Muscle Cars for Non-Muscle Enthusiasts
Admire muscle from afar? Here's some affordable suggestions to whet your appetite!
Let's face it--there's something off-kilter about the old-car hobby in North America. For some strange reason, utterly unsophisticated vehicles lacking in contemporary leading-edge technology are priced out of proportion to their more exotic contemporaries across the ocean. Why is that?
Well, Baby Boomers rule the collector car roost, and nostalgia dictates their vehicles of choice are muscle cars, which plays into the classic supply & demand narrative. One can't fault the sense of style coming out of Detroit in the 1960s either. Cap it all with the visceral rush from horsepower and there's something very distinctive about American muscle that didn't exist anywhere else (though Aussies may disagree).
Not everyone is into muscle cars, Boomers or otherwise, but there are plenty of admirers. While I can't speak for those on the fringe, here are some interesting and affordable muscle cars that may pique their interest more than others.
1970-71 Ford Torino GT
1971 Torino GT SportsRoof. Compare with the 1970 above and how the Laser stripe extends to the rear wheel here. (Image courtesy of Mecum.com)
The Torino series was all-new for 1970, with a lineup that started with the Fairlane 500 and continued with the Torino Cobra, Torino, Torino GT, and the new Torino Brougham (mid-year, the Falcon made an appearance as a mid-sizer, situated below the Fairlane 500). The Torino GT had been around since 1968, offering low-performance engines standard but allowing buyers to spec out a true performance car. As such, the Torino GT is perfect for those who are interested in looking good without much fuss because the optional Laser stripes, Sport Slats, and Shaker hood were independent of horsepower choice. Standard was a tepid 302 2bbl., with a 351 2bbl. being the first step up. The best compromise between performance and cost for you fairweather muscle car enthusiasts would be the 300-horsepower 351 4bbl., as the 360-horse 429 and 429 Cobra Jet can get rather expensive.
Original Torino GT ad from 1970. Note the standard non-functional hood scoop.
Nineteen seventy-one saw detail changes to styling and equipment, with the elimination of the "regular" 429 and the Drag Pack for the Cobra Jet being most notable under the hood. Production was down (as was for sporty cars as a whole), but prices are about the same for an equivalent 1970, with Hagerty valuing a very nice 351 4bbl. GT fastback at $26,400. Don't discount the convertible, though, as you may be surprised how affordable they are despite their rarity.
1970 Oldsmobile Rallye 350
Promotional photo for the 1970 Rallye 350 with Dr. Oldsmobile.
Nineteen seventy tends to be the high-water mark for muscle, but the truth is that sales had been falling drastically--take the GTO as an example: over 87,000 were built in 1968, while that number was more than halved two years later. The insurance industry was but one reason for the market shift, which led to a number of cosmetic muscle cars and junior supercars that had a friendlier relationship with insurance agents. Oldsmobile's Rallye 350 was a great example of the latter trend.
The spoiler was later made an option for the Rallye 350.
Truth be told, the Rallye 350 was also a great draw for dealerships thanks to its screaming Sebring Yellow paint with matching Urethane bumpers and black and orange accents. The "W45" Rallye 350 package was available on the F85 Club Coupe, and the Cutlass S Sports Coupe and Holiday coupe (the former two featured B-pillars, while the latter was a hardtop). Included in the package aside of the paint and bumpers were sport mirrors, "W25" ram air hood, rear spoiler (later made an option), Super Stock II mags without trim rings, and FE2 suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars, among other items. Underneath the hood was a 350cid with 310 horsepower, which just so happened to be the standard engine for the Cutlass Supreme--nothin' fancy but it got the job done. With the right gearing and tuning, high-14s were possible. (There have been claims that some Rallyes were built with the W31 350, but it's an urban legend.)
Spread among the three models, 3,547 Rallye 350s were built. Since it's not a 4-4-2, prices tend to be much more reasonable, with a very nice example going for $31,000 according to Hagerty.
1969 AMC Javelin
Simply put, this is a 1969 AMC Javelin SST with the Go Pack, Big Bad Orange paint, and all of the candy. (Image courtesy of Hot Rod)
The Javelin made its debut for the 1968 model year as American Motors' answer to the Mustang. But the similar 1969 is more interesting because of the options available to dress it up.
There were two Javelin trim levels: base and SST. Either could be optioned with reverse "C"stripes, and order the Go Package and you'd receive a non-functional scooped hood, 343 (with dual exhausts) or 390, power front disc brakes, redline Polyglas tires, and handling package. Mid-year, AMC introduced several options to dress up the Javelin, including exhaust-style rocker panels, roof spoiler, and nifty Big Bad colors in orange, blue, or green, complete with painted bumpers for a monochromatic look. If the mod look was "in," you could count on AMC to be as mod as anyone.
Note the roof spoiler. (Image courtesy of Hot Rod)
AMC products tend to lag the Big Three in values, so you can get a lot of car for your money. A nice 343 SST will run you $21,400 according to Hagerty, although stripes, spoilers, and more will cost ya.
1971 Plymouth Duster 340
Curious Yellow was one of the new High Impact colors for 1971. (Image courtesy of AMCRI.com)
When the A-body Barracuda evolved into the all-new E-body in 1970, Plymouth found itself without a sporty compact. The product planners' answer to fill that void was to create a semi-fastback Valiant and call it Duster. It was an immediate hit, and the Duster was joined by the similar, Dart-based Dodge Demon in 1971.
As part of a portfolio that featured among the flashiest performance cars on the market, the high-performance 1970 Duster 340 barely looked the part, subtley equipped with thin black side stripes and tiny identification. That was all corrected for 1971 as a cheese-grater grille and prominent lognitudinal upper-body and rear panel stripes characterized the Duster 340 from lesser Dusters. Optional was the "performance hood paint treatment" with hood black-out and huge pop art "340 WEDGE" decal. For a cheap performance car, the Duster 340 really delivered the goods, with all those 275 horses being up to the task when handling more substantial machinery.
Green Go was a carry-over color from 1970. Note the aftermarket Cragars. (Image courtesy of FastLaneCars.com)
Though the cheapest performance Mopar, the 1971 Duster 340 follows Mopar trends in being somewhat pricier than similar Brand X machinery: $34,900 according to Hagerty. But that's a small cost for eye candy and solid 14-second ETs.