We’ll start out by saying there will be a lot of debate about this list of the fastest muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s. Part of the problem comes from the special cars manufacturers back-doored to racers, where 30 or maybe 50 of them were produced. Should they be on this list? How about a Ford GT or Chevy Cheetah. We suppose anyone could buy them, but would they ever be street driven or be trucked immediately to a local track?
This list of the fastest muscle cars from the classic muscle car era was compiled from info available for 0-to-60 mph times of actual factory-built cars you could go into a dealership and purchase. Not all muscle cars were tested this way, with the usual specs being for quarter-mile runs. There can be a lot of variables for those numbers, too. So let’s have some fun with this list and mainly think of what it would be like in your 4,500-pound Charger, or open small-block Cobra, mashing down the throttle to get the quickest time possible.
10. 1970 Chevy Chevelle 454ci LS6: 5.4 seconds
By 1970 Chevy had punched out the big-block to 454ci with 450 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque. Real horsepower estimates come in a 500 hp. These Chevelles could blast through the quarter-mile in 13.8 seconds in factory stock form. Put some slicks on the back and give the engine a bit of tuning, and 12-second times were the norm.
9. 1969 Chevy Corvette 427ci: 5.3 seconds
In the second year of the C3, the big-block 427ci came in three flavors, 390 hp, 400 hp, and 435 hp, with the last two featuring 3-2bbl carburetors. The L-88 big-block was advertised as having 430 hp but is actually estimated to be closer to 560 hp. We guess advertising the real horsepower wouldn’t have seemed civilized, right? That, and the insurance companies, part of the muscle car’s eventual downfall, would have required a fortune to cover it. At least the 1969 Corvette came with disc brakes all around.
8. 1968 Camaro Z/28: 5.3 seconds
Coming in at just under 3,500-lbs the Camaro is not a lightweight, but with the 302ci small-block under the hood that spools up much quicker than the Corvette’s big-block in a 0-to-60 test, they’re even. This particular 0-60 time recorded by Car and Driver in 1968 was not with a completely bone-stock Camaro. This one had “dealer-installed” headers and aftermarket intake with two 600cfi Holley carburetors. It also had an L-88 clutch and flywheel, but you don’t have to tell anyone.
7. 1966 Plymouth Satellite 426ci Hemi: 5.3 seconds
Ah, the Hemi. If you’ve ever driven one you’ll never forget what seemed like endless power and torque in first gear. You’ll be doing 80 mph before you can get it into second gear. In spite of the Plymouth’s weight and clunky aerodynamics, not to mention leaf spring rear, that Hemi had enough power to plow the Plymouth to a 5.3 second 0-to-60 time. It’s not the only Hemi on this list, so you’ve been forewarned.
6. 1965 Mustang 289ci GT-5.2 seconds
Photo: Ford Motor Co.
The 271 hp small-block on this particular car was mated to a 4:11 stump-pulling rear end. So naturally, this thing was going to be quick. On the highway? Not so much. This Mustang would only be good for scooting around town or street racing unless you changed out the rear end to a more manageable gear ratio.
5. 1969 Plymouth Road Runner 426ci Hemi: 5.1 seconds
There’s that Hemi again. See number 8 for comments on that. The Road Runner was just a restyled Satellite that was a bit more stripped. Bench seat, taxi-cab interior, limited options and options like this Hemi and also a 440 ci wedge engine made for a scooting sedan. You should hear the volumes of air being sucked into the carbs. In the quarter-mile, the 440 ci version would beat the stock Hemi, but most guys racing Hemis didn’t keep them stock for long.
4. 1968 Dodge Charger 426ci Hemi: 4.8 seconds
At almost 4,400 lbs the first year of the second-gen Charger was a heavy sedan. But the Hemi rules in these 0-to-60 second test runs. In quarter-mile runs, this combo would cover the strip in 13.5 seconds at 105 mph. There may have been a bit of tweaking the carburetors because bone-stock these engines were leaned-out for smog purposes.
3. 1967 Chevy Corvette 427ci: 4.7 seconds
Though the small-block Corvettes tend to be more balanced, and lighter; the last year of the C-2 Sting Ray You could order the L-89 big-block that came with aluminum heads and 3 x 2-bbl carburetors. And this wasn’t even the fastest big-block–there was an L-88 option with aluminum heads having larger ports and a giant 4-bbl carb. The L-89 was a saner, more drivable car, and still a lot of fun for sure.
2. 1964 Pontiac GTO: 4.6 seconds
The GTO wasn’t infamous for nothing. This was the first year of Pontiac defining what a muscle car was–a mid-size sedan (a stripped-down Pontiac Tempest) with the biggest engine you could stuff under the hood. In this case that was a 348 hp 389ci V8 with 428 lb-ft of torque. The 0-100 time was 11.8 seconds, and quarter-mile sprints were in the low-13s, with 12 second times an easy reach.
1. 1963 Shelby Cobra 260ci: 4.5 seconds
Photo: Ford Motor Co.
Built in much more limited numbers than even the Corvette, we are including it here because anyone could order a Cobra. It could be as reliable as anything else in the early 1960s, so why not? We are not sure if this engine was street tuned or tuned up, but the Cobra in this early form was so light and nimble that anything close to 4.5 seconds is still very quick for the times. The 260ci small-block was an early iteration of Ford’s versatile engine, which soon gave way to the more recognizable 289ci, then by 1969 the 302ci.