impressive 385hp and 475lb.ft. of torque. It’s design was, and continues to be, quite striking with a long hood, sloping fastback roof, and pop-up headlights.
We love us some Grand National and the GNX, or Grand National Experimental, is our favorite incarnation. Thanks to the folks at ASC-McLaren Performance Technologies, the GNX’s upgrades meant it was faster than a Ferrari F40, Lamborghini Countach, and even GM’s own Corvette of the period. The GNX’s turbocharged V6 put up 290hp and 420lb.-ft. of torque and propelled the GNX to a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds and a quarter mile of just 12.4 seconds.
The AMC AMX isn’t your typical forgotten muscle car. First, it wasn’t produced by any of the Detroit Big-Three, and second, it didn’t have the typical 2+2 seating. Instead AMC jettisoned the rear seats for a short and sporty rear end. The AMX’s largest engine offering was a 390cu. in V8 making 340hp. Though the AMX itself was short-lived, lasting only three model years, the AMX name would live on as a trim level on other AMC cars including the Javelin, Hornet and Concord.
The Pontiac Catalina is another outlier forgotten muscle car given its prodigious size and long, sedan-like rear deck. The third-generation Catalina featured only V8s, ranging from 6.4L all the way to 7.5L. The Catalina came in a number of body styles including a four-door sedan and wagon. But our interest is in the two-door 2+2 coupe. The 2+2 came with two engine options, the base 421 V8 or the 421 HO variant making 375 horsepower. The Catalina needed all that power as the car weighed in excess of 3,700lbs.
Mercury’s forgotten muscle car, the Cyclone began life as the Mercury Comet. The second generation, ‘66-’67, carried both names and featured a similar body to the Ford Fairlane. In 1967, the Cyclone could be optioned with the 427 Ford FE making 410hp. Perhaps most exciting was the 1970 Cyclone GT 429 Super Cobra Jet featuring a Ram Air induction and a four-barrel carburetor making 375hp.
As if the Buick Gran Sport wasn’t already cool enough, in 1970 GM further evolved the souped-up Skylark into a classic of the muscle car era, the Buick GSX. In keeping with Buick’s premium image, the GSX received all sorts of performance goodies on top of the added interior quality and creature comforts like AC and power steering. The GSX with Stage 1 package featured functional hood scoops, a rear wing, front spoiler, and 455 cu in V8 putting down an era high (for American muscle cars) 510lb.-ft. of torque. The limited number of just 687 produced makes the GSX highly collectable today.
Before there was the Chevy El Camino there was the Ford Ranchero, the OG muscle ute. Like the El Camino, the Ranchero carried a lot of different engines of various sizes over the years. Our focus for this list is the fifth-generation Ranchero GT. It could be had with the same 429 Super Cobra Jet V8 as the Mercury Cyclone (mentioned above) and also maxing out at 375hp.
The Baldwin-Motion Phase III GT Corvette is a unicorn of a muscle car. Built as a collaboration between Baldwin Chevrolet and Motion Performance, the Phase III GT Vettes were individually custom built to their buyer’s specification. While details varied from build-to-build, most of these Corvettes featured the same basics, a 427cu. in. V8 with a Holley carburetor, functional hood scoops, fastback roof design, big rear tires, and an Edlebrock intake manifold. This set up granted the Baldwin-Motion Vette a 500-horsepower rating and a quarter mile time of approximately 11 seconds. Only 10 were built and just 3 survive to this day.
For 1964, the Pontiac Tempest and it’s GM siblings the Buick Skylark and Oldsmobile Cutlass dropped their Y-frame for the new A-frame body. The reinvented Tempest offered a generous list of engine and transmissions. The LeMans performance trim received a performance package option dubbed the GTO (perhaps you’ve heard of it). The Tempest LeMans could be had with a 389cu. in. V8 making 325hp as standard. It could be further upgraded with three two-barrel carbs to max out he horsepower at 348. The Tempest could be optioned with either a four-speed manual or three-speed Hydromatic automatic transmission.
The Oldsmobile 442 was thus dubbed thanks to it’s four-barrel carburetor, four-speed manual, and dual exhaust. The massive 455 cu. in. V8 made a heart-pounding 365hp but with the W30 option package upgrading everything from cylinder heads and a fiberglass roof to functional hood scoops and a special intake manifold, the 442 could top 370hp and 500lb.-ft. of torque. The 442 could hit 0-60 in around 6 second which, for 1970, was very swift indeed.
What about the 69torino it had a 429 cobra jet also