The 11 best American muscle cars at Monterey Car Week 2019

European marques make a lot of headlines during and after Monterey Car Week, thanks to their seven- and sometimes eight-figure sale prices. We get it, it’s exciting to see ridiculously expensive vehicles sell for record prices. Still, we all know that everyone’s going to turn from the silky V-12 to the raucous solid-lifter V-8 as soon as it fires up.

We skimmed through the auction catalogs for Mecum, Russo & Steele, RM Sotheby’s, and Gooding and Company and found 11 standard bearers of American muscle that we’ll be watching at this year’s sales.

1970 Dodge Challenger Convertible

1970 Dodge Challenger R/T Convertible Pilot Car
Mecum
1970 Dodge Challenger R/T Convertible Pilot Car

Lot F88

Estimate: $550,000–$700,000

Believed to be the first-ever Challenger 440 Six Pack convertible ever built, this pilot car is one of just six convertible Six Packs built in 1970. It was restored in 2004 by Mopar gurus at Restorations by Julius and features a white stripe that highlights the bodyline and its FE5 Bright Red paint. Muscle car lovers will appreciate that this three-pedal car is also equipped with the A33 Track pack that added 3.54 gears to the Dana 60 rear axle.

1965 Shelby GT350

1965 Shelby GT350
Russo and Steele
1965 Shelby GT350

Lot 8088

Estimate: N/A

Few cars can match the raw energy of a Shelby GT350, and this appears to be a great example with lots of unique early production parts, including a rear-mounted battery. A cosmetic restoration by Concours Restorations left the Venice-built car in as-new condition.

1963 Corvette Sting Ray

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray 'Fuel Injected' Split-Window Coupe
RM Sotheby's
1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray 'Fuel Injected' Split-Window Coupe

Lot 212

Estimate: $120,000–$160,000

There aren’t many one-year-only cars that are more recognizable than a 1963 Corvette coupe, with its signature split rear window. This Sebring Silver model has been repainted and features a restored interior that just looks broken in. More importantly, it has the best powertrain available for 1963, the vaunted “fuelie” 327 V-8 and four-speed manual.

1970 Plymouth ’Cuda Convertible

1970 Plymouth Cuda Convertible Pilot Car
Mecum
1970 Plymouth Cuda Convertible Pilot Car

Lot F89

Estimate: $550,000–$700,000

Like its E-body platform-mate that we mentioned earlier, this drop-top ’Cuda is a pilot car and just the fourth 1970 ’Cuda convertible built, as well as the first to be fitted with the 440-cubic-inch Six Pack V-8 and matching shaker scoop. Its four-speed manual is shifted by none other than Plymouth’s iconic pistol-grip handle.

1967 Ford Mustang

1967 Ford Mustang TransAm Car
Russo and Steele
1967 Ford Mustang TransAm Car

Lot 8061

Estimate: N/A

If you’re shopping for a vintage racer of your own and a GT530 is a bit too $helby for your budget, consider this 1967 Mustang that was raced by Shelby and Penske veteran Bob Johnson. This car was built by Kar Kraft for SCCA Trans Am use, and Johnson ran it at the Green Valley Texas race during the 1967 Trans Am season. It has never been titled for the street and has been recently restored, ready for more vintage Trans Am action.

1963 Corvette Sting Ray Z06

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Big Tank Split-Window Coupe
Gooding & Company
1963 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Big Tank Split-Window Coupe

Lot 48

Estimate: $750,000–$900,000

For would-be racers in 1963, a 360-hp, fuel-injected Corvette with a close-ratio four-speed and special and heavy-duty brakes seems like the perfect combo. Indeed, the Z06 marks the most race-ready Corvette that Chevrolet offered for 1963 and only 63 buyers checked the box for the 36.5-gallon “big tank” option, making it one of the most rare Corvette options ever built. This one was purchased by a GM employee who modified it for weekend racing, but it has recently been restored using the correct lacquer paint for the perfect deep shine.

1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302

1969 Ford Mustang Sportsroof Boss 302
Russo and Steele
1969 Ford Mustang Sportsroof Boss 302

Lot 8069

Estimate: N/A

Bringing Trans Am action to the dealership floor, the Boss 302 was Ford’s road course missile for the streets. This Bright Yellow example comes with its numbers-matching engine and all the right options, including a black hood, scallops, and rear window louvers, to create the perfect '70s look.

1969 AMC AMX

1969 AMC AMX FIA Race Car
Russo and Steele
1969 AMC AMX FIA Race Car

Lot 8039

Estimate: N/A

Holman-Moody & Franklin Engineering assisted with original build of this road racer, which competed in the 1970 FIA 12 Hours of Sebring and 12 Hours of Daytona. It’s powered by a 500-hp AMC 390-V8 and looks like it’s ready to take on any Z/28 or Boss 302 it comes across.

1970 Ford Mustang Boss 429

1970 Ford Boss 429 Fastback
Russo and Steele
1970 Ford Boss 429 Fastback

Lot 8013

Estimate: N/A

Ford’s answer to the brutal Hemi, the Boss 429 had wide heads that would barely fit into the NASCAR racers it was designed to power, yet Ford shoehorned them into the Mustang for homologation purposes. The result is one of the eras most sought-after prizes and this unrestored, 23,425-mile survivor would be the highlight of any muscle car collection.

1962 Corvette

1962 Chevrolet Corvette 327/360 Fuel-Injected Roadster
Gooding & Company
1962 Chevrolet Corvette 327/360 Fuel-Injected Roadster

Lot 139

Estimate: $325,000–$375,000

Only 65 Corvettes were built in 1962 with the big-tank option (We overheard a split-window Corvette murmur that it was “a paltry 24 gallons”), and even fewer were also equipped with the 360-horsepower fuel-injected 327-cubic-inch V-8 and big brakes. It just so happens that this Sateen Silver example also came with 4.11 gears and a close-ratio four-speed, making it among the most race-oriented of all first-generation Corvettes.

1968 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet 428

1968 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet
RM Sotheby's
1968 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet

Lot 208

Estimate: $65,000–$85,000

The Cobra Jet 428 was the born from old-fashioned hot-rodding by Tasca Ford and drag racer Bill Gilbert. It gave Mustang a shot in the arm and allowed it to keep up with big-block muscle from its competitors. In Wimbledon White with black stripes, this fastback is understated and reserved, until the 428 fires up.