That 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 a hit almost immediately. The original version got an inline-6, but Ford quickly added a V8 and watched 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 ran with it, giving us trims like the Boss 429, Boss 302 and Mach 1. The Mustang had a bit of a tough time of it in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. but it remained more popular than any of its competitors – some of whom didn’t survive the energy crisis. The model returned to its original intent with the S-197 generation recapturing public attention. That S550 eventually received 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 in the automotive industry, with models ranging from as little as $3,000 to a paltry $3.5 million. 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 outlandish alternative to the Ford Mustang, sharing the same platform, engines and tuning. The Cougar also shared the same basic styling, but featured different body panels and a completely different front end.
Unlike the Mustang, which had a straight-six as the base engine, the Cougar only ever had V8 engines, ranging from the 4.7-liter windsor up to the massive 7.0-liter 427. As with the Mustang, transmission options included a 3- or 4-speed manual or the famous 3-speed Cruise-O-Matic Transmission.
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 and shared the same three-box design to appeal to potential Mustang customers.
The Camaro SS featured either a 5.7-liter or a 6.5-liter V8 and additional chassis upgrades to support the extra power. Depending on engine choice, SS trims produced between 295 and 350 hp. The Camaro included the same transmission gears, but also included a 2-speed automatic.
8/10 Buick GSX
The Buick GSX was the sportiest of the Skylark Gran Sport models, designed to compete with the muscle cars of the time. The GSX featured the same 7.5-liter V8 as the Gran Sport 455, but with an additional performance package.
Interestingly, the GSX remained America’s highest-torque naturally aspirated vehicle until the second-generation Dodge Viper V10 – which debuted 33 years later. The GSX is a beast of a machine, on par with the Oldsmobile 4-4-2 and Chevrolet Chevelle SS.
7/10 Dodge Dart R/T
The Dodge Dart was the smaller of the traditional muscle cars, sitting below the likes of the Challenger. Although the model was physically smaller, Chrysler still gave it the largest engine in its arsenal.
The range started with the 2.8-liter Oblique-6 Engine, progressing to a 4.5 liter V8 and finally a 7.2 liter V8. The Dart has several fun disguises including the colorful Swinger and HEMI models. Today the Dart is a popular model for drag racing due to its size, light weight and large engine compartment.
6/10 Chevrolet Chevelle SS454
The Chevrolet Chevelle SS is one of the most iconic American muscle cars ever produced, featuring some of the biggest engines of the era. The base models had the regular inline-6s, but the SS models went all out from the 6.5-liter engine of the Camaro SS to the 7.4-liter engine of the famous 454.
The second generation Chevelle was the most popular and has remained so to this day thanks to its styling and performance. The Chevelle was discontinued in 1977 because it failed to meet regulations and because fuel prices were getting too high.
5/10 Plymouth HEMI ‘Cuda
The Plymouth Barracuda is often credited with being the first proper muscle car, debuting a few months before the Ford Mustang. The third generation Barracuda – known as the HEMI ‘Cuda – was the most famous as it was built on the same platform as the Dodge Challenger.
The ‘Cuda shares all of the same engines as the Challenger, from the smaller 3.2-liter inline-6 to the massive 440 7.2 liter V8. The ‘Cuda was more expensive to buy than the Challenger, but it was superbly designed and more comfortable on longer journeys.
4/10 Dodge Challenger R/T
The Challenger is one of Dodge’s most iconic models. It was specifically designed and developed to fight the Ford Mustang and steal some sales from the horse-embellished pony car.
The Challenger became famous in its own right as it has landed several roles in various films since its launch, with one film specifically focusing on it as a car – vanishing point (1971). The Barracuda name has been rumored to be returning several times, but nothing has happened yet.
3/10 Vintage 442
The Oldsmobile 4-4-2 is one of the coolest classic American muscle cars with its massive hoods, spoiler and Hurst white and gold livery. The 4-4-2 was originally so named because it had a 4-barrel carburetor, 4-speed gearbox and dual exhausts.
The 4-4-2 – later shortened to just 442 – was equipped with a 6.6- or 7.5-liter V8 that produced between 290 and 365 hp. That W-30 Package with improved performance and handling, increasing power to 380 hp. The 4-4-2 is really a great vehicle, perfect for long road trips thanks to the comfortable seats.
2/10 Pontiac GTO
The Pontiac GTO is one of the most perfect muscle cars ever built. The first pure GTO name appeared 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 featured a 6.4-liter V8 with 360 hp or a 6.6-liter V8 with the same power but with 14 more lb-ft of torque, ending at 438 lb-ft. The second generation GTO dropped the 6.4-liter and got a 7.5-liter that produced 370 hp.
1/10 Plymouth GTX 440+6
The Plymouth GTX 440+6 was one of the most powerful models within the Road Runner range and featured a 7.2 liter V8 and three 2-barrel carburetors that produced an impressive 385 hp. The only GTX trim that produced more power was the 426 Hemi, but due to cost and new regulations only 30 cars were produced.
That B body GTX only lasted for the 1971 model year and the model was discontinued after that as it could no longer meet increasingly strict regulations due to the energy crisis. The GTX might look a bit odd thanks to the downward-facing front, but it’s still an amazing car.