Muscle cars like the Dodge Charger, Chevrolet Chevelle, and Shelby Mustang are synonymous with the term itself, and have earned their way into the hearts of gearheads across the globe. Unfortunately, many gearheads have forgotten about some truly badass classics over the years. Rowdy V8s, legendary styling, and impressive performance numbers make these unknown muscle cars something to behold.
So if you’re looking for a unique project car or wanting to brush up on your muscle car knowledge, you’re in the right spot! Here are 10 badass muscle cars that you’ve never heard of – we encourage you to keep track and see how many you’ve heard of and how many are totally new to you.
10 1972 Ford Maverick Grabber
Compact muscle cars like the Chevrolet Nova SS and Plymouth Duster 340 are icons, but what did Ford offer for the segment? The long forgotten Maverick Grabber – a mighty Ford that gave GM and Mopar a run for their money.
Besides a flashy paint job and the addition of hood scoops, the Maverick Grabber featured a 302-V8 mated to a three-speed manual transmission. Its 0-60 mph time is a respectable 8.7 seconds, so it’s a shame gearheads have mostly forgotten about this little muscle car.
9 1979 AMC Spirit AMX
AMC was mostly out of the muscle car game by the late 1970s, but they had one last trick up their sleeve before completely giving up on the segment. The economy focused AMC Spirit was given a loud Malaise Era paint-scheme and the iconic 304 small-block V8.
The 304 mated to a four-speed manual can hit 60 mph in 10.4 seconds, not too shabby for a car only making 125 horsepower. The AMC Spirit AMX is also the last AMC to feature a factory installed V8, marking the end of AMC muscle cars for good.
8 1974 Dodge Dart Hang 10
The Dodge Dart Hang 10 is the perfect combination of 1970s surf culture and classic American muscle that no one has heard of. The Hang 10 was marketed towards surfers, modified to carry a surfboard and cooler. The interior featured a very ’70s shag carpet, and the exterior is white with pinstripes.
The Hang 10 shared engines and transmissions with the standard Dodge Dart, making the 360 cubic-inch V8 mated to a four-speed manual the option to have. The 245 horsepower small-block V8 moves the Dart to 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds.
7 1970 Chrysler 300 Hurst
Today, the Chrysler 300 is regarded as one of the greatest muscle cars on the market, but that wasn’t always the case. In the 1970s, the 300 was mostly seen as a car for lawyers and dentists, so Chrysler enlisted their friends at Hurst to spruce up their flagship model.
A new white and gold paint-job wasn’t the only modifications carried out by the people at Hurst. A 375 horsepower 440-V8 mated to a TorqueFlight automatic moves the massive bruiser to 60 mph in just 7 seconds. It’s a shame this wicked Chrysler has been forgotten by all but the most nerdy Mopar fans.
6 1971 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler
Chances are you’ve heard of the Mercury Cyclone’s cousin, the Ford Torino. Unfortunately, many gearheads and even Ford fans have never heard of the Mercury Cyclone Spoiler. The Cyclone Spoiler is a purpose-built muscle car, designed to beat the Dodge Daytona and Plymouth Superbird on the NASCAR ovals.
A 429 Cobra Jet V8 making 370 horsepower mated to a Muncie four-speed moves the Cyclone with haste, achieving a 0-60 mph time of 6.2 seconds. Unfortunately, Mercury was unable to achieve any success with the Cyclone, which may be why it has mostly been forgotten about today.
5 1964 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk
Chances are you might have never even heard of Studebaker, which is an absolute shame. Though they went defunct in 1966, they managed to produce some truly legendary muscle cars with unique styling and high-tech engines.
If equipped with the venerable 289 Studebaker V8, the Gran Turismo Hawk makes 289 horsepower and about equal torque. Unfortunately, no 0-60 mph or quarter mile time records survive. Still, what can beat space age styling and one of the best small-block V8s ever made?
4 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire
Long before the Buick GNX, GM was installing turbochargers on the plain Jane F-85 Cutlass, which they dubbed the Jetfire. The Jetfire is the first mass-produced muscle car to use forced induction, and the first mass-produced car to feature a turbocharger.
The turbocharged Buick 215 cubic-inch V8 (which was later sold to Rover and used in the TVR Chimaera) makes 215 horsepower and moves the Jetfire to 60 mph in just 7.3 seconds. Pretty quick for an early muscle car.
3 1978 GMC Caballero
We’re sure you’ve heard of the truck-bed touting muscle car known as the Chevrolet El Camino, but did you know it had a cousin produced by GMC? The El Camino copy named the Caballero (which means gentleman in Spanish) is identical, apart from some badging.
The 1978 GMC Caballero is one of the coolest muscle cars (or trucks) of the Malaise Era. Unfortunately, because the GMC Caballero is technically a truck, no performance figures were recorded. Its coupe cousin is the Chevrolet Malibu, though, which recorded a 0-60 mph time of 11.2 seconds thanks to a 305 V8.
2 1963 Studebaker Lark R2
Another mostly unknown Studebaker muscle car, this time a supercharged small-block V8 crammed under the hood of a lightweight compact car. The Dodge Demon and Hellcats can move aside, Studebaker did it first. Space age styling is present, setting the Lark apart from other muscle cars of the era.
Again, 0-60 mph information is not available thanks to Studebaker going out of business in 1966, but with horsepower output rated at around 275 and anecdotal accounts, the quarter-mile run is estimated at the 13-second range.
1 1961 Ford Starliner
The 1961 Ford Starliner is a Clydesdale with the heart of a Thoroughbred, weighing in just under 4,000 lbs and measuring over 17-feet long. That doesn’t stop this full-size brute from destroying cars that are lighter, nimbler, and have better power to weight ratios. Tragically, this early muscle car has been all but forgotten.
Sharing its bones with the Ford Galaxie means performance is in this Ford’s blood. From the factory, a 370 horsepower 390 cubic-inch V8 powered the Starliner to 60 mph in just 6 seconds! Dealers had an option to install a three-deuce (three two-barrel carburetors) set up, which brought power up to 401 horsepower. Who knew such a massive car could be such a screamer?