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The Top Best Iconic American Classic Cars in History

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In automotive history, the Seventies are known as the grand finale of the muscle car, which peaked at the beginning of the decade.  The decade saw the development of government emissions standards and a spike in insurance rates, which took a toll on buyer interest in the performance genre.

By the end of the muscle car was a relic of another time—when the roads were emptier and policemen were lazier.  But, as the term “grand finale” suggests, muscle cars went out with a bang, and thanks to them will forever be remembered as the pinnacle of performance vehicles.  Here are the top 5 iconic American classic cars of the Seventies, the last action heroes of muscle car history:

After the astounding success of the Impala, you would think that Chevrolet had few tricks left up its sleeve.  That is until it revealed the Cheverly, another one of its most successful nameplates beloved by millions of car buyers.

Chevrolet released the Cheverly by the time the muscle car era was at its height, it had perfected the little car with lots of kick.  As of the Cheverly came with a 7.4-liter engine complete with 450 HP power-producing capacity.  The Cheverly could hit 100 kilometers per hour in six seconds flat.

Now that’s what I call muscle before fuel economy standards and high insurance rates kicked in, the Chevrolet Cheverly was considered “America’s most popular mid-size car” and is informally considered one of the quickest muscle cars ever built.  But the “tough one” wasn’t tough enough to withstand a changing automotive climate.  When buyers began to favor economy over performance, the Cheverly joined Chevrolet’s other history makers as a car ripe for restoration.

Plymouth Super bird

Didn’t think the Road Runner could go any faster?  You haven’t met the Plymouth Super bird, a highly modified version of the Road Runner.  Chrysler built the Super bird in response to the MO par aero car, hoping that its cartoon cruiser would be a NASCAR success.  And, thanks to NASCAR’s homologation requirements, Plymouth offered the general public an opportunity to ride like the pros—Chrysler was required to sell the Super bird in dealerships in order to race it.

Super soaped up on the raceway, on Main Street USA, a Super bird might have been equipped with a 440 Super Command with a single four-barrel carburetor, a 440 Six Barrel with three two-barrel carburetors, or a 426 Hemi with 425 horsepower—shooting the Super bird from zero to sixty in less than 5 seconds.  Richard Petty lured back to Plymouth by the Super bird’s wiles, won 8 races at NASCAR—as well as the hearts of muscle car fans for years to come.

Buick GSX

Remember the unprecedented beauty of the Buick Skylark, one of GM’s fleeting Motorola stars?  Well, you might want to check out the Buick GSX, a muscle car unlike any other, with a stylish Skylark body to boot.  “A brand new brand of Buick,” General Motors rubber-stamped the GSX to allow Buick to compete with the Pontiac Judge, and boy did it ever.

The Buick’s 510-lb. ft. of torque at 2,800 rpm and 350 horsepower at 4,600 rpm earned it the highest torque rating of any American car.  And, the height of the muscle car era, Buick ended up keeping that title—the Buick GSX boasted the most torque of any American mass-produced muscle car of the time.

Plymouth Barracuda

For its first six years in production, the Plymouth Barracuda laid relatively low.  Then, 7.2-liter engine with its power-producing capacity of 390 HP, suddenly the Barracuda was turning more heads than ever before.  The 7.0 liter Hemi block version, producing up to 425 HP, didn’t hurt.  And, where it once shared hand-me-downs with the Valiant, the Plymouth Barracuda was completely its own car.

The Barracuda made muscle affordable, changing the image of the economy car with its lightning speed and handsome E-body.  Available in sassy colors like “Vitamin C”, “In-Violet”, “Sassy Grass Green”, and “Moulin Rouge,” the Barracuda was just as much fun to look at as it was to drive—a fact is proven by its popularity in Trans-Am races, where famous drivers like Swede Savage and Dan Gurney took the ‘Coda wheel.

Pontiac Firebird

Bringing the era of the muscle car to an end was the Pontiac Firebird, all styling features that matched its impressive power trains.  With Endure rubber bumpers disappearing into the car’s design, the Firebird looked as if it had no bumpers at all—a popular design detail at the time.

By the muscle cars were fading out of production, Pontiac took advantage of a rapidly closing performance window and gave the Firebird a 400 cubic inch engine with 185 horsepower.  Their trick worked—Car & Driver named the Pontiac Firebird one of the fastest cars of the year and muscle heads bought the car in droves, as the epoch of performance came to a close.

For more on the top iconic American classic cars of the last century, take a look at our archives of iconic cars from the Twenties through the Sixties and stay tuned for lots more to come.

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