25. 1965 Buick Skylark

Original Price: $2,552

Current Value: $20,000

The 1965 Skylark is a great muscle car for first time collectors, deserving recognition for being affordable, stylish, and an all around great car. Buick’s first muscle car was released in 1965, during the beginning of the great era of American muscle cars. The Gran Sport option became available and was offered as a coupe, hardtop or convertible.

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Flickr/Greg Gjerdingen

Many Skylark owners praise the car for having such a smooth ride. American consumers picked up about 70,000 of them in 1965, but far less opted for the Gran Sport option, which is highly valued today. One Massachusetts man has taken his love of the Skylark to the extreme. He only collects 1965 to 1966 models, and stores all twenty-five of them at his four-acre home that could also double as a vintage Buick museum.

24. 1968 Oldsmobile 442

Original Price: $3,127

Current Value: $24,000

If you’re looking for a powerful car that’s affordable and still good looking, look no further than the Oldsmobile 442. Pronounced 4-4-2 because of its four-barrel carburetor, four-speed manual transmission, and dual exhausts; it pushed out 375 horsepower. All of these models came with a bronze finished engine and red air filter, which made the guts look just as nice as the exterior body.

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Wikimedia Commons/Reinhold Möller

At the track, the 442 scored a zero to sixty time of 7 seconds, and 15.13 seconds on the quarter mile. It is recognizable from its beautiful sloped back, and the two-tone silver and black paint job that came standard on all the Hurst/Olds 442’s. The 442 is one of the most popular cars ever sold by Oldsmobile, selling hundreds of thousands of units, but these limited editions are much tougher to find these days.

23. 1970 Ford Torino Cobra

Original Price: $3,270

Current Value: $56,000

In 1970, the Ford Torino won Motor Trend’s car of the year award. Today, it is still considered to be one of the best American muscle cars ever made. Less popular with the masses, but an absolute must-have for drag racers, was the Cobra package; with its Super Cobra Jet engine that pumped out 375 horsepower. It was so powerful that owners have recommended not using it to travel long distances.

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The rear end gear is short, staying around 3,500 to 3,800 RPMs, so a long trip on the freeway could result in an overheated engine. The Torino body style is the same as the Fairlane, recognizable by its “hideaway” headlights. Though the 1970 generation is two years its predecessor, the Gran Torino was such an icon of American muscle that Clint Eastwood selected it as the focal point of his 2008 film of the same name.

22. 1971 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

Original Price $3,635

Current Value: $70,000

The definition of a muscle car, 1971’s Chevy Camaro was the first of the second-generation Camaros. It would inspire fifth generation body styles that featured from 2010 to 2015, which put the Camaro back on the map in terms of sales. The Z/28 edition put out 340 horsepower, and was the most high-performance option for that year.

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While Chevrolet sold over 100,000 units of Camaros that year, only 4,862 spent the extra $786.75 for the Z/28 package. It’s a splurge that many wish they went for if they still had the car today. The Z/28, with its 350 cubic-inch V8, consistently fetches between 20 to 50% higher valuation than the base models. This makes it a $70,000-plus car today in pristine condition.

21. 1969 Pontiac GTO The Judge

Original Price: $3,940

Current Value: $80,000

“Here comes da judge!” The release of the Pontiac GTO was a sign of the times. “The Judge” package earned its moniker from a sarcastic one-liner from the script of Laugh-In. The line was emblematic of blatant disregard for authority, which was fitting of the GTO, one of the baddest American muscle cars ever made.

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With an original price tag only $332 dollars more expensive than the standard model GTO, in 1969, splurging on the “the Judge” would have been a great investment. Its aggressive look, wide tires, and T-shaped shifter were highly coveted by virtually every American when it was released. In true rebel fashion, “the Judge” was initially only offered in red, but eventually became available in a variety of colors thanks to its popularity.

20. 1963 Corvette Stingray

Original Price: $4,037

Current Value: $100,000

1963 Corvette Stingrays are one of the earliest models of the C2, or second-generation Stingrays. That year marked a distinctive change in the Corvette’s appearance, with famed automobile designer Zora Arkus-Duntov spearheading design efforts. In order to make the car as aerodynamic as possible, the team used a wind tunnel on Caltech University’s campus using scaled-down models for testing.

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The C2’s debut marked the first year that Chevrolet dropped the top on the Corvette. Of the 21,513 units produced, exactly half were convertibles. All of the Corvette Stingray models in 1963 featured 327 cubic-inch engines, with options for 300, 340, and 360 horsepower. The car’s popularity was heightened by pop culture: the 1967 Elvis Presley film Clambake would make the second generation Corvette Stingray one of the coolest, and most distinctive, cars of the decade.

19. 1968 Dodge Charger Hemi R/T

Original Price: $4,110

Current Value: $150,000

Fans of the Dodge Charger were greeted with a new, sleek body style when Dodge unveiled their new lineup in 1968. The cream of the crop was the Hemi R/T, with its 426-horsepower Hemi engine. All three R/Ts — the Coronet, Superbee, and Dart GTS — were branded with a cartoon bumblebee that featured in the car’s marketing campaigns.

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Flickr/David Merret

The 1968 Steve McQueen film Bullitt features an impressive car chase scene in a ’68 Hemi R/T. The iconic on-screen moment has only added to the car’s lore as one of the best American muscle cars of all time. The fact that Dodge only produced 4,000 models that year has also helped inflate the price dramatically,

18. 1970 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Ram Air IV

Original Price: $4,906

Current Value: $150,000-$200,000

For decades considered to be the iconic model of the Pontiac lineup, Trans Ams were first introduced in 1967, remaining a popular car until production stopped in 2002. Perhaps the most impressive of all the Trans Ams, spanning more than four decades, is the 1970 Ram Air IV.

classic american muscle cars Pontiac Trans Am classic american muscle cars Pontiac Trans Am

While more modest models featured a V6 engine, the Ram Air IV had a 400 cubic inch V8, of which only eighty-eight models were sold. The car’s rarity is what has driven its price up in recent years, with one seller from California currently asking $250,000 for his mint condition Ram Air IV.

17. 1969 Boss 429 Mustang

Original Price: $4,798

Current Value: $180,000

Offered as an upgraded model Mustang in 1969 and 1970, the Boss Mustang is one of the most coveted and highly-valued Mustangs on the market today. The car was built to compete on the track against Chrysler’s new 426 Hemi engine. After much deliberation, Ford decided that the Mustang would be the model to feature their new, similar engine.

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Wikimedia Commons/nakhon100

There were only 1,359 429 Boss Mustangs ever made. When they first hit the consumer market, advertisements showed the car having 375 horsepower, but the verity of that fact is highly speculated. At a time when insurance costs were rising, it’s said that Ford understated the amount of horsepower so that consumers wouldn’t be scared off by the higher premium that came with owning such a high-powered car.

16. 1970 Buick GSX

Original Price: $4,880

Current Value: $185,000

A landmark year in the history of American muscle cars, 1970 produced a variety of high-quality automobiles thanks to a sound economy and stable sales. Buick decided to contribute to the muscle car list when they souped up the Skylark and turned it into a GSX.

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The GSX came in only two color options, Saturn Yellow and Apollo White. This car is known for its long list of extra options, which is one reason that collectors flock to the GSX in particular. It’s also appealing because of its performance. At 500 lbs-ft of torque, the GSX had the highest output of torque of any American muscle car for three decades, until it was surpassed by the 2003 V10 Dodge Viper.

15. 1970 Plymouth Superbird Hemi

Original Price: $4,298

Current Value: $150,000-$200,000

When it was released in 1970, the Plymouth Superbird was essentially a souped-up version of the Plymouth Roadrunner. It stands out because of its extremely large front end and large aerodynamic spoiler. The car was built specifically for racing. It was inspired by sister company, Dodge, whose Charger Daytona model was the first American car to be built using computer analysis.

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The top-of-the-line Hemi Superbird included a 426 Hemi V8 that produced 425 horsepower and 490 lb of torque. Plymouth built a little over 2,000 Superbirds during one year of production, but few of them had the Hemi engine, which makes this model in particular fetch a considerable amount more on the open market.

14. 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda

Original Price: $4,348

Current Value: $200,000

The actual model name is the Barracuda, but the Hemi/Convertible option is so cool that you can’t help but call it a ‘Cuda, which is spelled out on the back of the car. While the 1969 Plymouth Baraccuda is a classic car, and also features the Superbird option that makes our list, the upgrades to the grill and headlights make for an altogether better-looking aesthetic.

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In a recent auction, a 1970 ‘Cuda Convertible hit the block and commanded a shocking final bid of $3.5 million dollars. It’s important to note that there were only eleven 1970 ‘Cuda convertibles ever made, and that this car in particular was 100% original, with all the original documentation. Non-convertible models can easily fetch $200,000 at auction.

13. 1971 Baldwin-Motion Phase III GT Corvette

Original Price $10,500

Current Value: $230,000

Debuting to the world at the New York City International Auto Show in 1969, the Baldwin-Motion Phase III GT Corvette was released two years later, in 1971, appealing to hardcore race enthusiasts. Only twelve cars were made during its two years of production, making the Baldwin-Motion GT one of the rarest American muscle cars in the world.

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The Baldwin-Motion was a customized version, modified by car builders Joel Rosen and Marty Schorr. Rosen had an agreement with the local Baldwin Chevrolet dealership that he would modify a couple of supercars every year. His craftsmanship was so acclaimed that his cars have become highly collectible. Rosen’s modded version pushes out 500 horsepower.

12. 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Original Price: $7,200

Current Value: $500,0000

Paying $7,200 in 1969 for a muscle car was completely absurd. GM made only sixty-nine models, of which thirteen were sold. If you had the chance, getting your hands on a ’69 ZL1 would have been well worth it; when it comes to performance, this car is quicker, and handles better than the modded Camaro Yenko and the Corvette L88.

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Flickr/Joe deSousa

Today, the ZL1 is often considered to be the best Camaro ever built. It’s known for its impeccable racing performance, which is its ultimate appeal, in addition to being such a rare find. In pristine condition, ZL1’s can fetch upwards of $1 million to the right buyer.

11. 1969 Dodge Charger Hemi Daytona

Original Price: $5,903

Current Value: $900,000

The Hemi Daytona was built to do one thing: win at the track. Its name was taken from the inaugural NASCAR race in Florida, the Daytona 500. In its first-ever race, Talladega 500 Dodge driver Buddy Baker became the first driver to break the 200 mile-per-hour barrier, driving a Hemi Daytona. Known for its 23-inch wing on the back, the car was the first of two Dodge-Plymouth aero-cars, the second being the Plymouth Superbird.

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Wikimedia Commons/Sicnag

In total, Dodge produced only 503 Hemi Daytonas, which makes owning one today a rare feat. After featuring alongside one in the movie Joe Dirt, actor David Spade wanted to own one himself, which he purchased at the Mecum auction in Seattle for $900,000. His model in particular is in pristine condition, with astoundingly low miles, but these beauties easily fetch anywhere between $800,000 to $1,000,000.

10. 1970 AMC AMX/3

Original Price: $14,000

Current Value: $1,000,000

Perhaps not the first car that comes to mind when thinking about great American muscle cars, the AMC AMX was created as a concept car by the American Motor Company. The third generation AMX was designed by Italian car maker, Giotto Bizzarrini. The body featured a European-GT design reminiscent of Italian sports cars, with many of the engine components provided by BMW.

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Wikimedia Commons/Brian Snelson

After a warm reception at the Chicago Auto Show, AMC planned on ordering thousands of cars from production, but rising costs of manufacturing forced AMC to re-evaluate. In the end, AMC pulled the plug, and only five prototype models were ever built. Gaining favor in recent years from serious collectors, the AMX/3 can easily command six figures at auction.

9. 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 LS6

Original Price: $4,000-4,500

Current Value: $1,200,000

An undeniable classic, the Chevrolet Chevelle is recognizable to most, but hardcore fans of American muscle cars know that the LS6 is the ultimate envy of any Chevelle collector. At the beginning of their production, from 1963 to 1969, the Chevelle was regarded as a powerful yet affordable car, with an attractive design and nice engine.

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Wikimedia Commons/Classicsworkshop

In 1970, Chevy decided to up the ante. They introduced a wider variety of engines, including the famous 454 big block V8. Not bad for a standard choice of engine! While the standard option featured the 454, the L6 was upgraded with racing features, a bigger carburetor, and pushed out over 500 horsepower.

8. 1970 Dodge Challenger Hemi Convertible

Original  Price: $4,900

Current Value: $1,500,000

1970 was the first year that Dodge came out with the Challenger. They were one of Dodge’s most popular models for four years. Production ended once Americans began to lose interest in muscle cars. Of all the package options available in 1970, the RT Convertible was the most expensive, and the most coveted.

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The car was so fast that it came with add-on instruments like a 150 mph (240 km/h) speedometer, an 8,000 RPM tachometer, and an oil pressure gauge. In the current market, Challengers tend to vary dramatically in price based on their condition and pedigree, but an all-original Hemi model from 1970 will consistently get one million dollar-plus offers at auction.

7. Shelby Cobra 427 (AC Cobra)

Original Price: $7,500

Current Value: $1,500,000 to $2,000,000

The AC Shelby Cobra is probably what most people picture when they think of a Carroll Shelby car, and it also appears intermittently throughout the film Ford vs. Ferrari as the choice everyday car of Shelby (who is played by Matt Damon). Essentially, Carroll Shelby’s idea was to drop a powerful V8 into a two-door roadster.

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After personally ordering a customized roadster that could accept the larger engine from AC Cars, Shelby needed to find an engine that could fit inside. Not wanting to create competition for itself, Chevrolet turned him down, but he found luck with Ford. They had just built a Windsor 221-cubic inch, 3.6-liter V8 engine that Shelby used for his AC. The rest is automobile history.

6. 1965 Shelby GT350R

Original Price: $4,584

Current Value: $500,000 to $850,000

Many people consider the GT350R to be the most important Mustang in history. It was the first Mustang to win a major race. Now famous for being portrayed by Christian Bale in the film Ford Vs. Ferrari, it was none other than British race car driver Ken Miles who first piloted this most illustrious of American muscle cars.

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Recently, a prototype of the car fetched an astonishing $3.2 million at auction. The goal of building the GT350R was not only to win races, but to lend some track credibility to the entire Mustang lineup at a time when American consumers were hungry for performance. In short, this particular model changed the way Americans viewed the Mustang.

5. 1971 Shelby GT500

Original Price: $8,000

Current Value: $1,000,000

Mustang lovers and fans of the films Gone In 60 Seconds (both the classic and the remake) will instantly recognize the GT500s of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Of course, they were used as the pinnacle car in both films, and both were affectionately nicknamed Eleanor. Thanks to Hollywood cinema, they have earned a special place in the history of American muscle cars.

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Wikimedia Commons/sicnag

There is quite a bit of controversy regarding the cars that were used for the remake. The pepper-gray Eleanor in the film is not a GT500 at all, but rather a 1967 Ford Mustang fastback with a body kit made to look like one. Denice Halicki, wife of director Toby Halicki, who did the original Gone in 60 Seconds film, actually owns a copyright for the “Eleanor” body style, attempting to dissuade others from creating their own Eleanor lookalikes.

4. 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda Convertible

Original Price: $4,348

Current Value: $2,000,000 to $3,500,000

Hemispherical combustion chambers have been powering vehicles since the early 1900s, but it was Chrysler who helped make the “Hemi” engine a certified staple of the American muscle car era. They were also the first to use the shortened “Hemi” name that would be employed again and again for generations to come.

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From 1970 to 1971, the Hemi was the top of the line offer of the Barracuda model. It was expensive for the average American family, costing $900 more than the standard model. Even more rare was the convertible option. In two years of production, Chrysler-Plymouth produced only seventeen Barracudas with the Hemi/convertible combination, making it one of the rarest and most sought-after American muscle cars today.

3. 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake

Original Price: Not sold to mass market

Current Value: $2,200,000

Carroll Shelby’s hand-built Shelby GT 500 Super Snake sold for $2.2 million dollars when it went up for auction in January 2019. The price, at $900,000 more than what it sold for six years earlier, makes the car the world’s most expensive Mustang. It’s an absolute shoe-in for one of the best American muscle cars ever made.

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Shelby built the car in partnership with Goodyear, who wanted to test out their new line of “Thunderbolt” tires. The goal was to build a high-performance race car that was faster than the competition, while still being able to retain the tires. In order to put his completed Super Snake to the test, Shelby had the car driven 500 miles at an average speed of 142 miles per hour. Unbelievably, the car managed to keep 97% of the tread.

2. 1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Convertible

Original Price: $6,600

Current Value: $2,400,000 to $3,300,000

The pinnacle of all Corvettes, Chevy made the L88 for only two years, between 1967 to 1969. Only a couple dozen of them were produced each year, making this model particularly rare. Named after its unique engine, the L88 was designed as a special options package under Zora Arkus-Duntov, the director of GM’s performance division at the time.

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Wikimedia Commons/signag

Recently, an L88 fetched over three million dollars at auction! They are a highly sought-after collectible vehicle. For real enthusiasts, it’s of the utmost importance that everything is original. The L88 featured a warning label inside the vehicle reminding passengers that it requires high octane fuel. For hardcore Corvette fans, having this label still intact is truly like finding a golden ticket.

1. 1962 Shelby Cobra CSX2000

Original Price: Not sold to mass market

Current Value: $13,750,000

For true collectors of American muscle cars, history can outweigh performance when it comes to forking over millions of dollars for a car. The 1962 Cobra CSX2000 is the very first Shelby Cobra ever made, giving it an extra special place in the heart of every Shelby fanatic out there, as well as collectors anywhere.

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An altogether different Shelby Cobra, this is the prototype and predecessor of the AC that eventually received a couple of modifications before release. The only CSX2000 went up for sale in 2016 at an auction in California. In historic fashion, the car (at the time) was the most expensive car ever sold in the United States. That’s what makes the CSX2000 number one on our list, and the unquestionable holy grail of all American muscle cars.

Keep reading to see which cars came close, but didn’t quite make our list…

Honorable Mention: 1965 Pontiac Catalina 2+2

Original price: $2,910

Current average value: $5,400

Having debuted in 1950, the Pontiac Catalina had already been around for quite a while. But it got a whole new look for 1965 including its famous “Coke bottle” profile, fastback roof line, and a bigger wheel base.

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Two plus two stand for two seats in the front, and two in the back. Similar to Pontiac’s GTO, these coupes came with three engine options: the base model pushing 338 horsepower, a 421 four-barrel with 353 horsepower, or the 376-horsepower 421 HO.

Honorable Mention: 1968 Dodge Dart GTS

Original price: $3,189

Current average value: $10,100

The year 1967 marked the beginning of the fourth generation Dodge Darts, already one of the most popular cars in the States by that time. The model comes in a variety of engines, including a basic V6, but the ‘69 GTS is something else entirely.

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Wikimedia Commons/Bill Doser

Marketing to serious dragsters, Dodge manufactured the GTS hardtop as a race-ready Hemi that you could drive straight to the track from the showroom. According to engineers, the new Hemi Dart could reach speeds of 130 mph and score 10 to 11 second quarter mile times at the track. In reality, it’s closer to 9 to 10 seconds.

Honorable Mention: 1967 Ford Mercury Cougar

Original price: $2,851

Current average value: $11,600

When the Mercury Cougar made its debut in 1967, it was built to compete with Ford’s Mustang, and even took its styling from Ford, with its long hood, and short deck proportions. All models came with a V8 standard, but of particular interest is the 428 cubic inch, seven liter FE V8.

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The 428 pushed out 335 horsepower and was marketed to serious muscle enthusiasts. Aside from engine performance, the Cougar is also notable for being Ford’s first car with a fully electronic sunroof – a luxury item for 1967. For an extra $185 it was also possible to upgrade the interior to include wood trim, T-shifter, and black gauges; among other extras.

Honorable Mention: 1968 AMC AMX

Original price: $3,395

Current average value: $15,700

When the AMX line first debuted in 1968, car brand AMX was struggling to keep up with the competition. The hope was that the AMX could steal some much needed market share away from Chevy’s Corvette, and Ford’s Mustang.

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That year, in January, the AMX set two records for speed at Bonneville. There was one official run where the car reached 189 miles per hour (recorded by the United States Auto Club), and another unofficial run where reportedly the driver broke 200 miles per hour.

Honorable Mention: 1968 Ford Mustang GT

Original price: $2,602

Current average value: $17,600

The 1968 Ford Mustang was the first generation of Mustangs, and reached iconic status from appearing in the film Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen, and also featuring a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T (also on this list). The long-hood design created an entirely new classification of car, called the “pony car.”

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In the film, McQueen piloted the ‘68 GT as it raced against the Charger. In reality, it was being driven by a stuntman, but nevertheless, the car was highly coveted for having a famous actor associated with it. In January, 2020, that particular GT 2+2 was sold at Mecum auctions in Seattle for $3.7 million.

Honorable Mention: 1970 Chevrolet El Camino 454 SS

Original price: $2,769

Current average value: $18,400

The concept of a two door car with a rear pickup has existed in the United States since the “roadster utility” or “roadster pickups” were first manufactured in the 1920s. The first El Camino debuted in 1959, selling 22,000 units its first year on the way to becoming one of the most iconic American cars of all time.

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In 1970, over forty thousand units of Chevelle’s were sold, but far fewer people upgraded to the super sport package. The new SS396 engine was Chevy’s most powerful engine at the time, and rated at 450 horsepower, and 500 lbs-ft of torque.

Honorable Mention: 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

Original price: $2,290 (base)

Current average value: $28,400

An icon of the 1950s similar to Elivis, Marilyn Monroe, or Leave It To Beaver, the Bel Air stands out as being one of the most noticeable cars of the decade. The 1957 Bel Airs, with their bigger body style and engine to boot, are the most collectible models.

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For those who shelled out the extra $500 to get the fuel-injected Ramjet V8, they were on the receiving end of 250 horsepower. But the fins and the decorative, two-tone body work make this car’s exterior special, and an instant attention grabber whether you’re speeding down the highway or stopped at the local diner.

Honorable Mention: 1958 Plymouth Fury

Original price: $3,032

Current average value: $35,900

Produced to compete against the Chevrolet Bel Air, the ‘58 Plymouth Furys are also noticeable for their boxy design and huge tail fins. When it first came out, it was only available as a beige, two-door hardtop.

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Only 5,303 Furys were produced, which makes owning one today both extremely rare and valuable. Under the hood, the upgraded engine was affectionately dubbed the “Golden Commando,” with two four-barrel carburetors pushing 305 horsepower.

Honorable Mention: 1968 Dodge Super Bee

Original Price: $3,027

Current average value: $40,000

Dodge reigns supreme as the brand that puts way too much power under the hood. Their 2018 Challenger SRT Demon, with its 840 horsepower, ranks as the most powerful American muscle car ever made…but it’s not a classic…yet.

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The Dodge Super Bee is a certified classic car, and highly collectible for true American muscle collectors largely because of its 426 cubic inch Hemi V8. The upgraded engine came at a price – it was over thirty percent more expensive than the base model. Considering only 125 ‘68 Super Bees were produced, it makes owning one a rare treat.

Honorable Mention: 1968 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR

Original price: $4,500

Current value: $120,000

Can you guess what KR stands for? If you guessed, king of the road, then you would be right! Ford swapped out their standard 289-cid engine in favor of a 428-cid V8 – the same engine that was inside a police interceptor at the time.

Classic American Muscle Cars, Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR Classic American Muscle Cars, Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR
Wikimedia Commons/brokensphere

For Mustang enthusiasts looking to outlast the cops, and look good while doing it, the GT500KR is a great choice. With added roof and hood scoops, this car looks as mean as it performs. According to Haggerty’s, even a model that is in “fair” condition can set you back about $94,000.