Early History of the American Muscle Car
In a time now long ago, when the term 'political correctness' hadn't yet been invented, auto manufacturers were waging a horsepower war. As a result, cars were pouring out of the factory doors with such huge power capabilities that any lapse of concentration on the accelerator by the average driver resulted in him being up a tree before he could even realize what had happened.
Historians generally agree that the Oldsmobile Rocket 88, first produced in 1949 for a post-war public that wanted speed and power, was the very first American muscle car. There was nothing around that could match its 303 cubic inch V8, and it went on to win eight of the ten NASCAR races that year.
We then have to go to 1955, when Chrysler took over the NASCAR reins with its C-300. But then we go to the early 1960s as Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth (Mopar) compete with Ford as to whose car can get down the drag strip the fastest. The 1962 Dodge Dart with its production 413 cu inch engine could get through the 1/4 mile in a fairly staggering 13 seconds at over 100 mph.
Let's take a breather here and have a think about this. The 2015 Ford Mustang goes through the 1/4 mile at 12.8 seconds. So 53 years ago, a Dodge Dart on fairly skinny tires could go down the strip only 0.2 of a second slower compared to a newer Mustang.
By 1964, things were really starting to go wild in Detroit. Chevrolet had the SS, Pontiac the GTO, Dodge the Polara 500, Plymouth the Sport Fury and Ford released its 427 cu inch engine in response to Mopar's 426 cu inch. Then of course, there were others such as the early 60's rocket - the 60's Chevrolet Corvette.
Comparison with today and the 1960's
There's no argument that the 1960s was the best decade for American car design ever. The top three—Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger—are still be recreating retro's from that era. It's amazing that we're nostalgic for a time so long ago. I guess the 60's stood for prosperity and freedom, two things sadly missing today.
To put prices in perspective as you go through this list, in 1968 the average household income was $7850. An average house cost $14,950 and a gallon of gas was $0.34c. An average car cost $2850. This can be most on the list here but basic specs so, for that you'll get a Mustang. The average household income today is $67,000 - actually an increase of only $1000 per year since 1968. The average cost of a new Mustang in 2021 is $36,000. That's a base V8 model. So in 1968 cars were much much more affordable. They cost you 20% of your annual salary. And remember they were mainly leased over 5 years, so amortised over 5 years were much cheaper than that. Today a new Mustang car is a little over 50% of your annual salary.
Okay - Let's get going with a list of the best and fastest 1960s muscle cars. There's no particular order going on here.