The golden age of muscle vehicles may be over (or we may be in the middle of it with the Hemi everything movement; see Durango Hellcat & RAM TRX), while engine downsizing and fuel efficiency are limiting the market’s options. Don’t despair if you want a classic muscle automobile. Used icons from when automobiles were built to last still exist. Some 50-year-old hot rods are in perfect shape. Keep your eyes and thoughts open.
Hemi Cuda, Chevrolet Corvette, Chevrolet Chevelle, Dodge Charger, Dodge Challenger, Shelby Cobra, and Mercury Cougar aren’t the only classic American muscle cars. There are several entertaining and economical classic muscle vehicle possibilities if you’re on a budget. Remember that prices and conditions will vary greatly. Expect to find a few classic muscle cars in your price range. With enough research, Internet sleuthing, and luck, you could own one of these muscle automobiles.
Here are some affordable muscle cars.
The Chevy Camaro is a classic muscle vehicle. A fully restored Camaro may cost $400,000 at auction, but a second-generation Camaro can be a wonderful value. If you have $10-15k, you can find 1970s Camaros in decent shape. You won’t get the Camaro RS or SS, but you’ll still get the legendary V8 and muscle car style. Why not?
Mercury Comets cost $8-15k if you know where to look. Sixth-generation Comets were based on the Ford Falcon and offered a V8 and GT specification. The Comet has muscle car roots. If you can find a 1972 Mercury Comet with a 302ci V8 and dual exhaust, you’ll be happy. If you can find a base model of this muscle vehicle for under $15k, it’s a steal.
El Camino (1973-1977)
El Camino is a well-known classic muscle automobile. It goes into the shop cheaply and resells for a fortune at auction. If you want an El Camino, you can still find one for under $10,000. Fourth-generation models come with 5.7L V8s. This generation of El Camino used the wagon chassis and was reworked to match Chevelle. It’s the largest El Camino, giving it a muscle car presence.
When the Ford Mustang debuted in 1964, did its designer imagine it would become an icon? It’s still affordable after six generations. Classic Ford Mustangs can sell for up to $200,000, although certain ’60s and ’70s models are inexpensive. First- and second-generation Mustangs may need work, but don’t let that stop you. 6-cylinder Mustangs are a cheaper alternative to vintage Mustangs. A good-running one will cost around $15k, but a partial rebuild may be less.
Since the first-generation Pontiac Firebird was only produced for two years, its price has risen. Despite increasing demand, the second generation is still affordable at $8-15k. The Firebird’s price may be cheap because “Smokey and the Bandit” fans want Trans Ams. The second-generation Firebird may not have the Trans Am’s performance the 1979 version with the 6.6L V8 engine is an exception, but it has the same great body style, making it a fantastic alternative for a vintage muscle vehicle with added flare.
The Dodge Dart’s engine and appearance have changed throughout time. The continuous variations in body shape made people assume that each Dart generation was an enhancement. The Dart was originally a boxy automobile with a curving roof. Fourth-generation Darts came in 4-door sedans and 2-door convertibles. With some clever shopping, you can get 6-cylinder vehicles for about $10k, and V8 variants for approximately $15k.
The Chevy Impala is coveted by gearheads, low riders, and classic purists. You can possess a piece of American motoring history with some searching and luck. The 1958 Chevy Impala was a world-class coupe and convertible. After four years, Chevrolet introduced the SuperSport variant, making it a performance icon. If you’re lucky, you can find a fourth-generation Impala for under $15k. Your new muscle car may require some TLC, but you’ll undoubtedly be excited to restore it.
You may find a third-generation Oldsmobile Cutlass for $12-$15k. It’s almost incredible that demand for this historic automobile hasn’t risen given its similarities to the Pontiac GTO. This Cutlass is one of the era’s coolest muscle vehicles. Raw power and a semi-fastback, large rear end give it a fantastic posture. Collectors will regret not buying these cars while they were cheap.
If you don’t mind the base model, the fifth-generation Chevy Nova still has muscle car lineage. If you can find a Nova with the optional V8 or Super Sport package, you’ve landed a wonderful piece.
First-generation Mercury Marauders used 390, 406, and 427 ci Thunderbird engines; second-generation vehicles had 390 and 429 ci. The first-generation 390 ci Marauder is arguably the cheapest way to purchase this cruiser muscle car, but there are exceptions for the appropriate price.
You’ll need patience and luck to find a cheap, good-condition Dodge Polara. Third-generation Polara’s were two-door hardtops, convertibles, and four-door sedans. You can even have a four-door station wagon. Polara comes with either a 6-cylinder or V8 engine depending on the year. In decent condition, this historic automobile costs $8-15k.
Plymouth Barracuda, Roadrunner, and Superbird are pricey. If you dig hard enough, you can find a Plymouth Fury for less than $10k. Fourth-generation Furys had 6-cylinder or V8 engines. The Sport Fury has a sportier interior and enhanced trim.
A second-generation Buick Riviera costs $10-13,000. Even the most costly Buick Rivieras rarely cost as much as ’60s classics like the GTO, Mustang, or Camaro. 1966-1970 models are the cheapest. It’s hardly a Buick GSX, but its V8 will look excellent in your driveway.
GP Pontiac (1973-1977)
First-generation Pontiac Grand Prix’s were legit. While the first two generations are hard to locate, you can still purchase a good-condition third-generation Grand Prix for $6-10k. Larger and heavier than prior versions, these cars came standard with a V8 and distinctive appearance.
1970-1977 was the only AMC Hornet generation. The Hornet was available as a two- and four-door sedan, wagon, and hatchback coupe. Hornets cost $6-$15k depending on year and model. If you find a 1973 hatchback with a 5.0L V8, you’ll be glad you persevered searching for the perfect muscle car.