There’s nothing cooler than cruising down the highway in a classic muscle car. It’s so thrilling to drive a car that has a ton of horsepower, and the looks to match. The power and performance of these cars transcend your everyday vehicles. Perhaps that’s why these one-hit wonders only got a limited run of one year. But you know what we say—the rarer the car, the sweeter the drive.
40. Dodge Charger 500
In the late ’60s, Dodge wanted an in at NASCAR and the Charger was their answer. Most muscle car fans know the Dodge Charger lineup well, including the Charger Daytona from 1969. But the Daytona’s predecessor, the Charger 500 was far less-known and not as successful. Still, it’s incredible speeds were only slightly offset by its not-so-great aerodynamics, and hobby collectors still rave over this one.
39. Buick Century GS
After 1970, the popularity of muscle cars began to decline. Buick tried their best to keep the hype alive by delivering great performance in a luxury package. As sales slowed in the early 70s, the engineers made an attempt at one more proper muscle car model, the Century GS. The Century GS was a coupe similar to other Pontiac and Oldsmobile intermediates with a characteristic front-end design. But the appeal of the GS was primarily its appearance.
38. Ford Mustang SVT Cobra 2000
Ford produced only 300 of the 2000 SVT Cobra R, and they were intended for racing drivers and teams. Compared to previous Mustang models, the Cobra R featured many improvements and enhancements. The engine was a 5.4-liter V8 with 385 HP and 385 lb-ft of torque. The body design was impactful, with front and rear spoilers and side skirts. Most importantly, the car was built for performance, which drivers knew as soon as they pressed the gas pedal.
37. Buick GNX
Back in 1982, Buick started experimenting with turbocharging its line of standard V6 engines. The result was a special performance version that would deliver better acceleration figures. It drove the Buick Grand National, and after a few years the GNX got an even bigger engine and more power, finally landing at 235 HP. But despite all that effort, the GNX with 235 HP was only manufactured for a short period.
36. Ford Mustang Bullitt
Ford loves revamping their classic designs with better performance and more horsepower. In 2008, they presented the new Bullitt Mustang, which was destined to be big hit with pony car fans. The 4.6-liter V8 engine pumped 315 HP and 325 lb-ft of torque, enough to launch the Mustang coupe to a 5.0-second 0 to 60 mph time. Since Ford only produced them in limited numbers, the 2008 Bullitt Mustang was born a collector car.
35. AMC Marlin 343
Back in the mid-60s, AMC was famous for its lineup of economy cars and small sedans. However, the management at AMC saw room in their lineup for an exciting, sporty car. Enter the Marlin model. The Marlin was a mid-size fastback with a slick design, however when you get down to it the car only delivered mediocre performance. For the 1967 model year, AMC decided to introduce a 343 V8 version of the Marlin with 280 HP. It was just enough to provide the Marlin with decent performance, making it the best year for this little classic.
34. Chevrolet Impala ZL-11
The idea behind the Z-11 was to introduce the best technology to one of their best-selling models, the Impala. They started by lightening up the body, adding aluminum panels, grilles, hoods, and fenders. Then they stripped the interior of all unnecessary luxuries, including the heater and the radio. The result was exceptional performance, but the car was only a lark. Less than 60 Impala Z-11s were ever made, and less than 10 survive today.
33. 1955 Chrysler C-300
The powerful Chrysler C-300 shook up the automotive scene in 1955. The first car of Chrysler’s letter series, it was exclusive, fast, and expensive with maximum power, comfort, and luxury. It had a 331 V8 Hemi engine with 8.5:1 compression figures, a race camshaft, and twin four-barrel carburetors. All this produced 300 HP, which was incredible for that era. It was a race champion many times over, winning 37 stock car events. Chrysler only made 1,700 of them, and so it’s a valuable and extremely rare early muscle machine.
32. 1957 Supercharged Ford Thunderbird
Just like the Corvette or Chrysler C-300, drivers didn’t consider the Ford Thunderbird a proper muscle car. Built for average consumers, the Thunderbird was a luxurious two-seater with low production numbers and a high price tag. Its style and performance were stellar, however Ford only introduced this particular Thunderbird model for one year even though it outsold the Corvette.
31. Oldsmobile Rallye 350
To avoid the clap down on street-racing, the bright yellow Rallye 350 had a smaller but still powerful 350 V8 engine producing 310 HP. Other manufacturers did similar with their models, but the Oldsmobile Rallye became well-known thanks to its signature color. Still, it wasn’t a huge success on the market despite its clever engineering, and only 3,547 of them were produced in 1970.
30. Shelby GT350 R
Produced only in 1965 and sold to collectors and racing teams all over America and the world, the Shelby GT 350 R was pure beast. These cars were not street legal and were used purely for racing purposes, something they excelled at. The R version was powered by the same 289 V8 as the regular Shelby GT350, but produced close to 400 HP thanks to some major modifications. It was light, balanced, and won races all over America, Europe, and South America. Only made 34 were made, making this sweet little racers a pricey commodity today.
29. Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird
Built it for one year only, in 1970, the Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird has one of the most recognizable designs you’ll ever see. They produced just under 2,000 road-going Superbirds to sell in America, each equipped with 440 V8 standard engine. To make it as aerodynamically efficient as they could, Plymouth installed a nose cone, hideaway headlights, and an extreme spoiler on the back. Those design touches contributed to the car’s amazing speeds.
28. Chevrolet Corvette ZL-1
The ZL1 package was one of the best-kept secrets in the muscle car world, but not many people even knew about the existence of this car. That’s because they only made two. Chevrolet made around a dozen test Corvettes with the high revving ZL-1 427 HP all-aluminum engine in 1969. The performance potential was unbelievable, so Chevrolet didn’t want to offer this wild racing engine to the public. For that reason, the ZL-1 option stayed hush-hush and they’re a rare prize to this day.
27. Shelby GT500 KR
In 1968, Carroll Shelby wanted to do something special, and the GT 500 was the result. The KR stands for King of the Road, which is what they call you at 335 HP. Pushed to its limits, the engine delivered actually more than 400 HP and 400 lb-ft of torque. Production was highly limited and the GT500 KR was suped up with lots of special interior trimmings and luxuries. Unfortunately, they only produced the GT 500 KR for the 1968 model year, innovating again in 1969.
26. Dodge Charger Super Bee
The original Charger Super Bee was a one-year-only model for 1971. It was an entry-level muscle car, so it sold at lower prices and a 440 engine as standard. That made the Super Bee popular with driver who were looking for affordable tire-shredding performance. The base 440 delivered 370 HP and in the Six Pack option, it was capable of 385 HP—only 22 cars came charged with that engine, however.
25. Chevrolet Chevelle Z/16
This special edition Chevelle incorporated a 396 V8 engine with a Muncie four-speed gearbox and a heavy-duty suspension and other equipment. Some dealers weren’t even aware this model existed because Chevrolet didn’t do any marketing for the Z16, maybe because they made only 200 of them. An obscure model even for Chevy fans, it was offered in 1965 only.
24. AMC Rebel Machine
The modest success of the 1969 AMC SC/Rambler encouraged the company to produce another special, one-year-only muscle car in the form of the Rebel Machine. AMC presented the Machine in 1970 with the same mechanics, but with more power at 345 HP and performance-oriented options. It had a cool name, patriotic color scheme, and a Ram Air induction hood. Also, it had a 0 to 60 acceleration time of fewer than six seconds, which made it a reasonable choice for any street racer.
23. Plymouth AAR Cuda
The AAR Cuda was a limited production model Plymouth built to commemorate Dan Gurney’s All American Racing team, which used Cudas in the Trans-Am championship. It came with a 340 V8 small block and a special plastic hood in matte black paint with a hood scoop, as well as a rear spoiler and interesting side graphics, which included a big AAR logo. More expensive to build than the regular 340 Cuda, they only made 2,724 of them that year.
22. Dodge Charger Daytona
In the late 60s, Dodge wanted an in at NASCAR and the Charger was the perfect candidate. Since NASCAR cars had high speeds of almost 200 mph, aerodynamics were essential to the car’s performance and results. To compete, Dodge decided to go all out and create a racing car with a special front end, flush rear glass, and an extreme rear spoiler. The Charger Daytona was a one-year-only model for 1969 and they only produced 504 of them, but they sure did make an impression.
21. Oldsmobile Cutlass W-31
After the muscle car trend exploded in 1970 with big block power, some manufacturers opted for alternatives to the heavy engines with nimbler versions. One of those lighter, less common models was the Oldsmobile W31. You’ve heard about the Olds Rally 350 they made just for 1970? The W31 was its twin car, with subtler styling and a high-revving 350 V8. It flew under the radar compared to its big brother, the Rally, and Oldsmobile produced only 116 of these machines for the 1970 model year.
20. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z06
Although you can buy a Corvette Stingray with the Z06 package today, they presented this model in 1963 as a special-order version. It came with a special suspension, more powerful engines, less weight and a big 36-gallon fuel tank for endurance racing. A one-year model with several distinct features, as a classic muscle car it’s highly sought-after today.
19. Ford Mustang Boss 351
In 1971, the Mustang received another makeover. The new version featured a new sharper look and was powered by a highly tuned version of the 351 V8 engine delivering around 330 HP. Because they made it for one year only, the Mustang Boss 351 was one of the rarest Mustangs Ford produced, with only 1,800 made. Today, it is a true collector’s item.
18. Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1
The Camaro ZL-1 was the same as the regular 1969 Camaro—on the outside, anyway. Official 1969 Chevrolet literature doesn’t mention the ZL-1 because it was so fast, it was barely street legal. That’s probably why they only built 69 of them, making them a magnet for drag racers and collectors. The secret of the Camaro ZL-1 was its engine, a high revving, 7.0-liter V8 with around 550 HP in mild tune. They were so powerful, most of them went to Can-Am racing teams—and the unique ZL-1.
17. Ford Mustang Cobra
Ford produced the Mustang Cobra for one year only, in 1993. Sadly, it marked the end of the Fox-body Mustang generation. Although it looks like just another Fox-body Mustang, the 1993 Cobra is a rare muscle car. Ford built just under 5,000 of them, with an SVT-prepared 5.0-liter HO engine with trick GT40 heads and various other upgrades under the hood. Therefore, it was capable of outrunning its famous counterparts from the 60s.
16. Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Pontiac introduced this loaded Firebird Trans Am in 1969. It featured great performance from the famous 400 V8 engine and the Ram Air III or IV intake system. However, this special version wasn’t a big seller, which is perhaps why it had a limited production run. Much later, the Trans Am would become a full-fledged member of the Firebird line. The first generation merely jumped the gun, and now we can’t picture the automotive world without this legendary muscle car.
15. Plymouth Barracuda 440
The Barracuda 440 was a one-year-only model with 375 HP and a massive 480 lb-ft of torque. Restyled for 1970, the 440 featured the biggest engine Plymouth ever installed under the hood of a car in that segment. The tight fit of the engine left no more room for the power steering pump, which meant it took major muscle to turn this powerful beast. Because Plymouth only made a handful of them, they’re highly desirable to collectors today.
14. Chrysler 300 Hurst
Introduced in 1970, the special limited edition 300 Hurst featured a special white and gold paint job, a lux interior and a rear spoiler integrated into the rear deck lid. Under the hood, the powerful 440 V8 engine with 395 HP could propel this two-ton beast to impressive acceleration times. They only offered this model for one year and only 500 were made, but some of us will always remember these gold and white behemoths.
13. Ford Torino Talladega
Instead of a year, the Torino Talladega was produced for a mere couple of weeks in early 1969. Ford’s answer to the Dodge Daytona, it was basically a standard Torino spruced up to be NASCAR-worthy. To do this, they revamped the car’s aerodynamics, giving it a unique front end that was slippery enough for the speedway. Ony 754 were made, and almost all of them ended up on the racetrack.
12. AMC/SC Rambler
This rare AMC was basically a budget Rambler, but with a powerful 390 engine and lots of speedy add-ons from Hurst. Light, small, and fast, it was also eye-catching. The Rampler was only available in its signature red, white and blue color scheme. Only around 1,500 of these great cars got made in 1969.
11. Pontiac Trans Am 20th Anniversary SE
In 1989, Pontiac introduced a very limited run of 1500 cars to commemorate the 20th anniversary of everyone’s favorite muscle car. To make this edition extra special, Pontiac installed Buick’s 3.8-liter turbo V6 from the GNX to create the fastest Trans Am of the decade. The white commemorative edition could accelerate 0.1 seconds faster from 0 to 60 mph than the GNX, at 4.6 seconds.
10. Saleen Mustang SC 1993
Known as the Carroll Shelby of the ’80s, Steve Saleen built his name on his racing success and his association with Ford’s bread-and-butter muscle car, the Mustang. In 1993, he introduced the Saleen Mustang SC form. Equipped with bigger brakes, beefed-up transmission, new suspension, and a characteristic body kit and exterior trim, the SC was also supercharged with a 5.0-liter V8. Altogether, this meant that the one-year marvel delivered a mighty 325 HP.
9. Pontiac Can Am
You could call the Pontiac Can Am the last true muscle car of its era. Made in 1977 only, it packed performance in a unique body style. Under the hood was a big 455 engine with 200 hp, more than any other muscle car on the market at that time. The Can Am package consisted of special rear window louvers, a rear spoiler, and a long list of special optional extras. Though the market responded very well, with between 5,000 and 10,000 reservations, in the end it only sold 1377 examples. Truly a sign that the American performance segment was coming to a close.
8. Rambler Rebel V8
One seriously fast yet unassuming muscle machine, this early AMC model lives up to its name. The 327 V8 engine delivered 255 HP, which was good for a 0 to 60 mph time of just 7 seconds in the Rambler’s compact body. Only the expensive, fuel-injected Chevrolet Corvette could beat the small Rambler for speed in 1957. However, the powerful engine raised the price and only a few buyers wanted to pay extra for the ability to outrun anything else on the road. For this reason, only 1500 were made that year.
7. Ford Mustang Cobra R
In 1995, Ford produced only 250 of the special-edition Cobra R and it was sold exclusively to individuals with a racing license or private teams. Under the hood was a tuned 5.8-liter V8 engine, which delivered 300 hp and 356 lb-ft of torque. The 0 to 60 mph time took 5.2 seconds, which made it the fastest accelerating American production model at the time. For 1995, the performance was outstanding—the Cobra basically turned the ordinary Mustang into the land rocket we know and love today.
6. Ford Mustang California Special
Beloved by collectors, the California Special was introduced in 1968 as a special Mustang model to help boost sales in the state. It had a unique look, featuring a vinyl roof, side decals, and fake side scoops. Despite the fact that it sold well, it failed to make Ford’s investment in the car with it, so after 1968, Ford turned to another state for inspiration and started making the Colorado.
5. AMC Hornet 360
Based on the regular economy car of the same name, the Hornet came with better suspension, sharper steering, graphics package and a 360 V8. The upgrades turned it from ordinary compact into proper muscle car. At 245 HP, the Hornet’s lightweight body could really fly. Other 1971 cars were heavy, with even heavier engines, so the Hornet 360 was one of the fastest cars on sale. Unfortunately, AMC was too forward-thinking for buyers, and less than 800 Hornets were sold. To this day, they’re fairly rare and hard to find.
4. Ford Mustang GT350 Anniversary SE
For its 20th birthday in 1984, Ford introduced a special edition of the Mustang—the GT350. Available in a coupe or convertible build, production was limited to only 5,260 and sold fast. Despite its success, this car proved to be trouble for Ford. Immediately after its release, Carroll Shelby, the man behind the legendary Shelby Mustangs, sued Ford for unauthorized use of the “GT350” in its name. The matter was settled out of court, and Ford still didn’t use the GT350 name again until recently, in 2015.
3. AMC Matador Machine
The Matador Machine coupe package included steel wheels with performance rubber, heavy-duty suspension, dual exhaust, and 360 or 401 V8 engine with up to 330 HP. Produced only for a year, in 1972, the Machine was a very rare car, with only 50 of them being made.
2. Ford Mustang Mach 1
The 2003 Mach I featured a retro-inspired graphics package, new colors, and upgraded engine and exhaust. An homage to the Mach I from the late ’60s and early ’70s, it’s a nostalgia-lover’s dream. The 4.6-liter V8 engine was tuned to deliver 305 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque, and the design had cool details like retro five-spoke wheels. Since the total production number was only 6500, the Mach I is already a collector’s item and will quite possibly be very valuable in the future.
1. Pontiac Trans Am 455 SD
The year 1974 marked the first restyling of the whole Firebird range, and the SD 455 model was the first of these. It featured better suspension and brakes, with a standard 455 V8 offering 215 HP, considered powerful for that era. A rare gem, these muscle cars are collector’s treasures—if you can find one, that is.