One of the most captivating periods in automotive history was during the 1960s and 1970s, also known as the “golden years” of the classic American muscle car.
Initially designed for drag racing, muscle cars were big, loud, high-performance machines. They often featured V8 engines with manual transmissions that powered the rear wheels, included only two-doors, and were treasured for speed and power. During those two decades, American automakers increasingly became more competitive with their muscle car models.
The tradition of producing muscle cars by American car manufacturers slowed during the late 1970’s energy crisis but picked up again in the ‘80s with high-performance vehicles such as the Ford Mustang and the Chevy Camaro. Today’s muscle cars may still include V-8 engines, but many feature powerful turbocharged four and six-cylinder power plants.
Prices for used muscle cars vary greatly depending on the mileage, optional equipment, and of course, the condition. Some of the most desirable muscle cars from the ’60s and ‘70s sell for more than $200,000. However, many vintage muscle cars – as well as 2019 models currently offered by manufacturers – can be purchased for less than $50,000.
Here are twenty of the nicest American muscle cars worth under $50,000 in 2019.
20 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback: $49,000
When Car and Driver tested the Ford Mustang Fastback back when it was released in 1967, they expected that the 390-cu. in. big block V8 engine crammed into the space that was designed for a much smaller powerplant would affect performance. They guessed the oversized engine would “overload the front end and make it handle like a real dog.”
However, when tested, the Mustang 390 GT had balance and handling, not to mention the power a car without emissions regulations can generate.
19 2019 Ford Mustang GT: $36,475
The 2019 Mustang GT carries on the Pony car tradition with is 5.0-liter 460-hp V-8 and 6-speed manual transmission. A new 10-speed automatic costs an additional $1,600. Perhaps the best Mustang in several years, its performance is optimized when equipped with the $3,995 Performance Package. Finding a used GT also fitted with MagneRide dampers gives the Mustang high-performance handling characteristics.
The GT with the performance options is frequently sold for under $50,000.
18 1967 Pontiac GTO: $48,500
The Beach Boys sang about the Pontiac GTO: "Little GTO / You're really lookin’ fine / Three deuces and a four-speed / And a three-eighty-nine / Listen to her tachin' up now / Listen to her whine / C'mon and turn it on, wind it up, blow it out, GTO.”
The 1967 GTO is considered by some enthusiasts to be one of the most beautiful muscle cars ever made, and it's certainly fast for its time with a 0-60 mph acceleration in 6.6 seconds.
17 2019 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE V-6: $32,490
The Chevy Camaro 1LE was offered with a seemingly endless list of engine options. All of the models can be classified in the modern muscle car category.
While the 3.6-Liter LGX naturally-aspirated V6 that produces 335 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque provides excellent performance for only $32,490, the 6.2-Liter naturally-aspirated V8 generates 455 horsepower with 455 lb-ft of torque at a price of $42,00.
16 1965 Pontiac Catalina 2+2: $22,500
The “big brother” to the GTO, the 1965 Pontiac Catalina 2+2 is a full-sized automobile with bucket seats, center console, special door panels, and exterior badging.
A significant influence on muscle car development by the Catalina can be attributed to its flowing sheet-metal design and fastback rooflines. The Pontiac was equipped with a 2+2 performance package, including a 421-cubic-inch V8 engine that generated 338 horsepower.
15 2019 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack: $41,740
Although the Challenger has remained mostly unchanged since its remodel back in 2008, it still offers an impressive muscle car with plenty of power. Enthusiasts looking for a throaty sounding, traditional muscle car have plenty of options with the Challenger.
While the aggressive 2019 Hellcat models resell well above $60,000, buyers seeking a powerful Challenger at a lower price point can find either the R/T Scat Pack or the R/T Scat Pack Widebody with 6.4-liter V8 for under $50,000.
14 1967 Chevrolet Camaro Z28: $56,000 Negotiable
Chevrolet designed the Camaro Z28 for racing. It won the Trans-Am Championship in 1968 and 1969, making the “Z28” the most well-known production code in the history of Chevrolet. In 1967, the company sold only 602 of the models.
The base price, when new, was about $3000 and some models sell for more than twenty times that sum. However, few can be found near the $50,000 mark.
13 2019 Dodge Charger Scat Pack: $41,740
For buyers who prefer the Dodge body style with four doors over the Challenger, the Charger scat Pack can be found for about the same price and still offers that massive 6.4-liter 485-hp Hemi V8. Also, the Charger R/T Scat Pack provides six-piston Brembo brakes, unique wheels, a spoiler, and a distinctive grille with dual air inlets.
12 1968 Plymouth Road Runner: $47,395
When the Road Runner debuted in 1968, it was considered Mopar’s budget-friendly muscle car at a base price of $2,870. The least expensive model had the pop-out rear quarter windows, as seen on this model.
However, this Road Runner with Electric Blue metallic paint is equipped with the famous 426ci Hemi V8 and a 4-speed manual transmission. The 425-bhp engine powered the Plymouth to the quarter-mile mark in the low-13s.
11 2017 Ford Mustang GT: $32,645
Launch control was not an available option for muscle cars back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but it was available on the 2017 Mustang GT with a manual transmission. The option, backed with a 435-hp 5.0-liter V8 engine that delivers 400 lb-ft of torque, helps this pony with simply leap off the line and accelerate to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds.
10 1969 Dodge Charger: $58,000 Negotiable
The Dodge Charger is a popular muscle car not only for its speed, but also for its luxurious, spacious, and comfortable interior. The bucket seats are inviting and the factory installed Hurst shifter located between them encourages even the most timid driver to put the car, powered by a 383 V8, through its paces.
9 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS: $35,000
The 1969 Camaro came with a standard drivetrain composed of a 230-cu. in. straight-6 engine producing 140 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque or in 1969, a 307-cu in or 327-cu in V8, coupled to a standard three-speed manual transmission.
The performance package on the Camaro SS consisted of a 350-cu in or 396-cu in V8. Changes in the chassis helped improve handling and cope with the additional power. The SS featured SS badging, special striping, and surprisingly, non-functional air inlets on the hood.
8 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge: $32,100
Typically painted a bright orange color with a trunk-mounted spoiler, the GTO Judge got its name from the "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" comedy routine entitled, "Here Come de Judge."
The 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge was designed to compete with the Plymouth Road Runner. The muscle car came equipped with a Ram Air III engine that produced 366 horsepower and 5,100 rpm.
7 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS: $30,100
The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS is a representative of muscle cars built in recent years that have the same in-your-face, aggressive attitude of the vintage versions built in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
The 2016 Camaro SS delivers maximum speed on a minimal budget. The 6.2-liter V8 engine generates 455 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque when fitted with the vehicle's standard 6-speed manual transmission or optional 8-speed automatic. It's a lot of car for an average resale price of less than $30,100.
6 1970 Ford Torino Cobra: $29,900
The Ford Torino gained notoriety for its role in the 2008 Clint Eastwood movie, Gran Torino. However, the 1970 Cobra version was already well known among vintage muscle car enthusiasts.
The Cobra version of the Torino accelerated to 60 mph in just under six seconds powered by a V8 engine with 370 horsepower. Motor Trend magazine named it their Car of the Year in 1970.
5 1970 Oldsmobile 442: $39,500
An Oldsmobile 442, named for its four-barrel carburetor, four-speed manual transmission, and dual exhaust, represented the quintessence of Oldsmobile-class muscle cars in 1970.
A typical factory-built model was equipped with a 455 cu in engine, 4-Speed Muncie transmission, A/C, bucket seats with console, power disc brakes, power steering, 12 bolt rear end, front and rear sway bars, and tilt steering wheel.
4 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454: $49,995
This SS shows off some of the details of a factory-built Chevelle, including the mag-style Super Sport wheels, badging, cowl induction hood, and even the hood pins. The iconic dual white stripes look as though they were painted yesterday.
The Chevelle SS 454 with its 450-horsepower, 454-cubic-inch engine, excellent performance, and sleek styling, arrived just before emissions standards and insurance companies discouraged car manufacturers from building traditional muscle cars in the late ‘70s.
3 1970 Plymouth Barracuda: $42,500
Considered by many to be a compact muscle car, the Barracuda was manufactured by Plymouth from 1964 till 1974. For the 1970 and 1971 model years, the third generation offered several different engines in a coupe as well as a rare convertible body style.
Equipped with a 426-cubic-inch Hemi engine and a dual-carburetor, the “Cuda” could generate 425 horsepower for exceptional performance.
2 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am: $24,900
Despite its moniker, the Firebird Trans Am was never used in races with the same name. The engine exceeded the Sports Car Club of America's 5-liter displacement limit.
However, the model became famous for the screaming chicken painted on the hood and its prominent role in the Burt Reynolds action-comedy film Smokey and the Bandit.
1 1970 Buick GSX: $40,500
Perhaps lesser known than other muscle cars in its class, the GSX was designed to compete with the Chevy Chevelle SS, Oldsmobile 442, and Pontiac GTO Judge.
The 1970 GSX model was a deviation from the famous Gran Sport line of Buick muscle cars. It emphasized luxury as well as performance. Only 687 Buick GSXs were built, making the vehicle a collectible at a reasonable price close to $40,000.
Sources: roadandtrack.com, motorpasion.com, autoguide.com, autobytel.com