One sad fact about all the cars that gearheads lust over is that, eventually, they'll all stop running and find their way to the scrapyard. That is, unless they're special enough to end up in private collections or museums—which requires a level of investment in terms of time and money that most cars, no matter how cool they might seem, just won't ever earn.
The cars we know and love may live their service lives with the most passionate drivers behind the wheel, but the mechanics will eventually fail beyond saving and the bodies will get enough nicks and bruises that they can't be repaired. As the human race churns through cars at a breakneck pace, more and more vehicles will litter the countryside once their owners decide they just aren't worth the effort.
But even after accepting all of the above, seeing a classic muscle car that's been neglected still hurts a little bit. Keep scrolling for 19 muscle cars that have definitely seen better days.
19 This One Hurts
This Ford Mustang doesn't look special at the moment, covered in plenty of dust and missing chrome as it is. But this is a Shelby GT350-H, one of 1,000 examples created as a marketing effort with Hertz that allowed regular folks to "Rent-A-Racer" and enjoy all that Carroll Shelby brought to the Mustang table.
18 Flood Damage
Much of New Orleans was left underwater after Hurricane Katrina, though few areas were hit as hard as the Ninth Ward. Of course, when residents fled the storm, they couldn't bring all their most valuable possessions with them, meaning that not only were houses and valuables left behind, but plenty of classic muscle cars too.
17 Dom Would Weep
The classic lines of a Dodge Charger shouldn't ever be subjected to the rust damage that this one has suffered over the years. All over the top and thoroughly though the underside, the rust on this Charger is so extensive that even a movie crew sourcing donor vehicles to be totaled in the next Fast and Furious installment would probably turn away.
16 Mustang Planter
Anyone who loves vintage muscle must feel conflicting emotions about this Shelby GT500. Not only has it been left to suffer the effects of time without any protection, but the owners have even turned it into a full-on planter. With values for these cars sky-high, it's hard to imagine who could afford to let this fall into such a level of dilapidation.
15 The Dearly Departed
Ford sold so many first and second-generation Mustangs that there are still, to this day, a ton on the road. But there are almost definitely more left to whither away and crumble in fields, beside roads, and in barns across the United States and all over the globe. And that's not counting the ones that backyard mechanics blew up trying to stroke engines and boost power!
14 Daytona Barn Find
Few cars can instantly conjure up the nostalgia for an era that a Dodge Charger Daytona can. Like its sibling in competition, the Plymouth Superbird, the Daytona featured a radical body kit that included a long nose and a striking rear wing to allow it to reach higher speeds on the longer NASCAR tracks of its era.
13 Just A Shame
This old Chevy definitely deserves a better fate than being left out in the open for years on end. Of course, the owners probably didn't intend to park the car and not drive it again forever, though that is, in fact, what happens far too many times.
Could it be resurrected? The question lies in how gnarly the mechanicals have become, because the body definitely looks pretty bad.
12 Barn Finds
This duo of Dodge Challengers must have been quite the stable back in the day. Now, though, they just live in what looks like a stable, having been coated in a thick layer of dust and grime while their tires slowly lost air.
The fact that anyone would subject two beasts to such neglect is just unbelievable.
11 Poor GTO
The Pontiac GTO in this picture still wears ridiculously wide wheels at the rear, a sign that once upon a time, it was driven hard and fast. But it was clearly driven hard and put away wet, a practice that eventually leads to the kind of damage that is clearly visible on this car. It looks a few steps past salvageable.
10 On Bricks
This hulking frame of an Oldsmobile 442 has very little remaining of what made it such a powerful car during its era, though the overall profile still survives to reveal the kinds of bold styling that typified the design ethos of muscle car mania. That trunk is probably just big enough to hold a pair of rear wheels for burning rubber on the outskirts of town.
9 Emerging Once More
As the "barn find" phenomenon grows online and on TV shows, more and more muscle cars are emerging from decrepitude and finding their way back to the light of day. Plenty of them will end up in the crusher, to be sure, but every now and then, one will be worth the time and effort to get it back running again.
8 Possible Rebirth?
This Ford Mustang Fastback has been carefully mounted onto a flatbed trailer—with inflated tires, no less. Even though it's clearly suffered the ravages of time, perhaps it will one day receive enough of a restoration effort to make it driveable again. Or maybe someone wants to have a rusted-out, hulking shell of a car as lawn art.
This Dodge Challenger has clearly seen better days, though it will likely never see better days again. Amidst all the greenery, rust has started to form and the wheels are nearly half-sunk into the dirt. It's not beyond saving, though! A restoration project on this car would certainly cost an arm and a leg, however.
In Dubai, even the airport parking lots are chock-full of supercars, luxury land-yachts, and muscle cars, all of which have been left to experience dry rot in the desert heat. Apparently, tax laws in Dubai are so hardcore that many car owners decide to just leave their cars behind forever rather than trying to keep them registered and insured while they leave the country.
5 Fading Into Obscurity
These days, even Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas come from the factory with all kinds of aerodynamic bits and pieces—though most of the details are just aesthetic, rather than functional. It's hard to believe that cars like the Superbird and Charger Daytona could ever have actually needed rear wings this big, but it's true!
4 Modern Art
Muscle cars that still retain enough of their shape to be recognizable but not enough structural and mechanical integrity to be worth restoring often cause a conundrum for the people who find them.
One potential option is to sell the dilapidated frame as art, which looks to be the fate of this Camaro.
3 Split Window
Okay, a Corvette Stingray might not technically count as a true muscle car, but neither do Ford Mustangs, if the strictest definitions are to be followed. It's still heartbreaking to see this Stingray covered in pine needles and listing heavily to the left.
But look at those rear tires! Those aren't drag slicks, they almost look like all-terrain tires!
Plenty of cars get left behind on roadsides across the planet, either because they broke down at the wrong time or their owners just decided the time had come to let go of an ongoing project. But when muscle cars get abandoned, gearheads lament the fact that something so precious could be left to crumble back to dust.
1 Push It Real Good
Paul Walker lost his life because his friend was driving a car with eight-year-old tires on it. Or at least, that's the theory. But everyone should know that driving any car with old tires is just as bad, if not worse, than driving a car with high-mileage tires on it. But for barn finds, as long as the tires hold air, it makes them a lot easier to get to a tow truck.
Sources: Jalopnik, Car and Driver, and Wikipedia.