History tells us the peak time for muscle cars fell within the period from 1969-71—an era when horsepower soared, then disappeared.
The first example is the 1970 Chrysler Hurst 300. These cars were an homage to the memory of the legendary Chrysler letter cars of the 50s and 60s—arguably the first era of the muscle car.
They built the Hurst cars on the big C-body platform, so this 70s version of a large muscle car wrapped in Chrysler skin was the perfect tribute to a legend. The ’70 Chrysler 300 Hurst had the big block 440 under the hood; it could do 0-60 in around 7 seconds, and it could crack 140 miles per hour. That places this big, bad Mopar firmly in Muscle Car Land.
The second example comes from Ford. They offered their own version of large-and-in-charge muscle in the form of the ’69-70 Mercury Marauder X100.
Mercury plunked a massive 429 cubic inch V-8 under the hood of the X-100 with a brutish 480 ft-lbs of torque. These Mercs ran in the high sevens for 0-60 times, and they topped out at over 125 miles per hour. They had heavy duty brakes and suspension to handle the big block’s power. They didn’t build too many X100s–those that did survive are rock stars at car shows.
The 1970-71 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ was another contender in the full-size muscle car wars. Pontiac came armed and dangerous with this stretched version of a G-body because the SJ packed 455 cubic inches, 370 horsepower, and 500 ft-lbs of torque under the hood.
That was a potent combination because a ’70 Grand Prix SJ could crack the 7-second barrier and top out at nearly 130 mph. That’s a pretty hot land yacht.
The 1970 Plymouth Sport Fury GT never came close to the notoriety of its Road Runner sibling, but this big C-body could slug it out with the best of them on the street.
The reason was simple—the 440 big-block had a six-barrel carb option that drove the horsepower up to a rated 390 horsepower. The key word is “rated” because a triple carb Mopar big block was a serious threat on the street. They were definitely capable of 140 mph.
The last full size classic era muscle car is the 1969 Chevy Impala SS 427. These were big cars but the big block 427 pushed it into ‘keep your life insurance up to date’ status.
The ’69 Chevelle SS 396 was the spotlight car for Chevy, but the Z24 427 Impala brought its own form of nastiness to the street. You could order a 425-horsepower version of the big Impala—more than enough power to humble wannabes on the street because this was a 6-second (0-60) brute that could crack 140 miles per hour.
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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