The 1960s may have been known as the Swinging Sixties–the spectacular muscle cars built in that decade are one of the reasons why this was an incredible era for everything from music to cool iron.
Start with the Plymouth GTX. The Belvedere GTX (with a standard 440 and optional 426 hemi) was introduced for the 1967 model run to compete directly with the Ford Fairlane GTA and the Chevelle SS396.
The GTX ran from 1967 to ’71 but my favorite was the first version. The 1967 GTX was understated and tough–kind of like Clint Eastwood in a suit.
The 1966-67 Ford Fairlane GTA was another great example of 60s muscle. It too, was a subtle, clean-looking car–the bulges in the hood were one of the few things that told you this wasn’t Aunt Edna’s 6-cylinder Sunday driver Fairlane.
The GTA was cool, but the ’69 Talladega stole the crown in my humble opinion. The fastback Torinos sold me in ’68 but the ’69 Talladega was a beast on the track and a beast on the street. Easy pick.
The Chevelle SS 396 was another 60s muscle car legend. You could make a strong case for the ’65 SS Chevelle with the 396 option as technically the first SS396–but for me, the ’66 SS396 was the pioneer in the Chevelle SS 396 muscle car legacy.
The SS 396 series only ran from 1966-’68–after that, it became an option. I have to pick the 1966 Chevelle because–just like the ’67 GTX–it was the first. Note–the first year of the series doesn’t always apply in my picks, but it always makes that year a serious contender.
The ’67 Mustang GT 500 is good example of how much difference a few years can make. The first Mustang fastback was pretty cool, but it was limited by the small block 289–with all due respect to a guy named Carroll Shelby.
The 1967 Shelby Mustang GT 500 was the opposite of the small block Mustang because it did 0-60 mph in less than five seconds.That massive big-block Ford motor barely fit in the car and the rear and front spoilers plus the hood scoop told everyone the Mustang wasn’t afraid of mega-steroids.
Any discussion about affordable muscle at Chrysler in 1968 always comes down to one name–the Road Runner. That’s fair because the Road Runner was an ultra-cool, stripped-down piece of Mopar muscle, and it came first–but I have a different choice.
The 1968 Dodge Coronet Super Bee came a few months later, but I was always attracted to these unsung Mopar street heroes. It was a plain Jane car just like its Road Runner sibling, but I liked the Dodge for two reasons–they built fewer Super Bees and they had cool taillights.
My choices are all subjective opinion based on gut reaction–in other words, your opinion will probably differ in a big way, but we can agree on one thing.
By: Jerry Sutherland
Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post, Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.
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