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Sporty US Coupés

Muscle cars powered onto the American motoring scene in the 1960s, driven by ever-larger and more sophisticated V8 engines. The biggest cars were well over 7.0 liters and produced around 400 bhp. Competitive racers were even more powerful. Ford’s 427 cu in big-block and Chrysler’s renowned 426 cu in “Street Hemi” were both used in NASCAR racing and NHRA/AHRA drag events. Insurance costs and emissions worries would spell the end for the big engines eventually, but that would be a problem for another decade—during the 1960s it was all about power.

Buick Riviera, 1964


Engine6,967 cc, V8
Top speed115 mph (185 km/h)

GM’s design supremo Bill Mitchell wanted “a cross between a Ferrari and a Rolls”, and the handsome Riviera was the result. Prodigious, straight-line urge came from a large V8 engine, driving through a two-speed, automatic transmission. Buick capped production at 40,000 a year to maintain exclusivity.

Unique proposition

Unlike most GM cars, the Riviera’s body and chassis were unique. With a shorter wheelbase and overall length than the contemporary Buick LeSabre, its subtle styling set it apart.

Light fantastic

The Riviera shared its suspension layout with others in the Buick stable, but its lighter weight meant that it handled better and was quicker in a straight line, making it more of a driver’s car.

Buick’s nailhead

Renowned for their high torque output, Buick’s unusually designed “Nailheads” were so named for their small, vertical valves that resembled the tops of nails. The V8 engines often idled poorly due to the race-type cam profiles they used to compensate for the small valves. The Riviera was produced in 401 cu in (6.6-liter) and 425 cu in (7.0-liter) versions, which were the last of the type before Buick replaced them with the all-alloy small block in 1963.

Chrysler 300F, 1960


Engine6,768 cc, V8
Top speed120 mph (193 km/h)

The 300 Series “Letter cars” were Chrysler’s most powerful machines—the 300F went to monocoque construction and ram-tuned induction, but still had 1950s-style tailfins. The spare-wheel cover in the boot lid did not prove popular, however—its appearance was likened to a “toilet seat”.

Ford Mustang Fastback, 1965


Engine4,727 cc, V8
Top speed116 mph (186 km/h)

Its low base price, combined with a long list of optional extras available, meant more than a million Mustangs were sold in the first two years of production. The styling was so universally loved that it won the Tiffany Award for Excellence in American Design.

Oldsmobile Toronado, 1967


Engine6,970 cc V8
Top speed135 mph (217 km/h)

An automotive milestone and the most desirable Olds ever, this extraordinary powertrain had a big V8 driving through a unique chain-and-sprocket-drive automatic transmission to the front wheels. Despite its outstanding road manners and speed, it was several years before it won over conservative American car buyers.

Dodge Charger, 1968


Engine7,212 cc, V8
Top speed120 mph (193 km/h)

“Dodge Fever” arrived in 1968 with record sales for the marque, helped by the new, super-smooth “Coke bottle-” styled Charger V8. R/T stood for Road/Track and denoted a specification that included the largest available engine (the famed 426 Hemi was an option), and “bumblebee” stripes.


It is a quote. The Classic Car Book – The Definitive Visual History 2016

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