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Big block muscle cars get a lot of attention. They’re loud, make a ton of power, and represent what a muscle car was meant to be: a big engine stuffed into a mid-size car. However, there were a few small-block V8s that made plenty of power. In fact, some made enough to put certain modern cars to shame. Here are some of the fastest muscle cars that came with small blocks V8 engines.

1971 Ford Mustang Boss 351: one of a kind small block V8

1971 Ford Boss 351 Mustang
1971 Ford Boss 351 Mustang | Getty Images

For one year only, Ford made the Mustang Boss 351. The first-generation Ford Mustang started with a small pony car body style, which by 1971 had morphed into a much larger, more muscular physique, almost like when Steve Rogers became Captain America. There were two 351 cubic-inch small-block Ford engines, and the Boss 351 received the better Cleveland variant, but with a little extra juice. Boss 351 Cleveland engines used an aluminum intake, forged domed pistons, and better-flow cylinder heads with four valves per cylinder. All told, the Boss 351 made 330 horsepower (SAE gross) and could hit 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. The Ford Mustang Boss 351 was the only car to get the 351 Cleveland in this spec and remains one of the fastest Mustangs ever made.

1970 Plymouth Duster 340: smart and efficient

1970 Plymouth Duster parked outside
1970 Plymouth Duster parked outside | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The Plymouth Duster is a marvel of early 1970s muscle. Chrysler took the compact Valiant and gave it a fastback body and front disc brakes, and the Duster was born. The weight was down at 3,110 pounds, and under the hood was an overhead valve 340 cubic-inch small-block V8. With a 10.5:1 compression ratio, it made 275 horsepower (officially) and could rev to 8,000 rpm. Mated to a three or four-speed manual transmission, with the option of automatic, customers could choose a limited-slip differential and bucket seats. The mighty 340 propelled the Duster to 60 mph in just 6 seconds. 

1969 Hurst AMC Super Stock AMX: small block V8 built for drag racing

1969 AMC AMX Hurst Super Stock at NHRA drag race
U1969 AMC AMX Hurst Super Stock at NHRA drag race | Fred Enke/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images

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In 1969 AMC sent a handful of cars to Hurst over in Michigan to be outfitted for drag racing competitions by NHRA. Hurst gave the AMX 390 cubic-inch V8 a new camshaft, pistons, heads, intake, and two carburetors to make a scarcely believable 516 horsepower, according to MotorTrend. This, and presumably with upgraded suspension as well, allowed the AMX to run the quarter-mile in 10.97 seconds at 125.69 mph, and it could hit 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds. 

A small block V8 can be powerful too

If you’re building a muscle car to go fast, don’t dismiss the small block. It’s more compact and flexible in its engine-bay placement, and it can make big block power. While the big block will make more power out of the gate and require less work to get 500 horsepower like the AMX, the small block saves on weight. Keep it in the back of your mind while building your muscle car, and you won’t be disappointed.