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It’s a dream among would-be car collectors worldwide: to grab a charming, lazy bit of yesteryear in the form of a classic American muscle car. However, with some first-generation Pontiac GTOs and Chevrolet Chevelles punching well above the six-figure mark, owning an old-school V8 coupe or convertible might seem an unattainable goal. Fret not; some desirable Motor Americana, pony cars, and big-body cruisers are ripe for collecting, like the third-generation Pontiac Firebird, first-generation Ford Mustang, and fourth-gen Chevrolet Camaro.

An American muscle car needn’t break the bank

Here’s a quick look at some of the readily-recognizable, lovable, and affordable American muscle cars with budget-friendly values for the first-time collector. 

Make, model, generationAverage value
Pontiac Firebird (Gen 3)$21,782
Pontiac LeMans (Gen 2)$32,157
Ford Mustang (Gen 1)$39,422
Ford Torino (Gen 3)$22,617
Chevrolet Camaro (Gen 4)$19,087
Chevrolet Nova (Gen 4)$22,828
Chevrolet Monte Carlo (Gen 1)$28,936
Plymouth Satellite (Gen 3)$20,291
Mercury Cougar (Gen2)$20,468
Dodge Dart Sport (Gen 4)$14,638

According to, all of these sweet reminders of lumpy V8 goodness and noxious high-octane fumes can be yours for under $40,000. In some cases, like an old Dodge Dart, Ford Mustang Coupe, or “Catfish” Camaro, prices are well under $40,000. 

What years are 3rd-gen Pontiac Firebirds?

A third-generation Pontiac Firebird sits on a residential street.
1982 Pontiac Firebird | Denver Post via Getty Images

The Pontiac Firebird’s third-generation model ran from 1982 to 1992, like its mechanical sibling, the third-gen Chevrolet Camaro. Moreover, with cool enough looks to inspire cyber-punk fantasies and perennially lovable pop-up headlights, the third-generation Pontiac Firebird is an affordable muscle car for the ages. 

Is a LeMans the same as a GTO?

The GTO (Gran Turismo Omologato) option was originally an option package for the LeMans model. However, collectors and builders can get their hands on a universally-adored set of stacked headlamps in a second-generation LeMans for an average of $32,157. That’s nearly $26,000 less than a comparable GTO. 

How much is a 1965 Mustang worth today?

A white 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible on a stage.
1965 Mustang Convertible | Ford

While some first-generation Ford Mustangs are unobtainable for the masses, the 1965 Coupe’s production numbers have kept values reasonable. Specifically, puts the hardtop coupe model’s value at around $23,397. That’s less than half of the average sales price of a comparable hardtop. 

How much horsepower does a third-generation Torino have?

The third-generation Ford Torino made as much as 255 horsepower from a 429-cubic-inch (7.0L) V8, per Automobile Catalog. However, even models with the enthusiastic 302 and 351 V8s are examples of desirable muscle cars today. Furthermore, the third-gen American muscle car is a budget-friendly option with an average value of about $22,617.  

What years are Gen 4 Chevrolet Camaros?

A set of orange 2002 Chevrolet Camaro muscle cars at a photoshoot.
Chevrolet Camaros | General Motors

The fourth-generation Chevrolet Camaro ran from 1993 to 2002. Earning fame in the modern car community as the “Catfish Camaro” for its iconic maw and shape, the fourth-generation model offers LT4 and LS1 engine options, each with over 300 horsepower on tap. Moreover, at an average of $19,097, the Catfish is an exciting prospect. 

Is a fourth-generation Chevrolet Nova affordable?

A red Chevy Nova muscle car in an advertisement.
A fourth-gen Nova Sedan | Transcendental Graphics via Getty Images

The fourth-generation Chevrolet Nova has an average value of around $22,828. Still, while the Nova played second fiddle in popularity contests with the Chevelle and Camaro, the Nova is a solid option for fans who want a no-nonsense, 327 or 350 SBC V8-powered American muscle car.

How much is a first-generation Chevrolet Monte Carlo?

An underappreciated American muscle car, the 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo with a happy driver.
1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo | General Motors

The first-generation Chevrolet Monte Carlo (1970-1972) has an average value of $28,936. Furthermore, its long, sweeping dimensions made it a less appealing option for muscle car fans than the Chevelle. However, the car has a lot of potential to be a blacktop bully, not unlike the 1971 model’s portrayal in the 2006 film, “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.”

Was the Plymouth Satellite a muscle car?

A 1974 Plymouth Satellite shows off its American muscle car fascia in black and white.
A 1974 Plymouth Satellite | National Motor Museum, Heritage Images via Getty Images

The third-generation Plymouth Satellite wore a long hood, larger-than-life American muscle car proportions, and packed V8 engine options. Moreover, for collectors today, the Satellite has potential. Specifically, the big-body Plymouth has an average value of around $20,291.

Is a second-generation Mercury Cougar an affordable muscle car?

A second-generation Mercury Cougar on a lot.
A salesman with a Mercury Cougar | Antony Matheus Linsen, Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Although the second-generation Mercury Cougar (1971-1973) isn’t as sought-after as some first-gen models like the XR-7, the second-gen Cougar is a long, comfortable, lazy muscle car with potential. Moreover, at around $20,468, it’s budget-friendly, too. 

Was there a classic Dodge Dart?

While younger car fans might recall the unfortunate compact car under the “Dart” moniker, the classic Dodge Dart has serious muscle car potential. For instance, the fourth-generation Dart offered an optional 7.0L HEMI V8, a far cry from the entry-level six-cylinder mills. Better yet, the classic Dart generation has an average price of about $14,638.

What do you think of these classic American muscle cars, pony cars, and big-body cruisers? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


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