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Muscle Cars

In the late 1960s, U.S. manufacturers were bitten by the high-performance bug. Sacrificing efficiency for brute force, they installed powerful V8 engines in otherwise humdrum coupes, hardtops, and convertibles. Fearsome competition cars, they were also thrilling to drive on the road. The “muscle cars” reached their pinnacle in 1970, after which power outputs were drastically reduced in the face of the unfolding oil crisis.

Plymouth Road-Runner Superbird, 1970


Engine7,213 cc, V8
Top speed130 mph (209 km/h)

The Superbird, endorsed by the TV cartoon character Road-Runner, was a NASCAR racer made legal for the road. Just 1,900 of these winged wonders were built.

Oldsmobile 442, 1970


Engine7,456 cc, V8
Top speed120 mph (193 km/h)

The 442 was launched in 1964; the figures signified a four-barrel carburetor, four-speed gearbox, and dual exhausts. It was a stand-alone model from 1968 to 1972.

Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda, 1970


Engine7,210 cc, V8
Top speed130 mph (209 km/h)

The ’Cuda crowned the large Plymouth Barracuda series, and with its hemisphericalhead Chrysler V8 pumping out up to 425 bhp, it was the series powerhouse.

Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, 1973


Engine7,459 cc, V8
Top speed132 mph (212 km/h)

Often distinguished by a huge hood decal depicting a phoenix, the Trans Am was named after the race series in which Firebirds excelled in the late 1960s.

Pontiac Trans Am, 1975


Engine6,556 cc, V8
Top speed118 mph (190 km/h)

The Firebird was restyled with a longer nose and a bigger rear window to become the Pontiac Trans Am. It was still a race contender, despite a cut in power to 185 bhp forced by tighter emissions rules.

Dodge Challenger R/T 440, 1970


Engine6,276 cc, V8
Top speed114 mph (183 km/h)

This practical hardtop coupe was enlivened by electric acceleration to rival the hottest Mustangs. A 7.2-liter engine option boosted its bhp from 300 to 385.

Mercury Cougar, 1973


Engine7,030 cc, V8
Top speed125 mph (201 km/h)

For a while in the 1970s, the Mercury Cougar-especially in 390 bhp XR-7 guise-headed Ford’s high-power offerings. It was based closely on the Mustang.

Ford Mustang Mach 1, 1972


Engine5,753 cc, V8
Top speed130 mph (209 km/h)

The ultimate performance Mustang of the 1970s was also the largest, and starred in a famous two-wheeled stunt in the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever.

Ford Falcon XA hardtop, 1972


Engine5,673 cc, V8
Top speed160 mph (257 km/h)

This GT-HO version tore up Australia’s race tracks, leading to a public outcry—known as the “Supercar Superscare”—at the prospect of 160 mph (257 km/h) cars speeding on the country’s roads.

Chevrolet Camaro, 1966


Engine6,489 cc, V8
Top speed136 mph (219 km/h)

The Camaro was Chevrolet’s answer to Ford’s Mustang, and joined the expanding “pony car” club with its reliable drive train and electric acceleration available for the biggest V8 engine.

Chevrolet Nova SS, 1971


Engine5,736 cc, V8
Top speed107 mph (172 km/h)

The fastest of the compact Nova SSs could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) from standstill in under 6 seconds. Abundant wheelspin and heavy steering only boosted the car’s macho appeal.

Chevrolet Camaro SS 396, 1972


Engine6,588 cc, V8
Top speed120 mph (193 km/h)

A 240 bhp V8 engine was a hot option on the SS. This Camaro, visually updated like the entire range in 1970, was too polluting to be sold in California.

Chevrolet Corvette, 1980


Engine5,733 cc, V8
Top speed125 mph (201 km/h)

Corvettes of the 1970s, like other sporty U.S. cars, gradually surrendered outright performance to tighter emissions laws. This 1980 model offered a relatively tame 190 bhp.


It is a quote. The Definitive Visual History Of The Automobile 2011

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